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Proper Field Care for Moose

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One of the most common questions of a first time moose hunter is “The moose is down, now what?”

First-time moose hunters need to know that handling the animal once it is killed will not be easy. But, with the appropriate equipment and a bit of knowledge, the job can go smoothly. If you are planning to have your moose butchered by a professional, it would be wise to check with him in advance about his preferences for handling moose.

Whatever you choose to do will depend a great deal on your means of getting the moose out of the woods and how you plan to transport it to camp or home. The “game taste” people often speak of is usually the result of poor handling more than anything else. With proper care, moose meat can be outstanding table fare.

The main cause of moose meat spoilage is heat. You can avoid this danger by field dressing your moose immediately. Allow the meat to cool rapidly by providing good air circulation. You should also take every precaution to keep your moose free of dirt, debris, blood and hair.

Cheesecloth or commercial game bags offer the best protection from dirt and flies and still allow necessary air circulation. A liberal application of black pepper will also help to discourage flies.

Field dressing should take place as soon after the kill as possible. Once the animal is dead, bacterial action can spoil the meat quickly. The chance of spoilage increases the longer you wait and the warmer the temperature. Bleeding your moose is unnecessary in most cases. Normally, the animal will bleed internally, and immediate field dressing will ensure adequate bleeding.

Field Dressing Your Moose
To begin field dressing, position the moose on its back with the head slightly uphill. It is helpful to tie the legs to nearby trees. Make an incision at the base of the breastbone with the tip of a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut the intestines or other internal organs. The contents can taint the meat. Continue the incision down the length of the belly to the anus. Cut through the skin and thin wall of the body cavity only. Face the blade of the knife upward, and away from the internal organs to avoid cutting them. Use the fingers of your free hand as a guide, but be careful not to cut yourself.

 

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If the head is not to be mounted, you can continue this cut in the opposite direction to the base of the jaw, exposing the windpipe and esophagus. The windpipe and esophagus should now be severed as close to the head as possible. (Before doing so, tie a string tightly around the esophagus to prevent the stomach’s contents from spilling.) Using your bone saw, split the chest bone down the middle, exposing the contents of the chest cavity.

If you have shot a cow moose, the reproductive tract (ovaries and uterus) can now be removed; you also have the option of waiting until the bowel has been tied. Carefully roll the internal organs to the side until you see the point where two tubes (the rectum and the vagina) exit through the pelvic bone (see illustration). The vagina is the tube nearest the belly. Grasp this and follow it carefully forward until it forks into two tubes, which are the left and right horns of the uterus.

Once you have located the uterus, insert your fingers under it and work your hand in until the organ lays in the palm of your hand. You will notice a thin, almost transparent membrane which connects this organ to the animal’s back. All that now remains is to carefully follow the horns of the uterus to the ovaries. These are bean-shaped organs one to two inches in length. They may be covered with fat so keep looking! When you find them, cut the membranes holding them in place, remove ovaries, and place them in a plastic bag. The uterus can be removed by cutting through the vagina. The ovaries and the uterus should be kept as cool as possible.

Next, circle the anus with your knife, cutting deeply to free the lower bowel. Tie this off with a string to prevent droppings from coming in contact with the meat. Now cut through the flesh of the hams down to the pelvic bone and cut through the pelvic bone with the bone saw.

The internal organs can now be removed. Grasp the tied-off esophagus and trachea and pull them gently but firmly up and back towards the body of the moose. As you do so, have your sub-permitee cut these tissues away from the carcass. Continue this process into the chest cavity, pulling the heart and lungs up and back while cutting any attachments. Once the heart and lungs are freed, cut the diaphragm away from the body on all sides. Then continue firmly pulling on the esophagus and trachea and gently roll the stomach and intestines out of the body cavity, freeing them from all attaching tissues as you go. Once all the viscera is freed of the body, it is best to pull it away from your work space.

Warning!!
Because particularly high cadmium levels have been seen in some moose liver and kidney, it is recommended that you do not consume these organ meats at all.

