September 15th was finally here and weather pending all the guides and myself where finally flying into moose camp. As we got closer to the camps, poor visibility had both otters turn around and set down on another body of water to the south. Finally after a couple hours wait and the pilots thought we could get into camp, once again we were en route to camp. Upon arrival, we noticed that the water levels where lower than the previous year and probably the lowest in recent memory according to a few veteran guides. We knew what this meant, traveling of the river and lakes by boat at most camps was going to be next to impossible and a lot of territory was going to be left un-touched this fall due to the low water levels. However, this didn’t dampen spirits as a lot of excellent territory and area was still huntable. As the weather continued to cooperate, the main camps and cook tent were all ready to go. The following day both the “Down River” and “Up River” camps where set up and another otter carrying another load of lumber and a boat were flown into the other two camps for expansion. Already that day, Scott over at “Broken Horn” had reported seeing one good bull and lots of fresh sign. The guys at “Hogg Lake” reported lots of fresh sign as well and both Jim and myself noticed quite a bit of sign behind his “Up River” camp. Un-like the previous year, Bob and Bryan didn’t see any moose or much for sign yet at the “Down River” camp but remained optimistic that things could change quickly now this time of year as the rut approached. The four days we prepared for the hunters (September 15 – 18) saw HI’s reach +20 for the most part, with LO’s from +9 – +4°C. Lots of leaves remained on the trees and willows as all of us prayed for cooler temperatures and hopefully frost at night. On September 18, Jim reported of seeing a moose and Scott saw another moose today. Over at “Hogg Lake”, Joe and Gareth saw 2 younger bulls approximately 30 and 40 inches respectively. Joe and Gareth not only saw these 2 young bulls but watched a big wolverine walk the shorelines. In the 4 days of set up and preparing for guests, a total of 7 Moose had been seen between all camps so far!
September 19 saw cloud cover with light rain with the arrival of 7 hunters today to begin our first week of hunting. The planes were all in camp approximately at 8:30 a.m. and everyone including guides couldn’t wait to get out hunting after a quick bite to eat. That afternoon/evening guide Bryan M., who was hunting with Nick from North Dakota, called in 2 small bulls that they took pictures of and videotaped. Over at “Broken Horn” Scott S. who was guiding Dan from Wisconsin watched a cow wander the shorelines of the river.
That afternoon and evening saw very heavy winds and by morning rain had begun and fell till approximately 3:30 p.m. with the heavy winds all day long. A few of the hunters decided to wait out the bad weather and didn’t hunt the morning. Bryan called in a spiker bull for Nick over at the “Down River” camp who obviously passed it up in hopes of something much bigger. Scott and Dan watched a cow and calf today. Guide Joe P. and Kevin from over at “Hogg Lake” saw 3 good bulls after the storm moved out. Two of the bulls were 40+ inches and the third bull pushing 60 inches! Joe knew that this big bull was a shooter from over 400 yards and knew they had to close the distance. As they got to within 150 yards, Kevin didn’t feel good about the shot yet and not much long after that, the monster bull vanished into the thick brush to never be seen again unfortunately. During all the bad weather today, a total of 6 moose were seen between all the camps. The next day, Wednesday, September 21, saw more favorable weather conditions for calling.
Guide Gareth S. and Chad from Minnesota shot a 35 inch bull at 11:00 a.m. Chad and Gareth had woke up early that morning, had a quick coffee and breakfast then proceeded to travel to the North end of the lake. They saw a smaller bull on the shore n the horizon. They decided to put the stock on. They got to 40 yards of the bull when Chad decided that he wanted something a little bigger so they sat and called for a couple hours. After a sequence of cow calls, it was 11 a.m. already and as they were having lunch, Gareth glassed a mile down the lake and saw this bigger bull. They hoped in the boat and headed downwind of him, as soon as Gareth killed the motor he started grunting and the bull decided he wanted to investigate. Swaying his head and grunting back at them he came towards the boat. The bull stopped and turned broadside and Chad took a great shot at 176 yards and put the bull down where he stood. Scott called in 3 small bulls for Dan who decided to pass on all of them and they also saw a cow and 2 calves. A total of 8 Moose seen today. The other camps had been slower than usual but with experienced guides and good hunters, nobody was worried as more and more fresh sign everyday was evident.
The next day saw a light frost, no wind but very foggy. Good for calling! Pat and Lee from Ohio saw no moose today but lots of fresh sign. Bryan and Nick shot a 45 inch bull at around 11 a.m. They had this nice bull come to the far shore and after a couple more calls, he entered the water and swam to their side. They had to move to him and set up where Nick made a nice standing shot as this bull reached the willows. They got some help from guide Bob H. and his hunter Wayne S. from North Dakota and located the bull at about 80 yards. Bryan and Nick also saw a spiker before this today. Wolves found the carcass a couple days later and Nick had a good opportunity at a nice grey wolf but the big wolf is still running from his “close shave”! Bob & Wayne didn’t see any moose today but more and more fresh sign. Scott and Dan saw a good 45+ inch bull today but wouldn’t get a shot at him as the big bull was lost amongst the willows. Joe and Kevin over at “Hogg” saw a cow and calf today and were still in pursuit of the big 60 inch bull they had seen earlier.
Friday, September 23 saw a HI of +16°C, no wind and sunny. A very warm day. While coming to the main camp to drop off Nick’s meat, Bryan and Nick saw a 35 inch bull walking the shoreline. The bull was in no hurry as Bryan was able to get good pics and video him. Scott and Dan over at “Broken Horn” saw a huge bull with a cow and 2 calves in the morning, however no shooting. That evening Dan flung lead at a pack of 10 wolves. Bob & Wayne at the “Down River” camp called in a lone cow.
