Editor’s Note: D.J. Randolph of Velva, North Dakota, is the Mossy Oak regional manager for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Alaska. A Mossy Oak Pro Staff hunter since 2008 and a Pro Staff Manager for the last 3 years, he’ll begin to hunt antelope on Labor Day weekend.
In 2001, I was fortunate enough to draw a once-in-a-lifetime moose tag for North Dakota, and I took a bull moose with my bow. This hunt was probably my most favorite hunt so far. North-central North Dakota homes quite a few Canadian moose. I had been applying for this tag 10 years before I ever drew it. In North Dakota, once you draw a moose tag, you're never allowed to put in for the lottery again - whether you're successful or unsuccessful. I was very lucky to draw the tag that I did. I know many hunters who’ve been putting in for this tag for their entire lives and never have been drawn. I decided to hunt between Minot and Devils Lake in the area I drew. I talked to quite a few people and learned that there was a good number of moose in that region. Moose season also started on Labor Day weekend that year, but I started scouting 6 weeks before opening day.
I went to a small town bar in that section of the state that had a steak fry every Friday night for the patrons of the bar. I had stopped at a grain elevator and talked to a fellow. I told him, “I have a moose tag.” Then, I asked him, “Do you know anyone who could help me find a moose?” He smiled and said, “Yeah, me and some of the fellows where I work will be going down to the steak fry tonight. Why don’t you come down there and let’s talk about it?” So, I went to the steak fry and bought those guys some steaks and a couple rounds of beer. By midnight, we were driving down gravel roads looking for moose. These guys became great friends. I learned that they had helped quite a few hunters find and take moose in that area, but I was the first person they ever had met who planned to bowhunt for a moose.
The areas where I would hunt were mostly open croplands. We drove around some more the next day and stopped at farms. They knew the landowners, and they introduced me to them. The people who owned these farms would say, “Oh yeah, we’ll help you find a moose.” When I told them I was bowhunting, they looked at me like I had two heads and would ask, “Why do you want to hunt a moose with a bow?” I’d smile and say, “I'm a bowhunter. That’s what I do.” Then they’d ask me, “How close to the moose do you have to get to shoot him with a bow?” I told them, “I’d like to get within 50 yards of the moose.” Then the landowner smiled and said, “I don’t know why you want to get within 50 yards of a moose, and I don’t know how you're going to get within 50 yards of a moose, but we’ll help you.” I returned to the section of land where I was to hunt the moose several times and scouted with my new-found friends.
On day one of my first-ever moose hunt, my new friends and I went out scouting and located a nice bull moose. I started moving in on the moose to get in close enough for a bow shot. Then, the wind changed and spooked my moose. However, on my first weekend of moose hunting, I was able to make several stalks on moose. The next weekend I found a huge moose in a field of sunflowers, about 1/4-mile wide by 1/2- mile long. My buddies and I started glassing the moose in the sunflower field. The moose would eat sunflowers for awhile. Then, he would lie down. I found the owner of the property and asked him, “Would you mind if I went into the sunflowers to try to find this moose and take him?” The owner of the sunflower field said, “No, I don’t mind at all.” I started easing my way around the sunflowers, trying to determine where the moose was, because out in the sunflowers there wasn’t a point of reference. Once you got out in those big flowers, everything looked the same. I’d get close and wait for the moose to stand up. He'd move a little bit and then bed down again. Sometimes, I’d have to wait for hours for the moose to stand back up. I had found this moose a little after 7:00 am that morning.
At 7:30 pm that evening, I finally figured out exactly where the moose was, and where I needed to be to get a shot at him. I went back and got one of my buddies who was hunting with me, showed him exactly where the moose was and said, “You stay here and guide me into that moose with hand signals.” I moved in downwind to get exactly where I wanted to be. I started grunting to the moose to try to get him to stand up, but he wouldn’t. I decided I should be about 30 yards from the moose, and my buddy should be 30 yards on the other side of the moose. I motioned to my hunting buddy to throw something at where the moose was bedded down. So, my friend picked up a rock and threw it where the moose was laying, but the moose still wouldn’t stand up. My friend picked up another rock and threw it where the moose was. Suddenly, the biggest animal I'd ever seen stood up about 20 yards from me and turned to look in the direction from where my friend had thrown the rock. However, the sunflower heads were positioned exactly where I wanted to put the arrow to take the moose. I drew my bow back, but I just couldn’t take the chance of making a bad shot on an animal that big. I let my bow down. The moose took a few more steps, and I drew my bow again, but I still couldn’t get a clean shot. So after 12 hours of chasing this moose, I stood in those sunflowers and watched my moose walk away. As I walked out of the sunflower field, I spotted the landowner in his pickup truck sitting next to two other people in their pickup trucks. They all had lawn chairs and binoculars and had watched my entire hunt develop.
Two weeks later I went back to the area. One of the men I had met in the little town decided to help me try to find a moose. While we rolled down a gravel road, he told me, “Everyone in this area knows that there is some idiot up here trying to kill a moose with a bow and arrow.” We came up to a stop sign, and the mailman pulled up beside my vehicle. The mailman said, “Are you the fellow with the bow looking for the moose?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He said, “Well, I just saw a moose walk into a slough right behind a big house about a mile down the road.” So, I went back to that house and got permission to hunt the moose.
I went behind the house where I thought the moose was bedded down, picked up a tree limb and started raking another tree with the limb. Next I beat the tree limb on the side of a tree. I had learned that moose would try and circle to get around behind where they thought another moose was. I backed up about 40 yards and hid behind a tree, but this moose didn’t circle around. He came straight in to where I had been raking the tree, and I couldn’t get a shot at him. After awhile I didn’t see or hear him, so I went right back to where I had been raking the limb against the tree. I went through the same process again. Then suddenly I heard a deep grunt behind me. Immediately, I went to my knees, looked behind me and saw the moose at 35 yards out in a field. I had time to range him with my range finder. I got my bow up, saw I had a clean shot, drew back, aimed and released the arrow. The shot was a little far back, but I was very confident that it passed through the vital areas of the moose.
After the moose took the arrow, he headed toward the road where my buddy was waiting in the truck for me. Although my friend said he was pretty sure about where the moose went down, we decided to wait for a couple of hours before we tried to blood trail him. While we were waiting, my new-found friend called all the people he knew in town. He told them where we were, and where we thought the moose was. By the time 2 hours had passed, we had a small army of people to help us search for the moose. I went in and found where he had bedded down. I went a little farther and saw the moose. I realized that I had gotten a liver shot and possibly a lung shot. I followed the moose where he went into some cattails in some water. I backed out, flagged down a ride and returned to my truck, deciding to let the moose expire overnight. The weather was supposed to be below freezing that night, so there was no point in pushing the moose.
The next morning I had several new friends who went with me to find the moose. A small army of spectators in all directions were waiting to see the recovery. I found the moose about 100 yards from where he’d gone into the cattails and expired. I could hardly believe my eyes as the people made pictures of me with the moose. In a couple of hours, about 30 vehicles were around me and the moose. Word had gotten around in this small community that the idiot with the bow finally had taken his moose.
A few weeks later I took a 70-pound moose roast up to the little bar that had the Friday night steak fry. The bar owner roasted the moose meat, and he supplied a lot of the fixings. We fed the whole little community a moose roast dinner. The moose’s rack was 39-1/2 inches. He wouldn’t make a record book, but he was a good average moose for this part of North Dakota, and I had a memory and a moose that would last a lifetime.
Yesterday: Baling Up North Dakota’s Big Whitetail Bucks
Tomorrow: D.J. Randolph and a Quick Family Bear Hunt