Story and Photos By Joe Wylie

It was my 15th consecutive year to apply for a Wyoming moose permit…I knew I had a decent chance with 14 preference points, but I thought the same thing the last 3 years. When the letter finally came indicating a successful draw for 2014, I just stared at it for about 5 minutes!

Fast forward about 4 months to late September, 2014, and I am in Southwest Wyoming along the Hams Fork River with both my Sons, Joey and Scott, and long time hunting buddy Jerry.

I spotted 6 bull Shiras moose the 1st 4 days;  2 were dinks, and 3 were mid-30” bulls that I would be pleased to take but I never could quite get a shot. Joey and Jerry had elk tags, and were on the look-out for a moose for me. Scott was tagless, and devoted his time to a moose search.

On day 5, Scott had to return to his office in Fort Collins, Colorado. A mere one hour later, I spotted a cow moose in the river bottom willows, and careful bino work revealed a partial moose antler deeper in the thicket.

I unfurled my Moo Cow decoy from Elk Mountain Gear, walked out to the willow jungle, and started walking parallel to the direction the cow meandered. After about 100 yards, I rounded a big willow bush, and stood face to face at 20 yards to a massive 1,000 pound Shiras moose, who stared intently at my Moo Cow decoy and hardly noticed puny me from his 8′ high vantage point!! I was shocked, scared, amazed…and unable to move!

shocked

a re-creation of the author's reaction to seeing the bull prior to the shot (Photo by Joe Wylie)

 

Finally some muscle control returned to my body and I quickly deposited a 100 grain Thunderhead tipped arrow in the middle of his chest!! Now before you congratulate me on the great shot, understand I had a target about 36” square at 20 yards totally mesmerized by the Moo Cow Decoy…at this point, I had no idea what was still ahead.

I found Joey, and we began to follow a very sparse bloodtrail. We would find sign about every 50 yards and only were able to track it because of his tracks in the damp river bottom earth. Soon the willows became almost inpenatrable as we got closer to the river. After about 3+ hours that only took us about 250 yards….I took a break and waded the river looking for tracks (and blood) in the sandy river bank. Seeing none, I decided that he must not have crossed the Hams Fork. I kneeled down and really implored God to help me find this beast. I stood, walked 15 yards back towards the river and there he was!! Dead in mid stride. Thank you Lord !!

Joey and Joe Trophy Pic

The Author and his Son Joey, with his awesome Shiras bull (Photo by Joe Wylie)

I called Joey over and we both looked in awe at this animal… almost twice the size of an elk sprawled out before us, and 350 very difficult yards from my truck. We explored any possible route for our ATVs or even a horse…..and quickly discovered it was to be on our backs. Jerry showed up and joined us, and we spent the rest of the day cutting and bagging the monster. At one point, after we removed the front shoulder and back ham, we discovered that the 3 of us could not roll him over!! We finally were able to roll him but it was on about the 10th effort. It took till evening to get the bags of meat next to the river for cooling, and we then returned to camp. A Coors light celebration followed by an early “hit the sack” was all we could manage.

The next day was probably the most physically exhausting of my bowhunting career. Jerry was unable to pack heavy loads (He is 71 years old like me), and Joey was having some serious back issues. I would load up my pack frame to about 80 pounds and cross the river, fight through some of the willow thicket, meet Joey and transfer the loaded pack, and he would get it to the truck (he was the only one who could climb the hill to the pickup). 6 trips each took several hours, but we got it done, drove it all to the closest meat locker (2 hour drive each way), and got back to camp too tired to talk, eat, or drink. You cannot imagine the physical difficulty of fighting through heavy thickets with a big load on your back….at times I had to crawl for a ways and then try to find a way to stand up again..alone!!

The big Shiras bull had 6 points on each side and was 41” wide…I was ecstatic about my good fortune. This experience was certainly one of the top 2 or 3 hunts of my life but would I do it again?? I think not!!

Many have asked why the blood trail was so sparse…the arrow went through his lungs, and was buried in the off side ribs with enormous internal damage…..but little external evidence? I just think the very thick skin and the winter coat of hair somehow sealed around the arrow shaft at entry. I thought about preparing the head and hide for a shoulder mount but we quickly concluded that the head/horns/caping hide would weigh about 165 pouinds…a load none of us could handle, and 2 people could not walk out side by side…..so a European mount is being prepared, and is way cheaper !!

If you are ever fortunate enough to hunt moose, be sure to bring along several young friends who “owe” you !!

The Author and his amazing Trophy, after a 15-Year wait (Photo by Joe Wylie)

About the Author:

Joe Wylie resides in Ione, California with his bowhunting Wife of 50 Years, Sharon.  They have 2 bowhunter Sons, and 7 Grandchildren.  Joe has been bowhunting exclusively since 1971, and has taken moose, elk (Rocky Mountain and Tule), bear, deer, coyotes, bobcat, antelope, turkey, wild hogs (both Island and Mainland), and Island goats and sheep.  As a lifetime member of the California Bowmen Hunters (CBH) Big Game Club, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and the Whitney Hill Award in 2009.  Joe has many entries in the CBH Record Books, and has held the Office of Legislative Coordinator and VP of Hunting within the State Organization.