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Quartering
Quartering is recommended for moose to make handling easier and to allow rapid cooling of the carcass. The hide may be left on each quarter to offer some protection from dirt and flies. If temperatures are above 50 degrees F, you should skin the carcass in the field.

To quarter the animal, you will need a sharp knife and a bone saw. A saw is best to avoid bone splinters and damaged meat.

Begin by removing the head. To do this, cut through the flesh of the neck with your knife. Saw through the vertebrae, and use your knife again to remove the head. Make your cut as close to the head as possible to avoid wasting many pounds of valuable meat.

The next step will be to halve the animal. This is done by placing the back of your knife against the backbone between the second and third rib. Push the blade outward, completely through the flesh and hide. Cut upward using the ribs as a guide and do the same on the opposite side. You can now separate the halves by sawing through the backbone.

Quartering is accomplished by sawing straight down the backbone of each half. Underlying flesh or hide can be separated with your knife. The task of halving and quartering will be easier if the animal can be elevated on logs or sticks. Trim away any shot-damaged meat that could lead to premature spoilage.

Be sure to attach your tags before removing quarters from the place of kill. If the quarters can not be removed before darkness, try to hang them in a nearby tree or elevate them on logs to aid cooling. Cover them with boughs or meat socks and hang a marker nearby.

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Getting Your Moose Out Of the Woods
Getting the moose from the kill site to your vehicle or camp will probably be the toughest task you will face. If you’re fortunate, you may be able to drive close to the kill site, but many of the roads through moose hunting zones are private and may not be open to public use.

Another possibility is to locate someone with a skidder or work horses. The majority of hunters will end up packing their moose out of the woods instead of using a vehicle. To do this, you can tie the quarters to a pack frame or pack board or even suspend them from a long pole so the load can be shared. Try not to overexert yourself; the pieces will be heavy, and the going could be rough. It is a good idea to flag each quarter with a piece of blaze orange material to prevent accidents.

If the quarters are still too much to carry, the carcass can be cut into more pieces, but remember, the law requires the field-dressed carcass be delivered to a checking station for examination. Each individual piece must also be labeled with the name, address and hunting license number of the person who shot it.
It is important to get the quarters hung in a cool, shady place, preferably a meat cooler as soon as possible.

Transportation and Cooling
Always protect the carcass from dirt, heat and moisture. Transport the quarters out in the open if possible. The open back of a pickup works well. Elevate the quarters to keep cool and protect from dirt. If conditions are dusty or rainy, cover them loosely with a porous canvas tarp. Do not stack the quarters, allow them to touch or cover them with plastic. Plastic retains body heat and prevents cooling. If you transport in a covered truck or trailer, you should open windows and vents for proper air circulation.

Once back at camp or your home, hang each quarter from a cross pole of some type in a shady area with good air circulation. If you will have a long trip home, it is best to allow the meat to cool overnight before heading home. If this is not possible, consider traveling at night when temperatures are cooler.

If you are transporting your animal directly home, be cautious about hanging the meat in a garage or shed. Often these areas are not cool enough to allow proper cooling and aging of the carcass.

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Skinning
The quarters should be skinned immediately. If daytime temperatures are above 50 degrees and nighttime temperatures are above 40 degrees, you should remove the hide and over with cheesecloth. If the temperature is between 50 and 30 degrees, you can wait a few hours before skinning.

In skinning, work the hide away with the fingers, and peel it off while the quarters are hanging. Use a sharp knife to slice between the flesh and skin of the animal as it is pulled away. Be careful not to cut either one.

Whether you skin the quarters or not, you should cover each one with cheesecloth or a meat sock.

Aging and Butchering
Aging is intended to make the meat tender. This is best accomplished at a constant temperature of about 40 degrees. The temperature during aging must never exceed 50 degrees. For this reason, you will probably want the services of a professional butcher.

If you age your meat outdoors, three to five days is sufficient, but the period varies with temperature and size of the animal. Meat can be aged for as long as 21 days in a cooler.

If you will be handling the meat yourself, remove as much fat as possible before freezing. Removal of bones will save freezer space. Double-wrap and tightly seal all cuts of meat to prevent freezer burn. Meat should be frozen at zero degrees. Don’t try to freeze too much at once. Label and date all packages for future reference. If you don’t have the knowledge or time to process your own moose, then don’t risk ruining it; have it processed at a commercial facility.

