No bull — Moose hunt with a muzzleloader

Grand Junction taxidermist Darryl Powell has a close encounter with a bull Shiras moose during a blackpowder hunt earlier this month in the Porter Mountain area. With few natural predators, moose may show little fear of humans.



Taxidermist Darryl Powell of Grand Junction poses with the bull Shiras moose Powell harvested earlier this month during a blackpowder rifle hunt east of Vega Reservoir. The moose’s antlers measured 46 inches wide.



QUICKREAD

HERD ON THE RISE

Although taxidermist Darryl Powell drew the first-ever black-powder license for bull moose on Grand Mesa, Ed Gannon of Grand Junction, who in 2009 drew one of the first two moose-hunting licenses for Grand Mesa, also used a muzzleloader in his successful hunt.

Thanks to continued efforts by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the support of local ranchers, sportsmen and wildlife lovers, the Grand Mesa moose herd has grown to around 300 animals. The first transplant was in 2005 when three Shiras moose (also known as Wyoming moose) were captured near Creede and released east of Vega Reservoir.

This summer, moose often were seen near Mesa Lakes, Skyway and the Buzzard Creek-Porter Mountain area east of Vega Reservoir.



Leaving the conversation hanging mid-sentence, Darryl Powell decided to prove a point.

“Man, you know I’m not superstitious or anything like that,” he said with a laugh while flourishing an empty beer can, green with a red ribbon and a familiar silhouette on the label. “But for a month before my hunt, I only drank Moosehead beer.

“Now, that’s a Canada moose and not a Shiras, but doesn’t mine look sort of like that?” he asked, admiring the complacent image. “I’m not saying it helped, but I made sure I did all the right things.”

Among the many “right things” Powell did earlier this month was to stalk and call a bull moose to within 15 yards before harvesting the first moose taken on Grand Mesa with a muzzleloader license.

Powell, a Grand Junction taxidermist with a contagious enthusiasm for the sport of hunting, had a friend video his once-in-a-lifetime hunt, and today visitors to Powell’s shop on 29 Road can’t leave without marveling at the seven-minute video documenting the adventure.

The key to Powell’s success was scouting, which ranged from preseason conversations with the local biologist from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to simply stopping at hunting camps and quizzing bowhunters already in the field.

“I’d walk up to those camps all friendly-like, and those guys would get sort of hesitant when I first talked to them,” Powell said. “You know, they think I’m just another guy with an archery tag trying to freeload a hunt, but when I told them I had a moose tag for a muzzleloader, it was like, ‘Hey, really? We saw some moose today,’ and they’d pull out these photos they had taken with their digital cameras and their cell phones.”

Some of the reports were overblown. One hunter reported seeing a moose “with antlers like this,” said Powell, stretching out his arms to his full 6-foot-plus frame. “I said, ‘You guys from Virginia don’t know anything about moose.’”

But similar advice is how Powell discovered a massive bull moose in the area around Lenna and Porter mountains east of Vega Reservoir.

However, when Powell finally located the moose, it was walking on a narrow stretch of private land, off limits.

“He was huge,” exclaimed Powell, showing a short video of the minibus-wide moose pushing through knee-high brush.

“I thought about trying to call him over the fence to me,” Powell said, “but when I went back up there, he was gone.”

Powell went in search of a cow moose seen a day earlier, figuring that cow was sure to have a love-struck bull somewhere close.

Sure enough, a bull showed up, and Powell put himself between the cow and the unpredictable bull.

“I’d call, and he’d answer right back,” said Powell, giving the low, grunting hoot that resonates through heavy timber in moose country. “That’s all the noise they make, and he would answer me right back.”

Their immense size and a general lack of predators mean moose are rather fearless, even when confronted with a blaze-orange-clad human in plain sight.

“An elk or a deer would have smelled me or seen me and been gone in a flash,” Powell said. “But that moose just stood there, getting closer and raking the brush with his antlers, trying to intimidate me.”

The video shows the moose, grunting and banging his 46-inch wide antlers against brush and trees, closing to within 10 to 12 yards of Powell.

“Man, it was neat, but I was shaking,” Powell recalled. “He was so close, I couldn’t tell if he was going to turn and run or charge. I told myself that if he turned away so I could get a shot at his shoulder, that would be enough.”

The long standoff ended when the irritated moose swung his head, giving Powell the shot he was anticipating.

Two shots later (Powell was carrying a second muzzleloader, both pushing 425-grain bullets), the hunt was over.

Sort of.

It lives on in the photos, the video (expected to be part of a future TV show), and of course, Powell’s taxidermy skills.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to put him,” said Powell, gazing around at the array of heads covering his walls and floors. “But I’ll find a place, that’s for sure.”


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