WellPreserved Goes Moose Hunting 2010 – Day 2 – The Tribe Arrives

Morning came way too fast – and she arrived with a lot of chaos.

To explain the eruption that started my day I’ll need to rewind to the last moments of the previous evening.

After finishing my journal entry I closed my book, secured it with the magnetic clasp that bound it and sealed it within the inner pocket of my jacket.  The final remnants of my bottle were swilled as I rose from my chair, lit my flashlight and killed the propane light.  A short walk to my bunk preceded a quick disrobe (this is the warmest way to sleep which is why I am sharing this), shiver and a hurried scamper to get into the warmth of bed.

Our closest neighbor at the cabin is about 5 km through the woods.  We are more than 13 from a street light and 20+ from any significant gathering of humanity.  Laying in bed here is a bizarre experience – you see the identical darkness with your eyes open as you do when they are shut.  I can’t see the hint of my hand as the digits hover close to my nose.  It is odd that this darkness, inside, is comforting while outside it can be overwhelming.

I tend to lay in bed, eyes open and seeing nothing.  The transition from consciousness to slumber is difficult to notice as the world is dark regardless of what you are trying to see.  I believe this also helps significantly in a deeper sleep; one I rarely wake from without someone physically prodding me.

Back to the eruption of the morning…

I went from asleep to awake in an instant.  I could hear yelling and screaming and recognized the voice of one of our members (it is his 40th year hunting at our camp).  “GET OUT – GET THE HELL OUT!”

It took a comment to realize that his screams were also on the edge of the throes of sleep.  What sounded like a panicked plea wasn’t – although my nerves were still high realizing that the assailant had to be my 15-month old puppy.  It was going to be an awkward start to the week if my dog was going to lauch wet nose and wagging tail at every member of our crew as they slept.

I scurried out of bed, Shaeffer ran for the kitchen and I threw on some pants.  His ‘victim’ stayed in bed.

Our cabin is two rooms – a bunk room that sleeps 14 and a kitchen/dining/social room.  I entered the kitchen and saw my father standing with a funny look on his face and watched as he threw a tennis ball into the bunk room.  More specifically, he threw it in the bunk of the dog’s “victim.”  We both chuckled, traded a silent hug and settled into coffee around the wood stove.  My host from the previous evening joined me as did the one other conscious member and we all became re-acquainted.  For the entire conversation we all sat shoulder to shoulder and stared at the glowing embers of the fire.

Moose season in Southern Ontario will start on Monday and last 6 days.  The weekend is about having some fun, prepping for the week ahead and tracking.

I knew I had to go to town to run some final errands.  I got that out of the way early – it’s about an hour each way and there were only 4 guys (of our 14) in camp.  I took off around 9:00AM and headed to Huntsville.

One of the guys was having problems with his ATV (All Terrain Vehicle – or four-wheeler).  He left about 20 minutes ahead of me to drive to a mechanic friend that lives on the border of the forest line.  It didn’t take me long to catch up to him.

My friend was 7 kilometers in the middle of a forest on a logging road when his ATV broke down.  5 minutes before I found him a truck had been coming down that same road, saw him stalled in the middle of the road and navigated around him before moving on.  This is a major violation of both common courtesy and the way many of us believe things should happen in the woods.  It’s disappointing to think that had he been there by himself (the truck had no way of knowing otherwise), that my 72-year old friend (still in great form to hunt and be in the woods) would have been found and abandoned like that.  This experience chilled me and became a precursor for a related experience 7 days later.

It took extra time to get to town but we got the ATV to the shop and a quick adjustment had the world right again.

Town was a bizarre experience.  I ran into 3 people that I know – 2 of them I saw 3 different times.  We were all doing the same things – hardware store, liquor store, final groceries and that type of thing.  1 was co-worker from Newmarket but the other 2 were guys I knew from the area.  We’ll never be local up there but it’s times like these that make us feel like special guests and not just aliens landing for a week.

I was heading back to the woods when I stopped at our mechanic to make sure my friend had not come back.  Once I confirmed that I pulled my truck back to the logging road only to see 3 trucks approaching and knew that most of the crew was here.

The 3 vehicles pulled to the side of the trail.  This isn’t a “real” road anymore – there are no traffic signs, pavement, plowing, grading or repairs.  In fact, it becomes a groomed snowmobile trail in the winter.  It’s easy to find places for multiple vehicles to clear off the path and make room for others to pass.

I lined my truck up behind the last one and we all popped out to greet each other, trade hugs and handshakes and have a beer before navigating the final 13 kilometers (which takes about 40 minutes).

There are 14 hunters this year.  9 of us are either the father or a son of another member.  We are all male.

Women have never hunted moose or deer with us (though my mother and Dana are present when we bird hunt).  Women were actually banned from our Moose hunt in the 1960s – but perhaps for a different reason than you may think.  It was several wives who actually initiated the ban – requesting that if their husbands were going to be away from them for 10 days in the middle of the woods they would far prefer there were no ladies present.  None of the spouses or children have shown interest in Moose hunting yet so that separation has remained a reality; one that may one-day change the moment that someone’s daughter wants to hunt.  We’re very focussed on family and keeping this tradition alive.

I drove in with the new crew and the  day continued onwards.  Saturday is one of the best days of this trip – most of the guys are here, everyone is having fun and we know the alarm clock isn’t going to pull us out of bed and into the darkness at 5.00AM.

