Anchorage man’s cow call ignites bull moose brawl at Powerline Pass
The call of the wild is what keeps Brian Watkins coming back to Powerline Pass, year after year, especially during rut season.
“I usually come out two to three nights a week,” says Watkins. “Come out, call all of them in, try to get as close as you can to them.”
Watkins, a pro at cow calling, tried his luck Tuesday night. He called, and got a little more than he bargained for.
“There was a bull down by this power line right here … he came around and circled around me here,” Watkins re-enacted a few days later. “And as I’m watching him and trying to get closer to him, across the valley another bull and a cow came out.”
Immediately, Watkins could tell the first bull was, “looking for a fight.”
From his spot about 30 feet away, he watched the moose began to size each other up.
“What the moose will do is they’ll start posturing, so they’ll come up and they sway their heads back and forth and they’ll watch each other,” he explained. “And then when they get real close, they’ll come up and they’ll smash horns. And so they just started going to town.”
From the end of August to early October, bull moose are known to butt heads as their season for mating — commonly known as rutting — unfolds. With a cow in heat nearby “running through the trees and kind of instigating them into their fight,” Watkins says the situation got pretty intense.
“The scariest part of the whole encounter was probably, the bigger bull turned the smaller bull,” Watkins described. “And he came running towards me, and I tried to keep distance … but they got within 5 feet of me and another guy that was there.”
Five feet is much too close for comfort when it comes to bull moose in rut season, says Ken Marsh with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Cow calling moose, common in hunting practices, is likely to draw the bull’s attention, Marsh notes.
“But it can get them a lot closer than you want them to be,” he added. “Even though the moose are focused on each other, they can get a little bit reckless.”
Marsh’s recommendation is to stay at least 50 to 100 yards away to avoid getting stomped, “or worse.”
Even with his heart racing, Watkins managed to record the whole brawl on his camera. He posted the video to YouTube with a Facebook post prior reading, “Words cannot describe how amazing the intensity and adrenaline was. This state is heaven. Live where you love.”
“Looking back, I probably would’ve kept a little more distance,” Watkins responded when asked if there was anything he would’ve done differently Tuesday night. “You’re always gonna be in the line of danger … So you just have to know that you put yourself in that position, and if something does happen, it’s on you.”
He admits being that close to the beasts of nature is risky business, but “you’re in the best type of danger,” Watkins says of the wild.
“People say ‘You’re crazy! You’re a moron!’ — you’re this, you’re that,” he said. “It’s just a Tuesday night in Alaska.”
While they call it crazy, Watkins calls it his great Alaska pastime.
This story will be updated.
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