People have been hunting moose since the Stone Age. A large bull can provide enough meat to feed a family for many months, which is the main reason people traditionally, and to this day continue to hunt them.
It’s a centuries-old tradition and for anyone who is looking to become more self-sufficient, it’s a fantastic skill to learn.
Armed with the best moose hunting tips, it’s also a skill that will keep you and your family fed with delicious meat throughout the hard winter months.
There are several things to take into consideration when hunting moose. First and foremost, a permit is required and there are strict laws regulating the hunting of them. Ensure that you are legally hunting and check the details in the area you wish to hunt in.
Below we will take a more detailed look at what a moose is and how it behaves, what kind of equipment you will require, when and where to hunt them and the various methods you can employ.
Understanding Your Prey
With anything that you wish to hunt it is important to know what makes it tick. Understanding your prey gives you an edge when it comes to locating and manipulating it, and this is particularly true with regards to the moose.
Characterized by the large, flat snout, the moose is the largest member of the deer family and they can grow well over two meters tall at the shoulder and weigh up to and over 700kg. While this huge bulk will provide a lot of delicious meat, it also makes the moose a very dangerous animal.
Moose are responsible for more attacks on humans than bears and wolves combined, and sit just below the hippopotamus on the global scale of wild animal attacks. While they will not normally attack humans, they are easily spooked, especially by dogs and will defend themselves and their young.
An adult moose is more than capable of killing a bear or wolves, who will generally only attack calves and will have no trouble defending itself against a human given the chance.
Able to kick with all of its legs, in any direction, there is no safe way to approach one of these beasts, so take care not to anger one during your endeavors to put it on your plate.
That said there are measures that will keep you safe while hunting and getting up close and personal with a moose. Fortunately, moose are generally solitary creatures and they usually only group together during mating season.
Moose have a very acute sense of smell and hearing, and very keen eyesight. This is worth bearing in mind when stalking and hunting them, as you will need to ensure that you do not give yourself away too soon. However, below we’ll also look at how we can use these senses to our advantage.
Male moose are known as bulls and females are referred to as cows. Bulls grow larger, and also develop antlers that can reach huge spans. Both are capable of aggression.
Where to find Moose?
Moose can be found in most Northern forest zones around the world, including Canada, Alaska, most Northern states of the US, Scandinavia and Russia.
They generally live in moist coniferous or mixed forests, where snow is common during winter months, and tend to stay near water sources such as lakes and rivers. As a rule of thumb, the further North you go, the larger the Moose will be, with Alaskan moose generally the biggest.
Moose are most active during rutting or mating season, normally between late September and mid-October, which coincides with hunting season. During this time they attempt to gain the affections of the opposite sex.
More successful bulls will generally collect a harem of cows to mate with, however, he may be challenged at any time by another bull. Cows can also call out to other bulls outside of their group, essentially inviting another bull to fight for them.
There is a lot of communication and a lot of fighting during this time, and understanding what is going on is a vital part of successfully hunting moose. The build up to the rutting season will leave signs and also provide evidence of moose in the area.
- Bulls will shed the velvet from their antlers as they turn to hardened bone each year towards the end of August. They will rub their antlers against shrubs and saplings to remove the velvet and this generally signifies the start of the rutting
- Once the velvet is shed, bulls will start to thrash and rub against trees, shrubs, and saplings within their home territory, using the sound of their antlers beating as a show of dominance, in order to attract females. They leave their scent in their rubbings, not dissimilar to a cat, with the hope of encouraging cows to stay within their territory. The cows are generally not yet in heat at this point.
- Bulls will generally spar with one another in the time leading up to the rut, in order to assess their own strength. This sparring will have a direct effect on their behavior when it comes to real challenges over females and determines when to back down.
- During the height of the season, bulls will fight for dominance, which can be a spectacular sight to behold. Two bulls will assess and attempt to intimidate each other, normally one will back down, but if it comes to a fight they will lock antlers and become enraged. It’s a violent match and injuries are common. The winner asserts his dominance by chasing off the loser.
- Successful bulls will then roam their home territory seeking cows that are in heat and mating with them.
With an understanding of how moose behave during the hunting/mating season, you will be better armed to manipulate their instincts, luring them close enough to you to make a kill as you mimic both cows and bulls. We’ll shortly go over some great tips to do that, but let’s first look at the equipment you will need.
The Equipment Required to Hunt Moose
Understanding your prey is one thing, but with the wrong equipment you’ll have a hard time successfully taking anything home. Depending on the type of hunt you’re going for, the equipment will differ, for example, whether you carry a rifle or a bow.
Aside from your general outdoors survival and camping equipment, the basic moose hunting equipment listed below will be useful for any method you may choose to employ.
- Suitable clothing
- Weapon (bow or rifle)
- Binoculars or scope
- Moose call
- Game bags
When out on a hunt, which will generally last at least a couple of days, you need to ensure that you will be warm and dry. The temperature will be beginning to drop and you’ll be spending the vast majority of your time outdoors, so wear layers and be prepared for a turn in the weather. Check out our review of the top hunting clothes for you to use – definitely an informative piece.
