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Adventures from the Archives - Dall DeWeese’s Alaska-Yukon Moose

Alaska 1897

By PJ DelHomme 

The moose would not go down. In one final act of desperation (or perhaps revenge), it lowered its antlers and charged at 30 yards. Dall DeWeese stood there, alone, armed with his Mannlicher, watching as the old bull closed the gap. It wasn’t leaving Cook’s Inlet without one last fight. And DeWeese was in the crosshairs.


William Dallas “Dall” DeWeese was an industrious, forward-thinking adventurer who killed a lot of animals wherever he went. He moved to Canon City, Colorado, in 1884 and established a fruit tree nursery. He irrigated more than 10,000 acres of land with ditches and a reservoir. When he wasn’t building his business, he was in the hills hunting everything.

From his home in Colorado, he rode into the Flat Tops Wilderness to chase elk in 1888. He recorded details of that trip in “Ten Days Among the Elk,” which was printed in the Canon City Clipper. On that trip, he shot more than a few grizzlies and a monster non-typical elk that scored 430-2/8 points. That bull remains the second-largest elk ever killed in Colorado.

In 1897, during the Klondike Gold Rush, DeWeese traveled to Alaska in search of yet another hunting adventure. On that trip, he found plenty of game and one seriously big Alaska-Yukon moose, which you can read about below. He killed numerous Dall’s sheep, which are named after William Healey Dall, not DeWeese.


On subsequent trips to Alaska, he was dismayed how, in just a few short years, Alaska’s seemingly abundant wildlife populations were declining because of market hunting. Miners needed to eat, and plenty of shooters were willing to supply mining camps with fresh game.

DeWeese wrote a letter to the recently elected U.S. President and Boone and Crockett Club co-founder Theodore Roosevelt to tell him what was happening along the Kenai Peninsula. He wrote, “This is a subject that appeals to every 'true-blue sportsman,' every lover of animal life, and all those who see beauty in nature, embracing forests, plains, and mountains throughout our entire country, and while the woods, plains, and mountains are naturally beautiful, we all agree that they are much more grand and lifelike when the wild animals and birds are present. There are now several organizations doing work toward the preservation of wild animal and bird life. There is much yet for us to do; to resolve is to act. Let us be up and at it.”

At the time, Alaska was at the forefront of President Roosevelt’s conservation agenda. Fellow Boone and Crockett Club members John Lacey and Madison Grant drafted legislation that outlawed killing wild game and birds with the sole purpose of shipment out of Alaska. The law defined game animals and birds and established hunting seasons and bag limits. Exceptions were made regarding Native Americans and subsistence hunting. The law was known as the Alaska Game Act. With the support of concerned sportsmen like Dall DeWeese, President Roosevelt enacted numerous other protections for what would become the country’s 49th state.

The Hunt

From Denver, Colorado, in January 1898, J.A. McGuire launched Outdoor Life magazine. In that very first issue, he printed a letter written by Dall DeWeese to his friends in Colorado while he was hunting in Alaska. In the letter, DeWeese recounts his hunt for one of the largest moose ever killed and recorded around the turn of the 20th century.

In September 1897, DeWeese was camped at the head of the Kasilof River. He was collecting moose heads and skins for his museum. He had killed one good bull and was holding out for only the biggest specimens he could find. When his packer left camp to pack out his trophies, DeWeese found himself alone, save for the packer 12 miles away and no other human for 80 miles. As he sat in front of his lean-to, he stared into the fire, recalling the campfires of his past in Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Montana, and Mexico. In his lament, he seemed rather lonely and longing for his friends to share the experience with him. “How I wished you all with me that night and tonight for I am having too much sport on this trip to enjoy it alone,” he wrote.

At daylight, he threw off the caribou skin blanket, ate moose steak and boiled rice for breakfast, and walked a well-worn bear trail with his birch-bark moose call. Around 7 a.m., he repeated short and long calls on his homemade call. An hour later, he heard rustling behind him. He turned to see a bull 60 yards away. The bull caught his wind and confidently sauntered away. DeWeese wasn’t disappointed. It was smaller than the bull he had already killed on that trip. He admitted that he preferred still-hunting over calling anyway.

Around mid-morning, he was silently still-hunting when he saw a cow moose at 80 yards. He looked to see a bull close by. The wind shifted, and the bull bolted, quartering to DeWeese’s right. A bullet from his Mannlicher caught it in the short ribs. It turned broadside, and DeWeese put another in the boiler room. And then another. When the old bull coughed, DeWeese could see blood spout from the wounds.

DeWeese heard movement below and thought it was a bear. He went to look, but there was nothing. When he returned in hopes of finding a piled-up moose, he found one very angry moose at 30 yards. Head lowered, the moose closed the distance. One bullet to the brisket didn’t stop it. Finally, DeWeese placed a shot between the eyes. “Boys, I am frank to acknowledge that I was startled,” he wrote. “I am cold yet never have I had even a grizzly give me such a feeling.”

When the dust settled and DeWeese stood next to the bull, he was again struck by the fact that he had no one to share the moment with. That didn’t last long because he soon pulled out his steel tape and started to measure. His recorded tally of a 69-inch spread comes close to the official tally of 67 points. He then proceeded to measure everything on that moose, including the seven-inch ears. DeWeese knew he killed a true giant.

“Boys, I know that I hew close enough to the line of ‘true sportsmanship’ not to be overcome by selfishness and will say that all points considered, size, massiveness, etc., I believe I have a world beater; but be this as it may, I will be satisfied when I get it packed out and home,” he wrote.

Thankfully, DeWeese chose not to split the skull in two for easier transport—a common tactic at the time. He knew this was going to make travel difficult, but DeWeese reasoned that if the moose was able to walk around with that kind of headgear, he was going to find a way to pack it out in one piece.

He dressed out the moose and started hiking back to camp with some “neck skin” thrown over his shoulders. Then he heard cracking sticks nearby. He thought it was another moose. Instead, a 10-foot tall bear stood on its hind legs 25 feet away. In a second, he put a bullet into the big bear’s neck. Then another through the shoulder. And yet another to “settle him.” He skinned out the bear until dark.

When he finally arrived back at camp, the packer was there (with hot supper) to meet him. After a good night’s rest, the two men packed out the heads and skins to the lake below and DeWeese started the long journey back home to his friends in Colorado.

PJ DelHomme writes and edits content from his home in western Montana. He runs Crazy Canyon Media and Crazy Canyon Journal


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About Adventures from the Archives

The Boone and Crockett Club’s records contain more than 70,000 big game entries, from musk ox to mule deer. Among those entries are more than a few stories of adventures afield. To celebrate those trophies, their habitat, and the hunter, we’re bringing those stories back to life with each installment of Boone and Crockett’s Adventures from the Archives.

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt