When the moose stood still for just a moment, Heinz Naef lined up his sights.
It was a difficult shot, one he had waited patiently for, watching for the big animal to walk into a one-foot window through the dense Yukon forest.
From 35 feet away, he knew the moose was big. He just didn’t know how big.
“I knew we had a big moose, but I didn’t think we had a trophy or anything. We’re meat hunters. We’re not wired the same way as trophy hunters. We just knew we had a big moose,” Naef said, casually.
But a trophy is just what it turned out to be – and a potential world record to boot.
Naef got his moose on Sept. 25 at the confluence of the Stewart and Yukon rivers. He and a party of about eight other hunters – mostly fathers and sons – had been camped on the river the day before in search of meat for the winter.
“When the young guys drifted down the river, they heard a couple knocks in the bush, like somebody slamming a piece of wood into a tree. They knew right away it was a moose, but they couldn’t get it out or nothing,” Naef said.
That evening, around the campfire, they talked about what happened.
“The next morning I went up there and started calling, and he gave me two slaps as well. And then that was it for a couple hours, and I had to go into the bush to find him,” he said.
After the first response, Naef said he had little luck in tracking down the animal, and was headed back to the river in defeat. As he made his way, he gave one last moose-call, hoping for the best.
“I called again. He gave me another response, like an empty fuel drum, a really low voice. I walked towards that and kept calling, and all of a sudden he called back, maybe 100 yards away, but I couldn’t see him. I seen him when he was maybe 60 yards away from when he came to me, but that wasn’t good enough for a shot,” he said.
Naef stalked the animal, calling repeatedly like a Marco Polo game.
“It was a late season, and all the leaves are on the trees. If you go into the Yukon bush, it’s really dense. He had to come closer.
“I finally seen the white horns going through the bush. He came up to about 35 yards and I had a shot,” he said.
The moose, estimated to weigh almost 560 kilograms (about 1,230 pounds) was literally an enormous success for the party. From point to point, the horns measured 191 centimetres (75.25 inches). The current world record is 166 centimetres (65.5 inches), but there are more considerations than just width.
The Boone and Crocket Club, the hunting organization that adjudicates trophy racks, takes factors like the quality and number of points into account, Naef said.
“As bulls get older, their points get round. There’s a lot bigger antlers around in Alaska, in the low 80s, but they don’t count because they’re already round. There’s no points on it or nothing, they’re just big,” he said.
But Naef won’t know for over a month whether he actually bagged the largest antlers on record. That’s because antlers tend to shrink a little after an animal is killed, and must dry for two months before they can be officially measured, according to Boone and Crocket’s rules.
If it is a world-record, Naef said he won’t keep the antlers for himself. He’d rather see them displayed somewhere the public can enjoy them.
“I don’t want to keep it, probably. If I keep it there’s not many people who are going to see it. I want a lot of people to see it. I hope it ends up in a museum or something, maybe at the airport,” he said.
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org