Ah, moose hunting. What is it about Canada’s most majestic animal that has so many of us counting the days until opening weekend? For many hunters, the low grunt of a giant bull answering a cow call is the epitome of excitement.
Yet, statistics show most moose hunters are unsuccessful. Sometimes it’s bad luck, but as often as not, little details allow one hunter to be successful and another not. After 20-plus years of chasing moose with experienced and successful hunters, I’ve managed to absorb some of their knowledge. So, here are six solid tips to help you bag a moose this fall.
1. Shoot It
Many people don’t routinely shoot or sight-in their firearms before a moose hunt. With a rifle, you should be able to hit a paper target at 100 yards. If you can’t, something’s wrong. Modern guns, properly sighted in, shoot better than most hunters have the skills to fully utilize. Also, sight-in with the same round you hunt with.
If you shoot a bow or crossbow, practise in a variety of situations, with different types of targets. Don’t just shoot target points. Learn what your arrow does when a broadhead is attached.
Also, don’t decide to make major change with ammo, bowstrings, or arrows the night before a hunt. You owe it to yourself – and to the quarry – to be prepared as possible.
2. Know Your Hunting Area
Too many hunters hope for the perfect shot to materialize in the middle of a wide-open clear cut, when any sensible moose will be back in the safety of cover. I’ve seen hunters miss small moose-laden areas tucked into the back ends of cuts simply because they didn’t put in the extra effort to look. If you don’t have time to physically scout areas you plan to hunt, try to get as much information as you can from topographical maps, woodlands workers, other hunters, and the like.
Of course, Google Earth has completely changed the moose hunting game. Every hunter should take time to check their hunting area via its imagery. Bush roads, swamps, and game trails are often visible. Sometimes, the resolution isn’t there and doesn’t allow for computer scouting. So be it.
This will make your on-the-ground scouting that much more important. Nothing beats first-hand knowledge. Almost every consistently successful moose hunter pre-scouts religiously.
3. Don’t Assume Anything
Successful moose hunters never do, bad or good. If you shoot at a moose and it runs into the bush, don’t assume the bullet didn’t find its mark. If you’re properly prepared for your hunt, odds are the animal is hit. Few moose drop on impact. Every year, people give up too quickly on animals. It’s disheartening to track them and lose the trail, but how often a dead moose is just yards away from the last blood drop is amazing. Take a thorough look.
Also, a spooked moose will not run forever. Many stop rather quickly and resume what they were doing after being put up. In deep snow, moose often slow down as soon as they’re a few hundred yards into the bush.
Stalking moose is a delicate operation, but it can be done. Look for the animal to be looking back for you. Watch your wind and put the sneak on. Often, spooked moose are just over the hill.
4. Be Ready
It’s first legal shooting light and you’re in a hurry walking to your stand. You see a big bull that was feeding in shoulder-high tag alders bolting towards the bush. You have a shot at it, but your gun is over your shoulder on a strap. You try to get the gun up, but it’s stuck on your jacket. Precious seconds are lost as you struggle to free the gun. When you finally do, you see the back end of the bull heading into the trees. Another missed opportunity.
I’ve done it too many times. It’s one reason I seldom use a gun strap these days. It slows reaction time. Be ready to shoot whenever you step into the bush. Your best opportunity to kill a moose doesn’t always come where you think it will. Walk at the ready at all times. It’s a bit more physically demanding, but it will pay off.
5. Get off the Couch, Now
Like many middle-aged men, I spent much of my adult life not getting enough exercise. So, when hunting season came around, I expected way too much of my legs, back, and lungs. Hunts often ended with cramps and sore muscles.
This changed a few years ago when I started walking regularly, then running. But, you don’t have to start Olympic-style training. Even a little cardio activity before the hunt will make a huge difference.
In the field, you also need to be properly fed and watered for the day. Keep hydrated. A small pack with a water jug is the ticket. Along with it, throw high-energy food like power bars, dried fruit, jerky, and chocolate into a small pack. It’s easy, so no more excuses.
6. Stay Positive
Moose hunting can drive you nuts. These animals cover a lot of ground and move in and out of hunting areas in short order. Few hunting trips provide steady action. Sometimes, there’s no action. During any moose hunt, there are long periods spent wondering if moose are anywhere within 100 miles of you.
Maintaining a positive mental attitude is difficult, but it keeps you focused. Visualize success. As soon as you start dreaming of a flat-screen TV, cool beer, and Lazy Boy, your moose hunt is all but over. The hunting season is short and time spent in the bush is precious. This is what you live for. You can watch television all winter. Focus on moose.