It's their great size, awesome power, and flavourful meat that makes moose so valuable to many hunters above all other big game. If you've heard it, you know the low grunt of a giant bull answering a cow call is the epitome of excitement for the hunt. Yet most moose hunters are unsuccessful in their bid to harvest one. Sometimes it's just bad luck, but often, it's the little details that determine that one hunter is successful and another is not. I fell into the latter category for many years, and paid hard dues hunting moose that always seemed a step ahead. Spending time with experienced hunters played a large role in my moose hunting education, and success followed shortly thereafter.
All the best hunters pay attention to detail. In no particular order, here are six tips to help you get a moose this fall.
1. Know Your Hunting Area
This seems brutally obvious, yet many hunters know the road system surrounding their hunting areas, but little about what lies beyond the sight line out the truck window. I'm amazed how 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. Hunters can miss beautiful little areas tucked into the back ends of cuts simply because they didn't get out of the truck or off the bike and take a gander. If you don't have time to scout the areas you plan to hunt, try to get as much information as you can from topographic maps, Google Earth, or other hunters. Of course, nothing beats first hand knowledge. Pre-scouting an area is something that almost every consistently successful moose hunter does religiously.
2. Shoot Your Gun or Bow
Another no-brainer, but there are people who routinely don't shoot or sight in their firearms before the hunt. That's scary. You don't need to shoot boxes of shells either—although it can't hurt—but you should be able to hit a paper target at 100 yards with no problem. Guns, when properly sighted in, shoot better than almost all hunters. Make sure the round you are sighting in with is the same as the round you are hunting with. If you are shooting bow or crossbow, make sure you are on the target from 10 to 40 yards. You owe it to yourself—and the quarry—to be able to harvest cleanly.
3. Don't Assume Anything
If you shoot at a moose and it turns and disappears deep into the bush, don't assume you've missed. Assume you have hit it and look for it with all your determination. Also, never assume a spooked moose will run and not stop. They may stop rather quickly and resume what they were doing. In deep snow, moose often slow down as soon as they are a few hundred yards into the bush. Stalking a moose in snow 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 him.
4. Prepare Yourself Physically
Moose hunting is hard work and requires a decent level of fitness, especially if you are way back in the bush. Start a walking regime in summer and pick up the pace in September. I find bird hunting on foot a good way to get the bush legs back for the October moose opener. If you are a couch potato all year and expect to feel good walking ten miles through clear cuts and blow downs on opening day, guess again. A little exercise will go a long way.
5. Be Ready to Shoot
It's first light and you're walking to your stand. Although it's legal 0 shooting time, you're in a hurry to get to that high ridge where you can see the best. You look over in the cut and see a big bull standing in the tag alders. You have a shot at it, but your gun is over your shoulder on the strap. You try to get the gun up but it's stuck on a button you sewed on to keep the strap from slipping. When you finally get the scope to your eye, you see the back end of the bull heading into the trees. Gone. Be ready to shoot whenever you step into the bush. Your best opportunity to kill a moose does not always come where and when you think it will.
6. Stay Positive
Moose hunting can be a frustrating experience. These animals cover a lot of ground and can move in and out of your hunting area in short order. Few moose hunts provide steady action. I'm no Dr. Phil, but I think keeping a positive mental attitude when in the field keeps you in the hunt and focused on the job. This is what you live for. You can watch television all winter. Focus on the moose hunt. It is always worth the effort.
Good luck this fall.