Growing up in northern Ontario, it was almost impossible to not see a moose. I have fond childhood memories of bowhunting moose with my dad. He taught me how to call moose, and one late September hunt I was even fortunate enough to call in my very first bull for him.
I have over 20 years of experience bowhunting moose with mainly a passive style of cow calling. I’ve been right on top of them in a treestand. I’ve been face to face with them in a deadlocked staring contest. I’ve been so close that I knew they were there but still could not see them. And I’ve seen them many times without hearing them.
With such a high moose density and open terrain, I decided to try for a bull moose tag this past fall hoping to try a different method of hunting bull moose - challenging them. After further research on their body postures and communication methods, I decided my new method would include using a new type of decoy. I had three objectives for decoy:
- It had to be hands-free because I still wanted to be able to shoot while wearing it
- It had to be easy to remove case things got too intense and I wanted to call off the stalk
- It had to be light yet still durable
After a quick search for commercially made decoys that you could wear it became clear that no one has ever attempted something like this, but I dared to be different.
Version one of the decoy consisted of a hockey helmet, PVC pipe, an old winter sled made from Styrofoam, burlap, and twine. It was ok, but it lacked ears, body realism, and a proper moose nose.
After studying photos of moose from my scouting trips and observing them running in the field, I made some modifications and added black landscape fabric to the decoy resulting in ideal look and performance. My decoy was ready.
My friend Gary laughed instantly (as any good friend would) when arriving at camp as he examined the moose antler decoys on my head. And just like any good friend would - he wore the decoy the next day as I trailed behind him in a full black outfit ready to shoot.
The morning started slow, but we eventually bumped into an impressive bull tending a cow and calf. We decided to let them be and made a plan to circle around downwind of them. Once downwind we worked our way up a bush line bordering the field they were in and geared up in the decoy.
With Gary out front wearing the decoy, he slowly rocked his head back and forth and I made the occasional bull grunt behind him wearing my all-black outfit.
We showed ourselves out in the open about 200 yards away. At first the bull took a few steps away from us, but then I grunted and thrashed a couple of trees and he spun around and moved closer to investigate the intruder. At this point, I knew we had his interest and he slowly inched closer and we helped closed the distance. At a point, Gary was getting a little nervous and wanted to go into the bush but I insisted to my friend we keep going. I was practically pushing my friend onward in front of me.
Unsure if the moose would remain slightly hidden in the bush or if he would come out in the open, we stopped. Gary and I each had different ideas about what to try next, but finally, the bull decided for both of us and stepped out broadside in front of us at under 15 yards. Our plan had worked flawlessly as made my shot and the memory of a lifetime.