Moose Hunt Of A Lifetime!
By: Prois Fan Jessica Duffney
If you watched my live the other night you'll know that I was on day 18 or 19 of my 2022 hunting journey.
I went out to take any bull as long as it was meat in the freezer. My supply from 2020 was nearly gone and I was on a time limit as I have to go away to see my cardiologist in Ontario -with a possibility of being laid up for a while afterwards.
Everyday I seen cows and calves sometimes up to 8 a day. But bull sightings were very scarce.
On October 13th a friend of mine and I spotted a bull at a far distance late in the evening, just before dark. We decided that we'd go back out and look for him in the morning. To my surprise, we actually found him within the first hour of the hunt. We guesstimated the distance to be between 4-500 yards away. This was well out of my shooting range. So we decided to try and creep in on him. We had a south east wind that must have been just missing his nose where we first stood. With my friends guidance, we managed to creep in on him over the next hour getting me under 100 yards. (I did have a opportunity for a headshot at 150 yards but truthfully I was not comfortable enough to take it, even at that close range)
Finally moved into a place where we thought we'd get a body shot but I think I ended up in a dip and just couldn't see anything but his antlers. We knew eventually he would move over, and if not we would try a call to get him in the open. Finally when the opportunity came, a 10 second opportunity, I put my scope up, and couldn't see anything but a blur in the scope. I realized that my scope had still been dialed in to 8 from sighting the moose earlier. By the time I got my scope back down to 3 it was just too late- his butt was all I could see heading into the trees.
This one encounter with a larger bull, was unlike anything I've ever experienced before while hunting at that point. And believe it or not, I wasn't overly disappointed that I didn't get to shoot the moose that day, as it was just a all around incredible experience.
Mid October is a sad time for me every year. On October 15th 2016 I was hunting with my grandfather when we got the most devastating call that my younger sister had unexpectedly passed. So this week is normally very hard. However on this day of October 14th when I had that encounter, it was as if she was there to boost my spirits; to give me something to really focus on and be grateful for. And that it did.
The next day we went out on the hunt again. Donnie gave me the option to go scout the same area or move on to other areas. I had my heart set on that moose and was hopeful I'd get to see him again. That evening just before dark, we spotted him at about 8-900 yards away. Impossible at that point of the evening to move in, but I was thrilled to know he was still hanging around that general area.
The next morning we looked again without any luck.
4 days later was the next time I got out, and we managed to find what we thought was him from a lookout. The only thing was we were so far away. We did leave the lookout immediately, and headed in his direction, only to find his fresh tracks that soon faded into a bog.
That was the last time I seen "Jiggs" (yes, we named him after my sister's favourite meal).
We did continue to look for him a couple other days without any luck.
I don't often give up on things so soon, but I started to hunt the woods just behind my grandparents house. On the first morning just a couple km from their door, I found a young bull but by the time I got to the gun ready, he darted into the trees. This was only the second bull I've seen at this point.
I continued to hunt up in that area going as far as maybe 20km away. And there was not a day that went by I didn't see a cow or two or three and sometimes more. But bulls seemed to be non existent. Definitely more keen than I, in their natural habitat. Honestly, I don't consider myself someone who knows much of anything about hunting, but someone who is always interested to learn. And that's just what everyday seemed to bring as I got to really get up and personal in their territory. Anything from a rut hole, scrapped tree, or track would excite me.
Late October, maybe 5-6 days ago I found the third bull of the season about 15-20 km or so from my grandparents house.
He was far away, and to be honest at first I thought he might have been a cow with his head down feeding. But when he put his head up, there was no mistaking what he was. He was a dandy.
The wind was fiercely blowing from the west and this just so happened to be in my favour from where I was, and how I could approach him.
We made a brief plan before we got going but the trees were thick and I didn't know how this was really going to go, until we got moving.
Thankfully, soon after we got into some tight woods, we spooked a cow and managed to get on her lead. This made the going much easier. They definitely know the way better than I.
As I approached the bog, Brock creeped out first to scope out the situation to see if the bull was still where he was when we spotted him from afar. He gave me a thumbs up and a smile.
I knew this could be really good. But we still had a lot of ground to cover. (Open bog with not much cover to hide)
The wind was blowing so hard in my face, I was shocked he wasn't in the trees. This was something I always assumed before that day, there's no way a moose was going to be out in this. As we crept in we discovered there was a cow with him. Maybe that had something to do with it. 🤔 (You know us women can do some crazy things to a man) 😬😅
We got within a few hundred yards and squat behind a few alders...and I mean a few in the middle of the bog. I pondered the idea of setting up my shooting stick but knew I would feel better at 200 yards. We figured they were just there doing their thing and the wind was perfect so we decided to sneak in farther. Just as we left the few hundred yard mark, a caller started going off from well above us. It seemed like they might be above where we were when we first spotted the moose.
