Meet Martin Léonard: our hunting specialist shares his best tips and destinations
Fishing | October 24, 2023
September 21, 2023
Moose hunting has a very unique character. If you want to optimize your chances of harvesting moose, you need to be fully immersed in the environment of this massive game animal. Moose hunting is all about understanding the species and its behaviour. SAIL hunting specialist Claude Bissonnette shares his best moose hunting tips and techniques. From learning the habits of moose to studying their tracks and mastering the art of calls… You will soon be all set to track this noble and highly coveted cervid.
In this article, you will learn all about the best moose hunting techniques:
For 2023, the moose hunting season runs from late August/early September to late October – with a few exceptions. There are dozens of hunting zones in Ontario and Quebec, and the exact period for the season depends on the zone.
In wildlife reserves, the season starts in early September. The early part of the season is reserved for bow and crossbow hunters, and a bit more patience is required for those who want to hunt with firearms. Visit the Ontario or Quebec government websites to see the official opening dates.
The start of the bow and crossbow hunting period is linked to the moose rutting season. Males move around a lot in search of females, so it’s easier to attract them with calls. Towards the end of the period, on the contrary, moose are more stationary, and it becomes harder to attract them.
Claude recommends staying on the move as much as possible when moose hunting, even though you may not necessarily hunt large territories. Your best bet? Setting up three or four blinds with salt in the same area and alternating between them. Mobility is key!
The habits of moose vary from one animal to another, of course, but they also depend on the period of the year. Moose are not very mobile during the summer, after which they stay in a small “safety zone” where they can easily find food. That’s great news for hunting enthusiasts who know their territory well and can “read” moose tracks, droppings, etc. In autumn, when temperatures exceed 15 or 16 degrees, moose will look for shade and natural shelter. Always good to know.
Moose hunting is all about keen observation. The most seasoned hunters know where to look, and what to look for. Claude, our hunting specialist, pays close attention to the ground, looking for (large) hoof tracks and droppings. The tracks can provide information on direction, size (an indicator of age) or number of animals (a single male, a female with one or two young, etc.). The most experienced trackers can distinguish between male and female moose from a single footprint. But don’t fret if you’re not there yet; it’s only a matter of time!
It’s also good to look closely at the trees, as some may have markings indicating that moose have been in the area. Claude recommends keeping an eye out for broken branches, which from late August can indicate the presence of moose. This is because they rub up against trees to remove the velvet that forms on their antlers.
Claude also points out that moose often feed along lakeshores, so staying close to water, with a good pair of binoculars, is always a good idea. Focus on shallow water and swampy areas, as moose love to eat algae. Plus, tracks are easier to spot in this type of environment!
If you want to maximize your chances of harvest during the 2023 moose hunting season, you will need to pay particular attention to the quality of your calls. During the rutting season, proper use of game calls is extra important. The goal here is to do as close a reproduction as possible of the sounds made by moose, especially when they are on the move.
Many different sounds can be used for moose calling (plaintive call, snort, etc.), but one of the most common is replicating the call of females. It takes a little practice to master, but it certainly has proven its worth. Another option is to imitate the sound of a male moose to attract others ready for a confrontation. Various types of calls may be used to reproduce sounds: regular, electronic, horns… For moose, many consider horns to be the most effective.
Moose hunting also often involves using antlers, which are very useful at close range. You can actually reproduce moose sounds quite well by hitting them against fir or spruce branches. Antlers also have a “visual” function: hunters can imitate cervids by putting them on top of their heads and rocking them back and forth. Remember that moose have a very acute sense of hearing, so keep your movements slow and minimize “human” sounds as much as possible.
Claude recommends going for a single antler (rather than double antlers), as it is easier to use. He also points out that “fake” antlers work just as well, so there’s no need to find “real” ones. You can even add a scent to the antlers if you like. Finally, Claude notes that the aim is to come up in front of the moose so that it doesn’t pick up the hunter’s scent from too far away.
Moose don’t have very good eyesight, but they do have a highly developed sense of smell. That’s why paying special attention to odours is so important when you’re interested in this animal. Remember to move against the wind and never have it at your back to avoid spreading odours.
There is a choice of hunting techniques for moose, and they are all viable. You can hunt alone, with a guide… It’s all a question of experience and preference.
If you’re going solo, the idea is to move calmly and slowly enough to imitate moose as closely as possible. This is called “still hunting”: you walk, stop, call, and so on, staying as close as possible to the animal’s natural behaviour.
As its name suggests, the caller/sniper technique involves a pair of hunters. One person is in charge of reproducing the sounds and habits of moose in their environment, so that another person (or several) can have the best possible conditions for shooting. This is a nice twist on solo hunting.
This technique is particularly well suited to novice hunters. A more experienced hunter can then act as a guide, taking care of the antlers, the tracking, and so on.
The “sniper,” for his part, will stay as close as possible to the guide – or at least maintain visual contact (for safety reasons). The guide (or “caller”) aims to draw attention to himself so that the sniper can take a shot if a moose stops in his line of sight. If a shot is fired, Claude recommends waiting at least fifteen to twenty minutes before getting to the animal. This applies not only to moose but also to bears and white-tailed deer.
Like bears, moose can be hunted from tree stands scattered across a hunting territory.
Claude recommends setting up at a height of 10 to 16 feet, making sure to get into position early in the morning, at least half an hour before sunrise. Stay in place all morning until lunchtime. Once you’ve swallowed your midday meal, move to another stand or return to the same one.
A helpful hint: if you hunt with a crossbow, spend some time mastering your shooting distances, and always carry a rangefinder!
As with all other types of hunting, choosing the right clothing is crucial for moose hunting. The goal, as always, is to blend in with the environment and remain visible to other hunters, all the while being adequately covered for the season.
In terms of camouflage, you can opt for either traditional or digital (pixelated) camo patterns. This is a matter of preference; both are excellent options for successfully concealing your human silhouette from cervids. Choose camouflage patterns and shades to match your environment, the season and the species you’re hunting. Green hues work very well for moose.
For body temperature control, Claude recommends relying on the multi-layer technique. Mornings can be pretty cool during moose hunting season. Still, it’s best to opt for light underwear and upper layers that are not too hot, as temperatures can quickly rise during the day. Choose quiet polyester clothing with a smooth finish. If there’s a chance of rain, opt for a waterproof hunting jacket or vest. A little pro tip from Claude: wash your hunting clothing with specific products (smelling like fir, cedar, etc.) or leave them in bags filled with branches to give them a natural scent. You can also spray your clothing in the morning to remove human or artificial odours.
As for hunting boots, Claude Bissonnette suggests rubber because they give off less odour than leather boots. Since moose hunting is a bit more stationary, we can afford to make that choice; it’s also an excellent solution in terms of waterproofing.
Finally, for moose hunting, as for bear and turkey, it’s essential to stay visible to others. In Quebec, this means wearing an orange bib. In Ontario, you must also add an orange cap. Visibility clothing is not mandatory during the bow and crossbow hunting period, but it is always required during the firearm moose hunting period.
Moose hunting is by no means an “easy” hunt. It requires a good deal of patience, not to mention a “good” moose hunting area. Also, this is always worth pointing out: when planning your moose hunting days, always check beforehand that the area you’re considering is actually populated by these cervids. Not all areas are, whether in Ontario or Quebec!
Thanks to SAIL hunting specialist Claude Bissonnette, you now have all the best tips for a successful 2023 moose hunting season. We wish you the best of success!