Monday Morning (Oct 18)
Cold and barely light. Alarm went off at 5.30. We`re sitting still untill the doggers start moving at 9:00am. I`ll be in the same spot past 11 or so this morning when we are planning to meet for a bush lunch.
Watch beside me just called for a moose. I know the sound I am hearing is a human mimicking an adult female moose (trying to catch the attention of a male) but the sound still excites me. The caller is an experienced hunter who is in a tree stand (the height allows te sound to travel further). I cn barely see him if I peer through the thick of the bush. We had meant to send someone to call last night but forgot.
I have been sitting while barely moving for about an hour-and-a-half. It`s cold and I`m struggling to settle into my watch and stay conscious. The contrast of this morning with the speed of my normal life is jarring and I can tell that the day will be enjoyable but awkwardly still. It`s days like today that the crashing of a squirrel across the forest floor can sound like an elephant and scare you stiff.
It`s cold. Starting to see signs of the sun but it`s light is only starting to kiss the tops of trees.
First touches of sun are beginning to reach me as I huddle in the woods. I`m not freezing but I am chilled. I am thankful that I invested in enough winter socks (they are almost $15 a pair) to get me through the week. Once my feet get cold, my body will follow.
I am fighting to stay awake this morning. I slowly transfer my position between leaning on an ATV and a rock. This allows me to stay silent in position. I wish I wasn`t struggling to stay awake – very little has to do with being tired; most of it is just from sitting without moving.
The doggers have started moving (my walkie-talkie informed me of this) and my neighbor just made is last moose call of the morning.
The first dogger is out. There are 3 of them in total and we`ll all stay in position before a few of us move. The majority of the group will stay where they are sitting and face the other way while the doggers walk a few kilometers and will `push`the bush from the other direction.
These two hunts are refered to as `Wolf Road.` It`s not much of a road – you`d destroy a truck to drive it through here and the path is so rough that our 4-wheel bikes still get stuck from time-to-time. The road saw it`s hayday somewhere between the 1940`s and 1960`s when it was a logging road familiar to hardy men and their tougher horses that worked this land by hand. They would often camp in these woods as they worked even though they were less than 10 kilometers from a `real`road – a trek that took my Father and his friends 5 hours on a good day to travel here in the 1960s and 70s. My first trip in took that long in the late 70`s before access became far easier in the late 1980`s with another road of forestry and new access roads.
We still find the occasional artifact from that time – generally it`s pieces of metal from a horse harness or other equipment. I think of these men (and the rare woman who is evidenced by the odd find of a crumbling foundation or settlement wall) when I sit in the woods.
The first run is over, all doggers are done. I just heard my first shot of the hunt though it`s not one of our crew. It may have been across the lake that we are near. After 40 years of existence, our cabin knows most of the others in our area and it is likely we know the person who just made that shot.
It`s sunny though cool – a lot nicer than it can be at this time of year. A little chickadee has come to visit – funny that I think of them as `cute` and `fragile`yet they live out here through the winter.
I`ve moved positions – the change is helping me get into synch.
I’m sitting at a watch known as “the chair” or “the old chair.” We occasionally leave markers like this broken stool so people will know where to stand. This stool (that converts to a walking cane) was the proud tool of one of our hunters about 25 years ago. I remember the day he proudly pulled it out of his truck and showed off his new toy that would make his watch more comfortable. I was a child and slightly jealous. About half of our current hunters were there – to the others it’s simply an old broken stool.
It’s amazing ow cold it’s gotten since the sun has come out. Perhaps tat’s psychological – expecting it to feel so much warmer than is reasonable because of the touch of the sun.
This run should start around 11 (it will take that long for the doggers to walk into position) and should be done by about noon.
A nearby woodpecker scared me silly. The radio confirms that the next hunter over is watching a martin playing in the woods – he’s describing it on the radio since the hunt hasn’t begun. I love it when any of us has this type of experience.
Time to put on my gloves.
Second shot of the day. This one boomed and echoed though it’s not likely one of us. There’s an outside chance it could be and my heart is racing a little faster.
