The Apex-Part II
Posted on January 31, 2014
The conclusion to The Apex-part I. To read Part I, click here!
The Apex-Part II
Fulfilling a dream of one day hunting giant Alaskan moose finally comes to life.
Story and photos by Eyad Yehyawi
Winds of Change
Wind can be a bowhunter’s best friend or worst enemy, and today I wasn’t sure which one it was going to be. Though the wind was erratic and strong, I knew it would not only silence our approach, but may keep the bull in his bed all day. Earlier through binoculars, we had located three spruce trees that seemed like hostages of the aspens and willows, all alone, surrounded by a sea of yellow. This was close to where he had bedded down, and using them as landmarks we could only hope the bull would still be there when we found him.
Side-hilling, grabbing trees and digging in our heels, we made it up the first incline one hour later. Checking our landmarks once more, we then began trekking up the final slope he had bedded on. Making sure to be well above him, we worked our way over to the rocky point and then began our descent in search of the big bull.
Step by step, with the wind in our faces, we slowly worked our way down the steep terrain, hoping to see him before he sensed us. Soon the contour of the slope began to change as solid rock began to replace the leaf-choked hillside we had been on. The trio of spruce trees we sought soon began to reveal themselves, and I knew we must be close.
Looking for the most subtle nuance in color or motion, we suddenly noticed tines protruding from a willow thicket a mere 30 yards below us. Rotating back and forth like a scythe, the bull’s rack mirrored the giant’s movements as he surveyed his surroundings. Neither one of us said a word, but were thinking the same thing: We had found him and were already within bow range.
Eric stayed back as I pulled an arrow from my quiver and quietly attached it to the string. Thirty yards soon became 25, and 25 became 20. Still, he had no clue I was there, oblivious to that which was above him. Shifting my weight to prepare to draw on the steep incline, I felt a small stick break beneath my foot, and all at once the bull rose to his feet. Surprisingly calm and collected, I began to draw my bow as his vitals cleared the willows he had laid behind.
Then without warning, as if by a cruel twist of fate, a strong gust of wind blew my arrow off the rest like a feather. The same wind that had afforded us the opportunity to get so close without detection had apparently changed its mind as to whose side it was on.
Grabbing the arrow with my release hand and quickly placing it back on the rest, I noticed that the calm demeanor I had exuded before was nowhere to be found. With shaking hands I tried to attach my release to the D-loop, but the harder I tried the more difficult it became. Finally, the jaws of the caliper swallowed the loop, but as I looked up to prepare for the shot, I witnessed the giant walking away into a thicket, taking my dreams with him.
Then I heard it, a noise from behind me as Eric, realizing what had happened, began to grunt like a rut-crazed bull, “uggmf…uggmf.”
The bull stopped instantly, seemingly hypnotized by the challenge he had heard from above. Hitting full draw, I tried to find an opening among the leaves and limbs, my eyes desperately searching for daylight through the willows. Finally, my eyes found what they had been seeking and, within seconds, my arrow did, too. With a solid hit echoing in my ears, the bull quickly disappeared into the valley below, and once more, all was silent in Alaska.
Time Will Tell
To say I was excited would be an understatement, but I also knew this hunt was far from over. Though I was confident of the shot placement, I also realized looks can be deceiving, and the need to find and evaluate the sign on my arrow was critical.
Walking down to where the bull had stood, I soon found my blood-soaked arrow laying in a clump of lichens. Completely passing through the bull, the razor-sharp broadhead had done its job—but had I done mine? The sign looked good as the length of the arrow was coated, although the blood was darker than I liked to see. Turning the arrow over in my hand, I noticed a small amount of stomach matter, which turned my excitement into guarded optimism. No matter how one remembers the events that transpire after an arrow is released, one thing will always remain true in bowhunting: Arrows don’t lie.
Knowing I needed to wait and give him time was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, although I knew it was the right one. Leaving him overnight, however, with the abundance of wolves and grizzly in the area was not an option. Losing the meat, only to be rewarded with antlers, was unacceptable to me and I could only pray that patience and sharp blades would reward me before nightfall.
On the Trail
Four hours later, we elected to take up the trail, hoping it would end with handshakes and smiles. I was nervous but also confident that we had done everything right by backing out and being patient.
Finding very little sign at the impact site, I knew we had to be slow and methodical if we were to find this bull. Weaving through the jungle of willow, aspen and birch trees that resided on the steep Alaskan slope, we finally picked up blood and realized we were on the right trail. With renewed enthusiasm we began finding more sign, staring intently at each sapling, rock face and leaf. Then suddenly Eric stopped, pointed towards a clearing ahead of us and said, “There he is, Eyad!”
The magnificent bull had likely expired within minutes of the shot, as he lay in a running posture with golden leaves fallen on his side. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life, and I couldn’t have been more grateful.
Before me, in the shadows of the Alaska Range, lay one of North America’s storied animals, a legend of the wilderness, and one that had consumed my dreams for over two decades. Holding the giant rack for the first time, admiring the long tines and defining character, I was at a loss for words. I took off my hat and said a silent prayer, so very thankful for this experience and the dream that had finally come true.
We spent the next two days breaking down the bull and packing out the meat. It was tough work, but despite my fatigue I enjoyed every second. We ate fresh moose tenderloins the first night and nothing had ever tasted so good. After ensuring all the meat was taken care of, Eric and I proudly secured the rack to my pack frame, a moment every hunter dreams of and one I would remember forever.
Taking one last look at the peaks and valleys in the distance, I couldn’t help but notice a sadness enveloping me. I knew all too well that I may never return to this place, walk through its streams or wade through its tundra. Strangely though, I was at peace with this notion, for I knew in my heart I was leaving with memories that would last a lifetime.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Eric and Rebecca Umphenour for the hunt of a lifetime. Also, to book your own dream hunt, contact Mark Beuhrer at Bowhunting Safari Consultants for details, at 1-419-890-7199.
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