November 04, 2010
By Dwight Schuh, Senior Editor
Author's Note: I used a Mathews Icon at 60 pounds, Easton A/C/C 3-49 shafts, Barrie Ti-125 broadheads, Brunton 10.5x43 binoculars, Bushnell Yardage Pro rangefinder, and micro-fleece clothing by Day One Camouflage.
THIS WAS A NEW one on Larry D. Jones and me. We were about 100 yards from two moose, a cow and a young bull. I didn't want to shoot this bull, so Larry shot video as we watched with interest.
Whether the cow was in heat, I don't know, but the bull clearly thought she was Ã‚ — or wanted her to be Ã‚ — as he approached her repeatedly, grunting and sniffing. As this continued, we began to distinguish a muted, bird-like sound and, listening closely, we realized it was the cow. Now, we've heard lots of cow moose, but they were always making loud moaning and groaning sounds audible from hundreds of yards away. This was different. Each time the bull approached, the cow made that soft, whimpering sound, a quavering hum that was barely audible at 100 yards. Apparently it was private talk between two lovesick moose.
At the time I didn't realize the significance. It was just a bit of moose lore to file away in the "things of interest file" in the back of my mind. Little did I know that the whimpering sound would have a major bearing on the outcome of my hunt.
LARRY AND I WERE in southeastern Idaho, near the Wyoming border. Having drawn the tag as a single applicant, I had planned to hunt alone. However, as I have described in earlier issues of Bowhunter, surgery on my left shoulder put a crimp in my archery during the 2002 season. To solve that problem, I had learned to shoot with one arm and a mouth tab. So I felt confident about killing a moose.
But butchering a moose? That was a different story. The doctor had told me, "No heavy lifting!" And every square inch of a moose is heavy. I would need help.
Enter my good pal Larry. I didn't exactly beg him to go with me, but I might have hinted at the possibility.
"Okay, Dwight, quit whining," Larry responded. "I'll go with you and butcher your moose. But only if I can video the hunt Ã‚ — and hunt elk on the side."
I was in no position to bargain, so we started hunting September 24, which would give us a week of elk hunting.
For the first few days we bugled and grunted, planning to go after whatever answered, elk or moose. On September 27, we were calling at the head of a canyon when we heard a faint grunt. Okay, we were hunting moose.
Soon we could see a tree swaying 80 yards away. As Larry dialed in the camera, I moved ahead and thrashed brush with a little moose antler I carry for this purpose. Soon we saw antlers, maybe 40 inches wide, coming through the brush. I thrashed and grunted, which fired up, and he headed down toward us until he stood broadside at 20 yards. I was tempted, but this was the first bull we'd called in. Wanting to hunt some more, I passed on the shot, and the bull moved on. Larry got some good video.
By the end of the elk season on September 30, we had not seen a single elk. But while searching for elk, we had scouted out some great spots for moose, and over the next 5 days, Larry and I probed those spots. Two days we saw no moose at all, which is no surprise when hunting such solitary animals.
But twice we came within a whisker of killing 40-inch bulls. One, less than a quarter mile from camp, came on the run for several hundred yards until he stood 18 yards away. Unfortunately, at that point he smelled us and stopped, only his antlers showing over a bank.
The other grunted at us for more than an hour, and eventually we called him within 40 yards. But he would not cross one last draw to give me a good shot, and, finally, he too smelled us and crashed off. Still grunting.
Another day we called a little paddlehead bull within 15 yards. And later that same day we videoed the little bull with the whimpering cow. Again, this was not a bull I wanted to shoot, but we did learn a valuable lesson.
ON OCTOBER 6, WE started up a ridge at dawn. Rain and snow hit hard when we got to the top, and by midmorning, soaked and cold, we built a fire to warm up. Feeling better, we dowsed the fire and had gone only a short distance when we heard a moose grunt in the distance. It sounded as if he was far across the canyon, so we stepped out, wanting to get over there quickly.
Suddenly, we heard a loud crack. He was right beside us! We scrambled like the two stooges, trying to find a hiding place. That's when we saw the bull, maybe 80 yards away. He was watching us. And maybe laughing.
Larry readied his camera as I thrashed a limb with my antler. Clearly, the bull was not impressed. To stir his adrenaline, I hit him with my best bull grunts. He seemed even less impressed. So I gave him my most enticing cow moans. How could he resist? But he did. In fact, he looked bored.
Then it struck me. What about the whimpering sound that cow was making? With nothing to lose, I mimicked that cow as best I could, making a high-pitched, quavering hum.
Instantly, the bull perked his ears, grunted, and headed our way. When I hummed again, he tore into a tree.
When I hummed third time, he marched our way with purpose. Hurriedly I clenched the mouth tab in my teeth, and as the bull passed behind a tree, 20 yards away, I drew. When he reappeared, I released and my arrow disappeared into the dark shadows.
The bull trotted toward us, posturing as if to challenge us. When he started swaying, I knew he was hit but wasn't sure where. So, at 15 yards, I shot again. We later learned that the first arrow had gone through the heart, the second through both lungs. This bull was dead and just didn't know it. Instead, he put his head down and, on wobbly legs, charged my blind, finally collapsing 10 feet from where I'd stood calling. I still don't know what that humming sound means, but I do know it has a powerful effect on a bull moose.