With that said, try and ensure you wear clothes that are quiet when out scouting or hunting. Partly because the sound of a jacket rustling may give you away, but more importantly it may stop you from hearing quiet clues that could indicate a moose is in the vicinity.
The weapon you choose is of vital importance;
- Rifles need to be loaded with ammo that is powerful enough to penetrate the thick skin, muscles and bones in order to reach the vital organs. To learn how to choose the top hunting rifles for games, do read our useful article on this topic.
- Bear in mind that depending on the shot you get, you may need the bullet to pass through the shoulder blade, or at the very least it will have to break a couple of ribs before it reaches the heart or lungs.
- Look for larger cartridges such as .300/.338 Winchester magnum.
- Depending on the method used to hunt, moose may be shot from as close as six feet away, or over 300 yards. A bolt action rifle with a variable scope works well in a variety of situations.
- Ensure additional ammo is carried and a rifle cleaning kit will keep your rifle in top shape whatever the conditions throughout the day.
- When considering a bow, the same applies. You need a bow capable of penetrating skin and bone to humanely make your kill. A minimum of a 65 pound pull will be required along with fixed broadhead arrows that are at least 450 grains. Check out our piece on how to select the top hunting bow for your use.
Binoculars or scope
A decent pair of binoculars or a scope are very useful while stalking, and allow you to see small movements your naked eye would have no chance of catching. Don’t use your rifle scope to look around, unless you intend to shoot, as the chance of an accident is pretty high.
It’s good practice to zone in on a particular area rather than constantly moving and scanning around, as you’re far more likely to pick up small movements this way.
Calling a moose over to you is one method of hunting moose, and this can be done with just your voice. Read our important article on how to choose the best elk calls to use when hunting this magnificent animal.
However, you can normally get a more realistic sound from either a birch bark moose call or a canned moose call. Both can be fairly easily made at home, or bought online, and may help if your moose calling isn’t up to scratch.
Using the moose’s great sense of smell to your advantage can work wonders. Several products are available, both natural and synthetic.
Natural products are generally derived from urine, either that of a cow in heat or a dominant bull and can be used to spread around your hunting area to lure either bulls or cows in.
Other useful equipment
Other items that are useful to carry while hunting moose are rope and game bags. The rope should be fairly long and very strong. This can be used to help bring the carcass in after a kill. Game bags are great for once the meat has been butchered, keeping it safe from flies and other bugs.
With your equipment gathered you are almost ready to head out on the hunt. With regards to your weapon, ensure that you are familiar with it before the hunt. Practice using the ammunition you will be using on the hunt so that you are used to it. Ensure your rifle scope is correctly sighted just before the hunt.
Methods of Hunting
When hunting moose there are several methods you can use, and there are also several types of moose hunts, including bull hunts and cow and calf hunts. It is important you are hunting legally, so ensure you know everything about the hunt you are involved in.
This method involves scanning one particular area from a raised wooden structure, set up in a prime location. Normally covered to protect from rain and snow, the structures can be newly constructed as little as a couple of days before a hunt, or an established stand can be used.
Some hunters, under the impression that moose are curious, favor building the stand just before the hunt, in order to lure a curious moose over with the sounds, whereas others return to the same stand year after year.
They are normally located in well-scouted areas, and often along migration routes. The location depends on the type of weapon you use, with long ranges favoring rifles, however, stands are fantastic for bow hunters also. This method has proved to be the most successful, with stand hunters bringing in more moose.
This is inevitable since as long as the stand is in a suitable location, moose are eventually going to wander by. You can also use calling and scents to lure moose over to you. Another advantage is that your scent is less likely to be picked up, as you are above ground level, where your scent will only rise.
Using calling can also be more effective, as the sound is more likely to carry.
However, patience is needed and a lot of time is spent watching and waiting, so for those of us who like to keep ourselves occupied this may not be the best method. A harness should be worn when up a stand, as there have been cases of hunters falling to their deaths in the past.
Despite the name, still hunting involves stalking your prey and making your way through the forest or along rivers. Care and caution is taken with each step as snapped twigs and other sounds are avoided, and the hunter does their best to blend in with their surroundings.
With each step, they stop and look around for thirty seconds or so, looking for the faintest movement, and listening for the faintest sound. The wind must be used favorably to avoid your prey getting a whiff of you and bolting.
Still hunting requires you to know the terrain, so previous scouting is essential, as well as maps of the area. You are likely to get up close and personal with your prey using this method so choose an appropriate weapon.
This method is similar to still hunting, however, you use the river ways to your advantage. Silently floating down the river and across lakes is a fantastic way to spy your prey, and with proper preparation and scouting, you can be sure that they will use the river to drink from, almost guaranteeing sightings.
Finally, a popular method that an experienced hunter can use effectively throughout the hunting season is calling. Similar to still hunting you will stalk through your chosen hunting area looking for evidence of moose. However, you will call out to them in an attempt to bring them to you.
