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Time Well Spent - New Colorado State Record

Family, friends, persistence, and do-it-yourself public land: The story behind what could be the new Colorado state record moose and number six All-time Shiras’ moose. 

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Mark and Grizz with the spectacular Colorado Shiras' moose.
By Mark Litzelman    

I was eight years old when I saw my first bull moose. It was a behemoth—as does most anything at that age. I was standing outside my grandfather’s basecamp tent, frightened and awestruck at the same time. My grandfather Grizz (Howard Griswold) was with hunters at a higher camp, and I was helping as much as an eight-year-old can help packing with horses.

Thirty-six years later, I still get that feeling when I see moose. And for twenty years, I had been applying for a moose tag in my home state of Colorado. When I found out that I had finally drawn for the fall of 2020, the first thing I did was call up Grizz who is a spry eighty years old. Grizz has been my mentor and the person I’ve always looked up to since I could remember. He’s been there with me on hunts for desert bighorn, mountain goat, elk, deer, and bear. I knew that he wasn’t going to miss this hunt—even if it meant he had to fly in from the U.S. Virgin Islands where he spends his “retirement” as charter-boat captain fishing for mahi, marlin, tuna, and wahoo. 

To prepare for my moose hunt, I shot, studied, and scouted every chance I got. The drive from my house to moose country was six hours one way. I had been watching the unit I drew in for seven years. Once I drew the tag and made several trips I wasn’t seeing any moose. There was sign everywhere. I just couldn’t find the moose. 

One weekend, I made it just above a drainage I wanted to scout, but time ran out. I had to get back to work. The next week a friend saw photos of a great bull on social media. I was able to get the locations of the pictures, and I was surprised that they had come from the drainage I wanted to explore the week before. I planned to spend the next weekend there, but there was one more place I needed to scout first. 

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Droptine.

At that spot, I had finally found bull moose! It felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. One bull had a brow tine that drooped like a limp pool noodle. I named him Droptine. He was respectable, but I really wanted something better. Satisfied, I headed to the other drainage. 

Right off the bat, I found two bulls feeding. The willows were so tall that I could only see heads and antlers. One bull was slightly larger than Droptine, and he was definitely the one from the post. The other bull was young but had well-formed palms and brow tines. He needed a couple more years to grow. I was about 180 yards away watching though my spotting scope, excited knowing I had a moose tag in my pocket. When I leaned back to take a break, about 100 yards to my right was something that gave me the biggest case of butterflies and chills I’d ever had. 

“I have moosebumps!“ I said. 

I laughed, since I meant to say goosebumps. This bull had walked out from behind some willows and scrub pines. It was the biggest moose I’d ever seen, and I’ve been around my share of bull moose. It made me think of that moose I’d seen so long ago while at hunting camp with Grizz. That was the moose I was going to hunt. I just needed to keep track of him for the next six agonizing weeks. 

The week before the season started, Grizz flew in. I told him I had been looking for moose all summer. We went to do more scouting and set up camp. Grizz found Droptine hard horned, but the drooping part had broken off. Grizz thought I needed to hunt him. He still needed to see Moosebumps. We set up camp where Moosebumps lived the next day. The bull had moved about half a mile from his normal place and joined three new bulls. Then came the wind and snow storm. Trees were blown over and broken off. We got about three inches of snow. 

The rest of my hunting crew showed up the day before the season started. It was late when my brother Danny pulled up, so I told them it would be best to just sleep in the truck that night due to the winds. I woke up before daylight on opening morning, and I could see a pile of stuff behind Danny’s truck. I thought they had put a tarp over their gear. I went to the truck to wake them, but nobody was in the truck. The pile of gear was them inside their tent, which was shredded by the wind. All we could do was laugh.

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Melting snow around camp near the lake.

 

That first day we didn’t see any moose. The second day the winds died down. The morning was crisp but pleasant. Still no moose moving. I told Danny to come with me. We walked around a point to look down into the timber. 

“Do you hear that?” Danny said. Another “woof” sounded. “That’s a bull moose!” I said. After another woof, I could tell exactly where it was coming from. “There’s a bull!” Danny said.

