western canadian moose
We hunt moose from early mid September to mid October during the rut. It is exciting to
get the bulls coming in to a call. Our camps are on lakes so we do much of the hunting
by boat, stopping often to call and glass. Our gene pool produces an average of around
50” bulls with most being in the 48 to 54 inch range and a few somewhat wider. We
have no antler restrictions in our area so you can hunt for meat or trophy.
moose hunt story
About our Moose hunt… Keith injured his back before the trip, and was having some sciatic nerve issues. I give him a lot of credit for not canceling, the 4 day drive out was tough for him, and he knew that he would not be able to navigate rough, uneven country. But he gritted his teeth and pushed on. We spent a 2nd night at the Smithers Hudson Bay Hotel due to cloudy weather which backed up our float plane flight, so we were a day late getting out to the Duti Lake camp, arriving mid-day on October 1st instead of on Sept. 30th.
The Duti camp is on the east side of South Duti lake, about 3/4 of the way toward the inlet, which enters at the North end. An outstanding feature of that camp is that you can sit right in front of the cook cabin and glass the mountainside across the lake, and over the course of our hunt we saw wolves, goats and moose from that vantage point.
The first evening, 6 hours + after flying into camp, Ron took the Eric and Kevin, the two other hunters, out in the boat toward the south end of the lake by the outlet to look for game. Those guys are from Oregon and they both had moose, caribou and goat tags. Keith & I only had moose tags, by the way. Just as Ron’s boat left the beach, Brandon, the other guide, spotted a monster bull with a cow across the lake from camp. He looked at me and said “let’s go kill that bull”, so we scrambled into the 2nd boat and headed across the lake. We hiked in a couple hundred yards or so and found a good vantage point on a sidehill above the an opening in the brush, down hill and to the right of where Brandon had last seen the bull. We waited a bit and then Brandon cow called several times, and almost immediately we heard a deep baritone grunt in response. Brandon said “get ready, he’s coming in”. The grunting continued and we could hear the bull thrashing brush with his antlers. Talk about excitement and anticipation! My heart was in my throat and my pulse was racing. A touch of Moose Fever, I confess, but what a thrill! But as we waited I realized that I needed to cough. I tried to ignore it, and did so for a while, but ultimately I simply could not suppress the urge. I was on one knee ready for the bull to appear, so I bent over close to the ground, turned away from the grunting, and coughed as softly as I could. We heard more brush thrashing, but the bull would not come closer. It eventually got too dark to shoot and we headed back to camp.
Brandon said that my cough spooked that bull, but at dinner Ron said that maybe not, he may not have been willing to leave his cow. I really wanted to believe him, but I realize now that he was probably trying to make me feel better. And I really did feel terrible. Would I have another chance at a bull that nice? I had no way of knowing, but I realized that I had missed a golden opportunity. Later that evening Brenda brought a package of cough drops over to our cabin for me, and suggested that they might help.
The afternoon of the first full day in camp Ron, Keith & I took the boat down to the outlet end of the lake and walked a couple hundred yards in to a little knob on the West side of the outlet stream where we glassed the wetland country downstream along the river. Ron eventually spotted a bull way down river, we could see him with binoculars, but he was not visible to my naked eye. Ron tried calling him, but watching with the glasses we could see no indication that he heard it, he was simply too far away. That bull eventually disappeared. Ron continued to call intermittently, and maybe a half an hour later I thought I heard something. I mentioned it to Ron & Keith, and then we all heard it. It was a bull grunt. He was on his way in, and when we caught a glimpse of him thru the brush, Ron said “he’s a nice meat bull, Ken do you want him?”. I said “nope, I’ll pass, Keith how about you?”. Keith said “sure, he is exactly what I came for”, having killed a big, beautiful bull with Ron in 2012, and he got his rifle ready over his shooting sticks. The bull grunted continuously as he approached, and then he was standing there in the edge of the brush, looking directly at us. Ron told Keith to wait until he was in the clear to shoot, but the bull was apparently looking for the cow whose call he was responding to, and he still stood there looking. Ron says that bulls can identify with uncanny accuracy where a call is coming from, and zero right in on that location. Ron slowly turned away and called softly again, but the bull stood still, continuing to look directly at our position. After a minute or so his inability to spot a cow apparently made him suspicious, and the bull stepped out and started to turn to leave, giving Keith the opportunity he had been looking for, and he shot him in the heart. The bull did not go down immediately, however, and took several steps farther into the opening, and Keith hammered him again, at Ron’s urging. The bull dropped at that shot, and he had expired by the time that we approached him. My God, he was enormous! This was my first close-up look at a moose, and he looked as big as a horse laying there. By this time evening was approaching, so Ron field dressed the bull and and we positioned him so that he would cool properly. We came back with Brenda and Axel (the packer) the next morning. Brenda took many excellent photos, and then we quartered and packed out the meat and the antlers.
