The Balance of Mother Nature
Well just arrived home after a couple of weeks of Moose Hunting in northern British Columbia. To declare it was not an adventure would certainly be a drastic understatement. Some of you may remember the last two Moose Hunts I wrote about and some may not have been receiving the Newsletter back then? There are three of us in our hunting group - my hunting friend Jimmy and his son Bruce. They have been hunting the same area in northern BC since the mid 80’s (Jimmy). I started hunting with them about 8 years ago. We schedule the hunt to coincide with the rut.
In 2014 I was the only one successful in taking a bull – we hunt a trophy area and the bulls must have at least three points on the brow or a total of ten points on one side. Immature bulls are also legal. We saw several bulls, as they responded to the call, but only the one I took was of legal size.
In 2015 we were fortunate enough to all take a legal bull.
This year both Jimmy and Bruce took great bulls and although I had an opportunity, I was unable to score, but more about that in a minute.
Due to Bruce’s work commitments and my meetings, we departed home a week after Jimmy – kind of nice to have Camp already set up and the firewood cut & stacked - smile. We departed on 01 October at 0500 hours and the drive up to Fort St. John was uneventful. Upon departing Fort St. John it was a literal nightmare. Driving in a full-blown blizzard in the dark is something I thing we can all agree upon as “nasty”? We finally made it into camp around 10:30 pm. Man, it was a welcome sight, even under a blanket of snow – home for the next couple of weeks.
Inside our Home, warm & cozy, while a little less comfortable outside
The following morning found Bruce and me settling in to Camp life and later in the day we took a short ATV trip to seek out moose sign. Next morning I decided to venture around a bit to see what type activity was going on in the area. There seemed to be a quite a bit of fresh sign as the snow had stopped falling the day before. So, Day #1 was spent “touring” some of the areas close to the Camp.
I was up well before dawn on Day #2, as I had decided to travel to a swamp, located 25+ kms from Camp and it was once again snowing lightly. I arrived at the predetermined spot just after dawn. There was a light skiff of snow covering the ground and as I pulled the ATV into the cover, I immediately noticed a huge moose track coming out of the bush along the trail I was parked on. It was one of the largest tracks I had ever seen and I have seen a lot of moose tracks over the years. Also there was a set of cow tracks along-side of them. Well, to say my blood pressure wasn’t steadily climbing would be an understatement. I called there for a couple of hours with no success, but I must take this opportunity to state that I am almost completely deaf in my left ear and my right is failing fast – guess it comes with being in my latter 60’s and 30+ years in the Infantry. I decided to stick with this area until I had “big-foot” on the ground. Next day was also fruitless – there had been an Outfitter and clients hunting this swamp also and they had taken two bulls out of the area. I spotted them about 700 yards from where I was calling, so decided to head back to Camp.
I returned the next day, but chose a place to call from about 400 yards further down the pipeline from where the trail crossed. I called for 3 – 4 hours and neither saw nor heard anything except the odd irritated squirrel. I decided around 11:00 am that just maybe I was wasting my time here? It had snowed once again that morning and I never saw a fresh track on my way in. I packed the ATV and started the long drive back to Camp. I covered the 400 yards and was just passing the trail, when I saw “big-foot’s” track going along the trail into the thick timber. Now I was pumped, but wait, how had I missed him crossing – must have been looking the other way down the pipeline. Sometimes luck has a lot to do with being successful when hunting. I knew he was in the area, so I turned the ATV around and headed down the pipeline. After a 1000 yards or so, I stopped the ATV and dismounted. I started a series of cow calls and never heard a sound, yet suddenly there was a bull moose standing in the pipeline about 100 yards away, just staring at me. A quick look through my Leica binos provided a dismal fact – he was not legal. He displayed eight points on one side and only six points on the other and with only single brow tines. Well, at least they were answering the call!! I went to where he had been standing and to my total surprise that was “big-foot”. Just goes to show, one can never judge the size of the animal by the track alone. I usually look for how far the dew claws on the front feet sink into the ground as a determining factor as to how heavy the bone weight he is carrying
I headed to another area and then made my way back to Camp well after dark. Much to my surprise, I was the only one in Camp – which is good news, as it usually means Jimmy & Bruce have a moose down. I got the fire going and the lamps lit, as I know first-hand what it is like to cut up a bull moose for transport to Camp and arriving soaked in sweat to a “cold” Camp. About an hour later I hear the sound of ATV’s coming and they seem to be heading to the “Meat Pole” area, located to the rear of the tent. I am met at the door by Bruce and he has a grin stretching from ear to ear. I ask, “How did you do?” All I heard him say was “Huge, huge.” I made my way to the Meat Pole and was suitably impressed by the antlers strapped to his ATV.
Now I needed the story:
Jimmy & Bruce had gone to a favourite calling place where they have had great success in the past. Jimmy had called for a couple of hours and was ready to move to a new place. They decided to give it some more time and were rewarded by a bull grunting in the bush. Soon Jimmy (he is one of the best people I have ever seen on the call) had the bull coming in and they were a bit disappointed to see a sub-legal bull challenging them. He went back in the bush, but was soon out again looking for the cow. At this time Bruce spotted a large bull standing inside the wood-line, not making a sound. When he pointed this out to Jimmy, Jimmy made a low gruttal-like cow call and the big boy just could not resist it and came out into full view. One shot from Brice’s 7mm Rem Mag had that big boy on the ground.
Bruce's Trophy Bull - where he fell & with the proud hunter beside it
He had a huge body and his spread was 51 ½”. Luckily he was in a great position to process for the trip back to Camp. The meat got hung first thing the next morning.
