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Moose Rut Behavior and Hunting Tips
Posted by Michael Strahan on May 25 2005

You have some pretty good questions there.  For the most part I agree with what's been said here, but I've also been in your situation; trying to figure out where the critters are likely to be.  That you would ask these sorts of questions indicates that you have a sense of animal behavior, and I think that's a prerequisite for doing what you're trying to accomplish.  That said, here are some tips that may work for you.

I have had some success identifying moose habitat through biologist interviews and from looking at maps and high altitude photos of hunting areas in Alaska.  Moose prefer habitat with a mix of vegetation (willow is a preferred forage presumably because of the high sodium content) and water.  The rut generally kicks in on the 10th of September, and at that time bulls may be found anywhere from benches near and at the timberline to low-lying bogs, meadows and such, as long as cover is nearby.  I don't know if they prefer cover because of the need for security or if it's because they're a large dark-colored animal that overheats easily and needs shade.  Either way, I've found them bedded in the open meadows and in thick stuff too.  On your maps, concentrate on timberline areas that have pothole ponds nearby (brushy or timbered benches are ideal for this), and on low country near rivers or near pothole lakes and ponds.  The edge habitat found in these places is often ideal moose habitat.

Time of day can be one of the most important factors.  In my experience, most of the moose we've taken over the years were shot between 9 and 11 in the morning.  In my view they're not an early morning animal, and you will often see them bedded (if at all) in the wee hours of the morning.  That's been my experience; I'm sure others have something different to say about this.  The only animal we get out really early for is bear.  

Once a big bull gathers a harem (which may consist of anywhere from one to ten or more cows), he usually won't go more than forty yards or so from his harem.  He'll do what he can to keep his cows nearby, but they're usually as attracted to him as he is to them, so he's not gonna generally travel a long ways to keep them together.  At this time your calling efforts will yield mostly smaller or medium sized bulls (up to 60 inches?) that are unattached and looking for cows.  For the really big bulls that have cows with them, a good tactic is to locate them by calling and go to them.  You won't pull them away from their cows.  Moose generally use the same rutting areas from one year to the next, so if you find rut pits one year, it's likely that moose will be found in the same area next season (unless of course the bull that made the pits has been shot or killed in some other way).  You won't find prime rutting areas by looking at a map; all you may be able to do is find reasonably good habitat.  From there you'll have to scout around for evidence of their presence.  The same areas tend to be good producers year after year though, so if your air charter puts you on a place where they've been successful in past seasons, it's probably a good bet.

Avoid the mistake of comparing moose behavior to deer behavior.  Moose are completely different from other deer.  They are not generally as cagey or flighty as deer.  Where a whitetail will bolt and run, a moose will stand there until he figures it out, then usually he will move away rather slowly.  Of course there are exceptions....  Sometimes they'll get so excited that they'll put your safety in jeopardy.  I've had to run smaller bulls off with yelling and arm waving when I thought they were going to cause us a problem.  In some cases they just stood there looking at us from forty yards and eventually wandered off.  I don't think moose are stupid (as is sometimes indicated); I think they're just a large animal that is completely confident in their ability to ward off trouble, or cause trouble as the situation requires.  You have to realize that they're about the size of a quarter horse.  It takes some doing for a predator to take one down.

Hopefully you find some of this helpful!


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