MY MOOSE HUNT 2015
Copyright 2015 by Lori-Ann Willey
with Paul Willey
with Paul Willey
NOTE - This is basically a rough draft. When this story is put into a book of my hunting and fishing stories since chilidhood, it will be reworked for smoother reading.
I was lucky enough to be drawn for the Maine 2015 Moose Hunt. It had been 15 long years since I was last drawn. Then, hunting was different. It was much easier. Back in 2000, I could get either a cow or bull moose, but I was designated to a hunting zone. This year, I was given Zone 2, and I had to have a bull.
There were 55,500 moose applicants for the 2015 Moose Hunt Drawing. Only 2,740 permits were drawn. Odds of getting drawn was 1:17.2. Success rate in Zone 2 last October (2014) was 77%.
We have been very lucky, for this is our fourth moose hunt in 15 years. Our son Josh was drawn in 2003, and Paul was drawn in 2005. Both of them had to have a bull. Both of them were given Zone 2, so for the 2015 hunting season, we were already somewhat familiar with the roads and landscape in that area. However, with the logging industry, new roads are always added and a lot of older roads are no longer passable. That is especially so with our truck due to the lowered floor for a wheelchair accessible adapted truck.
Paul and I opted to take this hunt by ourselves. This would be our 4th moose and the system we had devised for the last hunt worked well. We knew we were in for a wicked challenge, but we are outside the box thinkers. We knew, we could make it work …unconventional maybe, but we were confident. Despite weary health issues and great physical limitations, we had the mind-set, “If there is a will. There is a way”. Life is not easy for anyone, but we believe that anything is possible with our adaptable thinking methods.
I was selected for the October 12-17 moose hunt week. Due to circumstances out of our control, we were not able to scout the intended hunting area as much as we wanted. Instead, we decided to head to that hunting zone a week before the hunt, do a lot of scouting, and learn where the moose were. When it came time for the hunt to start, we were as prepared as much as possible.
The week before we left, we converted our snowmobile trailer into a camper-like enclosure complete with the installation of snaps so we could add a “canopy” tarp over what would become a “camp kitchen”. In order to let some light into the “camper”, we would leave the back wall ramp down and enclose that with a clear plastic tarp. That would also allow us to see, though slightly distorted, the stars and moon at night. It would also allow us to see critters as they investigated our scents while we slept or lay awake.
Paul had installed an extra battery in the truck. He also installed a couple USB ports in the snowmobile trailer and hooked up a DC light fixture. Each night, I parked the front of the truck as close to the “camper” as I could, and Paul fed wires from under the truck hood into the camper. This way, we had a way to charge our phones during the night time hours as well as have a small light when and if we wanted, but mostly, we were pretty dedicated to wearing our headlamps instead. Either way, the option to have a light inside was great and to my surprise, it was taken advantage of several times.
We went very prepared for the hunt and we were well organized. When looking at the photos, some asked why we packed so much stuff. The answer is, “We had to”. We were going to spend up to two weeks in the cold northern Maine wilderness far from the nearest town, which would supply us with gas and fresh drinking water. We could only use what we thought to bring. Yes, we brought a small wood stove. That provided us with heat, means for cooking, drying damp clothing, and a source of fire, as we originally intended to get permission to camp where there were no campsites. A woodstove is considered an enclosed fire, so it could be set up where no open campfires were permitted. That was our goal first and foremost. We would only needed permission from the land owner to set up camp anywhere. Luckily, we found an actual campsite that was favorable for our location and needs, so we could have had an open fire if we wanted. We chose not to. We chose to use the small woodstove instead.
We brought four empty gas cans, and would have brought more if we could have fit them onto the back of the truck safely. We brought 25 gallons (five 5-gallon pails) of drinking water with the idea of using running brooks/streams for additional water if needed. We were loaded up. At the last gas station possible, we stopped and topped the truck with gas and filled the empty cans before we headed into the woods. Anyone that questions why we brought too much has never been camping deep in the woods. You just can’t get up and run to the store down the street, because there are no streets, and there are no stores. You ARE on your own. If you don’t bring it, you go without it. Fishing season ended, and the wild green edibles were dead or dying back for winter. We needed what we brought. It is as simple as that.
Bringing ample warm clothing is very important this time of year. We had to stay warm. During the hunt, you drive with your truck windows down so you can see better, hear better, and communicate better. With the roads so narrow with steep embankments that seemingly never ended in some areas, to weave around a rock or hole we needed to stick our heads out the windows to see how far to the right or left was safe for travel. Too far and we’d be goners …on the right or left. It was easier to be cold than the alternative of losing our lives or our truck! Whether the temperatures be in the 20’s or the 60’s, if we were driving around, the windows were open for all the reasons above. That made for some very long, cold-ass days ….but they were safe days.
Because Paul is 100% disabled and uses a wheelchair to get around much of the time, he has special hunting privileges. He is allowed to shoot from within the vehicle. I, on the other hand, have to step outside the vehicle and load my gun before I can commence in the legal hunting activity of shooting any sort of wild game. Paul can simply shift in his seat, put the gun barrel outside the window and pull the trigger. He was my sub-permittee, so this could come in very handy. He had put in for the Maine Veteran’s special moose lottery, but he was not drawn.
Thanks to modern technology, I was able to use my cell phone as a notebook, so each day, a few times a day, I dug out my phone and swiped my fat forefinger across a tiny keyboard and took notes. I took notes every morning as I sipped my coffee in the darkness. When we stopped for lunch, I took notes then, too. The last thing I did each evening before I turned my phone off and went to sleep, I took notes as my eyelids drooped. I wanted to recall as much detail of our trip as possible. This is a very long write up, but it is a story for me, and for later in a book -collection of my hunting and fishing experiences from childhood. I simply offer it to those who wish to read such things, too.
The Unfortunate Need for Deception
As much as we hated to, due to previous history around camp over the past several years, we could not post publically on Facebook that we would be leaving camp for two weeks in a row. During the fall months (hunting season) is when camps have a tendency to get broken into. I really do not like to refer to such people as “hunters” for food, but instead of as “hunters for thievery”. A few years ago, we were victims of such hunters. We felt it best not to advertise that we were not going to be a camp for two weeks though a very few, selected people knew in advance.
We were getting ready for the winter, and we did have solar stuff to tend to, updating, etc., so we were down for a little bit, but not for the entire week as I made it sound on Facebook. Unfortunately, we have to keep the degenerates guessing. Sad, but that is the way things are in the woods. To some, in the woods means they can help themselves to whatever they want. We have a security system here, so that helps, but it does not help if the police cannot identify faces or get finger prints, which is what happened to us a few years ago. The thieves took enough stuff and damaged enough stuff that we were at least able to not only file a police report but to make an insurance claim, too.
Days, Time, Speed, and Mileage Statistics
Our entire hunting trip was 12 days long. Speed of travel while scouting and hunting was 5 – 8 miles per hour. We averaged about nine hours a day driving at those very slow speeds, but we had no choice. Zone 2 is a large hunting area and on those hard panned shale based roads, very few moose tracks were visible at all. Our scouting time was reduced to slow-crawling the truck looking for tree “breaks”, rubs, moose wallows, and muddied or track filled water puddles in the ditches, leaf stripped tree saplings, branch tip chews, and moose beds. Those made for very long days traveling at creepy-crawly speeds.
Paul kept track of the mileage each day. One day we did not travel but a few miles, so he added it onto the previous day. He did not keep track of the mileage from the campsite back home to our camp in T1R8 either.
Camp in T1R8 to Campsite in T13R9 = 150 miles (6 Hours)
Scouting Day 1 = 43 miles
Scouting Day 2 = 112 miles
Scouting Day 3 = 38 miles
Scouting Day 4 = 72 miles
Scouting Day 5 = 30 miles
Hunting Day 1 = 98 miles
Hunting Day 2 = 131 miles
Hunting Day 3 = 129 miles
Hunting Day 4 = 20 miles (This did not include the travel to the tagging station, butcher station or our return back to our camp site.)
Total Trip = 1,047 miles
Before heading to bed early that evening, I walked around looking for some wild green edibles, but unlike the no-see-ums it was too late in the season for most of those. I learned real quick-like that I wouldn’t be foraging much.
Settling in a Bit
The Truck Limited Our Scouting
Check Point George & the Bear Hunters
We stopped in Ashland to gas up truck and fill four empty gas jugs. While I did that, Paul went into the station to get us something to eat and a Gazetteer, but they offered nothing of the such. I had to go to pee wicked bad, but there was no place to go, so onward we went eleven miles to the town of Portage. We knew the store there had more to offer. They also had a bathroom and I wasted no in taking advantage of that! We picked up a couple bags of chips, and the latest updated Gazetteer, and then drove for a few miles until we reached the Portage Checkpoint.
I pulled up and parked off the road next to the small pale camp-like building. I stepped out of the truck, and snapped a photo of the Check Point sign. Paul was getting out of the truck on his side so I had a minute or two to get my photo shots. That is when we heard a man’s voice say, “It’s those dam people”. We both looked up and smiled. We figured he must recognize us from our Facebook page, but who was he? He was quick to follow up and answer our unasked question. With an excited voice, he exclaimed, “George!” To this, I had an instant grin! I remembered George from our camping trips back 10 years prior, though I did not know him personally. A couple of years ago I posted a picture once of our camping trips around Upper McNally, and George was quick to tell us he recognized us and the truck from the picture. We chatted back and forth for a while, but then lost contact. Before the moose hunt, I tried to find him to let him know we were coming up that way again, but I couldn’t find him on Facebook anymore. We gave hugs and chatted as we got our passes and pinpointed our intended destination …a few of them.
A dog walking down the road caught my attention. Behind it, a few more dogs, with people dressed in camo, some wearing backpacks, too. I thought this was not quite typical, and made a statement that prompted George to turn around and look, too. In surprise, he said, “What the …” They were bear hunters who found it easier to walk two miles through the woods than to walk back through the woods several miles from where they came. The woman had shot her first bear and they had to track it through a bog with water up to the chest of the boy. I don’t know if that boy was any older than 8 years old, and what a trooper! He was the Guide’s grandson and from North Carolina. The hunters had to pack the bear out on their backs because it was too far to drag it, especially in the other direction.
After a few minutes, the boy came inside and asked for the candy dish. I hadn’t seen it until then, but it was right beside me at shoulder height. I reached up, grabbed it, and held it for him, telling him which candy tasted like what (as if he didn’t already know), and he picked out a few of his favorites. A few minutes later, he came back inside and asked George, "Y'all have a bathroom?" George replied, "Yeah, all around you.", as George pointed to the woods all around the checkpoint, which is located four miles from the nearest services. All four of us in the room smirked, except the boy. The hunters were from Connecticut, and the man was very patient with all my questions about bear hunting with dogs, the process, etc. The guide asked to borrow George's truck to drive and get his own a few miles away. We left, but not without another hug from George, and bidding the hunters a big congrats on their successful bear hunt as they wished me luck on the moose hunt. I wished I had gotten their names though. (Paul) George did eventually point out that there was an outhouse for the boy to use.
Finding a Place to Camp
We drove for hours trying to figure out where was the best place to set up camp for the next two weeks. We drove down one road that should never be traveled with our truck, not to mention towing a snowmobile trailer, too! The road was long and in terrible shape. The second we drove through the checkpoint gate there obvious signs of heavy rain damage from the previous rains. I don’t know how many inches fell up there the week before, but obviously, it was a lot, and this long, very narrow road was hit hard with washouts, fallen trees, exposed rocks and logs, too.
Because logging roads are always being added throughout the woodland, there were many roads that were not on the latest Gazetteer, nor showed up on Satellite overview before we left for the trip. This meant that Paul had to use his saved phone maps, the truck elevation readings, map coordinates, and the Gazetteer to figure out just where we were. When he was certain, he would make corrections on the map and draw in new roads as we saw them, as well as marking unpassable roads. On the roads we could drive, he furthermore marked the length of them, and/or where we were forced to turn around, too.
The roads were slow and bumpy, especially hauling a trailer. Sometimes, I would have to get out to examine the roads before we continued or turned onto them. Each overflowing low spot, I examined, too. One washout too deep would leave us in a terrible bind …especially without any cell phone signal. It made for a long day. Eventually, we migrated back to the original chosen spot and set up camp there. It was getting late, so we decided that place was better than none. Even if it were a temporary spot. We had not planned on setting up an outside campfire, but the location we chose best suited our needs, and was close to where we wanted to hunt, so all was good.
