Living Your Dream List: Write It Down. Save Your Money. Go Do It.

Todd Wright Legacy, Life Leave a Comment

“If there’s anything you really want to do, write it down, save your money, and go do it; because just yesterday, I was a teenager!”
Alfred Wright

Living My Dream List

“If there’s anything you really want to do, write it down, save your money, and go do it; because just yesterday, I was a teenager!”

These are the words of my father to me on his death-bed in October 2011. He was 79 years old, and very aware that his final day in this world was swiftly approaching. I was age 48. He spoke candidly about his faith, confidently about going to heaven soon, and about making sure his bills were paid.

A few days later, dad was gone. After speaking at his funeral service, I went home and began thinking about his statement. I made a “dream list,” more aware than ever that life is shorter than I ever imagined. Then in August 2017, during a brief visit to the “The Last Frontier,” I added Alaska Moose and Black Bear hunt to my list!

In Alaska, I reconnected with 22-year-old Tommy White, who had completed his U.S. Army assignment there, and afterwards stayed. I had been Tommy’s Pastor in west Georgia since he was just 2 years old, and I was inspired by the man he had become. He agreed to help me put the details together of a future “do-it-yourself” moose hunt.  (And on a personal note, I committed to let the chin of my beard grow untrimmed from that day until after the hunt a year later!)

Tommy has been an avid outdoorsman since his middle school years. He had never been moose or bear hunting, but he had friends who could help us put the details together. And his military training gave me an extra sense of confidence for our 5 days in the wilderness.

A year later, to the frustration of my wife, our bedroom floor was crowded with equipment and supplies for the trip. I “sighted in” my 300 WIN MAG Browning Safari Automatic Rifle at 200 yards, using a 200-grain bullet. As the day before my departure arrived, at the age of 54, I felt like a kid the night before Christmas. I had made my list, and now I was checking it twice!

Sunday Sep 9

I arose at 4am and packed, checking each item off of my list, as I put them in my bags. I loaded my truck, went to church, drove to the Atlanta Airport, and caught my non-stop flight to Anchorage. My plane arrived a few minutes late, but I soon found Tommy, who was waiting for me, just as we had planned.

We had planned to swing by Walmart to purchase my hunting license for moose and black bear. Then we would fly to the hunting area in time for the pilot to make it back to Anchorage before dark. We had planned to set up camp Sunday night, and be ready to hunt on Monday. We knew it was a tight schedule, but if we had no problems, it would work. However, we had problems! Tommy had called the Walmart ahead of time to confirm they had the license I needed, but when we arrived, they did not! We then hurriedly drove across town to a different Walmart where I bought my license, but the extra time ate up too much daylight, and we would not fly out until around noon the next day!

And since it’s illegal in most Alaska hunting zones to fly to your hunting area and hunt on the same day, our actual hunt would have to wait till Tuesday! Frustrated by our unwelcomed change of plans, we got a bite to eat, and tried to get a good night’s sleep.

Monday Sep 10

As we pulled into the airport gate a little before noon, there stood a tall, slender, middle-aged man beside a beautiful blue and white Cessna that looked spotless and meticulously maintained. It was Bill Starr, owner of Alaska Air Service; the pilot for the first leg of our flight to the remote wilderness. A gentleman and consummate professional, he introduced himself, helped us load our equipment, and flew us almost an hour to a grassy landing strip in the middle of nowhere.

Myself & Tommy White

From there, Bill’s 23-year-old son, Jordan, would fly each of us separately in his Super Cub bush plane to a mountain about 30 minutes away. Jordan had been flying since his early teens, and his dad spoke with admiration about his son’s outstanding flying ability!

Jordan and Tommy had discussed Unit 16b as the general location of our hunt, and Jordan had flown out several days earlier to see if he could find a decent spot to land and drop us off. He had found a spot and made a couple of practice landings on a mountain top. Other than that, none of us had been to the area to scout it out, and none of us new anyone who had ever hunted there. Tommy and Jordan simply had a hunch that the mountain’s wild blueberry fields would have black bears and the valley below would hold a few trophy moose. Now the time had arrived to see if their hunch was correct!