Care Of Big Game Trophies
Proper field care of trophies is extremely important for good results in the final mount. If you intend to have the head of your moose mounted, you must take special precautions when skinning it out.

If the weather is warm, and you plan to have a head mount or a “fur on” rug made from the hide, you must remove the skin, salt flesh inside thoroughly, and roll it up flesh side in. Keep it in a cool place (never in a plastic bag) and get it to your taxidermist as soon as possible. Delay may cause “slipping” a condition in which the hair falls off the hide after the tanning process and ruins the hide for its intended use.

The taxidermist will need as much hide or “cape” to work with as possible. When field dressing, don’t cut any further up the underside than between the front legs. The diagram shows where the cuts should be made to skin the neck. Once the neck is skinned out, the head can be disjointed at the base of the skull and removed with the cape attached. Let the taxidermist skin out the head. He will want the measurements, and the skinning is included in the mounting charge. Remove as much flesh as you can, and salt the cape and all exposed flesh. The head and cape should be kept cool and delivered to the taxidermist as soon as possible.

If you keep only the antlers for mounting, be sure to leave a good portion of the skull attached. The best procedure is to check with your taxidermist in advance of your hunt for specific advice.

To care for the hide, remove all flesh and fat, then salt flesh side well. Moose hides spoil very rapidly in warm weather. You should deliver the hide to a taxidermist within 24 hours after the animal is skinned.

Fine table salt is best for use on hides. Capes will take about 30 pounds of salt. Flat skins will take 50 to 80 pounds. As a guide, figure on using half the weight of the skin in salt. About 24 hours after application, the salt will be wet and will have lost its efficiency — shake it off and re-salt.

Transport the hide rolled up, flesh side in.

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Game on! : Taking the wild taste out of your harvest

There are 3 popular methods, the first a salt brine with spices. The second would be using whole milk and the third, a milder brine with carrots, onions and a potato, these veg draw out the fluids along with the salt in the brine’s.

bear roastUsing the acidic properties of these methods tenderizes the meat and in turn also draws out the ‘gamey’ flavor and makes the addition of other flavors much more simplistic.

 

These methods work well for wild deer, caribou, musk ox, rabbits, duck, pheasant, grouse and turkey’s. Also these meats, unlike commercial meats are very lean, so the addition of bacon, pork fat, salted pork fat or basting with butter aids it in flavor and tenderness in the end, high heat will do more harm than good, slow cooking it best to not dry out the meat, stewing or braising is the best, but some like game birds can be roasted, with deer depending on the cut, a slow stew in a crock pot or slow braise in the oven at no higher than 325 d F or 165 d C.

Happy hunting!

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Grinding Wild Game with Meatloaf Recipe

For foodies, especially those smart enough to eat within their means, there is no better everyday meat than wild-game burger, whether it is from elk, antelope, moose, or most likely, whitetail deer. No meat sold at the farmer’s market is more local, humanely raised, drug free, and genetically unmodified than that from a wild animal cleanly killed by the hunter. And if you process it yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting. No mystery meat or pink slime scares when it’s done D.I.Y. If you do decide to do the grinding at home, there are a few things to note when processing wild game into ground meat. Here are few tips to get the best from your burger.

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1. Buy The Best Grinder You Can Afford—and Keep it Sharp
An underpowered grinder, or one with a dull knife, won’t grind meat cleanly. If the meat coming from the grinder plate looks like it’s been extruded rather than cut, make sure the back of the plate is free from sinew and the retaining ring is on tight.

2. You Get Out What You Put In
Who knows what ground meat from the grocer contains. When you do it yourself, you control the final product. Make sure you clean your meat well and trim with a judicious, yet keen, hand. Trim sinew, yellow fat, silverskin, and all bloodshot meat before it goes into the grinder.

3. Keep Things Cold
You’ll get a much better grind with less smear if your meat, and the grinder, is cold. Put cubed meat in the freezer for at least 30 minutes until it’s firm, but not hard, to the touch. Also, throw the grinder neck, auger, blades, and plate in there as well.

