Several miles up a meandering little river from our tent camp, we found a sandbar all torn up with freshly mingled cow and bull moose tracks.
“That’s hot sign,” Jim said. “They must be close.”
We hid the canoe and took stands in dark places about 200 yards apart. When all was quiet, I raised my birch-bark horn and started calling.
After just three sets of calls, I heard a bull moose answer. His coughing grunts came from upstream, beyond the spot where Jim was hidden. I called again with my horn turned away from the bull this time and loudly broke some branches, making sounds that suggested I was moving away.
I could hear the bull smashing through the spruces. A moment later the moose stepped out on the riverbank in full view. He waved his high, broad-palmed antlers like a canoeist waving paddles to attract attention. Then he started marching toward us.
We had agreed to wait for a standing or walking shot at no more than 50 yards, because we were both carrying blackpowder muzzleloaders and were determined to take only a decisive shot.
When the bull stopped to shake his antlers one more time at 40 yards, Jim made the kill.
That bull had a 48-inch spread, not very big as trophies go, but the rush of satisfaction that accompanied our success was worth more than could ever be measured in inches of antler.
Where to Go
Newfoundland is more saturated with moose than anyplace else in North America. Somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 animals fill every available square mile of river valley, forested lakeshore, and low-lying woodland in the province. The hunter-success rate is near 90 percent, and many mature Newfoundland bulls carry antlers measuring more than 50 inches wide.
There is also no complicated permit system to deal with in Newfoundland. Nonresident licenses are only available through professional outfitters, each with a quota to sell. Most outfitters control exclusive territories guaranteeing each hunting party freedom from competition with other hunters. There is a wide choice of either tent camps or remote cabins located in prime moose country, and boats or canoes are supplied.
** What It’s Like**
Newfoundland has mountains that swoop to the sea, clear rivers where trout and salmon thrive, thousands of isolated crystal lakes, and countless ponds and bogs connected by meandering peat-colored streams. All of it is moose country, and all of it is gorgeous.
Each morning you’ll take to the river by canoe to scout for fresh sign. In many cases you’ll spot fresh tracks on sandbars and begin calling. The moose are never far off. They’re drawn to the water to feed on aquatic plants. On a recent hunt like this, I counted 14 mature bulls in a single day’s excursion down the Serpentine River.
At one point, my guide and I spotted a pair of huge bulls in the early-morning sunshine at the edge of an isolated bog. We beached the canoe and called them using just our mouths and hands. Both bulls came at us together and didn’t stop until my guide grunted. Then the huge, black, 1,200-pound animals turned on each other and began clashing antlers only 50 yards away.
Choosing an Outfitter
Many Newfoundland outfitters offer moose hunting packages from remote tent camps and cabins that can be tailor-made to suit your preferences. Be sure to explain that you want to hunt during the rut in an area that offers excellent calling opportunities, where boats or canoes are used to hunt on exclusive lakes, ponds, bogs, or river “steadies.”
One outfitter I personally recommend is Where-Ya-Wannabee Lodge, 709-634-8735; www.trek.nfld.net. A six-day hunt costs about $3,500.
For a complete list of Newfoundland moose outfitters contact Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, 709-729-2830; www.gov.nf.ca/tourism.
** FIELD GUIDE: MOOSE** * Moose have been known to dive 20 feet deep to dine on aquatic plants. * During summer, moose can eat about 10 percent of their body weight in food each day, which means a 1,000-pound moose can pack away 100 pounds of vegetation daily. * Given their enormous size, it is perhaps not surprising that moose have been known to both attack and attempt to woo railroad trains. * Moose antlers are among the fastest-growing tissues on the planet, capable of gaining an inch in length per day. * 1,800 pounds: Weight of the biggest moose subspecies, Alces alces gigas. An average-size man would have to jump to reach the withers of such a bull, which can measure more than 8 feet tall. * Despite their hugeness, moose are quite agile. They can run up to 35 miles per hour and can swim for 12 miles without rest.