Our morning started earlier than I’d have liked. After 20 hours of travelling and precious little sleep over the previous few weeks, I could have just done with another hour.
I could smell breakfast was on the go downstairs in the kitchen and the other hunters were beginning to move around so I tipped myself out of bed.
There were four hunters, three guides, two camp staff and one observer in our small cabin. You could say that breakfast was an intimate affair.
We’d spotted a number of moose whilst glassing the valley late the previous night, including two good sized bulls – one of which looked to be a monster. Our plan was to head out at first light and see if we could track into the bulls.
My guide Gary and I were joined by two American hunters – John & Richard – along with their guide Donny for the trek into the valley. It was a much warmer morning than I’d hoped and the going was tough.
The landscape on Newfoundland reminds me of West Scotland – rolling hills with the odd granite escarpment and plenty of boggy heather to grab at your feet.
Sharon Valley is one of two camps operated by Ironbound Outfitters. It had not been hunted for over two years and was home to a healthy population of Canadian Moose.
The camp is perched on the side of one of the granite hills, nestled into the densely wooded hillside. It’s just a short walk to a number of elevated observation points, which marked the start of our hunt.
As the name suggests, the hunting area is made up of one main valley and a number of smaller, deeply wooded tributaries carved into the hills by the dark peaty water.
We made our way about 200 yards up to a vantage point that offered a clear view some 6 or so miles through the valley. We stopped to glass the area and immediately saw signs of moose.
There were six mature cows grazing in the lush pasture at the base of the valley, three of which were with calves. About a mile away, we could also see a mature bull stood in the centre and the other huge bull in the creek bed off to his right.
They were upwind of our position, but the vast open grassland at the base of the valley offered little cover to make our approach.
I could tell that John – the older of my American friends – was keen to take this bull, even though I wasn’t entirely sure he was physically capable of making it. It looked like I’d have to play ‘second fiddle’ until the guys had filled their boots.
We all made our way down into the base of the valley at a fairly sedate pace. We crossed a shallow, fast moving brook and took up position behind a small group of spruce trees about 1100 yards from the two bulls.
The larger bull had moved up to the younger one, who had in turn yielded his position. He didn’t seem comfortable to challenge for dominance just yet. The fact they were keeping an eye on each other was to our advantage.
Donny started to call to the bulls. A moose calls using a long moaning wail, not a high-pitched screech like an elk, nor a deep throaty roar of a red stag, but somewhere in the middle.
Donny’s call got the bulls attention, but wasn’t bringing them over. It was still at the very beginning of the rut and they hadn’t yet started to respond to calls.
We glassed for about half an hour, but with only two bulls and three hunters I convinced Gary that we should head for a different area to see if we could spot other bulls, as it seemed these had already been claimed.
I wished the others luck and we headed up the western slope, en route to the valley on the other side. We stopped on a ridge about halfway up and looked back to see how things were unfolding.
Donny and the guys had made their way along the creek bed and taken up position around 100 yards closer to the herd and Donny once again began to call.
One of the cows started towards their position and large bull followed her across the pasture, intent on defending his harem. I looked back towards their position and saw that John had already raised his rifle.
I was a little surprised as it was around 350yards and he was shooting freehand. I initially thought he was letting the bull get into range, but then a shot rang out across the valley.
There was a loud crack and the big bull stumbled. He turned away from the hunters, but appeared anchored in position. We watched on as three more shots from John’s .338 winchester magnum pierced the tranquility of the valley before the bull finally fell.
Visibly unsettled, the other bull had retreated to cover, but we had a clear view from above. Two things were now obvious. Firstly, he wasn’t going to offer the other hunter a shot and secondly he had no idea that we were there. We decided to take our chance.
We’d spotted a ridge that would offer a perfect ambush opportunity given his course. We retreated back over the ridge and ran the 200 or so yards down the slope to the ridge, stopping regularly to check the bull’s position.
Although we made good progress, the bulls huge stride had got him to the ambush point ahead of us. As we emerged from the ridge he was already out in the open around 120 yards away, looking straight at us. There was no time to lose.
The height of the spruce meant a prone shot was not an option so I sat instead. Fortunately the bull appeared more inquisitive than frightened giving me the precious seconds I needed to compose my shot.
He was perfectly broadside so it was quite straightforward to place my shot. My seated position was rock solid and the 180grain Norma Oryx hit it’s target hard. The bull buckled on impact and fell sideways over a small ledge into the bog below.
Although we’d worked hard up until that point, the real exertion was still to come. We quartered and packed the meat, before carrying it to a clearing, ready for the helicopter to pick it up. However, the antlers were to return with us to camp, along with our dinner – the two largest venison tenderloins I’d ever seen!
To book your Newfoundland Moose hunting adventure with Ironbound Outfitters visit www.newfoundlandmoose.com
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