4. Don’t Forget Fat
Beef has fat built right in, but wild game burger needs a boost. You can use several things to up the fat content (and flavor) depending on what the final product is going to be. Bacon trimmings (sold in boxed form often called Ends and Pieces) add a distinctive flavor to burgers and meat loaf. Beef tallow and pork butt are both available from good butchers and make great fat additives. You can control the ratio of meat to fat, but I like somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent. Experiment until you find what’s right for you.

5. Or, Cut The Fat
Some folks want to cut the fat altogether and that’s fine, too. Just realize that a 100-percent wild-game burger can be very dry and will fall apart when cooked. To avoid crumbly burger, consider adding some type of moisture as you form your patties (same goes for meatloaf). This can be anything from eggs to bread crumbs soaked in milk. Last summer, Wild Chef readers turned in a bunch of great ideas for better burgers.

Meat Loaf

Ingredients
– 1 lb. ground meat
– 8 oz. can tomato sauce
– 1 egg, beaten
– 16 to 20 Saltine cracker crumbs
– 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– ¼ cup ketchup

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Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix ground meat with tomato sauce and beaten egg.

2. Crush the Saltines in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and mix in the dry oatmeal and chopped onion.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the meat-egg mixture and, using your hands, blend thoroughly.

4. Form meat mixture into a loaf pan. Liberally cover top with ketchup. Bake for 45 min to 1 hour.

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Calling In A Bull Moose Video

There’s a lot of prep that goes into a moose hunt, so don’t blow a shot at one of these majestic beasts because you can’t call it in. Check out the video below from Ontario Out of Doors for some great tips to help get you ‘in tune’ for when the time comes.

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Maximizing Your Hunting Time With Trail Cameras

cameraOver the last five years, probably no other “gadget” has changed the way we scout more than the trail camera. For many of us, running trail cameras is a hobby in itself, bringing a whole new excitement to our deer hunting efforts. Much more than just something to pass time, however, running trail cameras can give you a unique insight into the patterns of deer on your hunting properties and really tip the odds in your favor for harvesting a mature whitetail. Let’s take a look at the features to look for when purchasing a trail camera, and how to get the maximum benefit from the camera once you have made your purchase.

As the popularity of these scouting tools has grown, so has the number of companies offering their own line of cameras. The features on these cameras cover such a wide spectrum that choosing the right one for you can be a daunting and sometimes confusing task. While this article isn’t meant to tell you WHICH camera to buy, it IS meant to help you sort through some of the most common differences among the various trail cameras to help you narrow down your search.

RESOLUTION
The resolution of a trail camera is a measure of the image size that the camera creates. So a 5.0 megapixal trail camera will give you a much larger image – and therefore more detail – than one with 3.0 megapixals. Which resolution you choose really depends on how important it is to have a large, crisp image. If you are only concerned with having a general idea of what deer are in the area and when they are traveling through, then about any resolution offered on today’s cameras will suffice. If you want a larger, more detailed image to print off for your friends, then you may want to shoot for something with at least 3.0 megapixels.

BATTERY TYPE & LIFE
In my mind, this is one of the most important considerations when choosing a trail camera, as it will have a huge effect on the cost of maintaining the camera. I have seen some “cheap” trail cameras that burn through six C-sized batteries in a week, and suddenly the “cheap” camera gets VERY expensive! Others claim to operate up to a year on eight AA batteries. So before you go buying a camera based on price alone, keep in mind the battery life, as it may be the most expensive choice you could make in the long run.

TRIGGER SPEED
Another important feature is the trigger speed of the camera, which is simply how long it takes the trail camera to shoot a picture once something has “triggered” the motion sensor. A faster trigger speed can be the difference between having a great shot of that trophy buck and just having a picture of a deer’s butt as it walks out of the frame. If you plan on placing your trail cameras over feeders or a mineral lick, then trigger speed will not be as much of an issue as it would if hung along a trail.

