Hunting Memories

Moose Rodeo
By Lennis Janzen

Danell and Lennis Janzen pose with Danell's Utah moose.
Ever since I was a boy growing up on the vast 270,000-acre, game-rich Tejon Ranch in California, I dreamed of a profession in the hunting industry. I had an incredible passion for hunting and an extreme appreciation of wildlife. I also dreamed of finding a woman who would be my companion to enjoy the wild outdoors with. I have been blessed with both.

When I first met my wife, Danell, I took her on a deer hunt to observe her reaction to hunting. I cannot say how relieved and happy I was when she informed me that she loved the experience and the next time would like to have a gun, license and tag of her own, as hunting was definitely not a spectator sport.

Shortly after we were married we started our business, Crooked Horn Outfitters. I was busy designing and marketing our line of specialized hunting equipment while Danell managed all the paperwork. It has been a fun, challenging adventure for the past fifteen years and now Crooked Horn provides a successful line of hunting packs, optic cases, binocular straps and other accessories to hunters all over the nation.

Several years ago, Danell began to develop big ambitions for hunting. Big ambitions! Deer and game birds were still fun to hunt but she wanted something different, more challenging. A New Mexico elk hunt was her first foray into the "big time" and Danell took advantage by bagging a 300-class, 6-point bull. Even that was not big enough and a couple of years later she took a free-ranging buffalo bull from a herd along the New Mexico-Mexico border.

Hunting wasn’t Danell’s only passion during this time, and she moved steadily up the ranks in her chosen discipline of the martial arts, Tae Kwon Do. When she achieved her 1st degree black belt, I took her on a trip to Maui, and arranged for her to pursue another really big trophy, the blue marlin. The results were similar to her hunts as she reeled in one of the biggest recorded that year. She did it within an hour, a marlin over 12 feet long and 550 pounds.

Early in 2004, Danell was scheduled to test for her 2nd degree black belt. As a training incentive I asked her what she would like as a reward. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she replied, "A moose hunt."

It had been a few years since her buffalo hunt and even though she had taken a couple of great mule deer since then, Danell was due for another big challenge. Confident she wouldn’t fail, I began looking into what might be available in guaranteed-tag moose hunts. The one which seemed to fit our needs and schedule best, was a hunt for Shiras Moose in northeastern Utah during the peak of the rut.

Weatheredhorn Outfitters, based out of Northern Utah, has been known for many years to produce trophy elk, mule deer, moose and mountain lion for their clients. They are true professionals who look out for all of their hunters’ needs and I felt extremely fortunate to find an opening with them. Now came the hard part, waiting for the hunt. As she waited for the October 1st hunt, Danell practiced at the range, becoming even more familiar with her custom .300 Win Mag built by the legendary Bill Wiseman. She hiked regularly and even backpacked to the summit of Mt. Whitney. Mt. Whitney’s peak reaches 14,500 feet so she hiked a couple of weeks before the hunt to make sure the mountains and altitude of Utah would be no problem.

Finally, we were headed up Interstate 15 on our way through Utah. The mountainsides were ablaze with striking colors sometimes resembling the embers of a late-night campfire. Our friend and videographer, Tyler Johnnerson, was coming along to film the hunt, and I hoped his cameras could capture this splendor of Mother Nature. When we passed Park City, Utah, home of the most recent Winter Olympics, we had only 50 miles to go. I could tell by looking at Danell that in her mind she was already after moose.

Weatheredhorn’s camp was, from the first moment, a pleasure to be in. Set up in a meadow against a creek at the head of a huge drainage, its prominent feature was the world's longest cook tent. A number of miniature log cabins served as bedrooms for the hunters. We were greeted by our three enthusiastic, ambitious guides, a hot cup of coffee and Dutch oven cooking. Our guides, Cal Haskell, Daniel Riching and Lonnie Billiler were excited about the number of animals they had been seeing and about one moose in particular.

They had located a tremendous bull on an isolated section of the ranch and were hopeful we could find it the next day. These moose are very territorial once they have a receptive cow, and don’t usually travel more than a half-mile or so from her. The biggest problem spotting these bulky animals comes from how well they are hidden by the oak brush and rough terrain.

