If you have hunted moose before, then you are likely familiar with the fact that they are graceful, especially in their natural habitat. They can be bold and timid, all at the same time. They can disappear and reappear like ghosts. When it comes to hunting moose, it isn’t just a matter of technique and technical skill, art, or science; you must have a passion for hunting moose. Whether you have hunted moose before or not, this article will shed some light on some tactics that you need to be equipped with before your next hunt.
More often than not, hunters take more moose from a stand than any other technique. In fact, you can combine all other techniques and stand hunting remains the most effective. This shouldn’t be a surprise; as long as a hunting stand is placed in the right location, a moose is going to wander past. The question comes down to whether the moose is going to show up when you’re able to shoot him or after it’s too dark, and if the animal does appear during the daylight hours, will you be there in the stand to see him?
While many deer hunters love portable stands, the majority of moose stands are pretty large and tend to be pretty permanent. They are often constructed within a thicket of spruce trees near the edge of a clearing, especially one that is located near a travel corridor between two lakes or along a valley. Moose tend to navigate any terrain, but they also like to navigate the path of least resistance. Therefore, they stick to level ground when possible, areas with minimal brush, and follow routes that don’t require much effort on their part.
The ideal stand for moose hunting is one that will overlook the most forest edge that is in range, which will have the sun behind it and where the wind is favorable. Of course, ideal situations don’t always exist, and compromises must be made at times. This is particularly true when it comes to the wind. If you can only have one moose hunting stand, then make sure that it is position on the eastern edge of the clearing since winds tend to come from the west. If it is possible to have a second moose stand constructed, attempt to position to based on the direction of the wind of incoming weather.
To hide any movements that you may make while in the stand, it is recommended for stands to have front and side walls that are at least two feet high. This also helps to shelter you from the breeze. It is a good idea to consider some type of roof to keep the rain and snow off of you. After all, the longer that you are able to stay in the stand, the higher the chances of success.
You should consider ensuring that your stand is placed between several evergreens, which will not only hide the stand, but it will also create a more stable platform. When the stand is only attached to a single tree, it may sway. When it is attached to several trunks, it is far more stable. This is important, especially when you need to take a long shot at an animal and there is a stiff breeze.
One more thing that you need to consider with your stand is its construction. Some people believe that building the stand the day before you plan to go hunting is okay since moose tend to be pretty curious and will be attracted to the hammering, chainsaws, etc. While this may be true, you may want to build the stand during the summer so that there is plenty of time for your smells to be washed away and the wood to be weathered by the elements before the hunting season begins.
One of the main issues with standing hunting is that you are confined to a single location. In the event that the conditions are right and the moose don’t enjoy traveling, you need to go looking for the animals. For example, during the post rut, bulls tend to retire to heavy brush along mountain flanks to browse and recovery some of their strength. This is usually during the middle of October, and you may want to still hunt the way that you would white-tailed deer. You can often still hunt moose that have been spooked by other hunters as these animals will become nocturnal. You can find them in the birch, atop knolls, bedded down along the edge of wooded areas, etc.
When still hunting, it is imperative that you move smoothly and quietly. Stop often to look in the shadows for the edge of an ear, a patch of hair, the glint of an eye, or even just a tine protruding from a thicket’s edge. You won’t be able to remain completely undetected when still hunting, so the secret is to simply move like the animal that you are hunting. Make relaxed, deliberate movements. Make certain that you’re wearing proper clothing; clothing that can muffle scraping of twigs, slaps of branches, etc. Remember, moose have very acute hearing and will tense to the softest (so you thought) of sounds.
An effective way to still hunt is to get in a canoe and float down small rivers. Moose tend to use the banks of small lakes and ponds as travel corridors. A canoe is an easy and quiet way to travel through areas that tend to be undisturbed by others. As you are traveling, make sure to carefully scan the shoreline since game trails may not follow the streambed exactly. There could be a moose standing directly in the water, or there may be one 100 yards from the shoreline.
Moose calling used to be more popular than it is now, and it may soon diminish completely and no longer be used. This is particularly true in areas where the regular firearms season is being pushed further beyond the peak rut in an effort to protect mature bulls when they’re at a vulnerable state. For now, though, it is still an effective method and can be used when the breeding period and regular season straddle one another or in areas where black powder and archery seasons are imposed.
For moose calling to be successful, the cow must have advertised that she is ready to breed with a long and audible moan, which is done at regular intervals. A suitable bull usually will then respond and they will mate. This mating period could last up to 72 hours. The intensity of the response will depend on several factors including the bull’s level of experience, aggressiveness, and how convinced he is that the cow’s invitation was “real”. Below, we will discuss more about this.