Jordan took Tommy to the mountain first, and then it was my turn. As we made a pass over the expansive valley, Jordan reminded me that the bears would likely be on the mountains and hillsides, and the moose would be in the valley. Then we climbed and prepared for our landing on the mountain. As we got closer to the ground I saw rocks, boulders, and bushes, but no place that resembled a landing area for a plane. Then, just like that, we landed, bounced a few times, and Jordan said, “Well here we are!”

Tommy walked out of the bushes to greet us, and Jordan gave us our final instructions. “You will camp here tonight, and hike a couple of hours down to the valley to hunt. Whatever you kill, you will need to pack it back up the mountain and I will pick you up from this same spot on Friday at noon.” Then with the same skill he had landed, Jordan departed and we watch him fly out of sight. Then there was silence. It was about 5pm.

We set up camp, boiled some water to pour on a dehydrated meal, and ate. We saved the final couple of hours of sunlight to scour the valley and hillsides with binoculars, looking for any movement of bear or moose on their evening feed. Tommy and I took our Walkie-Talkies and sat on the mountainside about 300 yards apart so we could see more ground.

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For the longest time, neither of us saw anything. Then I heard Tommy on my Walkie-Talkie, “I’ve got moose on the far side of the valley. Maybe 2-3 miles away. Just beneath the base of that biggest mountain. You see that clearing to the left of that splotch of trees and to the right of that pond?” He had a different view than I did, but after 3 or 4 minutes of searching the massive valley below us, I saw them! Several black spots moving slowly out of the woods into the open. The evening sun glistened on their antlers, which now made them hard to miss. Back and forth on our Walkie-Talkies we described to each other what we were seeing. “I see a bull! There’s two bulls! There’s another! More keep stepping out! Are they all bulls? Look at those two bulls fighting and pushing each other! That’s crazy! Look at that massive one to the left! Look at the sun shining on his antlers! That thing is huge! A true trophy!”

As the sun set, the temperature dropped, but we sat still and watched the massive animals until they began to bed down or fade into the evening darkness. It was an exhilarating 45 minutes of bull moose action in the wild! We had seen 8 different moose, 6 of which were decent bulls, and one which obviously had a bigger antler rack than the others. We had watched 3 different bull fights. We felt really special and privileged. This was why I came to Alaska. Few people ever get to see what we saw, and even if we were not successful at hunting, the action we had just seen was worth the trip. If I killed a bear, that was fine, but after seeing those moose, they were my first priority. Tommy and I rejoined at camp in the dark to discuss our strategy to get one of the bulls we had just seen, then we went to bed. Our adrenaline rush made it hard to sleep!

Tuesday Sep 11

As the sun arose, so did we. It was colder than we had anticipated, which made it difficult to get out of our sleeping bags. But, we got up, boiled water for coffee and a bag of dehydrated eggs and bacon. After eating breakfast, we went to glass the valley to see if we could see any early morning moose action. To our delight, we saw those same moose almost immediately, and could tell they were simply hanging out in and around the patch of trees where they had been the night before. And there was more fighting and pushing, which reaffirmed to us the rut had begun. They should respond well to the cow calling we planned to do once we reached the valley.

We knew the valley would look differently as we hiked down the mountain, so we took photos of the valley and the mountains behind it, identifying certain markers in relation to the moose location. Then we broke camp, packed, and headed down the mountain between 7 and 8am. We remembered the phrase “hike a couple of hours” to the valley, and we planned to get to within a few hundred yards of the moose before noon, and be ready to call and hunt for the evening feed. Of course, I dreamed of getting that biggest bull we had seen! We believed he had a 60-70-inch antler spread. A legal bull in Unit 16b requires at least 50 inches, OR at least 3 brow-tines on one side. (Many Units require four brow-tines.) We believed two or three of the bulls we had seen were legal.

