We don’t often hear about hunting moose in the late season. An undeniable romance focuses on calling and attracting bulls during the peak of the rut; but what about when all that hormone-driven activity subsides? Where do the moose go and what do they do? More to the point, how do we hunt them in the late season?
For much of the year, bulls are reclusive by nature. They do their own thing, eating, sleeping, and moving on their own. As the rut approaches and peaks, physical antler-on-antler confrontations take place but as breeding winds down, their short-lived aggression fades back to a more docile demeanor. But as the rut concludes and moose are forced into winter survival patterns, bulls become more social, often opting to hang out in bachelor groups. At this time their focus turns to maintaining the necessities in life; eating, sleeping, and conserving energy. For the late season moose hunter who understands these dynamics, hunting can be straightforward. For those better acquainted with rutting bulls, the late season can be both uneventful and frustrating.
Seldom do you see bulls hanging out with cows in the late season.
More often than not, bulls will begin bunching up in small bachelor groups.
While there was no need to communicate with the bulls, you will experience several more encounters during late season hunt when calling is used effectively. Bottom line – don’t be shy about calling, even in the late season. After the rut, formerly reclusive bulls will often group up as the weather turns cold and winter conditions set in. While seeing individual bulls is normal throughout the warm summer months and most of the fall, their social demeanor changes once breeding activity is finished. Vocalizations are common, even in November and December, as moose communicate with one another.
For late season moose hunters, this presents an outstanding opportunity. On several occasions I’ve been told experimenting with cow calls while hunting late season bulls they respond favorably.
Focus on Food
Just as it is a priority for other ungulates, food is always a priority, but during the late season, it’s at the top of the list. This usually means shifting to habitat areas offering the best food sources. While moose have a home range, they will shift within that range throughout the year based on their needs, i.e. to breed, or to find thermal cover and nutrient-rich foods.
During the warm-weather months when wetlands offer a smorgasbord of marsh plants, food is plentiful. At this time food is abundant and life is good. When sub-zero temperatures freeze these wetlands and snowfall covers an assortment of grasses, moose turn to the most accessible food, and that means bark, willows, and poplar saplings. With this in mind, willow flats surrounding frozen marshlands can be an ideal place to look for moose in the late season.
Consider the Cover
Cold, wind, and snow; these are often the conditions of late season. Just like you and I, they don’t like inclement weather. In defense, late season moose may take refuge in hills, valleys, or on leeward facing slopes. They’ll seek cover near food. This can mean different things in different types of habitat. In many areas thermal cover such as old-growth mixed forest is a first choice. In the absence of coniferous trees, alternative cover like thick willow clumps will be a top choice. Rarely will a moose hang around in open areas when the temperature and conditions are inhospitable.
Use the Snow
Found in every Canadian province except Prince Edward Island, moose are also thriving in many northern states like Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire – all places that get snow, and sometimes lots of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting in the foothills, mountains, rolling aspen parkland, or boreal forest, more often than not the common denominator with hunting late season moose is colder weather and eventually snow. And with snow comes the added bonus of tracking. Locate a fresh track and, particularly in soft snow, you’ve got an exceptional chance of walking a bull down. If you find a fresh track, get on it, and slowly follow keeping a keen eye looking ahead. Chances are within a short distance you’ll catch up with him.
Rut sign like this rub confirm that moose live in the area.
Follow these tips and that daunting late season hunt will be a breeze!! Don’t put down your weapon as soon as the snow flies…embrace it as another opportunity
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