Coming Full Circle M

Jay W

It all started with the desire to hunt black bear, but I was looking for a little more adventure than sitting on stand on a baited hunt. I decided to attend the Dallas Safari Club show and see what options were available. This is where I met Fraser and Krista McDonald with Circle M Outfitters. I talked to them multiple times throughout the show and the decision was made to book a spring bear hunt for 2016. A couple months later, I was in Northern BC looking for my first black bear.

After my successful bear hunt, I wanted my son to also enjoy what Circle M Outfitters and Northern BC had to offer so a second black bear hunt was booked. Hunting with my son turned out to be a great trip that was published in the Spring 2020 issue of Mountain Hunter magazine, Bear Bait by Oakley Watkins.

I returned in the fall of 2017 to try my luck moose hunting. On that visit I passed on a few smaller bulls after seeing a huge moose on Day 2 that then proceeded to elude us for days! I had managed to kill a nice black bear on the first day of that hunt.

During that first moose hunt, Fraser and I had discussed all the different species he had to offer. I immediately made the decision to book a mountain goat hunt the following fall. I wanted a horseback hunt in a remote location to try something more adventurous and push out of my comfort zone. Seeing goats everyday had not been an issue but finding one that was accessible seemed almost impossible. On Day 4 of the goat hunt we had made a great stalk on a billy and managed to get within 25 yards, only to never get a shot because of where he was bedded behind a large boulder. While waiting on the goat to move into shooting position, he must have winded us and damn near ran over me while making his escape.

On the 8th day of that hunt I was finally successful in harvesting a mature 12-year-old billy at just over 300 yards. It was the toughest hunt I’d ever been on but with the assistance and patience of the guides, they’d managed to get me on this goat. It was only with their pushing me to continue to take step after step to reach the top of the mountain that I was able to get into position for a shot as the goat fed on a ledge on the adjacent mountain. That experience fueled my desire to return again the following fall.

Still wanting to harvest my first moose, I booked another spring bear hunt and fall moose hunt for 2020…only to have Covid-19 delay my trip for two years.

At last, the spring of 2022 found me back to BC with eight of my good friends for a fun week of spring bear hunting. We managed to go nine for nine on bears with seven of the bears reaching the 7-foot-square mark. Just like the multiple bear trips before, a great time was had by all.

Fall 2022 Moose Hunt

After two years of delays, my moose hunt finally arrived! I had made the decision to drive so that if I was successful, I could return with an ice chest full of moose meat. Making the three-day drive from Texas was uneventful and soon enough I was in Prince George, BC. The day following my arrival, we headed out to base camp to begin the moose hunt along with a few mountain goat hunters. Each goat hunter would travel by horseback to remote spike camps throughout Circle M Outfitters’ territory while I was transported to a remote cabin on one of the numerous lakes in the area.

Fraser had mentioned a short hike downhill to reach the boat that would take us to the cabin located on an island surrounded by great moose habitat. While his opinion of a short hike and mine differ, a few hours later we made it to the lake. Arriving at the boat at sunset then traveling down the lake to reach the cabin right at dark added to the excitement. We were sure to wake up full of anticipation of the potential this new place would offer. Upon arriving at the cabin, moose could be heard grunting nearby as darkness overtook us. We settled in to wait for the next day’s light to begin our hunt.

Waking up early, a good breakfast was prepared as we patiently waited for daylight. The lake was completely covered in fog, but shapes began to appear in the marsh on the far side. Finally, enough light was available to see two bull moose grazing along the lakeshore. We patiently watched them feed for about an hour while trying to judge antler size and figure a game plan to get within shooting distance of the larger bull.

We decided to paddle across to the far side and stalk down the bank using the scattered willows as cover. Everything was going as planned until we reached a large beaver dam. The resident beaver was not too happy for us to be walking across the top of his house. He swam out a short distance and slapped his tail in warning every few minutes. Each time the bull would raise his head from feeding to see what all the commotion was about.

The beaver followed us down the bank for a couple hundred yards, continuing to slap his tail every few minutes. This performance lasted for what seemed like an eternity before the bull finally had enough and ran into the forest. We waited for a few hours for the bull to return before heading back to camp, feeling defeated by the beaver. Setting up that afternoon turned out to be uneventful, no moose were seen.

The following day, our expectations were high and hopeful that we would find the bull back out feeding at daylight. Unfortunately, we spotted only a lone cow feeding at mid-day.

