In this post, I discuss how to hunt Maine moose during the rut. The Maine moose rut is an exciting opportunity but it’s still challenging. With only a week to hunt and basically a once-in-a-lifetime tag, there is a lot on the line. These hunting tips and lessons learned will no doubt help reduce your odds of going home empty-handed.
I assume you came across this article because you got pulled in the Maine moose lottery and want to put the odds in your favor as much as possible when your one-week Maine moose rut hunting season rolls around in September.
Eating your Maine Moose tag is no fun. Learn from my experiences over the last couple of years hunting September bulls in the North Maine Woods.
I’ve been fortunate to go on a few moose hunts over the last few years and have learned a lot about Maine moose hunting. In this post, I share what I’ve learned to help you maximize your odds of shooting a Maine moose.
When Is The Maine Moose Rut?
The moose rut in Maine occurs during the last week in September which aligns with the first moose hunt of the year here in Maine. Bulls are likely to be rutting to some degree prior to the opening day of moose season as well. Drawing a September moose hunt can be a lot of fun because bulls are on the move, and are never more callable than during this time of year. Hunting the Maine moose rut can be exhilarating for this reason.
Where To Find Bulls During the Rut in Maine
Find the food, and you’ll find the cows. When you find the cows, you’ll find rutting bulls. But don’t forget to take hunting pressure and temperature into account.
Food = Cows = Bulls
Finding the food is key for finding bulls because this is where the cows will be. Cows and their calves are trying to put weight on as they can for winter so they’ll be found in the food.
It’s common to see cows in cuts in the mornings and afternoons. It’s not uncommon to see them in cuts during the day too but at a lower frequency. Keep an eye out for bulls that are chasing these cows.
What Moose Eat In Maine
There are a few good food sources for moose in the Maine woods:
Active cuts are great places to find cows because the fresh cutting brings fresh high-quality vegetation scraps to the forest floor where moose can reach it. For this reason, cows and calves will gravitate to these areas. If you’re seeing cows in calves in these areas bulls will not be far away during the rut.
New Aspen / Hardwood Regeneration
Cuts that are a few years old are also good bets. These cuts will have vegetative regeneration at about waist height and sometimes higher. These young shoots provide better nutrition which is why moose are often seen in cuts, it’s basically a remote wilderness food plot. These cuts will harbor cows and calves, thus bulls will follow during the rut.
What’s The Temperature?
Warm Weather Bulls
Temperature plays a big role during the moose rut. If temperatures are warm bulls will do a lot of rutting at night when things cool down. Big-bodied animals like moose don’t have the same ability to cool off as smaller animals do.
For this reason, moose have to be careful not to expend too much energy during hotter times of the day. Your best bet for seeing a bull in these hot temps is during rainy or windy periods or at dawn and dusk.
During warmer periods you can find moose in cooler places like in shaded areas near water during the day. They’ll likely be bedded so it will be hard to find them. However, they won’t be in just any place where there is water. They will still want to be bedded near the cows.
If you find high-quality cuts with cows, there’s likely a bull nearby that may not be showing himself because he is conserving his energy in a cool shaded area. It can be worth slowly hunting and calling in these cooler areas to get one out of its bed. This may be a dense shaded canopy that follows a stream – that is also near cuts and cows.
Find Bulls Away From Hunting Pressure
If you’re looking for bigger bulls it is recommended to hunt away from the competition. Finding cuts that aren’t hunted hard, or getting on foot to walk to places where you can get a vehicle can be beneficial. These bulls also have likely heard less calling from hunters and will be more willing to come into a call.
Driving During The Rut
Driving is an excellent way to find bulls, in fact, it may be the most effective way. This may or may not be what you want to hear, and trust me I’d rather shoot a bull that I called in too. But the fact remains that there is a fair distance between pockets of moose. So if you’re walking it may take you a long time to get from pocket to pocket.
When you drive you are able to get from pocket to pocket quickly, and during the rut, and you are likely to find cruising bulls on the road at any time of day, especially with good temps. That said, it may be harder to consistently find bigger bulls from the road but it’s still very possible, I’ve seen 40″+ bulls every time I’ve been moose hunting while driving.
The Shooter Shouldn’t Drive
Having the shooter drive is a big mistake. The half-second it takes for the driver to shut the truck off, load the gun, and set situated to shoot is very often the difference between a moose on the ground and a moose that got away. Have someone else drive so they can shut the truck off while you load your gun, this way you can be at the ready at all times.
Know When to Call & When To Drive
Depending on the weather conditions, it may be more advantageous to drive and look for moose than be on foot. I think most people would agree they’d rather call in a big moose in ideal weather conditions. However, if you’re looking to get a bull on the ground knowing when to drive and when not to drive will help you put a bull on the ground.
For example, if it’s raining I would be driving because the moose are likely up and running around due to the cooler temps. However, calling won’t help you in these situations very often because bulls can’t hear you. By putting more miles on i
Hunting Pressure And Maine Bull Moose Activity
Know The Hunting Pressure Of Your WMD
Different MWD’s will have different amounts of hunting pressure depending on how many tags are issued. If there are a lot of tags given for your WMD then try to find places where other hunters won’t be.
