DEBO'S DEN  -  HUNTING PAGE

Home     Contact Information     How To Buy     Shipping, Insurance, and Returns Policy     Site Map     Top     Hunting Page    Hunting Photos 1    Hunting Photos 2


Hunting and Outdoor Things

Bell The Bears      Montana Moose      Hunting Photos 1      Hunting Photos 2



MY FINEST TROPHY

I spent much of my life hunting, hiking and camping. I hunted deer and turkey in the southern United States and deer, elk, moose, sheep, goats, antelope and bear in the Rocky Mountain states, mostly in Montana. (I still have a home in Bozeman, Montana.) I no longer hunt. I have many "trophies" but I do not value any of these as much as the one that I obtained on a bear hunt in the Gallatin Mountains in southern Montana. This is the story of that trophy.

The hunter stood on a small bluff deep within the Gallatin Mountains in southern Montana. The temperature was in the mid-teens, and the early morning air was crisp, clear, and still. Warming rays of sunshine had not yet touched the ground below, and ice, like crystal lace, fringed a small creek meandering through a grassy green meadow bordered by huge dark timber. Wisps of fog rose slowly from a small beaver pond near the upper end of the meadow. A gray blanket of frost adorned the foliage on the valley floor.

He felt tiny and insignificant as he gazed humbly at the beauty and majesty of the view before him. Surrounding the valley, a great cathedral of craggy sunlit mountains, crested with sparkling snow and girdled with thin translucent necklaces of wispy clouds, stood glistening against a crystal blue sky. Behind the meadow rose an immense sheer bluff of red rock fringed along its base with a band of talus below which massive dark green trees reached skyward. In the midst of this grandeur a huge black bear grazed placidly along the edge of the meadow. The beauty and sentiment of this poignant moment was imprinted forever into his memory. Incredible emotion swept through him as he gazed at this splendid scene. Silently the hunter gave thanks for the privilege of seeing such a sight.

Slowly the hunter placed his left hand against a lodgepole pine, raised his rifle, a scoped Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .264 Winchester Magnum caliber, and rested it across his arm. The crosshairs came to rest solidly behind the right foreleg of the bear. He moved the safety to the off position, took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled as he tightened his finger on the trigger. This huge trophy bear was his! Suddenly, without knowing why, he hesitated.

Unexpected thoughts floated through his mind. “Why do I want to shoot this bear? I already have more meat than I can eat... I already have more trophies than I can display...” he mused. “I've enjoyed many wonderful days hunting alone in these snow-crested southern Montana mountains. I've enjoyed drinking from crystal cold mountain streams and riding my horse along countless mountain trails, through the golden sunlight of midday and through the purple twilight as the days were ending. Few others have been so privileged as I...”

The hunter could not think of any reason to shoot. He relaxed the pressure on the trigger, flipped the safety of his rifle back on, and watched contentedly as the unknowing bear peacefully entered the forest across the meadow and disappeared from his sight. “Whew,” he thought, “what an experience!”

He ejected the unfired cartridge from his rifle and took it home. He attached a hand-written note to it with the words, “I did not shoot a bear with this ctg on 7/24/84.”

The hunter, of course, was me. The cartridge became my trophy in lieu of the bear, and I value it above all others that I have.

This experience changed my life. Although I continued to hunt for may years and took many more animals, hunting was never again the same for me. Looking back from the perspective of old age, I realize this was one of the inflection points in my life--it was the moment when I realized that the hunting experience is much more than just killing an animal and that great personal satisfaction can be had by not doing so.

Copyright©2004/2005 Albert D Williams - All Rights Reserved

My Finest Trophy      Bell The Bears      Montana Moose      Hunting Photos 1      Hunting Photos 2

Home     Contact Information     Site Map     Top






BELL THE BEARS

I moved to Bozeman, Montana, sometime around 1980. At that time there was a serious problem of tragic encounters between humans and grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park and in the various mountain ranges in southern Montana. A number of people had been mauled and/or killed and eaten. One such encounter between a grizzly and a human resulted in the death of a man and a grizzly. William May was camping in a public campground near West Yellowstone, Montana, when a grizzly killed and partially ate him. Officals later killed the grizzly.

In response to this horrific incident I wrote the following editorial that was published in the Bozeman Chronicle. This editorial created a lot of controversy. The "tree huggers" thought it was an awful idea--one guy told me I was an idiot. The tourists and newly-arrived "flatlander" residents thought that it was a great idea. The locals thought it was amusing.

The editorial:

A recurring element in all the tragic encounters between grizzly bears and humans of which I am aware is that of surprise. The result of this element of surprise is that when these encounters occur the people involved have inadequate time in which to take proper evasive action. In all cases, if the humans had received warning of the approach or presence of a grizzly, they likely could have prevented the encounter. If this element of surprise could be eliminated, then most problems with grizzlies could be avoided. There is a simple and inexpensive solution to this problem.

I suggest attaching large cow bells to all grizzlies. Then, with the bears clinking and clanking their way through the woods and thus continually announcing their whereabouts, the rate, and the direction of travel, it would become almost impossible for surprise encounters to occur. Even sleeping campers would be warned of the now unstealthy approach of a dangerous bear.

