Hunting Water for Moose

Keeping a water hunt in your game plan could be the difference between filling a tag, or hanging it on the weeping willow come end of season.

In my experience, there is no right or wrong water to hunt moose around. These huge animals need a lot of water and so they will gravitate to any and all sources if the conditions are right. However, there are some ponds and small lakes in particular that consistently become home base for moose. The elements of these chunks of water vary little, no matter if you are on a remote fly-in or at a drive-to destination.

A piece of land I hunt near Thunder Bay has what I consider the perfect moose pond. The pond is actually a part of a small creek that has been dammed up repeatedly by beavers. It's long and narrow and has a couple of wide spots with some decent depth. In the summer, it is almost completely covered with small lily pads. When the moose feed in this pond, they just graze around through the lilies leaving a path wherever they go.

I've only really hunted moose here one season (It's in a WMU that now has few adult tags) but opening weekend two years ago I did. At first light, a bull moose answered my cow call but would not come out. The animal thrashed and crashed but kept away from any opening. I could hear him walking through the bush across the pond, raising hell. This happened for a couple of days in a row. I'm not exactly sure what it was that held the bull back, but he never showed his face. However, thrashed trees and large tracks in and around where I had been calling showed he did come to inspect under the cover of darkness.

Keeping a water hunt in your game plan could be the difference between filling a tag, or hanging it on the weeping willow come December 16.

Important: Ontario Hunting Regulations

There is nothing subtle about thrashing and calling moose around water. It is a noisy, raucous, and exciting game. Getting the big boy's attention is the name of the game. and there are a lot of ways to do it. There are many different ways you can sound like a moose, and you can use various tools. For thrashing, I like to use a small canoe paddle. Banging and rubbing a paddle against brush and sticks does a pretty good job of approximating the sound of a bull working its antlers. The paddles can also be worked in the water to make it sound like an animal is walking. You can, of course, use a moose antler to thrash, but they are super heavy. A cow moose scapula is a good replacement for an antler and has a very realistic bone-on-wood sound.

  • Start quietly first, then build up to very loud thrashing.
  • Snap twigs and sticks to really get the bull's attention.
  • Using a Javex bottle or moose calling cone can be used for more than sounding like a lovelorn cow. Dip it in the water and then let a stream of water flow from about two feet high, into the water. This sounds very much like moose peeing in the pond. Not cool if you are a lifeguard, but a pretty regular occurrence I'm afraid. A few well-placed cow calls and bull grunts should be mixed into the thrashing and peeing.
  • Again, start on the quiet side and get louder. Don't overdo anything, although there really is no such thing as a wrong way to call or thrash. If you've ever heard a bull demolish a tree, or a cow call incessantly for a mate, you know what I mean.

The Ontario moose hunt is truly the most thrilling game. Calling in a moose around water is perhaps the peak of that hunting experience.

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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