After we decided how we wanted camp set up, backed in the trailer, and blocked the tires, it came time to unhook the trailer from the hitch. However, unfortunately, the hitch was stuck! The truck was weighted down and the heavy stuff inside the camper was all at the front. There was a lot of weight on the tongue hitch, not to mention how many times that hitch and tongue scraped and banged against rocks, logs and pot holes for several hours before we stopped! We had one hell of a time to get the hitch undone, but with the aid of a bottle jack, we got it. Thankfully!
That evening, we did very little around camp. We emptied the trailer and set up for the night, but that was about all we did. We heated up some precooked ribs and ate that for supper as I swatted away at biting no-see-ums that my body reacts to. It was too late in the year for them, so I thought, but not there, and not after all that rain, I guess! Paul suggested I take a Benadryl, but I was too tired to go looking for them. Instead, I put my pants inside my socks, turned up my collar, donned my hat, and pulled my sleeves down over my hands for added protection. He was not impressed with my choice. Neither was I.
Settling in a Bit
We slept great that first night, but we both woke often. Under the covers was comfy, but our faces stayed cold all night. Getting up during the night to go pee proved cold, but at least we slipped something on our feet to keep them warm and dry. Like most, if not all mornings for the rest of the trip, I was up before Paul, set up the stove, and started coffee. Most mornings, his coffee was poured and cooling before he crawled out of bed. He needed his rest and I would stop at nothing to ensure he got as much as possible. My fear on this trip was his health. Nothing mattered more than that. Not even a mooosie in the freezer! The first morning, I helped find him some warm clothes and soon, he was outside cooking up some eggs and sausage while we both sipped hot, delicious coffee.
That morning, we drove around for over 2 ½ hours looking for prominent moose signs, but neither of us were real encouraged by what we saw. Before heading back to the campsite, we stopped at a fast flowing stream for some cleaning water so we would not use all of our drinking water for such things. While at the stream, I scooped as much water into the 5-gallon pail that I could. The rest would have to be filled up by using a small-mouthed gallon distilled water jug. The process was slow, the water cold, and the current swift, but during my childhood, I used to fill empty milk jugs with water and lug them back to our house. I was impressed by how quickly I remembered the fastest jug-filling tricks! I had to smile, though I remembered that as a child in the dead of winter, bare-handed, I didn’t do too much smiling during that same water collecting process!
As I carried the water pail in one hand, and the filled gallon jug in the other, partway up the hill, the handle on the pail pulled through the plastic. That hole had done that before. The pail is old with both the top and bottom rim chipped away in many places, but I thought it would hold for the trip at least. I knew I could not depend on it this winter for sure. That pail has seen a LOT of water over the years and plastic does not hold up well in our cold Maine weather. This is especially so when they are in constant use at our off the grid camp where we live.
Despite my scolding, Paul made his way partway down the slope and grabbed the gallon jug so I could carry the 40 pounds of water up to the road with just my fingertips gripping the sharp broken ridges of the water pail. The ground was wet, the dead leaves slippery, and after a few slides backwards, it wasn’t long before I was standing in the road thankful that I somehow did that without breaking my neck! As I carried the bucket back to the truck, I did so with the feeling of confidence and encouragement that I would do this same task again in a few more days. Only next time, with a newer, better, and stronger pail!
Tired and klutzy, once back to the snowmobile trailer, now referred to as the “camper”, we decided that we had seen enough moose signs to stay where we were, while fully acknowledging that we probably had to travel some unwanted distances to look for a better hunting area. We started setting up our base camp. Coolers went under the camper to make them less accessible for the bears if they should smell the foods within them. We unloaded the woodstove, set up the tent, put up our clear plastic back wall, and our camp kitchen canopy tarp.
The Truck Limited Our Scouting
During one of our pee stops, I was surprised to see three, half ripe, almost shriveled up wild strawberries. I know they can produce fruit in the fall, but I had only seen blossoms, never berries. I picked them and brought them to Paul. In the days after, I saw a few more fall blossoms.
The entire landscape in this section of Maine is all bedrock. Even the roads had bedrock exposed and spots were ground down to near smoothness, but sometimes that meant big bumps in the road versus potholes. The logging roads were made from the shale dug out of the hillsides. Their shale pits were more common than gravel pits around camp though smaller in size. Shale splinters into very sharp sheets of rock that promised to slash our tires with every touch. Luckily, on top of the sharp shale-based road was a bed (layer) of smaller pieces that were less intimidating to drive upon …as long as you stayed in previous truck tire tracks of years gone by that is.
Any and all old logging roads are not kept up unless the company is actively using them. Thus, like elsewhere in the state, not being used means that they deteriorate rapidly. They are made to hold heavy logging trucks and machinery for the duration of however long it takes them to cut the wanted timber in that area. They are not meant to withstand years of scant use. It is up to people who adventure into those areas to take great caution while driving. Any issues that arise are on us 100%. With no cell signal and no people for miles and miles and miles, we, or anyone, could get into some major problems in a hurry. No matter where you are, it is a hell of a long walk out of there, and you had better have on good boots with thick soles!
We knew almost instantly that this truck was going to pose a big problem for us. It was going to greatly limit our hunt, too! It is a full length, extended bed 4x4, but the clearance is much lower than our previously own Ford Raptor that had what was considered “bullet proof” tires. The tires on the GMC looked like 10-speed street tires in comparison, and that made me nervous driving around camp, not to mention on all the loose shale-based roads during the moose hunt! Paul assured me the tires were good tires just the same. They had to be for where we live. That eased my mind a little bit, but not by much.
The truck sits lower than the Raptor did by a long ways, and to make matters worse, the GMC is handicap modified, which means in order to make it wheelchair accessible, they had to lower the passenger’s side floor by several inches! This meant that we scraped and hit the road often. Each time I’d cringe, swear, and either say, “I miss my Raptor”, or “We’re not going to have a truck left by the end of this hunt!”, or, “Those Indiana people (handicap conversion company) don’t know what a friggin’ real dirt road is!” Indiana is where we had the truck modified. Despite telling them we mostly drive dirt logging roads, they assured us that the truck had enough clearance. Yeah, I have been on an Indiana dirt road before. They are better than any Maine paved road by far! By the time we got back to the campsite, we agreed that we needed to empty as much off the bed of the truck as possible. We needed as much clearance as we could get …and much more!
(Paul) Despite the trucks drawbacks of having about 6” clearance for about a foot width under the passengers seating area. It cannot be emphasized enough that without the truck, the moose hunt would not have been possible. It’s the only adaptive truck available on a commercial basis that could handle these roads.
(Paul) Despite the trucks drawbacks of having about 6” clearance for about a foot width under the passengers seating area. It cannot be emphasized enough that without the truck, the moose hunt would not have been possible. It’s the only adaptive truck available on a commercial basis that could handle these roads.
Paul cooked us a late lunch/supper and then we hopped back into the truck and drove around for a few more hours looking for better moose signs. There was no sun that day. There was a slight breeze, and when we sat idle, were cooled off quickly. Our attire consisted of wool socks, double layers on both top and bottom, hats, and gloves since the morning hours. Luckily, the night before, we had a good hard frost, and the cold days promised to keep our coolers with ice as cold as possible. They also kept the no-see-ums away! On the way back from scouting that evening, we saw a partridge in the road, so at 6:10 p.m., I shot my first partridge in many years.
We Broaden Our Scouting Area
No suppah that night. We just wanted to get to bed and zonk.
A Bear Visit
We Broaden Our Scouting Area
We both slept better last night. It was colder, but we stayed warm. I enjoyed the clear plastic tarp on my side of the bed. Though a bit distorted, I could clearly see the brightly lit stars shinning over the crispy outlined silhouetted trees around us. My hope was to see the silhouette of a few critters, but that didn’t happen. We woke at 12:30 a.m. to pee. The stars were out bright, and despite the cold rushing around my skin, I paused for a few seconds to appreciate them so high above us. I laid back in bed and continued to watch them twinkle for a while before I allowed myself to drift off to sleep again until about 5:30 a.m. The air was crispy cold, so we lay and snuggled until about 6:30 a.m. when we decided we had better face the day vertically versus horizontally.
We heated up some day old coffee, had some breakfast, and at about 8:30 a.m., we left to scout for more moose signs. We did find more, but nothing that increased our excitement much, so we decided to drive over to where Paul and Josh shot their moose back in 2003 and 2005. However, the workers were actively logging that area, so we didn’t spent any time there before we retreated back toward camp for lunch. I shot another partridge along the way. At 1 p.m., Paul cooked us up a quick lunch of red hotdogs, and then, he went inside the “camper” and rested for a bit. The sun was out, but so was the wind, and it was the wind that made the day as cold as it was. We both knew that the temperatures and weather could be a lot colder than they were, so that made it easier to accept the cold.
Napping in the Cold
Despite that, Paul had a deep chill, so he turned on the Mr. Buddy heater for a bit while he laid down. I enjoy the fresh air, and want to or not, intentional or not, if I am outside sitting idle for any length of time, no matter the temperature, I’ll eventually relax to the point of taking a nap. This is especially so on a cold day and if the sun is shining upon my face or not. I always sleep well outside and Paul knew without a doubt, if he did not hear me walking around doing things that I was probably snoozing in my chair. He was right.
Game Wardens Pay Us a Visit
I woke only when a truck pulled up alongside the road and stopped. It was a Game Warden truck. I rose from my chair and greeted them both with handshakes as I introduced myself. After a couple of minutes, Paul came outside and chatted with us as well. They were pleasant, but they should be. It was easy to see their training at work though. They’ll learn as they age and with added years of experience. The older, more experienced was Warden Pomereau, and the younger was Warden Smart. I told him my grandmother was a Smart from Eagle Lake. He smiled and said that is where his family is from. Somewhere along the lines, we are probably of the same blood, though both are probably thankful that we are taller than my grandmother and her siblings were.
More Scouting Afar
That afternoon, we drove over to the Little Clayton Lake area looking for more prominent moose signs, but again, we were disappointed …just not nearly as disappointed as the previous few days at all. About a mile before our campsite, in the darkness, a big ol’ cow moose trotted across the road in front of the truck. She acted like she had a bull in close pursuit, but if she did, he held back, and it was too dark to see anything outside the line of the truck headlights.
More Scouting & Collecting Firewood
I woke at about: 1:30 a.m. and quickly realized that I had never been more comfy or cozy in my life. However, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was warm only because my head was down inside the sleeping bag. We were still not sleeping with a source of heat, although the Mr. Buddy heater was set up and ready to turn on. I swiped my finger across the small phone keypad, “That might change tonight”. Paul had been cold all day and couldn’t get out the deep chill.
That morning, we again drove around in a new area looking for better moose signs. Though the area was more open and had more signs, it was also closer to town, which makes it easier for the lazier hunter that drive in from town, or from a close to town hunting lodge of some sort. We try to void such areas as we try to avoid people if we can. More people means more hunters who are out for an hour or so after or before work looking for a lone partridge meal without wasting a lot of time and gas money.
The morning scout was not all a wasted time, though we did see a logging vehicle here and there. I shot another partridge. I was close to limiting out, so we figured we had better start eating the three we had before we head back out for an afternoon and evening moose scouting session. I fried up the partridge with onions and potatoes. It made an excellent lunch. We had one full breast leftover, so I saved that for soup making.
During that scout, we kept an eye out for downed trees for firewood. All we needed was a good 20 foot tree to cut up into stove-sized pieces. That is not a difficult thing to find in the woods for sure, but finding one that was accessible for both of us and our truck made those seen in the distant, and sometimes not so distant, unobtainable, even for able-bodied me. We were lucky to find a nice dry yellow birch that was down over an embankment with one end submerged in water, but it was accessible. Once cut up, throwing the pieces up that embankment wasn’t the easiest task. Often, I couldn’t throw them far enough or high enough to reach the top before they came rolling back down at me. I had to throw each piece at least twice before I could throw them onto the truck as the embankment was well over my head. Got a good work out, and the process wasn’t bad, just tricky is all.
The following day was supposed to be rainy, so wood before then meant we could keep it dry through the rains. We knew to save a rainy day to adventure into the nearest town, get the latest weather forecast updates, fill up a couple pails of water, and fill the truck and empty gas cans, too.