FLASH TYPE
This is almost a moot point, since most trail cameras today have gone to infrared flash. An infrared flash, as opposed to the incandescent flash found standard on most consumer cameras, is less likely to spook deer, uses less battery life, and is less likely to be detected by other humans (i.e. thieves!). While I’ve gotten plenty of pictures of big, mature whitetails with an incandescent flash trail camera, there is no doubt that some animals are spooked by the bright flash. If you can afford the infrared flash, the benefits certainly outweigh the small increase in cost.

OTHER FEATURES
While we have covered some of the most important features to consider when buying a new trail camera, there are many more options that could impact your decision. One of these options is the size of the unit. Size varies greatly amongst trail cameras, and some companies are now producing models that are as small as your hand. Other models go as far as being able to send the pictures it takes directly to your email or cell phone, so the only time you have to check them is when the batteries need replacing. How’s that for convenience?

Before you head out to buy your next trail camera, take a minute to think about how it will be used and what features are most important to you. This will make the task of narrowing down your choices much easier when you start the shopping process.

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MAXIMIZING TRAIL CAMERA USE
Once you have waded through all the details, made your decision and laid down your hard earned money on a trail camera, all that’s left is to hang that thing on a tree, right? Let’s take a look at some ways you can be sure you are using your camera to its potential this season and getting the most bang for your buck.

DRAW THEM IN
One of the easiest ways to maximize the effectiveness of your trail camera and insure that you see a good representation of what is in your hunting area is to use some type of attractant to lure the deer into camera range. Probably the most common attractant used across the country is shelled corn – it’s cheap, readily available, and the deer love it. For the purpose of getting trail camera pictures, there is no need to invest in an expensive feeder; just simply spread 100 pounds on the ground in an eight to ten-foot circle area where you want to hang your camera. For safety reasons, do not place the corn in large piles or in an area that holds moisture, as this can result in molding that can cause disease in both deer and turkey. Depending on deer density and other available food sources, this should get you five to ten days worth of pictures. Be patient, as it may take a few days for the deer to really key in on the corn and for you to start getting good pictures. Once they find it, though, it won’t last long!

Before you start dumping corn on your favorite hunting property, check your local game laws regarding baiting. If corn or other “feed” is prohibited, but would still like to attract deer to your camera location, then you may want to consider creating a mineral lick. You can buy one of the many commercial mixes available today, or simply create your own by mixing 50 lbs of trace mineral, 50 lbs of feed mix salt, and 10 lbs of dicalcium phosphate. Break the soil up with a shovel in the area where you want to create your lick and work your mix into the soil. Once the lick gets a good rain on it, it shouldn’t take long for the deer to find it and start paying regular visits.

KEEP IT MOBILE
Unless you are hunting a really small property, or you have the money to invest in lots of trail cameras, then you are going to need to move your cameras around to really get a good idea of what the deer are doing on your hunting property. Don’t get caught in the trap of leaving your camera in the same spot all season. This will not only limit your ability to pattern the deer, but it may keep you from discovering that trophy buck that could be hanging out on the other side of the property!

images40V5Z2FA2By experience, two weeks seems to be enough time to get a good representation of what deer are in the area, without your camera spending too much time in one location. You can always bring the camera back to the same spot at a later time, but the idea is to cover as much of your hunting area as possible.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Once you have moved your camera around your property and gotten plenty of pictures to look at, the real work has just begun. Now is the time to sort through the pictures, identifying as many unique animals as you can, analyzing what camera sites each deer is visiting and the times that they were there. This should start to give you an idea of the travel patterns on the property, as well as potential stand locations.

This season, make sure you use these tips to get the most out of your trail cameras, and the next picture you get of that monster buck may be the one with you behind him holding his antlers, OR, even that BIG bear 🙂

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Canning Wild Game

mainMeat, poultry, and game are low acid foods and must be canned or processed in a pressure canner to assure it is safe to eat.

1. Canning frees up freezer space for other things.
2. Pressure canning can make the less tender cuts versatile.
3. Home canning meat means jars of meat on the shelf ready to go at a moment’s notice. No defrosting time. Ever tried to defrost an elk roast quickly in the microwave because you forgot to take it out earlier? Doesn’t work so well. (Ask me how I know!)
4. The best benefit? My guys love it. We are an active hunting family with 4 sons. Much of our meat is provided by the men of hunting age in our family.