At this point, a bunch of things start going through my mind. Can they see us? Do they see the moose? And I won't lie, although I had some blaze orange on, I was a little nervous that someone might not see us and fire a shot in this direction. During this time, I looked at the moose and noticed the cow looking around and the bull now had his head up as well. Before I could even decide what to do, the option was gone. He was now moved in the woods where I could only see his antlers while the cow stayed on the tree line looking in the direction of the call.
I can't say this wasn't disappointing because it was.
The next day, I went back, and found some cows on the same bog but no bull.
Day 3: No sight of him so I figured it wouldn't hurt to try a couple calls (although I figured the rut is long over) to my surprise, I got a bull grunting back to my cow calls. For over a hour. I really thought he was coming. And honestly I thought it could very well be that same bull as I was in the same area.
After 5 hours and darkness approaching- no bull.
That evening, I pulled myself up on the quad and headed back to the little blue house where I grew up from the day I was born. Although I have been left for 15 years, it's still the place I call home.
Nan greeted me at the door and before I had my foot inside she was telling me I had mail. For a second I forgot what I had ordered. I opened the package and it was my new Prois hunting suit. I tried it on and I remember my nan saying, "that's why you didn't get your moose yet" I chuckled and asked, why is that?! "He was waiting for you to get your new suit", she replied with a wink and a smile. And as always it was contagious. I smiled back.
Halloween, I took the day off as I had 3 appointments this morning, and had to get treats ready for the kids that evening.
I suited up in my new duds and left my grandparents at around 7:30 am. It's was a crispy morning. The first one this fall that I recall. Only a few min into the venture I seen a cow and calf. They seemed to be a "dime a dozen" this fall. After a few km, I got off the bike to walk, as I did all week. The ground was crunchy, and there wasn't a draft of wind. I was trying to walk super slow but still felt like I was making a "racket" with how quiet of a morning it was.
I was only walking about 10 minutes when I heard a few grunts from a distance. A few minutes later we spotted what looked like a couple cows. This was really far away, but we were pretty sure it was cows down on the bog. I figured those grunts were a bull probably headed in their direction.
I slowly walked a little farther, and soon realized these two "cows" were now head to head. A fight was about to go down, and I couldn't believe my eyes. I never seen anything like this in my life other than on YouTube or Mike McCarthy's post online. I now realize these are not cows. They're probably spiked bulls.
I soon spotted a cow just over from the bulls.
I was spying them through the scope but still couldn't see antlers on any.
I was really far away but this new phone I have zooms in quite far. I took a video of the match, and watched it back. When I zoomed in I could see little pans on one.
This was happening all in the same area I had the close encounter with the big bull just a few days ago.
We made a plan to get down on the bog, just as we did the day I seen the big guy. But today we didn't have the strong westerly that we had, that day. It was so quiet today. I was much more nervous about moving through the woods.
I was also thinking the fight between the bulls would help as they may not be paying too much attention to anything else. I've never experienced this before so, I mean that was me being hopeful I had a chance to get close.
When I got down closer to the bog I could hear the grunts and what sounded like clunking of their antlers. And every time it went quiet I was terrified to move. I don't think I ever stood in more awkward positions, for so long. Because I was literally scared to move a inch.
When we got really close, I could see the bulls through the alders. They were still going at it and to say I was in awe was a understatement. I don't even think I was there to fill the freezer at that point, I was so interested in watching what was going on.
A few min later, I noticed Brock waving; trying to get my attention. He put his open hands up to each side of his head and started pointing.
When I looked over from the fighting bulls, there was the bull I seen a few days before, feeding under the same juniper he was before.
I couldn't believe this was happening. And I was actually really shocked that he gave zero kicks about what was going on just over from him. He seemed to completely be ignoring the fact there's a fight happening 150 yards away.
My heart rate just went through the roof, and I'm now trying to figure out how to get on the edge of the bog and up a couple hundred yards in this silent crispy morning without him hearing me.
Somehow he continued to feed as I got about 250 yards away. I wanted to be a little closer but I was nervous of messing up my opportunity.
I set up my shooting stick (this thing is not your average little one legged stick) and most would tell me I'm a complete fool for dragging it through the woods with me...but boy am I glad I did.
That big bulky shooting stick is probably the reason I'm here cleaning this bull in my grandfathers shed today.
I set up and put my cross hairs about a foot above where I'd normally shoot at 200 yards. After the first shot he didn't fall but I could see he didn't look well. I made a second shot and he began to wobble when he went down.
Although I practiced a shot or two every other day, I was not confident as they weren't always consistently good shots.
But today, I made a lung and heart shot.
The end result after a lot of beautiful moments this fall was this incredible bull that I took from the woods behind Benoit's Cove, where I grew up.
A special season and I have no doubt Jenna was on my side this entire journey.