Snow Tracking Moose: How To Kill a Bull After the Rut

After 10 days in a British Columbia moose camp you begin to appreciate the Canadian sense of humor. Me to the outfitter: "What's the plan for tomorrow morning?"
Outfitter: "Shoot a moose." Me to the camp cook: "What's for dinner tonight?"
Cook: "Something hot" Me to my guide (pictured here carefully examining maps of our hunting area): "What are we going to do today?"
Guide: "Shoot a moose." When the hunt is post-rut and the moose aren't punch-drunk with lust, you also begin to appreciate the survival instincts of a big bull. Here's the story of my hunt in the mountains outside of Prince George, BC and the tactics and gear I needed to get a bull.
Moose get a bad rap for being easy to kill. They might be easy to kill during the rut when all you have to do is find fresh sign and then start calling like a moose version of Kim Kardashian. But once the rut ends, bulls become much less responsive to calling and their priorities become food and safety. They spend the middle of the day in thick timber (like the woods pictured here) and only moving at dusk and dawn. To kill one, your best option is a combination of snow tracking and spot and stalk hunting.
Besides being able to tell that you're following a bull's track, you also need to know how far ahead of you he is. Obviously fresh, warm scat is a good sign. Warm pee is good too (on a side note, a bull's pee goes straight down so there will be one hole in the snow, cows will have a line of pee in the snow). When it comes to tracks, unmelted water at the bottom is a good sign. Snow in the bottom of the track from wind or a snowstorm is a bad sign. A good tip for beginners is too look at your own tracks in the snow. If the moose tracks look similar to yours in freshness, that's good.
The general game plan was to glass old logging cuts for feeding bulls at first light or just before sunset and then stalk close enough for a shot. If that didn't work, we would try to cut fresh tracks and walk down a bull. For direction, we got maps like this from the outfitter. It's a rough sketch sure, but it's actually incredibly accurate. The outfitter drew a bull on the map and I ended up spotting mine about 300 yards from his mark.
But the climbing afforded us some spectacular views. When most people think moose hunting, they think low-country swamps and river bottoms. But we found moose at the tops of these low mountains up at 4,000 to 5,000 feet.
Moose aren't difficult to spot until they're a mile away from you. Clear, light optics were a must. I was armed with a the Weaver Super Slam 8.5x45. One factor I've always underestimated when it comes to glass is durability. That was until this hunt. On this trip we were beating through alders, climbing over blowdowns, hunting in mud, snow and rain, so dainty glass simply would not have survived.
So we amended the old rule of thumb. We would shoot a moose anywhere that was less than one mile away from a spot where we thought we could get a quad if we had to. Once a bull went down, it was time to get out the shovels and chainsaws.
This is guide Dale Orlinus, one of the best timber hunters in the area. Dale walks down moose, following them for miles until he gets up close to them and then doesn't shoot them. He tracks and stalks them for fun. Besides having a stealthy walk, an excellent eye for game, years of bush experience, and deep understanding of animal behavior, Dale was better at stalking moose than I was because of his clothes. He wears wool for an outer layer. You'll get wet wearing wool, but it will keep you warm and most importantly, quiet. Think that new "super quiet" rain gear of yours won't scare game? Put your suit on and then take an alder willow and whip it against your leg. If you can hear the thwap, so can a moose.
While moose have an incredible sense of smell, hearing and can run 35 mph, they don't have very good eyesight. This cow was only about 30 yards away and she never saw me, even though I was only sitting behind one thin pine tree.
I began to see just how smart moose are after hunting them hard for five days, and seeing just one shooter bull through a spotting scope from a mile away. We tried tracking in the timber. We hiked and glassed, drove and glassed. We tried calling. We tried sitting and waiting. But we saw no bulls. We put elk hunting numbers on our boots, and trekked about 20 kilometers on day three. I knew we were hunting hard when my guide Colin Niemeyer (who made his career guiding sheep in the BC mountains) wanted to take a 10-minute siesta after lunch on the fourth day. I didn't complain.
Then early on the sixth day, Colin spotted a big bull on a ridge across from us. The bull was working his way across the top of a logging cut at the edge of the timber a little less than a mile away. Hoping to catch him before he headed into the timber we dropped all our gear, minus a rifle and range finder, and booked it down our ridge and up the other one. But we were too late. By the time we got up there the only trace of him was his tracks.
I climbed on top of a stump and Colin gave a cow call. We waited about 10 minutes hoping the bull would come out but he didn't. "Now the fun starts," he said and we quietly slipped into the timber.
After about 45 minutes we crested the ridge and the timber gave way to another old logging cut. Colin got out to the cut first, glimpsed to his left and put up his hands as if he were holding an imaginary gun. We were on the bull. I moved as quickly and quietly as I could and turned the corner to see a beautiful bull moose standing broadside, 20 yards away. At 20 yards a bull moose with his towering rack looks about the size of a stegosaurus and even at two power he filled my scope. The bull had heard Colin's cow calls and was puffed up on display, his rack rocking slowly back and forth. But there was a clump of alders infront of his vitals and I hesitated on the shot.
About the Gun
Make/Model: Kimber Model 8400 Magnum
Series: Montana
Caliber: 300 Win. Mag The Montana was the perfect kind of gun this sort of a hunt. It's stainless steel barreled action and Kevlar-carbon fiber stock stood up to the punishment I put it through (at one point I had it bungee corded to the back of a quad while I was ripping through alder willows).
About the Bullet
I shot Federal's Trophy Bonded Tip at 180 grains. The bullet has been out since 2008 and is the successor of the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. The bullet's jacket is bonded to it's core for high weight retention and has a solid copper core to prevent over expansion. This is a fancy way of saying that if you shoot a moose in the shoulder at 20 yards, your bullet won't fracture to pieces when it hits bone. As you can see from this upset we took out of my moose, they actually do work.

When the rut is over, tracking an old bull through the timber is your best option.