Bridget’s Mistake When Facing Down a Moose
July 6th, 2020
5 minute read
Every winter I like to march around the hills in search of some moose antlers. Male moose, or bulls, naturally shed their antlers during the months of January and February. Moose survive some of the most brutal winter environments, and in order to make their lives somewhat easier they typically head to lower elevations in search of a cozy spot to winter that features a winter water source (such as a creek), oak brush and less snow.
Because moose are so big and not afraid of people, it’s typically easier to find their winter range compared to an elk (to see my article about elk shed hunting, click here). Moose are aware that they are the largest animals in the woods, and because of that they often don’t act afraid of humans. I have bumped into them many times and I always respect them by keeping my distance and moving on.
A Successful Find
It was a beautiful February day when I decided to take a walk in the woods and look for some moose horns. I decided to go to a thick patch of woods that was adjacent to a popular winter hiking trail. When on this trail, I often see moose to the south of the trail in a beautiful patch of aspen and pine trees.
I started my trek around 10 am with a backpack and some snowshoes for once I split off the hiking trail. The snow was packed down on the trail and it was easy to stay on top of with just my snow boots. I began hiking and made it about a half mile. It was about 25 degrees out and cloudy with deep snow around me on the trail.
To the north of the trail is a beautiful creek that houses wild brown trout and beautiful views. The trail follows this creek and I was enjoying the beautiful sounds that went along with hiking near it. Right near the place I wanted to cut into the woods, I noticed a large moose lying down. By his facial structure I could tell right away that it was a shed bull. This means that it was a male moose that had recently shed his antlers, making it likely that his antlers were nearby.
The moose was blocking the area that I needed to walk alongside the creek. I stopped as soon as I saw him and kept my distance of about 50 yards. I observed his behavior, and he seemed to be very relaxed, just lying in the snow. He was looking at me calmly and I made the decision to try and walk around him while still keeping as much distance as possible.
As I walked forward about 10 yards, the moose got up out of his bed. He stood up and started walking away from me in the direction that I was planning on hiking. As he started walking away, I noticed that the poor bull had a slight limp. His back, left leg was tucked above the ground and he was barely putting pressure on it as he walked. My mind started guessing… Did he stumble onto the road and get hit by a car? Did he get caught in a fence? Had a mountain lion tried to attack him?
Hard to say, but I felt very bad for him. I kept my distance of about 50 yards and moved very slow behind him. I wanted to see where he would cut into the woods so I could go somewhere else and stay clear of him.
All of a sudden, the moose stopped. In an instant he turned around, put his head down, ears back, and began charging at me. The limp that was once there was gone as he was in a full sprint straight at me. The look in his eyes is a look that I will never forget. I turned around and ran for my life. I probably ran faster than I’ve ever run before! I was lucky that I had just hiked from the way that I was running so the snow was very stable and packed down.
With each step I looked behind me to see if the moose was closing in on me. We both ran for about 25 yards, but it felt like a mile. After that distance the moose stopped, and I kept going to get more distance. He then went into the woods and I never saw him again.
I continued on with my hike with a whole new respect for the giant moose. I look at them in a different light now, knowing that they aren’t just harmless, cute giants lurking in the woods. I never did find his sheds, but he did teach me a very valuable lesson that I will never forget!
My biggest takeaway from this day is that sometimes it is just best to turn around and hike a new way. Changing your plan can be frustrating in the moment, but certain animals are just not worth the risk. Now, when I see a moose I get as far away as I can right away. A wild animal’s aggression is very unpredictable, and you never know what will set them off.
I have been around many moose in the woods and looking back I think that this bull’s limp made him a little more vulnerable and defensive. I really do think that he charged me because of the situation of his leg, and he was simply trying to hold his ground and assert his dominance.
On the day that the moose charged me, I was carrying my Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Operator chambered in 10mm. It was securely holstered to my hip right below my backpack straps. I was wearing heavy winter gear because of the below-freezing temps. I’m glad I had that sense of security on my hip, and even more glad that I didn’t have to use it. And I definitely won’t forget the lesson I learned that day.
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