When I learned I drew a much coveted moose tag I immediately asked for every minute of time off I could get for hunting season. I promised to return to work early if I shot my moose early as I didn't expect to use all of my vacation time to hunt.
So we relocated to a different spot and tried again. The next day we did the same. As we did the next day and the day after that. Again and again I was encountering areas that had held moose all summer long but they had moved on. My biggest fear was that the moose were bunched onto bottom land along the major river drainages. These areas had a mixture of public and private land, none of which was marked.
Day five. My father, aka Dad, USMC 3rd Mar Div.; the man who told my mother that despite 2 failing kidneys (cause unknown) diabetes and a bad ticker, was in better shape than me, had to head back to the cabin in town after the morning hunt/hike. Apparently the combination of altitude an occasional stroll in the mountains and bouncing around in a pickup is causing him problems with his blood pressure, his kidneys are hurting and he is experiencing headaches and light headedness. He is considering having mom evac him to a lower elevation.
Disgusted I gas up the truck and head back up the mountain to locate an area that I've seen on the map but haven't set eyes on yet. I had wanted to check this area the second day of the hunt, but my father thought the truck ride over would be too painful for him to endure.
As the afternoon wears on I park the truck at a USFS trail head that is closed to motorized traffic. I get out and start up the trail. A beaver dam is blocking up a small creek and flooding the old trailhead. I decide not to get wet and follow the stream bed into a small meadow.
The grass here is chest high. There is no sign that cows have been pastured in the area this year. I discover a freshly beaten down trail through the high grass. Elk will do that sometimes when moving as a herd. As the trail approaches the creek bed I notice elk droppings. That would seem to confirm my theory. Then I notice moose tracks in the mud. They seem newer. A little while on the moose tracks are on top of elk droppings.
I had suspected that the elk trail was very recent, given the rain we had the last couple of days. I thought the trail was less than a day old at best. Having moose tracks over top of the elk scat was encouraging. I did my best to imitate a cow moose call. I stood still for several minutes. Nothing.
The elk trail crossed the creek. Despite the cold and wet I decided to wade over to the other side and work my way up the USFS trail. I sense rather than see some movement in the willows to my left. since I want to go up the trail anyway I head that direction. When I get out of the brush I head to where I think the trail should be. I start walking east towards the mountain.
On the trail there are moose tracks. Fresh moose tracks with little clumps of dirt flung along the path. These can't be more than a few hours old. I follow with my head down, focused on the trail. Is that a slight mist rising off the trail? It could be, its been wet. Maybe its the start of an evening fog. That would be rare but not unheard of. I see old wolf scat on the trail. It's very old having turned white with age. The hair of some long digested kill plainly visible. Wolf sign and its well past 7:00 pm. I should start thinking about calling it a day. It will be past dark soon.
What is the source of the little wisps of vapor ahead? I move forward and drop to my knee. Moose droppings on top of the moose tracks. Steaming moose droppings! Fresh tracks! These tracks aren't hours old, they're minutes old!
I stand up and start scanning the willows and creek bottom. Nothing. Not. A. Darned. Thing. I give a lonely cow moose call. I hear it. The first response to my calls all week. It's just a short, Yhaawp but its a response to my call. I can't be sure but it seems to be coming from the far side of the creek bottom along the far side near the timber going up the mountain.
I quit. There is still enough light to make it back to the creek bed. I find a shallow place to cross below the beaver dam. I can't be sure the call was a moose so I drive the road looking for other hunters. I see no other trucks or ATV's. There is no one hunting between me and Utah, or along this entire road for at least 8 miles.
It has been six days. Although I have not seen it, I have located my first moose.