trophy bull moose Webber's Lodges

Moose Rutting Behavior and Vocalization

by Kent Michie, Professional Guide, Webber’s Lodges

Sitting on an old, dead autumn stump, you watch the emerging sun as it burns through the mist rising off the water. Daylight breaks on your moose hunt and vibrant fall foliage begins to reveal itself. The damp, musky smells of the boreal forest fill your nostrils as you sit quietly, straining your ears to identify any sign that you are not alone on the muskeg delta of a northern lake. As distinct as a rifle shot you hear a loud guttural grunt echo from the Tamarack covered ridge. Your body stiffens. Your grip tightens on your rifle in anticipation of the next sound from the ridge.

Like magic you hear the grunt again, now accompanied by the sound of large antlers scraping through branches. This time it is much closer and moving directly towards you. Your heart races as your eyes search for movement. The bitter cold you felt only moments ago seems like a distant dream. Like a mythical being, a bull moose steps out of the tree line not more than 100 yards away. He appears in full view in the open. Still and stoic, he stands, like a magnificent statue. You glance at your guide.

“He’s the one we want.”

As if in slow motion, you lift your rifle and take careful aim.

One well placed shot dispatches the mighty beast.

As the morning excitement subsides, you sit and reflect on how all this could have happened – picture perfect. You wonder, “Is my guide some sort of wizard that has control over the wild creatures in the forest, or was I just really lucky today?”

I believe I can give you some clarification on the above.

I will share with you what I have learned and used for 25 plus years of guiding moose hunts during the rut. These insights are a result of both hunt experience and an education in wildlife biology. I will not bore you with a complete year-round life cycle of the moose. I’d much rather concentrate on the fall portion of the moose life cycle, which is the time of year when many of us are in pursuit of this grand animal.

I understand that not everyone will agree or even understand my outlook and conclusions when it comes to the moose rut, and that’s ok. As a wise man (my grandfather) once said, “You’ll learn a lot more by listening than talking.” So please enjoy what I have to share with you and who knows, you might even learn something new that will help you on your next moose hunt.

I think many people are misinformed when they talk about moose and their primary senses of sight, smell, and hearing. My beliefs are the result of an enormous amount of time spent in the field in pursuit of giant bulls. I believe that moose are somewhat color blind and that they see their world in shades of greys and blues, but they do have a keen ability to pick up movement. Remember that a moose weighs over 1000 lbs. and they have very few enemies in the wild. This is why they are not as skittish as smaller prey such as deer.

Moose are not intimidated easily, nor are they flighty. Their calm demeanor is often mistaken for an inability to see you, but it’s more likely that they are just not all that concerned. Secondly, many moose encounters occur during the fall rut, at a time when moose are active all day and the bulls are especially brave and aggressive. During this testosterone-fueled period, moose are easy to observe during the day, which gives us a sense that they cannot see us. But the rut brings out a “King of the Mountain” attitude in bull moose, which makes an encounter with humans even more of a non-threatening experience for them. They see us. They just don’t care.

Moose also have a finely-tuned sense of smell, which is likely due to the huge olfactory organ in that enormous nose of theirs. And along with a great sense of smell, moose may possess the most sensitive hearing in the north woods. Their satellite dish size ears are extremely sensitive and play a big part in why moose are such vocal animals.

Many of us are excited by the sounds of a bugling bull elk on a distant ridge or by the grunting of a whitetail buck in the November forest, but I feel moose have been vastly underestimated for their vocalizations, especially during the rut. Moose are very vocal animals throughout the year, but especially during the fall rut. The rut is divided into three separate stages, the pre-rut, the rut, and the post-rut. Each stage  requires the use of different techniques to bring a big bull moose in close.

In parts two, three and four of this article, I will explain why, when, and where, moose use different vocalizations, and how you as a hunter can capitalize on this during the three different stages of the rut to get in close with your next trophy bull moose.

Our moose hunts have a very high success rate and book up quickly. If you would like more information on moose hunting with Webber’s Lodges in Manitoba, Canada, please e-mail us at info@webberslodges.com or call us Toll Free at: 1 (888) 932-2377. We would love to hear from you!