Finding the horns may have seemed easy; getting them out of the woods was a different story. Bradach wore out one saw that afternoon and threw a chain on another. After four hours of work he had managed to detach the skull plate on only one moose.
Moose shed hunter Tim Bradach of Gilbert, Minnesota, picked up the find of a lifetime this winter when he discovered the remains of two record-book bulls that died after locking horns in an epic fight to the death.
Bradach usually begins his quest for moose sheds in early January. But cold weather and his work at the Gilbert Police Department, where he’s served for more than 30 years, kept him out of the woods until January 18, when he made the 40-mile drive to his hunting cabin near Brimson and Toimi. After cruising the woods for an hour on his snow mobile, he saw the tips of a moose antler sticking out of the snow. “If you find one nice horn in a day that’s doing pretty good,” Bradach says. “So that pretty much made my day.”
As he got closer, he noticed a second antler in the snow right next to the first. “I assumed it was the second horn from the same moose. I thought that was real nice of him to drop ’em both in the same spot.”
Only when he got right on top of the horns did Bradach notice the outline of bodies under the snow. “I could see it was actually two bulls locked together. Real nice bulls, too.” Scavengers had been gnawing the hindquarters, but the bodies were mostly intact–surprising, Bradach says, “since there’s no shortage of timber wolves in the area.” The antlers were splattered in bird droppings where ravens and eagles had perched and preened.
The grove of small poplar trees bore the scars of the battle. Lots of saplings were broken off or caught between and beneath the fallen moose. “I imagine it would have been quite a battle and a heck of a thing to hear and see,” Bradach says.
After digging the horn pile out from under frozen snow, Bradach could tell he had a couple of keepers. “I knew right away one would make the Minnesota book, and I thought the other would be close.”
Finding the horns may have seemed easy; getting them out of the woods was a different story. Bradach wore out one saw that afternoon and threw a chain on another. After four hours of work he had managed to detach the skull plate on only one moose.
He recruited his buddy Tom Skoglund to help the next day. It took another four hours to extricate the racks. The larger moose had a triple brow tine. Two of the tines were stuck in the frozen ground and the third was buried in the chest of the second moose.
Bradach and Skoglund found it easier to remove the entire head of one moose …
… and after four hours of exhausting work they finally had the two racks loaded on a skid sled and ready to tow out of the woods.
Bradach says the combined heads weighed about 250 pounds. “It was quite a project. By the end of the second day we were sweating.”
The results were worth the effort. “One antler is a nice day, and two is real nice,” Bradach says. But two matched sets? “It felt like winning the lottery. That’s as nice as it gets out there.”
Bradach’s friend, taxidermist and official Boone & Crockett measurer Tom Jerry Fausone, helped him clean up and score the horns. Bradach also reported his find and received a permit from the state to possess the racks.
The biggest rack boasted a 55 7/8 inch spread and scored 171 1/8. The second sported a 47 3/8 inch spread and totaled 151 1/8. Both made the Minnesota record book, for which the minimum score is 150.
“From what I’ve heard and seen, moose will display their horns and the smaller one usually runs away,” Bradach says. “But these two were pretty evenly matched. One most likely died first. Then the other, with 1200 pounds of dead weight attached to his head, his fate was sealed.”
Minnesota’s moose population, now about 7,600, has been in decline in recent years. Hunters can draw a moose permit only once in a lifetime.
Bradach got his chance in 1995, when he shot a bull “very similar” to the pair he found. “That was pretty exciting, but I guess this would rank right up there with shooting that bull,” he says. “This is probably the best day I’ve had in the woods.”
“The racks are now in my living room, which I never thought I’d be able to do. They had quite an odor on them when I first dug them out. But they look real nice now.”
Bradach’s granddaughter, Ella, thinks so. “She says they’re pretty cool. She’s just happy to smile and get in the picture.”
Bradach has plenty of time for more shed hunting now: he retired from the police force on Feb. 6. “I don’t expect to find something like this again in my lifetime, that’s for sure, but I’ll probably get out and see if I can’t pick up another one or two this winter.” After digging out the find of a lifetime, he says, “It’ll be kinda nice to just pick one off the ground.”