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Opportunity alberta.

WHIR'S NOVEMBH cold bit at my cheeks and instantly froze the hairs inside my nose when I stepped from the hail-dappled old Suburban, but there was a mature bull moose away across 600 yards of muskeg and alders and we couldn't stalk him while sitting in the truck. I screwed my hat on a bit tighter, shrugged my TIC Dimension rifle across my shoulder, and followed my guide into knee-deep snow.

We were hunting the late season, long after the bulls quit rutting and became uncallable. Heated trucks enabled survival as we covered vast stretches of frozen boreal forest, chaining up to drive logging roads to high spots, where we glassed logging clear-cuts and valley swamps in search of big bulls.

Uncharacteristically for late fall, the bull we'd just found was with cows, which made me suspect his maturity. But Alberta guide Grayson Bunnage left no doubt that this was a bull we had to try for.

The snow was deep but powdery and quiet, courtesy of a cold too frigid to allow the surface to melt in the daylight sun and freeze-form a crust at night. Soundlessly, we wallowed through it, praying that the marginal cross-breeze wouldn't shift and carry our scent to the moose. Circling to get the wind in our faces was out of the question--it would require more time and strength than we had.

SURE ENOUGH. as we neared the spot we hoped to set up and shoot from, the wind suddenly left my burning right ear, hesitated as if unsure of the ethics of what it was about to do, and then blew tall on the back of my neck. I rose slightly from my crouch and peeked over the covering alders just in time to see the moose fade into the black conifers beyond.

Standing an average of six feet, six inches at the shoulder, Alces aloes ander-soni--more commonly known by its blue-collar name of Canada moose--bulls have very long legs and broad hooves well suited to navigating waterlogged tundra swamps and deep snow. In a walking competition, we didn't have a chance. We reversed and began the 20-minute, 400-yard trek back to the Suburban.

In Alberta, moose can be hunted in the foothills of the Rockies for about the same price as a decent elk hunt, and a whitetail or mule deer tag can be added for peanuts. Throw clown for a wolf license and you've got a very intriguing multiple-species package.

This particular hunt was with Todd Bunnage of Rugged Outfitting (, located northwest of Calgary. Bunnage's late-season moose hunts come in two guises: a meat hunt for the small bulls plentiful in the valley farmlands and a trophy bull hunt in the mountainous "public" Crown Land, where he is issued a certain amount of outfitter-type tags each year. While he doesn't encourage hunters to expect to shoot a 50-inch bull (which is the equivalent of a 60-plus-inch Alaska-Yukon bull), his hunters do take one or more per year, and as an indication of the quality of his area, locals put in for 10 years or more before earning enough points to draw a resident tag there.

The rifle I shook free of snow and scraped thumbnails-full of ice from back at the truck was 1/C's innovative, bolt-action, interchangeable-barrel Dimension model. Anticipating the opportunity to hunt big northern whitetails if I was able to take a moose early enough in my hunt, I'd brought along a .270 Winchester-caliber barrel in addition to the .300 Win. Mag. barrel currently mounted to my action.

Initially ambivalent in my appreciation of the design, I'd found while sighting-in and load testing that both barrels consistently turned in sub-MOA accuracy--a factor I find rather endearing in a production-model hunting rifle. Bolt travel is smooth, function is reliable, and while I still am not in love with the modernistic appearance of the stock, I came to value the Dimension as a precision tool.

Bunnage fired up the Suburban, cranked the heater, and we prowled down the snowpacked logging road. Sweated up from heaving through the drifts, I rolled down my window and sucked in the frigid air.

Ahead a mile and well around and above the copse of pines that the moose had vanished into, Bunnage slowed, searching the treeline below. Adrenaline jangled through me as he slammed on the brakes and pointed at dark forms shadowing the logging cut. Quietly, he cut the motor, and we slipped out the doors to try again.

I don't particularly like hunting from vehicles, and I refuse to shoot an animal out of a truck window even where legal. However, this hunt entailed a lot of hiking to vantage points and glassing, followed by on-foot pursuit when moose were found. Those tactics, combined with the deep, heavy snow and cold, make for a real hunt that rarely results in drive-by type opportunities. Who was I to complain if this time the moose were already almost in range? Quickly, I moved through the snow to gain a few yards. throwing the rifle to my shoulder as the bull wafted through strings of saplings at the forest's edge. Binocular to his eyes beside me, Bunnage breathed, Standing in the snow, crosshairs glued to the bull's shoulder where he stood glaring some 140 yards distant, I pressed the trigger. The .300 roared, and the distinct whap of a bullet impacting vitals returned across the broken muskeg.

Moose have slow nervous systems, and the bull simply turned slightly, showing little sign of being hit. Never one to miss an opportunity. I racked the bolt and sent another 180-grain Federal Trophy Copper bullet through his ribs, then a third into his shoulder. Clouds of snow frothed as the bull ran sideways and toppled into the deep powder, only one antler showing above the logging off-cuts scattered at the forest's edge.

As we approached him, the bull grew, gaining paddle depth and width over what I thought I'd seen through my binoculars. We scooped the caked snow from his antlers and heaved him into position for photography, hurrying in the cold.

