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Panhandle Prize

By Bill Hohertz
ID, Shiras Moose

Upon concluding one of my best hunting seasons ever, I pondered what 2018 might hold in store for me. I entered into the draws as usual for all the states within driving range of Texas.

In 2017, I had been very fortunate in taking an outstanding 365" bull elk in New Mexico, a great 16" antelope, and using all of my preference points on a really nice mulie in Colorado. I ended the year with a whitetail buck on my ranch. That had kept this old boy pretty busy. I never would have thought that I could top that in my wildest dreams, but never say never!

My wife and I attend a small country church near our home. An older couple there had become close friends of ours, and I was soon to meet some of the nicest people I have ever known. Their grandson, his wife, and kids just happened to be down from Idaho on a visit and came to one of our church services. For me, it was almost divine intervention. We gather in our Fellowship Hall after the service. It did not take very long for this young man and me to realize we had a mutual passion for hunting, fishing, and being in the woods in spite of a 35-year age difference. His name is Eric, and he lives in the Panhandle region of Idaho.

His wife had killed a beautiful Shiras moose a couple of years previously, which I got to see through the sharing of cell phone pictures. I told Eric about my desire to take a moose, and he immediately told me that I should apply in Idaho. During the past few years, I have developed atrial fibrillation and have had several procedures to help maintain this heart issue. I had a hip replacement as well, which has hindered me somewhat, but my love for hunting and the next adventure is always foremost in my mind. Eric helped me with this process, but I did not think I had a chance as he told me the tag for a moose is a once-in-a-lifetime tag for residents and non-residents alike.

Upon checking my draw results, I found that I was successful. Let me tell you, it made me feel as though I had just won first place at the PBR Finals, only for me, it was much better. I will leave bucking bulls for the younger guys. This led to months of planning and phone calls to Eric and his dad, Erv. Their help with this hunt made it one of the best of my life.
My hunting companion and wife, Linda, and I left a few days before the moose season opened. The long haul from south Texas took several days, including driving the Snake River Canyon in the middle of the night. That was an adventure in and of itself, like walking blind in the dark as my wife kept her eye out for the deer and the elk moving about as we turned every hair-pinned corner. The scenery in Idaho was stunning with its beautiful, crystal clear rivers, lakes, and majestic mountains.

We had been invited to stay at Erv’s home, getting to share his birthday with him and his family. They made us feel as though we belonged there. He was even so gracious as to pull his really nice RV trailer 60 miles and set it up in the national forest I was hunting.

Eric had taken a couple days off from work to be a part of this special experience. His knowledge of the area and the animals was invaluable. He asked me what size moose I wanted, and I told him that I would be happy with any moose that looked good to him. I valued his judgment because this young man is such a good hunter. As we scouted, we saw moose tracks and savored the moment we would actually see one. The weather was crisp with lows in the 20s and highs in the 40s. It was perfect for our hunt! The night before opening day, Eric checked with one of his friends who suggested trying an area that he knew very well. This was part of the unit that we had not yet scouted, but it was one he knew well from logging it. The plan was made.

Leaving well before daylight, we slowly drove into the area surrounded by nothing but dark, black canyons. As the sun began its early morning glow, we spotted a cow moose and her calf within the first mile. We felt this could definitely be a good sign. A small bunch of elk was seen a little later. We knew this meant the animals were on the move.

We pulled up to a split in the road to check out a logged out area below us. As we walked up one of the roads, we saw two young bulls sparring across the canyon. Another cow and calf were nearby. Everyone’s adrenalin was pumping. Linda, after hearing a crunch below, motioned to Eric. He let out a couple of cow calls. At that moment, a bull grunted back. The bull came into view following a big cow. What a beautiful animal he was with black fur glistening in the sunlight. I asked Eric what he thought, and without hesitation, I heard, “You need to shoot that bull!” I finally sat down, offering an open shot, and set up my Bog-Pod. The 238-yard shot with my .300 WSM was made with the moose falling out of sight in the underbrush.

We marked the spot and drove the other road, parking above him. The brush was really thick, but we found him. We were in awe when we saw the enormous size of this animal. The only other animal I had taken this large was an Eland in Botswana. Eric said he was an exceptional Shiras moose, having nearly a 40" spread, 21 points, and great mass. He made a couple of calls to some friends. Within the hour, the “moose brigade” showed up in three pick-ups, including a grandfather who drove all the way back to town, bringing a large tarp along. These guys wanted to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime hunt. They wanted to get the moose out whole since they had never done it before.

After dressing the moose, we wrapped him up in the tarp, and with the help of a long rope, a snatch block, a pick-up, and these tough young men, we got him up onto the road from the canyon side. After taking pictures and celebrating, they wrestled him whole into my truck bed. You had to be there to believe it.

In reflection, I was truly blessed in taking such a splendid animal. I cannot thank Eric, Erv, and their families enough for all they did for us. They went out of their way to make this a special hunt-of-a-lifetime for me. Thanks also to the “moose brigade” for the unselfish giving of their time and effort. These special people will always be remembered as the best part of my Panhandle Prize!

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