Calling moose is my favorite part of the autumn moose hunt. Keeping silent takes a lot of effort; calling is an excuse to make some noise!
I studiously ignore commercially available moose calls. I’m frugal, I don’t like to carry a lot of stuff, and the electronic ones are illegal in this hunt.
Instead, I attempt to imitate moose sounds. My repertoire consists of bull grunts, cow moans, and scraping.
Moose calling is really very simple. I learned from other hunters, and from listening to recordings—carefully chosen, as some people don’t know a moose from an elk. The moose do!
Bull moose can be called by imitating another bull moose, or a cow. A bull makes a coughing grunt, a plugged-nose “Ugh!” as if you’ve been punched in the gut. Simple.
A cow moan is essentially a long, drawn out, wavering “eeeerrrr.” But it’s weirder than that.Do you remember the sound they used to make to mock that kid in seventh grade who was always such a crybaby? The sound that imitated, parodied, and expressed utter contempt all at once? That’s kind of what we’re looking for here. Before you try it, plug your nose. Make it as loud as you possibly can, then repeat at intervals until it’s time to go home. Congratulations—you’re moose hunting!
I felt pretty silly doing it at first, but there was no one to hear me—including moose. The idea is to stand quietly for a while after each call, maybe so you can hear the moose cracking up in the next thicket. For those of you following along at home, there’s even an emoticon for this:
Between calls, I scrape, imitating antlers rubbing a tree. Experts suggest using an empty milk jug. I tried once, but the jug kept collapsing, making a very plastic popping sound.
I switched to a moose shoulder blade. What a cool sound! It helps me move around, too. Instead of pushing through low branches, I shove them out of the way with the scrape, simultaneously calling and covering my advance through the forest. It also swipes aside spider webs. Sneaking through the forest, I often catch webs in the face, usually across an eye! As I hunt, I wave the scraper in front of me to clear webs, looking like a crazed woodland pope blessing the unseen faithful with incense.
The scrape even makes a good seat if I want to sit down. It’s worth carrying!
Experts say moose have very keen hearing. Their palmate antlers serve as mobile sounding boards. They cock an ear into each bowl-like antler to better hear and analyze sound. If you’re calling right, bulls within two miles should come closer . . . eventually. They may show up as much as 12 hours later, pinpointing the exact place you were when you called! Experts suggest calling early in the morning, then checking the spot hours later. I wonder how many legal bulls have come to my calls long after I’ve given up and gone home for the day?
If I can’t play grim reaper to these animals, perhaps I can at least play cupid.