Homer woman more than 8 months pregnant bags a moose

If you're 8 1/2 months pregnant, craving meat and find the freezer empty, what do you do?

Well, if you're a woman in Homer, Alaska, you go out and shoot a moose. That's what Ashley Switzer did.

The 22-year-old, soon-to-be first-time mom was home alone in early September when it came time to put food on the table. Husband Scott was off working on a fishing boat somewhere near Kodiak Island, about 130 miles to the southwest.

Ashley wasn't sure when he'd be home, so she decided she best do something about providing for the family. She borrowed her dad's rifle and headed for the hills above the Kenai Peninsula community of about 5,200 at the end of the Alaska road system some 220 miles south of Anchorage.

"It was my dad's .270 (caliber rifle) because my husband took my .30-06," she said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Scott was thinking he might get a chance to hunt for Sitka blacktail deer on Kodiak. The .270 is a better caliber for hunting deer than for hunting moose, but Kodiak is home to lots of big, powerful brown bears, which makes it a good idea for hunters there to bring a more powerful gun.

Ashley was left a little undergunned for moose, but it didn't matter. She found a bull and killed it anyway.

"I wanted to fill my freezer," she said matter-of-factly.

She left home with her rifle on the morning of Sept. 8. She'd done this before, she said, but "never successfully."

This time, though, luck was with her. A little after 8 a.m., she said, she spotted a young, spike-fork bull. Moose hunting in the 49th state is a little complicated. Across much of the state, hunting regulations make it legal to shoot only moose with antlers larger than 50 inches wide or with little-bitty antlers.

The management intent is to crop off the big bulls and the little bulls because they are least likely to survive the winter.

Puttering around on one of the many backwoods trails near Homer, Ashley had found herself a legal little bull, but "then he scampered off into the woods," she said.

Goodbye moose.

But pretty soon, Ashley saw a cow moose. Mating season wasn't really into full swing yet, but the cow was calling. Ashley started calling. The young bull strolled back into view. Bad mistake.

One shot and he was meat. All of a sudden, Ashley had a 600-pound dead animal to deal with, but she had a solution.

"After I shot it, I thought, 'I'm going to need some help,'" she said. "So I just called my dad and said, 'Take the day off.'"

Her father, John Ketelle -- who runs the aptly named Alaska Moosehorn Cabin vacation rental near Homer -- was happy to oblige. Within a couple of hours of shooting the animal, Ashley and her dad had it home.

"I was able to back my four-wheeler right up to it," Ashley said. "I probably could have got it myself." But she admitted dad's help dealing with her first-ever moose kill made things easier.

So, too, did the arrival home of husband Scott, who got back in time to help with butchering and packaging, which can easily fill a day. Ashley admitted she wasn't looking forward to being on her feet all day cutting moose meat.

"Luckily," she said, "my husband got home in time from fishing to help me out with that."

Contact Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com.

Craig Medred

Craig Medred is a former writer for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2015.