Blurb: Learn an expert’s secrets to muzzleloading moose during the rut.
Article Quote: The moose’s huge size fools many hunters into believing the moose is closer than it actually is.
After muzzleloading for virtually every North American big-game species, I’d have to say that I enjoy hunting moose more than any other animal. Yes, big bears offer an exciting hunt, and beautiful sheep live in country that will test the best, but there is just something about a ton of flesh and bone dissing you that makes anyone want to wet their powder. When a bull moose drops his nose and displays a sheet of plywood-sized antlers rimmed by spikes, I can’t think of any other animal that compares in the animal kingdom.
Trust me, I speak from experience. The last bull moose that I killed with my Knight muzzleloader stomped to within 15 yards of where I crouched wide open in knee-deep grass. From our camp, my guide and I saw the great beast situated on the shores of a tiny Yukon lake, but since the bull was herding a cow around, we decided to go to the bull instead of trying to call him in to us. Our efforts worked at first, until we closed the distance to 300 yards and my guide gave a quick cow-in-heat call to see if he could entice the big bull in closer. That’s when two smaller bulls decided to give us the “once over.”
Too Close For Comfort
Now a “once over” doesn’t mean something bad, except when you talk about moose. A “once over” still doesn’t turn bad if the moose only decides to look you “once over,” but if the moose decides to stomp you once over … well that’s bad. The two small bulls, and I use the term “small” very loosely, stopped at 25 yards staring at us. We didn’t do anything because we couldn’t do anything. We got caught in the open in the swampy moose pasture, and we only had one firearm – my muzzleloader.
Even if I shot one of the bulls, reloading the gun would take me 45 seconds. It didn’t take a math whiz to figure out that the remaining bull could get on top of us in about three seconds, giving the bull 42 seconds of enjoyable stomping before I could shoot again. So we waited, wondering what would happen next. Suddenly, the two small bulls looked over their shoulders and exited stage left, while a bigger danger approached – way bigger.
The huge bull swaggered into view, willing and able to destroy whatever the smaller bulls had spotted. One hundred yards, then 80 yards, like a great black grim reaper, the bull came closer and closer until he stood only 15 yards away from us. Not once did I have a shot, other than straight on – a sure way to wound the bull and die doing so. And so there he stood, for what seemed like forever, fixated on the two insignificant beings in the grass.
Finally, long after I’d decided what I wanted done with all my worldly possessions, the bull turned sideways. BOOM! The bull ran 30 yards in the direction his nose was pointed, stopped for a moment and then tumbled over, stone dead. The great animal just missed being the new muzzleloading world record by two points.
Best Season Choices
The Boone and Crockett Club recognizes three species of moose – the Shiras moose, the smallest of the moose, the Canadian moose and the Alaskan\Yukon moose, the largest of the moose species. The Shiras moose lives in the western United States, while the Canadian moose lives from coast to coast in Canada and in a few select eastern states. The Alaskan\Yukon moose’s bulky size allows it to live anywhere it chooses, so it lives in the northern wild lands, far from the big cities.
For the most part, hunters seek moose from September through November. In the northern reaches, moose begin to shed their velvet at the end of August and will shed progressively later, through the beginning of September, the more south they live. For the most part, they’ll begin rutting in mid-September and continue until mid-October. Prior to the rut, the big bulls will hide out in the highest-hanging alpine valleys or the deepest swampy meadows.
Muzzleloaders will experience the most success during the rut. That’s when the hunt I described earlier took place, and that’s when a bull’s natural wariness falls to its lowest ebb. In the early stages of the rut, the bulls will travel in search of cows. At this stage hunters can call them in relatively easily. Once the rut heats up, the big bulls will gather their harem of cows and will less likely come to a call. At the end of the rut, they begin moving again, looking for the last cows to breed and again at this time, they become easier to hunt.
Best Way To Put A Moose On The Ground
Sorry, but if you think your muzzleloader has the energy to punch through a bull moose’s shoulder or chest from straight on, you’re wrong. Dead wrong if the moose decides to press the issue. You want to hit the moose in the lungs or heart. Aim right behind the front leg about one third of the way up from the bottom of the chest. Don’t let the huge hump on the bull’s back fool you. Divide the distance and shoot halfway down the moose’s body. A moose’s hump extends approximately 18 inches deep, and a muzzleloader bullet hitting there may stun the moose for a few seconds, but after that, it’s good-bye. Good-bye you, not necessarily good-bye moose.
Many a moose remains alive today because the muzzleloader hunter found the bull standing in 5-foot-high willows and didn’t realize that the willows hid the bull’s heart and most of the lung region. This fact is hard to fathom when three feet of moose extends above the willows. Don’t let that fool you. Most of that three feet is hump and the rest is above the lungs.
When hunting moose, do the moose and yourself a favor and use good-quality conical hunting bullets. Round balls may work on deer, but for moose-sized game, they give pathetic results. And no matter what, don’t shoot out beyond 100 yards. Your bullet will need all the energy it can muster to do its job properly on a big moose. Use a range finder, like Bushnell’s Yardage Pro Scout, to judge the distance. The moose’s huge size fools many hunters into believing the moose is closer than it actually is.
Last but definitely not least, when you do have your moose on the ground, make sure you have a buddy or preferably several buddies around to help. My guide and I spent an entire back-breaking day carrying the de-boned moose parts a mere 600 yards back to our camp. Imagine if your moose dropped a mile or two miles away from your camp. Take my advice and don’t even bother imagining three miles. Just assume every moose beyond two miles from your camp is too small to shoot.