Bow-killing a Shiras Moose: The Hunt

Posted on June 9, 2013

In a recent post, we took a look at how bow-killing a Shiras moose in the wild Wyoming backcountry requires scouting the hunt. Now take a look at the second leg of the hunt which made for an unforgettable adventure. 

shiras moose

Second Leg of the Hunt

September 19 was not only the day I planned on returning to hunt moose, but it was also my wife’s birthday. I am very lucky that she is sympathetic and understands my passion for bowhunting. Later that day, I arrived on the shoreline of the alpine lake, and set up camp, which would be my home for the next week. On this trip, I was going solo since Dave had to get back to work. I headed for the glassing hill to see if the moose were still using their old haunts.


I glassed until 11:00 a.m. and didn’t see anything other than a couple of rifle hunters who were after deer. I had heard several gunshots over a distant ridge while hiking back to camp. That’s about when I spotted a moose coming over the ridge heading in my direction. I sat down and glassed the moose to discover that it was the young cow Dave and I had seen on our last morning here. I watched, hoping she would have a bull in tow, but she didn’t.


Back in camp I felt the need to shoot my Hoyt bow, so I pulled out my trusty Block target and began shooting. After releasing only my second arrow, I looked up to see the most beautiful black bear I have ever seen coming down the trail toward camp. She had two little cubs right behind her, and as they hit my scent stream, they quickly left the area. She was jet-black with orange highlighted hair running down her back and legs.


That evening I returned to the hill but, once again, didn’t see anything. However, down in the lower drainage area, it sounded like a war zone as gunshot after gunshot rang out. I returned to camp discouraged by the day’s events. I was starting to learn that moose hunting is hard business. Drawing the tag seemed easy to me compared to finding a good bull. I hunted hard for the next four days without seeing any moose. I did stalk to within 40 yards of a nice bull elk and his herd of cows for entertainment one evening. On the afternoon of the fifth day, I was still-hunting through some dark timber when I found a shed moose paddle from the year before. The paddle wasn’t really big, but it was in excellent condition. I packed it back to camp to take home for a souvenir.

The best way to hunt the area was to get up high and glass the lower timber country. The moose were hanging out in the dark timber, apparently to help get away from the wolves in the area.

The best way to hunt the area was to get up high and glass the lower timber country. The moose were hanging out in the dark timber, apparently to help get away from the wolves in the area.


The Final Moments

This brings us back to the beginning of this story. As I lay there listening to the rain, I made the decision that at first light I would hike along the lake’s shoreline and climb up to the bowl where the moose seemed to bed in. I would then cow call and, with any luck, draw in a bull. I had made the decision that I would be happy with the next bull I saw, no exceptions.


Shortly after first light I was standing on the downwind edge of the bowl. It was steadily raining, but the howling winds had finally subsided. I let out two long moaning cow calls and began listening. I thought I was hearing things when I heard a soft grunt from down in the bowl, so I let out a short cow moan. Sure enough, I heard the bull’s grunt again. I moved forward, finding an opening surrounded by scattered trees. Then I set up.


I called several more times, and the bull occasionally answered. At one point, I could hear him breaking timber as he came toward my location. However, he turned around and headed back into the deep cover of the bowl. I figured that the bull had a cow with him by the way he was reacting. The last grunt I heard kind of told me that the bull was heading toward the aspen bench I had stalked the two small bulls about two weeks earlier.


I quickly moved up the hill in an attempt to get ahead of him. Once I felt I was out in front of the bull, I began calling again. He answered, but showed little interest in coming closer. I scanned the heavy downed timber. I knew he was there somewhere, but I couldn’t pick him out of the dark shadows. I cow-called once again, and he grunted. Shortly after that I heard the call of a real cow moose. I now knew that he wasn’t going to come in since he already had the real thing at his side.


I stood and listened for the moose moving through the timber. After 15 minutes or more, I heard a stick break down below me. I studied the timber with my binocular and finally picked out the cow’s ears above some underbrush. I was amazed that an animal as huge as a moose was so hard to spot. I watched as she nervously watched every squirrel and bird move about. It was obvious that she didn’t like the thought of another cow in her domain.


After watching the cow for several minutes, the bull stepped out into an opening. The sight of his magnificent antlers took my breath away. I began breathing heavily and shaking uncontrollably. It was the big bull I had seen on my previous hunt. I scanned ahead of the pair looking for a likely travel route. Seeing a path through the downed timber I thought they would traverse, I hustled to get ahead of them. As I neared a small clearing, I saw the cow step into it. I quickly brought up my Nikon rangefinder and took a reading. I felt comfortable with the yardage and got ready for the shot, hoping the bull would show himself. Several minutes later, I saw his antlers approaching the clearing.


Stafford and his hard-won bull. He arrowed the bull after setting up and calling in a productive area, followed by some still-hunting and stalking.

I was now on autopilot as the bowstring came back to my anchor point. As the appropriate sight pin found its mark, I squeezed the trigger of the release and watched the arrow arch toward the black giant. The arrow found the mark and buried up to the fletching. The confused bull turned and ran toward me, only to stop and look back toward where he had come from. I fumbled for another arrow out of my quiver and sent another arrow on its way, seemingly through the bull’s heart.


I slunk to the ground totally full of emotions. An hour later, I followed an ample blood trail a couple-hundred yards to the downed bull. He was a lot bigger than I had imagined. I sat and marveled at his size for a good 20 minutes, before the reality of packing him back to my pickup came into play. I packed seven very heavy loads 1 1/2 miles back to the truck over the next day and a half. I was tired and completely worn out, but I had a permanent smile on my face the whole time. This was truly the hardest hunt that I have been on to date. I am here to tell you that drawing the tag is easier than finding a good bull to attach it to.


By Jason Stafford

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