ARCHERY WORLD AUGUST 1986
Do-It-Yourself Moose Hunt – By Geoffrey C Hosmer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — When Upstate New York bowhunters Bruce Wilson
and Bob Krueger began making plans for the most challenging hunting excursion
they had ever attempted, game officials, veteran moose hunters, and even a guide of 30
years experience said it couldn’t be done. Without a professional guide, and
equipped with a minimal amount of gear, it was doubtful, skeptics said, that the two could
endure for long the treacherous Canada wilderness region they had chosen for the hunt,
let alone get close enough to bull moose to down it with bow and arrow.
Yet Wilson and his partner withstood, if uncomfortably, 11 days of often miserable
conditions in their makeshift campsite nearly 100 miles north of Ottawa.
What’s more, the moose colleagues said could never be taken with a bow weighed
1,200 pounds. Wilson downed it with a single arrow from 11 yards away.
Says Wilson now: “ls that close enough?” He had become, in 1983, according to Canadian conservation officials, the first American citizen to bow a bull moose in the Province of Quebec, and on a wall in his East Rochester, N .Y., home, below the mounted antlers, is displayed the Pope & Young Club certificate that documents the impressive statistics ofthe animal ’s rack:
Greatest spread, 45-2/8 inches; 8 normal points both sides (no abnormal points); widths of palms, 9 inches and 7-2/8 inches; lengths of palms including brows, 32-7/8 and
31-5/8 inches; smallest beam circumferences, 7-2/8 and 7-3/8 inches. Total score: 153-4/8.
Robert E. Estes of Caledonia, N.Y., the Boone & Crockett Club official who certified
the measurements, has been documenting moose since 1969. “I’ve seen a lot of larger
ones, especially from gun hunters, but never a Canada moose of this size taken with a bow,”
he said. If it is remarkable that Wilson got his moose with a bow, it is even more remarkable
that he and Krueger accomplished it entirely on their own.
“We wanted to prove that we could do it without being part of an organized hunting party that provides comfortable lodgings, full-course meals, and experienced guides
who pretty much guarantee you a moose — all at considerable expense,” Wilson says.
The hunt itself cost Wilson and Krueger about $500 each — a far cry, they say, from what big-game hunters are accustomed to paying for the opportunity to come home with
such a prize. Wilson and Krueger did it the hard way, but their insistence on doing it on their own had little to do with saving money. They went to Canada to hunt, not to party. They went to
test their skills not only as bowhunters, but as outdoorsmen willing to take on what nature could dish out in a remote and formidable territory.
And they went armed not only with bows,but with respect for a magnificent creature that deserved a fighting chance: the bowhunter with his skill and determination, and the moose with his wariness and the homefield advantage.
This would be a legitimate challenge, a fair contest. All things considered, in the long run, the chances of victory, or even survival, were in favor of the moose. This is the way Wilson and Krueger wanted it, for if any satisfaction were to be reaped from the taking of such a noble animal, they would have to achieve it with honor.
Wilson, 38, had been bowhunting for 21 years. Krueger, 35, a resident of Brockport,
N.Y., had nine years experience. They were co-workers and hunted often together, generally for deer or turkey, and they became convinced that their skills with bows merited a big-game challenge. Wilson had fished in Quebec, and it was there that they would attempt the moose by bow.
Into The Bush
The preparations took a year. They spent $150 on long-distance phone calls. They hired a float plane pilot to fly them and their gear to and from Lake Ruisseau, near Le Domaine, 95 miles north of Ottawa, for $110 each way. Locating a willing, although reluctant, pilot was difficult.
Most bush pilots, they discovered, were accustomed to dropping hunters only at established camps, and many didn’t take kindly to bowhunters in the first place.
Wilson and Krueger dehydrated their own food to complement what packaged goods they would take. They took first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross. They were tutored by a butcher and a taxidermist in how to cut and preserve the meat and hide. (The hide has been tanned and the meat, about 700 pounds, has long since been consumed. Wilson says the steaks were more tender and delicious than any he’d ever eaten.)
