Moose (Alces alces)
Alberta has a long history of producing exceptional trophy bull Moose. Alberta places 3 of the top 10 book Canada Moose, according to Boone and Crockett records. For Safari Club members, southern Alberta is the definitive hotspot for those wishing to take a Shiras Moose placing near the top of the SCI record book..
Moose are found throughout the wooded areas of Alberta, and the ungulates do especially well where there is an abundance of deciduous browse. Burns, logged areas and willow flats provide optimum habitat in the boreal forest and mountain areas of the province. In the mountains and foothills of southern Alberta, hillsides of aspen and willow are noticeably preferred by Moose. The focused expansion of the oil and gas industry alongside active logging effort has improved grazing habitat for Moose in the boreal forest and mountain regions, while also generating practical forestry access for hunters. Wildlife management regulations aimed at ensuring a sustainable harvest have been thoroughly successful here, and as a result Moose numbers and trophy quality are consistently high throughout the province. Moose are found on the rocky, wooded hillsides of the western mountain ranges; along the margins of half a million lakes, muskegs, and streams of the great boreal forest, and even on the northern tundra and in the aspen parkland of the prairies.
Moose have recently expanded their range to include much of the prairie and parkland regions. As shrubs. and deciduous trees invade the prairie grasslands due to lack of fires, the Moose have followed the resulting abundance of browse. The lack of major predators (i.e. wolves and bears) has allowed for an unusually rapid population growth. On these farms and ranchlands Moose live much like Whitetail deer, relying on small woodlots and river bottoms for cover and grazing on some agricultural crops. Moose is thought to be derived from the words "mus" or "moos" of the Algonquian (North American Indian) family of languages; thought to mean 'eater of twigs' or 'he strips off the bark'. The Moose population in Canada is now estimated at more than 830,000!
The Moose population in Alberta, as estimated by the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division, is around 118,000 animals.
A bull calf may develop button antlers during its first year. The antlers begin growing in midsummer and during the period of growth are soft and spongy, with blood vessels running through them. They are covered with a velvety skin. By late August or early September the antlers are fully developed and become hard and Alberta's Professional Outfitter 23 bony. The velvet dries and the bulls rub it off against tree trunks. Mature animals usually shed their antlers between November and January, but some younger bulls may carry theirs through the winter until April. Yearling bulls usually have spike antlers, and the antlers of two-year-olds are larger, usually flat at the ends. Moose grow antlers each summer and shed them each winter.
Across much of northern Alberta, Moose hunters still enjoy the wilderness adventure of hunting from cabins or wall tents. Though often spartan, these camps are comfortable with the glow of woodstoves and oil lanterns. Most hunts take place from mid September to mid October when the rut for these magnificent animals is in full swing. Be forewarned, however; this is not a hunt for the faint hearted! Sometimes the response of a rutting bull to a call may be too close for comfort. A few cow calls can turn a lovesick, 1,200 pound bull to jelly, and he may travel for miles to seek out the affection of his amorous admirer. He may arrive noisily, thrashing trees with his antlers, or sometimes stealthily and unexpected to surprise the hunter with his regal presence. Those who have experienced a bull Moose coming to a call, red eyed and angry, will tell you it is a hunting experience second to none!
A bull Moose in full spread of antlers is the most imposing beast in North America. It stands taller at the shoulder than the largest saddle horse. Big bulls weigh up to 600 kilos in most parts of Canada. In spite of its huge size and ungainly appearance, an adult Moose can run through a forest at speeds up to forty kilometers per hour. Its legs are long, allowing the moose to stand in shallow water or move easily through a meter of fresh snow. When it does run, it lifts each leg straight up, making its gait almost comical. This unusual leg action has its purpose; it allows the animal to lift its leg easily out of a muddy lake or stream bottom. Their walking stride is 1.1 to 2 meters, but it lengthens to near 3 meters when they trot or run.
Good swimmers, Moose can move through water at speeds of 10 kph for up to 2 hours. Because these bulls can often be enticed to close range, bowhunters enjoy excellent success with Moose. In Alberta's more settled management units, rut seasons are usually restricted to bowhuing only. Rifle hunts during the late season are usually .aconducted from stands or by spotting and stalking. Farm houses, motels or comfortable lodges are the typical accommodations during these colder weather hunts.
Most Moose hunting in Albertais one using all terrain vehicles such as four wheelers, larger wheeled, or tracked machines.The abundance of oilfield seismic lines and logging trails allows access into much of the backcountry. Some hunts are conducted along rivers using canoes or river boats, with hunters stopping to call at likely spots. Camp may be set up each night along the river, activating a true wilderness experience! Another option is the traditional Alberta pack horse hunt in the mountains.
There is more to this than just a great hunt, for the incredible mountain scenery and a link to an historical past become an inseparable part of the adventure. During the rut season, some of the remote northern areas can only be accessed by float plane. Hunting from boats is the norm and a great Moose hunt can often be combined with fishing. Some of these lakes rarely see a single person throughout the year before you touch down by plane.
Snow and cold weather combine to offer underutilized opportunities for Moose hunting in some of Alberta's otherwise inaccessible areas during the late season. Frozen ground and waterways offer access by ATV or snow machine unavailable during the rut season! The weather may be cold during this time of the year, but the rewards can be great. Some of the largest bulls each hunting season are taken well after the rut is over.
Whether with bow or rifle, during the rut or late season, by ATV, horse, boat or float plane, with accommodation in a classic tent camp, rural motel or comfortable lodge - Alberta has a world class Moose for you!