Paul Gets Some Much Needed Rest
Later that day, I deboned the leftover partridge and made a partridge stew. Before Paul went in to lay down for a few hours, he started our first outside wood fire so I could cook up the stew on that. While the soup was cooking, I dug out my laptop and took the time to take dozens upon dozens of pictures off my camera memory chip so I wouldn’t run out of space. I certainly didn’t want to fill my chip up with foliage pictures and not have any left for moose pictures. While the pictures were downloading onto my laptop, I siphoned a couple gas cans into the truck. This was how much of my time was spent. I did have time to sit and take notes of our trip and play a few Euchre games on my phone though.
When I heard Paul stirring, I knew I could make a little bit of noise, so I organized the longer firewood pieces that were still on the back of the truck, and dug out my handsaw. I had cut a couple pieces, some I could prop up and stomp to break before Paul came out and got the chainsaw going and finished cutting up the largest pieces for me. One thing we do is never let one use the chainsaw without the presence of the other. That’s just how we do things. I grew up with a chainsaw, but the only time it was in my hands was when I carried it or moved it. It wasn’t until we moved to camp that I actually put one to use. I always like to use a handsaw when I can.
I took a few minutes to walk around in the woods behind the campsite. It was awfully wet and wicked soft due to all the moose, bear, and cat tracks just inside the woods. There was no way to skirt the wetness, so I retreated just enough to bounce across the high spots to higher ground on the other side. There were a lot of birch trees that had coils of paper-like bark hanging off them and within my reach ability, so I made sure to collect an armful of that from various trees before returning back to the campsite informing Paul, “I have some fire starters”. He was focused on something and never looked up. My actions nor his are uncommon.
We decided not to go scouting that evening. It was important for Paul to try and catch up on his rest. We had partridge soup for suppah. It was delicious and warming in the cold, windy evening air. The impending rains made our bones ache as the winds seemed to cut through our clothing and fat layers with ease. Three layers of clothing were not enough. That was one of a few times that forced me to move closer to the outside fire.
Mr. Coyote Pays a Visit
It was very easy for us to be in bed by 7 p.m. I so wanted to doze off to sleep in a hurry, but instead, I forced myself to stay awake by playing a game of Euchre on my phone. By 7:40, I could no longer keep my eyes open, so I allowed myself a few blinks in effort, before they closed for the night. Paul woke me up at about 9:30 p.m. telling me, “Listen”. I listened intently. I listened for a faint stalking sounds of footsteps outside. It wasn't long before I heard the sound I was supposed to listen for and it wasn’t quiet, nor was it subtle in the least. I did not hear footsteps, but instead, the call of a single coyote. I replied, “Cool!” Paul came back with, “Shhh!” Within a couple short minutes, it called again. This time, it was closer. Paul asked if I thought it was a coyote, and while still trying to wake up, I presumed it was. The next call, I had no doubt, and the third call was the loudest and closest. It kept advancing in our direction. We guessed that it easily came within 75 feet of the camper. I propped up onto my elbow to see if I could see any movement outside, but it was too dark. There was nothing to see. Still, I hoped. I hoped to see beasts with big teeth ever since Paul had the idea of putting up a clear wall during our two-week stay in the woods, but the beast denied me that opportunity as did all other critters that walked by.
A Bear Visit
At 4 a.m., I woke to a bear approaching us. Paul said he shook me several times to get me to wake up to the coyote earlier in the night, but I was sleeping very soundly, and it took a while to wake me. Coyotes are one of those night time sounds that my body does not sense as a threat and it sleeps through them calling even when they are quite close. With coyotes and me, that is typical. This time, I elbowed Paul several times and told him to “Listen”, but it was his turn to zonk into deafness.
There is no mistaking the sounds of a bear. Just like there is no mistaking a dog from a cat, or a frog from a human. About five minutes went by and I decided that I had to go pee. That was when Paul easily woke to the sound of me unzipping my side of the sleeping bag.
I told him, “There was a bear out there not five minutes ago.” I did not tell him that it may still be out there, but I didn't have to.
“Really? Did you see it?” he asked.
“No, but it was about a dozen feet away.” I sat up.
The second my feet hit the floor, Paul asked in an accusatory, but intentional voice, “What are you doing?”
“I have to go pee”.
I needed to do no more than let him hear my chuckle. It always means the same, “Of course!" I went outside to make my bladdah-gladdah and then retreated inside for some warmth from the sleeping bag. We finally crawled out of bed at 7:15 a.m. Other than waking up to noises of beasts, we both slept very soundly and warmly during the night despite any frost that formed on the inside of the "camper".
The overnight temperature was cold enough to freeze two inches of coffee in a thermal cup. Anything liquid was frozen, to include the covers to the water pails. I tried to tap the covers free so I could open them, but that morning, I couldn’t do that with just my hand alone. I retreated for the hammer. Even then, it took several taps around the rim before the cover would turn. There was no denying the cold that morning. Mother Nature was winning. We were not.
Out of curiosity, I started the truck. The truck thermometer said it was 30 degrees, but we both strongly disagreed. All we could spout were things like, “Friggin' GMC Product!” We figured the dusty roads messed with the truck thermometer, as it read odd temperatures that didn’t make any sense at all. Last evening it read 50 degrees after it read 37 degrees all day long and it was by far colder during the night than 50 degrees, and during the day was warmer than 37 degrees! We were frustrated that even the thermometer didn’t work! We’ve had the truck almost a year, and we are still not impressed with it. Once we were traveling again on pavement instead of at almost idling speeds most of the time, the thermometer worked fine.
A Trip to Town Was Discouraging
While coffee heated up, Paul said it was too cold to change his clothes inside the camper without heat, so he turned the heater on just long enough to warm it up a bit. That day was a town day, and despite washing up each evening and sometimes again in the morning, we wanted to make sure we didn’t stink while in town getting some gas. I wasn’t too worried about it, seems I stay outside and pump gas while Paul goes in and does the paying and gabbing with the store clerk about moose in the area.
For things to freeze, especially coffee in a thermal cup, the temperature was in the 20’s. It did not matter what the truck temperature said. We knew that was unreliable, so went with our knowledge of science and physics instead. I agreed with Paul, that temperatures in the 20’s was too cold to expose oneself to wet, alcohol moisture-filled baby wipes that morning, so I, too, cleansed surrounded by warmer temperatures.
Paul was just plain cold. I brought his coffee mug into the camper so he could sip it in there instead of outside in the cold where I chose to be. I enjoyed sitting outside all comfortable-like in my comfy chair. Without a bra, I was four layers thick on top, had donned on a warm knit hat, but had my gloves resting on my lap. I was wearing two layers on the bottom not counting underwear (“panties” for the politically correct), of course. Upon my feet, I wore wool socks and boots. Upon my face, a pair of plastic framed Grammy glasses so I could see to take notes with my phone. I’m sure I didn’t just paint a very dainty visual, but, it is what it was, I assure you. After that day, I caved. It was too cold to go without a bra, so from then on, I added that to my body just to stay that little bit warmer. Boobs actually ache when they are cold and I was not a fan of them aching. Only then is wearing a bra a wanted act.
When ready for town, Paul chuckled and showed me a fresh set of moose prints not five feet from where we slept. I grinned and shook my head, “Of course!” Neither of us heard it walking around during the night.
We hoped to drive into town before the rains hit. The temperature was cold enough and would feel colder coming across Portage Lake as it was. Pumping gas would be much colder if it was raining, too! Little did I know that I never had to wash up or change my clothes? I could have smelled worse than a skunk and no one would have known, for I saw no one and no one saw me. While I pumped gas, Paul bought some gum, a package of Hamburg buns, and a couple bags of chips. The clerk told him that she used to see moose on her way to work every morning, but hasn’t seen any on her way in for the past five years. That just confirmed our suspicion about the moose numbers. “Where are they?”
Paul came out of the store not looking the happiest. He was shaking his head. Confused, I asked, “What’s up?” After he told me about the lack of moose sightings by the store clerk, we were both more discouraged about the hunt. We weren’t seeing any moose, but it was scarier knowing that neither were some of the locals! There were 300 total permits for Zone 2. 100 in September, 100 in October (bull only), and 100 in November (cow only). I kept saying, “There are going to be a lot of skunked hunters! I will be one of them!”
We stopped at Portage Lake and I filled two 5-gallon pails with water from an artesian well. By then, the weather was not only cold and windy, but now it was sprinkling, and boy was that rain cold! The further we drove away from town, the colder the rain became until it was snowing all around us. Once back to camp, we put on warmer coats, and Paul got the outside woodstove going again so we could heat up some leftover partridge soup. It took a long time to heat up and by the time we were eating soup for breakfast, the time was 12:16 p.m., and the soup was barely warm. I added a package of Ramen Noodles, a seasoning packet, and a couple cups of water to help stretch the soup a bit further so we’d have more food in our bellies.
Not Much to Forage
While squatting that afternoon, I saw my first ragged and lone dandelion plant. I was thankful the plant was a few feet away from my “squat-spot”! I told myself, “I'll be getting that to add to a meal soon”. Otherwise, there were a few purple clover blossoms that were still clinging to life. The plants had seen better and warmer days, too. There were lots of pearly everlasting plants up there, but the blossoms were already dying back and turning into "paper", so not real good for tea making at that point, though they would make a pretty addition to any died flower bouquet.
In the higher elevations, I was happy to spot some small willow bushes. This pleased me. They are not an easy find back home or camp, so I hoped that during one of our pee stops, we are close enough for me to nab a few of them for charcoal making. I had already reserved some used foil that I used to make up some fresh Focaccia bread, so I could reuse that for charcoal making inside the wood stove. Finding the time to do such a thing was my only problem. I never had the time. A week after returning to camp from the hunt, I made some beautiful sketching charcoal.
Brrrr! What a cold day! It took a long time to heat up some chili for suppah. By the time it was hot enough to eat, it was time to go scouting, so we woofed down our food and were on our way deeper into the woods. We saw more signs, and then saw a cow and a bull, so we planned to hit that spot early Monday morning on the first day of the hunt. We didn’t scout too long. We wanted to make sure we got in as much rest as we could before the hunt started. Upon returning back to camp, we scooped some lukewarm chili into our bowls and took it inside the camper, sat on the air mattress, and ate there instead of outside in the cold.
We went to bed at 7 p.m. and we actually debated on turning the heat on low during the night. The air was cold, damp, and the winds were making it all feel colder. We were both cold that night. The metal walls and roof of the snowmobile trailer didn’t help much. It just kept the cold closer to us is all. Due to the winds, Paul felt the need to turn on the Mr. Buddy heater for a few minutes to help get the chill from the air while we got ready for bed. We both slept well when we slept, but due to the winds and heavy rains, we woke often during the night. I remember telling Paul, “Snow would be quieter …and warmer”!
Everything Was Frozen
By the time we crawled out of bed, it was 7 a.m. When we set up the tent, we didn’t bother to peg it down because we were going to put heavy stuff inside. The ground was all but bedrock and tent pegs would be useless there anyways. As it was, we had 40 pound water pails at the ends of the kitchen canopy ropes. We tried pegging, but due to the bedrock, the pegs had to be almost horizontal, so added weight on each peg was needed. If the tent was not weighted down inside, we were certain that it would have kited away on us. Between the kitchen tarp canopy and the tent blowing in the winds, it was very noisy outside all night long.
Everything was frozen that morning, too. The coffee left over in our thermal cups was frozen again. We made coffee, and cooked up some sausage and fried potatoes for breakfast. Needless to say, the water pail lids were difficult to get off that morning as well. The rain that fell froze the covers on solid, and it took several hard taps around the lid before I could rotate them. Any water that was left in our water bottles were iced, and it wasn’t long before Paul put a pot of water on the stove, and after I filled each bottle using a bent can, he placed them in the heated water. Once warmer, we each too many gulps and then used the rest to take medicines, and brush our teeth.
Due to the cold, neither of us were drinking much at all, so when we were mindful of it, we drank, drank, drank. We ate well when we ate, but we were averaging about one good meal a day, and if we had two, we didn’t feel like eating the second one. There was one day that we had three meals, but we both had to choke it down. Like with keeping hydrated, we only ate because we knew we hadn’t been eating regularly. We had tons of food. We just weren’t hungry. It was a combination of the cold, being busy moose scouting, and making sure we ate protein for each of our meals. Protein sticks to the belly and satisfies us longer. I think that was the reason more than the others, but combined, maybe all were the cause. I know when it is cold out, I tend not to drink nearly enough water to stay hydrated. That is a big no-no! We both knew better! Drinking lukewarm water was something we knew we had to do or we wouldn’t have drank as much as we did.
That day, we played catch up, and first on our To-Do List was to line up our guns. We intended to line them up on a long slope at the end of a road, but with the winds blowing like they were, we decided that the campsite, though just as windy, was a lot more sheltered than other places we could go.
