The Moose Hunt of a Lifetime…and so Much More!
The Moose Hunt of a Lifetime with PSE’s Jeff Propst
Meet Jeff Propst: Jeff Propst of northeast Missouri has been shooting a PSE bow since 2008. He was a factory rep for another bow manufacturer for many years. Propst recalls that after he left his previous archery provider, “A very, very close friend of mine, Mark Drury, suggested I try PSE bows. So, I got a PSE X-Force, started shooting it and fell in love with the bow.” Today, Propst shoots the PSE Dream Season DNA and prefers PSE bows, because they’re smooth, quiet, fast and accurate. He says, “With my bow, I’ve taken elk, whitetails, moose and turkeys.”
All my life, I’ve dreamed of going to Alaska; I’ve always wanted to take a moose there. As luck would have it, one of my friends had booked an Alaskan moose hunt and was suddenly unable to go. He called and asked me if I’d like to take his place on the hunt. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. The hunt was booked with Knik Glacier Adventures. My buddy who wasn’t able to go had hunted brown bears with the same outfitter. He had gone on and on, telling me of his amazing experience. Braun Kopsack, my guide, was a legend himself, so I was extremely anxious prior to the hunt.
The hunt would span 10 days. I arrived on the 20th of September; we started hunting the next morning on the 21st. For 3 days, we hunted in the high mountains with the rain pouring-down, along with cold temperatures. When we saw there was more bad weather coming, we knew we had to relocate. Kopsack contacted the bush-plane pilot to come pick us up, so we could move camp. I knew the weather was getting bad. But I was hesitant to try another spot, since we knew moose were in the area, where we were, and in fact, I could have gotten one our first day. Alaska hunting regulations specify that a legal bull moose is one with antlers that exceed a minimum width of 50 inches. The moose that I started to take on the first day, looking back, probably met those specifications. However, neither me or my guide were completely sure of his antler width, so we decided not to pursue the bull further.
During those first 3 days, I saw five bull moose. We also spotted Dall sheep, mountain goats and even black bears. Although I was hesitant to leave the moose we had seen, I didn’t regret leaving that region, since we were hunting up and down several steep climbs in 3-4 inches of snow. I’ve experienced difficult hunts in rough terrain but nothing compares with being guided by a world-class mountain marathon runner. I’m a 55-year old man, and I consider myself in pretty good shape; however, I definitely was not in the same shape as Kopsack, who tackled the mountains as if they were flat ground.
We left high camp, flew down to the Knik River by airboat, camped on the river, left base camp before daylight and climbed into the high mountains all morning. Then we started hunting about mid-to-late morning. All the moose tended to be up high on the mountains where there was better cover and habitat. Since the land we were hunting was public, there was a lot of boat pressure and moose hunting pressure down low, near the river. So, we were forced-up, much to the joy of my guide. Once we found a series of ditches and draws that provided ideal habitat for the moose, we decided to camp and spend the remaining 6 days there. Finally, on the ninth day, I had an opportunity to take a moose.
We had spent the whole of that day hunting with no luck. In the evening, we started making our way back to camp. After 9 days of mountain climbing, I was mentally and physically worn out. Too, the rain and the snow were taking their toll. But as we took a break on the side of the big drainage ditch, Kopsack said, “There’s a big outcropping of rocks just above us. I’m going to run up there and do some glassin’.” A few minutes later, he emerged, saying, “I spotted a big moose a good ways off. I don’t know if he’s legal or not, but I really think we should go and check him out.” To be honest, I was beat, close to calling it quits, but Kopsack was encouraging and said, “The moose is in a spot we can get to, and he’s in a place where I believe you can get a shot. Let’s go!”
We went down a mountain, across a glacier stream, and before I knew it, we had moved fairly close to where we thought the moose was feeding. Kopsack made one call, and I could hear the moose coming to us. When the moose got in close, we weren’t sure his rack was more than 50 inches, although Kopsack believed the moose was legal. Even when the bull was 10-yards from us, we couldn’t make a definite measurement. The moose gave us time to check out his antlers; he kept looking and looking for the cow that had been calling to him. He was searching, almost asking, “Why did you call me over here, but I can’t find you?” Kopsack, my son, Chris, and I were all wearing Mossy Oak camo (www.mossyoak.com) that blended right in with the alders and brush. To this day, I am confident that our camo was the reason why the moose couldn’t see us. After a handful of tense moments, the moose turned to walk away. At that moment, Kopsack whispered, “He’s legal, I’m sure of it.”