The next day, Bruce decided he would travel with me, back to “Big-Foot’s” domain, to see if we could rustle up a shooter. We got set up and I was calling and the first thing Bruce said to me was, “Your cow call sounds like a cow in distress” and he had a huge smile on his face. Soon he was pointing down the pipeline and made the sign that he was hearing a bull thrashing the willows inside the trees. Now this is the interesting part – I could not hear anything at all??? Soon the bull lost interest and I figured it was probably “Big-Foot” and he was not going to be fooled twice.
We spent some time touring that area and found lots of sign, so thought it just might be worth returning a couple of days later to see if we could find a shooter.
Next morning I headed out for another place, which had shown promise. Nothing answered the call or at least which my hearing could detect - smile, so I decided to head out in another direction and soon came upon a cow and her calf laying in the snow. Unlike whitetail deer, moose are not nervous when in human presence, unless directly downwind of us. She stood there for several minutes before heading into the timber. Once again I headed back to Camp and once again I was the only one there?? Soon the sound of two ATV’s broke the evening stillness and this time Jimmy had a smile on his face. They had seen a bull cross the cut-line and head into a cut-block a couple of days previously. On their way back to Camp they decided to go into that cut-block and call. They had no sooner started to call when they saw a bull running down the trail toward them. Bruce determined him as being legal, so Jimmy tried for a head shot to keep the bull on the road for easy access for processing. Well, as the old saying goes. “The best laid plans of men & mice”. His first shot hit the bull’s antler at the very base and as it was told to me, this only served to make this bull madder – smile. He headed off into the timber, but hesitated for a fatal minute – probably because the adrenaline rush had worn off and he was experiencing an unfathomable headache? Anyway, Jimmy is always quick when it comes to dispatching animals and his second shot found the lung area and this baby was on the ground. The processing was left until the next morning when all of us could pitch in and get the job done.
Jimmy's angry Bull on the ground. Notice the huge brow on his left side.
Now that we had two moose down, I was able to enter into their “sacred ground”, commonly called the “Hole”, it was a long valley and about 800 yards wide. I never go there until the “old guard” have taken their bulls (Bruce’s bull had come from here and Jimmy’s about 1000 yards from there). I headed to a viewing point, which is about 300 yards above the valley floor. There is a small plank bench there and one is fairly comfortable when calling from there. I set up and let a couple of cow calls cut the silence of the valley. Almost immediately I saw a bull heading towards the base from where I was calling. I was able to immediately tell he was not a legal one. He was about 600 yards out, when he made a 90 degree turn and headed away from me. I found this strange since the wind was blowing directly in my face?? He was heading to the far side of the valley floor and soon the reason was very apparent, a cow came out of the bush and I guess he had winded her and went to investigate. Soon I saw another bull wandering around the cow. These two bulls sparred for over an hour, while stopping periodically to feed. I find this one of the greatest parts of the hunt - being able to observe the animals in their habitat and their ways.
Next morning found me in the same spot with no success. I returned in the afternoon around 3:00 pm and called for about two hours with no results, or so I thought. Next morning Jimmy offered to come with me and call. We arrived at the bench overlooking the valley and noticed moose tracks heading towards the bench itself. We got to the bench and called for a while to no avail. Bruce offered to come with me that afternoon, so we headed out around 2:00 pm. I set up and was calling when I saw Bruce make the sign that he was hearing a bull raking the brush. This went on for about a half hour, then we heard Jimmy’s ATV coming. I met him and told him we had a bull in the Hole. After another half hour of calling, I spotted the bull crossing the valley floor. It was determined that not only was he legal, but also large in body. Bruce let me know the bull was grunting with every step. He stayed well out of range and continued to parallel our position. Being as vocal as he was, he was definitely interested in us. But, if he had been the bull, which came in the previous evening, he knew the cow call he was hearing represented an animal he knew wasn’t there?? Bruce looked over to where I was and stated, “Great calling, he has finally laid down out of boredom”. The bull had bedded at 586 yards. That type of friendly banter was what represented a great comradery between us.
Jimmy piped up, “If he stands, you had better shoot him”. My retort was, “I am shooting my Browning A-bolt in 338 Win Mag, with a 275 grain Swift A-Frame bullet and I feel comfortable out to 400 yards, but the bull is 586 yards away”. He passed me his rifle a Browning X-Bolt in 325 WSM with a 200 grain Nosler AccuBond bullet. His scope was graduated in 100 yard increments and he said it was sighted in. Well, Jimmy gave a cow call and the bull stood up and presented a broad-side target. I was using my back-pack and the rifle was solid in the platform it provided. I placed the 600 yard hash mark on his shoulder and squeezed the shot off. At the report the bull just stood there. I always listen for the sound of the bullet hitting meat, as it is quite distinctive(and believe it or not, easily heard by my failing hearing). In this case there was no sound. I sent another one his way with the same effect. Seeing the bull just stand there provided me with the knowledge the bullet was low. If I was high, the sound of the bullet passing over the animal would have frightened it. I raised the cross-hairs and let still another one go – same result?? The next one must have been high, as the bull lit out of there.
In hind-site, we should probably have tried to call him closer and into range for my 338, but hind-site is a luxury, one which cannot be used to “turn the clock back”.
With an impending storm on the horizon, we decided to pack up and head for home. We had plenty of meat for the upcoming year and now the score was even over the past three years – each having taken two legal bulls. Things do have a way of balancing themselves out over time.
I had started writing this article upon returning home, but after a couple of days rest, I was drawn to the local mountains for the last couple of days of the Bighorn Sheep season – more about that later.