August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - Moose had wandered into Colorado occasionally, but there was no breeding population until animals were introduced to North Park from Utah and Wyoming in 1978-1979. The first hunting season was in 1983. My son Johnny was born in 1984 and I began to help him apply for a moose tag every year since 1996. 2011 was the first year that a single once-in-a-lifetime bull moose tag was offered in the hunt units west of Boulder County where we live. Johnny had a two percent chance to draw the tag so you can imagine our excitement when I went online in May and discovered that he had drawn the first and only bull moose tag for our local unit.
I have hunted and harvested a lot of deer, elk, and pronghorn, a bighorn ram, a mountain goat, and helped many friends with their sheep and goat hunts, too. But, I have always wanted to hunt moose and my preparation and research for my son’s hunt was almost as enjoyable as the hunt itself. I read articles and watched hunting videos. I talked to my friend and Alaskan guide, Paul Jobe, and he told me about the Bull Magnet call and gave me some great tips on calling. I also found and watched Frank Ritcey’s YouTube videos. I went to his website and got some more vital information on moose behavior and how to call.
I emailed Frank and his insight for me was invaluable. Frank told me, "I would avoid calling in any area you plan on hunting. It’s a tough balance between pre-scouting and scaring everything out of the neighborhood. Usually what happens is that the cows get spooked, they leave the area and the bull goes with them.
"They will be rutting and pairing up with different cows over the time you are not hunting. I would get into the areas that you plan on hunting and just listen in the early morning and late evening, especially if it is hot and sunny. Moose hate the direct sun. Cloudy, wet days tend to be the best. But listen for cows calling and for any other activity. Even if the moose has not been hunted before, they learn quickly to identify you by voice. I seldom get the same bull coming in twice to my calls; they have an incredible facility for sound and if you call before you hunt they will usually know it is you for the second time around.
"Work the roads and look for fresh tracks. Note which way they are headed so you can tell if it is one moose crossing back and forth or if it is a number of moose all headed in the same direction.
"That Bull Magnet call is a good device, but I would only use it when you feel the moose is a long distance out (1/2 mile or more). It can be a little too over powering at close range and I have seen moose spooked off by a call gone wrong at close range.”
The snows west of Boulder were unusually deep in late spring, but I began to drive the roads and hike into the backcountry to begin to search for moose sign. Before now I had never seen a moose in Colorado. On May 29, while hiking, I found my first moose nuggets near a ski area.
On June 5, while on a drive west of Jamestown with my family, I spotted my first cow moose bedded in some willows a few hundred yards from the road. A few weeks later I spotted my first bull; he was a little bull, but a bull moose nonetheless!
On July 13 I hit the jackpot. With a tip from good friend Matt Nicholl, who works for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I went into the Brainard Lake area near the Indian Peaks Wilderness. After a few scouting trips I found several mature bull moose living in a very small area. For the next six weeks I watched five different bulls in less than a one square mile area and determined that two of them were definite shooters. I named them Sea Biscuit and Booner. The other bulls were Bratty, Frat Boy, and Methuselah, an old bull past his prime. My grandsons, Cole and Wyatt, helped name these bulls on a scouting trip that they made with me.
For a full account of Johnny's adventure, go to page 36 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.