Moose are running large in the minds of Inland Northwest residents these days, as I learned after last week’s column on the cow moose that charged a Spokane couple as they hiked along Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Within hours, readers chimed in with reports of moose encounters along the Fish Lake Trail and the Little Spokane River and in the Colbert area and Spokane Valley.
Most of the stories were harmless moose sightings even though moose are still winding down from the annual weirdness of the breeding season, known as the rut.
Following are two extremes coming from a skilled hunter as well from Laura Visco, who felt as though her family was being hunted.
“Our friends had warned us there was a moose in the area as we hiked into the Dishman Hills last Sunday,” Visco said. “Our daughter wanted to school photos at the ponds.”
Indeed, they encountered a bull moose that looked protective of a cow bedded down behind him.
Visco snapped a few photos as the bull came to within about 20 yards. As the family backed away to seek protection in front of the viewing platform at the pond, the moose seemed to be headed the other direction, so they began snapping photos of her daughter.
“That’s when the 6-year-old boy that was with us looked back and said, ‘Here come the moose!’” Visco said.
It’s notable that the family was accompanied by a dog, a common factor in triggering aggressive moose behavior, experts say.
Both the bull and the cow were running toward the group. “We scrambled into some boulder cliffs and the moose ran through where we’d been and up to about 15 feet away and then just looked at us.”
The group scrambled over the rocks and out of sight, but they could hear the moose grunting, rustling in the brush in the background and doing God knows what.
“We took the non-trail route out of there,” Visco said.
A Chattaroy man had a rare opportunity to take a different approach in his moose encounter.
Harry Williamson was the lucky winner of a Washington moose hunting tag through a raffle conducted by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council. He made the most of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a bull moose with a bow and arrow.
“I was able to get out five times in September and saw four bulls, three cows and a calf,” he said. “I decided to pass on them because I thought I could maybe find something a little bigger.”
On Sept. 30, he launched another hunt near Usk. As he hiked up a gated road, he and a bull spotted each other simultaneously about 50 yards apart.
The bull, with a rack that spanned about 40 inches, trotted up the hill and out of sight.
“I heard another bull grunting farther up the hill,” he said. “As that one was grunting, I worked my cow moose call that I had made from a metal can. This got yet another bull grunting from behind me.
“I was surrounded by moose!
“A few more moans on the cow call got the bull behind me worked up and he started coming in fast. I saw antler tips at about 25 yards and got ready to draw my bow.
“When he got to the edge of the road 15 yards from me, I drew and got ready for the shot, but when I could see his rack in the open I held off.”
This was a smaller bull, with antlers about 30 inches wide. Williamson let down his bow and the bull disappeared down the hill.
“The two bulls above me were still grunting so I headed up. I could not move quietly because of the dry leaves and thick brush, so I cow-called as I moved.”
One of the bulls was coming closer but clearly trying to circle downwind to scent and verify the noisemaker. Williamson countered by moving downwind and closer at the same time.
“The bull held up and went silent for a couple minutes, so I made a couple cow moans and then a couple bull grunts. This got the bull fired up and he started coming quickly.
“I saw antler tips at 20 yards and new this was a bigger bull.
“I got an arrow ready and hoped the bull would come by an opening broadside about 12 yards away. Instead, he came straight at me.”
When the bull cleared some trees 8-10 yards away, Williamson was already at full draw but did not want to take a straight-on shot because of the chance the boiler-plate-tough sternum would deflect his arrow.
“The bull saw me and started swaying his head back and forth and laid his ears back and lowered his head. He looked like he was going to charge me. I felt like I was in danger, so I concentrated on the pocket between his shoulder and the center of the chest and released my arrow.”
The shot was perfect. The bull raised up, turned, ran, staggered at 15 yards and went down in a heap at 20 yards.
The bull’s face was battle-scarred and one eye was missing from the rigors of being the dominant bull.
“I was still shaking for probably two hours, but was able to control myself well enough to call some good friends who came to help me with the large task at hand,” he said.
After six hours of field dressing, butchering and packing, the men brought a perfect hunt to their dinner tables and ultimately to Williamson’s wall.
The bull’s antlers measured 49 inches wide, and the head and antlers alone weighed 109 pounds.
Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org