Let’s talk a Moose Rut Hike. What is it? We plan late season hikes each year, just prior to the close of the season to take advantage of the opportunities to see moose at the height of their prime competing to pass on their genes.
As the summer season comes to a close, the mating cycle of moose begins again, and the bull moose compete with one another for breeding rights. The bulls compete vigorously for the right to breed. While moose are always unpredictable, they are much more so during the rut. The rut begins in September and continues through October when it abruptly stops.
One year in the third week of September while hiking the Feldtmann Loop, Duane and I spent a tense night at the Feldtmann Lake campground listening to the grunting and banging of heads as two large bulls fought it out. In the night, we could not tell how close they were to the tent, but it seemed they were right on top of us.
Brush crashed, and hooves tossed clods of sod as they battled for what seemed hours. In the dark of night, we could hear the heaving of breath as they dueled. They were close, then a little away, and then they were close again.
Fearful of being trampled if we emerged to look, or worse, having their attention deviate from the battle to our interruption, we stayed in the tent. Still, we feared being trampled because the battlers did not seem to care what they trampled, landed against, or tore up.
Somewhere around 4:00 AM, as abruptly as it started, the noise ceased, and the calm of night descended upon us. In moments, we fell into a fitful sleep, exhausted from the excitement of the challenging beasts and the fear of being trampled by their single-minded battle, but nervous that another duel would erupt.
It turned out that, at their closest point, they were about 20 yards from where our tent was situated, not a wonder we felt their presence and the thunder of their hooves vibrating through the ground.
In the morning, we checked out the battleground. A large area was scarred from the bracing hooves. Branches were twisted on the saplings, and small trees were scarred, branches cracked and hanging.
From the next campsite, another camper emerged. “Wah! Did you hear that? I thought they were going to trample me in my tent.”
“We thought so, too,” Duane responded, hand on his head in awe.
The two of them examined the bare patches in the dirt, exclaiming about the massive size of the moose and the magnitude of scarred earth in their wake. I wandered off toward the lake to get water for coffee, musing about how the 1200 pound brutes could simply fade away into the bushes.
At the shore, the sunlight glinted across the inland lake, reflecting diamonds across the crystal ripples. At the far end of the lake I could see a cow standing in the water.
In the following season, Duane had a chance to speak with Candy Peterson about the incident. Candy said, “Rest assured that there was an audience of cows for certain present.”
We have a few spots left in each moose rut hike planned for September 2023. There is one departing on September 10 and another on the 18th of September. The night prior to departure is spent in Copper Harbor to be prepared for the early departures via the Queen IV.
Isle Royale National Park shares information about resident moose here. Moose and wolf populations are integrally connected as the largest animal and the apex predator on the island. Facts about their relationship can be found here. The wolf, according to Isle Royale National Park, is the only predator of moose on the island.
Michigan Tech also shares resources about Isle Royale moose and wolves in the Wolves and Moose Project. Poke around to find a wealth of resources on the MTU site. These are annual reports of the project. Moose behavior has also been widely studied at Denali as well. More specifics area available about about moose behaviors during the rut from the NPS at Denali.