Moose Hunter Diaries – Day 4 – Back to the Woods
This is the fourth 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.
We were able to sleep in today since the pressure’s off. Although I’m relieved that we have an animal down, there’s a nagging noise in the back of my head reminding me of the dangers of cabin fever.
What’s cabin fever? We have 12 men living in close quarters. Some of us are related to others but we’re mostly a ragtag group of guys that form a unit for a week. I can honestly say that I love them almost like family (and I’ve known them as long) but I don’t see the guys often. We may talk once or twice a year outside of hunting but I don’t regularly talk to the guys.
The close quarters is only part of the equation. Hunting offers a lot of transitions – you start the day bumping into people as you scramble to get ready and then find yourself in isolation for a few hours. Everyone collides together again for lunch before the afternoon hunt brings more solitude. We generally gather at camp where people explode with stories before some head back out for a pre-dark hunt and more quiet. Arriving back at camp usually offers a few hours of beer and camaraderie and loud shenanigans. The alternating pace between being more alone than you normally are switching with intense living conditions bringing you closer to people than you normally are can leave one a little twitchy. And, like anyone you live with, the things that make them endearing can sometimes become a source of frustration for no reason known to man or womankind.
If you can imagine 12 men starting to twitch, you can imagine cabin fever.
The biggest help to avoid cabin fever is an adult moose tag (although this can change towards the end of the week if there’s nothing hanging). Knowing that we’re on the hunt for a large animal provides focus. Knowing that we used our only adult tag before 7:30AM on day 1 has got me thinking that the fever might set in.
We made our way to Wolf Road this morning. The ‘road’ is a 100-year old logging trail that cuts through our property. Camp legend says that the original owner (who was a family friend) shot a wolf on this road on his first visit to the land. That story is sometimes debated as others claim that he saw it and didn’t shoot it. At any rate, that’s where we started the day this morning.
Our first two runs had us stay in the same position. The doggers walked towards us from one direction, circles around the line and then approached from the other. All-in-all this meant sitting relatively motionless in the same spot for about three hours.
Some hunters call the process of sitting ‘becoming invisible.’ It’s a neat idea; the longer you sit undetected, the more undetectable you are. It’s one of the reasons why we hunt two runs in the same position; it allows us to become invisible.
Invisibility is a funny super power to have though – it comes with a curse. The longer you sit, the more your head tells you that you need to cough or clear your throat or stretch your legs or… Well, you get the idea. It can be torture at times – you know that clearing your throat could potentially blow your cover yet you think you need to do it but you don’t do it so you feel like you have to do it even more until you either give in or become temporarily mad.
90 minutes into the first run I could hear a dogger barking frequently. This is generally a sign that the guy is turned around. The barking continued for about 5 minutes until he found his way out to me. We spoke quickly and quietly and he moved on to his second run.
By 11:30 the second run was over, we went to camp to share breakfast and stories of the day.
Our most veteran (by age) hunter saw 5 moose on the first run! The adult male and female approached him (we didn’t have licenses for them) and he watched for a few minutes before seeing a quick flash of brown. He got a quick peak at two calves (which we do have licenses for) but wasn’t able to get a shot off. Shortly thereafter another male moose (this one with 1 antler), came out of the woods to see what was going on.
We learned a lot at lunch:
- The 2 guys setting the watches had walked the furthest to get to their watch. They had tracked two of the moose into the woods – effectively pushing them towards the doggers who then spun them back to the line.
- One of the doggers picked up on the tracks from the four moose and started pushing them to the line.
- One of our hunters got a good sight of the moose we didn’t have the tags for. The young ones stayed back and out of harms way. We committed to ensuring we had someone sitting closer to their game trail next time.
- One of the hunters saw a deer.
We went back out by 1:30. I wore far too many layers and my clothes started to collect sweat on the long walk to our watch. Sweat is the enemy out here – the moisture will quickly transform your warmth into a chill.
I was sitting in a thick forest this time. It was a long, quiet sit that, thankfully, was accompanied with plenty of sun and warmth.
Our hunting was over by 3:15. I decided to sit in a tree stand with a crossbow (which also allows me to harvest deer) for a few hours. It was a beautiful night that was especially fantastic when the sun began to drop and the forest became lit with the long shadows of early winter.
And that was the day. A lot of sitting and listening and excitement for others. I feel good that people are seeing animals; it means we’re doing something right in my mind.