That same afternoon Brandon spotted a cow and that big bull across the lake again, or perhaps it was another bull. A bit later he took Eric & Kevin across the lake to try to kill him. After they left Ron expressed some reservation, saying again that the bull could be difficult to call away from his cow, and that if they were not careful, they might push them right out of the area. And he was right, when they got over there they spotted his antlers above the brush several times, but they could never get a clear look at him or an opportunity to shoot. Eventually he disappeared, and the boys came back to camp.
The 2nd full day of the hunt Brandon called a really nice young bull in for Kevin, right out on to a little knob above the waters edge, on the East side of the lake, down by the outlet. Kevin shot it and then Eric shot it as well, and as Brandon hissed “No, No, not in the water!”, it dropped in the lake with a tremendous splash. Brandon took an excellent video of that bull’s last headlong dash off of the knob into the lake, so we all marveled at that footage at dinner that night.
On the 3rd day Brandon called in yet another beautiful young bull in for Eric in that same general area, but back in a couple hundred yards farther East of the lake. And the Oregon boys double-teamed that one as well, both of them shooting, one after another. Three moose in three days… And that left me with the only uncut moose tag in camp.
On the 4th or 5th morning (I cannot remember which) Ron, Axel & I crossed the upper end of the lake and hiked along the far side of inlet stream a mile or so north to the next lake higher up. Keith stayed in camp resting his pulled back. We set up in a opening with the upper lake at our backs, and Ron sent Axel a couple hundred yards farther up the lake and up on a side hill to watch country that we could not see from our vantage point. Ron called, and once again we thought that we heard a deep grunt off in the distance. It came again, this time louder and closer. In a few moments the bull appeared in the brush on the side hill above us, standing still, looking in our direction for the cow. This give us a wonderful opportunity to look him over with binoculars while we waited for him to step clear of the willows. He was a magnificent animal, with lots of long, beautiful points on his palms and two nice diggers on each side. I do not believe I have seen a moose with nicer, longer points on the top ends of his paddles. And although he was handsome, Ron was hesitant to say that he was 50 inches wide. He added that this was a darned nice bull, that width is only one of a number of factors to consider when judging moose antlers, and not always the most important one. Then the bull stepped clear of the brush, and Axel, who could not see the bull from his position, gave a cow call, and the bull re-entered the willows and disappeared. We caught a flash of his antlers 50 yards farther on as he moved off, but that is all that we could see of him. A couple minutes later we heard him smashing his horns into trees several hundred yards farther away in the thick stuff, and then he was gone. I think if I had another few moments I probably would have tried to take him, but he who hesitates is lost. And I did not feel bad about missing this opportunity, I have always believed that you have to be willing to pass up some good game if you want to kill a real trophy.
We returned to that area several times, morning and afternoon, and once we heard a cow calling as she passed nearby, but we had no more bull action at that location.
Early on the morning of day 6 there was a lone young bull feeding right out at waters edge across the lake from camp, up near the inlet. Ron grinned and said “There’s Frenchy’s bull”. We watched him feed for several minutes until Brenda called us in for breakfast.
On the morning of October 7th Ron, Keith & I were out on the lake in the boat quietly glassing for moose. Keith has an incredible ability to spot game, and I welcomed his help. And Ron is amazing, several times he spotted moose & bear with his naked eye that I could only see with my binocular, and then only after he described exactly where they were. Anyway, on the way back to camp Ron spotted what he thought was a cow moose on the small plateau near the bottom of the slide, almost directly across the lake from camp. This is what Ron, Brenda and the guides refer to as “The Bench” and it is visible in the attached photo taken in front of camp, across the lake and almost directly above the 3rd chair from the left. All that was visible was her head, and Keith & I studied it with our binoculars and thought it looked like the end of a log. Whatever it was, it never moved. We almost had Ron convinced that it was not a moose, but when we got back to camp and looked with the spotting scope we could see that it was a cow. And from that vantage we also spotted the antler tips of a bull with her. Then they moved and disappeared from view. Eventually both the bull and the cow were in view again, being intermittently visible when they got up to feed. We looked them over with the binoculars and the spotting scope, and the bull had very long, tall paddles, and I thought 3 diggers or brow tines on each side. No one would hazard a guess how wide he was, but Brandon did say that he was a gigantic bull. We watched him for a while longer and I decided that I would like to try for him, if Ron could figure out a way to get me close enough for a shot.