They studied everything about moose and their habits that they could lay their hands on, and they bought new bows. Wilson chose a Martin Cougar II and Game Getter 2117 arrows with Bear SS heads. Krueger bought a Martin Cougar Mag and XX75 2219 arrows with Bear Razor heads. They practiced with their new weapons, set at 75 pounds pull, at every opportunity, and they rehearsed their moose calls. They had learned that the call is 75 percent of the hunt.
They went on a four-day dress rehearsal camping trip in New York’s Adirondack Mountains to determine what equipment and supplies they’d need to weather the wilderness with no help for miles around. And for months they ran the hunt through their minds,
trying to envision every eventuality, hoping they had covered all the bases. They were well
aware that once the float plane pilot dropped them off, they would be on their own for at least 10 days. They would have to make do without whatever they might have forgotten.
As it turned out, they made very few mistakes. The amount of gear, of necessity, had to be
limited. They would be traveling either by canoe or on foot. They had to consider what they could carry and what the canoe could hold. There was, of course, another thing to consider: the addition to their load of a half ton of moose!
Besides their usual camping and hunting outfittings, Wilson’s and Krueger’s gear would include their dehydrated foods; cold weather clothing of wool (nothing with down); rain gear and good boots, of course, good knives, whetstone and butcher’s saw, large cheesecloth bags for the meat; and Kelty back packs, because they’re equipped with
frames should the meat have to be carried out.
Wilson mentions three things that would have made their mission easier. They constructed their own tree stands, but realized later that because of their size and portability,
Coleman stands would have been more efficient. They also should have taken their own
canoe. They had relied on the pilot to supply them with one and were unexpectedly charged
$110 more than they’d been originally quoted for a broken, unstable canoe that could barely
accommodate their gear. And, although they managed to make-do by fashioning a workable winch, Wilson realizes now that you can’t go moose hunting without block and tackle.
Bowhunting season would begin October 1. They were packed and ready to leave by truck for Canada September 27. What they weren’t ready for was a change in the bowhunting season regulations, put into effect just two weeks earlier, which would prohibit them from remaining in one hunting area for more than a week. Should it become necessary to move to another area for the remainder of the bowhunting season, their pilot would require an additional $110, each way, for the relocation.
They had already spent more than they had bargained on. They were determined to get their moose within the first seven days of the season. Krueger kept a diary.
Day 1: Wednesday, September 28
Anticipation high, confusion, hard work. °Left Rochester by truck 2 a.m. Arrived Mani-
waki 10:30 a.m., got hunting licenses ($205 each), and exchanged U.S. currency. Between
Maniwaki and Le Domaine saw about 15 moose on vehicles of gun hunters returning
from areas north of where we’d be hunting. Anticipation high.
Pilot arrived with float plane, accompanied by successful gun hunters. We learn now
that we can’t hunt in one area for more than a week. We hadn’t counted on that and don’t
like it at all. Took off at 3:30 p.m., scouted hunting area by plane, landing perfect. Canoe
too unstable and small for our equipment.Made arrangements for pilot to return October 8 or 9.
Scouted area for campsite. Running out of daylight. Woods extremely thick and damp.
Decided on campsite 6 p.m., cleared brush and debris, set up tent, cooked meal. No time
for anything else before dark. Very tired. Very warm, 70 degrees. Put food in canoe and
pushed it out on the lake to keep it away from animals.
Day 2: Thursday, September 29
Got up at 7 a.m. Heavy fog, damp, 40 degrees. Made breakfast, boiled water for
drinking. Organized camp area, put up tarp and pulley to hang food out of reach of animals.
Saw fish jumping, went out to try, no luck. Scouted east end of lake and found two good
areas for ambush. At 2 p.m., with slight wind, we paddled to west end of lake. Spotted
moose about 200 yards from shore —- one bull, two cows, one calf. Wind was blowing
us closer so we had to get away so as not to spook them. They noticed us when the wind
changed slightly, but weren’t alarmed. One cow and calf swam across lake. Bull and other
cow stayed where they were. Had to move and wait until Saturday for opening day of season.
