The leaves are changing in Alaska as fall quickly approaches. The smell of deciduous trees is in the air and that means one thing…MOOSE SeasonHere are eight tips and tactics to help bring home that monster Alaska Bull moose you’ve always dreamed of.
1) Physical and Mental Fitness
This is the most underrated portion of any hunt in Alaska. The physical aspect of lugging around 90 -120 pounds of dead weight in the backcountry is incredibly tough. Not only do you have to be physically strong, but mentally fit as well. The weather, the bugs, and the terrain will push anyone to their breaking point. This is where mental toughness/fitness kick in. Just cause you have strength doesn’t mean you’ll have the mental tenacity to deal with the elements. Digging deep is an individual decision to persevere and to overcome. That being said, a moose hunt will test your physical and mental fitness before you ever pull the trigger.
2) First 10 Last 10 Rule:
A wise, old moose hunter once told me that if you’re not prepared to stay overnight with your moose in the field, you are not prepared to kill a moose. Okay, this grizzled old dude was hardcore by most standards hunting with an osage orange stickbow, so you have to imagine this guy was tough. I have shot moose at all times of the day, but most of them have occurred in the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of light. This is critical. You have to find yourself in that wet swamp at dark in both the morning and the evening. Backstrap over an open fire will prepare you for a cozy evening under a blue tarp. Having the right gear in your pockets at all times helps. Talk about building mental toughness!
3) Gear - What to Have on You at All Times
Moose love peanut butter. No, not the food, but more a description of where they live. The alder and willow choked banks on Alaska’s rivers and swamps are thicker than a bowl of oatmeal. Moose can hide in plain sight right off the edge of the river and you won’t see them. Carrying a backpack through an alder jungle gym can be a pain. So, I like to leave the pack frame in the boat and go light, bringing just the essentials. Chest waders, rain jacket, rifle with 14 rounds of ammo (some for moose, others for bear protection), binoculars, Bic lighter and fire starters, sharp knife, head lamp, 100 feet of 550 paracord, and three tree climbing screws to get you above the swamps.
4) Knowing How to Judge Moose
Spend time on Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website. They have so much information on moose hunting it will make your head spin. Point is, many people come back from the hunt of a lifetime with a similar story. “We had a big bull come into camp, but I couldn’t tell if he was 50 inches wide or not.” The more moose you look at, the easier snap judging one in the field will be. Follow the hashtag #moosehunting on Instagram to get an idea of what big bulls look like.
5) Pack Raft and Water Sources
Throw a small raft in your kit such as an Alpacka Packraft. Having a lightweight raft will extend the viable range of the dreaded pack out. I’ve used rafts to cut a 2-mile pack out into a 1/2 pack out, using water sources such as beaver dams and slow moving creeks. Save your back and use water to your advantage.
6) Rifle Selection
Moose require a .300 caliber using nothing less than a 180-grain bullet. You can get away with less gun and less bullet, but in all reality there won’t be much meat loss from larger caliber rifles. Knockdown power is what you need. Tracking moose through swamps and thick cover can be about as hard as tracking a hog in a brush row. Shoot till you watch the moose go down. I’ve seen moose eat up a 200-grain bullet, fall down, and pop up minutes later headed for the Canadian Border.
7) Technology and Research
Knowing where you are is critical and increases your odds. With modern topographic and satellite technology getting lost in Alaska is becoming more difficult. OnX Maps offline feature allows you to save maps to prevent using all your cell phone battery. Real hot tip: Check out Alaska’s Moose Management Reports and see what harvest objectives are for the area you are hunting. This will give you a good idea of moose abundance in the area your hunting.
8) Calling Techniques
I’m a big believer in not trying to be as quite as you can. Moose have satellite dishes that carry sound into their giant ears. When they hear silence and creeping, they think predator. Walk hard and act like a bull moose. I act like a teenage moose that just started lifting weights. Threatening enough, but small enough for a bigger bull to want to lay down the law and show him who's boss. Scraping & raking trees works the entire season and it’s a technique that doesn't involve moaning like you have kidney stones and a hernia. Save yourself some money on the fancy calls and make a birch bark call in the field, or use an old milk jug with the bottom cut out. When a bull moose is ready to come in, trust me, he will come.
The only way to bag a Bullwinkle is to find yourself with a tag in your pocket. There are plenty of OTC opportunities for a wild-man adventure in Alaska’s back country. Good luck and hunt hard.