A communal spaghetti dinner (with our preserved tomato sauce) paves the way for a great night of revelry and our bizarre family of hunters is reunited once again.

This is the second post 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).




  1. kiwiswiss says:

    I am enjoying this series of posts Joel, but it is bittersweet.
    I am still recovering from rupturing my Achilles tendon and tearing the muscle. I haven’t been able to hunt since February, and am still having trouble walking over rough ground.
    What constantly fascinates me is the differences in hunting techniques, both that you write about, and that commenters are posting. I have hunted in two different countries, New Zealand and Australia, and the experiences there were very different too.
    In NZ, we can hunt all year round, and a hunting party is normally only one or two people out for a day or a weekend.
    For a day hunt, I prefer to go alone, and if longer I prefer to have a companion. The hunting is normally in bush or forest, and involves a lot of quiet walking and stalking. I don’t use a dog, but a few do.
    Also, given the size difference between the Canada and NZ, it is amazing how close you are to other people. Here, it is common to fly, either by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, into a remote hunting spot.
    If you get down under at any time, I will happily take you hunting here.

  2. Sounds like you’re off to a good start. I’m wishing you much luck tomorrow. Interesting reading about your hunting moose since we have deer here. We enjoy eating the deer our friends and family get. I’d enjoy trying moose. Maybe you’ll share a recipe sometime.

  3. I’m way too tender (read wimpy) to ever go hunting myself but I’ve always kind of envied the men back home and their hunting traditions. It seems like such a genuine bonding experience. Cool that your dad is with you. Shaeffer sounds a bit like my Ranger – pesky.

    • Janet, I don`t think that`s wimpy at all. Only wimpy if you`re hiding from the mild cold. As far as hunting itself, I can wasily understand how someone can`t do it.

      I`ve been hunting most of my life – been in the woods for 22 years with a gun and seen it long before. Yet my grand total harvest is less than 6 birds. Of the birds I`ve taken, some were very easy and others were painfully difficult. Nothing wimpy about that from where I`m standing. :)

  4. Michael came home early from hunting yesterday morning. He just got too cold to stay out any longer. Since he had a bout with Renal Cell Carcinoma last year he’s had trouble keeping warm. His tests are all clear and the doctors have no explanation for it. Then three weeks ago he unexpectedly had to have gall bladder surgery. Poor guy’s had a rough year and a half and this hunting season means more to him than just putting meat in the larder. He doesn’t say it but I can sense it. He did go back out in the afternoon and watched a good sized, six point buck wander along the creek in and out of the scrub but he never had a good shot at it. Unless he’s sure he can put it right down he won’t take the chance of injuring it or having to track a blood trail and possibly losing it.
    There’s no hunting in Virginia on Sundays so maybe Monday he’ll bring one home

    Micheal’s not concerned about whether he gets a good looking buck or not and neither am I. Doe or buck matters not as long as it’s a healthy, fit adult animal. He once was near tears when, because of the lay of the land and a trick of the light, he shot a young male maybe 8 or 9 months old. He doesn’t think it’s right to take a deer that hasn’t been through at least a winter or two. I agree with him but I also told him that we would treat that one like the best veal for our dinners. I processed it and labeled it carefully so he would know that the venison picatta or bacon wrapped filets came from the young one.

    Yeah…all male hunting camp syndrome… Buck Camp friends in Pennsylvania call it. Buck Camp, meaning men only, stag all the way. I grew up going with my extended family to hunting camp every fall. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, spouses, and all my cousins. Grandpa had a zipline running from the back of the cabin to out beyond the woodshed for us kids before ziplines were the attraction they are now. I know now it was his way of getting us young’ns to haul in the firewood. That was the price of the ride- zipline out, carry a load back. I learned so much at those camps both by doing and by osmosis.
    Buck camp on the other hand, is an affront to me. Like an inference that somehow I can’t pull my weight, or I’ll disapprove of something, or god forbid, I’ll get my deer and they won’t. Michael went once while I visited with friends but he wasn’t impressed. He liked the guys but he said there was an awful lot of loose testosterone laying about. He’s been invited back each year since but always begs off.

    • goodness I am loving your posts in their own right…I find them fascinating and am so thankful you are sharing Rebecca…

      I grew up a jazz dancer, figure skater and artsy kid; more than comfortable with my masculine and feminine sides. I think I stuggled with the same feelings Michael encountered and can definately understand why you`d see it as an afront. I really am excited for the day one of the hunters daughters show an interest.

      Our tag system does not allow us to freely choose between an adult male or female – we have a draw for ANTLERLESS DEER where limited access is given to harvest fawns or does. A `regular`tag allows us to harvest one buck.

      Can`t say enough how thankful I am to read your words – wish i was awake enough to comment more; a long day behind and short night ahead has me hunting for sleep.

  5. Joel – I think that your insights into the mens only moose hunt is very thought provoking – I so want to take part in the hunt ever year…but cannot find my place in the male landscape of the hunt camp that my husband and father in law are a part of. The coincidence is that I can join them in bird hunting, like Dana…

    I have really enjoyed reading about Schaeffer’s experiences – the wet nose wake up story left me laughing…that is such a Viszla trait…our Remi dog has the same tendency….poor victim!!!

    Hope you had a great hunt…


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