Big Woods, Big Bulls - Make a Plan and Follow It

You've read part 1 of this 3 part series and have become more familiar with your intended hunting area. Now, it’s time to make a plan. Let's be clear, I’m not saying that you must stick to a rigid plan never deviate from it. Far from it, a plan is simply a starting point and should always be adapted as the hunt progresses. The main idea with having a plan is to avoid wasting precious hours afield in order to maximize your odds of getting a successful opportunity to shoot a bull this fall!

With your fresh list of e-scouted calling spots from Part 1, you now need to decide how and when you intend to hunt these spots. It is worth noting that I personally plan my moose hunts to be at least 5-6 days of actual hunting, but 7-10 days of hunting is best. Sometimes life affords you the time to swing it and sometimes it doesn’t. However, to plan and execute a remote moose hunt in less than 5 days is really stacking the odds against yourself, especially if you haven’t ever hunted the area. I’ll expand on this later but for now, just keep this timeline in mind. 

I like to start with what I think will be the best spots using the answers to the 5 questions (mentioned in Part 1 of this series). The answers to those questions should help paint a picture of which spots will be better than others. At the very least, you’ll have an idea of any potential limitations you might encounter at each location.

Prioritize your hunting spots and decide how to access them based on the general direction that you expect a bull to come from and where your anticipated calling location(s) will be. If you’re on a float trip along a river, this is a fairly simple question; same with boat-based lake hunts. For foot or ATV based hunts, this can be a more complicated problem. As a general rule, I like to approach the area from the opposite direction of where I expect a bull to arrive and away from my shooting lane(s). If using an ATV to access a spot, I prefer to be at least 1/4-1/2 mile from where I park my ATV to where I’ll actually be calling. The take away message here is it’s best not to drive or walk through the area you think a bull will be arriving from. Doing so might spook an animal with your sound or, more likely,  with your scent. Plan access routes with this in mind and then calculate your travel time to get in and out under normal circumstances.

Next you’ll need to prioritize your spots based on how easy they are to access.  For example, areas that are difficult to access or find in the dark might be best kept as secondary spots, to be accessed after daylight. The idea here is to maximize those golden hours of movement you have in morning and evening. Depending on local laws (ATV and boat access), you should aim to be in your #1 prime calling spot about an hour before legal light. Arriving early is important to allow your surroundings to adjust to your presence. No matter how stealthy you believe you are, a human in the woods is a marching band of unnatural sounds to wild ears. It is critical to allow things to settle down before you begin calling. This is doubly important if you are accessing a calling spot by boat or ATV. To wild animals, a metal boat and outboard or ATV engine is like firetruck or ambulance sirens in the city. It may not spook them, but it’s a noise that immediately alerts them to danger somewhere nearby. Use this understanding when planning in order to give yourself plenty of time to arrive and settle in to your first choice spot, without having to rush and make more noise.

Regardless of how you rank your list, your first choice spot should always be the place you think is your best bet to kill a bull. This is where you will be spending the best few hours of the day(s). If you’ve done your homework above, you’ll know exactly how early you need to be there, setup, and ready at first light on day one of your hunt. You’ll also know how long you need to get to your second calling spot. For me, this is often a spot that is too complicated to access in the dark or simply not quite as “good looking” as my #1.

Preference for your second hunting spot should also be given to a place that is an easy commute from your first hunting location, so as not to waste precious morning hours travelling. Your third location is either a lesser quality or further off the beaten path. No big deal if it takes time to get there, since it’s the spot you’re likely to spend the most time in during the worst midday hours.

Once setup and calling, I try to stay put for at least an hour or two at the first location. If I’ve had no response, I‘ll move on to Spot #2. I’ll call and wait in this location for another hour or so, then move to spot #3 and maybe even #4 before lunch. If my plan is to stay out all day, I’ll simply hang out at spot # 3 or 4 until it’s time for the evening calling spree.

In the evening you’ll want to work your way in reverse order back to Spot #1, ensuring you arrive there and are settled in time for the last hour of legal light. The real key here is to remember, the response rate on Day 1 of a hunt is usually pretty low. It does sometimes happen that a bull will respond right away at one of the first few spots, but it is rare.

Sometimes magic happens and you’ll kill a bull on opening day. If it does, Great!! You win! Pat yourself on the back for a great job of e-scouting and planning and skip the third part of this series, or; Read it anyway and know what to do next time when “Plan A” doesn’t work because it usually doesn’t… 

That’s it! Three or four spots and an access plan that gets you in on time and in between as fast as possible. That’s all you need to go moose hunting! You’re now ready to plan the rest of your trip and wait patiently for opening day!! I’ll describe this process in greater detail in Part 3, but for now simply commit to having your plan ready on game day.

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