By Bill Krenz
With each step, the fog-bound moose grunted as he homed in on us.
“At least 30 inches wide,” my guide, Perry Broughton, whispered. At about 90 yards, though, the bull began angling to our left, apparently suspicious.
“Wind’s wrong,” Perry muttered moments before the bull stopped. The moose stood staring for long minutes, Newfoundland minutes, then high-stepped it into the 10-acre tangle of over-our-heads brush that covered the left side of the valley. Just like that, he was gone.
Much of Newfoundland is stiff with moose. Estimates put Newfoundland’s moose population at over 120,000, with the best areas sporting a moose density of three to four moose per square mile. Yet moose present a big challenge for bowhunters.
Perry shed light on the situation. “Moose prefer very dense, dark cover most of the year, and getting close in that cover is tough. Moose hear and smell very well, and a moose bog is not an easy place to get around in. It’s the rut that offers hunters the best opportunity to see and get close to good bulls. Sometimes, bulls can be called right out into the open. Occasionally, you’ll get a bull moose in a fighting frame of mind and he’ll come in almost too close.”
The very next morning found us in the same high moose valley long before the sun was up. The sky was clear and a light breeze blew in our favor. As the light gathered, a single throaty grunt floated up out of the alder and willow tangle below us.
“Bull,” whispered Perry, exercising his Newfoundland talent for brevity.
Was it the fog bull of the day before, I wondered. The brush was too high to see well, so we carefully edged closer, moving as quietly as we could, and set up for yet another calling session. Perry started with the low, drawn-out bawl of a cow moose. The bull below us responded instantly. Brush cracked, and he grunted and moaned unseen in the impossibly thick tangle. I judged the commotion to be no more than 80 yards away.
For nearly a half an hour, Perry called and coaxed that bull. The bull responded with enthusiasm. Perry would grunt and the bull would grunt. Perry would rake his fiberglass moose call through the low alders and the bull would shred every willow and alder within reach. But after thirty minutes, we still hadn’t seen the bull.
“He must have a cow in there with him,” Perry murmured as he crept up to where I knelt. “Let’s circle above this patch and see if we can see him.”
We circled slowly, glassing every opening in the brush, straining to see our friend.
“There’s the cow,” declared Perry, “and the bull is right behind her.” On the far side of the tangle, now at least a half mile away, two moose began climbing a low ridge. The cow led. Our bull followed.
Perry and I began quickly weaving our way down the valley, using every available patch of cover. In ten minutes, we halved the distance and then paused to glass him.
“Maybe the same bull, maybe not,” I offered.
“Either way, he’s a brute. Exactly 31 ¾ inches wide,” Perry declared with a grin. “Let’s shoot him.” I agreed that sounded like a pretty good idea.
Twenty minutes later Perry and I lay side by side in the tundra with no cover taller than my boot tops between us and the bull. My rangefinder said he was exactly 290 yards away, and unfortunately, he had spotted us. He stood on the ridge top looking down at where we lay, his palmated antlers reflecting the sunrise.
“You want to try something crazy?” asked Perry.
“How crazy?” I shot back.
“Put your bow above your head and walk straight at him.”
I looked at Perry, then at the moose. I’d tried that stunt before on caribou, once even on video in Quebec, but it had never worked particularly well.
“What other options do we have?”
“None,” said Perry, still grinning. “He knows we’re here and he’s going to go over that ridge and out of our lives any minute. You swagger right at him. Hold your bow over your head. Walk stiff-legged and dip and sway. Challenge him. I’ll stay right here and call.”
With a mix of determination and foolishness, I eased to my feet and started slowly up the ridge, holding my bow above my head in my best imitation of wide moose antlers. It was too far away to see, but I imagine his eyes got very wide as I rose up out of the tundra. Then they narrowed as I started directly toward him.
At about 120 yards, he began to slowly tip and rock his own antlers and the hair on the back of his neck came up. He took a step toward me.
Committed, I didn’t dare stop. As I continued up the ridge, the bull began to walk slowly back down to meet me, swaying, swaggering and grunting with each step. Perry told me later that he would have given anything for a video camera about then. I was thinking that I might give anything for a tall tree. Was this really a good idea?
As the yards between us shriveled, I began imagining how I might make the shot that now seemed inevitable. The bull and I were clearly on a collision course. Eighty yards separated us, then 70. Then 60. Then 50.
I brought my bow down and came to full draw. He paused and turned broadside, and my arrow was away. Yellow vanes streaked out and disappeared with a watermelon plunk through this coal-black side.
As I watched, he ran 50 yards, slowed to a stop and stood staring back at me. With a shake of his antlers, he walked another 50 yards and then lay down. In the excitement, my arrow had hit a bit farther back than was optimum, and a drawn-out recovery scenario unfolded. But finally, Perry and I walked up on him and I wrapped my hands around his wrist-thick main beams. He measured exactly 32 inches wide.
A moose-and-caribou-combination bowhunt is an achievable goal, and it can be done with an eye toward relative affordability, comfort and style in a magical place called Newfoundland.