By Joseph Robertia
Hunters who take to the woods in pursuit of moose harbor some sort of hope for success — whether it’s a modest desire to fill a freezer with meat or daydreams of a record-setting specimen. The moose Bob Condon, of Soldotna, bagged last month exceeded even his wildest wildlife daydreams.
Weighing more than 1,500 pounds with an antler spread of more than 73 inches, beams measuring roughly 10 inches in circumference at the base, and palms large enough to hammock a grown man, Condon’s bull was nothing short of a behemoth. In fact, it may end up being the second largest ever taken down.
“I knew he was a real shooter, but I didn’t know the true caliber of animal he was until I got up on him. I’ve hunted and guided nearly all my life and never gotten one over 950 (pounds), so getting one weighing 1,500 was a real treat, and it’ll be in the all-time books for sure,” Condon said.
The moose is surely awe-inspiring, though Condon himself is worthy of some amazement, as well.
At 73, an age when many might retire from the difficulty and discomfort of a hunt, Condon keeps doing what he
loves doing, even in spite of health setbacks. He’s had five bypass surgeries in the last few years and just had a heart attack in March.
“My doctors told me not to hunt, so this was a real blessing,” he said.
While pursuing moose, Condon has also been at the receiving end of bull’s antlers. Two years ago after he dropped a bull with a 56-inch antler spread, he made a mistake of setting his rifle down a little too far away when he went in to ensure the beast was dead. It was not.
“It was a stupid mistake, and I paid for it,” he said. “He picked me up by the antlers and flung me around three or four times, gored me, tore my boots.”
Condon didn’t take any chances with this most recent bull.
“I shot him twice when I got up on him,” he said. “I did all but call in the mortician this time.”
The final shots came after a long and rigorous hunt. Condon and two friends, Mike Demichele and Mike Mildbrand, were dropped off in a remote area of the Brooks Range, north of the Arctic Circle. They made camp and — in the wind, freezing rain and temperatures in the low 30s — pursued their quarry for two days. They had planned on being out for as long as 11 days, but on the third morning, around 7:30 a.m., Condon saw what seemed like a big, brown billboard on the move roughly two miles away.
“It was up on a mountainside just above the spruce, looking for cows. So I stalked closer, then began to call him in,” he said.
Using grunts to simulate another bull, a few cow noises and an occasional raking of the brush with a moose’s scapula, or shoulder blade, to stimulate the sound of another bull marking territory, Condon drew the mighty moose toward him. For two hours he kept up this deception, but then the wind changed, and not in his favor.
“He was coming in slow, but once the wind changed, I couldn’t get him in any closer. He just hung up,” he said.
The moose was still more than 400 yards away — a long shot, even when taking aim at a bull this size, but Condon decided to go for it. He leveled the crosshairs of his scope on the moose and slowly, steadily, squeezed the trigger of his Browning A-bolt .375 Holland and Holland magnum rifle, sending a 270-grain round sailing toward what he hoped would be the heart and lungs of the moose.
“It was a pretty long shot, and for how I was shaking, it was one of the best in my life,” Condon said.
Despite his buck fever, Condon hit his mark and the big bull went down. Condon was ecstatic.
“I’ve never hunted strictly for trophies. I’ve just believed in hunting and letting the rest fall into place, so I was elated when I got up to this guy. I mean, I’m 73 and I can see my twilight days coming, so to know you still have something like this in you, it’s a real thrill,” he said.
Being 73 comes with a few hunting caveats, though. While Condon was able to kill the bull and help with the process of skinning, gutting and deboning all the meat, he can no longer pack out the bounty as he did in his days as a young man.
Fortunately, his friends that were with him, and a few other hunters up from Wisconsin to pursue caribou in the same area, chipped in to help him haul out his prize. Condon said he was thankful for their efforts.
“The antlers alone weighed 98 pounds, and took two guys a day and a half just to get them out,” he said. “Then it was another two days to get the rest of the meat out, and that was with everyone pitching in since I’m not much of a packer anymore.”
Back at home with the meat processed, Condon shared his ample supply of freezer food with those who helped him. He is also now in the process of waiting to determine just where the bull will be in the record books. The rack needed time to dry, and shrink a bit, before it can be officially measured. Also, since some of the local official measurers are still out hunting themselves, Condon has to wait for them to return.
“The first time I measured it in the field, it had a score of 731 with all the points, palm width and antler width measurements, but back at home it came out to 706,” Condon said. “The score should be finalized by November, but right now it’s coming in second in the world for size by Safari Club measurements, and I’m waiting to have it measured for Boone and Crockett, but I know it’ll make their books, too.”
Based on the size of this behemoth bull, as well as Condon’s age, some might believe this would be the moose for him to retire on, but Condon said it’s not going to happen.
“I love Alaska and I love being out there, so I plan on hunting again next year,” he said. “I’ll retire when the good Lord says I’m done.”