Tommy & I doing some tough walking
Constant obstacles

As we started down the mountain, the ground had a rocky base, covered with a thick sponge-like layer of red and green moss. The moss made for good footing, but the rocks underneath presented a challenging foot-puzzle through which to step. We were encouraged by the great time we initially made, but we did not know what was ahead. After about 30 minutes, the terrain changed to a thick tall grass, taller than our heads. It was un-nerving knowing we were in bear country, yet we could not see in any direction except up toward the sky. It seemed like we would walk in the tall grass forever, then like a formidable wall, we came to a strip of Alder trees.

We had been told to avoid the Alders at all cost, and now I understood why. We did avoid them when we could see them coming! Tommy led the way into the thick brush. Every other step, it seemed, he was trapped and I had to pull the stiff Alder limbs away, which had clung firmly to the top of his backpack or rifle. Then we would have to twist, turn, and sometimes lay down and crawl to get through. We faced several of these alder patches on our journey down the mountain, one of which was so thick we had to back out and backtrack to find another way around them! And, we saw an occasional pile of bear scat, reminding us we were not alone in the thick brush!

After about 5 hours of walking, it was a joyful moment when we neared the valley, but our joy was short-lived! From the mountain-side the valley looked like easy walking, much like my cattle pasture back in Georgia. However, the grass was much taller and thicker than it looked. Underneath the grass was a foot or more of water that stretched across the valley floor. And underneath the water was a jigsaw puzzle of invisible beaver ditches and creeks that were often only found when stepped in! Time and again we stepped into one of these ditches, first sinking to the knee, then falling forward beneath the heavy load of our backpacks, catching ourselves with our hands to break the fall.

On one occasion, while falling, my hand landed on a sharp stick or thorn beneath the water. I could tell it went deep into my hand. When I finally got to my feet, blood was spurting with every heartbeat. My thin blood, resulting from a daily aspirin for heart attack prevention, made it difficult to stop the bleeding. As we stood in the water, Tommy dug into his backpack to find the medical kit. I wrapped my hand firmly with gauze to stop the bleeding, but there was nothing more we could do. We had to keep moving.

Walking went slowly as we crossed the valley in the direction of the moose. If we could just reach the splotch of trees we could see on the other side of the valley we would be in a good spot to set up camp and call the moose, which would still be about a half mile away.

We were elated as we made it to within a couple hundred yards of the trees, where we planned to set up camp and begin calling.  However, our plans quickly halted when we came to a creek too deep and too wide to cross! There was nowhere to set up camp in that area without being in water. We had no choice but to walk back across the valley we had just crossed, and set up camp on the hillside. It was about 4pm, and we had been walking for 8 hours. We were tired, frustrated, and weary, but determined! Tommy led the way back across the valley. Our age difference was clearly obvious by the distance between us as we walked and Tommy’s faster pace. My legs and hips were screaming for me to stop, but another statement from my dad rang in my ears. “No difficult task ever get done by staring at it!” So, I kept walking.

As we walked, we looked for a rise in the terrain in front of us where we might could camp, and we found the perfect spot. We set up camp beside a spring flowing out of the mountain into the valley. It was the perfect water source for us!

We set up our tent, and boiled some water for another dehydrated meal and some coffee. I changed socks and pants, and swapped my soaked boots for some dry tennis shoes. I already had blisters on both feet! We were a little quieter than usual, too tired, disappointed, and disgusted with our first day’s hunt to talk very much.

Our melancholy mood was interrupted by a cow and a young bull moving quickly across the valley, about 300 yards away. The sighting was evidence we were in the right spot. We were surprised at how easily they traveled where we could barely walk. We also noticed a clear, smooth, and mostly dry area on our side of the valley we believed our pilot could land the plane if will killed something! It was a great thought that we might not have to go back up the mountain that had taken us 8 hours to come down!

