Moose Hunting in Alaska: The Secrets to Success
... Learn how to bring home your moose from the expert hunter who wrote Becoming a Great Moose Hunter fifteen years ago. Much has changed over the years and there is more and more competition for the largest deer of North America. You will learn all the secrets to successfully hunting this member of the deer family that typically grows 60 or 70 inch antlers. Even 80 inch racks have been recorded. Learn how to outfit for your hunt, choose an area, locate moose, call them in within bow range, care for the meat and trophy, and travel safely in the Alaskan wilderness. Rich Hackenberg shares his secrets to success he has learned over four decades of hunting. Get and edge over the competition by learning from Rich’s extensive experience. -280 pages, 105 photos & illustrations,
PART I – HUNTING STORIES
1 When the Bull Moose Charged Us 11
2 Making Dreams Come True 27
3 The Family Affair 47
4 Hunting Wild Rivers 63
5 When Hunting Becomes Ugly 77
6 Hearing the Difference 93
7 Bull Moose, Broke-Down Boats,
and Black Bears 105
PART II – SECRETS REVEALED
8 Choosing Where to Hunt 119
9 Moose Hunting Gear 129
10 Conditioning 173
11 Choosing a Partner 199
12 Calling Moose 225
13 Selecting the Proper Weapon 237
14 Getting into Moose Country 243
15 Hunting Methods 251
16 Butchering Moose 261
17 Trophy Care 265
Book Order Forms 278
Chapter 12 - CALLING MOOSE
I have had many enjoyable moments moose hunting. Having a bull come to your call gives you a great feeling. Many hunters can improve their moose hunting success by learning the skills of calling moose.
Calling moose is rather easy. First we must understand that moose rely on their hearing. Bulls utilize their antlers as parabolic dishes to gather minute sound vibrations from great distances. They position their ears toward their sound-gathering antlers for a much greater ability to hear distant calling cows during the rut. If a call is done right, a bull will come from miles away. The tone of the call is very important. Moose produce deep sounds from their larynx located close to two and a half feet down in their long, massive throats. Humans can simulate this tone by grasping their nostrils closed, which adds a deeper, more moose-like quality to their calls.
A good area to call from will have spruce and birch trees, and alders or willows. High country plateaus are also very good calling areas. Bulls can be found along many rivers. Many hunters use boats, rafts, canoes, and off-road vehicles along rivers. This is a very good way to hunt.
Calling in any area may or may not give positive results. It all depends on the surrounding circumstances–like temperature, time of day, population of moose in the area, whether the rut has commenced, and a variety of other things. If one calling technique doesn’t work, you may want to try others.
A moose calling horn or a megaphone can be easily made, or better yet, purchased. I bought a fiberglass model available from Alaska Remote Guide Service, P.O. Box 874867, Wasilla, AK 99687. Ph (907) 376-9568. Their web address is www.alaskaremote.com. Check out "Love, Thunder & Bull" versions 1 and 2, also available from A.R.G.S. Many hunters can imitate a moose by calling with only the use of their cupped hands at their mouth. This is good when the moose are close, but when they are distant, a calling horn is a must. A calling horn will give the sounds you put out that tubular, nasal tone and it will amplify the sounds and carry them longer distances.
Patience is important when calling. Try to spend at least two hours at each calling location. Hunters have called from an area and then became impatient and left. On their way out they would see a bull approaching the calling area from a distance. Others have called from a location, then left. Their partners revisited this calling location the next morning and bagged a tremendous bull... standing exactly where the caller was the evening before. Remember, bulls can come from a couple of miles away to a call, and they don’t run. It is key to be patient and return to calling sites..
The sound should come from deep inside you and have a nasal quality to it. The bull grunt is simple to imitate. Say the word "what." You can pinch your nostrils which adds a nasal quality to the tone. Say, what! Pop the sound from your mouth with exclamation. Now drop the "t." Now you’ve got it. Whuuh! Whuuh! Whuuh! Now that you have a basic idea of the sound that a bull makes, there are a few more important things to know about the bull.
The imitated calls should be well performed and in a proper sequence. You should begin with a faint call. Then after waiting about 15 to 20 minutes, the next call should be louder.
