Few can call themselves big game hunters and truly mean it. Ninilchik hunter Dan Presley is one of those few who earned such a moniker when he harvested a 74 3/8-inch trophy bull moose last month near Tustumena Lake.
After spotting a moose from an airplane, Presley rode in with a caravan of seven horses that was still not large enough to pack the animal out.
"It was by far and away the biggest moose I've ever killed," Presley said. "I generally get a 55-inch moose or better every year in the Caribou Hills."
According to state Fish and Game area biologist Jeff Sellinger, Presley's moose scored high on the Boone and Crockett Club charts, the organization that keeps track of and determines the records for big game, including moose, caribou, oxen and bears, among other animals.
The Boone and Crockett record for Alaska and Yukon moose is 261 5/8, harvested by John Crouse in 1994 at Fortymile River, just north of Tok. Presley's moose scored a 238 3/8.
Scores are based on the length of the animal's greatest rack spread, the length and width of its palm, the circumference of its beam at its smallest place and the number of points on each side, after the antler has had 60 days to dry.
Sellinger said Presley's score is a preliminary, because it has been less than 60 days. But the biologist said it was still impressive by Kenai Peninsula standards.
"It's definitely big," Sellinger said. "It's one of the biggest ones on the peninsula."
Presley was one of 12 individuals who drew the late-season permit allowing hunting in the area surrounded by Tustumena Lake, the Kasilof River, the Kenai River, Skilak Lake, the Russian River and the Skilak and Tustumena Glaciers.
He said he had been applying for the rare late-season permit for 22 years unsuccessfully, before this year.
Sellinger said the area was a haven for big game, and said he wasn't surprised with Presley's prize.
"It's a trophy area," he said. "Bulls with 50-inch racks or three-brow tines on either side are in those areas."
Presley said he knew there were big bulls in that area because he saw what he believes is the animal he killed on a fly-over days before his hunt.
"I had flown the area on (Sept.) 21, and saw this bull," he said. "Six days later and he's still in the area."
Presley said he set out on Sept. 25 with his brother Keith, son Sean and seven horses to the area where he had seen the large bull. They entered the area at Browns Lake Trail and packed 18 miles up to the ridge and two more miles across the ridge, he said.
The caravan arrived at their camp site on the evening of the 26th, when the season began. The next morning Presley said he and his brother got up and began the hunt.
"I saw a cow first," he said. "The cow left, and glancing around I caught some movement just past the cow."
Presley said he saw a bull sitting in the brush about 60 yards away sleeping in the thicket.
"I'm looking at him as he's lying down and I'm getting a profile, and I'm thinking, 'He's the same one I saw last week,'" Presley said. "It looked pretty much like the bull I had seen before.
"And we rode right up on it."
He said he had made a cow call earlier when he saw the cow because he thought it might have been a bull.
They got off their horses and began to examine the bull to determine if it was legal.
"He had heard me but didn't see me," Presley said. "I guess he heard the cow call and thought I was another cow. Horses move just like moose.
"I crept up to about 40 feet away and shot."
Four of the horses were to pack out any trophies and to carry camp equipment and grain for the horses, he said. But Presley said the moose was so big, that still wasn't enough.
"We should've had one more," he said.
Presley said they put the hind quarters on one set of panniers on one horse, the ribs and the neck on another, and the front shoulders were split on yet another horse.
"When we went out, we couldn't get all the camp gear out, so I had to walk out leading the horse with the antlers," he said. "And I had to cut trees in a lot of places to be able to get the rack through."
He said he put the camp gear on the horse he rode in on, and didn't get back on the horse until they rested at Funny River and the horses ate their grain.
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