Will look for ambush point. Could shoot from canoe, but it’s too unstable.
Paddled back to shore. Got dumped in the water when Bruce tried to pull the canoe
ashore with me in it. Soaked. Very glad we thought to keep extra clothes in plastic bags.
Also glad we brought extra boots or shoes for wearing around camp. Chili for dinner, too
hot. Dehydrated fruit was excellent. Very quiet, heard splash in water 75 yards away. Thought it might be a moose, investigated, saw nothing. After dinner, no talking. Heard footsteps 50 yards into the woods.
Hopes for success very high now. Will try to go out in the morning. We find area very hard
to hunt, extremely thick with no shoreline for tracking. We hope for no fog in the morning.
Still warm, 65 degrees. We realize this area will test our hunting skills.
Day 3: Friday, September 30
Heavy fog until 10:30 a.m., hot, 75 degrees after morning of 48 degrees. Uncomfortable for hunting as we brought no warm weather clothing. Made breakfast and waited for fog to lift. Decided to wait at spot where we saw moose before. No luck. Mosquitos and flies bad. Returned to camp 6:30 p.m. Started dinner after dark by flashlight and candle. Heard bull calling from shoreline only 175 yards from camp. Bull broke trees, snorted, made very angry sound, then went to water’s edge. We hope he doesn’t come through woods to campsite. He sounds as if
he’s huge. He continues to call, echoes around lake for an hour and a half. When he
started calling we gave one female call to keep him in the area. Don’t dare call more than
once for fear he’ll move toward camp.
We are taking all precautions to keep quiet— no loud talk, banging pans, etc. We’re
pretty sure he’ll stay in the area. We formulated plan to attack, trying to make sure the
bull will travel past ambush point. That’ll be difficult. Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter. We
hope not. Otherwise, everything is going well—- no problems, no accidents, no bears, but
we’re sure they’ll be coming around. Before tonight we had heard no moose calling and
didn’t know whether or not they were in rut. We know for sure that they are now. Hopes
Day 4: Saturday, October 1
At 4 a.m. we were awakened by a bull
moose calling near camp. Went to call the bull
at 2 p.m. and stayed in tree until 6:30 p.m.
After a second call we heard moose snorting
and climbing a nearby hill. We don’t think the
moose in this area are in the main rut. We
believe a few are starting but aren’t responding
to female calls. We have two more strategies
in mind. We’ll try again tomorrow and
hope the weather changes. It’s too hot to hunt.
We’ll try the area where we saw the other four
moose. Retired for the night, heard a cow
calling but no others.
Day 5: Sunday, October 2
Overcast, 45 degrees in the morning, 65
degrees daytime. In an effort to locate moose,
we chose a small pond of about three acres a
half mile or so from camp. Very thick brush,
extremely hard going. Had to use compass
and map bearings, which brought us to exact
edge of pond. Not bad! Picked two good
spots, sat for two and a half hours calling. No
response, no sightings. Perfect breeding area
— food and water — inaccessible. We know
they are here. We are also sure now that rut is
We located a main moose bedding area,
probably used during the day, as the moose
likely went for food and water in the morning
We worked up a big sweat hiking back to
camp. Found a flat rock in the lake nearby,
bathed and washed out dirty clothes. While I
was preparing dinner just before sundown,
Bruce went to the water’s edge to cool off
some fruit. All of a sudden he got excited and
motioned to me to get a bow. I grabbed his
outfit and hurried to the shore. There, not 40
yards away and only 20 yards from camp was
the big bull, with a huge rack, that we’d heard
carrying on before.
I had rattled a pan while Bruce was trying
to catch my attention in the campsite, and the
moose had mosied off. He was still within 40
yards, but a clear shot was impossible because
of the thick brush. At least we know he’s still
around. All we have to do is figure out his
route. We are going to get him.