We brought both 30-06 rifles, a 308, and my 12 gauge for partridge. However, we forgot to stop along the way to pick up some 308 shells, so we knew then, we’d HAVE to use the 30-06 to shoot the moose. That was a bummer, because the 308 scope lets in more light during the dimly lit ends of the day, and due to the scope mounts, there was no way to change it over to one of the 30-06. The 308 was a non-issue by then, and it became especially so, since both 30-06’s were already lined up.
Frustrations and Laughs while Lining up the Guns
Paul lined the guns up for his aim, and then I took four shots to further line it up for how I shoot. One of the 30-06 rifles belonged to my grandfather. He used it and carried it so much that his hand print is marked by patina on the steel part on both sides of the clip area. After lining up the first 30-06, it was time to line up Grampy’s. Paul fired, but the bullet clearly missed the target. Huh? He fired again. The same thing happened, only this time, I found where the bullet hit a tree and nowhere near the target or the board it was on at all! Confused, Paul shrugged his shoulders and adjusted the scope. He had been an expert marksman in the Army every time, so he was very confused as to how his aim could be so far off target. No matter what he tried, including adjusting the scope to its limits, he couldn’t get an acceptable shot for the huge kill zone on a moose at 25 yards! It was comical for me, but frustrating for Paul, though I kept seeing the number of bullets quickly disappear from the box. It was cute, but I was beginning to wonder if we had to drive back to Portage (or further) to resupply our ammunition for the hunt!
After several shots, Paul noticed the type of scope mount. Neither had shot the gun before. My mother gave it to me last Christmas. By then, deer season had ended. Neither Paul nor I shoot just to shoot. We line up our guns and then we hopefully take one shot at a beast, and then it is not fired again for another year. That’s just how we are. So, when Paul noticed the flip style mount that allows the hunter to quickly switch to open sights, he knew all he had to do was rock the scope in place. We kinda chuckled and told each other that was probably what happened to my step-father when he went to shoot his moose. He couldn’t get close to it even after several shots, even laying on the ground. Now, we know why he kept missing. He’ll appreciate being redeemed for sure, though the on-going ragging by others is fun to listen to.
Soon, both guns were lined up. I quickly realized I would not be able to used Grampy’s gun. Where I had to keep it while driving, I couldn’t uose a scope that pivoted such as his did, so I opted to use the same 30-06 I have for several deer in the past. The scope on the other 30-06 was fixed in place. Using that was a better option for me …at least for the moose hunt. Paul used the heirloom gun instead.
After the first gun was lined up, I had picked up the spent shells as they fell. The last one picked up had a gouge in the head rim. I showed it to Paul as we both scowled at the quality of the Federal brand bullets. However, neither of us thought to fire the gun one more time after that to make sure there were no metal shards lodged or loose in the mechanics of the gun. Little did I know, that would come back to bite me in the ass BIG TIME! We were given the box of Federal bullets and used them only to line up the guns. For the hunt, we used the Remington brand.
Packing for the Hunt
After the guns were lined up, I started going through the bins, sorting, and packing together everything we needed for the hunt and cleaning if I should get my moose, while Paul added a cable connecter to the new spool of cable so he would not have to do that after we downed a moose. Then, he filled a propane cylinder so we could have heat inside the camper that evening if we should feel the need to get warm.
Due to rainy weather the next day, we wanted to make sure we picked up some more firewood while out scouting for evening moose. It is better to have too much than too little, dry wood versus trying to burn wet wood.
At 3:18 p.m. the sun was still out, but so was that cold-ass wind. Thankfully it was warmer than the day before, but not by much. Only a small amount of sun hits the spot we temporarily called “camp”. Despite the trees, that plentiful wind found us …and easily so with the fleeting leaves flying until they helped blanketed the ground.
We FINALLY See Some Moose!
At about 4 p.m., we drove around and looked for both moose and fire wood. It wasn’t long before we found a downed yellow birch that was high and dry, so stopped, cut it up, and loaded it on to the truck. We finished the day by scouting a few more roads in the same area as the last evening when we ran out of daylight.
During one of our pee stops, I was finally able to collect a few willow saplings. I figured with a rainy day that followed, I hoped to make some sketching charcoal.
Before dark, we were happy to see a cow and young four-point bull. Then, on another road over we saw a nice bull with palms! FINALLY, we were seeing moose! Hell, by that time, I had old both Paul and the Warden, “I just want to see some moose poops in the road!” On the next road over we saw two cows, a nice palmed bull, and a calf together. Also, we saw a partridge fanning. Neither of us had ever seen one fan in the fall months, but figured maybe it was preening itself in the roadway instead of trying to lure in a mate.
Both of us were starting to feel a bit better about the upcoming hunt, and it was the topic of conversation even after we got back to camp. In between conversations, we kept busy. Paul troubleshot some wiring in the truck, and then started to cook some hot sausages on the stove. While he was busy doing that, I took over the cooking, moved some stuff undercover, and then, I unloaded the wood from the truck so that would stay dry, too.
We went to bed later than usual that night, and it surprised me to learn that it was only a bit after 8 p.m.! The chill from the cold day had set in, and I literally shivered for a long while. When I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to warm up despite slithering deeper inside the sleeping, I had to get up and add a heavy blanket. The sleeping bag is guaranteed to keep us warm to zero degrees, and I knew it wasn’t near zero at all, but my body was just as cold as if it were. After I was settled into bed again, I grabbed a warm long-sleeved shirt and wrapped that around my head for added warmth. Only then was I able to drift off to sleep. Paul stayed awake longer, but I’m not sure just sure how much longer.
(Paul) This was the coldest day of the week by far. Water stayed frozen all day, and was the second cold day in a row with snow falling the morning before. We had seen two moose in the damp cold rains the evening before. It was STILL our FIRST area found with GOOD, active sign like we expected to find in other areas.
A Lazy Sunday before the Hunt
One Last Update before the Hunt Begins
A Lazy Sunday before the Hunt
As we expected, we woke to rain at 6 a.m. Though the sound and sight was not a pleasant one, the warmer air was greatly welcomed. However, at that point, rain or snow, it didn’t matter which. If the wind was not blowing, we were going to be warmer no matter. We both took turns crawling out of bed to go pee, but even I went back to bed that morning. There was no rush to stay outside into that wetness. It was Sunday. There was no hunting for anything except for rest.
The moose hunt started the following day. We were all prepared and ready, so when Paul kept drifting off to sleep, I quietly laid and watched the rains fall outside the clear plastic wall not two feet from me. I loved sleeping there. No matter the “house”, night or day, that clear wall gave me a new perspective. I lay and studied it …every inch of it, the dead grass between us and the edge of the woods, the trees, their branches, and their leaves. I studied it all. I seemingly followed every line of it all with my eyes forming and “burning” visual patterns in my memory for later recall.
Thanks to my sister, Lora-Jean, I learned that there is a name to what I have always done. It is called Outline Tracing. It is nothing more than tracing lines with my eyes until there is an end. Kind of like doing a maze with the eyes instead of a pencil, only I catch myself from time to time doing it to objects around me, mostly with complex objects. I noticed I do it when my body is inactive and have nothing before me to preoccupy myself. I always assumed it was natural to examine my surroundings so exactly, but apparently not. I believe this “tracing” helps me remember accurate details, to write, sketch, and paint because I can recall minute details with words, paintbrushes, pencils, and keyboard strokes.
Finally at 8 a.m., my body told me I had to get up and face the day. Even I have my sleep limits and so far on the trip, I think that I maxed out my sleeps. It seems like that rainy Sunday I broke my own rule! When I opened the door to step outside, the first thing I saw was my chair filled with rainwater! I hadn’t put it under the camp kitchen canopy far enough! UGH!
I turned the chair upside down and pulled a cooler from underneath the snowmobile trailer and plopped my butt down on that for a while. There is always something good that comes from something bad. The good is that cooler let me sit closer to the wood stove for more heat. Paul heard me grumbling and swearing about leaving my chair out in the rain, and it wasn't long before he got up and was starting a wood fire while I got coffee going.
While cooking breakfast, a white truck pulled up to a stop. The passenger inside warned us about bears in the area and to watch our garbage. The man said that they had seen a bear not more than 1/2 mile from us. I grinned. They were warning the wrong people. I told them the bear had had already paid us a visit at about 4 a.m. a couple mornings before. His eyes got big and he drew his head backwards instinctively as he pointed at the tent, and then said, "I wouldn't want to sleep in that tent with a bear around." Again, we grinned. I told him, “We sleep in the snowmobile trailer”. He shook his head and replied, "Figured you did".
The tall, lanky man then asked if we were bear, partridge, or moose hunters. I started to say, "All of the above", but I knew he was asking for our focused hunt. Paul answered, "Moose". Another question came, “Have you seen any?” I did not want to lie about seeing seven moose the previous evening, so I diverted and told him, ‘One walked past our truck a couple nights ago while we slept, and a cow crossed the road in front us a few nights ago’, and left it at that. The man shook his head and said they had not seen signs either. Before they drove off, he told us if we got a moose and saw them to wave them down and that they would help. We thanked them, and wished them good luck on their hunt. I figured, we came up a week early and did our “homework”, the last thing I was going to do is tell them where we saw the most moose sign! Why would I do that?
For breakfast, we had fried Focaccia, left over hot sausage, and potatoes.
One Last Update before the Hunt Begins
After breakfast, we got in the truck and drove to a big hill for cell signal. I was getting tired of playing Euchre on my phone. The players were starting to piss me off, so it was past time to stop playing that for a while. At the top of the hill, I downloaded Gin Rummy and Chess applications, checked my email, updated a few people of the past few days, checked messages, and uploaded a few cell phone photos. Paul messaged our son and daughter privately, and then, uploaded the latest weather forecast for the upcoming week. I sent them each a quick message saying I loved them, and let Paul do most of the filling in of details otherwise. I sent a “Thumbs Up” symbol to my twin, as that was my way of saying we were still alive and well. Lastly, I sent a big hi and hug to a dear young woman named Kacie. A woman that both Paul and I are very fond of …niece-like, daughter-like. She had sent a message before we left saying that she would miss our chats. I remembered that our friend, Rosetta was leaving for a trip, so quickly wished her a safe trip. I had so many messages and I could not get to them all, but I did the best I could without sitting there all day.
While my finger swiped the tiny phone keyboard in haste, Paul called the nearest moose butchering service and reserved a spot should we get a moose. His price was $500 per moose no matter the size of the beast. That included skinning (caping), hanging, cutting up, grinding, packaging, and freezing the meat. I coughed at the expense. To me, that cost was too much if I should get a smaller moose.
When we got back to camp, I made some pork stroganoff on the wood stove, and “perked” coffee for the next morning. While I did that, Paul practiced how to hold a rifle from his wheelchair and from within the truck. The second everything was in place and double checked, we closed and locked the doors for the night. Our guns and ammo were all situated, so all we had to do in the morning was jump into the truck and start the hunt the next morning.
By the time we were finished getting things organized, suppah was ready to eat, and it tasted exceptionally delicious cooked over a woodstove fire! Just before heading to bed, I gave Paul his allergy shots. We were a few days late in doing so, but all was good.
Despite the misty weather, it was rather warm, and despite that, we still wore a few layers of clothing that day. Feels warm when the wind isn't blowing rain, too. I do believe we acclimatized rather quickly. We were in bed by 6:30 p.m. The alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.
Despite the misty weather, it was rather warm, and despite that, we still wore a few layers of clothing that day. Feels warm when the wind isn't blowing rain, too. I do believe we acclimatized rather quickly. We were in bed by 6:30 p.m. The alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.
THE WEEK OF THE HUNT
A Sleepless Night - Cost of Moose Butchering Services
I hardly slept at all that night. I kept hearing the butcher’s words over loudspeaker, ‘500.00 no matter the size’. Up until that point, I was not picky on the size of the moose I shot, but I knew that I did not want to take a spike horn and only get a couple hundred pounds of meat for 500.00 especially. As it was, I struggled greatly by having a butcher take care of the meat in the first place, because I remembered how little meat I got from my first moose. How everyone was shocked, especially from a single shot through both lungs without taking out any shoulder meat at all. Since then, I have not trusted any butcher.
