If you like to hunt, don't let age stop you

I have been hunting since I was 12 years old and still enjoy it, though I am now in my 70s. The key to hunting when one gets older is to think safety at all times and try not to over-challenge oneself. Do not hunt alone.

I have a cabin 25 miles up Alexander Creek from its confluence with the Susitna River. Now that I am in my 70s I limit my river trips to higher water. Gone are the days when I could pull an 18-foot boat with gear and engine through shallow water.

This year we had high water, so my annual moose hunt was on.

On Sept. 20, Trail Ridge Air flew a good friend and me to the mouth of Alexander Creek, where my river boat is stored. It is an 18-foot open river boat with a four cycle 40 horsepower engine, the perfect setup for Alexander Creek.

After loading the boat with provisions, we fueled and took off. The Alexander was high. The one-hour trip was wet but uneventful. After reaching my cabins we put our provisions and gear away.

I then positioned the boat so its rear, with the engine, was on the bank. Experience has taught me that a small leak, rain and rising water could result in a boat sinking. If the boat sank, my engine would be high and dry. (This precaution was not needed.)

I have two cabins. We cook and eat in the old cabin and sleep in the bunk house cabin. They are about 100 yards apart.

After a couple of drinks and dinner, we retired to the bunk house.

We were pretty tired and we decided to turn in relatively early, about 8 p.m. But first, I made several moose calls. A moose call in the evening usually gets a local bull thinking about that cow in the morning.

The next morning, I got up and went to the cook cabin for oatmeal and coffee. My hunting companion slept on. I made another cup of coffee and walked back to the bunk house but, before going in I made several more moose calls. My buddy slept. I sat next to the window to read and drink my coffee.

I looked out the window and a three-tined bull was outside. My buddy and I had agreed that I would not be hunting so he brought the rifle. My buddy proceeded to tell me he left his rifle at the cook cabin. No rifle and the bull started to walk down the trail.

For safety reasons, I keep a 12-gauge shotgun with me. You never know when one will see a bear while walking to the cook cabin or outhouse. The shotgun was an old smooth bore Stevens Pump shotgun with a bead site. It was loaded with two slugs.

I knew from past target practice the slug would penetrate a 50-gallon oil can at 50 yards.

I went outside the cabin with my binoculars and shotgun and gave a cow call. The bull grunted. He was sex-crazed and he started to walk my way.

With my binoculars, I confirmed the three brow tines. I stopped calling at and about 50 yards he turned broadside. I shot him twice. He barely flinched, but both shots hit him in the chest area.

I was out of shells, but I had more at the cook cabin. The moose walked into the woods between the two cabins.

I walked to the cook cabin and found four more slugs. I put three in the gun and walked back to where I'd shot him. He was gone. I walked into the woods about 30 yards. He was on the ground, alive, and I finished him off. Now the hard work would begin.

It took us two days to get him out of the field and in my boat. The hardest part was moving the hindquarter. Gone are the days when I would slap one on my backpack and walk out. I now use a plastic sled with a tow rope. One guy to pull and the other to make sure the bagged quarter stays on the sled.

Our pick up was in three days but we decided to leave the next morning.

We were dropped off by a Trial Ridge Cessna 180, but we would need a Beaver to handle this load. The plan was to call Trail Ridge to tell them when we were in cell phone range and that we needed an earlier Beaver pickup.

As it turned out, the hunting gods were with us, because when we got to the mouth of Alexander Creek, Trail Ridge was there picking up some other hunters. An hour later, a Beaver landed and took us back to Lake Hood. We took the moose meat to 10th and M lockers to finish processing.

The key to hunting as one gets older is to limit one's risk and think safety at all times.

Leonard Kelley lives in the Chugiak area and is an Older Persons Action Group board member.