Bow And Arrow Hunting
February 1996

Plan A Moose Hunt~ By Bob Robb

TO MANY LOWER-48 bowhunters, a bull
moose is nothing more than a cartoon character,
Bullwinkle, a little slow on the uptake,
plodding along through life a step behind just
about everyone and everything.
In reality, nothing could be further
from the truth. Moose are North
America’s largest subspecies of deer,
awesome creatures in size of body and
of antler. Unless you have had the pleasure
of quartering a moose in the field,
you honestly have no idea how big they
really are.

How big are they? Whole hind quarters
can weigh more than 200 pounds
each. Something as small as a boned-
out neck may weigh 75 pounds or more.
A big set of antlers and skull plate might
weigh a bit over 100 pounds. To gain a
little perspective, a big whitetail deer
might produce as much boned—out meat
as one large bull moose neck!

Picture yourself backpacking your
moose a mile or two over hill and dale,
through boggy, bug—infested swamps,
weaving between spruce thickets and
tangled balsam, buck brush and berry
bushes or through waist-deep snow, as
I did in Alaska in 1992. In all, packing a
moose back to camp in this manner will
take eight trips, give or take one or two.
depending upon how much each man
can reasonably carry. When it comes to
packing moose, you can never have too
much help – especially if that help includes
a couple of strong pack horses. a
boat or an airplane!

If a man had to work this hard at his
regular job, he’d probably go on strike.
But each year, hundreds of bowhunters accept the
challenge, because moose hunting is exciting and fun.
Just looking at a big bull is indeed awesome, especially
if all you have for perspective is perhaps the
largest whitetail deer. Moose meat is highly prized
for its flavor and nutritional value. And, of course,
there’s lots of it. The antlers of even an average bull
moose are impressive, like nothing else you’ll ever
see.

However, moose hunting is not something you
should do on a whim. It takes careful planning to
arrange a successful moose hunting adventure that
will result in a punched tag and reasonable meat packing job.

MOOSE: WHAT ARE THEY?
In terms of subspecies, most sportsmen recognize
the three listed in both the Boone and Crockett
and Pope & Young club record books. Safari Club
Intemational recognizes a fourth, calling it the East-
em Canada moose, Alces alces americana. The oth-
ers are the Yellowstone or Wyoming moose, A. a.
shirasi, more commonly called the Shiras moose; A.
a. andersoni is the Canada moose; and A. a. gigas is
the giant Alaska—Yukon moose.

Mature Eastern Canada moose bulls have antler
spreads in the low 40-inch bracket. They weigh some-
where between 900 and 1,100 pounds on
the hoof. The Shiras moose is about
the same size. Large Canada moose bulls
can have antler spreads in the low
50-inch class. Where they mingle with
the Alaska-Yukon moose in the extreme
western portion of their range, they
might even creep over 60 inches. They
can weigh 1,200 to 1,400 pounds and
stand between 6 1/2 and seven feet high
at the shoulder. Mature Alaska-Yukon
moose have antler spreads beyond 55
inches, with a few bulls more than 70
inches shot each year. There have even
been a few of these bulls recorded with
antler spreads that exceed 80 inches.
That is nearly seven feet! These incredible
creatures can stand 7 1/2 feet high
at the shoulder and weigh upwards of
1,800 pounds on the hoof.

HUNTING TROPHY BULLS
If your goal is an honest—to—g00dness
record book-class bull moose, you must
understand that antler spread is an of-
ten deceiving criteria. For example, one
outfitter friend of mine in Alaska guided

a rifle-toting client to an Alaska·Yukon
moose in 1989 that had an antler spread
of only 57 inches. But the bull still almost
made the minimum Boone and
Crockett score of 224 points for entry
into the records. Its extremely wide
palms had many long, heavy points, as
did the fronts, to give it the additional
score. The Pope & Young minimum
score is 170 points for bow-killed animals.

For the most impressive antlers,
hunting Alaska-Yukon moose in
Alaska, the Yukon or the Northwest
Territories is what you must do. Of that
group, more than three-fourths of all
Alaska—Yukon moose entries in the
B&C record book have come from
Alaska. While huge moose are scattered
about Alaska, the record book
tells you that the Alaska and Kenai peninsulas,
and the north slope of the
Brooks range are your best bets. If you
hunt these bulls in Canada, the Yukon-
Northwest Territories border area is
best for a truly huge bull.

For Canada moose, 224 of the 386
bulls listed in the B&C book came from
British Columbia. But you can find
record—class bulls scattered about
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and
Ontario. A careful management plan
that includes limited sport hunting has
produced some really top—quality
Canada moose from Maine in recent
years, too. It takes a score of 195 points
to qualify. The P&Y minimum is 135
points.