When we process our deer, NOTHING goes to waste. The bones are scraped, every piece of meat is carefully cut, and the only things tossed back into the woods is the raw skeleton, tendons, fat, and guts. Any bloodshot meat is carefully cut around to salvage even the tiniest piece of meat. I know most people do not clean carcasses nearly as clean as we do. I get my fingers into the neck bones and spine and clean those out with the tip of my knife, too. I just don’t like waste. I took a life and want to make sure I appreciate it as much as possible. In my eyes, NOTHING goes to waste if it can be used otherwise either. Even the leg bones are sawed into sections for our daughter’s dog. Hell, I even nibble on the tiny exposed dehydrated meat strips as I butcher up the beasts. It is "jerky" without all the seasonings, and it is delicious as is!
That night, I tossed and turned all night long! When morning came, and it was time to get into the truck, I figured that I will see what opportunity presents itself and make a decision to shoot or not to shoot. Meanwhile, I needed to have a discussion with Paul. I needed him to understand how important it was to me not to waste meat by going through a butcher. He already helps me as much as he can when we process our deer, but he cannot physically do much, nor can he scrape the meat as cleanly as I do. I told him that if I end up shooting a smaller moose, I do not want to take it to a butcher at the cost of $500. Instead, I wanted to somehow process it myself. If that meant driving it home to our house in Palmyra and using our big table there, even if it took me every day, all day for a week to get the job done, I was willing to take on that task.
Legal hunting started at 6:16 a.m. that first morning, so Paul figured out how long it would take us to get to the our chosen hunting area. We planned on sitting in the parked truck for about 15-20 minutes before legal. That way, with the windows down, we could hear any and all woodland sounds and its beasts. Paul estimated our arrival time perfectly. I parked the truck in the single lane, dilapidated dirt road and turned off the ignition, lights, turned down the interior dashboard displays, and “rolled” down our windows. It was a cloudy morning, so our surroundings were slow to light up with twilight colors taking their time to appear. We were sitting in the dark, surrounded by further darkness.
At 6:11 a.m., through the darkness ahead of us, I saw what looked like a black blob that was getting closer and larger by the second. After watching it for about 30 seconds, I finally said something to Paul. “Is that a moose? If so, it is walking straight for us.”
Paul grabbed the binoculars. Sure enough, there was a moose walking down the logging road directly in front of me on the driver’s side. At first, it was too dark to see if it was a cow or a bull, but Paul’s first thought was a cow. I asked for binoculars, and saw two very long single tines sticking more upward than outward and well above his ears. It kept walking in our direction until it got to within 50 feet of the truck. Only then did I reached out my open window, and slowly and quietly collapsed my side mirror to give the moose more room to pass. No matter what, if he kept coming like he was, he would have literally brushed past the truck. And I wanted nothing more than that to happen. It was then that the moose stopped and studied the big blob in front of him - our truck that blocked the roadway …his path. Just before it stepped into the woods to bypass the truck, Paul could see the long tines. It was that dark out still. The moose wasn’t very far into the woods and we could easily hear each of his steps. Unfortunately, it was still too dark to see the beast itself and he camouflaged well with his surroundings.
We kinda chuckled at his behavior, but before he came back out into the road behind the truck, it was legal hunting time. He already knew we were there, so we knew that there would be no way he would present itself a second time, so I did not wait around for a shot opportunity. Nor did I adventure into the woods after him. With his long legs, it would take many human steps to his one and he would quickly evade me if I attempted any sort of approach behind him.
That morning we had stopped short of our intended hunting area in hopes that by “legal”, we could slowly creep along without headlights or parking light. This way, we could drive in the twilight until the sky lit up the area around enough to see a moose other than directly in the road in front of us. However, we had not anticipated a moose approaching us where we stopped to wait for legal time or lighter skies.
The Thrashing Illusive Bull
A bit later, at a “Y” in the road, we saw all but the head and neck of another moose cross the road in a hurry. We both automatically assumed it was a bull due to size and stature, but we could not be certain. Instead of pulling into the road to the left behind where the beast crossed, I stayed straight and crept to the top of the hill before me, stopped, parked, got out of the truck, loaded my gun, and waited patiently for the moose to present itself.
I could hear it coming through the woods in my direction, but with a steep embankment that was thickly padded with tall evergreen and foliage-filled saplings, it was still too dark to peer into the woods for more than a few dozen feet, especially at that steep incline. There was no way he / she could see me, but nor could I see it! When the moose stopped advancing, Paul used the moose call outside his window. It responded immediately by taking a few intimidating steps toward me in haste. I knew then that it had to be a bull, because it responded to the lonesome cow call. I also knew that I had to be quick on the gun draw, too, as visions of my target came to the forefront of my brain. If he were to continue his eager approach, I’d be looking at a head on chest shot without options. That was my least wanted angle!
The moose thrashed its head and antlers in a display of dominance, but then all went silent. Paul called the sound of a cow in estrus, but by then the gig was up. It must have smelled my sinking human scent or the scent of the truck exhaust. It slowly and quietly retreated downhill further. It was wise of him not to use the road as an easier mode of travel that day …or any other day.
We never saw another moose that morning.
At about 11 a.m., we were approaching camp when we met a warden a few yards from our campsite. It was Warden Pomereau, and he was alone this time. Both vehicles stopped and we chatted for a few minutes before carrying on in different directions. That afternoon, he was all grins, whereas the other day, he was all business.
For breakfast / Lunch that day we had breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs, and leftover stroganoff. We took time to rest and put our feet up for a little while before we headed back out for the afternoon and evening hunt.
Warm Temps, Hair Washing, We Got Stuck!
The day was very warm, and it did not promise to get the moose moving at all. Even they were resting so not to get overheated. The temperature reached a welcoming mid-60’s. Though that was easier on our bodies, it would not make for an easier hunt! It was sunny with a bit of a breeze, so after eight days, I deemed it warm enough to finally wash my hair, and commenced at heating water on the stove. I grabbed the earth friendly dish soap, went to the edge of the woods, and washed my hair. Ah! That felt so good!
We headed back out for the evening hunt and spent about five hours driving around on several different roads, but we never saw another moose that day. Come evening we were still slow-crawling around for an evening hunt. Paul and I joked that I was finally able to drive around a piece of wood in the road without scraping it with the truck. That fun soon ended as Paul guided me around a protruding rock further down that same road. I had stopped the previous week and tried to move it by hand, but it was stuck solid in the ground without hope that I could move it even a fraction of an inch.
On that old logging road, like most of them, there was very little room for tire placement except where all other tire tracks had driven over the past dozen years or more. This time, I not only scraped the rock with the undercarriage of the truck as per usual, instead, the truck literally got stuck on top of the rock! There was no moving forward, only in reverse, but the truck dragged the rock with it for several feet. Apparently, each time I scraped it up until that point, I was also loosening it up so it was now movable!
I stopped to assess any damage, and saw that the rock was wedged hard under the lowered floor on Paul's side of the truck. I propped some rocks behind the tire and added a log too, but I needed more lift for a longer distance to free the rock. Paul suggested that laying the log crosswise would be good enough. I told him I didn’t think so, but I listened to his suggestion anyways. Thankfully, I was able to clear the rock while the front passenger tire was atop the rock and log, but the second that tire lowered back to ground level, I was back on top of the rock in a different spot. We were still stuck!
It was near dark, so I wasted no time. I walked along the roadway and gathered a few larger rocks and another partial log that was more solid than the first …a bit longer, too. I figured that as long as my tire stayed atop the length of that log, it should be long enough to get the truck over the rock safely without doing any damage to the muffler or the lowered floor. Luckily, it worked! We were free of the rock and I was able to flip it end over end to get it out of the road for our next pass through, as I still had to drive to the end of the road before I could turn around. I had done more than my fair share of backing up since we entered those logging roads. I was not looking forward to another foot, or miles in reverse on such a narrow road, especially in the quickly dimming lightness.
Despite the time it took away from hunting, it was still legal hunting hours, the weather was a beautiful, breezy, 64 degrees …but that is in accordance with the truck, too. However, it seemed rather accurate during the warmer temperatures. We know it has issues with the colder temperatures since our last service less than a month ago. We wondered at first if there was a bad electronics update. We later noticed the temperature would only drop but not rise unless the truck was shut off for a while. While on pavement, it seemed to work just fine. We certainly scratched our heats over it.
When we got back to camp that evening, we had stripped rib sandwiches for suppah, and I hoped for a much better night’s sleep. Especially since Aunt Flo was due to arrive. I had a feeling that this trip she would be making me rather cranky, triggered by the lack of moosie’s sightings, and warmer weather that kept them laying low, cool, and out of sight.
Temperatures were supposed to drop to 53 by midnight, but by bedtime, it was already 50 (according to the truck) degrees or less. The next day was supposed to be showery, and I hoped that would get the moose moving a bit.
Too Warm for the Moose to Move
Paul Needed More Rest So I Went for a Walk
Lori-Ann Chases a Mouse
We both slept like a rock that night. I felt very rested the following morning, but Paul stated that he felt a bit beaten up; otherwise, he was doing fine. We were very pleased to get in a solid eight hours of sleep.
Each time I stepped out during the dark hours, I habitually scanned the area for glowing eyes. On this morning, when I got up at 4:30 a.m. and stepped out, I was surprised to see glowing eyes seemingly at ground level by my feet. I even adjusted my headlamp to make sure I wasn’t somehow seeing the reflection of water droplets on the ground. It was then, that the “eyes” hopped in a straight line such as a frog would. Without giving it much thought, I knew it was warm, so I figured maybe it was a frog hopping across the camp area and not a mouse. Again, without thought, I was in quick pursuit to catch me a froggie. I hollered to Paul, “Frog eyes glow in the light?”
I knew I must have sounded like some sort of whack job, and the second I asked the question, I had caught up with the glowing eyes just to find out that it was not a frog at all, but a mouse. I giggled and called out to Paul again, “It’s a mouse and I don’t have my camera with me!” Any creature watching from near or far as I chased that mouse all around the camp yard and road to get a better look at it would have thought I had lost my mind. However, anyone that knows me, knows well enough that is just how I am with all creatures. I want to get closer! I want to touch! I want to hold! Furthermore, I always want to examine and learn more about them. Ok, I want to “talk” to them, too!
It wasn’t long before the mouse finally stopped at my feet and looked up at me with large glowing eyes. “How cute!” Instinctively, I bent over to pick it up, but I was bare-handed and thought better of it. By then, Paul was outside and only able to see my movement by watching the dancing headlamp that was strapped over my head. I told him, “Quick! Come look! It’s so cute!” Paul was able to approach the mouse and then he watched it run up the road while I ran back to retrieve my camera in hopes for a picture of its glowing eyes. You would have thought I had never seen a mouse before! But, really, it was cute! I, on the other hand probably was not so cute.
The hunt that morning started at 6:18 a.m. After sipping coffee and organizing a few things, we were in the truck and backing out of the campsite at 5:40 a.m. That morning, we repeated the same routine, except we stopped the truck further out with the hope that by the time “Spike” meandered down the road, it would be legal shooting time. Unfortunately, we never saw him again. Actually, we never saw any moose at all!
Frustrated with Rude Hunters
We drove around for many hours and kept seeing the same two trucks over and over again, so we thought it was better if we hunted another area instead. We were there for a week without seeing another person on those roads, and yes, we scowled that another moose hunter had encroached our area. It was not only that, it was more the fact that they were not so willing to share the roads with us! They would see us coming, but that is when they decided to stop to walk into the woods to shoot a “partridge” just to come back out empty handed after several shots fired. They were a hunting “decoy” apparently …used to block the road so the actual moose hunter in the lead vehicle could drive ahead and hope to shoot a moose while the other moose hunter (me) had to either wait for the bird truck to move out of the way or back up. I was not pleased when I had to back up a very long ways over a very narrow road with steep embankments on both sides. I was NOT AT ALL happy with such selfish and rude hunting ethics of those men either!
We quickly grew tired of having to drive around these men who were in two different vehicles, as they often split up, each taking a road at any “Y” intersection, so we thought it best scout out a totally different area instead of having to deal with such rude, selfish people. They officially drove me away from the area just by their actions alone. We hoped they would grow tired of seeing no sign, and move on, so we gave them some space. When mid-day came, enough was enough. We decided to head to town to get more gas, four blocks of ice, and another pail of water from the artesian well at Portage Lake.
We hadn’t gotten back to the campsite very long that afternoon when one of those two trucks pulled up to show us their moose. They told us where they got it, and then told us how many moose they had seen up on those few roads. That just confirmed why they acted the way they did and why they blocked the roads as they did to the point that they “drove” us out of the area. I was happy that they got their moose, but I was happier that they were getting the hell out of there so we could hunt ethically and morally and with respect to anyone else who happened to come along.
