Bowman's First-Kill Delayed by Uninvited Moose On the Make


by Michael Stenstrom

The bull immediately started walking in my direction. He didn't stop until he was five feet from the base of the tree. He was so close I thought he was going to step on my bow.

The alarm went off with its usual abruptness at 3:30 A.M. As I climbed from bed I wondered what fate would have in store on my morning bow hunt. I had been pursuing whitetails for many years, but had yet to tag one with a bow. It was still pitch black outside as I ate breakfast and listened to the weather radio.

The wind was blowing from the wrong direction for all my treestands so I decided to try canoeing a stretch of river I had jump shot the year before. It contained quite a few large oak trees along the banks, I hoped they would be drawing deer, plus the wind direction was right for the stretch I planned to paddle. I hopped in the truck and headed off to the launch site. I had packed the truck with my gear the night before in anticipation of the wind shift. I got to the river and unloaded the canoe and my gear. To my dismay I found that in my thoroughness of the night before I had forgotten to place my bow in the truck. I jumped into the truck and flew home and back again.

After returning, I launched the canoe and paddled across the pond to reach the entrance of the river. I was now well behind schedule and was reaching the stretch of river I wanted to hunt after first shooting light. As I reached the mouth of the river I paused and put on my facemask, some cover scent and nocked an arrow. I started to slowly paddle up the river, listening for the sound of deer activity and scanning the riverbanks ahead for movement.

About fifty yards into the river as the giant oak trees began to form a ceiling over my head, I heard deer moving in the hazelnut bushes to my left. I sat and listened to determine which way they were moving. By the sounds the deer were slowly feeding at an angle away from the river. I decided to move to the bank and try to intercept them. I carefully stepped out of the canoe and moved into the woods. Unfortunately the dry conditions that made it easy for me to hear the deer also made it impossible to quietly slip up on them. I had only made it five or so yards into the brush before I knew I could go no further without spooking the deer. I was about to start back to the canoe when a doe stepped out of the brush on the other side of the river and into the water to get a drink. She looked at my canoe for a moment and then took a drink and stepped back up onto the riverbank. The doe then headed upstream along the bank and disappeared into some brush.

I stepped quietly back down to the canoe and silently paddled across the river and moved upstream hugging the bank. The paddle made almost no noise as I feathered it carefully through the water. I rounded a small curve in the river and there was the doe not ten yards away under an oak feeding on acorns. Her head was down and she was quartering away from me. I stopped the motion of the canoe, laid the paddle in the water and carefully picked up my bow. I picked a spot and released the arrow.

The doe bolted before I even had time to register where the arrow had gone. I heard her crash off through the dry leaves and brush and then stop. Since it sounded like she had only gone about forty yards and no other noises followed, I felt confident that I had taken my first deer with a bow.

I stepped out of the canoe found my arrow and started to follow an ample blood trail. I had only gone about ten yards when I heard the steady crunch of an animal moving through the leaves. I thought I was about to see another deer when I noticed two yellow-orange radar dishes moving back and forth above the hazelnut bushes. A moose! The big animal stopped walking and started grunting. He was staring in my direction and continued to grunt. Since he was only about fifty yards away and seemed to be in full rut I got a little nervous. I started looking around for a tree to climb. All the trees close by were giant oaks at least three feet in diameter with no limbs low enough to grab. The one exception was a maple sapling about six inches in diameter.

I put my bow on the ground, grabbed a hold and started climbing up. When I got about nine feet up there was a knot that stuck out about an inch and a half. I set one foot on this and braced my body against the oak the sapling was growing next to. I got a good look at the moose now and he was a magnificent bull, one of the biggest I had ever seen. I could easily have sat in one of the palms of his antlers. The bull was still grunting and looking in my direction. This is where I made my second error of the day.

I decided to try to imitate the grunt. I figured I might be able to use it if I ever got lucky enough to.



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