Bulls make a variety of sounds. When a bull answers a call from a distance his grunting may sound drawn out. They growl, too. It sounds like a tiger or lion. And loud. Very loud. You’ll swear it’s a Sasquatch.
The grunting the bull does when he’s closing in on the location the call was made from is like this–wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh.
The bull has another variation to his call when he’s searching for a cow. This is a long, deep, nasal whining moan ending with a definitive–uuh! Illustrated by a word like this–whaaaaaaaaauuuuuhhh!
I have heard two bulls in high, thick brush grunting to each other in a very high pitched tone. The grunts are better described as little whines or squeaks. They were very faint. The bulls were very close to one another and I was close to them. I thought it sounded like one of them was whining because he was hurt.
Bulls make other sounds that can be heard when you are very close to them. A bull will make a popping sound by flopping his tongue. Another sound is a hiccup or gulping sound, I call glunking. These sounds are often heard during the rut.
Moose hunters often find a bull’s wallow. The bull scrapes with his feet and then urinates in the depression. This is done so he can rub his antlers in the mud created by the urine. This will carry the odor at a height several feet off the ground so cows can smell it more easily. A bull will mark his area with these wallows. He will make regular patrols of these wallows. I would advise being very patient when calling wallow areas because it may take the bull a couple of days to return to this area of his domain.
Many hunters find moose droppings in an area and feel they should see many moose. One thing I must point out about droppings. The small nugget-shaped droppings are from the winter months when the diet of moose is branches and hard twigs. Droppings made during the summer and fall months look much like that of cattle droppings. This is because the moose eat the leaves of various trees.
Bulls begin to scrape their antlers on trees and brush when they begin to feel their oats at the start of the rut. Finding such a scrape is a good sign of bulls in an area. Calling may get you good results around this area. Using accessory noises with calling will give you maximum results. Cracking sticks and then delivering a call may work fine. Scraping a moose antler or shoulder blade against trees and brush along with calling will work wonders calling in a bull. I don’t like carrying antlers in the field, so I use my calling horn and I rake the large opening up and down a tree or small bush. This is a good accessory call.
Bulls will often strike their antlers against a tree, making a ponk sound. This can be imitated by striking a tree with a fair-sized stick. Smack the tree three times, then grunt three times, waiting ten seconds between grunts.
Imitating the cow call is different from the bull call. I have an easy way I’ve trained hunters to imitate this call. We’ve all seen those war movies from WWI and WWII.
The fighter planes would fly in and swoop low before machine gunning and dropping bombs. Imagine that "airplane sound" in your mind’s ear–aaaiiieeerrr!–the dive-bombing, airplane sound. Now pinch your nostrils and imitate the word "ear." The "airplane" or "ear" sound is moaned and drawn out, usually four to five seconds. Once you’ve got this call down you can add a bit of flavor to it. I waiver the volume up and then down as I’m making the drawn out calls. I perform three calls the same length, with the fourth being shorter.
Cows usually move about when they call. Moving about 10 yards each time and breaking sticks will give the most productive calling sequence. If you get an answer from a distance, it is wise to withdraw from the calling site 50 to 100 yards. Once you withdraw, be silent. The bull will come to the calling site. A site with good visibility should be chosen. If the bull circles the calling site, he might just walk right by you. The main reason for withdrawing is the bull may only come in so far and try to pick up the calling cow’s scent. He may smell you instead and hightail it. Once the bull hears a call he has the location pinpointed. Withdrawing will convince him the cow has moved and he will come to the call site in search of the cow scent that leads to her.
Circumstances usually dictate which call should be used in an area. You may spot a couple bulls walking away from you, grab your horn and give out a couple loud grunts. The bulls keep right on going, so you figure what the heck and you do a cow call. All of a sudden one of the bulls turns and heads your way. You just never know what call or noise will attract a moose.
A call that works on whitetail deer that will also be effective on bull moose is rattling two antlers together. If this call is done at the right phase of the rut it will produce exciting results. Be ready because a bull can be in the calling area in a heartbeat. The bull will be going through changes at the beginning of the rut, where he gives up his solitary lifestyle and becomes a bit wild about jousting with other bulls. I would do this type of call in an open area. You will want to see the approaching bull in plenty of time in order to get a good shot.
