The 2012 Hunting story – As told by Brad W.
I started hunting
moose early in life with my dad probably around age 8-9 shooting my first
animals at about 12. I have
been hunting for about 30 years and have taken 15-20 moose over the course
of those years. We have hunted in the far Northern sections of
BC and more recently at our family hunting camp in the Chilcotin where this
year’s hunt occurred. I had
an early LEH draw for bulls in September in Region 5. It is a difficult hunt and success in
this area is quite poor over the entire management unit which means you really
have to get out of your vehicle and hunt the animals down.
On September 25, 2012 we left our cabin early in the morning and drove into an area we had seen moose on previous occasions. I dropped my brother off at the top edge of a meadow that we had strategized on how to hunt; I would continue down to the bottom side to cover more area.
The meadow is about 3-4 km long shaped in an L shape or tall boot shaped with the bottom of the L shape turning at a small watering hole. My brother would walk into the top of the meadow and I would continue to drive along a cut-block which paralleled the meadow down to the bottom end of the meadow.
We were in communication by portable radios which allowed us to provide updates what each of us were seeing over the vast area we were covering. I left the truck (about 4 km from my brother’s drop off) and began walking towards the meadow through a skinny wooded area that surrounded the meadow. As I approached the meadow I could see a small fog bank was covering the watering hole which prevented me from seeing up the meadow towards where I had dropped my brother off. The wooded area I was walking in was full of game and livestock trails that allowed me to travel quite quietly with good access to the meadow.
As I got closer and closer to the meadow I began to see some large dark moose shapes along the water’s edge. I walked through the wooded area careful not to enter the meadow and scare up the animals. After about 5 minutes of quiet walking I realized that the dark shapes I saw were 3 wild horses which remained along the water’s edge. I had seen the horses the day previous herded up with a large bull moose a cow /calf moose and 3 other cow moose so I was being very cautious with how I moved through the area.
The fog was lifting off the watering hole which allowed me to see further along the meadow and I began to make out the shapes of several moose along the far side of the meadow. It was now obvious this was the same group of animals I had seen the day previous. The moose were situated at the top side of the foot of the boot shape along the far side of the meadow. The meadow on the far side was bordered by a mature forest tree-line approximately 600 meters away that began up a short hill.
To get to the moose in the most direct route and probably the fastest way I entered at the very bottom of the meadow (the heel of the boot shape). The cover of the trees was being left behind and the fog was lifting pretty fast as dawn was now on us the moose began moving along the tree-line and up the sort end of the L shaped part of the meadow away from me. I moved into the meadow towards the moose but the wild horses were only about 150 meters away and were becoming somewhat aware of me.
I was using 10x42 powered binoculars; the animals were making no sign of any knowledge of me but were also 600 meters away so I didn’t expect them too.
There were two large cows and the large bull I had seen the previous day. There was also a cow calf another 150 meters further up the bottom of the L shaped meadow. I moved up to the animals as best and quietly as I could but felt that the horses were going to give away my location so a long shot to this moose was my only option.
I was able to move up somewhat but the horses continued to lift their heads looking around so I made the decision to shoot from this distance. The moose moved slowly away as they fed. I lay prone several times trying to get the ideal shot but because of the grass or meadow bushes obscuring my shot I had to move a couple times.
Once I located a clear location with an available shot, I shot the bull moose with my 30-06 with a 4 power weaver scope. The moose never moved I was quite sure I got him but because I have never shot a moose over 150 meters away before I was uncertain of the reaction I was witnessing. I pulled a second time raising my shot up somewhat. This round clearly hit the moose in the front shoulder. The bull flinched and lifted his front leg.
The wild horses began to run away towards the cow calf and the bull followed. The bull was running quite fast and in the opposite direction I was hoping (away from me and the vehicle access). I shot two more times but as the moose was running I saw no visible response from the moose of those shots. The bull entered the mature forest at the L shaped section (the top of the tow of the boot shape) of the meadow. The cows, calf and horses continued along the L shaped section of the meadow about 250 yards further and disappeared into the forest. I loaded two additional rounds into my rifle and began walking across the meadow towards where the bull had entered the tree line.
This took me several minutes as it was tall grass and shrubs I was walking through. As I approached the far side of the meadow where I watched the bull enter I saw the bull bedded down he was about 60 meters away. He saw me when I saw him he got up and he ran away into the forest immediately I had no clear shot and he was disappeared in seconds.
I entered the forest where he was bedded down and I immediately could smell him knowing that he had been hit. I located his bed down location and there was a blood pile about 2 square feet and lots of blood. I followed the blood trail into the mature forest which was not difficult as he was obviously hit.
