WILD HARVEST: DIY Fly-In Moose Hunt

Excellent middle ground lies somewhere between a fully guided, fly-in bull moose hunt, and a drive-in, road-based hunt with the gang. An eager hunter on a budget, examining ways to either heighten their experience afield or success rates on a big mature bull moose, should give do-it-yourself (DIY) fly-in hunts a closer look.

A group of four keen hunters is about perfect. It’s important to assemble the right people, ideally each offering a set of skills or knowledge helpful in a remote, wilderness hunt.

This adventure begins with research and some form of local knowledge or contact on location. At this point I turn to mapping software, pouring over the landscape with a bird’s eye view. Typically I’m looking for smaller sized rivers, particularly those in areas that snake through recent burns, in complete isolation of any road access or boat launch. I look for areas with good wetland habitat nearby and broad, marshy shorelines. A prominent ridge intersecting the channel somewhere also makes for an excellent moose travel corridor and river crossing funnel. This feature also doubles as an excellent glassing and calling location. Preferably, this ridge would be near the only small cluster of islands for a long way up or down the river. These islands serve as a sanctuary for cows with calves from marauding wolves, and before long, the entire island reeks of estrous. A sure-fire bull magnet during the rut! Add a few creek or stream confluences in this particular reach of river and you have all the ingredients you could ever want in a great moose hunting location.

Rapids, however, can make or break this area. You are paying to charter an aircraft due to remoteness and inaccessibility for best chances at big moose and a quality experience. So ensure there is no way you or anyone else could simply boat in. Segments of rivers caught between several impassible series of rapids lock away such areas into complete seclusion. Local hunters rarely, if ever, need to go through the effort of reaching such locations to find moose for themselves. As a good, common sense rule, however, do your homework to ensure you are not stomping on anyone else’s traditional hunting area before you fly in and set up camp. The local pilots will have a good idea of which lakes or river segments are visited by hunters, allocated to outfitters and which are vacant.

At various northern hub-type communities across Canada’s moose country, a host of small bush craft are available for charter. We are talking the Yukon to Newfoundland here, so opportunities are as vast as the Canadian wilderness is expansive. Usually, float planes are chartered for a fixed rate and so many dollars per mile. To save costs, make an effort to measure the shortest flight lines between the various communities with seaplane bases, which will serve as the jump off point for your hunt. To land these bush craft, a water body needs to consist of deeper water without the threat of striking rocks, and have a clear, straight runway at least 1,000 metres long. Chartering a helicopter is exponentially more expensive and generally not an option.

Prospector canoes are easy to fly in with, and have a flat stern allowing a small motor to be mounted if needed. Four hunters in two canoes allow for the area to be covered twice as well, and makes floating a quartered moose back to camp half the work.

To give you an idea, four of us flew into a remote stretch of river in north-eastern Manitoba last fall. We chose Sept. 24 to Oct. 4, attempting to coincide with the peak of the rut, and call in some love-sick bulls. We selected an area with all the right ingredients, as well as a suitable landing strip, and had our choice of several towns from which we could drive to and charter a floatplane. Gillam, Thompson or Island Lake were some of our options. At the end of the hunt, we made out with two beautiful bulls, one of which was 50 inches wide and scored 185 net Boone & Crockett points. The second was a very respectable 43-inch bull, beat up and scarred from a recent fight with another bull. After adding up all the dollars, the trip was not a lot more than the costs associated with a road-based hunt. It may have taken our group several years worth of time and money spent road hunting to achieve these same results. From this point on, I don’t think I’d want to hunt moose any other way. Sure, I may not be able to afford to go every year, but when I do, I want to do it in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

Do yourself a favour and consider a DIY fly-in moose hunt with your best hunting buddies for some economic memories afield that will last a lifetime!

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