For Shiras moose, Wyoming owns
158 of the 229 B&C record book en-
tries. Montana, Utah and Idaho also pro-
duce a few bulls in this class each year.
A score of 155 points meets the mini-
mum B&C requirement for Shiras
moose. Archers need a bull scoring 115
P&Y points to make that book’s mini-
mum score.

HOW AND WHEN TO
HUNT MOOSE

There are two kinds of bull moose.
The first, easiest to hunt, is the bull in
the rut. When a bull succumbs to an
overdose of testosterone, he thinks of
nothing but breeding. We have all read
stories of rut-crazed bulls charging
trains and semis on the highway, and they do
sometimes get this goofy. It is not unusual
for a rutting bull moose to come out of
the brush and investigate the sound of your
saddle horse clomping down the trail. Once
located, these bulls are relatively easy to get
to within rifle or bow range if you are careful
to not think it’s too easy. The timing of the
hunt may vary from area to area, but generally
speaking, it occurs in late September and early October
This is prime time for trophy moose hunting. If those
big antlers are your goal. this is by far the best time
to try to find them within bow range.

The other bull moose is something entirely different.
Out of the rut, a bull can be extremely difficult to locate:
even tougher to get personal with. Early in the season.
before temperatures drop and when the bugs are thick
down near creek and river bottoms, the bulls will go
high up the slopes of the drainages where the breezes
keep them cooled and the bugs at bay. They will lay up
in thick, almost impenetrable patches of alder, balsam and
buck brush, cover that’s taller than you sitting on a horse
and impossible to silently stalk through. The leaves haven’t yet
dropped off these plants and seeing into them is like trying to
look through a brick wall.

Bull moose densities are another problem to overcome. As noted gun
writer John Wootters once said, “Even when there are a lot of ’em, there aren`t
many of ’em.”

A biologist in Manitoba once told me
I was hunting the best area in the province
for moose. There were three moose
to the square mile. Even in many good
areas, moose densities are only one animal
per square mile. Often it is less. It
is not quite the satne as hunting white-
tails in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,
Ohio or Georgia. With such low
animal densities, it often takes lots of
looking to locate a good bull, even in the best areas.

How you hunt depends a lot upon where you are,
the time of year and the prevailing weather conditions.
In mountainous areas such as Alaska and
western Canada, getting up high and glassing for
hours on end is the way to go. In some areas of
Canada, canoeing rivers or along lake shores early
and late in the day is the best way to find moose in
this flat terrain. That technique also works well in
Alaska.

One experienced
moose guide in Alaska told me that
when the bulls aren’t rutting, he will
find a drainage junction that contains
a fair amount a fresh moose sign, climb
up to where he can see as much country
as possible and just sit there. He
builds a small tarp shelter if it is rainy,
brings along a coffee pot and will sit
for several days if necessary.
“When the bulls are working the
area, sooner or later they will walk
where you can see them without spooking
them off,” he told me.
It sounds boring, but it makes a lot of sense.

During the rut, calling is a popular technique.
One excellent way to call
moose is to float a river in a canoe or
large river raft, stopping and calling in
likely-looking areas. You can cover lots
of ground this way, often what it takes
to find a good bull. Making moose
sounds with your voice is pretty simple, or you can
use one of the commercial calls. Both Lohman Game
Calls (Dept. BA, P.O. Box 220, Neosho, MO 64850)
and Haydel’s Game Calls (Dept. BA, 5018 Hazel
Jones Road, Bossier City, LA 7llll) offer excellent
moose calls and instructional tapes.

A modified form of antler rattling may also help
lure in rutty bulls. You can bang large deer antlers
together and it will work at times. Serious moose
hunters carry an old scapula bone from either a cow or
moose and use this to rake against brush and dig up the ground.
Combined with some judicious calling, this can be deadly. The old trick of
scooping water up and pouring it back into a river or lake to simulate a bull
moose urinating isn’t a joke; it also works.

For bowhunters trying to call moose, hunting with a partner is an excellent
idea. Just as in elk hunting, one archer acts as caller, the other as the shooter in
the hope that the bull will not notice the man with the bow. Glassing bulls on
open slopes also can be effective, especially when there is a steady breeze and
cover of brush or trees to hide behind when making a stalk.

However you hunt moose, keep in mind that they have outstanding senses
of smell and hearing, with pretty good eyesight. Always hunt with the wind in
your face, wear non-scratchy clothing, and keep talking and other human noises
to a bare minimum.

