It’s 10.30pm as I write this. I’m weary from a 6 hour drive that normally takes about 2.5 hours. It’s been a long day – but a great one.
I went north this weekend to our cabin. It was time for the annual work weekend. It’s a tradition that I’ve known my entire conscious life and one that marks the true start of fall for me. I remember my father pulling me out of school for 1 or 2 day in September as the crew of men headed north to prepare for the fall hunt. It was always a lot of fun and some fun work – a lot of playing with tools.
Our cabin has changed a fair bit over the years. There are bunks for 14 of us and our membership sits at 13 people (plus a small waiting list). The average age of our hunters is about 50 years old. The 4 youngest members (which includes me at 36) hunt with our fathers. My Dad has hunter out of this cabin for more than 40 years.
My Parents have spent a lot of time at the cabin in late fall – wood is piled high, bunks have been cleaned out, roads repaired and projects started and finished (including some camp-made beets and relish). My Mother has also planted some garlic as an experiment for the winter.
This weekend was mostly the veterans of the cabin. With a lot of the typical pre-work complete, we set off to replacing an old deck that was falling apart on the front of the cabin. 3 very long days later and the patio is done. It is one-part decorative and another part functional – a day in the autumn bush can be a messy affair and having a place to wipe down before entering the cabin will save a lot of cleaning. The guys worked like champions – and like they were 40 years younger than they are. I am immensely proud.
I did get out for a quick tour of the bush, some early scouting a bit of bird hunting on Saturday afternoon. Didn’t see sign or birds but it was great to be back in the woods.
There are two things that stood out to me this weekend and are part of the hunting experience that I want to share:
1. The spirit of community and help
When I arrived on Friday night (most were up Thursday), we had a guest. Irv (from the camp next door – 5 km away) stopped to pay a visit. Irv is a dear friend and I always love to see him. Irv stayed at the camp on Friday night and helped us for half of Saturday. Paul (from a cabin about 15 kilometers away) popped bye after Irv left. He picked up a hammer and helped until we were done and stayed through to Sunday morning. Frank (one of our hunters) was at a wedding on Saturday night. He got back to his Hotel at 4am and left for the cabin by 6am to come and help out. Frank had also donated the wood he salvaged (legally) from a worksite – about 400 square feet of wood. The spirit of helping your neighbors is unparalleled to what I’ve experienced in the woods.
2. Bonding is more than burping.
There is an element of male bonding – it’s far beyond high fives and swearing. I have known each of the members that were there for 30+ years. I have learned a lot from these men and they have prepared me for a lot of life’s challenges. This is the 4th time in 40 years that we’ve built a deck (the original deck was simply a set of wooden skids laid on the ground). The guys took great pride in the work and were very open that this was the last time they would ever build the front deck. They would either be “gone” or have to watch the young guys next time. Mortality was a theme this weekend – they are preparing themselves – and me – for the autumn of their lives.
We will post more in the coming month as we prepare further for the hunt and share the entire picture of this part of our life that is a mystery to many. Though this post does not directly mention food, it is part of the bigger picture that is hunting and our fall harvest.
There are weeks of work to prepare for just 5 days of Moose Hunting. In that time we’ll learn a lot – and have a lot of fun.