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Late-season moose-hunting tips

15 March 2012

Late-season moose-hunting tips

Wtitten by Louis Turbide – Site director –

Tens of thousands of hunters will soon be heading for the woods to try to outsmart some moose during rifle season. Come mid-October, what changes in strategy should you make in order to be successful?

As hunting is limited to bulls and calves in most zones across Quebec this season, you need to adapt to get results. In addition, you need to understand moose behaviour, more specifically the behaviour of the bull, at this time of year. By October 16, larger bulls (4½ years or older) are no longer interested in mating. They focus all of their energy on feeding in preparation for the fast-approaching winter. While younger males may not be in a mating frenzy, they might be interested in a female that appears to still be in heat, which makes sense because the surge in their testosterone levels (mostly for males of 1½ years of age) would have occurred later than it did for larger males at the beginning of fall, so their testosterone levels are still high enough for them to respond to a hunter’s deep call simulating a female in heat. You must, however, realize that they will not be in as strong of a mating frenzy as they would be during the rutting period. Moose will mostly be seeking the hunter out of curiosity, but that is usually enough to bag one. Another tactic, which might be more successful, consists of simulating the cow’s protest moan in addition to that of a courting young male. Males still remain competitive late in the season. A large male would not stand for a younger one courting a female on his territory and would want to find him to chase him away.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket and be sure to have another trick up your sleeve at this time of year. A simple tactic involves finding fresh tracks on your territory. Unlike the rutting period when moose travel a lot (especially younger males), by mid-October, they move about very little. If you find fresh tracks, this means that the moose are very close by and you should try to find out what they were doing in that area. There is definitely a food source nearby and a hiding place where they seek shelter after finishing their meals. You are more likely to find fresh tracks if you focus your search in areas with aspen or birch trees. Both species are likely to still have green leaves this late in the season, especially if they are young saplings. They can be found in cut-over areas, but also in mature forests. If you do not find any fresh tracks, don’t waste your time and keep looking until you do because that’s the ticket to success at this time of year. That hiding place facing the cut-over area where moose gather in mid-September might not be the best option late in the season.

Moose sink into routine at the cusp of winter and, like I mentioned earlier, they move about less to feed themselves because they need to conserve their energy to store enough fat reserves for the winter. It’s a matter of survival. So they move about early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The rest of the time, they are mostly lying down and ruminating. If your hiding place is near a feeding ground where moose still gather, then you have a head start. Be patient, the time will come soon enough. Those looking for fresh clues should search near still-available food sources thoroughly. Finding just one fresh track could turn your hunting expedition into a success. When moving around the forest as you scout, imitate a moose’s movements, and break a branch here and there. Moose tolerate the presence of their counterparts at this time of year, so they won’t instinctively flee if another moose searching for food comes close. You still need to work carefully into the wind because the moose’s sense of smell, while it may be deficient in the rutting period (because the bull only thinks of one thing: reproduction), is very sharp at this time of year. So move very slowly, stop, listen and scan carefully. It is not always easy to spot a stationary moose just watching you.

Good luck everyone!

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