There are several types of moose calls, from the long whine of a cow in heat calling out for a bull, to the short grunts of a bull challenging a rival. You need to understand moose behavior at any given time to use this method effectively.
- Generally, during the rut, a hunter will lure a bull over first using a cow call.
- When the bull approaches, he will then mimic the behavior of another bull.
- Using grunts and scraping an old antler against the shrubs, he will challenge the bull.
- All going well, the bull will show itself in an attempt to assert dominance and to size you up as a rival. This is the time to make the kill.
In theory, it sounds relatively simple, but it takes a lot of experience to know when to use a certain type of call, and how to not over call. One should make first a fairly quiet call, as you never know how close a moose may already be to you.
This should be followed by a period of waiting and observing for at least half an hour. Older bulls, in particular, are very wary and will not come running into any situation without first assessing it, so you will need to play the part of another moose very well. It also helps to use a scented lure in combination with calls to bring moose to you.
Top Moose Hunting Tips
Now we are more familiar with the moose and its behavior, as well as the equipment and methods involved in hunting them, we can take a look at some fantastic tips that will give you an edge during the hunting season.
Know where to hunt – plan ahead
There are several factors to consider when choosing the best range. Firstly go where moose populations are denser for the best chance of hunting one successfully and do plenty of research in advance.
Find out where the populations are larger, look at the bull to cow ratio and if possible, look into hunter success rates in a given area.
When you have selected a general area, start looking at maps of said area and narrow your specific zone down. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin by wandering a huge area. You can do this from the comfort of your home by using physical and online maps or Google Earth. Search for things that moose like;
- Water: lakes and river banks that support flora such as willow and alder, two moose favorites during Fall and Winter.
- Both deciduous and coniferous woodland: while deciduous forest provides food, dense coniferous forest provide essential insulation during winter.
- Burn areas: areas previously burnt by fire will support much of the vegetation, such as young willows, that moose love.
Speak also to experts, forest rangers for example in the area who know the woods better than anyone, who are generally happy to offer sage advice.
It is wise to think about two or three specific areas, and if you have time to scout them ahead of the hunt all the better.
Head into the areas you have selected and look for signs of moose activity, both past and present, as moose will generally return to areas they previously made a home. Just bear in mind that moose will move around throughout the year, so if you see moose in one place in summer, they will have probably moved on by the hunting season.
If you are scouting just ahead of the hunt, look out for scrapes and other recent signs of moose activity such as rubbed trees, stripped velvet and damaged shrubs. If you cannot find any signs, don’t despair, look out for migration routes and areas sound will carry well from if you plan to use calling as a technique.
Migration routes are generally along rivers, low mountain passes and creeks. Finally, ensure that you’re never too far away from your vehicle. If you’re successful and manage to take down a moose, that’s a lot of weight that you will need to take back to your car, even if you dress it in the field.
When to hunt
As mentioned previously, the hunting season coincides with mating season which will generally begin in late September and last until mid – late October. Different techniques should be used throughout each stage of the season, to coincide with the changes in moose behavior.
In general, moose are most active very early in the morning and late in the day. These are the times you must be most vigilant, stop and look around, and listen for movement. Eat breakfast before sunrise and dinner after sunset to ensure you make the most of a hunting day. For tips on when to go hunting for game, check out our article link on this topic.
If the weather is hot moose are very unlikely to respond to calls during the day and will confine their activities to the darker, cooler hours. A pre-dawn call can work wonders in hot weather, just be sure it’s legal.
Patience is a virtue
So the old saying goes, but it rings true when it comes to moose hunting. Many novice hunters will call once, wait around for a bit then, when they hear no response will move on to another area. As previously stated, moose can be very wary, especially the big, older bulls.
Experienced hunters will call and wait for at least half an hour, then perhaps call again a bit louder and so on in the same area for several hours at a time. If you’ve selected a good location, and are calling at a decent time of day, a moose will respond eventually and you’ll be glad you waited.
Hunt with a partner
It’s good practice to hunt with a partner, and ensures you are prepared for anything. With one working as the “communicator” and the other as the shooter, you can be sure that you have each other’s backs covered, and that the weapon is always at hand and ready.
Also, two pairs of eyes are better than one, and two people lugging the meat back cuts the work considerably.
Don’t get stuck in a rut
When hunting moose, one has to be able to adapt to changes to the plan, which are unfortunately frequent. You may have spent hours seeking the best area but have had no luck finding a moose.
There are a great many factors that could encourage a moose to move on from an otherwise perfectly suitable area. Weather can play a part, disease, pressure from hunters. Consider these options and remember the lay of the land that you researched previously. If it’s very hot, seek water sources, or areas of thick shade.
Get Up and Head Out
With these tips in mind, you are ready to get your kit together and head out into the wilderness and bag your first moose.
Remember experience plays a part, and hunting alongside a seasoned moose hunter is invaluable. Learn to understand the moose and why it behaves the way it does, and use that knowledge to your advantage.
What’s your best moose hunting tip? Let us know below.