Moose Hunting in British Columbia: What you need to know

moose hunting in british columbia

British Columbia is one of the best moose hunting destinations, especially among hunters from the Pacific Northwest of the USA, who can easily access most of the territory of the province by car. Moose hunting in British Columbia is strictly managed, and the number of moose permits is limited. However, as elsewhere in Canada, there is a quota system for registered guides-outfitters, who can get a certain number of moose permits for their clients. In other words, outfitted moose hunts in British Columbia come with tags, and the hunter doesn’t have to go through the uncertainty of limited draw.

What kind of moose inhabits British Columbia? 

British Columbia is home to three of the four subspecies of the North American moose: Western, Shiras, and Alaska-Yukon. Most of the moose in British Columbia belong to the Western, or North-Western, subspecies. Shiras moose inhabit the southeast of the province, the upper Flathead River valley with the adjacent slopes of the Rockies, and the east Kootenay. The Alaska-Yukon moose are found around the border with Alaska and the Yukon territory. 

The province doesn’t discriminate between them in terms of licenses and tags, and the Boone and Crocket books recognize all moose in British Columbia as Canadian. This creates a unique opportunity for trophy hunters in the north and north-west of the province, as the trophy books classify these moose as Western, while the genetics are often Alaska-Yukon, with trophies in the 50”-60” range. Of course, you don’t have to be a trophy hunter or even care about how many inches or points are there in the antlers to appreciate the sheer size and grandeur of those beasts. 

Where and when to hunt moose in British Columbia?

Moose are widely distributed across British Columbia, except Vancouver Island, and the southern part of the Pacific coast. The highest densities are found in the lowlands in the southeast and in the center of the province, and in the north near the Alaska border. 

Shiras moose
Shiras moose are smaller than other North American moose, and their antlers are pointy rather than palmated. Shiras moose exist in the south-east of British Columbia

Two factors that determine the numbers of big ungulates such as moose are food and predators, namely the timber wolf. Canada allows wolf hunting, and some outfitters manage their wolf population on their territories, resulting in higher numbers of moose. As for the food situation, moose really pick up after large tracts of old timber have been felled, and the clearings grow over with grass and young broadleaf trees. However, some lodging companies are reported to use herbicides that prevent the growth of vegetation that competes with spruce and pine, and this reduces the amount of food available to the moose. 

The hunting season runs from early September to early November. Early season is typically archery-only, and later in the season you can use any weapon.The best time to hunt depends on the hunting method you prefer, but most hunters prefer the rut, which usually begins mid-September and continues to mid-October. The late season hunts (end of October) often see some snow, which makes spotting and tracking moose somewhat easier. 

What hunting methods are used? 

Moose hunters in British Columbia use the same hunting methods as elsewhere in the range of the species: calling during the rut, walk-and-stalk, and spot-and-stalk. Most outfitters prefer the methods that enable them to identify the trophy quality of the bull before starting the approach, but glassing from a vantage point, the favorite activity of Alaska moose guides, is widespread only in the northern parts of the province. Other places are usually too dense for that, and the hunters typically have to move to discover their bull. 

To cover more ground, as well as to be able to see the animals better, some outfitters offer hunting from horseback or boat-based hunts. Horseback hunts are especially efficient early in the season, when the grass is high and being mounted allows the hunters to see over it. Moose seem to be less afraid of hunters on horseback than on those who walk on foot in any case. 

Boat hunts exploit the moose love of water. The great deer is seldom found very far from a river or lake, because water is essential to their survival in many ways. They swim well, love to feed on water plants, and often dive to get them. In addition, moose do not tolerate very hot weather, and need water to cool off in the summer month. In the winter, willows provide them with much-needed nutrition. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the quality of a moose lodge can be measured in miles of waterway found on the territory.

Alaska-Yukon moose
Alaska-Yukon moose is the biggest subspecies of moose. A part of their range lies in British Columbia, near the border with Yukon.

