WellPreserved Goes Moose Hunting – Day 9 – Nothing But Hope

Sunday was a long day.  The phone stayed silent and I refused to make the call.  I was waiting to hear from my Father to hear the final word on our luck for the week.  I knew that the longer I didn`t hear from him, the better.  A call by noon would almost positively mean that they had nothing down – there would just be too much work to do to get out that early.

So I refused to call and decided to wait.

Four or five years ago this would have been less of a concern.  It would have meant that I had less variety in my kitchen while now it means that I will have decidedly less meat.  We don`t buy like we used to and the investment in the hunt ideally supplies considerably more than 50% of our meat for the year.  Failing to harvest will result in the outright removal of that source and it won`t be replaced.  On the bright side, we will learn more styles of cooking.

Coming home empty-handed is also tremendously disappointing.  There`s been more than 3 months of preparation for this single week and 14 of us worked the woods for 6 days.  There is a tremendous amount of effort – and build-up – in getting ready for the hunt.  Being `skunked` is tough to take as a team – and as one of the leaders.  It`s a feeling that will stick around for at least a year and I`ll replay many parts of the hunt over in my head until we harvest our next animal.  I`ll try to learn more about hunting in the rain.

There`s also a bitter reminder about my own independence and ability to provide for my family.  failure would have been disastrous to our family 100 years ago.  I know of some people who still depend on the hunt for sustenance and they don`t have the safety nets we do (i.e. local year-round farmers market and the economic ability to participate).  It`s humbling and does hit some of my confidence.

The phone doesn`t ring until after 5:00PM.  The late call is a good sign – it`s enough time for them to have gone to a butcher, cleaned up and head home.  It could also just be a sign of a call later in the day – and it was.  I`m told very quickly that the hunt ended without success.  The guys had a great day – 3 of them even got a look at moose (the better weather had them moving around a lot easier) but they didn`t get a good enough look to know the age and gender.

This brings moose sightings to 12 in total with 4 guys seeing them.  Add the single bear and we had 13 legitimate opportunities to fill the freezer.  There were multiple deer sightings as well but they weren`t in season so they don`t count.  I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that hunting can be like this and that it`s not an all-you-can-kill-buffet.  We`ve come painfully close and haven`t had the chance to take a single shot.  The 6-day season is over and we`ll have to wait for another year.

In the days  following the hunt, I reflect on options.  The guys are going deer hunting and I had thought of getting into camp for a few days; a plan that fell through when an unplanned business trip popped up.  Dad is hunting for 2 weeks and will share any deer he gets (I really want to make jerky).  I have an invite for bow hunting in November (which I`ve never done) for a day which I`d like to try to make happen.   We also have some moose left over from last year which I`ll spread out.

Of course there`s also diversifying our menu at home and learning new meat-free or reduced-meat meals which is the thing silver lining.

And that`s how hunting goes.  I don`t regret the week and I`m very excited to get out here again in a year – though I`m thinking I need to do a bit more small game hunting in the fall in case we end up empty-handed again.  But ending up empty-handed can`t be an option two-years in a row.


Thank you all who`ve stayed with this series.  The last 10 days has been almost 14,000 words of posting; the length of the posts and the topic are enough to significantly lower our visits to the site – these posts have cut our traffic in half each of the last 3 years.  I hope you`ve enjoyed them, learned something or found something worth sharing.  We`ll be back to `regular programming` tomorrow. WellPreserved Goes Moose Hunting – Day 9   Nothing But Hope wellpreservedmoosehunt2011 November

This is the final post in this series.  To see all of the posts in this series, click here.


  1. Darn…I was so hoping this would be a “happy ending” and that I would get to live vicariously through your hunt! I suppose that’s why they call it “hunting” and not “killing”.

    We will be eating duck, partridge and goose this year, and just like you, a ration of last year’s moose and some venison given to us by a family member. My husband is hoping to take in a couple days of bow hunting near the end of the month, so maybe we will luck out with a bit more meat. I’m glad we ordered another pig from our CSA farmer, and several chickens! We won’t go hungry that’s for sure, and the wolves, coyote, fox and various other scavengers around our hunting grounds will likely be the winter benefactors of our moose. The circle of life continues.

    Thanks again for sharing your story. I’ve been highly offended by so many tasteless hunting pictures that have been shared on Facebook this year, so it makes me very happy to see that there are indeed other people who honour their animals, take pride in the tradition, camaraderie, and skill involved in hunting for food….not just for sport.

    • Shannon, thank you… It`s great fun to share ideas and experiences with those who have similar perspective… Knowing that you also had an èmpty` year, I knew you`d be able to relate as well.

      I`ve never been a big fan of the `glory`type pictures. There`s a certain tradition to them that`s an entire post on it`s own but I`ve always been sensitive about pictures like you describe. When we do harvest an animal it`s a point of pride that we bring it to the butcher covered in such a way that others aren`t forced to see it. To me it`s important that, as hunters, we are ambassadors to the experience and that the future of hunting depends on us welcoming others and not shocking them for our own entertainment.