(Paul) They were staying at a lodge on a lake in the area that offers moose guiding service. So while we scouted the area for a week to find that place to hunt, they were told where to hunt. Not much we could do about it, except know that we did the leg work necessary. It’s kind of like the fisherman that always have to fish where someone else is fishing, or where someone already had success instead of scouting their own spots. Personally, such things takes a lot of the experience out of it for us. (Lori-Ann) To me, that is “cheating”, not “hunting”.
I would not bring my shotgun along during the days of the moose hunt. I was not there to hunt partridge, but to hunt moose, instead. As far as we were concerned, any moose hunter that shoots partridge while driving down the roads looking for moose are basically shooting themselves in the foot, because I know of no beast that will stand around with shots being fired in the area all day long!
Their hunting stories didn’t add up either. All three were holding open beer cans and each were anxious to tell their version of the story. I walked to the far side of their trailer to get a better look at the moose hoof and size it up against my own hand as I do all tracks I come across. This way I’d know to a certain degree which track was no longer follow-able later when we came across it in the road or muddied spot somewhere. I also sized up the horns and looked them over carefully. I don’t think we had seen this moose before, but maybe. There were five men total, but only three men in the truck that pulled up towing the moose. The general story is that one guy took a shot and the moose started walking, so they ran to the next tote road where the moose stood broadside. There, a man emptied his clip into the moose from 150 yards. As he was reloading, his sub-permittee up and fired the eighth shot “in the side” that took down the moose.
Hunting Alone Once Again
I felt better about the hunt that evening. I knew those two vehicles were out of there. No more shooting up the woods when they saw a “partridge” that further spooked the moose, too. No more waiting in the road behind them because they blocked it with their vehicle. No more backing up forever because I was the courteous one either! And, finally, no more being the nice driver by pulling over as much as I dared so close to steep embankments that would mean losing the truck forever! I had vowed earlier in the day that if we met up with them again, I was NOT the one that would move over, back up, or wait patiently because they wanted to be road bullies! They had maxed my patience. However, with renewed hope that they WERE out of the area, we headed back out for the evening hunt a bit after 3 p.m. We were both tired, but for the first time in days, I had a glimmer of hope in my heart. Unfortunately, we never saw a moose that day at all. Not a live one anyways.
We were both very tired by the time we got back to the campsite. We spent all but maybe two hours driving around on slow, bumpy roads. At least the road heading into town was faster driving, but most of our traveling speed was between 0-29mph. Most of that was driving less than 10mph.
It rained a bit in the evening, but it was a wicked warm day otherwise. When I washed my hair mid-day, I walked around with a skimpy tank top. Even though it was a warm sunny day, with my exposed arms and shoulders I could easily feel the cold that escaped the woods and shaded areas. It wasn’t long before I donned a long sleeved t-shirt to keep the chill at bay. Having wet hair didn’t help, but I followed the sun around the camp yard as I fluffed my hair with my fingers to help aid in a faster drying time.
The warm weather had the moose a bit confused, and they changed their patterns. The morning hours were so foggy that a moose had to stand just a few feet in front of us or we would never see it at all. I referred to it as, “The moose had to bump into my gun before I’d see it.” The thickest fog lasted until about 10 a.m., and even then, a light fog was seen resting in many areas still.
Too Tired to Eat
There had been no time for breakfast, so at about 2 p.m., I cooked up a couple hamburgers for lunch. By the time evening came around, our bellies still felt full, so we went to bed without supper knowing we would not eat again until at least noontime or later the next day. We had plenty of food ….too much, even, but no time or the want to eat most days. All our energy was focused on the hunt. I now understand why there is always a “Camp Cook” on such hunts. The more people, the less workload. I say this and I’m sure it offers confusion for those who follow us on our Willey’s Dam Camp Facebook page. Kind of ironic for me to say such things. I know.
There was only one day that we considered taking food with us as we drove around. That day, I packed a few hotdogs and a can of Sterno, but we never took the time to stop looking for moose. The moose hunt is only six days long, and we were not having any luck seeing them during the hunt so far, and now warm weather moved in for a few days. As a result, we did not want to miss any opportunity to get a moose with such slim chances as they were, especially since the days had turned warm. We had to focus more on the hunt than on our food intake.
We were off to bed 7:15 p.m., after washing up and getting clean clothes before we both zonked for the night.
I slept great until 1:30 a.m. when a rain shower passed through. It wasn’t long after the shower passed, that the skies cleared and the stars quickly came into view with the rushing wind. At about 3:30 a.m., a gust of wind blew over our wooden door that we use to help keep rain off the table. When that hit the ground, Paul woke with a startle and loudly cleared his throat to scare away a bear that didn’t exist. I answered with a, "Shhhh!" If it were a bear, I wanted to see it, as the motion sensor light came on, but there was nothing to see except swaying bushes and a downed door. I eased Paul's thoughts, and he quickly zonked again. Soon, I was zonked, too.
(Paul) As I remember the conversation, Lori-Ann wanted the bear to hang around to see it. BUT, I told her after I made the loud noise of clearing my throat that I didn’t want the bear to hang around because I didn’t want any damage done to our coolers and campsite.
Paul’s phone alarm woke us up at 4:30 a.m. (4:45?). We drank lukewarm coffee that morning, and before we hit the road, I looked around for my little mouse friend, but he was not there.
Too Warm for the Moose to Move
That morning, we drove about ¾ of a mile further down the road instead of turning before the single lane bridge like we usually did. The warm weather had changed the moose patterns and yesterday we saw where they lingered in the road a bit in a low lying wet area. We hoped to see one standing in the road come time for legal, but we had no such luck. We turned around and headed back up the same roads we had traveled so many times in the past week or more. We drove around for over two hours, but when we didn’t even see any moose tracks at all, we decided to go scout yet another area instead.
At about 8:30 a.m., or a bit later, we drove over to Little Clayton Lake and checked out a few roads that way, but learned quickly that there were much more sign where we've been hunting all week. I scolded the warm weather pattern and I was getting quite cranky and impatient. We were both very discouraged. We needed COLD temperatures to get the moose moving!
When we arrived on October 5th, the fall foliage was at its peak. Every day since, the leaves became duller. The alder leaves had turned from dark green to brown to black in just a few short days. Leaves fell by the dozens upon dozens with each gust of wind. Thankfully, each day, we could see further into the woods as we drove around. It was becoming easier to see an elusive moose standing just off the roadway, and we hoped to see one standing, waiting for us to pass before it would cross the road. The landscape, once brightly colored was not nearly as bright anymore. It was dimming and graying each day.
Paul Needed More Rest So I Went for a Walk
When we arrived back at camp for a mid-day break in the hunt, Paul made coffee and heated up some chili for lunch. We had a package of thawed Hamburg and sausage that needed cooking so he added those to make a hardier meal. Honest, we ate well when we did eat. Even if it were just one or two meals each day.
Paul needed more rest than he was getting, so I encouraged him to lay down and zonk for as long as he needed. We were not seeing any signs of moose, so I told him to not to worry about an evening hunt that day, but he insisted he wanted to still go riding around that evening just the same. I told him that I wanted to walk the area anyways, so if he called out to me, and I didn’t answer, that I was off on a walk. Like always, I told him my intended area of exploration just in case I did not return for some reason.
After I looked over a few quartz rocks I had collected each time we took a pee break, I walked up the road for a ways. I didn’t bring a gun, as I should have. I could have easily seen a moose in my travels, but I also knew that Paul needed his rest. That was more important to me than anything, and I would pass up a mooosie to ensure he got it. This hunt was very important and special to me in ways that I will not get into here, but despite my “want” to get a moose, Paul had the need to rest, and I had to force that upon him despite how important it was to him that I got my moose.
After walking up and down the road for a while, I decided to check the wetland and overgrown chopping that we had seen in the Gazetteer. I left the road and walked into the woods for a ways. It was awfully wet and hard going. I couldn’t believe how quickly I tired either. That kind of fatigue is not typical of me. I saw a few old “breaks”, so a bull moose had travelled the area more than once, but not for some time. I followed a set of cow and calf tracks, but they had much easier traveling than I did, as my legs are vastly shorter than theirs. I walked until the wetness was too much for the boots I was wearing. Water runoff from the recent torrential rains covered my feet by several inches. Luckily, the landscape is bedrock based so there is only runoff with little to no absorption into the land itself, so the rainwater had no place to go but downhill and into a ditch. I decided to turn around and call that area a bust for hunting at any time of day. I had hoped to find an open area to sit and wait for a moose to present itself, but there was no open area to gaze across at all.
Once back to the campsite, two trucks went by. One had a quartered up moose in the back. A hunting party had worked very hard that morning! The moose had a nice rack, but it was not real big. Rack points came to just under back window. That was the only part of the moose that I could see, and any moose that went with those antlers would overflow the truck bed and be visible if not quartered up, even with the tailgate up. I was glad they got one. Too bad they had to quarter it up though. That just further drove the point that the moose were not easy to find, and those men had been through a lot of work that day!
It was another warm, windy, partly sunny day. I don’t know if Paul slept or not, but I couldn’t imagine anyone sleeping with those winds that kept throwing our center camp canopy around like it did. What a noise!
Scouting Yet another Area
Scouting Yet another Area
In the afternoon, and evening we scouted around the Squirrel Pond area, and then over to where both Paul and Josh shot their moose back in 2003 and 2005. We hoped the loggers were done cutting because when we were over there the week before the hunt it looked like they were finishing up. We were right. However, there was nothing left to entice the moose to come out into the open. They had clear cut wickedly! Paul grumbled that they do that before they sell off large parcels of land, and they were probably going to sell it to Quimby. I scowled at the thought, but for such a conservationist, she certainly doesn’t seem to mind buying stripped land at a lower cost. But, on a happier note, maybe they are going to plant a regrowth crop.
We had traveled 39 miles one way just to find that there were no signs of browsing, breaks, tracks,or muddied water. The newer generations of moose are avoiding humans now. I told Paul that I may have to start “beating the woods on foot” and pack the moose out at the rate we were going. Nearly gone are the days of easy moose hunting. The moose are learning to be illusive even on the backwoods logging roads. Paul says permits should be two weeks long and I agree. The hunts are getting harder, and the harvested moose are smaller. I also think any zone that is open to moose hunting should be closed to all hunting except for trapping, and for the four critters that can be taken all 365 days of the year. The moose hunts are special hunts and should be treated as such.
There are too many partridge hunters shooting and scaring moose. Some block the roadways and interfere with moose hunting. I waited 15 years to get a moose permit again and partridge hunters dominate the road ways! It is very frustrating, especially when we saw two separate hunters take four shots at partridge at just a few yards away and not get the bird! Yet, both stopped in middle of roadway and prevented a moose hunter from passing by them. I took five shots and got five birds. I don’t even bird hunt normally, so if I can hit a bird with one shot other hunters can, too!
(Paul) We’ve never owned a semi-automatic shotgun. Only single shell, single shot shotguns. After seeing the hunter miss a partridge four times at close range, I jokingly told Lori-Ann, now I know why they sell semi-automatic shotguns. Yes, I do know that there are other birds/styles of bird hunting that semi-automatic shotguns do come in handy for.
That night we were too pooped to eat supper. That was not a good habit, but it was one that we adopted out of nothing more than ill appetites triggered by fatigue. We went straight to bed, just to start the day dark and early the next morning.
Up Early for the Hunt
We both slept very well. The cold temperatures were greatly welcomed! It would get the moose moving and increase my chance at a harvest. When I woke at 3:30 a.m. I stayed awake until the alarm went off at 4:50 am. I had gone to bed prepared for the cold. I put on thermals and then topped those with a long sleeved shirt, and wore my warm fuzzy Jammie bottoms, wool socks and a balaclava. Warm and cozy is what I was all night long. That next morning there was an unexpected, and welcomed heavy frost both inside and outside …frozen water, too! We warmed some coffee, and as per usual, I didn’t finish my cup. I was anxious about the cold temps! Move mooosies move!
At about 5:30 a.m., we were in the truck getting our guns situated while we waited for the windshield and mirrors to defrost, as well as getting the truck interior heated up for comfort. We wanted those next 20 minutes of driving to warm us to the bone before we rolled the windows down for the day.
At about 5:45 a.m., we slowly drove down the dilapidated road toward our intended hunting area. We had traveled no more than a couple miles when we saw a bull moose doing a slow trot down the road in front of us. Traveling was real slow on those roads anyways, but I slowed down even more and came to a stop. He trotted a bit further and then watched him go out of sight.
