There are few moments in the wild that get my heart pumping as much as the experience of bringing a bull moose into my call. Communicating back and forth with a wild animal of that size and then having them work in close enough that you can see the white in their eyes is one of those moments that I covet every year.
I’ve made many mistakes while moose hunting but each of those mistakes became learning experiences so let me share some of those lessons that I’ve learned in hopes that they may prevent you from making the same mistakes.
Call in a location where moose frequent
I know that this sounds obvious but it’s so very true. If a moose isn’t close enough to hear you call then he’s not going to come. By their very nature, moose are not densely populated animals. You need to scout and find areas where moose frequent if you want to be successful in calling them in. With that being said, I’ve watched moose come from over a mile to respond to a call. It happens, but to stack the odds in your favour, start calling where moose frequent.
Don’t stand in the open
Calling moose from an open vantage point is risky for two reasons; first, moose feel more comfortable in thick cover. They will respond much better if the area they are approaching provides them with a feeling of security. Second, moose want to see the animal they are approaching so if you are standing in the open then you run the risk of being spotted. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched a bull approaching my call but hang up in the thick cover while trying to spot the cow moose I’m pretending to be. If you are standing in the open and that moose is standing in thick cover then chances are he’ll spot you and run without you ever knowing he was there. Where you call from can make a huge difference in killing or just seeing a bull.
Don’t be a robot
Many times I’ve noticed myself becoming routine in my calling sequences. Each moose is different in how they speak, in how they feel, and in how they behave, and what worked on one bull may not work on the next one so always change things up. In heavily pressured areas I will sometimes start my calling sequence by simulating a bull raking his antlers on a bush and may not let out a cow call or a grunt at all for fear that they’ve become too familiar with other hunters making those sounds. When shooting any bull moose is your goal you may want to avoid making any bull sounds entirely for fear of intimidating away a younger bull. If calling in the same spot for multiple days, accept the fact that a bull may have already responded to your call and busted you in this same set up so use different calls in hopes of tricking him into checking out the area again.
Take his temperature
Not every bull is a fighter. Just like humans, moose have different personality traits, and just like humans, some bulls will run from a fight, and others will run into one. Once you have a bull responding to your calls, you have to adjust your calling strategy according to his temperature. If he’s stopping to thrash trees and grunting with every step then you have a fired-up bull and you can likely get away with more aggressive tactics but if you heard one or two grunts and nothing else then sit tight and keep your eyes peeled for him to come in silent. My rule of thumb is to imitate the bull that I am working. Call back to him whenever he calls and use the same intensity or type of call as he is using but be careful not to overdo it.
This is the most commonly ignored strategy amongst moose hunters yet the greatest reason for failure. So often we are inclined to walk up to a great spot, give out a few calls and sit motionless for a few minutes listening for a reply. We don’t hear anything so we move on to the next spot. The reality is that many bulls begin approaching a caller before uttering a sound. Furthermore, a bull grunt is so quiet that if the wind is blowing the wrong way, or the bull is a long way off, or the bull is close but in thick cover, or there is any background noise at all, you will most likely not hear his reply. Remember that bulls can hear your calls from a lot further away than you can hear theirs so sit patiently and keep your eyes peeled. Sitting and calling from the same spot for hours at a time is a very proven strategy.
At first, this point may seem to contradict the previous one but it doesn’t…let me explain. During the tending phase of the rut, when many of the bulls and cows are paired up, you will get bulls responding to your call and seeming to get closer only to have them hold that spot for hours or even start moving away. When you have a bull that is responding to your calls but hasn’t cut the distance down or is moving away, he’s almost certainly got another cow with him. He’s calling back because to him, the more the merrier, but that cow that he is with wants nothing to do with another cow or bull so she’ll start moving away with him. He keeps calling hoping to draw you into him but he’s not going to leave his current partner for another one that he can’t see. If you find yourself in this scenario, you have to go to him. As you approach remember that you are supposed to be another moose so try to sound like one. Just last year I found myself in exactly this situation with legal light fading fast. If the bull wasn’t grunting then he was thrashing the nearest tree with his antlers so I was able to key in on his location really easily through the thick coniferous forest. He was acting so aggressively that I knew that I could do the same so with light fading quickly I started covering ground really fast; grunting with just about every step. Before long, the bull and I were face to face at 10 yards with his cow about 40 yards away trying to call him away from me. My heart was in overdrive! It was a high-adrenaline experience and only happened because I went to him. Patience is extremely important in moose hunting and will result in many filled tags but sometimes you have to be mobile and go to that bull.
Above all else, don’t let the fear of sounding ridiculous stop you from calling. I’ve been with other hunters that I thought sounded horrible and watched them call in moose and I bet other hunters have thought I sounded horrible at times as well. The key is getting out there and doing it and never stop learning from your experiences.