Controlling your heart and your breathing is a difficult thing in the woods. After hours of sitting still it is easy to get excited when you hear a shot or crash of something coming through he woods – excitement, anxiety, pressure, anticipation, and more rush through your senses and affect your heart and breath. This makes standing still – or holding a gun straight – a difficult challenge. The best can control their adrenalin through these moments and release it after the hunt is over and I suspect that many of the Fire Fighters we hunt with do this as second nature. I am not so skilled.
Shots are often grouped in small bursts – 2-3 at a time. I’ve heard two singe shots so far which indicate a slow start to the season in our area; something to be expected since the amount of licenses for adult moose have been decreasing for the last several years. It’s getting more difficult than ever to get a license for the adults – we are privileged to be able to harvest 1 adult male and 1 adult female. Young moose (1 year or less) are culled in higher numbers in order to ensure there is enough food for them to eat through the winter and to keep the population in check. Surveys of animal population are taken every year in order to ensure the process is managed and won’t lead to over (or under) culling.
I sit and wait.
Next run has started. It’s windy which makes the entire forest come alive and sound like a highway. This makes hunting and knowing what is going on even more difficult. I have seen moose run close to me in weather like this and not be able to hear a sound. I am quite convinced that a deer managed to walk within 40 feet of me on a day like this and I never saw it; finding the tracks later were a sign of the missed opportunity.
I word my boots too long yesterday and didn`t dry them well enough. The slight condensation that greeted my feet at 6:00AM has turned into cold. It is, however, nice and sunny.
Doggers barking now – hearing them close already. The wind carries their voice like a current moves a raft.
Run is over. We hear that there`s a lot of undergrowth on the walk. The forest is closing in and making travel through it very difficult.
We`re heading back to camp though we`ll be eating outside for speed. Today`s lunch is a homemade soup served in massive bread-bowls that we carve with our knives. The fire will keep us warm.
Back on a watch. Most of us try to avoid watching and dogging on the same day. I have two very different outfits for each purpose – today`s fit is all about layers and staying warm. My dogging outfit is super light and built for walking silently through the woods.
Lunch was awesome. The afternoon can be a challenge – belly full of warm soup and body recently warmed fireside.
I am about 15 feet above the ground as I write this – sitting in a tripod stand. It`s a freestanding structure that allows me to get a bit longer view of the swamp I am perched over. This watch is called `the hole.`
The wind doesn`t feel cold yet but experience tells me that I best bundle up and hold tight.
Run will start any time. Bundling.
Run over. That was quick. There was a lot of sound but I think the animal I heard was wind. No sots heard at all.
Another push. I`ve moved yet again into a nearby spot.
The doggers must have walked 20 kilometers today. Shaeffer still looks excited and his scattered style of exploring the bush has probably made him walk twice the distance of the guys. I`ve seen him at the end of each run and give him a high-protein snack of commercially dehydrated chicken (it is the only ingredient). I`ll keep him well fed and snacking through the day will help him having fun through the week. I`ll also give him a few shifts off through the week if needed as he`d just keep running until he couldn`t. It`s a lot of fun to have him here.
The sun has been more merciful with it`s warmth this afternoon though the long shadows of early afternoon and the odd bone-chilling gust affirms that this is indeed autumn. I`ve not been in the moment today and must find my center.
Just saw a doe (an adult female deer). I had 3 or 4 good peaks at her before she disappeared. We`re in very thick forest and I took some video of her that proves how thick the woods are – even though she`s in the frame (I was looking at her when I took it), I can`t find her on the film. I don`t know if I would have had a shot if this was deer season (late November) but am thrilled to have seen her.
This is often my luck – the wrong animal in the wrong season. I`m not complaining – a successful hunt is any that results in one of us seeing an animal. This is the first we`ve seen since the season opened (though the team who was here late last week had several sightings of moose and deer).
She was fairly quiet and what noise she did make could have been easily explained away as the wind had I not seen her. It would have been easy to miss seeing her – perhaps I am indeed `finding my center.`
Hunt is over.
Called home and then road trails for about 2 hours. There are a lot of road hunters in the woods this year. Most won`t have licenses for adult moose so they could help us – or make things a bit more challenging. Time will tell.
This is one of the 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).