Rhythms abound in nature. Each day of winter I am acutely aware of the brief window of light; timing my daily ski to coincide to the brightest part of the day.
Gardeners are tuned into the timing of the growing season. The last day of summer in 2021 found me furiously digging potatoes for seven hours straight; a premature snowfall and cold snap threatened to freeze my Yukon Golds.
Animals have innate rhythms which determine survival. A condor’s wingbeat allows it to float for hours on thermals. Precise migration of Trumpeter Swans allows successful nesting. Bird songs intricately pattern communication and beauty. The night is pierced by the percussive hoot of an owl.
Moose also have rhythms. The timing of activity to sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and seasons are instinctive. The yearly occurrence of the rut brings a change to the bull moose, which can be leveraged for advantage by the hunter.
Bow-hunting requires maximum knowledge of all these rhythms to have a chance for success. The bow-hunter is within the range of all the moose senses; sight, hearing, and smell. These senses can be a hindrance or can be used to advantage. The timing of the rut changes the reaction of the bull moose to these threads of communication.
A bow-hunting permit allowed the taking of any bull moose. A distinct advantage; antler size was not a factor. I have always been more of a meat hunter than trophy hunter, so this fit my lifestyle. Planning to bow-hunt required much target practice at different shooting distances up to about 50 yards.
My son Hans showed quick interest. Although he was only 9 years old, he was exceptionally strong. Hans participated in target shooting, aided by the life-size cardboard moose target created by his mother. Preseason scouting revealed an attractive moose in the area.
Before long it was time for the hunt. I had yet to achieve success with the bow and arrow, but was always hopeful. I had missed a chance a previous season, embedding my arrow into a tree just in the right spot to shield the moose. A bit of bad luck.
I distinctly remember my first time out with Hans. We set up stand under a spruce tree. After a while he turned to me and innocently asked about how long it was before the moose usually showed up. I smiled to myself, thinking of our remote chance for success. I attempted a reply with some semblance of reality, but allowing the hopeful enthusiasm of youth.
Hans and I went out again with the same result. Each time out we were observant for moose sign. We had discovered a moose trail with much fresh sign; fresh tracks, browsing, and scat.
With one week to go in the season we were entering the timing of the rut. I brought along an old white moose scapula. When scraped on a tree it mimicked the sound of a bull moose scraping antlers during the rut. We went on stand along the edge of the meadow where we had discovered the moose trail. I scraped the scapula on brush and tree trunks. The sound carried well in the stillness of the evening. We were hidden behind small spruce trees right off the open meadow. A bull moose slowly emerged on the other side of the open meadow. He was slowly heading our way, apparently interested in the sound of scraping. My heart began pounding in excitement. When he was about 40 yards away, I could not wait any longer. At the twang of my bow the bull appeared to instinctively dip, the arrow sailing over his back. This spooked him and he headed the other direction. I had blown the opportunity. Hans immediately chastised me for not being patient enough. I had to conclude that he was correct. The moose could likely have been called in to closer range. My usual hunting experience was that I had one good chance; that may have been it.
It was now the last day of the season. Hans seemed to have lost a little enthusiasm, but I talked him into going along. As we headed out toward the meadow an owl loudly hooted; I remember thinking this was unusual with the sun still high in the sky.
We positioned ourselves along the moose trail as before. Hans was on my right about 15 yards away. Once again, we were each hidden behind a small spruce tree. It was a gorgeous evening. The last day of September and the last day for our hunt. I began to periodically scrape the moose scapula. The bull moose appeared once again. He seemed interested in the scraping, but not as eager as the previous week. He was in the middle of the meadow and would come no closer; he remembered last week’s lesson. He began walking down the meadow toward the setting sun. The hunt was slowly setting with the sun.
I was racking my brains for any idea that would change this inevitable outcome. Suddenly I thrust the moose scapula through the spruce branches into the rays of the setting sun. The scapula brightly reflected in the sunlight, masquerading as a moose antler. The bull moose stopped in his tracks, his whole head swiveled, intent on the glimmering scapula. He then transformed into a snorting, rutting bull moose. He began raking the small brush in the meadow with his antlers. With deliberate steps he headed in our direction. He would walk a straight line, turn 90 degrees and continue the approach; pausing to rake the brush in expectation of battle with an adversary. This repeated pattern slowly brought him to our side of the meadow, on the other side of Hans. The bull moose now was walking the treeline directly toward us; he would first pass by Hans. The bull moose closed the distance to 7 yards away- directly broadside to Hans. I was frozen in place, not daring to move. Through my peripheral vision I saw the bending of Hans’ bow and the release of the arrow. The bull moose exploded into motion, racing past me in a blur. Hans yelled, “I think I hit him!”.
I slowly walked along the edge of the meadow toward where the moose disappeared. The moose was standing still in the open meadow, but trembling. He was in perfect position, quartering away for a follow-up shot. I used the 40-yard sight pin and placed an arrow into the rear of his rib cage. He then fell over.
I was elated. What had seemed impossible minutes before, turned into success. As I gutted the animal the heart rolled out. Normally it takes some effort to sever the arteries holding the heart in place. Then it dawned on me; Hans’ arrow had severed the top of the heart which allowed it to roll free. We found Hans’ arrow; it was laying in the meadow covered in blood, having passed completely through the bull moose.
I kept saying over and over that I could not believe we actually got a moose. Hans quizzically looked at me, matter-of-factly stating that he knew we were going to get a moose. I asked what made him so sure we were going to get a moose? He said, “didn’t you hear it?, on the way in, I prayed for a moose, and the owl hooted”.