ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL MOOSE CAMP - 2019
Back from Africa and a couple of weeks spent scaling the local mountains and it was time to head north for our annual Moose Hunt. This year we left a little later in order for our arrival to coincide with the rut and we were bang-on this year. We left mid-day on 30 September and instead of stopping for a sleep, this time we drove straight through. The weather for our trip was sunny and clear. Some of the crew had preceded us by a few days and they ran into rain, snow and extremely muddy roads to manoeuver. When we arrived at the place where we would be leaving the pavement and completing our journey over less than desirable dirt roads, we found the sun and wind had greatly improved the conditions of these roads and they were a bit muddy, but we were able to navigate the 35 miles in to Camp without the use of chains. Jimmy got stuck on one particularly steep hill with a sharp bend, but after shoveling a few loads of rock under the tires, he was able to finish the trip.
Being tired from the long trip, it was a bit of a chore to get the accommodations set up and our gear sorted and stored for the hunt. But soon we had everything completed and settled in for a bit of relaxation. I decided to take a ride on my ATV to have a look at the country and see if there was sign of the bulls moving. The roads were muddy, which hampered driving (mud flying everywhere - smile). I headed out to the area where I had my stroke the year before. Prior to arriving there, I ran into Steve and his son. Stopped and spoke with them for a short time and found out where they were hunting and told them I was not planning on going into that area, but to where I had shot my bull the year before. They said the road was under water and that I would not make it far. I decided to have a look for myself and sure enough they were right. I could see the water under the grass and this area was always hard to get through. I turned around and headed back to Camp as the sun was setting and I did not want to be stuck after dark. Also, tomorrow I would have someone with me, just in case the water was too deep, I would have someone to pull me out.
Supper was super and as soon as the last morsel completed its journey to my stomach, I was in my sleeping bag and sound asleep. I did not move a muscle until I awoke at 6 am. I always have been an early riser and hunting camp is no exception. Stoked the fire and completed my ablutions and was getting the ATV ready for the long drive. Bruce was going to travel with me and his Dad Jimmy would join us later. The ride to where I had been the previous day was uneventful and soon we were staring at the flooded grassland. Bruce is an excellent reader-of-the-land and soon he was picking his way through the water. Once on solid ground, he shouted back to me, “There is water and some mud, but the bottom seems solid and held my quad well.” I was soon beside him and off we went in a leap-frog fashion, eating up the distance as we went. Soon, we arrived at the pipeline intersection where I had shot my bull the preceding year. We knew the pipeline from here up to where he wanted to go was bad last year, as we had gotten stuck a couple of times while getting my moose back to Camp. We set up and decided to call for a while until Jimmy joined us. Within a couple of hours Jimmy was with us and he and Bruce decided to head up the pipeline to see if in fact it was passable. I decided to stay in place as over the years, I had called several moose out to this spot.
I anxiously watched as they worked their way through the more difficult spots and was relieved when I saw a couple of “specks” in the far distance start to climb out of the swampy onto higher ground which I knew would provide solid footing. The rest of the day was more or less uneventful, although the weather was certainly enjoyable with constant sunshine. Jimmy & Bruce returned to my location near dark and together we made the 35 km drive back to Camp. Around the campfire that evening it was apparent that no one had seen any moose or fresh sign of moose???? That is except for the area we had been to that day. We had discovered where a couple of bulls and cows had traversed the land.
I had decided to stay in Camp the next day to rest and replenish the woodpile and finish a couple of other mundane Camp chores. Also, we were due for our annual Thanksgiving Dinner with friends who trapped and hunted in this area. We were scheduled to depart Camp around 3 pm for the short drive to their cabin. Well, 3 pm came and went and with Jimmy & Bruce still not back, that could mean only one of two things - they had some problems with their ATV (break-sown or stuck) or they had a moose down and were busy preparing it for transport back to Camp. Around 4 pm we could hear their ATV’s in the distance and waited in anticipation for their arrival. Bruce was first into Camp and his quad was loaded down with moose quarters. Jimmy was right behind him with the rest of the moose. Well, there was a quick chit-chat about the hunt and then everyone chipped in and got the moose quarters hung while Jimmy & Bruce got cleaned-up for Dinner.
During the drive over the rest of us got the details of what had transpired that morning. Jimmy & Bruce had driven back out to where we had been the day before and Bruce had decided to stay where I had been set-up the previous day as he had called the bull in that I had shot the previous year. Jimmy was going to plod onward through the swampy grassland and set-up where he and Bruce had been the day before. We always give the area we are going to call in about 20 minutes to settle down before we start calling. In Bruce’s case this would be closer to 45 minutes, as he had to wait to see his father drive out of sight before his 20 minute wait would start. Bruce has the patience to wait long periods of time without getting anxious and starting too soon, only to scare animals away.
