Living The Dream In Alaska
Jared Matthews makes the journey to Alaska chasing a childhood dream AKA a monster moose.
Growing up our local gun store had a massive moose on the wall which always had me in awe every visit. I learnt what I could about them and soon came to the realisation it would be a long time until I could afford to hunt them. I spent a lot of time watching Billy Molls DVD’s which I think made the burn to hunt them somewhat more ferocious.
In my early 20’s my best friend was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, over a few years I watched him decline in health before passing away. This sent me down a rocky road and things spiraled out of my control. Luckily for me his father helped me get back on track and asked me to set some goals in life to focus on, one of those goals was to get over to Alaska and hunt moose. A short while later he too was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease and passed away. We spoke a lot in the little time we had left, and I knew what I had to do to stay on top of things.
I decided I would book a moose hunt two years in advance that gave me time to save and something to focus on to help get through the tough time ahead. I called Wade Renfro of Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures where the biggest baddest moose come from and booked it in to hunt with Billy Molls. The years seemed to pass by quickly and I landed a job on a big construction job offshore of Queensland which helped me come up with the cash. The hunt was a Moose and Brown Bear combo over 10 days and I had an agreement where I could stay on with the following hunter to film and help out in camp.
Fast forward two years and after a terrible flight I stepped off the plane in Alaska where the first thing you see in the airport is a big full body mounted bull Moose. I grabbed my Chevy pick-up hire car and made for the hotel.
I spent a few days viewing the local sights, Cabela’s and so forth. A few days later I got on another plane and headed to Bethel in Western Alaska where I met the team at Renfro’s. We had a stint of bad weather for a couple of days, so I spent some time helping in the hanger with little jobs and meeting other hunters.
Finally, we had a clear morning but for what ever reason I was told they couldn’t get me out to Billy Molls camp, and I would have to go with the “new” guide. I was disappointed because Billy was a big inspiration for me to do the hunt, but it is what it is. An hour or so flight in the super cub seen me land in a remote back country system where my guide James Smith had set camp. On the way in we managed to see a few moose and a lot of black bear. After a quick introduction we set to glassing the nearby systems before dark, However I couldn’t hunt with that day being my fly in day.
I could barely sleep with anticipation for the next morning. We woke up early for a big cooked breakfast and coffee something I am not use too but it sure warmed me up. It was soon day light, but the fog was that thick we couldn’t see more than 20 yards. We returned to the tent to bide our time until the fog cleared. We sat there eating like kings drinking a lot of coffee and telling tales, in the short time I had with James this far it felt like I was hunting with one of my good mates. It was a barrel of laughs.
The next eight days were very similar to my first, if it wasn’t too foggy to hunt it was raining, snowing, hailing or blowing, you name it we had it. However, James would say each day “Bubs this happens for a reason we will get a good result” I didn’t believe him, and time was running out.
The afternoon of the 8th day an hour before dark the sky cleared and we managed to get an hour of glassing in. We spotted a good bull in a valley around 3km away, but the daylight beat us and we couldn’t confirm if he was a shooter. We had dinner, a couple of Bundaberg rums and went to bed early convinced the bad weather had passed.
James woke me early but he said, “We are fogged in again, stay in bed a little longer”.
Another slow morning drinking coffee waiting patiently when around 11am the wind picked up and blew the fog out. We quickly started glassing and I mentioned to James I wanted to head up to another advantage point to glass in where that Bull was the evening before, so off we went.
I had only just sat down in front of my spotter when I saw a large white patch that looked to be a paddle, I quickly grabbed James and said I’ve found him but James said he might only be 55” from what I can see. I responded well let’s measure him on the ground.
It took us about two hours to close the gap and get above the system he was in. James told me I should get ready and he will sneak in and see what he can see. He returned quickly with bulging eyes “It’s a stud!” he said excitedly, this made me start to shake.
He said we will have him at 300 metres in front of this brush so we snuck in. James let out a few cow calls but the bull didn’t respond and began to walk away. We decided bull calls may be better so one loud “Whoaaa” and the bull turned around and pinned us. I settled the crosshairs on his chest and squeezed a shot off from the Sauer 375 H&H. I found him again in the scope still standing there. I quickly reloaded and with another shot down he ran out of site into the bottom of the valley.
We quickly made our way down into the bottom of the valley but after 20 minutes of searching we didn’t find any blood. I decided to head up to where I first shot him, here I found some blood and a spot where he had bedded down, it’s surprisingly how easy it is for them to disappear in this country. James heard some noise above, so we moved in slowly between the pine trees where we saw him at 40 metres.
My heart was pounding, this moose looked like a dinosaur walking above us. Two very quick shots from the 375 seen him drop on the spot. I had only just taken my first breath in a few minutes when James spear tackled me to the ground in excitement yelling “His a Booner baby” (A top 100 Boone & Crockett scoring bull). It had been an emotional rollercoaster and this hunt had meant more than any other previously. I still can’t explain the feeling of conquering this goal it was a real mixed emotion and an element of shock.
After a lengthy photo shoot, yarns and something to eat it was time to get to work on the task at hand. It took us until 11pm to get the bull broken down and stacked against a spruce tree away from the gut pile. We were unsure if the pilot could land on the ridge above so we decided we would call on the sat phone the following morning to see where they wanted it packed too.
I had previously told James I wanted to pack the moose out, that being a big part of it for me and all part of the experience. When the pilot flew in the next day, I was surprised to see they had a packer who they decided to drop over on the ridge above where we shot the moose. This didn’t sit well with me but they had the next client flying in so I couldn’t go pack the moose due to insurance reasons I had to be with the guide at all times. We watched on from a distance and seen the packer make his way down to the moose and it looked like he had a load in his pack heading for the airstrip above.
Before long the next plane emerged from the cloud and it was the next client. A big tall fella by the name of Mike Shankle, one hell of a gentleman recovering from a vehicle accident but in great shape considering.
The following day we ended up getting on to a beautiful bull moose that Mike harvested and we packed out the following day. Returning to camp I realised the packer was no where to be seen and my moose didn’t appear to be any different to two days prior, now I was really starting to burn inside.
Early the next morning Wade Renfro flew in with Billy molls and told James he needed him to go help the packer because he was lost, James replied “Jared won’t be impressed unless he comes he wants to pack his moose”.
Wade’s response was “Bloody Aussies! Get in”.
James and I managed to get the Moose packed out within a few hours with little help from the packer. Luckily, he had taken my cape out a couple of days earlier, so it was saved, the remaining meat on the other hand had a bit of a smell to it!
The remaining days were spent looking for Bears but unfortunately, we didn’t find any worth pursuing. James and I flew back to Anchorage and he took me camping, fishing and seeing the sites of Alaska, James’ generosity was something else and someone who will remain a lifelong friend.
Fact Box –This Bull scored 231 1/8th BC and 534 5/8 SCI making it number 80 all time record. Measuring 69 ¼’’ wide.