Each year we make personal goals: Sometimes it is to get in better shape, to lose weight, or quit a vice… One of my goals this year was to call in a bull moose and successfully harvest him. I spent a lot of preseason time talking to other hunters to garner their information, reading about techniques, watching videos and mimicking the sounds of bull grunts and cow calls. By the time the season rolled around, I felt like I understood the theory, but I was still apprehensive about blowing an opportunity trying something new.
Our last moose hunt of the year was to be seven days in the back country, far removed from the road system. We spent the first couple days reacquainting ourselves with the lay of the land, exploring deeper into our hunting area, and scouting for groups of animals.
The fourth day in camp started like many others: breakfast in the dark, glassing at first light and through the morning hours, lunch and a nap. Following this customary routine, we loaded all our gear in the machine and were just readying ourselves to take off for an afternoon hunt. With the machine warming up, I went back to our camp glassing station for one last look. On the hillside across from camp, about a mile away, I spied a lone bull traversing across the tops of the timbered fingers that rose up from the swampy bottom lands. As I have observed many times before, he was cruising perpendicular on the side hill stopping at the top of each timbered draw and testing the morning thermals in search of cows.
We watched the bull travel the better part of a mile before he finally disappeared into a brushy draw. Testing the wind, we made a plan to travel up the canyon before we dropped down into the bottom for a safe approach. To ensure we were not spotted by the bull, we glassed as we descended into the bottom of the canyon and as we began to cross the swampy lowland. As we crossed the swamp, the wind currents changed and we lost the favor of the wind. Disappointed, but not discouraged, we retraced our steps back to camp, traveled down canyon and descended into the swamp. Once we reached the bottom we quickly crossed the marshy ground and then used the cover at the base of the hillside to move into position below the bull.
We set up to call from a small group of trees about 110 yards from the brushy hillside. The wind was blowing from our 4 o’clock to our 10 o’clock. At this angle, if the bull moved downwind to catch our scent he would have to expose himself on a bare hillside. This would present us a shot at 370 yards or less, and I fully anticipated that if I was successful this would be our shot.
As I set up to call, I wanted to present the bull with a scenario that would mimic a cow in heat who was frustrated by the advances of an immature bull. I started the calling sequence with 15 seconds of light brush raking. Immediately followed by a loud, long cow call that ended in a higher pitch whine of a frustrated cow and 20 seconds of heavy, hard brush raking. After a couple minutes, I offered another long cow call followed by a series of bull grunts and some brush raking. A few minutes later I again let loose with a long cow call and a series of bull grunts. This display was answered far off in the distance by the faint sound of bull grunts. I knew I at least had his attention, so I immediately responded with another long cow call and some heavy brush raking. This attempt was met with silence. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, or perhaps four minutes, and gave another long cow call followed by a couple bull grunts. The answer back was an immediate bull grunt followed by a couple more grunts separated by a few seconds. I returned the same grunts at the same interval and was met with another series of grunts. We continued this exchange another 6 times over the course of a minute, then I stopped responding. I could hear him intermediately grunting as he approached us, then he fell silent. After a few minutes of silence, I gave another drawn out cow call followed by two bull grunts and he responded immediately; although, this time he was much closer. I did not return his challenge, but now he offered a steady series of grunts and he approached.
He emerged from the thick cover 110 yards in front of us aggressively sweeping a sapling out of his way with a violent swing of his antlers. His font legs were stiff as he walked, his head cocked sideways and eyes nearly bugging out of his head. He was looking for a fight!
I had a solid rest when he presented me with a clear shot and I made the most of the opportunity. This hunt was not only the realization of a goal, but perhaps the most exciting hunt I have participated in since childhood.