Finally! You’re done planning. You’ve arrived in your remote boreal hunting areas and day one of your hunt is at hand! This is where you’ll finally put your plan into action! You may think to yourself, “it’s sink or swim and if it doesn’t happen today, then it’ll never happen.” Well, about that . . .
I’ll re-iterate and expand a bit on how I typically execute the plan I came up with in Part 2. Remember, my remote boreal moose hunts are a minimum of 5-6 days of hunting, but preferably up to 10 days. By the end of this final part of the series, you’ll understand why more time is important.
On opening day (or day 1), I will use all the information I have gathered to arrive in my #1 best spot that I think will have a bull moose close by. I’ll arrive early and settle in, as planned. When it’s time to start calling, I use a fairly standard mish-mash of annoyed cow calls and softer mews, and maybe some bull grunts if I feel things are really kicking off. There are millions of calling strategies out there and most will work, so I won’t into too much detail here; what I do suggest is, as your hunt progresses, pay attention to what bulls are responding too, if anything, and adjust accordingly.
Admittedly, one lesson I have struggled with is don’t over call! Instead, stick to calling a few minutes at a time, with long silent pauses of at least 10 to-15 minutes in between. When bull moose are truly responding and fired up, nearly anything will bring them in. However, the reason you should try to not to over call is because you don’t want to give a bull too much information about your location.
Bull moose have evolved to find and court mates over huge expanses of empty northern wilderness. The secret to how they do this is in their hearing. Specifically, the two large satellite dish shaped antlers are designed to perfectly funnel sound to their ears. These antlers act as giant radar arrays that amplify far off sounds, allowing the bull to pinpoint the source of a cow call from up to a few miles away. For this reason, you’ll only want to give a responsive bull enough information to keep him interested and searching for you, his hot date. If you call too much, a bull will pinpoint your location and will be much more likely to go silent and circle you. This is also why it is important to make a dedicated effort to arrive to your hunting spot early and to be quiet.
After a solid 1 1/2-2 hours of calling in this first, “best” spot, you will want to pack up and move as quickly and quietly to your second choice location. Repeat the calling series in the second spot for another hour or so after settling in. If this gets no response, you will want move to Spot #3 and repeat. Depending on the day, you will either try another spot after this, or simply camp out at spot #3 for the remaining morning hours and early afternoon.
In my experience, on a warm sunny day, this is usually my plan. No point burning around during the heat of the day as the bulls really won't be moving much. However, on a cool crisp day, feel free to keep calling and moving. Remember, when calling to keep voices and human noise to an absolute minimum. Whispers are the rule, and always remember that a bull’s hearing will pick up zippers, crinkling granola bar wrappers, and sniffles just as well as cow calls and bull grunts. As the hunt progresses, midday will prove to be the best time to check in on alternate areas or return to old spots to look for fresh sign.
The evening plan is basically the reverse of the morning, starting at the last spot and working back to the first with enough time to be in position at the #1 spot and calling for the last hour or so of legal light. One other note here is to take time and care to leave quietly after legal light has ended. For all you know, a bull may be very near by.
Now, here’s where this whole 3-part strategy really comes together and hopefully pays off. You’ve done all the work and planning to have to perfect opening day and kill a bull. Problem is, you probably won’t see a bull on your first day! Yes, it does happen, just not that often. The real secret to this whole strategy is… Repetition and patience!! Yup. That’s it. My secret. Good old fashioned stubbornness.
This whole collection of ideas is dependent on the notion that bulls move during the rut and there will always be bulls coming and going from long distances to and from pockets of good moose habitat in search of receptive cows. So the real key to this is to always return to the spots you’ve called, preferably within 6-10 hours of the last calling session.
A bull may hear your calls from several miles away but it could take him several hours to make his way to you. As a result, you might not see him the first time you call a spot, but there is a good chance he knows where you are (or were) and is on his way but simply won’t arrive before you leave. Alternatively, a bull may hear you in the heat of the day, but may not be interested in moving just yet. As daylight fades and night approaches, he might head your way and see what all the fuss was about. If you simply call a place once and never return, you’ve significantly decreased your odds of seeing any bulls that may be nearby.
The rut happens on the bulls schedule, not yours. To maximize yours odds of an encounter, it is important to remember that this may be a multi day process. A bull that has arrived in your absence will likely loiter in the area, searching and listening for a cow for at least a few hours. This plays into your plan, as you will be back and calling again before dark or early the next morning. If he’s close by, you have a much better chance of calling him to you the second or third time at a spot than the first. I’ll repeat, moose aren’t that hard to call in, especially if they are close by. The trick in these vast northern areas is keeping them close by! For this reason, it is important to repeat your initial plan and allow for at least 2-3 days in your first set of spots. These best spots should be called at least 3 or 4 times before making any changes.
As these first few days of your hunt roll by, gather information. Look for fresh rubs, rut pits, dropping, and tracks. If wanderlust is getting the better of you, do your exploring in midday. Record your findings in iHunter to help map the area. Sometimes patterns will emerge as you map information that may help identify new calling spots, or improvements to others.
After a few days, it may be that your best e-scouted place is just not that good, or you’re seeing more fresh sign elsewhere. At this point, feel free to adjust the plan and make those good fresh spots your new #1. It can be a good idea to just give the spots you’ve been calling consistently a day or two off anyway.
Go ahead and swap in one or two of your alternate spots or even places that you didn’t e-scout but look promising. Repeat these 2-3 day cycles and adjustments until you run out of days to hunt. Remember to return to some of the original spots periodically to check for fresh sign or evidence that a bull (or cows) have been there since you left. Adjust accordingly.
As you’re going through the motions, the days will drag and repetition may tempt you to abandon the plan. This is a natural urge, especially in a big vast wilderness. This is also the reason why we have the plan in the first place. Remember to be patient and stick to it. In my opinion, the biggest mistake you can make hunting low density boreal bulls is to call once and never return. The second biggest mistake is to blindly bumble around in the bush calling and hoping for a response. It might happen that you call a bull in this way, but don’t bank on it. Wanderlust and boredom are a recipe to wasted time and missed opportunity. Odds are far greater that if you’re patient and follow the steps I’ve described. You will have one or more bull encounter(s) sometime in the course of your 5-10 day hunt. From my own experiences, most bulls hit the ground between day 3-6, because these are the days where repetitive calling has started to pay off and in-field adjustments have been made.
One last tip: Some would argue against this, but using scents is another way to hold a bull in an areas for a few extra hours. If close to water, burning a scent stick over water or very wet ground will leave more than enough scent in an areas to keep a bull searching long after the calls have stopped. This can also be a great way to divert a bull a cross a shooting lane if the wind is not ideal. Either way, leaving the enticing scent of hot cow moose can’t hurt your odds of keeping a bull in the area until you return.
Above all boreal moose hunting is a game of preparation and playing the odds. If you take anything from this article, hopefully it will be that success will happen because you did your homework, you have positioned yourself in the most likely spot to get a shot at that bull, and you are patient enough to wait for that bull to come to you. Good luck out there!
Be sure to follow Nate on Instagram @nate_carruthers and check out more of his photos at natecarruthers.smugmug.com