Moose Hunter Diaries (2012) – Day 2 – Quiet as a Monk
This is the second in an 8-part mini-series chronicling my experiences in the 2012 Ontario Moose Hunt. You can find the entire series here (it will update daily as it’s published) or check out previous years (2009, 2010, 2011). The posts appear exactly one-week after they were experienced.
Grey and drippy. This weather makes me feel a bit like I’m living within a Salvidor Dali painting and I’m just waiting for the forest to start melting.
Less that sounds like a complaint, there is a certain beauty in the stillness of the woods on a drizzly day like today. It’s especially nice that we don’t have to sit in it for hours on end but I took a few opportunities to stretch my legs in the spaces between on-again-off-again rain showers.
Last night turned out to be fairly quiet. We had a monster feed of spaghetti (which included our canned tomato sauce) and enjoyed an evening in the camp. In an effort to gain my voice back (I continued to struggle with it), I went to bed well before midnight and was graced with the opportunity to sleep in. I figured after struggling with my voice for 10 days that a solid night of sleep should have helped.
I figured wrong. I woke up with next-to-no voice this morning. And with 10-12 guys stuck inside with rain, this makes my voice pretty much inaudible. I spent a lot of the day listening to stories without actively participating. It was kind of neat perspective on camp, despite presenting some challenges.
We collectively relaxed today. We cooked a large turkey, talked about the week ahead and had our safety meeting. As the ‘leader’ of the camp, it’s my duty to walk us through a reminder of the basics as share some of the plan for the week ahead. I don’t keep a checklist but the speech is pretty much the same every year:
- We review our licenses (this year we’re allowed 1 adult female moose, 1 bear and multiple calves).
- General safety reminders. We probably don’t need to go over these but it never hurts so we go over our core ‘rules.’ Their aren’t many and they are very straightforward – stuff like safety first, no ‘mystery shots’ (i.e. shooting at anything that moves), no loaded guns on/in vehicles and a reminder that once booze comes out, guns go away.
- We review the basic equipment each person needs (we have extra if anyone is short): a radio, whistle and a compass.
- A discussion of which radio channels to use, our different whistle codes and so forth.
- Discuss what signs we’ve seen over the weeks leading up to hunting and announce the plan on what we’re doing Monday morning.
- We pick work teams (the camp is divided into two teams who alternate days between indoor and outdoor chores).
The meeting was fairly uneventful – except for the difficulties that come with trying to host such a meeting with little-to-no voice.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Most of the camp watched the televised coverage of Felix Baumgartner (who parachuted 24 miles from near-orbit back to earth). As I watched his slow ascent (it took more than 2 hours), I thought a lot about hunting and how there were many similarities (despite the obvious differences):
- There is a lot of waiting. Felix waited for days before they got clearance to jump and then hours to ascend to the height he jumped from. Hunting is a near-constant waiting game. You wait to leave, wait to go to a watch, wait for a moose and then wait some more. In 24 years of hunting I’ve killed 3 birds and have never shot at a moose or deer (often seeing the wrong animal or wrong gender at the wrong time).
- It’s isolating on many levels. Despite being able to watch television with the aid of a gas-powered generator, the camp is 13 kilometers (10 miles) from the end of the last ‘real’ road. Our closest neighbor is 5 kilometers away. When you sit on a watch or walk as a ‘dogger’ you spend many hours by yourself. With my relative inability to communicate with my voice, it was easy to feel isolated in a room full of people.
- It takes a team. While it was his body (and ultimately his risk) that jumped from the balloon, it took an entire team of people to make sure he succeeded. As a group hunter, it takes much the same.
We had a few visitors through the day and did some odd work around camp but most of the day was looking forward to the week ahead; and, more specifically, tomorrow morning. It’s been almost two years since our camp put meat in our freezer and I’ve spent a lot of time focused on changing that.
The alarm clock was set for 4:45 so tonight is early-to-bed. Hopefully we’ll have some luck – and I’ll get my voice – tomorrow morning.