A Canadian Moose Hunt in Northwestern Alberta

No other animal embodies the northern wilderness for me more than the moose. I first hunted moose in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota years ago, in the days when Minnesota allowed moose hunting. A friend drew a once-in-a-lifetime Minnesota moose tag. I tagged along to help pack out the meat if my friend got a moose, (he didn’t get one). Fast forward to a New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago when I decided that I needed to make a moose hunt of my own a priority. I called my friend, Jim Beehler, who has been moose hunting before for advice on the hunt and he decided to join me. Together we decided on moose hunting in northern Alberta, Canada.

About Moose

Moose (Alces alces) are found throughout Canada, Alaska, and northern parts of some of the lower 48 states. They can weigh upwards of 1,400 lbs and stand well over 6 feet at the shoulder, and Canadian moose are the second largest member of the deer (Cervidae) family, (the Alaskan-Yukon moose hold the honor of being the largest). The origin of the word moose comes from the Algonquin word ‘moosu’ which means, ‘bark stripper’. It’s an apt name as they browse on young trees and brush as opposed to grasses. Red willow is a favorite.

moose crossing sign
A moose crossing sign in Northern Alberta

Selecting a Moose Hunting Location

Jim and I settled in on Alberta for our hunt based on driveability, a good population of moose, and the fact that the size of the animals in western Canada is typically a little larger than those in the eastern part of the country. As we were hunting in Canada as non-residents, we were required to hire a guide. This would be a first for me as I’ve always been a Do-It-Yourself hunter. After a fair amount of research, we selected a guide who operates a camp in Northwestern Alberta in Peace River Country.

Moose Hunting – Getting There

You have two options for getting to this part of Alberta. The easy option is to fly to Grand Prairie, Alberta where the guide will pick you up and take you the roughly ninety minutes to camp. The only problem with this option is it is very difficult to get your meat home. We choose to drive from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to our camp in the bush north of Fairview Alberta, roughly 6-7 hours northwest of Edmonton. From our location, it was about 25-26 hours of drive time, which translated to two and half days to get there and we did the drive home in two days.

trailer with freezers
Irrational optimism compelled us to pull a trailer with two chest freezers from Minnesota to NW Alberta to bring our moose meat home.

Alberta Moose Camp

After our long journey, we met our guide and a couple of other hunters in Fairview, Alberta, and followed them north into the bush to our camp on the southern edge of our hunt zone. Our camp was a neat affair of wall tents arranged in a clearing on Crown land. We had three sleeping tents and a cook tent, all with wood stoves. One of the pleasant surprises for me on this hunt was the food. I knew when I booked the hunt that food was part of the deal, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. I found that the food on the trip was both plentiful and quite good.

The Alberta Moose Hunt

A Rut Moose Hunt

The hunt my partner, Jim, and I booked was advertised as a “Rut Moose Hunt”. The hunting style was described as being focused on calling to bring the bulls in. This really appealed to me as it sounded a lot like what I like about elk hunting- hiking in, looking for sign, calling, and interacting with the animal. Unfortunately, during our mid-September hunt, the moose were simply not cooperating. The bulls were not actively rutting yet, and it was hot and windy. As a result, the little bit of active calling that we did was ineffective. We needed a different approach.

Bull moose on a logging road
The core hunting style of our guide was to drive logging and oil lease roads in search of moose. These moose were spotted by our guide after our hunt while we were on our long drive home.

Road Hunting for Moose?

If I’m not seeing game, my instinct is almost always to burn boot leather. To hike, cover ground, and look for signs of game. Our guide’s instinct was to burn rubber and drive. He explained that our hunt area in Northwestern Alberta is over 10,000 square miles, and the bush is very thick. Given how nomadic the moose are, you could hike for days and not see one if they are not in the area. So we drove, bouncing along in our guide’s Ram truck listening to early 90’s rock. We spent about 8 hours a day driving the labyrinth of logging roads and oil lease roads that cut through the thick bush in search of moose. In six days of this monotony, Jim and I only saw a cow and a calf moose during legal shooting hours.

Alberta Moose Hunting Success

During our six-day hunt, only one of the four moose hunters in camp, Dave from Wyoming, shot a moose. Dave’s moose was a dandy, and a good representation of what you could expect from this area if you were lucky enough to see a mature bull. During my week in camp, we did see numerous black bears in our hunt area, and the hunters in camp with bear tags each took a bear. Beyond seeing a lot of black bears, we saw whitetail, mule deer, elk, a timberwolf, and a couple of lynx. Seeing a variety of wildlife was a highlight of the trip.

Hunting Moose in Alberta Final Thoughts

When I consider the investment of time and money in this hunt, I have to say that I was disappointed in my first experience on a guided hunt. This is not due to the lack of success in harvesting a moose. I’ve been on plenty of hunts where I’ve come home empty-handed, and still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I simply didn’t like the “road hunting” focus of this hunt. If I had known that the reality of this hunt was driving around all day in the hope of catching a bull moose along the side of the road, I would have passed on it. It’s simply not the style of hunting that I personally prefer.

I would rather be hiking in the bush instead of driving all day, as “road hunting” largely takes the hunter out of the equation. My job on this hunt was to ride around, eat snacks and then hop out of the truck and make a shot if we saw a moose. While it is maybe a test of my marksmanship, it’s not my definition of hunting.

While it wasn’t a great hunt for me, it doesn’t mean that this is a bad hunt. The guide enjoys a high repeat client rate, and this is a very accessible hunt. You do not have to be physically fit to go on this moose hunt. As some people clearly love this hunt, whether or not you would enjoy it all comes down to what sort of experience you’re looking for and how you personally define hunting. These are all things that are important to be crystal clear on with your guide – before you book your hunt.

As for me, a true wilderness moose hunt remains on my hunt list. When I do shoot a bull moose, I want to earn it. I want to earn it with aching muscles, miles on my boots, and hopefully my skills as a hunter.

Meet the Outfitter and Guide

My Outfitter and Guide for this trip was Udell’s Guiding and Outfitting. My partner, Jim, and I were guided by Kelly Udell, and his wife, Shauna, guided the other hunters in camp. During our time in camp Shauna dressed out a moose and skinned three black bears which I thought was pretty impressive. The Udell’s are nice people, they run an organized camp with awesome food, and they both worked hard for their hunters.

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