When sufficient time had elapsed, Bruce started to call using a cow call. He was immediately rewarded with a bull grunting off in the distance. As Bruce continued to call, it was apparent the bull was making his way towards where his newly found girlfriend awaited. Bruce said that all of a sudden everything went quiet and he never heard the bull again. Well, sometimes the bulls will come in silently and sometimes very vocal. Bruce, ever vigilant, kept his eye in the direction of where he thought the bull would appear and he would get a shot. After an hour or so since his last vocal encounter with the bull, he heard two shots from the direction where his father would be. Needless to say, he knew what had transpired and quickly gathered his gear and started off in the direction of where his dad was hunting. He knew that his dad was an excellent caller and somehow had enticed the bull which was coming to him away and over to where Jimmy was. Imagine the bull heading to one potential mate and then having what seemed like a better offer being made from a mile or so in the other direction.
Bruce arrived and sure enough Jimmy had already started to field dress the bull. Apparently the bull had not wanted to come out of the heavy timber, as Jimmy was set up at an old compressor site which was surrounded by a fair bit of open ground. When the bull finally was enticed to come into the open, he remained in some low ground out-of-sight from Jimmy. Jimmy said he could hear the bull grunting and raking the brush but could not see him in order to get a shot. Jimmy kept his grunting up and finally the infuriated bull started to come to his location. First Jimmy could only see the antlers above the crest of the hill in front, but no vitals for a shot. Jimmy is an experienced moose hunter and he had no problem waiting this guy out as he already knew the outcome - sooner or later the bull would fully show himself. Well, the battle of wills continued for several more minutes and finally the bull poked his head over the rise and Jimmy decided this just might be his only chance, so he decided to take the head shot.
At the crack of the rifle-shot the bull went crazy, running and bucking all over the place - well, I guess the bullet didn’t hit the brain - smile. Jimmy was able to place his second shot into the front shoulders and soon the bull lay, expired on the ground. When Bruce arrived, he was happy to see the bull laying in the grass and being able to drive his quad right to it. Most times we are well back and have to cut a trail to them with our chain-saws in order to get them out. Well, it is always nice to get the first one on the ground as we then know there will be some meat in the freezer for the winter.
Dinner was superb as usual and upon returning to Camp, I just sort of “rolled” into bed. The next couple of days were interesting, as we were seeing more sign and knew the rut would be in full swing soon. Jimmy wanted to work around Camp this day, so Bruce and I set out to our favourite spot in hopes of getting a bull. There was snow, albeit minimal, on the ground, but the sun was producing warm rays once it had reached its zenith. We got set up and started calling and sitting in my collapsible lawn chair I was soon fast asleep - sounds like a really serious hunter - smile. Not sure how long I had been out, but when I came back to reality, I looked at Bruce and he was smiling. I asked him if he had heard a bull and he retorted that with my snoring, he doubted there were any animals within a 10 mile area!! He said he was going to take a walk to a beaver dam which was a mile or so through the bush and had been a great place to hunt years ago, but the dam had broken and the beaver had departed that area.
I remained wide awake for the remainder of the afternoon and continued to call, but with no positive results. Soon, I saw Bruce returning from his walk and I asked him how he had done. One can imagine the look on my face when he held up an empty shell casing and displayed the largest smile possible. Now, you have to believe me when I tell you that I did not fall asleep while he was gone, but I never heard the rifle-shot?? I am a bit deaf, well maybe a bit more than a bit - smile. I asked him what happened and he said he had taken his time making his way to the beaver ponds and that once he was there he was surprised at the amount of fresh sign he was seeing. He said he slowly made his way around the circumference of the ponds (a large overall area) and did not see anything. He spent about one hour carefully covering all the ground and decided that maybe the sign was made during the night? He decided to make his way back to my position when he heard a cow bawling in the near distance. He was positive it was not me calling as the source seemed too close. He heard it a couple of more times and finally decided to slowly make his way towards the cow. He said he had not covered very much ground and was standing beside an evergreen tree when he detected a slight movement to his front. He eased behind the tree and looked out the other side and was staring at a bull approximately 13 yards from his concealed position. The cows were still emitting the odd bawl behind the bull, well in the cover of the bush. He raised his binos and to his surprise was able to count the 10 required points on one of the bull’s antlers. Slowly bringing the binos down and raising his rifle he was able to place his shot right between the bull’s eyes. It was immediately on the ground and he heard the cows crashing through the trees making their escape.