The forest was difficult to hunt in as the animals could hear me before I saw him and he would just move on. The bull moose was scared up from his bed down location twice I felt I was just driving him further into the woods. In this 40 minute track I located several blood pools I decided to he had been hit hard and I would just let him expire and then I would come back and get him. I left the woods walking North out of the woods down into the meadow coming out up the L shaped meadow about 1/4 way up the long side of L or boot shape.
I went back and get the truck and move it closer to the location where the moose had entered the forest. The truck was probably a kilometer away and I radioed my brother who was also on some significant sign that a moose was close to him as well so he remained up at the top of the meadow and continued his hunt. I walked back across the meadow and got into the truck moving at close as I could.
I loaded my rifle again with two rounds and began to track the moose in the forested area once again and picked up the trail I had left some time ago, I could hear crashing in the woods quite far away down towards the meadow so I radioed my brother that the moose was down in the meadow (in his direction). I walked down out of the wooded area to the meadow then began walking up the meadow towards my brother hoping to get another sound or sight of the bull. I was approximately 100 meters up from where I came out of the woods and walking along the timberline.
At 0830 I was about 25 feet off the edge of the tree line walking in the meadow which consisted of a sporadic meadow bush (like a willow) about 3-4 feet tall with meadow grass throughout. Off my 3 o'clock shoulder I heard a huge grunt I turned my head and the bull who was in full charge with his head down along the ground the antlers were pitched forward.
I remember the sound of the grunt and the sound of the shrubs being destroyed as the antlers pierced through them. I don’t know the distance at which I actually saw him but I estimate it at 20 feet by the time he was bursting through the trees. I had my rifle sling over my shoulder then to in my right hand and as I spun towards the moose the rifle was driven in the bulls face. I am not sure if I pulled the trigger or not but the next thing I knew I was caught by the right antler, the rifle was exploded into several pieces in my hands and I was tossed in the air.
This link to a YouTube video is of an moose attacking and killing a man in Alaska. It's not gory but graphic just the same.
I may have been caught in the jaw with his antler at this point but was amazed by how tall a moose is and how high I flew in the air. I remember looking up at him as he came (even with his antlers down) when I was tossed in the air I was off the ground a long way. As I came back to the ground the moose was immediately on top of me trying to stomp on my head.
I used my wrists and forearms to bat the legs as they came down. I was able to avoid several blows on each side as I went from side to side. I don’t know if I was still holding the stock of the gun but the moose obviously caught my head after several stomp attempts. I went out as soon as I was hit as I have no recollection of the attack after that. I don’t know if I was stomped several times or not.
I woke up in the
meadow alone full of blood and my rifle was nearby shattered into many pieces
and the bull was gone. I
was able to radio my brother to call him for help. It was obvious my jaw was shattered as
there were many grinding bone noises and my teeth were in my mouth.
I began walking out towards a burn area which I had used previously to get to the road. My brother met me in the meadow on my way out and I told him to get the truck and I would meet him on the road. I knew the meadow was too bumpy for me to ride in the truck with my broken face. I tried to hold my jaw together as best I could. My brother left to get the truck and I continued to walk out to the road.
I can honestly say I have some of my work training to thank for my next couple hours as I used combat breathing to control shock and blood pressure.
I am thankful now that the training kicked in when it did as it probably saved my life. My brother got the truck to the road and met me sitting on a log next to it. I sat on the log thinking if I don’t control my shock and heart rate I am going to bleed out as blood was everywhere and my forearms were beginning to swell.
We had a terrible 4 wheel drive road trenched with tire ruts and water-bars out of the area to where we could make contact with medical help. The first phone we were able to get too was at Puntzi Lake (175km West of Williams Lake) where my brother contacted the ambulance service. My brother described our vehicle and they dispatched an ambulance out of Williams Lake.
I was in some distress at this point I knew I was in pretty serious trouble as I had to use my swollen fingers to continue to clear my airway as blood and debris was causing breathing stress. My hands and forearms were beginning to swell up from hitting the moose and blood blisters were forming where the gun handle exploded into my hands. We drove Highway 20 until we met the ambulance just East of Lee’s Corner (85 km East of Williams Lake).I walked up to the ambulance along the highway The ambulance attendants tried to get me to lay down on the stretcher but I knew that with the amount of blood I was having to continually pull out of my mouth or spit up that I could not do anything other than to hunch over forward. The ambulance attendants began close the rear doors and I remember looking at my brother who was being left on the side of the road not really knowing what to do and not much fuel in his tank.
