‘I Felt Like I’d Been Body-Slammed by an NFL Linebacker.’ Idaho Turkey Hunter Shoots Charging Moose in Self-Defense

"The moose was literally standing right over the hunter when he fired his third shot"
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A cow moose with a calf.
Wildlife officials say the hunter surprised the cow moose with calves, which initiated the attack. Photo by Keith / Adobe Stock

Jim Dietz was turkey hunting on May 24 in the tangled brambles and thickets of the Snake River bottoms near the town of Blackfoot, Idaho, on BLM land. A resident of nearby Rexburg, he’d taken the day off from his construction job to try for a Merriam’s — the final subspecies that would complete his Grand Slam.

“It was late afternoon, and I was out enjoying the woods, walking, looking and scouting for turkeys,” Dietz tells Outdoor Life. “There were only a few days left in the Idaho season. I was moving through some brush near a creek I didn’t know was there when I heard a loud roar, like a bear. … There are bears in the Snake River bottoms, and that roar got my attention. That’s when I saw a cow moose stand up in front of me. She just rose out of the brush …. I’d unknowingly cornered her and her two calves against the creek. I startled her, and she charged.”

The moose was close, and immediately rushed Dietz. He knew it was a real-deal charge, and quickly fired two shots in front of the attacking cow trying to scare her away as she closed the distance.

“My first shot in front of her at the ground was about 18 yards, and she didn’t flinch,” says the 36-year-old hunter, who was carrying a 12-gauge loaded with three No. 6 turkey loads. “My second shot to the ground in front of her was about 10 yards away from me. But it had no effect. When I fired my last round, she was tackling me. She was right on top of me. My gun barrel was only six inches from the top of her head when I fired that last load at her skull.”

The third shot halted the moose charge. The cow turned and trotted back to her two calves, disappearing in the dense brush. Dietz was banged up, scraped and bruised. He was hurt, but miraculously had no broken bones or serious injuries requiring medical attention.

“I felt like I’d been body slammed by an NFL linebacker,” said Dietz, who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 263 pounds. “A week after the attack and I’m still hurting.”

Idaho turkey hunter Jim Dietz was charged by a moose.
Dietz (right) with his dad on an Eastern turkey hunt.

Photo courtesy ofJim Dietz

The moose ran away from the area and Dietz saw her at a distance, bedded in brush. She was bleeding from her head, but he says his last shot didn’t appear to be fatal. As he was leaving the area he spotted the cow standing in cover with her two calves nursing, about 400 yards away from where the attack occurred.

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After leaving the area, Dietz reported the incident to the Idaho Fish and Game, which later issued a statement on the incident. IDFG spokesperson Jennifer Jackson told Outdoor Life on Wednesday that the cow’s condition is unknown, and that wildlife officers have not tried searching for the family of moose. She adds that it’s a good sign the cow was still able to nurse its calves.

“It’s a tricky proposition with moose in spring,” Jackson explains. “We want to keep our distance because she has calves and we don’t want to stress her, and perhaps orphan her young.”

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Jackson says encounters between moose and people happen every spring in Idaho, and most of these incidents involve cows with newborn calves. The same can be said for moose in other states, and a recent incident when a cow with two calves killed a photographer in Alaska is a reminder of how aggressive these critters can be. With these dangers in mind, Jackson recommends that people carry bear spray and know how to use it when spending time outdoors.

“Wild animals don’t need to have sharp teeth and claws to be formidable animals that can be dangerous,” Jackson says. “Moose are a joy to observe, but they are not cute and cuddly. They are wild, and in spring are more defensive and [they] present a different level of danger that people should know about.”

Dietz’s turkey hunting season was over after the moose attack, as he mended his body and reflected on his close call with the cow.

“Thinking about it all now, if I’d shot directly at her with my first round at 18 yards, that might have made her turn away sooner,” he says. “It might have saved both of us some pain.”

This story was updated on May 31, 2024 to include comment from Jim Dietz.