From that point, the stalk was on, and the bull moose was 50-yards away from where we’d stopped. I didn’t hesitate to take the 50-yard shot for two reasons:
* I had practiced at more than 50 yards, and I knew I could hit the spot where I was aiming.
* I had shot my PSE Dream Season EVO enough to know that when I put my pin on a desired spot, the EVO always delivered the shot.
When I released the arrow, I saw the RAGE Hypodermic Broadhead hit the bull right behind the front shoulder and go all the way in to the fletching of the arrow. As soon as the bull took the arrow, he went over a little rise. We were filming this hunt for Bow Madness so I could, thankfully, replay the shot on the video camera. When I saw for certain I had made a good shot, I turned to Chris and Kopsack, saying, “I’m going to ease up to that rise and try to see the bull.” When I peeked over the rise, I saw that the bull moose hadn’t traveled more than 40 yards after taking my arrow. As a group, we field dressed the moose. Since Kopsack was the only one well-suited to transport meat, he said, “I’ve got my frame pack, and I’ll carry one hindquarter out now. We’ll come back in the morning and get the rest of the moose; we’ve still got a 2-hour hike to get back to camp, and I’d like to get to camp before dark.” So we boned the hindquarter out, and Kopsack carried it on his back.
The next morning, Kopsack called-in some additional packers to bring out the rest of the moose. My son, Chris, went with the packers and he carried the head and rack all the way back. Kopsack knew my leg wasn’t doing well, so he asked me to stay in camp to get everything packed up. Then we could leave as soon as the packers returned. My dream to hunt moose in Alaska had come true. Best of all, my son was by my side when I showed off my trophy, a 57” wide bull moose.
Public Land Elk Hunting
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) public-land hunting for elk is a challenge, and I love it. I’ve hunted New Mexico’s elk on public lands since 1997. Throughout the years, I’ve taken 16 bull elk in that state with my bow. Of those elk, 13 were taken on public lands.
In 2010, I was hunting in New Mexico with two friends, John Williams and Nick Pelagreen. We were on a DIY hunt on public lands, hunting in the southwestern portion of New Mexico. We set-up camp at 7,200 feet above sea level. Then we hiked up into the mountains to about 8,000 feet above sea level, found a big canyon and started hunting up it. We happened upon an elk wallow. We could tell by the substantial foot traffic that local elk were frequenting this wallow. I was really surprised that other hunters hadn’t come across or hunted the area. The secluded wallow was only about 2-miles from our camp. Looking over the pristine elk habitat, I leaned to Nick and told him, “Just watch- we’ll take an elk off this wallow.” Less than 30 seconds after I had made that statement, we heard a bull bugle off to our left and above us. I called to the bull; he answered me with another bugle. We ran about 50-yards up the hill toward the bugling bull and set-up in some bushes.
After we were ready, I called two more times. Both times, the bull answered. Finally, I saw a hearty 6X6 bull headed to the wallow. As long as I live, I never will forget seeing that bull walk through the meadow to the wallow. The bull closed the gap from 100 to 25 yards quickly. When he was close enough, I gave him a cow call. He stopped; I released the arrow from my PSE X-Force. The arrow dug-in deeply, all the way to the fletching. After the bull took the arrow, he went about 75-yards before going down. Luckily, transporting the meat and head wasn’t too difficult, because we were able to pull our truck fairly close to where the bull fell.
The next year, fueled by memories from the previous season, I had planned to hunt that same wallow. But when I hiked up to the wallow, I was shocked to find that another bowhunter already had set-up to hunt. That’s the risk you run when you hunt public land. But, I still enjoy the challenge of not only finding and taking bull elk on public lands but also trying to pinpoint a place to hunt that won’t be disturbed by other hunters.
November 3, 2012 is a date I’ll never forget, because it marks the date my son, Chris, and I took two nice, mature whitetail bucks within 15 minutes of each other; interestingly, both bucks were taken with my Dream Season EVO PSE bow. We were hunting our farm in northeast Missouri, sitting in our tree stands, while Chris filmed me. We hadn’t seen much deer activity that morning when Chris whispered, “Dad, when do you think these deer will start moving?” Quietly, I answered, “They should be moving starting anytime, because the rut should be starting.”