Paul asked if I wanted to keep going over the single lane wooden bridge that morning to check the low, wet spot ¾ of a mile beyond it, but I thought, due to the cold, we’d better get to higher in elevation instead. He agreed.
As our typical style, we veered right just before the bridge and came to a stop. We sat for about 20 minutes in the darkness with the headlights off and our windows rolled down. When legal time arrived, it was still too dark to see anything so I opted to sit there for a few more minutes or turn on the parking lights at least. You can’t shoot a moose if you can’t see it was my thinking. The narrow logging roads often do not provide any room for error right or left, so driving, though creeping along at 5mph is scary when you can’t see where you are going. Headlights forewarn the beasts, so we knew we couldn’t turn those on. I opted to sit still for a few minutes longer, legal or not. There was no reason to creep along in the darkness.
“Which One Is the Bull?”
When I could see ahead of us for a few yards, and see the sides of the road a few yards to the left and right, I decided to start creeping along. We drove along at 5mph or less with gun clips in hand as we ventured down a few promising roads, weaving around bumps and mud puddles, too. I not only wanted a smoother ride for Paul, but potholes and puddles make noise that I wished not to make. At about 7:30 a.m., we came into a clearing where I saw two large moose near the top of a long gradual slope. Both of their heads were down feasting. I stopped and pointed them out, but Paul couldn’t see what I was referring to. To him, they looked like uprooted trees across the distance. In his mind’s eye, he was looking for the rest of their bodies (neck, head, and antlers).
The distance was about 250 yards or more, and neither of us could tell if the moose had antlers or not. It was a longer shot than I wanted to take, but I was confident in my skills. The moose kept their heads down for the longest time. I hopped out of the truck with my gun while Paul continued to look through the binoculars as he hoped to spot antlers when they lifted their heads. I laid my gun across the hood of the truck propped the barrel on the top part of my fisted hand, my thumb tip raised just enough to make a nice steady crotch for my barrel to rest. With baited breath, I waited for Paul’s words.
With my scope, I checked both moose for antlers, but I only had a 5x scope. Even with their heads down, I figured I’d at least see partial antlers, but I didn’t. Finally, Paul said he could see antlers, but I had to ask, “Longer than the ears?” While he was looking again, I asked, “The left one, right?” When he confirmed both of my questions, I again found the beast in the scope crosshairs, but it had turned and was now walking away from me with its head down again. I raised my aim just a bit to adjust for both distance and elevation change. The other moose now stood beside it. Neither Paul nor I could tell which moose was which at that point. We both agreed that we were at least 70% sure the bull was still on the left, but we do not pull the trigger on anything until we are 100% sure of everything. By the time the bull raised his head, he was back-to. We had to let them walk into the woods. Neither of us had a shot.
Gun Mechanic Issues
As I turned to get into the truck, I removed my clip and went to eject the bullet from the chamber, but it stuck in place and I had to shake it out. I told Paul that I didn’t like how the gun was acting. Though it was lubed, I struggled to get the shell into the chamber and then out again. He asked if I had pulled the lever back and let it slam into place. I told him that I had done that, and that I double-checked by pulling the bolt back slightly to make sure a bullet went into the chamber. It had. I remember telling him, “It doesn’t matter right now as long as it fires when I want it to.”
While driving around for a bit longer, I told Paul that I was not comfortable about the bolt action of the gun and the thought of it bothered me more and more. Visions and memories of my last moose hunt with a borrowed gun still haunted me 15 years later (previous blog entry). I certainly didn’t want any such repeats! About 40 minutes later, we were once again on that same road and when we were a half of a mile from that clear cut where the two moose were earlier, I told Paul, “I have to stop and check my gun. I have to load it and see if it’s going to work when I need it to.” I stopped, stepped outside the truck, put the clip in, pulled the bolt back and the bullet went in, but not without a little bit of work. I pulled back the ejector and once again, the bullet stayed in the chamber. I couldn’t even shake it out without digging in there with my fingers. I put another one into the chamber and that went in just fine. I was confused, but a bit more relaxed at least that if I had to shoot in a hurry, I could …or at least I hoped so! After the gun was unloaded, I hopped back into the truck and told Paul, “It is still a struggle, but if I’m careful, I’ll be all set, I think”.
Half a mile later, we entered the clearing and Paul saw a moose. He said, “Spike!” I stopped, got out of the truck with my gun and loaded it up. I knew exactly which moose he meant without taking a good look at him. I stayed my side of the truck, and before I rested my gun for a shot, I made sure to check to see if the bullet went into the chamber. It was there! I was relieved! Within seconds, my crosshairs were fixed upon the beast. Nice and steady, I tried to pull the trigger, but it didn’t budge! Instantly, I told Paul, “Take him”. I vaguely remember Paul asking me, “Do you want this gun?” I wanted to waste no time in taking a shot. I said, “No! No time!” There was a pause, and while I was checking my gun, I said in a louder not so patient voice, “Honey! Take the shot!”
It seemed to take FOREVER to hear Paul fire his gun, and the second I glanced up at him to see why the delay, Kaboom! I looked up and saw the moose still standing broadside. My first thoughts were, “Shit, his scope is tilted again! He missed!” Instantly, I examined my gun. Again, I pulled the ejector back a bit and, yes there was a bullet in there. Next thing I did was check my safety. It was off, so why wouldn’t it fire? I put the safety back on and then put it back off, pulled up my gun, took aim on the beast, and once again pulled the trigger. Nothing! Again, that friggin’ trigger wouldn’t budge! By then, I was scolding Paul in a not so nice tone, “Take the shot!” The moose was still standing broadside, so he took three more shots, emptying his clip, and thankfully, that last shot was not needed. The beast was down. At that point. I was upset with my gun and frustrated that Paul waited so long for me to fire.
(Paul) Shortly after we left that morning we hit a hard bump causing the binoculars to hit the scope, so I had a major concern with my scope alignment. Naturally, I made sure the scope was clicked in place. When I took the first shot, and the moose just stood there, my first worry was about the binoculars hitting the scope. After the moose was down, we saw that I did hit the moose with 3 fatal lung, shots and one took out his shoulder. I saw the moose antlers/moose drop just as I pulled the trigger on my last shot as the moose was heading away from us. ALL I saw of the moose was his antlers dropping, so I assumed he was going down, but didn’t know if that was the case for CERTAIN or if he went over a ridge, due to a flash back from another moose hunt. That’s another story! (Lori-Ann - The hunt he is referring to is Josh’s, and that was a scary situation that quickly put me onto the back of the truck with a gun in hand in a hurry, though legally, I could not have shot, not even in self-defense, but I would have to protect myself, Paul, or Josh from an infuriated moose!
I ejected the bullet from my rifle and slammed in another one, but by then, the hunt was over, and I wasn’t even excited about the downed moose. I was pissed at my gun and all I could do was swear at it. Paul turned to me and I told him, “My (explicit) gun jammed! I couldn’t pull the trigger, and I can’t even get the shell out!” I’m very sure my language continued as tears welled in my eyes. It took me a couple minutes to get that bullet out of the chamber, and by then, I just wanted to throw the gun and clip as far as I could throw it. I wanted nothing to do with either of them.
Paul felt bad that he had to take the moose. For reasons I won’t get into, he knew how much it meant for me to take it on my own, but I was very thankful that he was there and able to take the shot when I could not. He told me that his 30-06 also jammed at first.
I pulled the truck off to the side of the road as far as I could should another hunter happen to pass through, but I was sputtering the entire time. I remember, gratefully even, saying, “Good job! You got ‘im!” Paul’s reply was something like, ‘I don’t understand what is wrong with the gun. It worked fine for us the other day!’ And it did, too. However, together, we both remembered that while lining my gun, the last bullet fired had a gouge in the head rim when I picked the casing from the ground. That gouge was not there before the shot. At the time, we weren’t impressed with the Federal brand shells, but figured they made good line-up shells at least. At the time I write this (mid-Oct), we have not checked the gun to see if that bullet left a shard of metal in the chamber or firing pin. If so, possibly, the shard “floated” around and finally lodged into the firing pin area?
Paul kept saying he was sorry that he shot the moose as he came over to give me a hug. I reminded him that I told him to take it down and why feel sorry? If anyone, I thought that I should apologize, because I really did scold him rather harshly to take the shot before the opportunity was missed! At the time, there was no being patient. There was no taking your time. There was no whispering or talking quietly. There was no time for anything but to shoot.
(Paul) Several times that day, and the next, as well as while I’m reading this, my eyes welled up with tears and I felt like bawling. I messaged that in a PM to our kids that I felt SO bad for shooting the moose, and mentioned that I felt like bawling then, too. We talked about it extensively. I KNOW I had no choice in the matter, and Lori-Ann was mad at the gun. A gun that was used to kill my moose in 2005 and it’s been used to shoot many deer as well and has never failed. However, I KNOW Lori-Ann wanted to shoot her moose like there was NO tomorrow. Even out of my control, I felt like I took that from her. All I can do is hope I get a moose permit in the near future and I will give up any chance possible to give her the shot. When we got back, I did find pieces of the bullet rim inside the gun Lori-Ann was using.
After I let up on my sputtering a bit, I looked up to see the moose, but it was nowhere in sight. Paul questioned where it went and hoped it didn’t keep walking into the taller trees and keep going further and further away. This, despite knowing it dropped. I confirmed the drop, but we both took our eyes off it once it went out of sight at ground level. His sigh of relief told me he was glad I was so sure of my words. I reassured him that it wasn’t going anywhere. It was down, and not to worry.
Finding the Moose
Paul slowly meandered toward the moose the best he could while I got my tag, my license, my phone, and my little pocket camera. However, after I crossed a wet ditch and walked a couple dozen feet did I realize I hadn’t filled out my tag OR my permit as I was supposed to, so had to backtrack, find a pen, sit, and fill things out properly. Finally, I was on my way up the hill to find the moose.
Paul was well behind me, and ventured to the right a bit more than I thought he should in order to get to the moose, but I figured, being disabled, he was probably walking where the going was a bit easier. I was quick to find the moose trail and follow that, and called to Paul to let him know I was following moose tracks. I knew the beast wouldn’t be off that “trail” by much, and it would lead me straight to the downed animal. I was right, but what a hell hole! Moose have long strides and very long legs. What he mindlessly stepped over, I was climbing over or crawling under.
I was first to see the moose, and called to Paul, and then pointed ahead of me. The eyes of the moose were open and fixed. That was all I needed to confirm his death. I yelled to Paul, “That isn’t Spike”. I did not have to turn around to see Paul’s expression. His gasp followed by silence showed his expression so clearly inside my head. I further stated, “He has palms”. To this, Paul let out a big sigh of relief, “Phew!” Only then did I realize that he wondered if he shot a cow, when I had a bull only permit. We both laughed, but were very thankful at the same time that Paul did not make such a careless mistake as that! Paul was still well down the hill, and I did not waste any time turning around to help him. Getting to him wasn’t easy, and helping him up over that hill wasn’t easy either, but we pushed along the best we could. Eventually, both of us were standing a few feet from the beast with me in front of Paul.
As we stood there for a few seconds waiting for Paul to get over the shock of the above, “That isn’t Spike” comment, I reminded him that we needed to rotate the legs a bit to end any nerve pulses that would send the legs thrashing about ….thrashing at us. Clearly as yesterday, I remember watching as my cousin Rodney neared a downed moose and he was kicked in the knee! He held onto it and hobbled around for a bit wincing in pain. It is a vision I will never forget.
I went to put the tag on the moose and Paul reminded me that the tag had to be in his name because he was the actual shooter. I hadn’t thought of that, so my next trip down, I had to get the second tag for Paul to fill out.
Paul stayed with the moose while I trekked down the hill to get the knives, sharpener, some rope, cleaning gloves, and a couple long cable ratchet straps. I took a different route that time and I wished I hadn’t. My goal was to save some time, so I cut across the chopping at an angle. What a mistake that was! Everything was still frosty and slippery. I don’t know how many times my foot or feet slid off a slick log or rock, or how many times I landed on my butt either! Going downhill, gravity was both friend and foe!
Once at the truck, I put the cleaning stuff into a sack with ropes to go over the shoulders so I’d have both hands to help prod me along. Heading back up that hill was much harder the second time. I was tired already. We had gone to bed the night before without eating supper simply because we were not hungry. That morning like all others, we grabbed a cup of coffee and not eat anything for breakfast, so by that time, we were already approaching 24 hours without food in our bellies, and boy did that show up in my energy level, but that was not the only reason.