Grizzlies are easy to trap. This is done frequently at present to study the bears, attach radio collars and to relocate problem bears. This has done little, however, to save the bears or to prevent dangerous encounters with humans.

The bear that ate William May on June 25 had been trapped previously. If a bell had been attached to it at that time, likely this tragedy would not have happened. For want of a simple bell, a man is now dead, a family grieves, a bear has been murdered, and a controversy rages over what to do.

The costs, both environmentally and monetary, of a program to "BELL THE BEARS" would be minimal. The price of the entire 200 or so cow bells required is probably less than the cost of a single radio collar. And the only environmental cost would be an occasional melodic clinking in the distance. Indeed, this is surely a tiny price for a solution which would enable the grizzly to continue to roam and which would allow the continued safe use by humans of their forests and parks.

(Name withheld by request)
Bozeman

My Finest Trophy      Bell The Bears      Montana Moose      Hunting Photos 1      Hunting Photos 2

Home     Contact Information     Site Map     Top






MONTANA MOOSE

      The huge moose tracks at my feet were only a few moments old. Water, muddy and unfrozen, still seeped slowly into them. Were these tracks left by a bull or a cow moose? Shivering with anticipation, I searched the woods ahead and considered the situation.

The tracks were in a valley near the southern end of the Madison Range in southwestern Montana. The temperature was in the mid-teens and the early morning September air was crisp, clear, and still. Craggy snow-capped peaks, bathed in brilliant early morning sunlight, rose above a sheer rock cliff on the west side of the valley. Warming rays of sunshine had not yet touched the valley floor. Ice, like crystal lace, fringed a small creek meandering through a large meadow bordered by huge dark timber. Wisps of fog rose slowly from a small beaver pond near the upper end of the meadow. A gray blanket of frost adorned knee-high grass and low scrub willows covering the valley floor.

A short distance ahead was a fallen tree. Its tangled limbs extended several yards into the meadow and its base was concealed inside a thicket of small pines. The moose tracks led into this thicket.

Advantages and disadvantages of the situation came to mind. The still air would not carry scent well; on the other hand it would not cover sound and motion. My bow, quiver, and backpack could catch on twigs or limbs in the thicket and call attention to my presence. The fallen tree obstructed my way if I tried to continue along the edge of the meadow. Going around it had problems--the open meadow would make it easy for the moose to see my movement. Necessity forced me to make a decision. The best choice seemed to be going around the deadfall on the meadow side.

Slipping out of the timber, I crept slowly into the meadow. Grass, brown and brittle in the early fall, dry twigs, and a heavy frost all made silence impossible. The sound of each frost-crunching step seemed to reverberate across the meadow and through the timber. Each sound, I feared, could spook the moose.

After circling the end of the dead tree I was about halfway back to the edge of the woods when suddenly a large bull moose strode into the meadow about two hundred yards ahead. There was nowhere to hide. Feeling naked and exposed I sank slowly to my knees. The moose gave no indication that he had seen me and continued across the meadow.

He was bigger than my horse. His antlers looked heavy and massive in the early morning light. His coat was tinged with gray, and he had no beard. This gave the impression of great age, nevertheless, his huge muscles rippled with each step. This old moose was past his prime but he was still a magnificent animal.

Moving purposefully and without hesitation, he walked to the creek, went down into it, and turned away from me. His head and antlers were visible occasionally above the willows as he waded. He went about fifty yards upstream before he climbed the bank and went into the meadow on the other side. He continued walking and then, as if in answer to my unspoken plea, he stopped and started grazing. He was about three hundred yards away and about fifty yards on the other side of the creek in a patch of grass surrounded by small willows. His head and antlers, and occasionally his back, bobbed in and out of my view as he fed. He was unaware of my presence.

Questions raced through my mind and left me undecided. Was this the same moose that left the huge tracks? Would following those tracks provide a better chance of a successful hunt than stalking the moose in the meadow? Was this bull, although a bit past his prime, one that I really wanted to take? After studying the moose through my binoculars and remembering the old adage about a bird in the hand, I relaxed slightly and planned a stalk.

The situation was difficult. The moose was over halfway across the meadow. The only cover was grass and low undersized willows with nothing else to hide behind or to break my silhouette. Crawling undetected through the tangled willows was impossible. There was no wind to cover my movements or to mask any sounds. Regardless, a few things were in my favor.

The moose was facing away from me and actively feeding. This would make crossing the open meadow unseen easier--as long as his head was down he could not see movement behind him. The sun would be high enough in a few minutes for its rays to reach the meadow. It would then be in the east and directly behind me. If the moose happened to look in my direction the glare of the sun would make it more difficult for him to see. Further, in a few moments as the sun started warming the valley floor a slight breeze would begin to move up the meadow and would carry my scent away from the moose. It might be possible to approach within bow range undetected by wading the stream until close enough for a shot. The gurgle of running water would help mask any sounds I might make. Wading the creek seemed to be my best chance for a successful stalk.

