Great preparation and gear coming together in an outstanding hunting territory known for record-book Canada moose and big grizzly bears could not overcome what the temperature was registering by noon on almost every day of my British Columbia hunt of a lifetime.
Daytime highs in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies just south of the Yukon border, reached the mid-60s. Wind, rain and fog affected two-thirds of the hunting days. Only two mornings saw a short-lived, light frost.
Mostly poor hunting weather makes for mostly uncooperative animals, especially deer during the rut — and a moose is a big deer. We needed cold mornings and cool days every day as we hunted not far from Watson Lake, Yukon Territories.
I returned home without firing a shot from my .338.
Not that I didn't see several moose, including one big bull that passed within 100 yards of precisely where I had been sitting at dusk a day earlier, the first day of the hunt.
Coal River Outfitters honcho Shawn Raymond and I were high above our base camp, a wall tent on "Moose Lake," when we spotted him. A vantage point I dubbed "The Hill of Sweat" let us glass 10 small lakes nearly 1,000 feet below.
The rutting beast was moving through a swamp about 2.5 miles distant in late afternoon. Getting down the hill across the obstacle course of downed spruce and jack pine would've been a stretch. Plus, we really had no way of knowing for certain where he was headed once he hit the timber, although our abundant calling the day before may have helped pinpoint his route.
On other mornings, smaller "satellite" bulls responded to within shooting distance of our calls. The big bulls were likely not too far, hidden in the timber, tending harems of cows, Raymond surmised. Bulls nonresponsive to calling are extremely difficult to hunt.
At daybreak on the final morning, I walked to the far end of our base camp lake. The de Havilland Beaver float plane would soon arrive to carry us back to civilization.
My cow moose calls echoed around the hillsides, seemingly with no result. We loaded the 1954-vintage Beaver. Our pilot applied the power, and we lifted from the water.
As we climbed, Raymond frantically pointed below. A small bull moose stood on the lakeshore, obviously looking for the cows he had heard calling shortly before. Ten seconds later, I pointed to a massive bull moose in the timber just a short mile above the lake.
There was no doubt we were surrounded by moose and that big bull surely heard our calls. He and his Bullwinkle fraternity brothers ignored them all week. Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather, the intermittent rain squalls, thunderstorms or high winds. Maybe the real cows were too sexy.
Raymond was also frustrated. This was the very camp where a few years ago professional hunter Jim Shockey had taken the second-largest Canada moose ever recorded.
Hunting in any fair chase situation is never a sure thing. Knowing that, though, only lessens minimally the sting of traveling so far, hunting so hard and not closing the deal.
Ken Perrotte is a Military Times outdoors writer.