With only an hour or two of daylight left, I organized my “stuff” in the tent while Tommy got the bull horn and sat down about 20 yards from camp to relax. He began to call across the valley. After a few minutes, I grabbed my rifle and went out to join him. It was our first time to truly relax since we had climbed out of our sleeping bags that morning on top of the mountain. Though we said little to each other, we relived the day and questioned how this hunt would actually turn out.

We had such great plans and high hopes when we left camp that morning, but at the moment we had little of either! We were laying in some knee-high willow bushes in a small dip in the hillside over-looking the valley we had walked across twice. We could see the splotch of trees in the distance, behind which we had seen the moose activity. We could not see the deep and wide creek that had stopped us, once again hidden by the deceptively tall grass. We imagined what the moose might be doing now. We imagined what would have happened if we could have followed through with our original plan! Perhaps we would have already killed the big trophy moose we had seen, or maybe one of the others!

Tommy continued calling through the bull horn. Then I called for a while, just like I had watched on YouTube. I quipped, “I hope no one is watching us and videoing! I feel like an idiot making these weird noises in this thing!” Back and forth we swapped out calling. We had heard that moose could hear such calling from miles away, but it was hard to imagine such claims. We knew the moose that we had seen were about a mile from our current location. Could it be that they could hear us? Were they in rut enough to respond to a cow call with a Georgia accent? We hoped they might move closer to our location and perhaps be visible during the next morning’s hunt.

Just as I laid back on the willows to “rest my eyes”, Tommy saw a black spot appear across the valley at the edge of the trees. It was 800-1000 yards away. We each grabbed our binoculars to discover it was a bull moose with a decent antler spread, and he was walking and looking in our direction! As if it were a small ditch, he stepped down and through the deep and wide creek that had, earlier, stopped our original plans! Tommy continued to call, pausing only long enough for the bull to respond, and for us to evaluate the legality of his antler size. The bull stopped several times to shake his head and call back. The valley we had struggled to cross, he crossed with grace and ease! When he finally reached our side of the valley he slipped into a thick patch of spruce trees about 100 yards to our left, occasionally sticking his head and antlers out to look for the cow call he was hearing.

As Tommy continued to call, now a little softer, curiosity forced the bull moose out of the trees and into the open about 80 yards away, and he was looking at us and shaking his head. At this point, even though his antlers were nice and beautiful, we were fairly sure they were not wide enough to make him a legal bull, but it was exhilarating to know he had come to our calls. Our only hope was that he had at least 3 brow tines on one side. We could see one side clearly, and he had one tine coming straight out and a nice drop tine about 10 inches long. Both of us had looked, and even through binoculars we could see only two brow tines on the other side.

As the bull stood broadside, he appeared much bigger than I had anticipated. My heart beat much faster than normal, and I put my crosshairs on his lung area, just in case Tommy found the third brow tine. Instead, over and over, all I heard Tommy whisper was, “Just two. Just two. Not legal.” Then the bull turned his head at a different angle, and I heard Tommy whisper with confident enthusiasm, “I got a third one! He’s legal! He’s got three. He’s…!” BOOM! I squeezed the trigger. The bull whirled around toward the trees he’d just come from and…BOOM! I shot again, aiming at his other lung! He disappeared into the woods, and then we heard a crash in the bushes. I had dreamed of this moment for a year. A few minutes earlier I had been frustrated and disappointed with our hunt. And just like that, my moose hunt was over. We waited about 30 minutes, making sure we didn’t push him if he wasn’t dead yet. It’s a practice I live by when hunting big game, unless I can clearly see the animal is dead.

By the time our 30 minutes were up, it was dark. We got our flashlights and rifle, and went to the spot where the bull stood when I shot him. We looked for blood, but there was not a single drop anywhere. We made small circles in the area, but we saw nothing. Not a speck of blood. Not a broken limb. Nothing. And the area inside the trees was thick, making it difficult to walk or see. Could I have missed? Could I have knocked my scope out of sight during one of my many falls during the day? Did my nerves get the best of me, causing me to pull off my target? If I did kill the bull, would a grizzly find it before we did? These and many other questions bounced around in my head as Tommy and I gave up searching for the night, returned to our tent, and tried to sleep.