I told him I might as well stay and hunt while he made the trip back to Camp to get his Dad and the rest of the crew to help get the bull out. He was gone about 10 minutes and I heard an ATV coming down the pipeline. It was Jimmy and he had met Bruce on his way to Camp. He said that Bruce told him where the bull lay and we could make our way in and start the job of bustin’ it up for the trip back to Camp. It took us a bit of maneuvering the quads before we were able to make the ponds. One ditch was extremely deep, but we got through fairly easy. The trail in was wet with a couple of very muddy places. We couldn’t find the bull with the directions Jimmy was given, but the crew showed up before dark and soon we had a path cut into where the bull lay. As the old saying goes, “Many hands make for light work.” As in this case there were two young strapping men who did not mind the hard work and Jimmy who was very experienced at getting these mammoth animals broken down for the long trip back to Camp. To say it was a nightmare getting that bull to the pipeline would be a huge understatement. We had taken four ATV’s in through the wet marshy ground and that presented quite a problem, but now with the quads laden with 700 lbs of meat the trail virtually became impassable. Getting through the deep ditch became a nearly insurmountable obstacle. We had to have one guy hanging onto the front rack while the driver tried to steer the overladen quad and then the remaining two pushing with all their might at the back of the quad. We got the heaviest ones through first or we might still be there – smile. We arrived back at Camp after 1 am in the morning, tired and chilled from sweating with the hard work then driving in the cold.
We had a light skiff of snow fall overnight which is always a welcome sight. We drove back to pour favourite place and didn’t see any fresh sign, but we really did not expect to see any with all the human activity while getting Bruce’s bull back to Camp. The next day, I went back out by myself to do some calling and ‘snooping’ around and after a fruitless few hours, decided to head in to Camp for lunch and then hunt a different area that afternoon, in order to allow the area I liked to settle down a bit. Upon arrival at Camp there was no one around and my truck was missing??? I followed the tire tracks for a short distance and it headed out another road where I knew our hunting friends had been concentrating their efforts for the last couple of days. It was a good road and I was able to make good time on it. After about 7 or 8 miles of driving I was rewarded with the sight of my truck heading my way. When I came abreast of it, Bruce was sitting behind the steering wheel and the rest of the crew minus one were all smiles. Bruce asked me, ”Were you looking for us?” And my reply was, “Not really, I was tracking my truck.” This got a great laugh from the occupants. I saw the bull in the truck bed, congratulated them and said I would head out to meet with the other hunter. After another couple of miles I met him on his ATV heading back to Camp. We stopped and chatted for a short while and he told me the story behind their hunt. It seems they had also travelled a couple of the side roads which branched off this main type road and for about four hours, they had not seen a fresh track. When they were out neat the end of the good road, they came around a bend in the road and immediately saw a cow and calf moose feeding in the ditch. Luckily, there was a stiff breeze that day and it was blowing from the moose directly towards the hunters. They pulled the quad off the road and proceed towards the moose on foot. When they had closed the gap to about 250 yards, a large bull stepped out of the bush and ambled down the ditch in the direction of the cow and calf. They were fortunate enough to have the bull drop in the ditch where they hauled it out onto the road and started to field dress it. While conducting this process, they heard another bull grunting in the bush and raking the trees. Chanse had shot the bull, so he told his Dad, Steve to head in the bush to see if he could locate the active bull, which he immediately did. He caught up to the bull a couple of times and try as he might, he just could not get his eyes on the bull’s antlers, as we were hunting in an area where the bulls must have either three or more points on one brow or at least ten points on one side. Well, it certainly would have been nice to have taken both bulls, but Steve is a dedicated hunter and as he could not tell if the bull was legal or not, he was not going to shoot. Finally the bull seemed to have had enough and stopped grunting and headed for parts unknown.
I told Steve that I was going to continue my drive out to the end of the road and then would hunt my way back to Camp. We parted company and as I approached the area where they had encountered the moose, I saw three moose standing in the same ditch as where they had taken the bull. I hid my quad in the bush and continued on foot down the ditch, hoping the bull may have returned to the cow? I was able to get within 150 yards of them and could easily tell the group consisted of a mature cow and her two calves. One of the calves was definitely a bull calf as he was larger than the other one. I spent quite some time observing them as they fed and no matter how long I looked at them through my Leica binos, the bull calf would not grow antlers - smile. Immature bulls were also legal here (two points or less on one side. I tried to call to see if that other bull had returned, but soon the cow and her calves drifted into the timber, never to be seen again.
Bruce went out with me the next day back to our favourite spot to see if we could entice another legal bull in to our calling. Jimmy said he would meet us out in that area in the afternoon. Much to our dismay, we were unsuccessful in luring a bull in and we tried several spots. We decided to head back to Camp and after a couple of miles we encountered Jimmy. He was parked on the main pipeline road and was located on a small pull-out. Not sure why he was there as we had never seen moose in that area before. As we drew within a couple of hundred yards of his location we noticed fresh bull tracks on the road. It looked as though he was favouring one of his legs. When we got along side of Jimmy, we asked him about the tracks and he said that he was waiting for us and decided to let out a couple of bull grunts. He no longer had pulled his call down from his mouth when a nice bull stepped out on the road and started to run in his direction. He said the animal was dragging one of his hind legs and as he got closer, he could see this bull had come second in a fight as his back end had been gored badly. Jimmy also noticed that the moose had eight points on one antler and only two on the other. He looked at me and smiled as he spoke, “ He also had a brow tine which made a total of three on that side, so you would not have been able to shoot him. What a great way to end a another super hunt with great friends and a nice load of meat for the freezer.