Jason Phelps is quick to admit that you don’t have to sound like a moose verbatim to get an arrow in range. He’s spent much of his life building tools for us to talk to the big tan-and-chocolate creatures, but he says simply mastering a truck’s horn won’t prepare him well for putting a broadhead in the living room. boilers. He is much more focused on the strategy and ecology behind those noises. But above all else, he says the real key is simple, dogged persistence.
“One thing that I think is very important to say from some of us, the so-called ‘moose song experts,’ is that 80 percent of the time, maybe eight out of 10 bulls that I try to call, something is wrong. or it doesn’t work. go right,” Jason said. “This may sound pretentious as hell, but even as a guy who’s been pretty successful calling the moose, we still have a lot of flaws.”
Trusting the plan and trusting the process, he says, will eventually lead to success. You can see how it unfolds in MeatEater Season 10, Part 2 on Netflix when Jason and Steve Rinella get into an argument with a series of bulls from New Mexico. But before you worry too much about being an auditory dead ringer, spend some time learning about the habits and habitats of your prey.
“First of all, before you try to be aggressive, you just need a general understanding of the day in the life of a moose,” Jason said. “What would they want to do anyway, if you weren’t in the situation?”
It is extremely rare for a hunter to simply walk through the woods, blow a bugle and make a bull trot like a puppy with a whistle. You must first find the moose (rarely a simple task) and then apply an understanding of its ecology to close the distance. They need to drink water, they need to graze, and they need a good place to lie down and sleep. And, in the routine, they need to reproduce.
“If you can get to a position where you have to interrupt all of that to the least amount possible, everything will improve,” Jason said. “Whether you’re a good moose caller or not, you basically need to get in the way of where the moose wanted to go and make a couple of calls.”
Ecological and situational awareness, Jason says, is often the difference between hearing and seeing moose.
“Try to remember what a moose wants to do and participate in that instead of trying to call it 200 yards back from the way it wants to feed,” he said.
Adding elements of spot-and-stalk and quiet-hunting, he says, doesn’t make the call any less pure. It just makes you a good hunter. “You can call it what you want; my goal is to go out and kill a moose.”
“My strategy is, number one: locate the bull, either through glass or through locating horns,” Jason said. “Ideally, I’d rather cover them up so I don’t have to say, ‘Hi, I’m here,’ and have them look my way or even think about me. Number two is to find out what the wind is doing right now, what the wind will be doing in an hour, and what the wind will be doing when it gets there. Number three, it’s just getting to that place.”
However, Jason says that a common mistake hunters make is to go where the moose were, not where they are going. This is very important in the context of his earlier comment about not trying to call moose backwards. He wants to get in front of them if possible.
Locating a bull without him locating you provides an element of surprise that can increase your chances of calling a bull up close.
read the room
A moose rut day is not necessarily like the one before or the one after. These animals are known to go berserk for a few days and then quietly disappear into the wood for the next.
“Look at the way they are acting. If I see a single herd bull with four or five cows versus if I see a herd bull with six satellite bulls and a couple of cows and they’re having a little party, it completely changes my approach and what I think I can do. ”, said Jason. “The bull alone pushing six cows, we are going to have to get in front of him because he doesn’t have to lose them. However, if I see a little rutting party and bull postures and other things for the opportunity to be with those cows, I want to come in and participate.”
Jason often talks about an imaginary decision tree that helps him sort through visual and auditory data and make a decision. Does the bull seem excited, sleepy, or something in between? Is he with a small group of cows or a large herd? How many satellite bulls are there and are any of them contenders? Do moose hide or move? How much time do you have? All of that information can be aggregated to make a plan of attack.
“I’m a very heavy bugler, but I also like to figure out the situation, throw the least intrusive call to it, because sometimes a bugler messes it up,” Jason said. “So when I get close, maybe I’ll hit them with a cow call. But, if he’s just banging all the time, I’m going to go in there and probably start honking instead of if he’s quiet all the time.”
Each experienced elk hunter will develop their own strategies based on information from others and personal experiences in the woods. It’s smart to develop your own understanding of him as you take note of the successes of other hunters.
“There’s this ‘Chuck Adams approach’ where if you want to kill a giant bull, you never peep, you just spot it and stalk it. I agree that it can work very well; we’ve done it before,” Jason said. “There are the guys who don’t want to scare a bull, so they just call the cow. There are the guys who don’t want to sound like a big bull and are looking for a raghorn diaphragm.”
To summarize, moose singing is not as simple as making a bugle noise or discreetly calling cows. Bugle activity varies widely from day to day, week to week, and location to location based on a crazy cocktail of weather, temperature, hunting pressure, population dynamics, moon phase, and photoperiod. Read the room and respond accordingly. But, when the time is right, don’t be afraid to give that tube everything you’ve got.
“I think one of the reasons we like playing the bugle so much is in those situations where it works, it works very, very well,” Jason concluded. “I would say the reason I call the way I do is, and there are a lot of different ways to do it, but to see that bull rolling his eyes, angry at the world, I do it for that.”