      It`s been a difficult line here – we`ve never shown pictures of our successful harvest – yet I think that articles on skinning, quartering and hanging could all be useful resources as well… Not something I have to figure out this year. :)

      Thanks for reading – been fun `hunting with you guys` from afar. :)



  2. Cindy Grob says:

    Thank you for an excellent and very thoughtfully presented series – I was holding my breath until the bitter end. May you be more successful next year.

  3. I’ve found this whole series of posts very interesting — thank you. My father started moose-hunting three years ago, after never having held a gun in his life before, nor done anything other than fishing. It’s very much *not* part of our family background — though our family has a cottage and my parents used to hike & do canoe-trips, but they’ve never been hunters. And it’s been a bit of an adjustment for our family — my mom (raised as a Quaker & very committed pacifist, really not comfortable with even the thought of guns) has really not been happy about him hunting. So it’s been good to get another perspective on it; I may actually send this series to her to read, it may help her feel a bit better about it.

    The reason he hunts is definitely a mix of spending the time in the deep bush (they fly in) and having the meat — he really loves interesting cooking & good food. The first year they got a calf, the second they got nothing, and this year they took a bull moose. (My dad hasn’t shot at anything yet). I’m hoping to be given some of the meat, and will be keeping an eye on your blog for an idea for how to use it — though I realise you won’t be posting much about that this year. Sorry that you didn’t get anything this year. But thanks again for the posts!

  4. I’ve loved every post in this series. I don’t hunt and no one in my family or circle of friends do, so this is all new information for me. I’ve wished many times I had grown up in that kind of environment (guns were always taboo in my family).

    Thanks for providing such a great insight!

  5. Wonderful series, Joel…thanks once again for taking the time to do it.

    Your thoughts about ‘coming up empty’, and what it would have meant to a family 100 years ago echo ours, post hurricane, in the garden. I love my home-grown food, and that having it allows a measure of control over the health of our diet. The loss of so much just before the harvest was a blow, but we don’t face starvation because we have neither enough stores in the pantry or a crop to sell at market…living closer to the land, whether by hunting or raising vegetables, gives a perspective that simply being a consumer of others’ labor does not.

  6. Thanks for sharing the hunting adventure. No doubt bagging one would have led to some interesting cooking related articles. Oh well there is next year. The posts did not “scare me off”, but you might consider shortening them a bit. Also, I sent you another comment that I have not heard back form nor have I heard from the one I posted in Sept. I am trying to interact but it is not clear how to except for FB which as I noted in the last post, is not really “my cup of tea”
    BTW, it sure sounds like your dog had the most fun of anyone, and he does not really care if you bag one or not. Oh to be a dog…………..

  7. awww :( i’m so sorry the hunt was not fruitful. my uncle & cousins live off their hunt and they got a moose this year, thankfully, since they have four kids between them.

  8. Shannon nailed it – my dad has said for years “there’s a reason they call it hunting, not killing”, so funny she should reference it. But I hear ya – spending all that time and money going out and getting nothing is frustrating. Been there.

    Thanks for stepping out on this topic and sharing – I think it’s important to normalize hunting and foraging.

  9. Enjoyed the posts! Thanks Joel. Most of the hunting camps here are lucky every day with a fully stocked cooler upon return :)

  10. Sorry to hear you didn’t get your moose. That was us last year deer-wise but we had some caribou for back-up. The caribou is gone now and we definitely need a couple deer to stock our near empty freezer. Rifle season started here last weekend, we have a new place to hunt (70 acres!), and hopefully we’ll be stocking up!

    • Rebecca, great to hear from you.

      Very exciting news about the additional 70 acres – that will make a huge difference. I am so hopeful you have a great season; I know it means as much to you guys as it does to us. :)

  11. Hey Joel, I finally found time to read all the hunting posts in order from the beginning. Wonderful stories. I really did enjoy the videos as they took me back visually to being deep in the forest (and it was fun seeing how much the dog was enjoying himself), but the text posts were just as important in a more explanatory way. I hope you continue to do both formats.

    Your emphasis on not shooting unless you have a very positive identification and a clear shot that doesn’t leave the animal wounded is extremely important both for safety and ethical harvesting of the animals.

    The comment about hearing rain on the roof upon waking sure brought back memories. Our hunting tribe slept in their local homes except for my friend and I who had a trailer up on an isolated ridge, and sometimes even drizzle sounded like a storm on that trailer roof. Much preferred cold and a light fall of snow.

    Sorry about the lack of success this season for you. Not having your own meat can be really disappointing. We used to freeze most of our meat and pressure can the rest. I had a great venison goulash I used to make from the bottled meat.

  12. Awesome series, I don’t know what’s up that people stop reading when this is very educational, entertaining and inspiring.

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