Homage: the birchbark moose call

Nothing beats tooting your own horn to lure in a lovesick bull

Daybreak was still a ways off as I crept down to the water’s edge on silent feet, alert for any sound. Pausing, I strained to sense if my quarry was nearby, but all was quiet. Lifting up my battered old birchbark call, I ever so gently voiced a single note. After few minutes, I made a lower, more plaintive call that rose and fell, drifting away into the morning gloom. Time ticked by until finally a gruff reply came from far off. As I raised the birch call again, I thanked whomever watches over hunters and voiced a challenge to the distant bull to come duel for his presumed lady love.

Calling in any wild game, be it ducks, coyotes or elk, requires a deep, almost spiritual faith in your abilities. But calling in half an English ton of winter meat with a birchbark call is the stuff of dreams for many hunters. Convincing a wary old swamp donkey that a receptive paramour is reclining on her fainting couch takes some serious talent.

1Al Wardale

A good moose caller is equal parts musician, baritone singer and snake oil salesman. But any successful birchbark caller will admit that being in the right location, with perfect weather conditions, goes a long way to ensuring all that throaty groaning and eye crossing is not a waste of time. Listening to an expert can help refine your own calling, and plenty of practice never hurts. There’s no better teacher, however, than a frustrated lovesick bull.

Are there some secret magical properties in that rolled up hunk of birchbark, giving it the power to entice moose? Maybe, but someone with scientific credentials could spend years studying what hunters have already known for centuries—it just works if you do your part.

  
New Brunswick’s Cary Rideout swears by the birchbark call.