I am an Alaska Big Game Guide and the Manager of Pioneer Outfitters. I have had many outstanding people, guests and clients come into our lives over the years that I have learned from and enjoyed a great deal.
The day Master Guide Terry Overly told me that it was time, for my 9 year old son, to be allowed to hunt something a little bigger, I was excited! I can tell you this, it was the most incredible hunt I have, even manyseasons later, ever had or been on. As well as I think I could tell you my story, I will share with you instead my son, Zachariah’s story.
My name is Zachariah Earl, I am 9 years old and my mom is a professional hunting guide. I’ve grown up here in Chisana, Alaska, and as part of Pioneer Outfitters.
Getting ready for my hunt was a lot of fun with the guys helping me getting my horse ready and going on a “test” ride. My horse, Lonesome, tested me out by taking me through all the brush he could find, I almost lost my saddle once, then I heard the Super Cub coming….my Dad was here!!
We got back to the barn and I ran up to the airstrip to help Dad with his gear. Dad was here after spending almost 2 weeks rearranging his work so that he could come with us.
One of the guys, Wade, made my target, a true-size Moose! I had never shot a 243 before, the rifle I was to use. I was a little worried about the kick (recoil) because it sure made a lot of noise! After the first couple of shots, I figured out there was no worries, so I shot 6 more rounds. After about 8 shots, Terry said we could walk up and check the target…bull’s-eye! I had a 2” – 6 shot group, I passed the test, my group was awesome and Terry gave me the thumbs up to go.
The horses were packed and my Mom had all of our gear and groceries ready for us to leave on my first Alaska- Yukon Moose hunt. My Mom, my Dad and my best friend, another one of Pioneer Outfitters’ guides, Levi Coman and I had our picture taken, then we were outta there!
We decided along the way that we would just camp where we wanted, not head for any known camp. After riding for about 6 hours, across the river, through bogs and fields and brush, crossing creeks, battling a terrible cold wind, we found a spot that looked pretty good to make camp.
Looking around we found bits and pieces of what looked like a very old camp site- trees that had been cut and tied, broken, rotted piles that looked like they might have been used as tack racks or hitchin’ rails.
Terry told us days later when we returned home, that it sounded like where he used to camp with clients when he was guiding for his mom years (and years) ago.
Setting up camp was a race against the dark and wind, but we did it, working together. We had a quick dinner of burritos my Mom had made at home, tossed in the fire to re-heat them and some hot chocolate to warm up with. We sat there looking at the camp fire and stars and I couldn’t believe I was really there, going on my first hunt, with my Mom and Dad and my best friend.
I helped chase the horses up the creek where we were really hoping they would stay and eat till we came and got them the next morning, came back to camp and crawled into my sleeping bag for the worst night of my life.
I froze my butt off! We brought a light sleeping bag for me and I was too cold, so after flopping around, landing on my Dad a few times then landing on my mom a few more times, everyone woke up and my Dad and I swapped sleeping bags and everyone finally got back to sleep.
The next day we gathered up the horses, had breakfast and headed out to look for moose. We “busted brush”, as my mom would say, for awhile heading to where Mom said we’d have a good spot to sit and look for moose.
Boy, was it windy! It was a great spot to sit and look but none of us could hold our binos very still and when we did spot a couple moose, we certainly couldn’t get the spotting scopes to hold still enough for a closer look!
The wind just cut through everything I was wearing like I was sitting up there with nothing on, so mom told me to hide behind some bushes that were right behind where we were all sitting and before I knew it, Mom was shaking me awake! She had decided to try it her way by riding around and seeing what we could see that way.
As we were heading back down the big hill we had ridden up, almost to the bottom, I looked over and I saw Antlers, I got my Mom’s attention, but when she came back, she couldn’t see him so we kept going. Moving along the tree line, we made a big loop and hadn’t seen the other two moose we had seen from the hill, so we decided to go a little deeper into the trees on the way back towards camp.
My Dad said, “Hey!” and Levi told me later that when he turned around and saw my Dad’s “Steady and Ready” face, when he saw his eyes, he knew we’d found a winner.
Mom must have thought the same when she turned around and saw my Dad and Levi grinning like fools, because it was all business and orders, get down, tie the horses, get your gun, stay quiet, stay directly behind me, make sure that gun doesn’t get pointed at me, keep up, (boy!) and the orders kept coming, keep down, be very slow and quiet, watch me, watch where you put your feet.
STOP! Don’t move! Range, 82 yards…get into position, this is what I came for; those words, “it’s all up to you, Zach”, “Take it slow, when you are ready” “Wait! There is a cow moving out, be very steady, Zach, I’m watching…I don’t see any other cows, wait for your bull to be in the clear….still clear, when you are ready…”
Then I couldn’t see anything, my bull had moved! I can’t see him, Mom! Levi was right there, he dropped down in front of me, mom threw my pack on his back and said “there’s your rest, go slow and watch for more cows, Zach, let me get over a little and check”. All clear, my Mom said, “67 yards, when you are ready, son.”
Then suddenly the bull leaped and started to run, I squeezed the trigger and the bull took 3 stumbling steps and went down. The next thing I know everyone is screaming and jumping up and down, I had to ask my Mom 3 times to be heard, “Now, Mom?” Yes!
It’s harder to run across the tundra than your average moose makes it look, let me tell you. My Dad was so excited, he almost beat me there!
Levi and Mom brought the horses over and more cheering and hooting and I can’t believe everyone was so surprised! My Dad, Terry and Mom, the guys…they all have taught me about guns, safety, shooting, being very accurate and humane…this is my life, I just did what we do.
Yippee I did it! Pictures were taken, I did a happy dance with my moose, more pictures, then finally Mom pulled out her measuring tape…
Holy Cow, I killed a 64” moose! I killed a beautiful, 64” 4×4, Alaska-Yukon Moose with a Remington Model 7, 243 with a 100 grain Corelock bullet, one shot through the lungs, right on target, at 67 yards, while he was moving, and off my best friend’s back!