It had been a difficult day! I had been stretched physically, mentally, and emotionally, but strangely, it was rewarding and exhilarating. I felt alive. Free. Like a man. A real one! It was the feeling of living on the edge of life and death. It was the feeling of adventure! I felt privileged to experience it!

Wednesday Sep 12

We awoke and started early with some coffee and breakfast. We needed no extra motivation to get started. We weren’t sure what the day held, but we hoped to find the bull easily in the daylight, and get it cut up and bagged before noon. After breakfast, we got our rifles in case a grizzly had moved in. We still saw no blood. Tommy and I split up and started walking in small circles. Were our ears playing tricks on us the night before when we heard the massive animal crash through the brush and hit the ground? We searched for about 30 minutes, covering a few acres of the thick brush. Disgusted, I was walking toward Tommy to concede that I must have missed the bull. Then from about 50 yards away I heard Tommy’s voice, almost in a musical cadence, “Ooooooh TOOOOOOoooood! I have a MOOOOOOoooooose!”

Quickly, I made my way to Tommy, and there lay the massive bull! We “high fived” and celebrated, then I knelt down and prayed, giving thanks to God and the bull for the meat we would enjoy throughout the next year. After praying, we replayed the experience of the previous evening. Tommy measured the antlers, and they were 40 inches wide. I was glad we waited to count three brow tines, before deciding to shoot. I was very relieved that I had not missed, but even more relieved I had not wounded the animal. He had fallen less than 30 yards from where I shot him.

Living the Dream - Thanks, Dad.

We awoke and started early with some coffee and breakfast. We needed no extra motivation to get started. We weren’t sure what the day held, but we hoped to find the bull easily in the daylight, and get it cut up and bagged before noon. After breakfast, we got our rifles in case a grizzly had moved in. We still saw no blood. Tommy and I split up and started walking in small circles. Were our ears playing tricks on us the night before when we heard the massive animal crash through the brush and hit the ground? We searched for about 30 minutes, covering a few acres of the thick brush. Disgusted, I was walking toward Tommy to concede that I must have missed the bull. Then from about 50 yards away I heard Tommy’s voice, almost in a musical cadence, “Ooooooh TOOOOOOoooood! I have a MOOOOOOoooooose!”

Quickly, I made my way to Tommy, and there lay the massive bull! We “high fived” and celebrated, then I knelt down and prayed, giving thanks to God and the bull for the meat we would enjoy throughout the next year. After praying, we replayed the experience of the previous evening. Tommy measured the antlers, and they were 40 inches wide. I was glad we waited to count three brow tines, before deciding to shoot. I was very relieved that I had not missed, but even more relieved I had not wounded the animal. He had fallen less than 30 yards from where I shot him.

We cut down some brush and small trees around where he lay, took several photos, and then it was time for the real work to begin. I grew up killing and cleaning squirrels, quail, rabbits, raccoons, whitetail deer, and farm raised hogs. I had cleaned Mule Deer and Elk, but I had never cleaned anything of this size. He was too large to move or even roll over, so we had to butcher him right where he lay. He seemed to grow larger as the hours passed, but finally we had at least 300-400 lbs. of deboned meat in the X-Large cloth meat bags we had brought. We then meticulously cut the cape off of the skull so I could get a nice quality mount from my taxidermist. The skull and antlers weighed another 75-100 lbs. The butchering process took the two of us about four hours. Then we carried each bag of meat and the antlers out of the woods to a large tree with low hanging limbs and dry ground underneath. With temperatures rising into the 50’s and 60’s in the heat of day, we needed to keep the meat dry and shaded. We laid a tarp down first, put the meat on it, then covered it.

The journey ahead...

