We have all heard or read the blustering warning that current moose hunters like to offer future moose hunters, “All the work starts after you get them on the ground.” That statement might sound a little intimidating, but it should never discourage anyone from pursuing a moose hunting dream. Yes there is a lot of work involved with a moose on the ground, but how much exactly?
I recently tagged along on an Alaskan moose hunt with good friend and fellow taxidermist, Bob Mardis. Mardis was fortunate enough to draw a coveted bow moose permit on the joint military base, Elmendorf/Richardson (JBER) just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. These two combined military bases allow the state of Alaska to offer some fine moose hunting opportunities that are easily accessible to hunters due to a convenient road system. In other words, this is an easier and lower impact hunt for one of Alaska’s most sought after game animals.
The time period for Mardis’ hunt was from December 15- January 15. On opening morning, we checked in at the main gate and we found ourselves hunting within ten minutes, at first shooting light. With limited daylight in the Alaskan winter, a hunter can sleep in and not worry about hunting until well after 9:00am, and that’s exactly what we did.
Within fifteen minutes, we had a 42 inch bull spotted, and approximately two hours later, Mardis put a fatal arrow through both the bull’s lungs. In a lucky twist, we had a dead moose on the ground only 180 yards from the truck. There would be no legendary Alaskan moose-packing trips on this day, but that was fine with us. However, it was time to get to all that ‘work’ that is associated with getting a moose from the field to the truck.
After admiring the animal, taking hero shots on our digital cameras and after notifying the area biologists, Mardis began the process by making the cuts necessary to cape the animal for a shoulder mount. Unlike the field care required for smaller big-game animals, gutting the moose is one of the last steps involved, not the first. He then made a long dorsal cut down the back to the tail, and then cuts up the back of both topside legs. These cuts allowed Mardis to remove the entire skin on the exposed half of the animal, which gave him access to the top front quarter and the top back quarter, which were then removed from the animal, placed into game bags, and packed to the truck.
The next step was to place a tarp on the ground along the back of the moose so the animal could be flipped onto the skinned side. The tarp helped to keep the animal clean and dirt free. It was now time to repeat the process until the last two quarters were bagged and back at the truck. With all four legs removed, the head was now removed with the attached cape, and all the neck meat was removed and placed into a game bag. Then it was time to remove the gut sack.
After gutting, Mardis employed his cordless sawzall and removed the slabs of ribs just below the spine and placed on the tarp. I was an instant fan of the sawzall as I watched these cuts made in about two minutes. We packed the head and cape in one trip, and then we humped the ribs, spine (with backstraps attached), and neck meat back to our parking spot. We took a break and then returned to the kill site for a final sweep and picked up the tarp and tools.
From the time we took photos, the entire moose removal took 3 hours and 30 minutes. Not too bad for a couple middle aged guys not in the best of shape. Whenever someone has a chance to complete an entire moose hunt in about five hours, they should do it.