The moose continued to feed. His antlers were visible occasionally as he grazed. He raised his head for a few moments. As he lowered it again I slipped into the meadow. He was facing away from me and did not detect my movements as I crossed the open meadow to the creek.

A flaw in my planning became apparent as the icy water filled my boots. This flaw was emphasized moments later when, after stepping into a deeper pool, the cold water, gleefully it seemed, rose above my thighs. Wading among the rounded slippery rocks was strenuous. My breath came hard. My heart pounded. Perspiration dampened my upper body even as the cold creek water numbed my legs and feet. Pausing, I peered over the willows to see if the moose was still there. He was.

About a hundred yards from where the moose was feeding, I stopped wading and prepared for the final portion of the stalk. Concerned that water squishing in my boots would spook the moose during the last few yards, I decided to remove them. My heavy woolen socks would be much quieter and would provide better footing. Upstream I mentally marked a place to climb the creek bank and stepped back into the cold water.

My mind filled with worry and doubt as I waded. Was the moose still there? Had he heard my clumsy movements? Tension grew with each step. Had some erratic mountain breeze carried my scent to him? Perhaps he had eaten his fill and moved on? Finally, after a long time it seemed, I arrived at the previously picked spot, anxiously sneaked out of the water, and again peeked over the willows.

The moose had moved only a few yards and was still grazing placidly. Waves of relief turned to awe. He was huge! His majestic antlers were wide and even. His coat was indeed flecked with gray, and, as previously thought, attested to his many winters. He would soon die regardless of whether by my bow or from the accumulating years. For a few moments I stood and watched the old bull moose graze quietly, oblivious to me and unaware of any danger. Many feelings crept over me.

Feeling tiny and insignificant, I gazed humbly at the beauty and majesty of the scene. Surrounding the little valley a great cathedral of sunlit mountains, crested with sparkling snow and girdled with thin translucent necklaces of wispy clouds, stood glistening against a crystal blue sky. Across the meadow was an immense sheer bluff of red rock fringed along its base with a band of talus below which massive dark green trees reached skyward. In the midst of this grandeur the great bull moose stood feeding quietly in the meadow. Incredible emotion swept through me as I looked at this splendid view. The beauty and sentiment of this poignant moment was imprinted forever into my memory. Silently I gave thanks for the privilege of seeing such a sight. So intense were my feelings and emotions that I thought of letting the old moose go. In the end, however, I slipped an arrow from my quiver.

The moose stood about fifty yards away. There was no hope of getting closer. He had turned a little to his left and was now quartering away from me. The positioning was not perfect, but it was the best available. The arrow must strike his left flank slightly behind his ribs in order to penetrate to a vital area. If the shot went too far left then it would strike his left ribs or shoulder; too far to the right and it would strike him in his left hip. Neither of these would likely be fatal, and certainly neither would be fast and clean. There was a bit more leeway vertically. Any hit from the top of his lungs to the bottom of his chest where his heart lay would suffice. The estimated size of the "target window" was about a foot wide and about sixteen inches high. This was a high probability shot for me at this range.

My hands shook and my heart pumped wildly as I nocked the arrow. To settle myself I purposely took several very deep breaths and slowly exhaled each. Then, very slowly, I raised my bow and came to a full draw. The moose continued to feed, his head was still down. Placing the fifty-yard sight pin in the center of my imaginary sight window, I released the arrow.

The moose whirled and lunged towards the creek. Grunting and snorting he stumbled as he swung his antlers from side to side, ripping up willows and grass. He went about twenty yards before he staggered erratically and stopped. He then folded his forelegs beneath his massive body and slowly lay down. His great head lowered to the ground as he settled into stillness.

Ten minutes passed before I cautiously walked over to him. Caution was unnecessary. The old moose was dead. Standing there, alone, miles from camp and farther still from the trailhead, I gazed at him. The intense emotion, the elation, the adrenaline rush, that swept through me only moments before was gone, replaced now with a melancholy sense of sadness, regret and loss. These feelings soon passed, however, as my mind drifted to the freezer that would soon be filled, to the many tellings of this story that lay in the future, and to the den wall that would soon be decorated with a trophy immortalizing this magnificent animal. My hunt was over. The work began.

Field dressing the moose was difficult. He was so big I could not turn him over by myself. From my backpack I retrieved a length of heavy baling twine brought for this purpose and used this to tie two of his legs up. After removing the viscera and propping the body cavity open to allow faster cooling, I covered the carcass with willow limbs and started the long trek back to camp.

The following morning my brother, Phillip, who had been hunting elk, and I used our saddle mounts as pack horses and started packing out the head, hide and carcass. Two days later and after three trips back and forth, we finished packing the moose to the trailhead.

The final score for the rack was 165 5/8. It placed 2nd in the Pope and Young Big Game Competition for the 1985-86 season. It was the Montana state archery record for several years and today remains the second largest moose ever taken in Montana with a bow and arrow.

Copyright©2004/2005 Albert D Williams - All Rights Reserved



The author with his trophy moose.


Home     Contact Information     Site Map     Top     Hunting Page    Hunting Photos 1    Hunting Photos 2