Moose is one of my favorite animals to hunt. I don’t know if it is the challenge of the hunt or the tough pack outs, but I am hooked and can’t wait to do it again. The first time you walk up on a moose on the ground, you are overwhelmed by the size of them, and as you have a quarter on your back, you swear you will never shoot another moose. However, as soon as the last load is out of the field, you forget the pain and can’t wait to do it again. I have been lucky enough to harvest two bulls, and I cannot wait for my next opportunity to hunt moose. If I could hunt moose every year, I would give up elk hunting altogether. In my family’s opinion, moose meat is the best meat of all the big game animals in North America.
There are three different subspecies of moose recognized by Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young, and the North America 29. They are Alaska- Yukon moose, Canadian moose, and Shiras moose. Safari Club International recognizes the eastern Canadian moose as a separate species from the western Canadian moose. As a general rule, the moose get smaller in body and antler size as you move south from the Alaska- Yukon country down into the lower 48.
My first moose hunt was in 2004 when I drew a Montana Shiras moose permit for unit 102. I thought this was going to be an easy hunt as I had seen moose a number of times before while hunting deer and elk. I could not have been more wrong. I killed my Montana bull on the 24th day of hunting. I had opportunities to kill good bulls, but I was looking for a giant. In late November while hunting with my wife, we spotted my bull. After a quick stalk in the snow, we were standing over a 52" Boone and Crockett bull. The only thing that could have made the moment better is if the bull was not three and a half miles from the road. With the help of three good friends and my wife, we were able to get the bull out the next day.
My second hunt was a guided trip with Jarrett Deuling of Deuling Stone Outfitters in the Yukon. Knowing how good moose meat was, I decided to drive to Whitehorse so I could bring all the meat home. I had the choice of a river float hunt, a lake hunt in a cabin, or a horseback hunt. I chose to do a horseback hunt as I really wanted to experience as much of the country as possible. We rode up into a remote valley and spent 10 days chasing rutting bulls. I was able to take a great bull, and as an added bonus, I was lucky enough to shoot a couple wolves. To this day, this is one of the best hunts I have ever been on.
Alaska-Yukon moose is the largest of all the moose subspecies. They are found throughout Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. If you want to do a self-guided hunt, Alaska is calling your name. They offer all kinds of opportunities for a self-guided moose hunt. Most guys who go to Alaska end up doing a ridgetop hunt, a lake hunt, or a river float hunt. There are also a few areas where you can use ATVs to access country to hunt moose. There is a lot of information and books out on floating rivers in Alaska for moose. There are also a number of companies that offer hunt planning kits and rent all the rafts and gear necessary to do the hunt. A lot of the air taxi services offer hunt planning kits and will usually drop their clients on a lake or ridgetop. Most hunt planning kits run $2,500-$5,000, and some include air travel and gear rentals. If you are looking for a fully-guided Alaska-Yukon moose hunt, expect to pay between $15,000 and $25,000 with any of the top outfitters in Alaska or the Yukon territories.
Alaska offers moose draw tags. These draw tags are not necessarily better than the open units throughout Alaska. Alaska created these draw units as they were very popular and they wanted to limit the number of hunters or they were very accessible. We listed a number of the draw hunts in this issue in the Alaska state section. One thing to remember is that Alaska is a big state but the moose densities are low per square mile. There definitely is not a moose around every corner and more than one great hunter has come back humbled by Alaska. On average, the success rate on self-guided moose in Alaska is around 20%.
Canadian moose include moose from the rest of Canada, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and an unhunted herd in Minnesota. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and North Dakota all offer their moose permits through the draw process. We cover all of those states in our magazine, except for North Dakota as they do not allow nonresidents to apply for moose. If you are looking at a self-guided hunt, drawing a tag or purchasing a Governor’s tag in one of those states are your only options.
Typically, the biggest Canadian bulls come from northwestern British Columbia. A fully-guided Canadian moose hunt is going to run $8,000-$18,000, depending on where you want to go. The moose hunts in eastern Canada are usually less expensive, but on average, hunters are harvesting smaller bulls. Canada has every type of moose hunting available. You can book a river float hunt, a boat hunt on a lake, horseback hunts, lodge hunts with vehicle access, and everything else in between.
Canadian moose vary the most in body size. The bulls up by the Yukon border are bigger than the bulls the further south you go. The moose just north of the Idaho, Montana, and Washington borders are considered Canadian moose by Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young, but SCI and Super Slam consider them Shiras moose. If you are trying to complete the Super Slam, many hunters have shot their Shiras in southern Alberta and British Columbia north of the U.S. border.
Shiras moose are the smallest and are found in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and there is a small unhunted herd that has pioneered into northeast Nevada from Idaho. Almost all of the tags to hunt Shiras moose are issued through a draw. There are no over-the-counter tags available for Shiras moose. Almost every state has raffle tag opportunities and Governor tag opportunities, and there are a few landowner tags available in Utah. As you can see, Shiras moose is the most difficult subspecies to get due to the limited hunting opportunities.
If you apply for Shiras moose, make sure you put your application in Idaho as they have the best draw odds in the West. A lot of units in Idaho have 10%- 30% draw odds, whereas the rest of the states are more like 1% draw odds for non-residents. In our magazine, we cover all of the states that offer Shiras moose tags, and our License Application Department applies hunters in each of the states available for Shiras moose. Each year, a number of lucky Huntin’ Fool members draw Shiras moose tags throughout the West.
If you draw a Shiras moose tag, you should set aside two weeks to hunt. Moose densities are low throughout the West, and you are going to have to cover a lot of country to find the bull you are looking for. Most of the Shiras moose units have outfitters, and you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $8,000 for an outfitted hunt if you draw a tag. If you are looking for a guaranteed tag with an outfitter, you will be looking at $12,000-$15,000.
When talking about trophy size, most hunters go off width and not score. The magic numbers are 60" for Alaska-Yukon moose, 50-55" for Canadian moose, and 40" for Shiras moose. If you just want one set of moose antlers in your trophy room, your best bet is to go north to Canada or Alaska and book a hunt. If you want all three different moose species, you need to be applying for Shiras moose. If you are planning on hunting moose in Canada, remember that you have to go outfitted. We work with some of the best outfitters in Canada, so give Jeff Warren a call if you are looking to book a great moose hunt.