Knowing how bulls react during the rut is important in knowing what call will be more productive. It will take a lot of guess work out of the decision of which call to use. The rut begins at a different time from area to area and from year to year. In most areas it works like this. The first week of September the bull who has been sticking to dense brush
and heavy timber during the day and only moving at night to browse, begins to stay out a bit during the day. The bull will begin rubbing his antlers to scrape the velvet covering from them. The bull may answer a bull call. It will depend on how far along the rut has progressed.
The second week the bull will be moving around more looking for other bulls. When bulls find one another they will have jousting bouts. They may push and shove for a while, then back off and just browse for a while, then go right back to jousting. Some bulls may already have cows for companions, but I think the bull call still works best at this early phase.
The third week of September the bulls’ movements are even greater. The bulls may even start calling for cows. Other bulls may respond and more intense jousting bouts occur. Bulls may have a group of cows and may be hard to lure away. The cow or bull call may be effective. The bull may just want to run off the other bull if it is close by. If the cow sounds enticing, the bull may be lured away to investigate the calling cow.
The fourth week of the season the larger, more mature bulls are usually in the company of a couple or more cows. These bulls are hard to call, but the younger bulls are still moving about looking for cows to breed with. These bulls will bulldoze through almost anything to get to a cow in heat. This is the point where they become more careless. They probably won’t circle you trying to pick up scent.
These bulls are also more dangerous to deal with. If they think you’re a bull, they charge in for a serious fight. I have had some success calling the mature bulls away from their cows by calling like this. I will use a cow call the first few calls. If I don’t get a response, I try the bull call, and I have had large bulls come to this call. I believe these bulls became jealous about what they believed to be the other bull coming to the calling cow.
As I said, mature bulls will be with cows. Other bulls will still be wandering almost aimlessly in search of a sweetheart cow. Late-season cow calls may not produce an answer from a bull. I have heard cows moaning, which tells me she’s in a harem with a tending herd bull. Hearing this cow moaning has now given me their location. Now I can stalk them. A bull grunt, scrape, or ponk can cause a bull with cows to answer with rapid grunting, scraping, or branch breaking. But know this, he probably will not leave his girlfriends to come to your calls. He won’t come to these calls unless you’re close by when you called. If he believes the calling bull is encroaching on his harem he may leave them momentarily for a short distance to battle the challenging bull. He will definitely do this if he’s a bruiser. If this bull has doubts that he is the biggest, dominant bull, he may herd his cows away from the calling, challenging competitor to keep those sweetheart cows he’s in possession of. He wants to retain control of these cows and not get his butt kicked in a joust with a larger bull.
The cows will differ in the late rut. The moan sounds as though the cow is crying–the reverberations going up and down. To imitate this crying moan of the cow in intense heat place your hands together as though you are going to pray. Put your hands to your mouth and your nose between your thumbs. Pinch off your nostrils and do a long drawn out moan. While moaning the call, vibrate the hands.
Moose can be noisy during the incoming approach or they can be as silent as mice. You may not hear a bull answer you, but you may hear his body scrape against the brush as he’s coming in. When you hear the bull, return a call like one of his long grunts–it will send your pulse racing with excitement.
As with calling any game animal you will have to know what the animal sounds like and have faith that calling works. Remember that there aren’t as many moose in a given area as one might think. Just keep the faith in your calling and be patient. When that big bull answers you, it will all be worth the effort.
As I said earlier, it is hard to know exactly how the calls are supposed to sound and what their exact tone is. The best thing to do is get a videotape on calling moose. Play the tape over and over to familiarize yourself with the deep tones and the exact procedure and sequence in which the calls should be made. The key to learning is repetition–practice, practice, practice. Your calling can be that of a champion.
I really learned a lot about moose hunting when I learned to call moose. I just hope it does the same for you. Whether you want to shoot a trophy bull or if you’re looking for a young bull for his tender meat, calling moose will enhance your chances and heighten your hunting skills.
Moose Hunting In Alaska is packed with vivid moose hunting accounts and sound hunting advice. Rich Hackenberg reveals the detailed secrets to his proven, consistent moose hunting success!"
–Marc Taylor, Author of Hunting Hard...In Alaska!
"Rich Hackenberg goes into great detail about the best techniques for finding, calling, and stalking moose. Rich also manages to capture, and relate thru his stories, some of the reasons we hunt and pursue game in the great Alaskan outdoors. Moose Hunting in Alaska is must read for every moose hunter, from expert to novice."