I remember looking out the rear door of the ambulance on the ride to Williams Lake thinking this is taking forever. We were going code three but having traffic lining up behind us and I was thinking 'use these dam lights and sirens and move this thing'.
I got to the Williams Lake hospital and they began treating me and the last thing the surgeon says to me is that I will be going to sleep and waking up in a different town. They were cutting my clothes off and removing my boots. That is all I remember until about 4 days later in the ICU in Kamloops where I woke up my jaw is wired shut and I have lost several teeth on my left side and I am breathing through a tracheotomy in my throat (which means I obviously can’t talk).
The next four days are events provided by my family as I have no memory of anything but short isolated instances. I was put to sleep in Williams Lake where I was treated for approximately 5 hours while waiting to find out where I was going to be transferred to. I began having difficulty breathing so I had to be intubated (placed on breathing machine) and prepared for helicopter medevac transport to either Vancouver or Kamloops. My wife was contacted through my Brother and sister in law and told to get to Williams Lake right away which she did.She was able to get to the hospital while I was given a cat scan. My wife was able to ride in the medevac helicopter with me to Kamloops where we were met by ambulance and transported to the ICU in Royal Inland Hospital Kamloops. My eldest son was waiting outside emergency doors when the ambulance arrived with us at the Kamloops hospital.
On the morning of September 26, I was placed in the Operating Room where doctors performed a 6 1/2 hour surgery on my face. All the bones below my eye sockets are cracked, broken or shattered. My eldest son and my wife were at my bedside exchanging ice packs through the night to try to help control the swelling on my face. My youngest son remained in Quesnel with my sister in law (brother’s wife) and her children who just happened to be staying with us during the moose hunt. The rest of my immediate family was able to get to my bedside in the next day or so; minus my mother who was in Tuscany returning in a few days. The family got some positive new back from the surgeons after the first surgery and felt my life was no longer in peril although still very serious she likely wouldn’t be able to get back much sooner anyway. She was contacted when her plane landed in Vancouver.
I had to be strapped down to the bed for a few days because I was trying to rip the ventilator tubes out when not strapped down. On September 29, I was taken off the ventilator and began breathing through a tracheotomy (a large plastic pipe they stick in your throat). My wife was on my bedside the entire time and helps train me to breathe again; I have no real recollection of this time period (thank god!). I went through two other operations first due to complications and post ops infection and the second with a blocked airway that had built up over two or three days which was the worst. Having a tracheotomy is a terrible experience and restricted airway was the most miserable, exhausting, and no sleep experience of my life.
I remained in ICU for 22 days which was very difficult for many reasons. By the end of the last week I was more like a caged animal tethered to it because of my tracheotomy, IV’s and feeding tube. Not being able to speak because of the tracheotomy was very demoralizing and I had to rely on the look on my face and writing everything down which was quite hard. Once I began to take in some liquids though my wired mouth and throat we were transferred to surgical ward where I spent 4 days. I had to retrain my body to swallow again which is a very weird thing which took an agonizing 3 days but once that was done the IV, feeding tube and tracheotomy were removed. On the fourth day on the ward we were able to convince the doctors to discharge me (us) so I went home on October 19th.I am living at home with my wife and youngest son eating through straws. It is amazing what can be processed in a blender. I am down to Kamloops in a couple of weeks to have the first set of wires removed from my jaws which will allow me to eat, talk, yawn and sneeze (the latter two are very painful with a wired jaw). I have some slight concussion effects still remaining but they are improving every day which is a good sign.
I will be resting with family over Christmas and I am very thankful for that. My extended family was somewhat dysfunctional prior to this but I can say it takes something like this for people to really look at their lives and are able to reflect. In my case the result was positive but many others may not be. If anyone can learn anything from this experience; tell your family you love them and fix issues right away you never know when your number is up.
As for the bull everyone is wondering what happened to the moose? A CO from Quesnel arrived at the hospital in Williams Lake the same time as my wife. He was dispatched out to locate the bull and he attended the site with the RCMP with directions to the location from my brother. The CO located the moose later that afternoon about 300 meters from the attack location. He had to shoot it twice in the neck with 12 gauge rifled slugs and once further in the head with a 30-06. My brother and a friend brought the moose out of the woods and home to Quesnel. They cleaned and gutted the moose and located my shots. I had hit the moose three times once in the boiler maker (I suspect my first shot) the second shot was in the front shoulder and third was in the upper leg below the shoulder. I have no idea why it wasn’t dead but this moose clearly had some different ideas.
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