MOOSE ARCHERY TACKLE
Bowhunters need stout tackle to hunt moose. Bows should draw at least 60
pounds. Broadheads need to be razor- sharp and constructed strongly. Light-
bladed broadheads that are lethal on light game such as whitetails won’t get
the job done. I like broadheads to have at least 1 1/8 inches of cutting surface,
with strong blades at least .030-inch thick. I prefer cutting—tip design
broadheads for increased penetration through the thick hair, hide and muscle
structure of a big bull. But rest assured that a well-placed broadhead will drop
a moose quickly. My 1992 Alaska bull was shot once through the lungs at 40
yards with an Easton aluminum arrow shaft tipped with a 125-grain Hoyt Top
Cut broadhead sent on its way by a compound bow with a draw weight of
78 pounds. He ran only 100 yards before piling up stone dead.

I also recommend a rangefinder, like the Ranging Eagle Eye 3X or 80/
2, to help gauge distances over the often deceptive flat ground where moose
are found. Large pack frames, for hauling meat, a razor-sharp hunting
knife and whetstone, and a compact bone saw are mandatory to help with
meat care. Several quality meat sacks will help keep flies off the meat should
the weather be warm. You will also need waterproof binoculars of at least
7X to find bulls in the heavy cover and over long distances.

GUIDED OR UNGUIDED?
Both guided and unguided moose hunts have their advantages. You have
to weigh the pros and cons of each, as well as the local game laws, before
making your decision. Moose are a popular animal for hunters to pursue
on their own. Many sportsmen travel to Alaska each fall and hunt
moose unguided. Those who take enough time and
prepare properly do fairly well.

In Canada, guides often are required for non-resident aliens, so you may have no
choice there. The lower 48 states permit un guided moose hunting where there are
huntable populations. Fully outfitted and guided moose
hunts are the most expensive. Costs vary greatly from place to place, depending
upon exclusivity, the remoteness of camp and the hunting area, and other
factors. Expect a fully outfitted moose hunt to cost you between $500 and $800 per day in
the most remote areas that hold the best chances at a big bull, with most hunts
scheduled for seven to 10 days. These costs reflect the expense of ferrying in
supplies, air taxi services and generally conducting
a hunting business in the bush. Costs can drop
down to $200 to $300 per day in areas where the
hunting is done closer to roads. Access may be primarily via four-
wheel-drive vehicle, and the cost of doing business is lower.

For example, a fully-guided 10-day Alaska moose hunt might set you back
$6,000 to $8,000, plus license and tag fees, and extensive — and expensive
-— air taxi costs. A hunt for Shiras moose in Wyoming or Montana migh:
run you $1,500 to $2,500, because the outfitter’s operating expenses are so
much less. Two good moose outfitters l’ve personally hunted with in Alaska are Terry
Overly, Pioneer Outfitters, Dept. BA. Chisana, AK 99780; Gary Pogany.
Osprey Mountain Lodge, Dept. BA. P.O. Box 770323, Eagle River, AK
99577. Both cater to archery hunters, as well as their usual rifle clientele.
Guided hunts have several advantages. The biggest two are that the
outfitter will generally know where the larger bulls hang out, saving you count-
less hours in research time and on-the ground searching, and he will have
made meat and trophy·care arrangements beforehand. As mentioned, that
is no small consideration.

Do—it—yourself hunting is satisfying and can save you major bucks, too. If
you are willing to research an area and plan diligently, you can do a fly—in
moose hunt in Alaska for under $2,500 total, including airplane costs. Float
hunts down major rivers can be even less. A lower-48 Shiras moose hunt can
cost less than $1,000, if you use your own vehicle to get into hunting country
and set up a roadside camp. But you must be able to locate a bull
to your liking, shoot him, then care for the meat yourself. Meat care is the most
important consideration in shooting a moose, especially when hunting on your
own. Make arrangements with a local horse packer before the hunt to help you
get meat out of the back country if you can, or have lots of friends with strong
backs and weak minds. And try to shoot your bull as close to a road, river or bush
landing strip as you can.

Moose hunting is something every ardent big-game hunter should do at
least once. It’s not just the size of the animal nor his tender, succulent flesh.
Moose hunting occurs in some of North America’s most spectacular country.
Moose live in terrain dotted with sparkling, gin-clear lakes and rivers, miles
and miles of uncut virgin forests, often in settings featuring tall mountains with
peaks that reach for the clouds. The flora can be bright and cheerful, the fauna
abundant, the excitement high. <—-<<<

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