Ron said that a moose is 6-7 feet tall at the hump, and that his head and antlers are close to 8-9 feet tall when standing, and that the willow brush was probably about 7-8 feet tall over on that bench. He said that there was simply no way to get a shot at that bull from below because we would not be able to spot him thru the brush, and that he would certainly hear us coming if we tried to get close enough for a shot at to his elevation. But after some thought he said that if we climbed the adjacent slide to the North up to a point well above him, we should be able to cross thru the timber between the two slides and then work our way back down the edge of slide that he was in, to a position above him. Ron figured that the elevation should help us look down into the willows, and might allow me a shot at him over brush.
I only had one pair of boots with me, my insulated Muck Boot Arctic pacs. They are very warm, but also very heavy, and I knew that I could not make a serious climb in them, they would simply wear me down. But I did have my running shoes in my duffle bag, and I do most of my Michigan hunting in them, at least until snowfall. Out of curiosity I weighed my boots and my running shoes when I got home, the boots (size 13) are just over 3 pounds each, while the tennis shoes are less than 1 pound each. So those 2 boots weighed more than my rifle, a 30-06 that I put together on a G.33/40 Mauser 98 action, which weighs less than 5 & 1/4 pounds, including the scope.
So I laced up my running shoes, put some of Brenda’s cough drops in my vest pocket, and Ron & I motored the boat slowly and quietly across the lake and started up the wide slide to the right of the one with The Bench at the bottom. We climbed up until we hit the snow line, way up above the bull, and then cut to the left thru the top of the conifer timber, and then as quietly as possible, we worked our way down the Bench slide to just over 200 yards above the him. He was bedded with the cow, and we could see his antlers, but not his body. We waited a bit, but the moose remained bedded. Ron said he would try a cow call and see if he could get them to stand up. He did so, and the bull did stand, but he was facing directly toward us, and at that steep angle his nose covered up the of the center of his chest. Ron said to hold off, that the bull would move when the cow did, so I waited, with growing anticipation and excitement. It seemed to take forever, but eventually the cow did start to move off to the South, and a moment later the bull followed, and I shot him. When we got down to him he was huge and his antlers were magnificent. His palms are not overly wide, but they are very tall, and his antler bases are massive. He does have 3 brow tines on left side, but only two on the other, I think that I may have mistaken that first long tine on his right palm as a brow tine thru the spotting scope. And the first long tine above the 3 diggers on his left side is broken off. I have never killed a moose before, so I have nothing to compare him to, but I was elated, none-the-less. And I must admit that I felt a healthy stab of remorse, as well.
After reading about your 2014 Moose in your ‘Meanderings’ book (which I am still enjoying, by the way) where you mention that your bull scored 160 B & C, I measured my antlers, and they rough scored at 192.5, close to making the B & C all-time book for Canada Moose at 195. And if that one tine had not been broken off he might have been even closer yet, depending on it’s length and aspect. And while I am not particularly interested in B & C standing, it does give me some perspective as to his size. I that knew he was a good bull, but I had no idea that he was that good…
Is this the same bull that I tried for that first evening? Ron believes that it probably is, from his unusually long paddles, and from the numerous wallows and broken brush indicating that a breeding bull had been on that bench for several days. But Brenda says that the bull that she looked at thru the spotting scope on the first day had a differently shaped bell than the one that I killed. I have no way of knowing, and I guess that it does not matter. In retrospect, I am glad that I did not shoot the bull on that first evening, my hunt would have been over almost before it began. And I would have missed out on the incredible experience of the bull with the long, beautiful top points coming in to Ron’s call at the upper lake. Most of all, I would have never experienced the exhilaration of that climb and final stalk.
It was a wonderful hunt in absolutely spectacular country. Ron & Brenda are terrific hosts, and Ron is a consummate story teller, with a great sense of humor, as you know all too well! The camp was rustic but comfortable, and the meals were excellent, as you predicted.
BTW, Ron says that in 50 years of guiding this is the only moose he can recall that was killed by a hunter in tennis shoes.
Ken's Moose *not pictured are his running shoes