Over 20 years of guiding for moose I've called in hundreds of bulls. I really like mimicking what a moose sounds like, and I'm really good at it. And over many years, it's almost instinctual to respond to a moose. You know what's harder than moaning like a cow moose though? Not calling at all. And that was the secret no call moose call that called in Stan's bull for him.
I'd already helped a few hunters tag moose earlier in the week, and when we did our nightly radio check-in with the other camps I knew Stan wasn't having much luck hunting out of Kennedy Cabin. Now I really like moose hunting from Kennedy, so when I'd run out of hunter at the lodge at Crystal I was eager to join Stan and his guide Nathan to offer a morale boost and help call in a bull for Stan.
We left Kennedy Lake in the dark and hiked into Boomerang Lake about 30 minutes away. We hit the lake at first light, and jumping in the boat we slowly boated the lakeshore to the south end. We didn't see any moose on the lake so I decided we'd hike another 30 minutes down into an unnamed meadow to the south.
When we got to the meadow I gave a cow call and listened for a response. Several hundred yards away to the south I thought I heard a grunt. I called again, the bull called back. Stan was pretty stoked. I didn't like our position on the edge of the meadow where the bull would almost certainly come up behind us in the thick timber, so we moved further west placing the meadow fully between us and the bull. He'd have to cross the meadow to get to us.
Bull moose rarely just run right up to you. They kinda like to saunter in all cool like, so sometimes it can take a long time to call one into range. This bull was no exception. We had a pretty good system down, I'd call, he'd grunt, and then we'd wait a couple minutes. I'd call again, he'd grunt again a little closer and we'd wait again. As the moose got closer and closer, out excitement level increased to match it. Finally, the bull was in the timber just on the edge of the meadow, no more than 100 yards away. We couldn't see him, but we could sure hear him. I cow called, he grunted. Another call, another grunt. And again, but the bull would come no closer. He just stood there in the timber just out of sight grunting at me.
It seemed to take forever, and then finally the bull had had enough and let out a whomping alarm call and took off the way he'd come. I'm not sure what spooked him, but he was leaving and fast. As he ran off he continued to grunt, but they were angry grunts now, full of impatience and irritation. The bull seemed destined to run off never to be seen again, but since I could still hear him, I kept calling. Listening to the bull move off to what seemed like a mile away, he suddenly turned and started coming back, just as irritated and just as fast as he'd left. When he got closer he slowed down and went back to his regular grunts. He came right back up to the exact same place he'd hung up in before and stood there just out of sight in the timber.
It was then that I decided the best call to make at that exact moment was no call at all. Now, this whole calling sequence had probably taken two hours. I'd probably made a half a hundred calls in that time. That bull moose knew exactly where I was, I didn't need to call anymore to let him know I was there. And I was certain that bull wanted me to cross the meadow first. So I did what seemed like the best call possible, no call.
The bull grunted and waited for me to respond. We sat for five minutes and I almost had to hold my lips shut to keep from calling. It was agonizing! Every moose bone in my body was screaming for me to call back. But the hunter in me kept quiet. The bull grunted again, another five minutes of silence. He grunted a third time, and after a couple minutes I finally saw him move. His curiosity had finally gotten the better of him, where had that cow gone? It was probably only two or three steps, but it was just enough I could see his head and chest in the shadows on the edge of the timber. And what a beauty!
Now Stan up to this point had been going through all sorts of mood swings. The bull comes in, he's excited, the bull leaves, he's bummed. The bull comes back, he's even more excited, his guide stops calling, and he's confused. And then suddenly he can see head and horns, and he levels his .338 Lapua, puts his cross hairs on the chest and pulls the trigger. Like a bolt of lightning he slams another shell in and shoots a second round as the bull whirls to leave. And then the moose is gone. We celebrate with a whoop! We cross the meadow to where the moose disappeared, but he's still up. Stan puts another shot in him, and finally the bull goes down. Another whoop and then there's that 5 second window where even the manliest of men will hug another man, and then we stand in awe of the bull's magnificence.
51" wide, this bull is a trophy of a lifetime. It takes us the rest of the day for the three of us to pack it back to Kennedy.
Now I've called in hundreds of bulls, but Stan's bull was the first bull I'd ever called in by not calling. It's a tactic I've employed several times since, sometimes successful, sometimes not, but always a lot of fun.