But of course the most exciting way of moose hunting is calling the bull during the rut. The hunters imitate the cry of a rival bull, in hope to get the real moose to respond and come closer in order to drive the intruder out of his territory. Apart from a voice call, the hunters also use bits of antlers to imitate the rattling sound that the bull moose produce as they fight each other or thrash the bushes and trees. 

This is a dangerous game hunt, as rutting moose become very aggressive, and when they come to you, they don’t even need a pretext for attack. It is typically a close encounter, and you need to be prepared to stop a charging bull at a close range. Here the presence of a good, experienced guide may come in very handy. 

How much does moose hunting in British Columbia cost? 

Moose hunting in British Columbia typically takes place in really remote areas. Hunts there are often fly-in, and performed out of tent camps or lake cabins. Horses are also used by some outfitters to get into the area, adding an additional element of adventure. 

Many hunters, especially from the United States, are more interested in low price than anything else when choosing their hunts. This may not always be the best approach. Guide-outfitters in British Columbia run a long-term business, with considerable investment. They often build and maintain lodges in the wilderness, employ numerous guides and camp staff, and invest in tents and various transport, from horses to ATVs, motor boats, and even bush planes. Obviously, the difference between an operation with new equipment, tents, etc., and a happy, motivated workforce and an operation with old equipment and underpaid workers can be dramatic. However, some of our best and most reputable outfitters price their hunts at or even below the average. 

The median price for an 8-day moose hunt in British Columbia on our marketplace is about USD 10,000. The most affordable deals start at $5,000 for a 7-day lodge-based hunt. Shiras moose hunts come at a premium, and the most expensive options are fly-in hunts at the Yukon border for moose that are basically the Alaska-Yukon giants. The price for such hunts may top $20,000 for a 10-day hunt, and should really be compared with Alaska or Yukon hunts.

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A moose hunt in British Columbia is an expensive, often once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and you should compare and contrast all the factors. Some important aspects to look for is where exactly the hunt will take place, whether the hunt includes the trophy fee, what part of the season the hunt will take place. Be sure to look at the photos, read the reviews, and talk with the outfitter a lot before making a commitment.  

In the north of British Columbia moose hunting can be combined with a caribou hunt, in the south – with a mule deer or elk hunt, and in the Rockies – with a mountain goat hunt. It’s also recommended to get a black bear and a wolf tag, in case you run into one of these animals during your hunt, but make sure to discuss with your outfitters whether they’ll charge a trophy fee for that. 

What gun for moose hunting in British Columbia?

Thousands of moose have been killed with 6.5×55 in Sweden and Norway, the 7.62×39 in Russia, and the .30-30 in the US and Canada; this fact proves that bullet placement matters more than bullet size and velocity, but is not an example to follow.  Your moose rifle should be big enough – one of the .300 magnums is the choice of many experts, a .338 or a .375 even better. However, don’t assume that just because you’ve got a big gun you’re all set – make sure you shoot it well. Practice and experience are all-important, so invest in range time, but not all range practice are created equal.

In many moose hunting scenarios it’s about speed and preparedness, not accuracy. A moose hunt is often a close range, adrenaline-packed experience, where many hunters manage to miss the bull entirely or even fail to get a shot, at least, quickly enough. Practice quick, off-hand shots, as well as mounting your rifle from the carry-on-a-sling position. Ray Majeris, a guide-outfitter from British Columbia, recommends doing a sprint or some jumping jacks, and fire a series of shots immediately after, to imitate practice shooting under adrenaline. (read more about Ray and his operation).

Why hunt moose in British Columbia? 

Moose hunting in British Columbia is as old as moose itself – the first humans who explored the province were moose hunting, and moose remained the key species for their survival. No matter where you do it, it’s going to be a real wilderness adventure, that will bring you back to our original hunter-gatherer self. Few sights are more thrilling than seeing the biggest extant deer species up close.

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