Day 6: Monday, October 3
Didn’t get much sleep, thanks to small
animals and a bear in camp. We had no weapons
to speak of and became very nervous. We
heard a bear just inches away from the tent and
heard a deep, powerful growl just behind the
tent. We weren’t sure what it was, but there
was no damage to our equipment. We were
glad that we had maintained a clean camp and
kept our food out of reach.
We built two tree stands, five feet off the
ground, by lashing birch saplings with rope,
10 to 15 feet from the trail we knew the moose
traveled every evening. We stayed in the
stands from 2 p.m. until dark, and it poured
the whole time. Bruce hadn’t brought rain
pants and he got soaked and miserably cold. It
poured all night. The wind shifted and was
blowing off the lake and into camp. With the
wind chill factor, the temperature was seven
degrees, and we knew the wind was bad for
the hunt. No sightings.
Day 7: Tuesday, October 4
The temperature is 40 degrees, the wind is
cold, and it’s wet. The rain stopped for three
hours in the morning, so we spent the time
drying out our clothes and gear. The wind is
very cold and we are both wearing longjohns
and heavy clothing.
The wind continued to blow hard and it
rained all day and into the night. We took to
the tree stands at mid-afternoon with little
hope of a sighting. Moose don’t like the
strong wind and will stay bedded if they can.
We returned to camp and cooked. It seemed
that all we did was cook and eat. When it was
useless to hunt, there wasn’t anything else to
do. We hope the wind will shift tonight because
the moose probably won’t move until it
does. He’ll stay in the meadow in back of the
hill where his bedding area is. We thought of
stalking him, but that would be useless. He’d
smell us in the wind or hear us in the brush.
The tent feels like a Hilton hotel after get-
ting soaked and freezing our feet in tree stands
all afternoon. To put up with this you’d have
to be either a dedicated bowhunter or a lunatic.
If the weather isn’t against us, we’ll try the
tree stands again in the morning.
Day 8: Wednesday,0ctober 5
SUCCESS! Went to the stands at 6:30
a.m. — raining, cold and windy. Started call-
ing again, hoping moose would respond. No
Came back, slept until 2 p.m., and went
back to stands — no wind, slight drizzle. We
alternated calling with a birch bark horn we
had made and one we had bought. On the way
to the stands by canoe, we spooked the bull as
he was coming down the trail and he ran back
to the woods. We entered the stands.
On about the fourth call from Bruce, I
heard the moose snort as he was coming down
the hill towards me. He was about 40 yards
away, starting down at a sharp angle. I knew
he might go by my stand, but hoped he would
go straight for the trail. Then I would take him.
I had plenty of time to prepare because he
was coming slowly. I took off my rain jacket,
folded it over a branch, picked up my bow and
As he came closer, he went behind two
pine trees, blocking a clear shot. He was
headed for Bruce, and I wasn’t going to blow
it by taking a shot through the brush. Besides,
I knew he would hit the trail just past my stand
and end up in front of Bruce. I crossed by
fingers, thumbs, arms, legs, praying Bruce
would take him.
The wait seemed like an hour, but all of a
sudden I heard Bruce’s bow crack. The bull
let out a grunt, charged the tree Bruce was in,
and then jumped in the lake and started swimming.
Bruce had embedded his arrow in the
feathers, and would discover that he had collapsed
the moose ’s lungs and severed his
That the bull had taken to the water could
mean disaster. He might drown and we’d lose
him. I saw him take one last cough, then he
just went down for good and disappeared.
I was already out my stand and running for
the canoe, and Bruce was screaming for me to
hurry. I paddled to Bruce and we went to
where we’d last seen the moose. All we could
find of our moose was hair floating on the still
surface. We dropped my pack, anchored by
Bruce’s knife, to mark the spot and searched
by pole for an hour.
I took off all my clothes but my longjohns. I
wasn’t going to lose this moose, even if I had
to dive for it. The water was only 40 degrees,
but luckily only 12 feet deep where we saw the
bull go down. We poled around for another
hour and a half with no luck. It’s pitch dark
now. We’ll start fresh in the morning.