Meat, poultry, and game are low acid foods and must be canned or processed in a pressure canner to assure it is safe to eat.

11 pounds pressure with a dial gauge pressure canner
15 pounds pressure with a weighted gauge pressure canner for required times.
Choose only good meat for canning, and handle it quickly and with total cleanliness, because bacteria grow rapidly in meat held at room temperature. If you have a large amount, store the part you’re not working on in the refrigerator.

canning-venison21You can:
Start with properly cleaned and chilled product.
Can fresh meat and poultry within 2 days or freeze it.
To can frozen products, thaw in the refrigerator until most ice crystals have disappeared, then handle as if they were fresh.
Trim gristle and fat off meat before canning. Fat left on meat melts and climbs on the sides of the jar during processing and may interfere with the sealing of the lid.
Salt is optional in canned meat and poultry.
Fish should be canned immediately or frozen until processed.
For large game animals (deer), follow beef processing times and methods.
For small game animals and birds, follow poultry processing times and methods.
Use canned venison or canned elk in stews, meaty soups, and even chili. You can use it to make Sloppy Joe’s and killer Enchiladas.

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FIELD JUDGING MOOSE

Of all the living members of the deer family, moose have the greatest amount of antler material. They also show great variation in size, with the smallest racks coming from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and the largest from Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. A records book sized Shiras moose would not be even a desirable trophy in Alaska.

Moose, Alces alces, Canada, North America.
Although the widest spread antlers are sought in all categories for the records, strong development of antler palmation in both length and width is even more desirable. Many Shiras moose show only a single spike brow point on each antler, rather than a well-developed brow palm. This is undesirable since the length-of-palm is measured to a notch between brow points. The single spike brow dictates that the length of palm measurement must be ended at the edge of the main palm, obviously losing some potential that would have been fulfilled if the brow were palmate or even forked. High-scoring Canada or Alaska-Yukon moose have three or more brow points, on broad, well-developed brow palms that increase the length-of-palm measurement. This feature, along with broad main palms, markedly improves the score potential.

Although an Alaska-Yukon moose may have 15 or more points on each antler, not all projections count as points, especially if they are blunt in shape. One cannot accurately count the antler points on most trophy moose when the animal is in the field, so evaluation must generally be made on the basis of the amount of palm material present and the greatest spread.

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Big trophy moose of all three classes tend to have the main palms lying flat to produce a wide spread, whereas smaller antlers are more apt to show cup-shaped palms and a narrow spread. The ear tips of a mature bull when laid flat are roughly 30 inches wide, with ears themselves being 9 – 10 inches. A bull with an extra ear length on either side would, then be approximately a bull with a 50 inch spread.

Even though moose can often be studied carefully in the field, and an experienced guide may make reasonable estimate of the greatest spread, it is very difficult to estimate the scores accurately at a distance. This is because the length, width, and symmetry of the palms are all hard to judge when seen from the side. A frontal view, with the animal’s head down and antlers nearly vertical, gives a much better chance for accurate evaluation, but may not be available under field conditions.

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Typically, younger bulls will feature long and disguisable points, but with narrower spreads and shorter palms. As bulls age they tend to add in number of points that will be shorter and less recognizable having given way to wider and taller palms. As a rule, palm width and length pile up B&C points.

BREAKDOWN OF SCORING COMPONENTS – CANADA MOOSE

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MAXIMUM VS. MINIMUM – A COMPARISON OF TWO RECORDS-BOOK CANADA MOOSE

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TOP – World’s Record Canada moose scoring 242 points

  • 15 x 16 point frame
  • Spread over 63 inches
  • Witdth of Palms averaging 22 inches
  • Length of Palms averaging nearly 45 inches

Bottom – Canada moose scoring 187-2/8 points

  • 11 x 11 point frame
  • Spread over 54 inches
  • Witdth of Palms averaging 12 inches
  • Length of Palms both over 36 inches

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