Tommy had sent our pilot, Jordan, a text via satellite phone to let him know of our bounty, and to inform him there was a place we were confident he could land. He was also informed that our trip down the mountain took 8 hours instead of “a couple”! We really believed, hoped, dreamed, Jordan could land in the valley! He said he would fly out after work in the afternoon to check it out for himself. Tommy and I sat around camp allowing our muscles and joints to recuperate, and waited for the sound of Jordan’s plane. Although Tommy still had a moose tag, and I had a black bear tag, we were so tired, neither of us were interested in shooting and cleaning anything else at the moment!

After laying around for a few hours, we heard Jordan’s plane in the distance. It was exciting to think we could possibly eat some real food and sleep in a real bed that night! Or maybe he could land and take the meat today and come back to get us the next day! Either would be awesome!

Jordan circled over the valley and we watched as he appeared to be coming in for a landing, only to pull up before reaching some trees. He tried again a little farther out in the valley. We could see water spraying up as his wheels touched the shallow water covering the valley floor, then he pulled up again, unable to land. He circled overhead a couple more times and then disappeared and the sound of his engine faded into the distance. There was silence. Then came a text from Jordan, “It’s a no go! Must pack out!” And just like that, our excitement disappeared as quickly as Jordan’s plane!

Jordan sent another text volunteering to land on the mountain the next morning, and hike down to help us pack the meat out. I was grateful for his offer, but we reminded him it was an eight-hour trip, and it would take at least two trips for the three of us to pack it all out. That time frame would likely cause me to miss my flight back to Georgia.

Then he reminded us of a remote cabin, accessible only by plane, about a mile and a half down the valley from our camp. It was the only cabin in the region and it had a small rustic landing strip. He had seen a plane there when he came to see if he could land near our camp, so we were pretty confident someone was there. He said our only other option was to walk to the cabin and ask permission for him to land there. So, as the sun set on another day, we went to bed knowing only that we had some hard walking ahead, and no guarantee our efforts would actually help us get out of the valley. The excitement of our successful hunt had worn off, and was replaced with a sense of frustration. We built a fire for the first time on our trip, and burned the trash we had collected during our journey. We boiled water, ate supper, and went to bed. We slept with rifles loaded, fully aware that our bloody meat bags and moose carcass lay about 100 yards away, providing the ideal magnet for a grizzly! It was an unnerving reality!

Thursday Sep 13

We awakened early for breakfast and coffee, after which we broke camp and packed. We started walking down the valley toward the cabin, and was quickly reminded of the difficult terrain of the valley. Our muscles, knees, and hip joints struggled as they were re-introduced to the pain they had experienced two days earlier.

After about 400 yards, we could go no further with the backpacks. The water was getting deeper as we walked and our heavy weight made it even more difficult to walk. We found ourselves surrounded by water-filled ditches, creeks, and ponds. It was more arduous and difficult than anything we had previously faced. It was at that point Tommy made the suggestion for me to stay with the backpacks while he walked to the cabin. He could make much better time without carrying anything but his rifle. So, as Tommy disappeared out of sight down the valley, I put our backpacks on two large clumps of grass, keeping them out of the water. I stood on another large clump of grass surrounded by water until Tommy returned about an hour and a half later.  I was glad to hear his voice when he called my name, trying to locate me in the tall grass. “Todd? Where are you?” I was eager to hear the news. Was someone at the cabin? Would they allow us to fly in and out on their runway? Perhaps they would help us pack our meat to their place!

I yelled out, “Over here! What’s the deal?” Tommy said, “They’re not happy?” They were two older men. They had owned the cabin for over 30 years and went out each fall to hunt. Since the area was so difficult to reach, they said they had seen no one in that valley in 22 years! Even though it was public land, it was obvious they considered it “their” valley. At first it appeared they would offer no help, nor allow Jordan to land on their runway. (Each landing would cause ruts in the marshy soil, which had to be repaired.) But after Tommy explained he had his 54-year-old pastor with him, and we had been confident the plane could land near our camp, the men were a little more cordial and understanding. They couldn’t believe we had walked through the difficult terrain. From their cabin, they had watched Jordan attempt to land the day before, and they were convinced he would crash. They finally agreed to allow Jordan to land twice, to get us, but not a third or fourth time to get our meat! My only other option, since I was flying home the next evening, was to hire some young men to hike in with Tommy over the weekend to pack out the meat.

