Tactics

Guide to Moose Hunting in North America

October 6, 2023

Everett Headley

Everett Headley

For a western big game hunter, walking up to a moose is how whitetail hunters from the east feel as they approach their downed elk. You need to see and touch a moose’s imposing hulk of body and antlers to really appreciate the creature. Few hunters will experience the feeling, but those that do go moose hunting can have an unparalleled adventure with North America’s largest deer species.  

Determine Your Moose Hunting Experience 

Not all moose hunts are the same. Drop camps in Alaska remove you entirely from civilization and other hunters, while hunters access Maine backcountry waters primarily with canoes. In the lower 48 states, people pack in moose camps on horses and spike camps follow daily trips to spot and stalk.  

Each one is so different that you’ll forget that it’s the same species at all. It’s up to you to choose your weapons and determine your method based on the terrain and season.  

DIY or Guided? 

Most moose hunts are once-in-a-lifetime — unless you live in the more moose-populous states. The do-it-yourself approach is easier if you’re on a budget, but hiring a guide significantly reduces the learning curve of an area. Consider the latter if you think this might be your only chance to hunt one.  

To determine what it will take to haul a moose, imagine twice the amount of effort needed for an elk, or 12 times the amount to haul out a deer — those estimations will get you close.  

Not All Moose Are Created Equal 

moose hunting

The Boone and Crockett Club recognizes three moose subspecies in North America but there are eight worldwide. The Alaska-Yukon moose is the largest, followed by the Canada moose and the Shira’s moose. While the minimum score for an Alaska moose is a full 50% greater than a Shira’s, acquiring a Shira’s license is far more difficult. 

Nine States Offer Moose Hunting

Vermont: 

Closed their moose hunting for a couple of years due to low numbers, but the lottery is available nowadays. 

North Dakota:  

The  North Dakota moose draw is for residents only. 

Idaho:  

Some units in Idaho have had draw rates as high as 40%, but that came with an inversely low success rate. 

Maine:  

Maine offers over 2,000 licenses, a bonus point each year you unsuccessfully draw, and the opportunity to purchase more chances. Overall, this is your best chance out of all the states.  

Other States:  

Unfortunately, the other states that offer a nonresident license vary from relatively decent to tearfully abysmal. 

Go North For Moose Hunting 

moose hunting

If your budget allows, Alaska and Canada have over the counter opportunities. A DIY approach will set you back a few thousand dollars if you share the cost with some of buddies. A fully outfitted trip — including flying in and shipping meat and antlers — can easily run more than $15,000; however, with moose numbers suffering in their lower ranges, this might be the only way you can ever harvest a moose.  

Don’t Underestimate Moose Hunting 

Don’t wait until you have a moose front of you before you consider what to do next. They are big in a Jurassic way: Just one can fill a couple of freezers and exhaust your fortitude as you pack out. They live in massive country and the real work only begins after the shot.

Most moose live in grizzly country, adding danger to an already taxing hunt. You need to be meticulous when preparing for these hunts. However, those trying to complete the North American grand slam know that harvesting these almost mythical mammals is a must. Anyone who has had the pleasure of enjoying moose meat know that it is one of the best ways to pack your freezer.

Everett Headley is an outdoor writer and educator. He was raised hunting and fishing in Montana. He lives in the Bitterroot with his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cane, and his peregrine falcon, Freyja. You can find more of his work on his professional page, on Instagram and his podcast Elevate the Hunt.

Looking for a way to turn all that meat into a delicious meal? Check out Buck, Buck, Moose on iSportsmanUSA.

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