For starters, a bull must be in the “mood”. The rut starts around the beginning of September, then peaks around mid-September and tapers off relatively quickly. Outside this small window, the bull only wants to fill his gut and ensure his hide remains intact. During this rutting period, excessive human activity can spook the moose, and if a bull has paired with a cow already, he is unlikely to respond to your call.
A young bull that is only entering the rutting period for his first or second time is far more likely to respond than a cautious bull who has been through this many times over. Seasoned hunters will tell you that they have seen bug bulls sneaking up to investigate invitations from cow, stand there patiently for up to an hour to assess the situation prior to committing themselves. Sometimes the bull is convinced, and sometimes the bull will disappear back into the woods.
With inexperienced bulls, however, they are ready to go as soon as they hear a call. For the mature moose, you need to make things much more convincing if you want to mislead him and lure him out into the open for a good shot. You need to keep several things in mind such as a moose’s well-developed hearing, his acute sense of smell, and his familiarity with his surroundings. You will want to start by making sure your camp is about a mile away from where you plan on calling to the moose, and then enter the intended area as little as possible so that you don’t make the moose suspicious with your human smell.
It’s important to understand that moose calling consists of more than just hollering through your birch-bark cone. While you may get impatient, it is important to wait up to an hour before you begin to create an illusion—this is very important. Nudge some branches, snap some twigs, etc. that simulates a cow browsing. A little while later, make the sound of a moose walking in the water at water’s edge. You may want to scoop up a bit of water with your birch-bark cone and replicate the sound of the cow urinating by using your thumb to control the amount of water that comes out of the mouthpiece—entirely up to you. It just depends on how far you want to go on the simulation.
Once you have completed the edge of the water simulation, you can begin actually calling to a bull. Keep in mind that there may be a bull roughly 100 yards away, so begin with a muted cow call. This can be done with cupped hands. After about half an hour has passed, you can try another call that is a bit louder. If you still haven’t seen movement another 30 minutes later, use your birch-bark cone this time and make another call, a little louder again.
Keep in mind that you always want to start your cow calls low and increase them in volume for roughly four seconds, ending with a curt grunt. Bulls tend to answer back with a short staccato grunt before he comes closer. When you hear this grunt from a bull or your hear antlers thrashing against branches, wait just a few moments, and if you believe the bull may be losing interest, use short, muted and moaning pleas to lure him back. Sometimes, you can break a twig to catch his attention. If the bull is extremely unforthcoming, consider making a short grunt of another bull along with raking a stick through the branches, creating the illusion that there is another bull coming toward the cow. Hopefully, this creates a jealous rage and brings your bull to you.
Moose calling is probably most effective on mornings that are brisk and cool, between dawn and roughly nine a.m. as well as four p.m. and last dusk. When you can, spread the breeding scent around an area to enhance the overall illusion of a willing cow’s presence; this can be done by purchasing mare-in-heat urine. As long as it is pure and fresh, bulls will be enticed when they smell it. Just make sure that you are careful with it and don’t get it on you or your clothing.
When it comes to the best guns for hunting moose, it will depend on personal preference. Overall, though, you will want to find something somewhere between the .30-06 Springfield and .338 Winchester Magnum. However, there are many guns that can get the job done, including a .30-30, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .270 Winchester. Opt for the highest possible caliber that you are able to shoot comfortably. Just keep in mind that big cannons tend to thump you pretty good and can result in poor shooting habits. It is recommended to opt for a bottom-range caliber that you have full control over and can shoot exceptionally well rather than a big magnum that you aren’t able to handle well. When it comes to bullets, an ideal choice for moose is a bullet with 160 grains or better. These are constructed to hold together on heavy bones and thick hide, which is exactly what moose have.
Bolt-action rifles tend to be trouble-free when it comes to functionality regardless of weather, but this will come down to personal preference. You may want to consider a variable scope—something like a 2.5 and 8X variable since it can serve double-duty for still hunting and stand hunting. If you want to still hunt, consider standard objective lenses since the oversize 50mm optics necessitate a high mount. Because of this, the shooter sacrifices crucial seconds when attempting to aim. It is faster and easier to line up a standard mount scope, not to mention it is lighter weight.
Regardless of the scope size that you choose, you will want to choose the best that you can possibly afford since it will be subjected to the elements. You don’t want to get a low-quality scope and the optics fog up on it as soon as that trophy bull steps in front of you.
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