Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Standing The Charge - Face To Face With An Alaskan Moose

By John Simeone

I have heard a lot of explanations of courage and valor over the years, the best is the adage of “when you know your dead anyway, you may as well just shoot.”

I loved Alaska having the best job in the Army back in 78, as an Army federal game warden at Ft Richardson. Now you might believe this is some sort of romantic adventure of patrolling the high country and saving little animals from the mean old poachers. Well somewhere along the way we did that too.

We had this little Lieutenant in the MP station almost five feet tall that the Provost Marshal allowed to call the shots which lead to my daily suicide missions to check the roads for black ice on Alieska Mountain about 13,000 feet up in the Chugiacks. Although common sense dictated if it was below zero

there was ice on the roads, but Lt Milktoast had to keep his statistics straight so anything but a physical road inspection would not do for his daily 100 page report to the PM. Half a league, half a league up the mountain I went again, mine is not to question why.

They built the place to have the Winter Olympics there but evidently the roads were too treacherous. I certainly can attest to that fact. So it turned into a military ski resort at the cost of at least one vehicle going off the cliff a day. I never did catch on to the mystique of snow skiing, however the officers would go up on Friday afternoon and hopefully get snowed in until a chopper shuttled them down on Monday. They needed me to confirm the road was too hazardous so they didn't have to come down and go to work. The rest of us had enough brains not to go up there.

On the day in question I put my tire chains on the CJ-5 and made it all the way to the top, an effort in foolhardiness to say the least. It was on the way down, however, that was the problem. The road was so slick you couldn't stand on it and if you were on a grade you started sliding downhill spontaneously. That's what happened to my CJ as the ice was so slick the chains wouldn't bite in. I went into a flat spin at 0 mph and only by luck hit the wall side of the mountain instead of going off the cliff, the vehicle flipped on the driver's side and I then slid right toward the cliff with no guard rail and oblivion. The vehicle stopped short of the cliff by a few feet, and just before I embarrassed myself and started screaming.

I got out packed up my gear and weapons just as the Provost Marshal past me going skiing. He couldn't stop but called in a chopper for me. The Suicide missions ended that day.

How does one train for something like that? Well you do and you don't, they pick you for jobs like that depending on your “Crazy” factor. With that, they must have thought me insane.

It was my two Karate instructors that made me the way I am today. Lou Ellison the Cherokee, was nuts himself and tested his courage daily by allowing a rattlesnake to strike at his face when he stared at the snake inside the aquarium. He didn't even blink when it struck the glass right in his face. It took me three days before I stopped jumping back. Then he insisted I “Catch” a patrol dog. Joe “Pat”Patrick was in full agreement, gave me an arm guard and lip slip the dogs of war. Catching “King” a magnificent German Shepard was like putting your arm in a vise and then letting someone turn the crank to see how much you can take. Pat still enjoys aggravating me to this very day.

Now George Chaney was the task master, and a grand master of the martial arts. If you trained with him you didn't expect to be mediocre, you were a champ or hit the road. Many are told that Karate is for defense only, well not Combat Karate, Chaney taught us to “Attack.” It took many a Japanese and Korean stylist by surprise, as they couldn't stand a charge, so we just ran right over them.

I never had time for alcohol or drugs, but I do remember Lou telling me that the reason he didn't do such things was because he would probably like it, that was good enough for me.

You may wonder why I'm a well known pontificator of the large caliber hunting weapons. This story will tell you the reason. Elmer Keith has always been my gun hero, mainly because his invention saved me on two occasions, that would be the 44 magnum handgun.

They gave me a Smith and Wesson M-29 with a six inch barrel in 44 magnum as well as a pre-64 Winchester M-70 in 300 H&H Magnum as my duty weapons for Army Game Warden duty, still not big enough. I requested them to give me the 300 and I would buy them a 458 out of my own pocket for use as a duty rifle. Later the Commander in his infinite wisdom said he had two new rifles for us. They turned out to be Ruger 77s in 30-06, Captain Dipstick thought if it had four numbers instead of three it was more powerful. More reason not to trust officers.

I can't blame anyone for this but me. I was checking fishing licenses on a remote lake when I heard nearby gunfire. I walked up on a blithering idiot shooting at a trout that his little 9 year old boy was trying to land on a rod and reel. Of course he was drunk too, never thinking about the bullets skipping across the lake and endangering the boaters out there. I counted 5 shots when I said drop the gun Military Police, instead he came around suddenly and we were locked in a deadly “Mexican Standoff.” A millisecond just before I made him a wall pizza, he dropped the gun, making me doublely glad I didn't have to shoot him in front of his son. He turned out to be an Air Force MP, E-6, that cried like a baby and wanted me to give him a break. No, when you point a gun at me that's it. Never did like the Air Force anyway.

It was a full moon at about 20 below zero, I got a call that a bull moose was hit by a car just South of the Ship Creek bridge on the Glen Highway. This was a common occurrence, my job was to put the moose down if it was injured as that area was near a school and we didn't need a wounded bull in the school yard. Little did I know I was about to be up Ship Creek without a paddle.

I met the Alaska State Trooper at the scene who was just finishing up the traffic accident report. “You wouldn't happen to have an elephant gun in your patrol car,” I inquired, as some of the officers did actually have them. “No just a shotgun and #4 buck.” “No thanks, just leave it, it will just piss him off.” He did have a 357 magnum Smith and Wesson, and decided to tag along.

They always go in the alders you know, these thick little trees much like a short pine thicket in Louisiana. There he was, down on his knees so I made some noise and he got up revealing a broken left leg. I could see real good in the moon light but I needed the Kel Light to see the sights on the gun. I always shot single action for accuracy, the first two Speer 240 grain soft points in the shoulder should have been enough. I watched and he turned his other side to me, I went for a neck shot at less than 20 yards. After 4 shots he should have gone down, but no here he came head down in a full irresistible charge.

Now here are some of the things I haven't told you yet, I was up to my waist in a snow bank so there was no way to run. Just for the record Lt Milktoast figured it was not politically correct for a soldier to carry a 44 magnum, so we were only allowed to carry 6 rounds.

Shot number 5 hit the base of the antler as he came in, the Trooper was now shooting from my right side but to no apparent effect.

A moose doesn't charge flamboyantly like a Spanish fighting bull or a Cape Buffalo, no, its more like being run over by the loader end of a backhoe. He had 55 inches of massive antler growth with three nice foot long brow tines on both sides to skewer me, with about 1500 pounds of mad bull moose pushing it. When you know you are dead anyway you may as well just shoot. I fired my last shot at point blank right between the eyes. He crashed before me in a shower of snow that caused a momentary white out, as the Trooper came to my side. I put out my foot and touched his head, it was that close.

I guess that was the only big game animal I ever felt sorry for because neither one of us wanted to be there, it wasn't hunting, it wasn't fun, but it was high adventure. Long live the beast, and ...Pass it on.

Related Links:
Find an Alaska Moose Or Deer Hunting Guide


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