We sent Jordan a text, letting him know he could land at the cabin, and now we had to get there carrying our backpacks. Tommy, having just walked there and back was well aware of how difficult it would be, so we changed course a bit.

We began walking toward the cabin, and it was as difficult as Tommy had described; but we arrived after about an hour and a half of crossing creeks, beaver dams, and marsh. I found a tree at the end of the runway soon after stepping up out of the marsh. It looked like a great place to lay in the shade and wait for Jordan to arrive in another hour or so. I cared nothing about walking a little further to the cabin. My legs did not want to take another step! The two men came out to meet us and I was grateful they brought us some water. We had been drinking creek water for the day through a purification straw. The men were now gracious hosts and inquisitive about our hunt and our lives. We apologized for bothering them and thanked them for allowing us to use their runway. And they were eager to share stories of their hunting expeditions in that region through the years. Tommy and I had now given them another story to add to future conversations.

Jordan soon arrived, and after simple greetings between Jordan and the men, along with a little airplane talk, I boarded the plane with my backpack and rifle. Tommy would wait for the second trip. Jordan flew me to the grassy landing strip in the middle of nowhere, the place where his dad, Bill, would meet us and take us back to Anchorage. I got out of the plane, unloaded my belongings, and sat on my backpack to watch as Jordan flew out to get Tommy.

Not long after Jordan flew out, Bill landed and, together, we awaited Jordan’s return with Tommy. After a while, I noticed Bill getting a little nervous, and he asked me how long Jordan had been gone when he arrived. He said, “They should be back by now! Something’s wrong! I’m flying out to check on them!” With no other comments, Bill got in his plane and flew out to look for Jordan and Tommy. I watched until he almost disappeared, and I saw him make a sharp turn back toward me. I assumed he saw Jordan in the distance flying out of the wilderness, and I was right. Bill landed and soon after, Jordan landed. But I could not see Tommy in the plane!

I rushed over to the plane as it was just coming to a stop and asked Jordan, “Where’s Tommy?” Jordan was silent as he quickly climbed out and opened his cargo door beneath the plane, reached in a pulled out a bloody bag of moose meat, then another, and another! My brain was spinning! I asked, “How did you get that?” He smiled and said, “I got her in there and taxied her right up to where you had the meat. Couldn’t carry it all in one load. Gonna try again to get the rest of it and your antlers. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll do the best I can.” And with that, Jordan flew out again.

Bill and I waited impatiently for Jordan’s return. After another hour, we heard his plane in the distance and watched him prepare to land, and that’s when I saw it! My skull and antlers were strapped underneath the plane! He landed and got out to unstrap the skull and antlers from the plane and pull out the remaining bags of meat and hide. I asked how was he able to land in the valley to get the meat today, but not yesterday. He said, “Strong wind today in the right direction.” Then he flew out one more time to get Tommy, and I was relieved when they returned! We were all safe and sound and had recovered everything from camp.

We loaded everything into Bill’s plane, Tommy and I boarded, and we made the trip back to Anchorage. A hot shower, a good hot meal, a Dairy Queen Blizzard, and soft bed were welcomed comforts.

It had been an adventure of a lifetime, but our bodies reminded us of its’ difficulty. Swollen arms and hands from mosquito bites. A hand with a puncture wound. Ankles and knees that would be swollen for two more weeks from carrying the heavy load. But, I have no regrets! Just gratitude! Thank you, Tommy, Bill, and Jordan! Thank you, God, for watching over us, and for the opportunity! Thank you, Dad, for challenging me to never sit on my dreams, but to plan them and live them! I’m pretty sure I see a Caribou hunt in my future! And a pheasant hunt with my grandsons some day!

Do you have a dream list? You aren’t getting any younger!

Don’t simply breathe until you die! Take time to actually LIVE!

Todd Wright