BY ROBERT RIPLEY
In June of 2021, I was shocked to learn I had drawn an Idaho moose tag for the 2021 season. I quickly found the outfitter that held the permit for the unit I was to hunt — Broadmouth Canyon Ranch, which runs a famous high fence elk hunting program. They do own a large amount of land that is fair chase property. Little did I know, I was going to go on a hunt that was almost perfect.
Because of prior hunts in early in October, I got to the lodge on October 28. News of my moose tag had proceeded me. When I entered, I was an instant celebrity. All of the elk hunters wanted to talk about moose hunting and my tag. We all oohed and aahed at the moose head that hung over the fireplace.
My guide Tate and I met at breakfast well before sunrise. He said he knew a couple of places that should hold moose. We would be glassing off of some ridges. I pointed out that this was my first moose hunt and no clue what to look for. He said we would be hunting the Shiras moose, which is the smallest moose in North America, and that a good bull would have ten points on both sides.
We rode a side-by-side on dirt roads I will never find again. It was well below freezing and we had no windows on the side by side so warm gear was necessary. After a cold ride we came up on a ridge, made a hard left then slammed on the brakes. Tate pointed to my right where two cow moose stood 25 yards from us. They were not spooked, they just stood and stared. This had to be a good omen, right?
We turned around to find somewhere we would not spook them. We began glassing as the light of dawn creeped over the mountains. We glassed an area of deep canyons that stretched for miles. I’ve hunted wild hogs in California for years. It’s not unusual to glass a pig that turns out to be a burned out log so when I saw black that is what I assumed. But everything black was a moose, 13 in all, 9 that were bulls. There were two that looked big to me. Tate said I could shoot one of them on Wednesday if we had not found one bigger, and that was two days away.
We left that ridge to glass a new one. There were not as many moose but one looked good a couple miles away. Then Tate got excited. He said the one he could see was enormous. He got out his spotting scope and hooked up a camera so we could see it easier. It was indeed bigger than anything we have seen so far. He was feeding on a nob about a mile and a half away. Initially Tate wanted to wait for him to bed down. But that idea lasted a whole two minutes. He said, “Let’s kill that monster!”
We would not see the moose for the stalk down. We had the wind in our faces. We worked our way down a steep canyon wall. At the base of the wall was a long grove of dead trees that extended at least a mile down the canyon. Just outside of the trees was a game trail that rivaled the lanes of the highways I had used to get to the lodge. I’m five foot, nine inches, at best, and Tate played center for his college basketball team. It took almost two of my strides to match his one. He was pumped up with adrenaline and we made great time.
There were two nobs, one closer to us and one where the moose was. We stopped at the base of the first one and made a plan as we shucked off our jackets and backpacks. We would slowly climb to the top of the first nob, set up the shooting sticks and should have a 100-yard shot. We did exactly as planned, but the moose wasn’t involved in our planning. He was not there. It was comical as Tate and I looked for him then looked at each other. We did not think he had busted us because he could not have seen or smelled us.
Our new plan was to quietly and slowly climb the second nob while looking over both sides to see if he had wandered off. We climbed the second nob as planned, Tate was to my right just forward of me. At 61 years old, you find that you will trip over any little thing — roots of bushes, rocks, blades of grass, you get it. As I walk, I look forward every couple of steps to find those things that can trip me. As I scanned the ground in front of me, I looked up. There was six inches of moose antler over a bush right in front of me. I whispered, firmly, “Tate!” That’s all it took, we both dropped to the ground.
Tate asked me if I was comfortable shooting freehand? I’ve done it but I didn’t want to mess up a shot on possibly my only moose. He quietly set up the shooting sticks. He said to shoot fast as the moose will probably see me. With my adrenaline sky high I squatted behind the shooting sticks, place the muzzle of my rifle on the V of the sticks, took a deep breath and stood up slowly. As I stood I pushed the rifle forward on the sticks, bringing the rifle up to my shoulder, he did look at me as I put my eye to the scope, clicked off my safety and fired. He dropped where he stood. No steps, no running, just dropped dead.
Tate and I cheered. We jumped up and down, fist pumped and high fived. As we walked up to the moose I realized how big he was. Much larger than any elk I have ever harvested. Tate and I oohed and awed. Tate said it was the biggest ever harvested on the ranch — it was 11 by 11. It was much larger than the one over the fireplace at the lodge.
It green scored at 160 inches. After the 90-day drying period required by Boone and Crockett, it measured at 152 7/8 inches, the Idaho state record is 150 inches.