Tuesday Morning, Oct 19. 7:45AM
We started today with a blustery 5 kilometer drive on the ATVs. The only light for miles came from the headlights of our vehicles. I am huddled on a skidder trail (a skidder is a piece of specialized logging equipment that is similar to a snow plow for a forest – it cuts rough access roads through the woods for loggers to access the trees they are selectively harvesting). Forst is everywhere (including my helmet) and it`s cold.
We are hunting on Crown Land today – Government Land that is reserved for activities including hunting, fishing and camping. It`s not groomed like a provincial parks and there is no maintenance of the land. When it comes to hunting on it, it`s first come first serve which is why we had to be in our spots before we could actually hunt. (I would later learn that the hunter on the first watch saw 3 or 4 groups approaching to hunt this same land and turned around when they saw us. The early bird does get the worm).
We are hunting in this area early in the week when all of our hunters are still in camp. It`s a big expanse of land and our numbers will be our biggest asset in covering it.
Leaves play a critical role in our hunt. Although the trees are typically full of color on Canadian Thanksgiving (1 week before the start of the hunt), and we hope that they`re gone when we start our pursuit. Leaves in trees make it very difficult to see for any distance. Leaves on the ground offer another dilemma – they make a lot of noise. A single step on the ground makes enough noise to alert animals from 100s of yards away.
When I first get to my watch, I use my feet to clear a small patch that allows me to adjust my position while making minimal noise. This is an important step that has to be done early in the watch as the first few hours of sitting is largely to stay quiet so the woods forgets we are there. Clearing bush half way through the hunt can be enough to alert incoming animals and ruin the effort of the group. Fresh, crunchy leaves are very difficult to conceal your sound – it`s one of the obstacles to overcome in order to have a successful hunt.
A thick fog is rolling in – there was almost no sign of it 10 minutes ago and suddenly it is heavily upon us. The haze is dropping closer to the ground at a rate of 5 feet per minute. There`s a fresh cill in the air and it`s a fantastic morning.
Weather is clearing up and it`s warming up. This has been a long sit but easier than yesterday. The doggers are starting at 9:00AM.
Sun is hitting the top of the trees; weather is becoming relatively warm.
A single shot just banged in the distance. The trend of solo shots continue – this one is also not us (another trend). Doggers will start any minute I can`t beleive we`ve only sat here for 2 hours – feels much longer.
The radio sings as two doggers plan to meet at a beaver dam where they plan to cross together. Both note they haven`t seen this specific dam in 3-4 years – these are conversations that frequently amaze me. The conversation is as casual as many of my friends state they`ll meet one another at a local pub or subway stop. I don`t know if I`ll ever know these woods this good and I don`t know how they do it.
4-6 shots in rapid succession. I don`t think it`s us but the forest can play tricks with sound. It`s likely miles away but I can`t tell for sure. Have to sit still and listen.
Radio is buzzing with activity – the way I write this may sound like the norm but it`s quite the opposite. Each call on the radio is a giveaway to the location of the entire line and something that we use sparingly.
The voices are crackled and sputtering from where I sit. I think there may be a moose down and am stretching my ears to listen as close as I can. This could be the confirmation that we have something.
A cow (reminder: adult female moose) has been harvested! One of the two doggers that were planning on meeting at the dam was the marksman – a difficult shot from almost 200 yards. Well have to sit in place and finish the hunt in the event that there`s anything more in these woods. Then there will be a long day of work before continuing the hunt.
It`s been almost 13 hours since the animal was harvested. It`s been a great day – albeit a long one.
Te moose was harvested 500 meters from the nearest road. The dogger made his shot as she sat at the edge of the beaver dam that was previously discussed. After being hit she managed to walk about 20 yards before expiring – she chose to walk into the pond made by said dam. We found her corpse halfway across the body of water – it was about 4 feet deep where she lay.
There is both a sadness and excitement when I see an animal that has been harvested. It`s a tough combination for skeptics to believe but it`s as real as anything I know. When you find the animal in frigid water it`s easy to move past emotion and focus on the challenge of the task at hand. One of our team jumped in the water (the dog in fast pursuit), walked to the moose and wrapped a rope around it so we could pull it to shore. Two of us volunteered for the task, he was a little quicker to the shore than I was.
If you have to navigate water in the near-winter, the trick is to remove as much clothes as you can before entering the water. When you return to shore you take off any clothes you were wearing and replace them with dry clothes on the shore. Light a fire to regain your heat and dry any of your wet clothes. It`s a tricky balance and can be very dangerous even though we`re fairly close to the comfort of our camp.
We cleaned the animal in the woods and had another bush lunch before my Father went back to camp to get the trailer for the moose. We took advantage of that time to run a quick hunt; and I had my first chance to be a dogger this week. It was a brutal walk as I was dressed far too warm (I was dressed for sitting) and I left more than half my clothes in a pile that I would later return to so I wouldn`t melt into a puddle of sweat.
No real excitement came from this late hunt and we returned to camp – we skinned and quartered the meat so it could hang to dry for the week. I wish our butcher would hang our meat for 3-6 weeks but the influx of meat to their freezers makes this impossible this time of year. It`s really a shame as this would be the best treatment for our meat but we don`t have a walk-in fridge large enough and the weather outside is too unpredictable to count on it`s assistance.
We went for a third hunt in the afternoon – this time we returned closer to camp. I walked again and it was a great adventure (Shaeffer decided to stay back and rest on this one). No great excitement this time although there was a lot of fresh sign. One particular pile was so fresh looking that I did the nasty act of picking up a piece. It was cold.
I am new to the world of picking up poo. Although it`s mostly just chewed grass I can easily admit it`s not something I have a soft-fuzzy spot for. I don`t have to touch most of it – a fresh pile is shiny while the older fare gets dull and dry. Touching it (and yes crumbling it) is a way to check for warmth and thus freshness. I emphasize that it`s mostly grass and quite green and pellet like. But it`s still poo.
If you`ve been reading for a little bit you know that when we walk towards the line we walk slow and steady. I stop every 5-10 steps, have a listen and look around to see what I see. I took a camera on the afternoon walk and took a photo every time I stopped and will share them in a series on the blog – I hope they give an idea of what the walk is like (nb I will post these after the hunt as it`s going to take a few hours to set up the photos one after another and will have up early next week).
The harvest generally allows for a night of festivity. Beyond our regular meal we enjoyed a night of partying – although we all knew we would have to be ready for the morning hunt once again – after all there`s still an unresolved bull tag that`s left to be dealt with.
The night ended with a quick shower and a solid night sleep.
This is one of the posts of 9-straight which chronicle my 2010 Ontario moose hunt which began 1 week ago today. The 9 days will be posted through this week and next weekend and will try to capture the essence of my experiences hunting for local food. The link above will reveal all the posts which have been published so far – as well as the complete series from last year. Last years series emphasized a lot of my personal struggle with hunting.
Every comment that adds to the conversation on hunting (i.e. you don’t have to agree with any of our views – but comments that are exceptionally short or ‘attack’ people aren’t eligible) will count as a ballot in our Food Matters Contest (full rules and explanation here). We hope to create dialogue over hunting and consciousness of what we eat and will listen to all with open ears and open hearts, willing to listen and share with all points of view).