This hunt in Latvia really showed me a new approach to hunting in this region of Europe, granted it was my first time hunting in any Baltic country, but when the opportunity came around, I took it, along with our organization biologist who made the coordination for this hunt and soon we were on our way to Riga to meet our host.
(We landed in Riga, the capital of Latvia)
Out of the norms, and this is me talking from my perspective views on the types of hunting I have done in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, but everywhere you go there seems to be a common approached to hunting in Europe where there is a high-stand to hunt on, which usually is a quick short walk from where you parked your vehicle or got dropped off, but in Latvia the similarities are more pronounce in terms of vastness and large forest areas as well deep places in the forest where hiking in a few hundred meters to a few kilometers is sometime require to go to your stand.
In western Europe you would never find such extreme large hectares of pristine forest like you do here. It's Boreal forest with lowland lakes, streams and wetland marsh mixed with pine, birch, alder and willows is what makes this place an ideal Moose habitat.
Other wildlife in this region includes the Black grouse, Woodcock, Red deer, Roe deer, Moose, Wolves, Lynx, Beavers,Raccoon dogs and a variety of many other species of wildlife.
(Thick forest in the hunting area)
Latvia is a small Baltic country of just under two million inhabitant, nestled between Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south and Russia to the east it's a country that has gone through a lot of changes throughout its history. Most of its inhabitant reside in the capital of Riga where work and the modern life attracts young generations of Latvian away from the rest of the country. With a land mass of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi) this country is still modernizing and trying to keep up with the European Union.
My overall hunting experience over here is a mixed of point and go, solo type DIY kind of hunt, you'll get familiarize with the area and hunt either off a high-stand or go after the game either by spot and stalk, still-hunting or just sitting on a high-stand and glassing, we did a little of everything. There are lot of places that's just too thick and you just can't get to by foot to access the low land bottoms or areas that moose might be holding out, but luckily most of the high-stands available to you are situated in prefer habitat of that particular species depending on the type of games you're after and some of these high-stands are easily accessible, not too far from the dirt roads and trails.
The weather condition for us during the second week of September was overcast with a few days of rain. We had one day where it was fairly calm with a few patch of sunlight, be prepare for rain and pack the appropriate rain gear as most of the high-stand are 6-8 meters off the ground and open with no over-head protection, our clothing of choice for this particular hunt was the Rocky Venator Camo 2-Layer Jacket and bottom with the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating. Water proof boots or rubber boots are ideal to bring with you as this is a wet region with flowing streams and marshes.
We flew into Riga and got picked up my our host, the drive to the hunting area was just under three hours, a very nice scenic drive, we also stopped for lunch along the highway and took our time. We arrived at our lodge situated in the middle of the hunting area with light still available to confirm the zero on our rifle.
(Confirming shot placement)
The rut activity was slowly heating up around our location, lucky for me Al was also there, he's our wildlife biologist for the company and had an assumption of when the rut might take place and set our hunting timeline for this particular time in September. As for calling in games, whether it's a Whitetail deer, Elk (Wapiti) or Moose, it can be a hit or miss depending on a lot of factors, but on this hunt Al had called in a few cows with calves and heard a few bulls returning the challenge so we knew the rut was slowly peaking.
The hunting itself wasn't extremely hard unless you are trudging through the thick willow brush ankle deep in water, but overall this hunt can be quite easy because of the available hunting-stands situated in areas that's pre-scouted out already along tree-lines overlooking open wetlands and clearings where potential wildlife might come out and expose themselves or pass through.
(Glassing, calling and trying different techniques can increase your chance of getting on a bull)
Knowing the region and preseason scouting could have prepared us better and possibly made this hunt even better by understanding all the factors of what makes an ideal place to hunt by reading signs within that habitat, on this particular hunt we were just guest and relied on our host to inform us about locations and signs of activities or sightings of wildlife, but not knowing and seeing it for yourselves can be a little frustrating when things don't work out, but that's the reality of a Semi-Do It Yourself Hunt, you take your chances and go with it.
Don't get me wrong, if you're a first time moose hunter or hunting over here for the first time the host will also act as a guide if you need a guide, as for us, we were content on just being dropped off. I've hunted enough in Europe to know what certain size antlers might weigh, whether it's a Red deer or a Roe deer I can base my assumption to the limits in the size I'm after, but for those that are uncertain, there's nothing stopping you from asking to see what a 3kg sets of antlers look like.
Take it upon yourself to know these things and do your homework and research about wildlife behaviors before you head out, not only will you gain an invaluable insight on these animals, it'll also make you a better hunter. It also doesn't hurt to read up on the species you're after before any hunts abroad, especially a specie you never hunted before, this process should be a part of your pre-plan preparation all the time.
Take advantage of any down time especially if you didn't have a chance to do any scouting. Usually after our morning hunt we went to a different area to see what we can find as in fresh signs, tracks or rubs, it's something that not every hunter might have an interest in doing but it's well worth the effort and gives you a better insight on the area you're hunting on.
(On location scouting after a morning hunt will give you a better understanding about your area)
This hunt in my opinion wasn't physically hard, the biggest thing is not to come here with a big expectation and think you'll go home with a moose every time you go moose hunting. Moose are limited species, and with a vast forest area it's going to take a lot of luck and patience to punch that permit. I have heard them, seen them and even have one walked right in front of me, but due to limited visibility couldn't make out if it was a bull or a cow. Moose are a wandering specie, and if you give yourself the edge and study them by understanding their habitats and their behaviors you might just put yourself in a position to set yourself up for success.
(Latvian moose taken on the trip)
I'm already planning on coming back up here to hunt, whether it's for Red stag, Roe buck or Moose I will be that much more prepare.
Even though I didn't take a Moose, Al manage to take one not far from where I was hunting, the young bull came out into the clearing and a shot echoed through the forest, Al's Moose is down thinking to myself as I make my way to my stand. This is hunting, we normally don't get to call the shots, but if you want to experience something different, than this is where you need to be.