We saw a number of serious hunters in camp using our Crooked Horn Outfitters equipment, which was really a nice thing. Everyone there had a Slide and Flex Bino System, and our guide, Daniel, had been hooked on the Master Guide Backpack long before we booked our hunt.

At dawn we rode out on ATVs and began seeing moose right away. We passed several good bulls on our way into the area where the big one had been, but Danell knew what she was after. Big spread, large paddles and lots of points — qualities our guides said would make a trophy.

By midmorning we found the bull we were after. He had everything a trophy is supposed to have; 45" wide, more than 10 points per side and massive paddles. The bull was also holed up in a place Danell couldn’t take a shot, but he didn’t seem inclined to leave.

Our guide, Lonnie, noted that the wind was blowing almost directly from the bull to us, and the bull might come out our way if Lonnie were to circle upwind and let it get a whiff of his scent. We agreed it was worth a try. So, Lonnie began working his way around the bull. The plan seemed to be going well — right up to the point the moose smelled Lonnie. Instead of heading our direction, the animal circled the intruder to get a better look from above. As I watched this happening I realized we probably could have expected it. A bull that size has no natural predators to fear, and it was during the rut.

Suddenly, the bull charged. Lonnie used a small oak tree as a shield, and it appeared to make the bull veer off. As the wily old bull went past Lonnie, it hooked around the tree slapping him with the backside of his massive paddle. He hit Lonnie with such force he tumbled across the tops of nearby oak brush. Horrified, we rushed to get to Lonnie, and found him coming down a trail with his right arm held against his chest. His shoulder was dislocated, but not badly enough for him to leave a hunt in progress.

We explained to Lonnie that we had watched and filmed his "moose rodeo." After the wild morning ordeal, Daniel then helped him work his shoulder back in place without even giving Lonnie a bit of painkiller. Talk about tough. Lonnie then gave us an up-close description of the bull's behavior. "He looked at me. His eyes got big and red as beets, then he charged and I was rolling over the oak brush," was Lonnie’s best recollection of the incident.

Later that afternoon we returned and again found the bull. There still was no opportunity for a shot, but this time we were winded by some cows and the bull followed them toward an area of mostly open sage. Darkness fell before we could catch up, but our guides were hopeful the bull would stay in the open all night and we might catch him there in the morning. At sunrise we were glassing and searching, spreading out to see as much of the area as we could. Lonnie had walked up on a point, and began signaling he could see the bull on a ridge in front of us.

We hurried in the direction Lonnie had indicated, heading up a draw toward where we had been the night before. We came to an opening and there he was on a sage-covered ridge. The bull had a cow and calf along with him and was silhouetted against the morning sky. Danell quickly set up her Crooked Horn Rifle Sticks and found the bull in her scope. It was about a 230-yard shot, but I had no doubt in her ability to make it off the rock-solid rest the shooting sticks provided. Danell looked away, took a couple of breaths and looked back in her scope. Looked away again, breathed, back again to her scope.

When her rifle went off, the effect was devastating. None of us had ever seen anything like it, at least not in person. The bull went down hard. Down with enough force for its hooves to fly up higher than the sage. Once again Danell had been more than a match for the biggest challenge she could find.

Ordinarily you’d think such a great shot would be the most memorable part of any hunt, but Danell can always go one better. What I’ll remember most is a comment she made while thanking our guide Cal for such an incredible hunt. She said, "... The whole hunting experience just has everything good in it. It has all the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental aspects of our nature, and it all comes together in one place. There’s nothing else like it… except in hunting."

If you’d like to see the video of Danell’s hunt, it will be airing soon on at least one of the quality hunting shows Crooked Horn Outfitters is associated with. It will also be included on our second DVD "Game and Gear Out West Adventures, Volume II" coming in 2005. For information on this or any other Crooked Horn Outfitters' products, check out our website at or give us a call toll free at 877-722-5872. Also, if you are looking for a great western big game hunt, contact the professionals at Weathered Horn Outfitters, 6618 South 400 West, Murray, UT 84047; phone (801) 562-0054.
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