Bernhard Hammer contacted me in the late winter of 2010. Bernhard wanted to bring his three children to hunt caribou and for himself a Canadian Moose and a Mountain Caribou. This was his 60th birthday present to himself. Being that his children needed to be back by the end of August to start university we decided to start Bernhard’s hunt as early in August as possible. August 15th was the agreed starting point.
Our first obstacle came when the wildlife branch decided to change the moose season from August 15th to August 20th opener. A change they made in June of 2010 forthe fall season. We informed Bernhard and he was comfortable hunting caribou first and waiting for the moose to open. We felt a little foolish but what can you do, we have all experienced game management hoop law in our lives.
The hunt started well. I greeted George 20-Benedict 23-Florina 25 and Bernhard about to be 60 at a northern lake in our area. I jumped on the plane with them and helped a bush pilot new to our country find one of our base camps near by. The pilot then doubled back for my sheep hunter and his son in law while I introduced the Hammer family to the rest of our crew. I had a sheep hunt to finish up before I could assist the Hammer family. So once every one was familiar with each other I quickly packed panyards for a few days hunting and was ready for the morning departure. As it went Jason Wilson and his father in law Stan McNabb and I return three days later with Stan’s beautiful 38 ½ inch flaring ram, and were shortly joined by guide Matt Roberson and Bernhard’s caribou in tow.
The next few days produced first a bull for Benedict, then Florina and George. All we had left was the moose for Bernhard. This task testing us more than we originally figured. Two big velvet moose were stalked on different days and locations. One bull was blown out because of height of brush and noise, the other because of the unannounced young bull who was bedded by the patch of trees we were going to tie off at. Who in turn trotted out snagging the big bull to race away into the vast willow and spruce timber abyss. Then two days of no opportunity left the last day. But like all hunting the last is as good as the first.
We woke to fog and rain. My plan to go around to a high advantage point was spoiled. I look at Bernharn and said that the only sun shining was a spot down in the valley, lets follow mother natures sign and see what she has to offer. Bernhard being the always positive guy said the plan seemed excellent! Benedict was to accompany us that day along with guide Steven Meurs and wrangler Wyatt Gentles.
After splashing through mud into the valley bottom we set the horses into a light trot heading up valley. This was our last day and we needed to cover ground in a positive and productive way. We pulled up after 2 hours of travel and settled in for a quick look from a little fireweed nole. Quickly we had 5 moose spotted, 4 small bulls and a cow. Then Steven picked a bigger bull way up valley, we were watching him when out walks the velvet covered beast. Within a few seconds of looking at this moose over 10 km's away I informed our whole group this moose was in the top 3 moose I had ever seen in my life. I said “grab your sh.. and get set we are going for him and fast”. I knew we had to go fast because we just watched the bull bed and if he repositioned and bedded somewhere new in all that willow our chances would surely diminish. I asked Bernhard if he was up to trotting fast through willow tangle, and all said was “go go”.
One and a half hours later had us clamber over a scrub birch covered esker, popping out of its bed 300 yards away was a 61-63 inch bull that was easily record book. I turned to Bernhard and asked him what he wanted to do? I said you could shoot it but I’m going to keep riding to the next bull. Hence we passed him up on a blind chance. 4 km later found us tying the horses off for the final approach.
We crept through the scrub birch to where we figured the moose should be, but with the vast distance we spotted the moose from, all distances were amplified by 5. What we figured was 300 yards turned out to be 1500. Our approach just elevated to a whole another level of difficulty. We knocked off another three hundred yards before we picked up potential paddle. I pulled my spotting scope and leaned it over Wyatt's pack while he was waring it. Through the tips of the willow brush I could make out a massive front end. The giant bull was bedded looking directly away from us. He was positioned about 700 yards into the rolling willow and scrub birch terrain. I quickly stuffed the scope away because the need to determined how big he really could be, did not exist, he was a giant!
We dropped into a crouch and boogied again for some scrubby Alpine fir. As quiet as we wished to be there was 5 of us setting 10 boots down on dry vegetation. “We just as well could have been walking through a chip factory”. We needed a break and it came in the form of a little wind. The scent is one thing, blowing our noise away was our dire need. The wind was allowing us to win, combining with the the fact that most of the slew patches were dry from our seasonly hot summer. We crawled through slew grass that would have normally drown us and our hopes. 600-500 we were gaining.
We dropped in behind a long running hummock of bush and gained some real good distance. I popped up and there right in front of me was our giant feeding with two of his big bull buddies. Another good size bull was feeding over to our right. I range found the big fella at 308 metre's though it seemed like 100. Getting a flat ground rest would be difficult so I elevated my shoulders and pack telling Bernhard to lean over my back and smack that giant black sheet of plywood. “Bwam” the valley echoed. A couple more and we had a tower tipping. Hi fives and pure exhilaration depicted our moment. After so many kilometre's and doubts that race through your mind on such a long stalk, we had our giant velvet bull. Stumbling our way through the willows to this retired towering moose specimen, we were awed to another level. He had a 6 inch dropper off the right paddle to ice already perfect cake. Only 56 wide but had lengths and widths of paddles to make up for it. Our giant velvet Canadian moose gross scored 232 and netted 228 B&C. The largest moose of my guiding career, plus Bernhard's perfect birthday present, besides spending 10 unforgettable days in the Canadian wilderness with his children.
I do not know when I will get to guide another top 10 in the world Canadian moose. I do know that before my season was over I did see another giant bull. I got to
watch him on two different days. I know he is larger than Bernhard's. Such stories as these are easy to say when there is no proof. Question's such as why didn't you get him, can be asked? I know the answer and it doesn't matter right now. All that matters is stay tuned and I will prove my words this 2011 season. Proof I have always enjoyed over talk. I know for certain that the bush plane will land on floats. A hunter will climb off that plane and say to me, “your father said I was to hunt with you”. Then we will be off!
What a perfect life I have.