If you want to go hunting for a big critter, put a moose hunt on the top of your bucket list. There’s much to love about moose hunting. Moose country is invariably vast and wild, the kind of place that just shouts adventure. There’s plenty of challenge. Moose may be large, but they’re difficult to find in all that wilderness. You will hunt long and hard for a good bull. For such a huge animal, moose can be maddeningly elusive. And the work is just beginning when you have a moose down (good enough reason on its own to use a moose hunting outfitter).
The Boone and Crockett Club recognizes three moose subspecies: the Alaska-Yukon moose of North America’s far northwestern wilds, the Canada moose of central and eastern Canada, and the Shiras or Wyoming moose of the Rocky Mountains.
Bull moose sport impressive antlers – wide-spreading, palmated, multi-pointed headgear weighing up to 90 pounds per side. Bulls stand up to 7 feet tall at the shoulder, and can measure 10 feet long. Alaska-Yukon moose are largest, with Canada moose second and Shiras third.
All moose look about the same; only their size differs. Moose wear dark brown coats of coarse, hollow fur with incredible insulative properties for enduring the frigid northern winters. Extra-long legs help moose move through deep snow, and serve the animals well for feeding on water plants the rest of the year. Moose have large, humped shoulders, and a dewlap or bell dangling from the chin/throat area.
Moose are browsers, feeding on buds and leaves from willow, alder, birch, aspen, fir, and other shrubs and trees. In spring, summer and fall, aquatic plants are a staple. A moose will eat 50 to 60 pounds of food per day in the height of summer.
A moose’s size does not make it dumb. Moose can prove exceedingly challenging to hunt. Their sense of smell is well developed. The nose is that long and large for good reason, so respect it and pay constant attention to what the wind is doing. Moose have very good hearing. Their eyesight is only average though, and if you get “caught” in the open, stay stock-still and you may get away with it.
Here are some facts behind the three subspecies of moose.
This is the largest subspecies because it is farthest north, inhabiting its namesake state and province. Bulls weigh 1,400 to 1,800 pounds, and their antlers can spread up to 72 inches. You’ll find Alaska-Yukon moose in low-lying brushlands and bogs, often along river corridors.
Canada moose inhabit northern and central Canada, all the way to its east coast. This is also the moose of Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and northern Michigan in the U.S. Mature Canada moose bulls weigh from 1,000 to 1,400 pounds, with antlers spreading out to 60 inches. These moose prefer lowland areas and nearby conifer forests.
The Shiras or Wyoming moose inhabits the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia down through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. This is our “smallest” moose, with bulls weighing 900 to 1,200 pounds and sporting antlers up to 50 inches wide. Shiras are mountain moose, but they still need wet areas. Creekbottoms, deep canyons, seeps, bogs and other moist areas are key. This knowledge can narrow your search for a moose.
Moose hunts are never easy. The vast landscape is at the root of the challenge. How do you find a bull? And with their big sensitive noses, moose don’t make the hunting easy. Moose are big, yes, but they can melt into thick cover and elude you just fine. A good moose hunting outfitter is your best bet (and sometimes your only option) for finding success. There are three top moose hunting strategies.
Moose rut in late September, and an exciting way to hunt is by calling with cow moans to attract amorous bulls. Some moose guides will also “rattle” (using tree limbs or moose scapula bones instead of lugging antlers) to simulate a moose fight and bring a curious bull in. If you want to shake in your boots, watch a truck-sized moose stomping in looking for a battle! Good moose guides know how to get under a bull’s skin and bring him in.
Spotting and stalking is effective. You’ll need some terrain to get up above the moose cover. This technique is especially good for Shiras moose, as well as in the huge expanses of wilderness that Alaska-Yukon moose call home. Use high-quality binoculars and scan a mountainside, bog area or river bottom for animals. Employ a good spotting scope too. Plan a good stalk, and pay attention to the wind.
One of the most enjoyable ways to hunt moose is to float hunt along a lake shore or river, working to spot moose in or near the water. It is a peaceful, tranquil and effective way to hunt. As with any moose hunting, though, do your best to avoid dropping a moose in the water. Taking care of a moose is hard enough work on dry land, let alone in a few feet of ice-cold lake, river or bog water.