This fall I drew three special hunting permits and one of those was a major disappointment for me. I drew the Indian Creek trophy moose tag up on the Tustumena Bench. I contacted every one of the horse people I could find in hopes of getting some help in getting my moose hauled out. I was told the same thing each time, $3000 to have my moose hauled out. That news caused several problems for me; number one I didn’t have the $3000. Number Two I have never hunted the area so I basically didn’t know anything about it.
I hired pilot Al Schadle to fly me over the area to kind of get an idea just what the terrain looked like and also hopefully spot a couple big bulls. The only time Al could fly us due to other commitments was at 1:00 pm in the afternoon. That is not the ideal time to go spotting moose but yet it was the only time slot we could fit in so we took it. We did not see any of the big bulls this area is famous for, however, we did spot a few moose. We also spotted more bear than moose from the plane.
Dan Thornton (my next door neighbor) offered to go with me to help in any capacity that I needed including help pack out the moose. Jim Ries also agreed to go along and watch camp below and to guard our meat as we hauled it out. Our original plan was to go to Moose Creek Trail and to set up a camp there and then also set up another one at the end of the trail that is approximately 8 miles.
I borrowed Ted Knight’s boat and we hauled our hunting and camping equipment across Lake Tustumena towards Moose Creek. We made a wrong reading on our GPS and ended up at the Emma Lake Trail instead. As I turned the boat to head back towards Moose Creek, the waves and spray were coming over the front of the boat so we decided to go to shore and stay at the Andrew Berg cabin located on the point. Jim cooked us Moose burgers, mushrooms, onions, snow peas and hot chocolate. After eating Dan and I headed up the Emma Lake Trail to hunt that area while waiting for the wind to die down.
We arrived at the Emma Lake cabin just before dark and had a dinner of freeze-dried food. After eating we went to sleep. The next morning we were out scouting early looking for moose. We spotted a couple of cows that were feeding in a swamp and tried to call them in by scraping. We got their attention but shortly afterwards one of the cows lifted her ears and looked back towards the woods. Soon both cows left the swamp and headed off into the brush. Apparently they both felt that the bull calling them sounded more impressive then I did scraping a scapula on a bush.
We tried calling again that evening and again the next morning but had no luck so we decided to head out with hopes of getting back to our original plan of hunting Moose Creek. We arrived at the Berg cabin where Jim fed us mt. goat and black bear steaks, potatoes and baked beans. We wanted to head on over to Moose Creek but the weather would not allow it.
We were finally able to move on Sunday September 4th to the Moose Creek sauna area to set up our base camp. We had plenty of tarps set up to allow us plenty of shelter from the never-ending rain. The Fish and Game people were there to check my permit and also to tell us that there was a dead brown bear about 300 yards up stream laying in Moose Creek that someone shot and left there. We ate ham, eggs, fried potatoes and apricots for breakfast and grilled salmon for dinner.
That night a brown bear came into our camp growling and fussing because he apparently felt we were too close to his fishing hole. I fired a shot from my 338 Winchester magnum into the darkness and he decided that he would rather run off or risk being the second dead bear in the same area. I’m not about to wait till Mr. Bear has my leg in his mouth and taking bites before I shoot him. If he comes in close enough that I can see him he better be waving a white flag and be wearing removable false teeth and declawed when he comes to chat too.
Dan and I ate ham and eggs for breakfast and headed back to town to pick up my pump shotgun and some slugs for a camp gun just in case we ended up fighting a bear in camp and didn’t have to try and find an ugly bear in a scope in the dark. After we loaded our supplies that afternoon Sue Thornton fed us chili, hot dogs and cinnamon rolls before heading back across the Lake to Moose Creek.
We ate a breakfast of bacon, eggs, pickles, and tomatoes. After breakfast we cleaned our guns and Dan and I headed up Moose Creek Trail. After climbing over downed trees and slippery tree roots and other obstacles we realized that we were only able to walk about 1 mile an hour and it would take us about 8 hours to reach the end of the trail. It would also mean about 5-16 hour days to get a moose out and be carrying meat and our camp back out about 80 miles..... So we decided to go back to camp after walking a little over three miles up the trail.
We decided to move to the Point Lake area and try hunting there where it would be a whole lot easier to get a moose out. We had hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The water was too rough to move to Point Lake so we cooked BBQ chicken over the fire while waiting for the wind to die down. I made a practice of sneaking up on Dan and Jim in camp trying to convince them that if they can’t hear some guy coming with size 13 boots they were never going to hear a bear. We ate shrimp and stir-fry vegetables for dinner.
The following morning we ate moose in stir-fry vegetables. I then decided that due to all the rain and wind I was going to break camp and get off the windy lake while I had the chance. I was very disappointed in how this hunt turned out but felt a whole lot better being off that lake and home than risking people’s lives trying to travel on Tustumena Lake with a small boat. I really appreciated Dan Thornton’s enthusiasm as well as the help Jim Ries was to me, however with dealing with several days of rain and several more days of high winds it wasn’t feasible to do what we were trying to do. I now know a little more about this area and if I had to do it over again I would take our two horses and go up the Funny River Horse Trail to the bench area and start hunting. See you next week!
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