This is the fifth 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 slept in again today. Camp broke around 8:00AM and we hunted our property all day.
We’ve been pretty fortunate so far this week – an adult moose is hanging in the shed and we’ve seen animals on every hunt so far. Fortunate but not lucky.
There are a lot of wolf tracks around this year. It seems like we’re seeing them everywhere. The wolves can help (and hurt) our efforts. Animals tend to bunch up for safety in numbers when wolves around and that’s the likely reason why we’ve been seeing so many (and so many in small groups). It’s very unusual for a hunter to see 5 moose at once (especially the combination of two adult males and two caves together) and it’s likely we can thank our four-legged friends for that. On the flipside, we’re competing with them for the same group of calves.
Our first run is the same that we ran yesterday morning. Many animals, including moose, will travel in large circles returning back to where they started. Many of us believe they return to previous ground because they assume it is safe and we’ve had success hunting like this before.
I’ve always found Wolf Road to be one of my favorite places to hunt. While it’s not the land we’ve had the most success on (though we’ve had some), it’s the land we’ve hunted the longest. There are few things in my life more certain than this fact: my Father has walked this road multiple years for every year since the late 1960s or early 1970s. He’s seen this forest mature as well as witnessed the road decay. He’s stepped foot here since before I was born. This path is more than an abandoned logging trail – it is the forests physical manifestation of my family tradition.
I’ve moved positions today. The hunters have placed me on the game trail where the two calves passed yesterday. There’s several of them who are openly discussing placing me where I have the best chance to get a moose. Despite hunting for 24 years (and about 15 of moose hunting), my death count remains at three birds. I’ve seen deer during moose season or seen the wrong age/ gender of moose during moose season. I’ve sat 7 feet away from an 800 pound female moose with no license to shoot her.
My futility isn’t all personal. Our style of hunting (large group) increases our chances for group success but doesn’t lend itself (necessarily) to individual success. The record of futility was almost 35 years for one of our past team members (before he had his first chance) and I’d rather not wait that long. Having said that, 24 years is a long time of waiting and, despite not wanting any form of pity, there is something inherently sweet about them trying to help me out.
The first two runs ended with no excitement. It was the first time in the week that we’ve had a run and saw nothing.
Camp is full of odd traditions that began some time ago for some reason that no one remembers that continues for reasons still unknown to any of us. One of these traditions is called, “Everything I looked at.” It’s a simple ‘game’ that’s never really be explained to any of us, yet we play it consistently. At the end of a run, hunters ask each other, “See anything?” or “What did you see?” If you saw animals, you share your story. If you didn’t, you answer, “Everything I looked at.” We have all sorts of traditions like that (including a camp song that we sing before having a shot of alcohol to celebrate the hunt, our time together or to remember other hunters).
When we broke for lunch I jumped ahead to dinner preparations. I stripped the membrane from some ribs and placed them in a brine and began to prep the moose tongue and heart for cooking later (recipes will follow in the next week or so).
We went back to Wolf Road for the afternoon and I took another watch on a beautiful fall day.
The forest is beyond quiet today. I took this 15-second video to illustrate just how quiet it is (keep in mind that the microphone on a camera generally picks up ambient noise such as wind far more than the naked ear):
Can you imagine sitting there, in pure silence and not moving, for 2-4 hours? The slight flutter of leaves becomes mute (a kind-of visual white noise that is all but invisible the longer you sit) and the silence becomes louder and louder. I know that hunting isn’t for everyone but I plead with you to do this sometime – just sit as still as you can for 3-4 hours (no sleeping, coughing, talking or seeing others) and watch. If you have to move your head, move it as slowly as you can. And, much like how stars get more intense the longer that you stare at them, the woods will become louder and louder in its silence.
My watch was on top of a large walk at the top of a brutal hill. Despite previous forecasts calling for rain and gloom, it’s been an amazingly nice day (and pretty decent week) of weather so far.
I heard a few shots during the hunt but nothing close enough to be our own. The hunt ended around 3:30 and we headed back to camp where I cooked and sipped beer for the remainder of the evening.
I’d love to know if you have any questions from what you’ve read so far?