Later, when help arrived, outfitter Todd Bunnage ran an unbelievable length of heavy manila rope from a blue 55-gallon drum--it was literally full of coiled rope--the several hundred yards to my bull, elbowed it around a handy roadside tree stump left from bygone logging days, hooked it to his truck hitch, and drove off down the snow-packed two-track as the guides piloted the bull across the icy muskeg to the road. I'd been anticipating a short but grueling pack; turns out extracting a moose in deep snow can be easy if you're prepared.

I had a whitetail tag in my pocket, and the night after shooting my bull, I'd dug out my extra barrel and the TIC tools needed to swap barrels on the Dimension. The design of the rifle is such that the transition takes less than five minutes to complete. I torqued the barrel nut, bolted the action back into the stock, and confirmed the zero the next morning. Interestingly, Dimension components are machined precisely enough that when remounting a barrel it tends to return to zero well. In this case, 130-grain Sierra

THOMPSON/CENTER is a company that has always pushed the boundaries of versatility. With its new bolt-action, repeating Dimension model, it offers hunters on a budget the opportunity to own a single rifle with multiple barrels.

CNC-machined to very tight tolerances to enable bolt interchangeability (between appropriate calibers with like-size case heads) and consistent repeatability, Dimension rifles utilize a set of letter-coded parts groups to enable shooters to shoot cartridges in four different case families: those based on magnum case heads, those derived from the .30-06 case family, those engineered on the .308 case family, and those based on .223-size cases.

For example, to switch from a .300 Win. Mag. to a .270 Win., as I did during my Alberta moose/whitetail hunt, you'll need two barrels, two bolts, and two magazines. Add a .223-caliber barrel, and you need another bolt and magazine. However, once you're set with the various-size bolts arid magazines, you can add barrels. A imm Rem. Mag. barrel fits with the magnum bolt and magazine, a .30-06 barrel works with the standard-face bolt and magazine, and so forth. Heaclspacing is accomplished via very, very precise machining, allowing one bolt to safely serve for multiple (same cartridge family) barrels.

Shooters can choose to hard-mount a scope to their action and simply rezero when mounting a new barrel, or to use a cantilever-type, barrel-mounted scope base on each barrel, with a scope premounted and zeroed. The cantilever system eliminates the need to rezero every time you switch barrels: however, it also makes for a high-mounted optic, reducing the quality of the shooter's cheek weld.

GameKings out of Federal Premium factory loads impacted a shade high. A few clicks on my Nikon ProStaff scope and the rifle was ready for business.

Well before dawn, we wound our way through farmland and low-country timber patches. Grayson--a man of few but powerful words--gestured at this pasture corner or that shadowy fencerow with comments such as: "Here's where we saw that 190-class buck last fall." Or: "We had a bowhunter shoot a 168-inch buck right down there last month." With two full days left, I decided to hold out for a big mature deer, putting emphasis on age.

Few thrills can match that of climbing a completely unknown treestand on the edge of the North's promised land and watching early dawn distill across the horizon and drive the wavering Aurora Borealis from the night sky. The snow was less deep than in the mountains--perhaps only 10 inches--but the cold was still intense. Shortly after dawn, three running canine forms burst from a 490-yard-distant treeline, sending an electric burst of adrenaline through me until I realized that they were coyotes, not wolves.

For two hours I saw only a solitary doe feeding in a fringe of trees a half-mile distant. Then three does fed from a black wall of pines 140 yards to my left, eventually bedding just inside the edge of the timber. An optimistic basket-racked eight-point buck swaggered up the treeline and began to harass the does. Suddenly, he boogered like he'd seen a ghost and, considerably deflated, made tracks for parts unknown.

Interested, I glassed the dark pines more closely, finally making out the curve of a main beam and at least two tines of indeterminate length on a bedded deer. The rut was on, and a bigger buck was tending those does from the safety of cover.

Pheromones make fools of the best of us, and the little buck returned, guiltily making his way through scant cover toward the does. I focused my binocular on the bedded buck. Hair raised and posturing like a sure-enough old man of the woods, he emerged stiff-legged from the timber, paralleling the hopeful eight-point, shouldering him away from the does as completely as if he'd been in full contact.

Heavy bodied and long-beamed, dominant and muscled like a professional athlete, he carried what at first looked like a big, nine-point rack. As he stopped in the glow of the morning sun and swung his head, I saw that he was actually a clean 10-point, or would have been had he not broken off the G4 on his left side.

A big, dominant buck, he was no 160-class deer, but the morning was just too perfect. The TIC Dimension coughed and the buck dropped in his tracks, heart and lungs shattered by the Sierra Game-King bullet. I stiffly climbed down the tree-stand and across the snow to where the buck lay, the ultimate whiteness of the snow beneath him slowly turning crimson.

0 Several hours existed before my scheduled pickup time. Using the timer on my Nikon camera, I indulged in self-portraits with the buck until the subfreezing temperatures robbed my camera battery of life. The razor edge of my old Damascus hunting knife made short work of field dressing, and I resolved to drag the buck through the snow and woods to my pickup point.

Even in snow, it was tough to get the heavy old buck moving. Using my belt and rifle sling, I rigged a hip drag and trudged, head down, rifle cradled across my chest, to the snowy two-track through the woods.

Spent, I spread the buck's cavity to drain into the snow and cool, broke a slab of bark to sit on from a decaying tree trunk, and settled in to wait, sunshine vying with the frosty breeze across my face.




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Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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