Thursday, April 16, 2009

Even One Moose is One Too Many

(This was written in the early 1960s for a newspaper in Montana. Dad and Mom lived in a cabin in Bear Canyon, outside of Bozeman.)
By Lou Jonas
A "mad" moose can create a lasting impression-an impression of distaste which can make a man feel like shooting every one he sees.

A bull once kept me in the house for half a day in the Jackson Hole country. Each time I opened the door, he would lunge at me. When he wasn't lunging, he was running his tongue out a foot or so (it seemed) like a disturbed snake, or grinding his teeth. His eyes showed more bloodshot white than any mean bronc I've encountered.

I had been told that any moose in the world can be driven away by a man with a club, and I wanted the man who told me that to come over and prove it, but he was too busy that day.

I had a very good alibi for not trying that stunt myself. I had 54 head of horses to feed, and there was no one else to take over the job in case I became disabled. My wife suspected cowardice, and maybe she was right. It's a very thin line between caution and coward, I've found.

I was reluctant to shoot the moose, even though he was thin and old and was almost certain to die before spring, anyway. The main reason I was reluctant to shoot him was that the only trail I had on which I could drive the sled through the deep snow, was the trail the moose was claiming as his own. I had work enough to satisfy me without chopping a bull moose up in quarters, so I could drag him off the road.

The herd wasn't suffering from lack of hay, so I waited. Finally, about noon, the potential troublemaker wandered off the trailer to feed on some spruce branches. I decided that the most humane thing for all concerned was to end its misery, and this I did with a .30-.60 rifle bullet.

Once more that winter I had trouble with moose. This one, too, figured the road belonged to him alone, and it refused to let the team pass. Worse yet, it began dashing up to the horses and rearing, trying to bluff them into turning around. I consider turning a team and sled on a narrow track, through deep snow, next to impossible, so I looked for another solution.

I wasn't sure just when the bluffing would cease and the damage to the horses would begin. I warned him in every language I could think of, that I was a dangerous opponent, but he didn't seem to understand. I carefully ricocheted a .45 slug off the top of his head, and he finally understood the message I was trying to convey. He went hastily and willingly off through the deep snow, which it had been so eager to avoid just a little while before. It stopped in an aspen grove and stood there for some time, like a man scratching his head and trying to figure out what had happened.

I've heard of people having trouble with mother moose, but so far every one I've seen has dashed off in greast haste, with her little brown baby making every effort to keep up with her. However, if a calf had been too young and wobbly to run, the cow's reaction might have been different. Maybe I'll still have a chance some day to see if the "club-wielding" approach really works.

Moose have no upper incisors, but they still do an expert job of de-barking willows, aspens, maple, serviceberries and alder with their lower plate and an efficient and firm maxillary pad on top. Chokecherries, serviceberries and bed-barked dogwood appear to be much preferred, and a few moose can raise hob with a serviceberry patch, if they stay around long.

Olaus Murie, pretty much of an authority on large deer, state the willows were the "staff ofl ife" for moose. They also browse the twigs and needles off fir as high as they can reach, which is a considerable height, since they may run from six to seven feet high at the shoulders.

This winter just ended has seen a very deep accumulation of snow, and the moose are especially companionable with humans, often feeding by the house here of a night and early morning, and bedding down within one or two hundred yards. Evidently traveling is difficult in their more normal range. However, moose can winter in much deeper snow than elk.

In summer, moose feed on the lush, succulent vegetation which grows in and near marshes and ponds. They graze some, but usually have to drop to their knees to do so, because of their relatively short necks.

A moose is a find swimmer and a fair runner. He gallops only in an emergency but prefers to trot. He covers miles swiftly and for a great distance, if he realizes a hunter is on his trail.

Moose are great tourist attractions, and the meat is as good or better than elk, although there are hunters who will disagree is this. It depends partly upon the age and condition of the animal and how long it is before the moose is dressed after being killed.

Also, the moose meat I've eaten tasted much better if it was fried, then allowed to cool before eating.

Moose are interesting to watch and to hunt, and there is plenty of terrain and food well-suited for them in the northern Rockies, but they need to be carefully managed.

Overpopulaton is a relative matter, but, as you might have gathered, there have been times when I figured that even one moose constituted an overpopulation.


  1. dear Mama,
    i love you and i like you!!!!!!!!!

    I LOVE YOU AND I LIKE YOU!!!!!!!!!

  3. I enjoyed this post also I was chased by a bull moose up in Alaska I ran very fast LOL!! I actually ran so fast I left Adrian behind by himself hehehe ~Blessings Heather