When hunters take to the woods for moose, they always want to bring back something big, but a boy from Soldotna recently bagged a bull so large that each palm of its rack was almost the same size as him.
"It's rack was 63 inches, with six brow tines on one side and four on the other, and it had 33 points total," said 12-year-old Tommy Blada.
The bull was taken at the beginning of September, near Tok in Game Management Unit 20 -- an area known for huge moose. But Blada's hunting skills developed long before this recent adventure. Starting at around age 7, he began accompanying family members on numerous hunts, a trend that continued over the years since then.
"You could say we're a very hunting-oriented family," he said. "My dad hunts everything that is legal -- moose, black bear, wolves. We also do a lot of small game hunting for rabbits and things."
On this recent hunt, Blada went with his father and two friends. They went out on six-wheelers and set up camp, but the hunting got off to a slow start, at least for them.
"There were lots of signs -- tracks, waste and antler scrappings, and we could hear shots from other hunters, so we knew moose were there," he said.
For four days they hunted and saw only two cows, but on the fifth day Blada's luck changed.
"My dad was doing bull calls, when we starting hearing calls back," he said. "At first we thought it was another hunter."
For 30 minutes Blada's father continued to call the moose, and each time it responded it sounded a little closer, until finally some animals showed themselves.
"The bull was chasing a cow," Blada said. "They showed up together. He was trotting fast chasing her, but I saw a flash of his antlers."
Seeing the size of the rack, Blada readied himself, but his father, having not seen the bull firsthand, wasn't so sure his son should take the shot.
"From his side of the blind, my dad couldn't see it, but I could," he said. "It stopped and I could see its front half, the neck, head and rack, and it was a big rack."
Blada felt confident the animal was legal, even though his father couldn't confirm it, so with the bull in position he fired his rifle.
"I shot from about 220 yards away," he said.
He said he quickly reloaded thinking he would need to fire again to finish the animal off, but when he looked through the scope the bull was down.
"I killed it in one shot," he said. "I hit it in the spine, right behind the neck."
Blada and his hunting partners were able to get their six-wheelers right up to the moose, which was lucky for him since his was far too little to be able to pack much of the heavy meat out. Even butchering the beast would have been a tall task for such a young fellow.
"With three guys there, they did a lot of it. I mostly worked on the head. We're going to do a European mount with it," he said.
The work took hours, but the high of the hunt lasted even longer.
"It was my first moose so I had a lot of adrenaline," he said, " but we were all excited about it. We stayed up until 2 a.m. just talking about it."
The group hunted for a few more days, but in the end Blada was the only one to make a kill.
Setting such a high standard on his first time out, he said he wasn't sure if he could ever bag a bigger bull, so next season he will have a different game species in mind.
"I think I'd like to try hunting black bear," he said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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