We planned to fashion grappling hooks
and cast in a circle so that we might at least
snag the moose and then figure out what to
do. It ’s 1 a.m. now. Bruce is still wound up
and can’t sleep. We built our first fire because
we don’t have to worry now about smoke
spooking the animals. Bruce had packed away
a couple bottles of beer. They sure felt good
Day 9: Thursday, October 6
Neither of us slept very well, thinking
about how we were going to get that moose off
the bottom of the lake. Very discouraging.
Arose at 7 a.m., had breakfast, and took to
the canoe. We paddled out about 50 feet and
noticed a rock that didn’t seem familiar. Sure
enough, our moose had floated to the surface
and to our amazement was only 10 feet from
shore. We towed the moose back to camp and
designed a crude winch out of a log and
hauled him partly up on shore.
Skinning and cutting took all day, By day ’s
end we were whipped and slept well.
Day 10: Friday October 7
Gun—hunting season begins tomorrow and
the planes are really busy. A Beechcraft
landed about a mile from us to unload
gunhunters, so we paddled over to ask the pi-
lot if he could radio our pilot to tell him we
were ready to get out. He had two antennas
sticking out of his fuselage, but said he didn’t
have a radio. We have no orange clothing and
gun-hunters are all over. We want out.
Our pilot eventually flew over, but only to
tip his wings. We wanted to get out today and
only hope he’ll land tomorrow.
Day 11: Saturday, October 8
After breakfast we packed everything but
the tent and tarp because we’re not certain our
pilot will arrive this morning. It rained all
night and it’s still coming down. The lake
level has risen almost 18 inches since Tues-
day. There is nothing to do but sit in our tent
and wait. Can’t go anywhere as the pilot
might arrive any time. Gun-hunting season is
underway. We’re tied to camp, facing the realization
that with the weather as bad as it is, we
might not see our pilot for another two days.
When the pilot flew in about l p.m., he
said he’d have to drop off some cargo and re-
turn in an hour. He hadn’t counted on carrying a moose.
Bruce and I lit up like a 100-watt bulb. We
know that when the pilot goes to his landing
dock to unload his extra cargo they’ll be gun-
hunters there. He’ll explain that he has to
lighten his load to accommodate two bow-
hunters and a bull moose.
The pilot returned and we loaded in just 20
minutes. With the extra weight, it took the
whole lake and part of a river to get airborne.
When we landed, some 80 people were
waiting to see this bull, taken by bowhunters
who, save for the necessity of a bush pilot,
had accomplished their far-fetched mission
entirely on their own.
We didn’t mind doing some showboating.
(End of Diary)
When it was over, Wilson and Krueger had
bittersweet feelings about their adventure.
They had conquered the wilderness, or at
least stood up to it in often brutal conditions,
but they were exhausted and weather-beaten.
They had indeed earned their prize the hard
way, and they were proud of it. On the other
hand, Wilson says, “Some people will never
believe that a hunter doesn’t get some kind of
morbid thrill out of killing something. You
don’t. There’s no thrill when you down that
animal, and I have no thrill when I see that
arrow connect and he dies. I hunt in a one·on-
one situation. I’m in his territory, trying to
outsmart him, and if I do, it’s a sport.”
Wilson knows that much of his success in
getting his moose must be attributed to the
unselfishness and sportsmanship of his friend
and partner, Bob Krueger. “Bob could have
taken a shot when the moose got so close. I
wouldn’t have blamed him. We both wanted it
so badly. But it would have been a tough shot.
He realized that I would have the better shot,
so he let me take him. I would have done the
same for him. I guess that’s why we hunt so
well together. The main thing was to get the
Now Wilson and Krueger are making
plans to try the same hunt again, in the same
region, but with a better idea of the equipment
they’ll need. And, next time around, they
plan to tape the hunt with a video recorder. It
would be commendable enough for them to
take a second Canada moose with bow and
arrow, but getting the hunt on film would re-
ally be something.
Meanwhile, they can be fairly sure of one
thing: the skeptics won’t be as quick to say it
can’t be done.
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