Know The Hunting Pressure Of Where You Plan To Hunt
It’s a good idea to do some homework on the hunting pressure on the area you’ve decided to stay in. If you’re camping in an area where there is a lot of other moose hunters it might not be a bad idea to get up earlier than other hunters and get to more remote spots further from camp and other hunters.
Don’t Overcall In Areas With Higher Hunting Pressure
Overcalling is a big mistake when bulls are pressured. If you are seeing a lot of moose hunters in the areas you’re hunting don’t call as much later in the week. Bulls are likely to have smartened up, and some light calling may be more effective. A good rule of thumb is to mimic the frequency and volume of real cows.
There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as calling in a big bull out of the thick brush in close quarters, but don’t force it.
Keep Expectations Realistic To Avoid Frustration
Don’t get me wrong, you should be excited you drew a September Maine moose tag but don’t think it’s going to be easy going into it. It’s better to expect to hunt hard and long for 7 days from dawn to dusk and be pleasantly surprised to get one sooner because that is often the reality. If you go into it thinking you’re going to shoot a 40-50″+ bull in the first couple of days you’re not going to want to keep hunting later in the week.
Practicing before the season starts is a very good idea. Once you get your rifle sighted in, start practicing real-life scenarios. Some scenarios I suggest practicing are:
- Getting out of the truck and loading your gun quickly, then taking a quick free-hand shot at 50-100 yards.
- Getting out of the truck, loading your gun, then shooting your gun rested on the open window.
- Taking 100-200 yard shots off a tripod or shooting sticks like you would in a fast-paced hunting situation.
- Taking 300-yard relaxed shots to replicate shooting a feeding bull far away in a cut.
Scouting and Calling Right Before The Season
If you’re scouting before the season it is best not to go right into a spot and mess things up by leaving scent and calling. Calling may be the worst thing because it is smartening bulls up for the actual hunting season. If you call a bull in, then spook it, he may not be willing to make the same mistake twice and could leave the area.
A better alternative is to scout from a distance if possible. If this is not an option and you need to get into a thicker area to scout, then just don’t call. Instead, do a speed scouting mission looking for bull rut sign, then get out of there.
Checking a handful of cameras and honing in on bulls that are active on the cameras within a week or two before the season is a great way to see what caliber bulls are in the area.
Scout As Much As Possible From A Distance Right Before The Season
Although getting right into the middle of an area you suspect is a good place to hunt and scouting right before the season is not recommended, it is highly recommended to scout right before the season at a distance. Moose have seasonal patterns, and scouting too early or too late will give you poor intel on what is actually happening in the moose world.
If possible, taking a week before moose season starts to scout is a very good use of time. By driving around and glassing for moose at dawn and dusk is a good way to get an idea of where the bigger moose are hanging out. Finding good habitat on aerial imagery and then cruising those areas quickly for bull sign can give you a good idea if an area is worthwhile to hunt during the season.
Don’t Assume Moose Are By Themselves During the Rut
When hunting Maine moose during the rut, a big mistake is to assume moose are by themselves. One of the hunts I went on we shot a small moose towards the end of the hunt, and we were happy with that small bull because we had hunted hard. But we didn’t think about the possibility of another bull being nearby. Sure enough, a 50″ bull popped out after the shot at 40 yards.
Even more commonly you may be driving around and see a cow and think “it’s just a cow I don’t need to get out of the truck” but this is a mistake. During the rut, a bull might be in the brushes off to the side just out of sight. It is good practice to get out of the truck, load your gun, and start glassing around the cow for a bull.
Have Others Scouting While You’re Hunting
Having other friends or family with you to help you scout while you’re hunting is an excellent way to get a bull on the ground. The more eyes you have the better chances someone will be able to find a spot where a big bull could be hanging out.
Keep Hunting Groups Small and Agile
With that being said, it is important for the shooter not to be with a lot of people because as you increase in the number of people, there is more time being wasted. Instead, break up into teams of 2 to 3 and rotate who gets to go with the hunter. The others should be scouting to help the shooter find a bull.
Good quality walky-talkies are great pieces of gear to have when moose hunting in Maine so information of moose sightings can be relayed quickly by others in the party.
Hunt All Weather Conditions
When you’ve only got one week to hunt, you’ve got to make the most of it. Fortunately, moose are moving in just about all weather conditions except warm ones. That means windy and rainy days are good days to be hunting and they are great days to be hunting from the truck.
Don’t Give Up
With essentially a once-in-a-lifetime tag it is important not to give up. It’s easy to get discouraged. You want to look back and say you gave it all you had. Hunt all day and hunt hard, it will pay off. Just put the odds in your favor as much as possible.
I’ve been fortunate to go on a few moose hunts over the last few years and have learned a thing or two about how to hunt Maine moose during the rut.
Eating your Maine Moose tag is no fun. I hope you’ve been able to take away some information from this post and learned from my experiences over the last couple of years hunting the Maine moose rut in September in the North Maine Woods.
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