Saturday the leaves really stated to fall today with heavy winds out of the south east. The only moose seen today was at the “Down River” camp as Bob called in a spiker for Wayne who passed on this young bull as well.
Sunday, September 25 it rained hard all through the night and all morning. It finally stopped at around 3:00. Scott and Dan were the only ones to see moose today which was a big bull before dark with no good shot. Other camps where slow today but lost the day to rain that fell hard! The next day and last day of week 1, Bob & Wayne saw a spiker bull who crossed the river and came to the call. So far we have seen a very strange and slow rut and the weather has been very un-stable which can really affect the rut.
Tuesday, September 27 the start of the second week. First week of guests all flew out and the new guest’s flew in. A perfect afternoon/evening for calling. Cloud cover and no wind finally! Best evening for calling so far. River and lakes were like glass. Guide Daine V. and his hunter Steve from Wisconsin shot a 40+ inch bull tonight only a couple hours into Steve’s hunt, which was Steve’s first ever bull moose. Guide Jim D. and his hunter Brian from Wisconsin passed on a good 45+ inch bull right behind the “Up River” camp which was very tempting. This bull had beautiful fronts but Brian was looking for a much larger bull. Joe and Gareth were reporting lots of fresh sign over at “Hogg” and Bob and Bryan at the “Down River” camps saw no moose today.
Wednesday, September 28 saw clear and sunny skies this morning with strong south-west winds all day. The strong winds died down around 7p.m. just around the time Bryan and Wally were having action with a cow and big bull. They had this cow and bull come to the water about 500 yards from their calling spot. After a sneak which got them to about 200 yards it appeared that the cow had made them. Amazing that she noticed something from 200 yards up wind, when she could not see them. This changed the game and some bull challenge action seemed in order. This got the bulls attention and he came hard to sort it out. Long story short, the bull passed Wally at about 20 yards and he made the close shot followed by another as the bull left. Bryan was happy to hear the shot as the bull was about 20 yards from him at that point. In order not to push the bull they left him till morning and found him immediately where they expected. Bryan got most of this hunt on video. To say Wally was excited would be an understatement!! Wally fished after his hunt and caught some great walleye right at camp. While the other guys were hunting one morning, Wally spotted a small bull walking the shore towards camp and Bryan was able to get some nice video of him very close to camp. Meanwhile over at the “Up River” camp, Brian who was being guided by Jim D. shot a big grey timber wolf that came to Jim’s cow call.
The next evening Jim and Brian worked a huge 55+ inch bull. They called him to 80 yards but couldn’t see him as they could only hear him. They saw him at 400 yards later broadside as he thrashed trees and grunted but wouldn’t come any closer. Bob & Keith from New Mexico saw a cow and 2 calves today and Scott and Dave saw a cow and calf over at “Broken Horn”.
The next day, Friday September 30 was calm with very little wind all day but light rain off and on. I saw a good 45+ inch bull today at “Main Camp” walk the shore and thrash the willows as every other camp was slower than normal. Jim called out a small bull for Brian who decided to pass on this bull too in hopes of the big monster they saw the day before.
Saturday, October 1, saw real heavy winds out of the north and rain off and all day. Jim and Brian saw 3 moose today, a cow and 2 calves once again right behind camp. The weather was brutal today but Scott and Dave killed a 53 inch bull! This bull was shot at approximately 7 p.m. too and was by himself as he came into Scott’s cow call.
The next day saw heavy North-east winds. Overcast and light rain all day again! Snow geese were really coming down. Jim and Brian worked and saw same monster bull they saw the other night. This time it walked over to where they sat the night before. They saw him again at 350 yards broadside but Brian didn’t feel comfortable with the shot.
On Monday, October 3 a special weather statement was issued as 2-3 feet of snow was predicted to fall in the next couple days. Thankfully Bob & Keith shot at 10:15. A good bull that was Keith’s first moose ever! As Bob was at the boat getting something, he noticed something black on his way back to his calling spot. It was 400 yards at first and was finally 75 yards when Keith shot and the bull fell in his tracks. Very windy all afternoon as wind gusts were up to 90 km/hr. Jim called in a small bull that they didn’t take him. Northern lights were absolutely crazy tonight and put on quite the show for everyone.
Our fly out date for 4 of the 5 camps was Wednesday, October 5 but due to the heavy snow fall that lasted a couple days we were unable to fly out until the afternoon of October 7.
“Broken Horn” remained open for the third week of moose for a first time ever. When good friends/guests Brad and Mark from Wisconsin finally arrived in after the storm, it wasn’t long and Daine and Brad had a real nice wolf down. Two more wolves where missed this week and a real good bull also missed. A total of 6 moose were seen this week by Brad and Mark. The heavy snow in the willows and low water conditions made it almost impossible to access most good areas this third week.
All in all in the end, this season was slower the first week for some camps compared to the others and then vice versa during the second week as the slower camps the first week turned hot! The weather played havoc pretty much every day which we all know can and will affect the moose rut tremendously which most of us witnessed. Moose sightings were a little lower this year than the previous year but most hunters were still successful or had a good opportunity and saw moose. Three hunters did not see moose out of 16 but like I mentioned above, the weather took a few days of hunting/calling and really affected the rut. Everyone that was successful, congratulations on your bull moose and we thank each and every hunter that hunted with us this fall. Also a huge thank you to our guides for all your hard work, commitment and dedication to our operation!
*Most cows seen this fall had twins which is great to see for the future of our areas.
**A lot of young bulls were seen this fall which is also good for the future of our areas
***With the low water conditions the last 2 falls, a lot of awesome hunting territory was not touched the last couple of years which will also be great in future years when levels are back to normal or high once again.
****Some big bulls that where seen last year but not taken where able to spread there genes once again. The future looks real bright!!!