The final day before the hunt – Sunday is a day of recovery from a Saturday party and a day of final preparation and tracking for the start of hunting tomorrow morning.
It’s a day steeped with quiet traditions which appear random from the outside but have been carved from years of tradition. There is also a slightly nervous anticipation behind the day which is constantly present. This tension will be higher than normal this year as 12 days of hunting last year ended with nothing for the freezer.
Pork hocks will simmer on the stove, a football game will serenade those interested, others will sight in their rifles and beer will be gently coaxed into waiting throats. Today is not a party – 4:30 in the morning will come early tomorrow. There will be a small camp meeting once all members arrive and we will sing our traditional song with a toast to the coming season and to the hunters no longer with us (our departed friends now outnumber those participating).
Many will head into the woods in pairs to look for recent sign. My parents (and others) have been monitoring the sign of moose for more than a month but this is the day we bear down and cram for the coming week.
Examine the photos below, what can you learn from them?:
The freshest is on the bottom – the oldest on the top. Rain has dated the sign you see at the top (which is anywhere from 3-10 days old) while it has not tainted the bottom tracks (which are a few hours old at the most). The top one is also deer sign as opposed to Moose (a trick question).
The freshest tracks are easy to spot. Examine the trail you leave behind in the dirt some time and you’ll learn how to track fairly efficiently. Freshness is typically indicated by the clear presence of little pieces of dirt resting in the foot print. These are pieces which fell in place as the foot moved to its next position and have not blown away or been absorbed by moisture into the print.
Tracking is easiest after a light snowfall. The white carpet makes seeing trails very easy and guarantees freshness. Truly gifted hunters will see fresh sign and track an animal for a day (or even longer) to it’s resting place – ours is a different system referred to as group hunting that relies on team, knowledge of the animals and working together over individual skill.
Moose live in a relatively small area (I have heard estimated of 3-10 square kilometers) and frequently follow a pattern of moving within that area. The ability to recognize fresh sign grants us clues to try and predict future movement though is not a guarantee.
Moose have fairly bad eyesight and strong senses of hearing and smell that give them advantages in surviving predators (including humans). We need to see an animal to harvest it and it’s natural abilities give it a head start in avoiding being seen.
Moose and deer will also swim or walk through creeks to lose wolves or dogs who track primarily based on scent. This can also be an effective strategy for us humans who avoid swimming in the cold that is Canada in late October and early November.