The coolest moose hunters I’ve ever guided have to be Pat and Ben Cool. Pun intended, we call them two Cool hunters. At the time of writing this they’ve hunted with me 7 times, and are booked again for this fall. We’ve had lots of great experiences together, but I’d like to share the most memorable one here.
Pat likes to sit or walk really slow hunting every step, and Ben, well let’s just say Ben likes to walk, lots. This can be a difficult arrangement when guiding, so I’ve got to keep changing it up for them to keep them happy. On this particular morning I’d decided we’d hike into Grunt Lake, the trail passes along some meadows which offer great hunting.
Now in this situation I figured if I called while walking, Ben would pause to listen in case I got a response, and this would allow time for Pat to catch up, except Pat likes to stop and listen for a response too, so the further along we got on the trail the further we spread out. Slowly we strung out along the trail, Ben out in front of me 30 yards, Pat falling behind me 30 yards, and I’m in the middle moose calling my little heart out.
And that’s when it happened. It was so sudden it took a second to realize what was happening. I didn’t hear the bull moose until he was less than 50 yards away and he came on fast and furious. “Urugh, urugh, urugh urugh urugh” he was grunting and running right to me, and in the half second it took me to turn to look there he was bearing down on me and another half second later the bull had stopped just 20 yards from me. It was magnificent, about a 45” bull with tall wide paddles. And the two of us were eyeball to eyeball. Now you may think this is a done deal, but remember, both my Cool hunters are 30 yards either side, and the bull has come at me from the timber side and it’s thick back there. At most Pat and Ben had only seen a glimpse of a black body and a flash of antler, but situated where they were 30 yards either side of me they couldn’t see the bull. I held still, trying to subtly motion Ben to move to my position so he could shoot the moose, but the bull was onto me, and after standing there for only 30 seconds, the Cools trying unsuccessfully to find a shooting lane, he turned and ran, angling away past Ben. Unfortunately Ben couldn’t get a shot with the bull moving so fast in the brush, but he did get a good look at him as he went past.
I tried calling to slow him down or bring him back, but that bull had got the better of me and took off. To that point I’d only been making normal cow moose calls, but I heated it up quick to desperate cow moose in heat warbling that’s done me well in the past. I hadn’t called for more than 30 seconds when from the other direction across the meadow a second bull starts grunting. I did a quick huddle with Pat and Ben, “Ben you stay here and watch in case I turn that first bull back, Pat you come with me into the meadow.” Now the meadow, well, let’s just say we use the term meadow very loosely. It was actually full of little swamp spruce, which is why we had to leave the trail to see the meadow better and find a shooting lane for this second bull. We set up in the spongy grass with a lane about 70 yards across and I lit back into my warbling cow call again. The bull was coming on slow and steady, grunting urUGH with every step. Step by step, grunt by grunt he came closer and closer until finally he stepped out into our lane. Pat had her rifle up, and I paused in my warble, “eeeerrrreeeerrrrrugh – shoot Pat – eeeerrreeeeerrrugh” the bull slipped through our lane and behind the small trees. I pointed out a second lane to pat about 50 yards away “he’s going to come through there” and Pat put her rifle up in this lane. I kept calling “eeeerrrreeeerrrrrugh” and the bull walked through this lane, “shoot Pat shoot!” I whispered, and then the bull was gone again. I rotated Pat to another lane only 30 yards away, the bull kept coming still grunting with each step. “eeeerrrreeeerrrrrugh – shoot Pat shoot for heavens sake!” It wasn’t much of a whisper, but as the bull walked through it and behind the trees again I thought the gig was up. But no, the bull kept coming. And then there were no trees between us and the bull, and it’s only 20 yards, and now I’m in full cow moose in heat glory -“eeeerrrreeeerrrreeeereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrugh – SHOOT PAT!” Still no shot! And that’s when I realized that the spongy mossy grass was proving somewhat of a challenge for Pat, her feet were twisted awkwardly under her as she’d rotated with the moose as it approached. The bull was still coming on, completely oblivious to the fact two humans were standing in the open under 20 yards away, now 15 yards, now 10 yards. I went into emergency moose callling action “URUGH!” I grunted as loud as I could to shake the bull from his love trance, and the bull finally stopped, just 7 yards (I paced it out afterwards) I repeat just 7 yards away!
“Shoot Pat!” I whispered again. The bull looked at me in confusion, then tilted its head to one side in a bizarre gesture of curiosity. Pat pulled one foot out of the moss and got it on solid footing. “Shoot Pat!” I whispered again, and the bull just stood there studying me. Pat pulled her second foot out and was squared to the bull. “SHOOT NOW PAT!” I’m officially hysterical at this point. And then finally, after the longest moment in moose calling history, only 7 yards from a bull, Pat’s gun went off. The bull, mortally wounded, lurched forward into the timber and ran right into Ben, still standing on the trail, who shot and finished the bull off at point blank range as it limped past him.
Now that’s a close encounter of the Cool kind!