Fall bull moose encounter

October 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Just over a year ago I found myself face to face with a bull moose. I was wrapping up a fall color photo blitz. The colors were hitting peak and, although I had a myriad of responsibilities facing me, I hopped in my car on a Monday afternoon and headed north. I only had about 24 hours before I needed to be back, so I had to make it count. I hit Caribou Falls, then Section 13, finishing the day watching the sunset from Oberg Mountain. The day didn’t end with sunset, as I drove to Sugarloaf Cove to photograph the Milky Way. Sleep was low on my priorities list, but I managed to crash for a few hours in the back of my Subaru before heading out for sunrise at my favorite lake along the Superior Hiking Trail. Sunrise was spectacular and while I had a whole day ahead of me, I already felt content with what I had captured. Once the sun was high enough that the lighting was harsh, I began my hike out to my car. I passed a photographer on his way in, which I thought was unique considering the lighting had gotten so harsh. We paused to chat for a minute and he shared that he had been looking for moose not far from where we were. He graciously shared the location and I decided to check it out. There were several clearings that he suggested I check, so I made my way along a back road through Superior National Forest, hopping out at each clearing to see if anything was hanging out. First clearing was quiet and I didn’t see any signs of moose. The second clearing was quiet as well, but as I wandered around I noticed a couple of tracks that looked relatively fresh. My tracking skills are very poor, but these few tracks were enough to intrigue me to visit later in the day. 

Then I was off again. It was Cascade State Park, White Sky Overlook, and some time spent along the shore of Lake Superior. Late afternoon was turning to evening and it was time to either set up for sunset or return to my moose search. I was pleased with the shots I had gotten, so the search for moose was on. I again stopped at all the cleanings. Listening. Waiting. All was quiet. At the second clearing I decided to hike up a ridge for a better vantage point.

DSC07058DSC07058A bull moose in the fall colors in Lutsen, Minnesota
At the top of the ridge I scanned the clearing below me. It was a large clearing over a quarter mile from end to end. The clearing looked like it had been forested several years ago and included some burn areas. I wandered a little further on, admiring the changing colors of the trees and the way the evening light made them glow. It was a beautiful fall evening and whether or not I saw a moose, the trip had felt like a success. I took in my surroundings one last time, then turned to head back to my car and start my trek back to Minneapolis. Just as I started to descend the ridge, I noticed a large dark shape emerge from the tree line at the southern end of the clearing. A bull moose came striding into view. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I could hardly get my tripod set up I was so excited. The moose immediately starting walking through the clearing in my direction. It got closer and closer, sniffing the air in anticipation of finding a mate or a rival. I did not fit the description of either, and soon my excitement was tempered as the moose strode within 50 yards. I had been crouched down initially hoping to remain unseen. However, it was soon clear that I was standing on a worn game trail and the likeliest path the moose would take. So I stood up, hoping that if the moose saw me it would change its course. It paused and looked right at me. For a moment we just stared at one another. Then, to me surprise, the moose continued right towards me. Moose have very poor eyesight, so perhaps there was a chance that the moose did not see me. And since they rely heavily on smell, I was likely upwind DSC07067DSC07067A bull moose in the fall colors in Lutsen, Minnesota  from him. None of that mattered in that moment and I knew that if I didn’t move, this exciting encounter could turn dangerous. I picked up my tripod and turned to start walking toward the nearest tree line. As I did so I stepped on a large stick. The stick snapped so loudly that it startled the moose, causing it to run back to the edge of the trees it had originally come from. My heart was pounding as I watched it race across the clearing. As it approached the forest it paused one last time and turned back to look in my direction. I fired off a few more photos, one of which has become one of my all time favorites. Then, as suddenly it had appeared, it was gone, back into the dense forests of Minnesota.

I drove by that spot again this year. If nothing else, to reminisce on the experience. The growth is significantly higher than it was last year, and I did not find any fresh moose tracks. Perhaps this clearing has reached a point where it no longer provides the nutrients moose seek out. Or maybe I came through at the wrong time. Either way, I will be forever grateful for that unexpected encounter.

2020_09_bullmoose_fallcolors_minnesota2020_09_bullmoose_fallcolors_minnesotaBull moose in the fall colors near Lutsen, Minnesota


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