I looked and instantly knew it was Moosebumps. I told Danny to get everyone. When they arrived, Moosebumps was bedded in a patch of snow and taking bites of it. I grabbed my recurve bow. Danny and I were on our way while everyone else stayed to watch from 414 yards and 500 feet above. When I knew we were getting close, I nocked an arrow. The guys above could see we were about 30 yards from Moosebumps, and they thought I was going to shoot. They didn’t know we couldn’t see the bull because of a small rise. We slowly inched our way to the bed, but Moosebumps was gone. He had gotten up, walked into the timber, and disappeared. 

Everyone headed back to camp along the top of the ridge. Danny and I circled below and headed back to camp. Then I saw Eugene running down the ridge. 

“We found him, Mark! We found him!” Eugene said out of breath. 

Eugene said I’d need my muzzleloader. I trusted his judgment so I grabbed the muzzleloader and headed up. I saw Moosebumps as soon as I topped the ridge. He was bedded, and all I could see were antlers and the fur on the top of his back. Eugene was right. The bull was in an impossible spot for a bow. We were 235 yards away. I sat down and readied my muzzleloader. My friend Bryan looked at me in total bewilderment. “Are you sure?” he asked. 

Today though, the saying means something completely different. The saying represents the countless hours he mentored me and made me who I am today. It also means all that time spent with family and friends, especially in the field, is time well spent.

“Without a doubt,” I said. “I’m shooting a ⅞-inch group at 150 yards. I’m good to 300 yards.” We sat waiting for Moosebumps to present a shot. Danny moved down the hill and found a better angle for me. Now, we were only 216 yards, which was even better because in Colorado it’s open sights only for muzzleloaders. We sat there for two and a half leg-numbing and butt-aching hours. Every time Moosebumps would shake his head from the bugs, all of us jumped to attention. Eugene sat next to me. Bryan sat behind me filming. Danny and Justin sat about ten yards to my right. Grizz was twenty yards to my left. Then it happened. Moosebumps shook his head, raised his rear end, leveled off his front end, and stretched. BOOM! The smoke prevented me from seeing him drop right back into his bed. Everyone jumped up cheering. I sat for a second in amazement. Danny came running down, hugged me, and told me congratulations. I walked down to Grizz and shared a hug with him. He said, “Good job, bud.” 

We waded our way through the willows to Moosebumps. As I walked up, I was reassured by my childhood memory. What a behemoth! We took picture after picture. We started the arduous task of skinning and quartering. When we finished, we took a break before our first heavy trip out. Eugene started to rough score the antlers while I added the numbers in my head. I had totaled 180 inches. “One hundred eighty inches is a solid moose, and I took the biggest bull I’d ever seen,” I said. Coincidentally Moosebumps was the very first bull moose Justin had ever seen. I couldn’t ask for anything more after spending all summer scouting. “It was time well spent,” Grizz said. After nine loads, seven of which were more than 100 pounds, we were all back at camp resting and celebrating. 

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After skinning and quartering the bull, it took the hunting crew team nine loads to get the moose back to camp.

Suddenly it dawned on me. 

“Eugene! We never added the points to the score!” I said excitedly. We counted twenty-five points. “One hundred eighty, plus twenty-five is 205!” I knew that the world record was just over 205. Another round of moosebumps came over me, and my stomach did a somersault. I had never considered what Moosebumps would score, let alone any kind of record. Moosebumps’ official B&C entry score is 196-6/8 and its gross score is 203-2/8.  

If the entry score is confirmed by next year’s judges panel at the 31st Big Game Awards, it will take the sixth spot for Shiras moose in the Boone and Crockett Records and become the new Colorado state record.

View the Scorechart

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Ever since then, my grandfather’s words, “Time well spent,” have stuck with me. Sure, it refers to all the time and effort that went into finding and keeping track of a phenomenal animal. And at the time I agreed with him 100 percent. Today though, the saying means something completely different. The saying represents the countless hours he mentored me and made me who I am today. It also means all that time spent with family and friends, especially in the field, is time well spent. I’ll never forget the entire journey of this hunt and the people who helped along the way. Thank you to my brother Danny, Eugene, Bryan, and Justin for their strong backs. Most of all, thank you for all the time well spent Papa!


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