Thanks to big-game management efforts by government biologists in recent years, most of Canada’s moose herds have never looked better. However, getting access to the land holding these majestic beasts is where the problem lies.
More and more hunters are now being forced, for various reasons, to seek out new moose territory to hunt. With a multitude of options available, knowing where to look, what type of land to pursue, and how to go about planning the perfect hunt can be a daunting task. Here are some strategies and techniques, which will enable the hunter to locate and hunt more successfully in new moose territory.
With the use of a topographic map, a modern, hand-held Global Positioning System unit (GPS), and some information on moose habitat, even an inexperience hunter can plan the perfect hunt, and be successful at it!
Do Your Homework!
Whether you choose the services of a registered outfitter, or you give it a shot on public land, there are thousands of miles of moose habitat to choose from. Choosing the services of an outfitter may be the simplest, however, also the most expensive of the options in Quebec.
Outfitters with exclusive rights to prime moose habitat will provide private territories for each hunting party, but they are usually the most expensive. With hundreds of outfitters to choose from in Quebec and Ontario alone, finding one suitable for you is not difficult, but can be very costly.
Locating public land to hunt is the least expensive option, however, but it also requires the most research and homework in order to find a productive area that is not already occupied. Much of central Canada’s open territory, for example, has already been scoped out and used by other hunters, so finding your own private moose woods is difficult, but not impossible. You must do your homework, walk the woods in the off season, and watch for areas with no signs posted from other hunters.
Use The Internet
The Internet can be an invaluable tool when choosing new moose territory. All of the government operated outfitting operations, for example, offer a detailed breakdown of services and land available. The exclusive rights’ outfitters also proudly display their moose-hunting prowess on the Net, including the many hunting packages they have available. Finding the one that is right for you can be mind boggling.
After laying out the perfectly-planned hunt, these two Northwest Ontario hunters cashed in on this nice bow-bull.
The first step is to narrow down the region where you intend to hunt. If you do not know, which region is your best choice, the provincial government websites provide a lot of information and statistics on harvest numbers regionally, with details on the areas that have been producing moose.
Once you have decided, which zone to hunt, you must then fix a budget, establish the number of hunters in your party, and your length of stay. It is suggested that you make as many phone calls and send as many e-mails as necessary to gain a better understanding of the best place for you.
Get A Topographic Map
Now that you have located the territory and zone in your new moose region, your next logical step is to request a set of detailed topographic maps for that area. Every province carries a set of topographic maps available in different scales, some with more detail, and some with less. The government will usually provide these maps at little cost.
The use of aerial photographs can also benefit you as you plan your moose hunt. Not only will air photos allow you to better visualize the terrain on your new territory, they will provide you greater insight into the moose habitat and holding areas. The downside to air photos, however, is that the availability and number of photos offered is quite limited. However, if you have at minimum, a 1:50:000 scale topographic map of your new territory, you may begin laying out a plan of attack.
If you have chosen an exclusive rights’ outfitter, your own private territory will have already been assigned, and indicated on a map. The squared-off coordinates ranging anywhere from 5-square kilometers to 15-square kilometers should be transferred to a full-size topographic map. This will give you a precise outline of the territory, which you are permitted to hunt.
Identify Potential Holding Areas
With a topographic map of your new moose territory in hand, try to identify and pinpoint five locations, which you feel would be potential moose holding areas. These locations can be anything from a small body of water, such as a pond or lake, to a dry marsh, or a funnel area between two mountains.
Generally, any place possessing water, open space, or natural travel routes, have potential to hold moose, and should be the first spots to focus on in your new hunt zone. Circle the hot spot areas with a pencil directly on the topographic map and make a running list of the details on each of the areas so you may refer to them later. These hot spot areas will be your reference points when you arrive at your territory just before moose season.
Transfer Topo Info To Your GPS
To fully prepare yourself for hunting your new land, you must have access to a handheld GPS. Although the basic models will provide you enough flexibility for your new hunt, the newer, more sophisticated GPS’s have more flexibility when entering numerous points of interest called waypoints.
The high-end, mapping-style GPS units also provide a larger database of base maps. Consider the GPS your satellite link to the best moose hunting spots, and a key element in planning the perfect hunt on your new land. GPS units with an integrated digital compass are by far superior, and allow you to locate these spots more easily once you arrive.
Calculating Grid Coordinates
Reading the grid coordinates from your topographic map is possibly the most important skill required to plan the perfect hunt. It is, however, not a simple task and requires considerable practice. Consider enrolling in a GPS and map-training seminar to fully prepare for the skills you need. For example, the world has 60 zone designation numbers running from the east, beginning at the International Date Line.
For example, in Canada, the zone for Ottawa is 18 and will be the first number to enter when calculating your grid number. The letter beside your zone designation can be found on the right-hand corner of your map. In the case of Ottawa, Ontario, it is “T,” and should be noted when calculating a grid point.
To precisely identify the coordinates on your map corresponding to the hot spot you have outlined, we must realize that coordinates are divided into two types. “Eastings” run in increasing numerical order along the top and bottom of the map. These are read first and should be written down first. “Northings” run in increasing numerical order along the left-hand and right-hand sides of the map. These numbers should be written down second.
Keep in mind that Eastings are always six digits long and when entering the coordinate in the form of a waypoint in your GPS, you will be only be allowed six spaces. The first digit in the six spaces signifies an interval that changes every 100 kilometers. The next two digits signify the grid line number — these numbers increase from 0 – 999, and when you reach a grid number 99, the hundred kilometer interval will increase next to it as well.
For calculating your Northings, remember that two digits are for the 100km interval (between 00 and 99), two digits are for the 1km interval (between 00 and 99), and three digits are for the 1-meter interval (between 0 and 999m). The Northings on your map are calculated the same way as your Eastings. It will take some practice to calculate precisely the location of your hotspots, and enter them into your GPS, but once you do, you will be able to locate that area from your topographic map, to within 30 feet on the ground. The exact location of that hotspot lake, marsh, or beaver pond will forever be stored in the memory of your GPS.
Please read more tips in Part 2.
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