Day 3 found us scouting all day in light rain and no moose seen. Day 4 was a repeat of Day 3, except the rain finally ended. Day 5 brought us warmer temperatures and bright skies. Still, no moose were seen that morning and by midday we decided to see if the fish were biting. My guide, Hunter, decided to walk out to try to catch a few Rainbow trout for dinner. After a few hours of unsuccessful fishing, he returned, mumbling that we wouldn’t be eating fish for dinner that night.

I decided to try my luck fishing. I meandered down the path to the north end of the island and started to fish. After a few casts, I heard a splash to my right and assumed that the trout were teasing me. Moments later, I heard another splash and decided it was time to move closer to the activity to take revenge upon the splashing fish. Walking along the water’s edge and around the point, I soon realized that the splashing was not a fish but a bull moose walking down the lake on the opposite shore and away from our little island! In fact, it looked to be the same bull we had attempted to stalk on Day 1!

I slowly made my way back to the trail, then ran back to our scouting spot, where I exchanged my fishing rod for my rifle. Hunter and I snuck back to the fishing grounds to relocate the bull. A quick check with the range finder and we realized the moose was beyond my shooting abilities. He had made it about 500 yards down the lake. We decided our best option was to travel by boat as quietly as possible and get past the bull to set up down the lake, letting him come to us. Back up the trail we went, and loaded the boat.

Once aboard, we idled slowly down the lake, searching for the bull. As we cleared the island, we knew he’d be visible if he was still walking down the shoreline. Quick check of the shoreline and the bull was not to be found! Had he once again given us the slip and made it back into the forest? We killed the boat engine, listening intently as we looked down the shoreline. Nothing!!!

Sitting silently, we slowly drifted as the wind pushed us down the lake.

“What’s that in the middle of the lake?” Hunter pointed and I pulled the binoculars up. Sure enough, our bull was swimming across the lake at a much faster pace than we were drifting. A new game plan was required! We decided to beach the boat and get into a good shooting position to wait for the moose to reach the shoreline. Wanting to be as quiet as possible, we chose oars over engine and began gently paddling towards shore.

We soon realized the moose was swimming much faster than we were paddling. We’d have to chance starting the motor to expedite our trip to shore. We managed to cut the distance to around 200 yards and beached the boat. Grabbing our packs, we quickly unloaded the boat and set up for the moose to make it to the shoreline.

The bull finally reached the shallows, shaking off excess water and began feeding on the underwater grasses. He didn’t seem too concerned about us only a few hundred yards away. He continued to feed on the underwater vegetation but was moving directly away from us. Finally, he turned broadside at 227 yards. My shot flew true, and the bull dropped in his tracks. We waited for 15 minutes to make sure he didn’t get back up before reloading our gear back into the boat and making our way over to the bull laying just off the shoreline in the water.

Upon reaching the bull, we realized he was slightly further offshore and in deeper water than expected. As the bull had fed, it appeared he was in about 6 inches of water when in fact it was more like 14 inches. It was definitely going to be over the top of our hiking boots if we waded out to him. Standing on the shore, we knew the work was about to begin and we needed a good game plan.

We decided to use ropes and two come-along winches to pull the bull to shore. After testing our roping skills, we managed to get one rope around his antlers and began the task of winching him to shore. Darkness came quickly but we were successful in getting him to shore. From there we removed the guts and decided to return at daylight to finish processing him.

The next day we returned, processed the bull quickly, and returned to the island to hang the meat.

Fraser met us later that afternoon with horses to assist getting the moose out the next day. The horses were a life saver as it meant that we would not have to make multiple trips, climbing out with the meat in our packs.

Upon reaching the main camp, the moose hide was caped and prepared for the taxidermist. We received updates from the mountain goat hunters and they too had seen success in the mountains and went three for five with one miss.

We celebrated our success that night and started planning my next adventure with Circle M Outfitters. I reflected upon the many great guides I’d had the opportunity to hunt with, the people I’d met, and the adventures I’d taken. While not all hunts have been successful in the harvesting sense, it’s the adventure that brings me back time and time again. I’ll be back in 2024!

Coming Full Circle M. 2024 Winter

Outfitter Spotlight

Questions for the Guide? Looking to create your own adventure in this area or with this Outfitter? Visit them in our member directory and get in touch!

Photo Gallery