I've known Gene for several years after he came up on a spring black bear hunt with me. He really wanted a moose, and he really wanted a good one. He'd been on 4 other moose hunts with other outfitters but without so much as seeing a bull. Those experiences had left him soured and skeptical, so it took some doing to convince him to come hunt with me and give me a try to call call one in for him.
The first day we heard a bull in the distance, but then wolves moved in and started howling and he shut right up. While I always get pumped hearing a bull grunt, Gene’s skepticism was in overdrive after so many disappointments, so he didn’t appear that excited. I told him to trust me, give me time, the rut was on and it would eventually happen.
On the morning of the second day of hunting, we climbed up on a ridge overlooking some young pines closer to where we’d heard the bull the day before and I started cow calling. Within just a few minutes a bull started grunting back at me. We called back and forth to eachother, and after about 30 minutes he finally step out into the little pines only 150 yards away. When he first emerged all we could see was his head and antlers, and he just stood there in all his magnificence looking in our direction trying to find the lovesick cow I'd been mimicking. He was gorgeous, tall paddles, lots of points, and I could see drop tines. I was already very excited just talking to the bull, but Gene was skeptical right up until he stepped out and then bull fever took hold of him. Gene had to put his gun down at one point to steady his breathing and nerves. He told me afterwards he’d been disappointed so many times now that the moment was finally arrived he was super nervous, and suddenly afraid to mess it up. We held deathly still, pinned down and exposed on the ridge and I didn't dare make a call in case he made us and turned tail. Moose are curious creatures, and I’d played this game before, I wasn’t going to call with him looking directly at me.
The bull stopped grunting and just stood looking in our direction for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 5 minutes, when off towards Johnson Lake we could hear a second bull start grunting urUGH, urUGH, urUGH! Our moose turned his head to look in the direction of the second bull, and I used his distraction to make a couple more cow calls. Eeeerrrrrrrugh, eeeerrrrrrrrrugh.
The moose immediately swung back to look in our direction, but the distant bull, hearing my calls started grunting more aggressively and was clearly on his way. After a few seconds our bull would look back to where the other bull was grunting closer and closer, and I’d cow call again. Each time the bull would look in my direction I would sit quietly, the other bull would grunt and he’d look in the direction of the grunt and I’d call again. Back and forth this went several times until finally he’d had enough. With competition on its way the bull decided he was going to round me up before the other bull came in to make a claim. He came lumbering towards us, and stepped into an opening giving Gene a perfect shot at about 100 yards. Gene didn’t miss, the bull ran back to the timber where he went down with a crash.
The second bull kept grunting despite the shot, and was still coming towards us, albeit still 400 yards off. We decided we didn't want to know how big the second bull was that was prepared to fight this one, no shooters remorse for us. We started talking normally, and after another 10 minutes of listening to him grunt, he finally figured it out and we never heard him again.
I made good on my promise to Gene, and called in a real beauty. It measured 49", with two drop tines on either brow, tall paddles, lots of points, it was a trophy of a lifetime. Nothing gets the blood pumping like hearing a couple bulls grunting, urUGH, urUGH, urUGH! And a little competition certainly helps!