Hunting Moose--more than just a matter of technique; it's a passion
Whether you're hunting the Alaskan moose in which mature bulls often weigh more than three quarters of a ton and carry antlers more than five feet wide, or the small Shiras or Wyoming moose, found in the Rocky Mountains on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, the thrill of hunting these magnificent animals will be something you'll remember for a lifetime.
Heavy bodied and long-legged and with a characteristic drooping nose, moose are the largest members of the deer family. To the casual observer who happens to spot a moose by the side of the road or in a park, they may appear large, ugly, and even ungainly. Yet, seen in its natural habitat of bogs and spruce forests, the animal is both graceful and well suited to a harsh environment.1
Those who have hunted moose know that they can appear and disappear like ghosts, that they can be both timid and bold. Unlike most other deer species, moose are solitary animals and do not form herds. Although generally slow-moving and sedentary, moose can become aggressive and move quickly if angered or startled.
The largest moose antlers in North America come from Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. Trophy class bulls are found throughout Alaska, with the largest found in the western portion of the state. Moose occasionally produce trophy-size antlers when they are 6 or 7 years old, with the largest antlers grown at approximately 10–12 years of age. In the wild, moose rarely live more than 16 years.2
Moose have incredibly good hearing along with the ability to pinpoint the exact location of any sound. Large bulls have exceptional hearing because their antler mass draws in sound, much the same way as does a megaphone or cupping your hand to your ear. Calling from multiple locations has the advantage of sounding like more activity and multiple animals, and is likely to increase the interest level of a distant bull.
Brush thrashing sounds can be quite effective when calling moose. The loud cracking sound of breaking branches off a dead spruce tree can be heard by a bull at great distances. The sounds of beating the branch against the trunk and raking brush with it is equally as effective. The goal is to make noises that sound like bulls fighting or perhaps trying to scrape off their velvet. Thrash for two to three minutes, then pause for two to three minutes, and repeat this sequence.
Tips when Hunting Moose
- Wear clothing that does not make any noise while you move. Fleece or wool is best.
- Hunt during the moose rut whenever possible.
- Hunt near food sources, lakes, and ponds (where the cows are) during the rut.
- Don't set up your camp on the edge of your hunting spot. Your noise and smells will chase any nearby moose away.
- Learn to recognize the difference between fresh and old moose sign.
- If you see or hear a moose just before or after dark, leave the area quietly and return early the next morning. The moose, if not spooked, will likely still be in the area.
- Hunt higher elevations during the early season.
- When temperatures are above 65 degrees F, you will have to go deep into the forest to find cool areas.
- Getting close to moose is exhilarating, but watch for warning signs of angry moose. Ears flattened, hair along the neck and back raised, and eyes rolled back are signs you have agitated the big guy.
Ready to plan your trip of a lifetime?
1Big Game Hunt, George Gruenefeld, "Moose Hunting Tactics," Oct 9, 2005