Woods are alarmingly still today. It was a late start and Ive been on watch for about an hour.
It turned out that yesterdays final hauil was a cow and a calf. I was relevied to see the cow met a quicker end than I originally thought – she was found less than 100 yards from where she was shot.
The rest of the day got busy fast. It took about 5 hours to clean the animals, bring them back to camp and hang them (this is far shorter than when the camp started and the hunters would have to drag the moose by hand). It was a successful hunt and a small celebration followed. It is a definite releif that last years skunk is now a memory and not a streak of no luck.
Our land offers many luxuries to us – including the second spot known as flat rock. It is a high point of land that, when all things fall into place, offers a cellphone signal.
I drove to flat rock last night to make calls home and thought of a few more traditions that may be interesting to share here.
The first is the phone call itself. When I was young my Father would call on the Wednesday of the hunt. Being pre-cellphone, this meant a tricky drive to town – up to 3 hours each way, often sitting on the flatbed of a hay wagon dragged behind a tractor. A 30-minute car ride to town followed the wagon ordeal after a long day of hunting.
We still make our Wednesday call (for the most part) but the short drive to flat rock on the ATV shortens the process and allows for a call on special occasions like yesterday.
I got to flat rock around 9.00PM and made my first call. By the time I made my second, flat rock was crawling with 3 others doing the same thing. A fourth was on his way when I made my way back to camp.
Im not exactly sure why we call home after a successful hunt – it is something I do without thought. Perhaps it is to seek approval ot to share news or to share excitement. I dont know why we call after some successful hunts but not after others. I wonder if, perhaps, there is some ancient program set in our brains which calculates that we have somehow provided for our families and want to let them know. Maybe we are glowing or gloating. Maybe we just want to be the one to be able to tell someone for the first time.
I dont know why the call is so important (beyond the obvious of wanting and needing to talk to those you love) but, having been on both sides of those calls my entire life, I know there is something special to them.
We missed the calls a few times as a child – getting a message was a bittersweet tonic; perhaps that is what finally reveals to me the importance of these calls – a connection to the outside that, in some way, teleports those we cherish to our sides during the important moments of a week we value deeply.
I also wanted to share my non-hunting Mothers reaction to the news of animals. Delight would be the closest emotion I could describe. She knows the work that goes into this – in fact she can take credit for her share of it. It was her and friend Judy that filled the holes in the road with rocks (she has her own ATV and connects the trailer to it to do road work while Dad does other tasks). She has spent 30-45 days here in the late summer and early fall and traipsed the woods with my Father looking for signs, patterns and animals. My Father ensured that she was included in the toast as part of our traditional thanks to all involved in the hunt (which is always followed by a generous pour of anything alcoholic).
We cleaned the heart and liver last night – we are going to try to cook it this evening. It is something we dont have a lot of experience with – I hope, in part, to change that.
It also occurred to me last night that we could try to get the bones of the animals and preserve stock for the winter with our pressure canner. This is now a high priority and arrangements have been made for me to take the animals to the butcher and ask. It is a very exciting prospect for me – as is any chance of using more of the animals that we harvest.
A final note as I have been writing for too long. I have become quite adept at cleaning a moose and now feel I could do it without guidance if I had to. While that isnt likely to happen, this could be very useful for deer (and that is certainly a possibility).
Other than 1 very loud chipmunk, it is shatteringly quiet here – my ears are actually ringing from silence and lack of wind.
Almost missed brunch. I forgot my radio in the morning clamor and had a very quiet run. The guys went past me unnoticed by 12.00. I figured they were gone and started walking out when I met up with two who had come back looking for me. A little embarassing but no real fault. I am back on the watch where I started yesterday morning for 2 more runs before dark. Waiting.
First run just ended. Moving about 100 yards off trail to get ready for the next one. Time to wait.
I learned how to make lemon confit while sitting on watch. If I get it started right after moose it will be close to ready by the December Holiday season. I am contemplating why traditions like these have not continued more commonly.
Grey feels like dark is coming early. Reports have crossed the radio of a possible moose moving 3 watches (a few hundred yards) away. A lot of distance – and hunters – between me and it.
Moose turned. It is now closer – between 1 and 2 watches away. Possibly headed back towards the doggers.
Confirmation has come in that the moose is likely headed this way on radio. Mind games have been setting in for 3 minutes (had to put journal down there as those games continue). I swear a hear something far away coming. It is tough to keep heart and breathing regular and I must do so in case I have a sighting – it is difficult to aim otherwise.
It is starting to rain lightly; tough to hear anything now. A radio call comes through – the doggers are out (2 of 3). The hunt may have ended just that suddenly. I am waiting to hear more – 7 hours of sitting for 7 minutes of possibly hearing something. It is a game of deep patience.
(As a note of interest, retyping these words has brought back the tightness in my chest that I felt at the moments I scrawled this in pen originally).
As a side note, rain is 10 minutes in and still a gentle sprinkle. I have yet to feel a single drop (3 open books are still dry). I am sitting under a hemlock tree on the downward side of a hill; the lack of wind and thick green cover keeps me dry.
Back to waiting. The excitement I had likely imagined is now over. 2 of 3 doggers have been out for some time – the last is turned around in a swamp. He just called to say that the batteries in his GPS (Global Positioning Satelite) just died. He knows our general direction and has asked us to whistle so he can confirm his assumption. We have been whistling loud enough for our entire line of hunters to hear – but the dogger cannot hear it. He is going to walk for another 5 minutes before trying the whistle again.
The misplaced dogger is an experienced woodsman and this is fairly routine so far – it is enough to get the heart going with many of us.
A twist now plays out – our lost hunter encounters a very fresh, very large moose track. A tough decision to be made by him with darkness coming as he stumbles upon me. Apparently that moose was very close – it is time to pack and go, the hunt is over.
I am 15 feet high in the forest ceiling. The group hunt is over for most and many are back at camp unwinding and drying out. I am testing my new moose call at an area we cleared on Sunday. It is a lonely area at best and it is my new home until darkness falls.
Height has some natural advantages – perspective, range and less ground level scent. There are also many disadvantages – mobility, reduced field of view (there is no spinning around up here in this small chair), and possibly tougher shooting to adjust for height.
It feels somehow cooler up here – like suddenly I am more of a hunter or know more than I actually do. Of course this stand does not make me a better hunter – using it with the little knowledge I have may actually somehow hinder my overall skill. But I do try. And I wait.
I finish the jounral from my bunk tonight.
A crack of thunder ended my perch. From there I travelled the roads by ATV hoping to fluke a sighting. I only saw 3 other groups of hunters – one of them being friendly with us and the other two unknown.
2 of us made a brine for the heart and tongues and they are bathing. I am proud that we are using more of the animal and glad I brought the cookbooks I did for inspiration. The alarm will ring at 6.00AM and I must make a very qucik move – I am dogging tomorrow. There will be different gear and mindset and a lot more moving. Will update then.