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By Brad Fenson
We walked a mile into the forest to call near a moose wallow located a day earlier. The musky smell of moose on the ground generated excitement. Using a fiberglass horn, a couple of long, love-sick cow moose bellows resonated through the tall aspens. Seconds later, we heard the unmistakable clunk of a bull moose raking his antlers on a tree. Later, a second bull called from farther down the line, but darkness began to cloak the forest, forcing us to sneak out quietly with plans to return in the morning.
Hunting northern Alberta, we had arrived in camp and wasted no time sighting in the rifles. The goal was to get dialed in and head out for the evening hunt. It was prime calling season, during the peak of the moose rut. I was shooting a Mossberg Patriot in 300 Win Mag topped with a new Bushnell Prime variable scope with an illuminated reticle.
My favorite essentials for the hunt were two boxes of Federal ammunition. However, they were not cartridges one would just purchase off the shelf. It took eight years to obtain the moose tag, and I was leaving nothing to chance. The Federal Custom Shop was contacted to handload 190-grain Nosler AccuBond Long Range bullets into perfectly prepared cartridges with measured results. Mesmerized by the box, I tried to decipher the signature of the person who created the moose tamers. I locked the ballistic range data into my gray matter in case I needed it. Long shots are always a possibility and a bullet that would perform at any distance is desired.
A series of cow calls permeated the calm, morning air. My ears were on high alert for a response, but it was my eyes that caught the bull cutting across the line at 330 yards. The bull we heard the night before had a cow in tow and stopped briefly to look in our direction but didn’t hang around for a formal introduction. We called and tried to coax the bull back, but he vanished into the abyss of the big forest. We hunted hard for the rest of the day and never saw another moose.
Moose hunting can be minutes, hours, and days of extreme boredom and frustration, with the anticipation of seconds of excitement. Many moose hunts have been endurance tests to see if I could stay focused and manage the pain of sitting in a spot for hours on end calling moose.
An entire week went by, leaving me feeling exhausted. Long days in the field and short nights were starting to catch up. The temperature had dropped drastically, and the wind continued to blow. We drove to where we had seen a bull cross in the dark the night before. A slow walk up a trail overgrown with alder showed lots of moose sign.
A moose trapline was set by calling at a spot for half an hour then moving another mile into the forest to call again. Over several hours we worked our way into an area littered with moose beds, rubs, wallows, and new signs. To work the trapline, we started back in the late morning and called at the spots we had earlier. We hoped to have brought a moose in from the original call and have it close by when we called again.
We made it back to the original calling location of the day and bellowed like a cow moose. Within seconds I could hear an animal walking, then the faint grunt of a bull. Seconds later, a deep guttural groan left no doubt the bull was coming like a freight train. Antlers clattered against the alder limbs providing sound to track the bull’s advance. In less than a minute, the bull was right on top of us, forcing me to scurry around a thick tangle of brush to get a visual. At a mere 25 yards, the bull stood with his head down, swaying his antlers back and forth. Finding a small shooting window through the tangle of alders, I quickly found the bull’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
After seven days of hunting moose, it finally came to an end. The days of boredom and frustration were replaced by minutes of excitement and exhilaration. The Custom Shop AccuBond load proved its value in moose meat by performing flawlessly at extremely close range.