Five minutes later, I looked down a hardwood ridge and saw a buck coming toward us. I immediately recognized the big 9 point, because he had appeared on our trail camera with a pair of distinct features: two separate white throat patches under his lower jaw. Given that he was already a trail-camera star, I knew he was a shooter. When he meandered into bow range, I grunted to him with my natural voice, but the buck didn’t stop. I grunted again a second time; the buck spooked and took off down a hill, some 35-yards away. I shoot a slider sight with no fixed pins, which was dead-on at 20 yards. I knew the flight of the arrow would be slightly lower than it would be if I shot the buck at 20 yards. So, I calculated I only needed to shoot 3-inches high of the spot I wanted to hit; the EVO delivered the arrow exactly where I had aimed. Because of the speed of the EVO, shooting 313 feet per second (fps), I made the shot I wanted to make. Before I switched to PSE, my old bow, which shot at 216 fps, would have been too slow and never would have made that shot. I hit that buck in the liver, the arrow traveled forward, up toward the deer’s heart, and then he ran out of sight. I felt good about the shot, however, I wasn’t exactly sure where the arrow had hit him. Even after we had rewound the video, we couldn’t see exactly where the arrow had entered the deer. After we had sat in the tree for a while, I told Chris, “Okay, let’s get down out of the tree, go find my arrow, and look for the deer.”
Before climbing down from the tree, I let my bow down to the ground with a pull rope. Once I was down, I untied my bow from the pull rope when I noticed movement- another buck was coming our way, and this one had a name – Joust. He was an interesting 11-pointer. When we had discovered him on the trail camera earlier, his most-noticeable feature was a main beam that protruded straight forward, just like a jousting lance. And, so, his nickname was born. Joust was taking his time heading in our direction, eating acorns and hitting brush with his antlers. Chris quietly said, “Dad! Send your bow up!” I retied my bow to the pull-up rope, and Chris pulled the bow to his tree stand. Minutes passed by, and while I was leaning up against the tree where Chris was, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. Lowered from the heavens, there appeared a video camera hanging on the pull-up rope. Chris and I exchanged our weapons of choice and waited.
Once I got the camera off the pull rope, I attempted to blend into the tree, which wasn’t easy. We were bowhunting during the Missouri Youth Rifle Season. If you bowhunt during the youth rifle season, you have to wear hunter orange. I felt like a gigantic, neon STOP sign, but I stood still as a statue, filming Joust as he came nearer. I became extremely nervous, because I didn’t know when Chris was going to shoot. Weirdly enough, I’ve always preferred to shoot a quiver on my bow. I know many bowhunters who prefer to shoot sans quiver. However, that day, I was glad I still had my quiver, as well as release, on the bow when Chris pulled-up my PSE bow. Luckily, Chris and I always have shot each other’s bows, because we hunt together so much. I felt certain that one day, we’d have the opportunity to possibly take two bucks out of the same tree. And now, that possibility was fast becoming a reality. We generally like to capture both the hunter and the hunted in the same shot, but since Chris was directly above me in the tree, there was no way I could video both he and the deer at the same time. Communication with Chris was also impossible, so I decided to stay focused on the deer with the camera and wait to see what happened.
Joust hopped across a little ditch and started staring at me. I thought for sure Joust was going to spook. From the viewfinder of the camera, I could see a little, green leaf in front of the deer’s nose as Joust nibbled at the leaf, swished his tail and kept coming straight toward us. Suddenly, through the viewfinder, I saw an arrow coming from the sky. The buck was only about 17-yards from the base of the tree when Chris took the shot. The arrow hit exactly in the pocket to double-lung Joust and made a clean pass-through. The buck only walked 4 yards after taking the arrow.
Luckily, we had a HuntVe four-wheeler. Since Chris’ deer only had gone 4 yards, we loaded Joust before searching for my arrow. We had no success. We quickly went back to the house and looked at the video of the shot I made on my deer. After forming a game plan, we went out to follow the blood trail. We found my deer 200-yards from where I’d hit him. When we look back on that day, we always remember it was the day of the Double-Down Bucks – when we took two bucks out of the same tree, 15-minutes apart, shooting the same PSE EVO.
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Tomorrow: PSE’s Jeff Propst Takes a Spring Turkey with His Bow & More