–Carl E. Brent, Alaska Registered Guide
If you think Alaska moose hunting is easy, you’ve never tried it! But Rick Hackenberg’s new book, both well written and filled with useful information, will definitely up your odds for success. It should be part of every serious Alaska hunter’s library."
–Bob Robb, Author
..... asked if I could recommend some good books about hunting in Alaska and about living here. Several of the books which came to mind have a little about both, so I started mentioning some authors and titles...... a couple of these books I have reviewed in previous columns and Casey Ressler, the Frontiersman Valley Life editor, has reviewed a couple others.
I started out by mentioning Tony Russ, his books, and his publishing company located in Wasilla. The first Tony Russ book I read, The Manual for Successful Hunters, is the best pure Alaska hunting how-to book I have ever seen. He provides tips and suggestions based on his own hunting experiences and writes in a very easy-to-read style. I mentioned his Sheep Hunting in Alaska (get the second edition), and his Bear Hunting in Alaska books also. I have read the sheep hunting books (both editions) and have the bear hunting book as the next one on my books-to-be-read pile. I also mentioned Rich Hackenberg's book Moose Hunting in Alaska, also published by Russ.
Howard Delo - January 1, 2006 - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman - Outdoors in Alaska
Being able to call bulls can improve your chance of begging a trophy this moose season, author Rich Hackenberg says.
Moose hunting isn't just a means to put food on the table for Wasilla's Rich Hackenberg, it's a passion — and he's sharing the tips he's learned through the years in a new book, "Moose Hunting in Alaska."
Hackenberg came to Alaska in 1979, and even then, he was hooked on hunting.
"I was on the ferry glassing the shore-lines looking for moose. I was pretty naive, but even then it was a passion of mine," Hackenberg said.
In his 25 years since, Hackenberg has become an expert on moose hunting, mostly through hard work and studying. He pours over maps, harvest reports and scientific studies, among other items, all to increase his chances while in the field.
"I'm a student of constant learning," Hackenberg said. "I know a lot, but you never know everything. You have to learn from your mistakes, learn from other people's stories." If there's one thing Hackenberg would point to as increasing a hunter's chances the most, it's the art of calling.
"Being able to call a moose in improves your chances a thousand percent," Hackenberg said. "I can teach someone two basic calls in 30 seconds each, and it will increase their success dramatically."
Perhaps the most important weapons a hunter can possess are his ears, Hackenberg said.
"You always have to ask yourself, 'What am I hearing?'" Hackenberg said. "You have to use your ears and hear everything that is going on around you. You can pick up a lot of things just by listening.
Hackenberg started calling turkeys in his native Pennsylvania, and after moving to Alaska, he tried to find out as much as he could about calling moose.
"There were no materials on it at the time," he said. "I talked to a couple of people here and there, but that was it."
While calling is the best way to improve your chances of bagging a monster bull, there are other little ways to make your chances better. Simple mistakes a lot of hunters make can be easily avoided.
"The main thing is you have to be quiet," Hackenberg said. "Even low talking is sometimes too much. That includes clothing – you want to be as quiet as possible the whole time."
Having patience is another key, and the third item on the short list of mistakes is not being scent-free.
"I like to sit around a campfire as much as anybody, but I have campfire clothes and I have hunting clothes," Hackenberg said. "Wood smoke on your clothing only hurts your chances. I take unscented wipes to clean up with, and they make a lot of products you can spray on your clothes to block your scent. It's important."
Throughout his book, Hackenberg shares those and other tips he has picked up through the years. "Moose Hunting in Alaska" is his second book on the subject. In 1988, he wrote "Becoming; a Great Moose Hunter”.
"Tony Russ called me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing, a revised version of the first book, but so much had changed and I've learned a lot so we talked about doing an entire new book," Hackenberg said. "I bet I did the whole manuscript in about four or five weeks."
The book is divided into two sections — the first is hunting stories, and the second is more of a how-to book that provides tips and tricks for hunters, from conditioning drills before the trip to how to butcher a moose.
"It's a whole bunch of simple things that really improve your chances," Hackenberg said.
By CASEY RESSLER, Valley Life editor