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Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2007 - 18:37:03

Moose Dreams
By Darryl Quidort
Sep 5, 2006, 10:10

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From the pages of: Great Canadian Sportsman

Standing seven feet high at the shoulders and weighing over 1000 pounds, the bull moose is an awesome animal.  Well suited to survive in it’s harsh boreal element, it’s long legs and large, cloven hooves allow it to travel easily through swamps, swim lakes or wade deep snow.  The large nostrils on it’s long, pendulous nose can be clamped shut while feeding on submerged vegetation.  A body which seems too short for it’s height gives the moose a somewhat comical appearance.  If the moose seems slow witted at a distance, say rifle hunting distance, it is only because he fears nothing at long range.  Up close, say bowhunting range, the moose is not a slow, dumb animal.  He is a proud, fearless and surprisingly graceful animal displaying awesome power and strength.

Outfitter and guide, Michael Schneider, admires the grace and power of the Canada moose and has extensively studied the behavior and vocalizations used by the moose during the fall breeding season.  Lately, he has developed an exciting and successful method of aggressive calling and posturing which he uses to get his bowhunting clients into bow range, or closer, to the gigantic rutting bulls.  Michael literally “dances with moose” by mimicking the calls, movements and posturing of the animals.  If a bull won’t come within bow range, Michael aggressively pushes the moose, challenging it with bull grunts, until it either turns and runs or turns to fight. 

 

There appears to be a ritual followed when two mature bull moose prepare to fight.  They approach each other slowly, walking with a measured stiffness, while displaying their antlers in a slow rocking motion.  A grunt, which sounds like saying “WOK” into an empty 55 gallon drum, is often emitted at nearly every step.  They almost seem to go into a trance.  At close range they turn broadside and circle each other to show just how massive they are.  If neither bull backs down, a terrible, all out battle between two 1000 pound wild animals will result.

Michael’s system of using moose vocalizations and posturing to approach them can get a bowhunter into a close range situation with an aggressive bull moose looking for a fight.  This is not for the faint of heart!  It is the most exciting hunting method a bowhunter could ask for.  After experiencing it myself, I can assure you that a bull moose seems slow and comical only at long range.

 

Last fall I spent nearly a month in Michael’s remote tent camp bowhunting and taking video of rutting moose.  His exclusive guiding territory is in a very wild area of northern British Columbia, Canada.  Each day spent there brought new adventure.  Black bears are plentiful and we saw them often.  Grizzly bears are not uncommon in that wild country either.  One large grizzly raided our meat cache on two occasions and stole three moose quarters which were hanging from a meat pole16 feet high.  The silence of the boreal forest is sometimes broken by howling as a wolf pack gathers for their hunt.  Moose camp in B.C. is a wild and wonderful place.

 Being a traditional bowhunter himself, Michael knows what is needed to be successful using close range longbows and recurves.  Quiet clothing takes on a whole new meaning when hunting moose with Michael.  He is blessed with remarkably good hearing.  After making a cow call we would stand motionless, no rustling of clothing either, for 20 minutes or more while he listened intently.  “If I hear brush break it is a moose,” Michael explained.  “There are no deer here and bears and wolves make no noise in the bush”.  When Michael heard brush cracking we would move toward the sound to close the distance, grunting to see if the moose was be a bull.  Sometimes it worked so well that we got right up close and personal with an agitated bull.

 One morning we spotted a cow with a bull in an opening on a distant hillside.  Approaching them from downwind, we silently closed the distance to 150 yards.  “Get right behind me,” Michael whispered to Scott Bishop.  “ We’ll go right at ‘em.  They’ve never seen a man before.  They think another moose is coming so don’t worry about breaking brush.  When we get close I’ll push you ahead to shoot”.  Away they went with Michael holding his rifle over his head to resemble antlers.  Scott, carrying his recurve bow, played the back half of the moose costume.  Michael rocked slowly from side to side as they moved in on the moose.  To my surprise, the moose stood and watched them approach.  At 40 yards the cow got nervous and walked away.  The bull sort of went into a trance and started a slow, stiff legged walk while rocking his antlers from side to side.  Michael and the moose had a grunting and posturing session.  Several times the bull started to follow the cow away but Michael’s challenging grunt turned him around to return posturing toward the hunters.  He never came within bow range of where Scott was hiding in the grass though and ended up following the cow away from us.

 “The area was just too open”, Michael explained.  “An approaching bull expects to see and hear another moose.  If they don’t they may hold up or circle downwind.  In thicker cover they may end up right on top of you.  You never know.  We just have to find a bull that will play our game”.

 Scott got his chance the very next day.  We were shooting flu-flu arrows at a grouse during mid-morning when suddenly Michael froze and hissed, ”Bull coming.  Who’s got a broadhead?”  Sure enough, a bull moose had mistaken the sound of our arrows bouncing off trees for another bull raking the brush with his antlers and was approaching us with challenging grunts.  Scott nocked a broadhead and got set as Michael returned a challenging bull grunt.  The moose seemed to be coming straight in, then turned downwind to try to get our scent.  “Let’s go,” Michael whispered as he pushed Scott ahead.  They moved quickly downwind 40 yards, grunting as they went.  Suddenly they were too close to the bull, leaving him no choice but to turn and fight.  The big bull turned and came right back at them.  Scott tried a grunt to stop the moose in an open shooting lane but with one more long step the bull was through the opening and stopped broadside, looking down at him from only nine paces away.  Already at full draw, Scott searched frantically for an opening.  Leaning slowly over he let the arrow go.  At the shot the bull charged past Scott in the direction he had been facing.  Perfectly double lunged with a shaving sharp broadhead, the bull only made it about 60 yards before going down.  What a rush!

 

I learned a lot while moose hunting with Michael.  He is an excellent woodsman and a well disciplined hunter who pays attention to details.  By his example and actions I remembered to: always close a truck door quietly; never talk above a quiet whisper; walk in a natural “moose like” rhythm; stop and stand motionless for long periods of time like a moose is prone to do; use binoculars continuously while hunting; and most important of all, to listen.  LISTEN.

 In our everyday lives we learn to tune out and ignore all the unimportant noise around us.  In the silence of the boreal forest there are no unimportant sounds.  By learning to listen I found out my hearing is not as bad as I first thought.  While standing motionless listening I’d ask myself, “What do I hear?”  A far off raven, a pine squirrel, the wind in the pines, wait...was that a moose?  The vocalizations of undisturbed moose can be surprisingly loud at times.  Other times the calls coming from such a large animal can be surprisingly soft.  If you are not disciplined to really listen you will miss them.

 Michael’s listening powers still amazed me.  Once while stalking through head high willows we stopped and stood listening for a long period.  Then Michael turned to me and whispered, “Do you hear them?”

“No,” I answered honestly.

 “One over there,” he pointed. “And two over there,” he pointed the other way.

 “I never heard them call,” I quietly whispered.

“They aren’t calling,” Michael explained.  “They are walking and eating.”

 I don’t blame you if you don’t believe that little story.  I would have trouble believing it myself if I hadn’t later seen the three moose he heard.

October 11th was my day.  As Michael and I made our way quietly uphill through mixed pine and spruce we heard a cow moose calling.  Listening carefully we soon heard a bull softly grunt.  “Hear him?” Michael whispered.

 “Yep,” I answered. 

Michael turned and led the way toward the moose.  His challenging grunts received no response.  Then we saw the mature bull walking away from us on the trail of two cow moose.  “Come on,” Michael directed, as he started forward again. 

 This time the bull stopped on top of a hill and stood in the open watching for the bull he knew was following him.  Pinned down, we challenged him with grunts to see it he would approach us.  He didn’t respond.  After awhile he turned and followed the cow’s trail again.  We moved quickly forward to try to catch up.  A quarter mile farther we saw the three moose again.  The cows were still moving steadily along with the bull following behind them.

 “A coward of a bull,” I muttered to Michael.

 “That son-of-a-gun,” Michael said.  “Let’s get him.” 


At that Michael ran ahead with me right on his heels.  Holding his rifle over his head to resemble antlers, Michael grunted continuously as we hurried to catch them.  A man has to run to catch up to a walking moose.

Again the big bull turned and waited for us in the open on a little hilltop.  This time we pushed right up to him.  He would either have to run away from us or turn to fight.  Breathing hard, yet grunting every breath, we fairly ran up to within 30 yards of the moose.  “Go on!” Michael whispered to me between his challenging grunts.  I moved quickly ahead another 10 yards.  The bull was now about 20 yards in front of me and he turned to face me head on.  With a stiff legged walk, the huge animal came back at me rocking his heavy, four foot wide antlers slowly form side to side.  Every time he rocked his head I could see the white as he rolled his eye to keep it on me.  I stood ready, with an arrow nocked and my recurve bow raised, just waiting for a shot opportunity.  A mature bull moose is a powerful beast and, even though my target looked huge, I knew I’d have to place my arrow well to kill him.  Michael’s back up rifle was of questionable value at this close range.  At 12 paces the bull slowly turned broadside to impress me with his enormous size.  That’s when I made my shot.  The arrow drove to the fletching just behind his elbow joint.  As he moved to run, his elbow snapped the heavy carbon arrow shaft as if it were a toothpick. 

He slowed down and stopped 55 or 60 yards out and stood quartering away, looking back over his rump at me.  Michael was still grunting challenges at him as I shot and hit him with a second arrow.  This time he ran another 50 yards before slowing to a walk.  With his head hanging low he soon quietly laid down for the last time.

After a respectable wait, we approached the downed moose.  I was in awe.  It was the first trophy animal I’ve ever walked up to that didn’t suffer from “ground shrinkage”.  Even Michael remarked that, “The antlers didn’t look that big on that huge body.”  For me it was the culmination of a dream.  Even as a kid, reading Outdoor Life Magazine, I had dreamed of hunting moose in British Columbia and wondered if I would ever get to walk up on one of my own like this.  It didn’t matter that a light rain was starting to fall or that we had a big meat packing job in front of us.  For me a lifelong dream had just come true.

 

Author’s Notes;

Michael Schneider owns United Guide and Outfitters in northern British Columbia, Canada.  Last fall he guided a half dozen bowhunters to their dream moose.  Shots ranged from 5 paces to 25 paces.  He also guides for black bear, grizzly bear and offers fishing trips.  Michael has a DVD available which includes moose calling and hunting techniques, (including my moose hunt) and trailing and recovering wounded big game using scent hounds.

From the pages of: Great Canadian Sportsman

 

© Copyright 2005 by Bowhunting.net

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