After a few stops along the way to rest, I was standing over the moose and beside Paul. It was time to figure out just how we were going to go about things. However, there was no time for much of a discussion. We needed to clean the beast and get it cooling off as fast as possible. The beast was hot and would retain his heat well! That is something we had to fix in a hurry!
The temperature was still below freezing, and there was still frost on the ground. The winds were strong and the air was damp. Combined, hiking up a hill or not, it was cold. That damp cold “cut” through our bodies, and burned my tired lungs. Paul was wearing a balaclava, and that warmed the air just enough not to bother him. I, on the other hand, covered my mouth with my hand when I faced the winds.
After a few quick pictures with the moose, we strapped a front and back leg to some small trees several feet away. This was the only way we could clean the beast without one of us having to hold the legs open for the other to work. The legs were too heavy for that anyways. Between Paul and me, we worked at gutting the moose. When he was in one area, I quickly moved to another. I could move around much easier than Paul, so I tried to convenience him before myself. At times, we worked together. At times, he lost his knife in or under the gut pile, and I helped him search for that, too. Together … we made a great team, talking, and examining things as we went without wasting any time. We were efficient. We didn’t miss a beat. The heat of the beast and our movements warmed us, and that bit of warmth helped us move more efficiently, too.
In order to cut away some of the innards, our entire arms were inside the beast up to our shoulders. Even my head was in there from time to time trying to see what I could not feel. My hat started to fall off once, so I had to stop and wiggle it off onto an antler without using my hands. It is wool and shaped, so it cannot be washed. Paul’s hat, in contrast, can be washed a gazillion times, so I wasted no time pulling it off his head with my “red” hands and hung that on the “rack”, too. I knew then, I wanted to save the antlers and make myself a new (another) hat rack. Ima Hat Lovah! While Paul filled out his tag, I counted 12 points on the antlers, but if the measurements are the same with moose as they are with deer, then I can’t count the three that were just under an inch.
The Long Drag
Once the beast was cleaned and heart salvaged, Paul and I slowly worked our way back down to the truck to get some cables and ropes. I knew to stay on the trail that time! Thankfully, by then, the sun had come out a bit and it started to melt the frost, so it was not nearly as difficult to descend as it was the first time. I was very thankful of that for not only Paul’s sake, but for my own, too. Last thing we needed was one of us to get hurt!
Paul fed a rope through the ¼” spool of tightly wound, 250 foot, steel cable that weighed 32 pounds. In my back sack, I had two 100-foot bundles of rope, duct tape, a socket wrench, heavy hooks, and I think three or four heavy duty ratchet tie down straps ranging from 1 ½” wide to 3” wide, and I don’t know what else fit in that sack, but combined it was all heavy. Paul insisted on trying to carry the spool of cable, which upset me because I knew he couldn’t. But, I let him try. He made it further than I thought he would, but after a few feet, I handed him the lighter 100 foot, long, 3/16”, plastic covered cable and took the heavy spool. He had no choice in the matter. I could carry the heavier cable easier than he could. There was no easy way to carry that spool, and it was a struggle for me, too.
As we slowly made our way back up the hill, I was dragging as much as Paul was. I felt bad, because I knew how totally whipped I was by carrying the added weight, and helping him up the hill, too, but in comparison, I knew I had it much easier than Paul. I helped him around the many obstacles, and he helped as well, even if it were to say, “it is slippery here”, or “watch this log, it looks loose”, or “There is a stump here. Take a rest”. Amazingly with my help, he was able to make it up to the moose twice. Something that neither of us thought possible at any time, especially given the bedridden, liquid diet, situation he was in just over a month earlier when he had a bad health flare.
Paul still had on his balaclava which helped keep the air warmer going into his lungs, but I wasn’t wearing anything over my face still. My lungs burned more and more, and my body was so very tired, my legs unsteady. Many times, I had to lean over and put my hands on my knees and gasp for air. We were up in elevation, but not that high. It was the cold winds, lack of breakfast, lack of supper, age, and weight, etc. that “beat” me up. I felt very old. I know I am a strong woman, but my strength comes from using the same muscles frequently. I was not used to hiking up such an incline with all that added weight, pushing and pulling, on top of helping Paul, too. Plain and simple, that hill kicked my ass, but dammit, now I know my heart is as strong as my determination! However, both fade with age.
Finally, we were close enough to the moose that I could gladly set the cable down and start unspooling it. That was such a relief! We tied a big rope to the antlers and around the nose, and then tied that to the 100 foot cable. We used duct tape to reinforce each added section. That added support and mental reassurance that things wouldn’t slip or become detached. Those duct taped sections was easier on the mind as we slowly descended down the hill adding one section of cable at a time.
Across the distance, we used two cables, that short rope around the antlers and nose, and three of our longest ratchet tow straps we had, and we were still about 40 yards short! We had more rope, yes, but it was stretchy and we didn’t want to use that unless we absolutely had to. We had a few more ratchet tow straps, but they were old. Some didn’t even ratchet any more. We could have used those, but we had to be careful with them. Together, we knew that improvising on the fly was better than gambling with those. We had a come-along with a cable attached to that, but no place to secure the tool itself, so that did us no good.
We stopped just long enough to brain storm different avenues of thought. On my way up the hill the third time, I crossed over some logs that were unshakable without question, so I suggested we hook the block and tackle up to that. It would mean changing the angle of the drag, but Paul agreed it should work. That thing would even give a bulldozer a pause! We hoped the block and tackle system, along with the portable winch, had enough cable to reach the truck! However, it meant that I had to back track up hill to work the cables over many stumps, and small trees. The process was slow, but we had no other choice.
With skepticism, and a lot of hope, we went to the truck to retrieve the portable winch. The old logging road was only a single vehicle wide, and with Paul’s guidance, he guided my numerous truck shimmies until it was perpendicular to the road. We had NO choice but to totally block the road as both front and back tires took up its entire width with promise to get stuck if we moved so much as a few inches in either direction.
We were quick to hook up the portable winch, and when Paul was ready to hook the cables to the battery, I started that long hike up the hill once again. However, before I took more than a few steps, we discussed hand signals by using my orange hunting hat so it would be easier to see across the distance. I turned and started back up the hill.
My lungs burned more quickly, and my bent-over resting stops were more frequent. As I followed the cables up the hill, I used them to help prod me along. I not only made sure the cable was not hung up on anything, but I also tried to clear a smoother pathway for the moose, too. I moved logs, pushed over rotting stumps, kicked down humps of built up natural debris and pulled any protruding roots that would catch the moose as it passed. All this kept me moving, and in a sense, gave me a bit of a rest; however, it was still an extremely slow, laborious process …nothing short of exhausting.
Once at the top, I waved my hat. When the wind died down a bit I could ever so quietly hear the winch working across the distance. It took a couple of minutes or more before all lines were taut enough to start pulling at the moose. First, however, the moose had to stretch, too! Several minutes went by and the moose had only moved a few short feet. I waved my hat to Paul. He stopped the winch. I had to go investigate to see if the moose was hung up somewhere and I just couldn’t see it from where I stood, because surely, the winch should work faster than that! We had only used the winch twice (both for moose), but for short distances, nothing like how we used it that day.
I was disappointed. There was nothing slowing the moose at all except for its own weight! I glanced across the expanse to where Paul was and estimated at least an hour to get to the base of the hill. “At least!” I gasped, then sighed openly and honestly, “That’s too long!” I ended up walking a head of the moose for a few feet making sure nothing was in the way. I wanted a faster descent. We needed a faster descent! I moved more logs, rocks, more stumps, and anything else possible before I waved my hat once again for Paul to start the winch back up. My efforts paid off, but not nearly as much as I hoped.
A few times, the legs would get stuck on a stump and I’d have to wave my hat once again. I did not trust the cables. If one were to snap, that would be too dangerous to be near, so I made sure I stayed far enough to the side to be safe. It made for more leg work, but it was safer work. When I could, I stood behind trees and stumps, but sometimes, I stood on top of them to get a better view of the moose, and so Paul could see me better, too. Once in a while, the nose would catch on a half-buried log, or the rope would slip off the nose itself. Sometimes, too, an antler would get stuck on a tree root or stump and stop the moose “dead in its tracks” (if you don’t mind the play on words). That is when I’d also get stuck.
The beast was getting pulled downhill so in order to “unstuck” the antler, nose, or legs, I had to wave my hat and hope Paul saw it quick enough before the winch wedged it tighter. Then, I’d need slack in the cable before I could begin to work on freeing the beast. That meant pulling the cable across the distance until I had enough slack to pull on the antlers. Many attempts were made each time the moose was stuck, and was I ever thankful that I am a strong woman!
I was tired. The winds were still whipping, and on top of that, the wind carried sleet with it that stung my face. Despite that, I was happy for the cold winds and sleet because the moose needed help cooling down. Unfortunately, the sleet didn’t last long. It had turned to rain and I was getting wet. My last trip to the bottom of the hill, I had stripped off all my top layers and put on the thinnest layer I had. I did not want to get sweaty. Sometimes, it is better to be cold and have warm dry clothes to put back on later. That thin layer was mighty cold in the winds, sleet, and rain, no matter how much energy I was exerting.
I wanted nothing more than to grab onto an antler and walk with the very taut cable to speed things up a bit, but I couldn’t. Instead, I found another stump to stand upon. However, when I did that, sometimes, I dropped out of sight of Paul, so I had to be careful where I rested, where and how I stood, too. At one point, I glanced at the ground and saw a cluster of nearly dehydrated bunch berries. My first source of food in 24 hours and it was very welcomed, even if they were shriveled up, chewy, and flavorless. Even then, my mind thought back to early man, and I remember asking quizzically as I quickly glanced around for more goodies, "How in hell did early man survive?" Then, I looked down at the beastly moose, and said, "That is how".
Every once in a while, too, Paul would have to remove one of the straps and attached the portable winch to another one. That meant having to replace the duct tape, too. Meanwhile, I’d take advantage of that stop time and walk ahead of the moose to clear away any natural debris that may slow the drag time. When I saw that Paul was ready, I walked back up to the moose, and we’d continue the process.
Sometimes, I would wave my hat for Paul to stop when the moose came to a steeper part of the hill, and I’d tug on the antlers in hopes to help gravity a bit more. Sometimes, it was a waste of time and effort, not to mention the energy I did not have, but other times, despite my fatigue, I was able to move the moose faster than the winch could on its own. I admit, only by a few inches, but it was still faster than the winch!
After a while, Paul stopped the winch because it was getting hot. Last thing he wanted to do at that point was to have that mess up and break so we could not use it at all. Slow is one thing, broken is quiet another! We still had a LONG, LONG way to go! As it was, he left the truck running to help keep the extra battery charged.
Eventually, when the moose was about 3/4 the way down the hill, we were down to just the two cables, the 250 foot and the 100 foot. We had to be done using the portable winch for now. It was over heating and we needed to save it to use for later when we needed to pull the moose onto the back of the truck itself. It was time to switch things up a bit, so Paul threaded a cable end through the block and tackle and duck taped the hell out of it onto a three inch tow strap. Luckily, when we pulled the cable taut it reached the road! PHEW! I went down to the truck where Paul helped me shimmy it another gazillion times before I was able to drive to the tow rope and hook it onto the ball hitch of the truck.
I was tired. I didn’t have the energy to walk around a muddy water spot in the ditch as I had done so many times. Instead, that time, I took a short cut and walked straight through it, sinking up to my calves in mud. I groaned at the mistake. Walking was tough enough, now I was walking through deep mud that took away even more energy? I was not impressed with myself, but knew fatigue would make me do it again in a heartbeat. I am not a big fan of mud as written about in a previous blog entry as to why, so to some, this helps reiterate my fatigue.
Once that was hooked up, Paul drove the truck while I went back up to the moose. Using the truck via block and tackle and cable worked very well. The moose was moving much faster, but it was a less controlled movement. Despite Paul creeping the truck along, it was still much faster than the winch! I had a hard time keeping up with the woodland debris, so I had to wave my hat and then walk a head far enough so Paul could hear me yell, “Go a bit slower. I don’t want it to get hung up.” I don’t know how many miles my feet traveled to and from the moose that day, but it was a lot.
The new strategy worked very well, though it kept me waving my hat more often, moving debris at a much faster pace, and that just added to my fatigue, but the moose was moving and we were making progress! That increased speed over the portable winch decreased our stress levels greatly, or at least it did mine. Moose hold their body heat very well, and we had already been several hours since the kill. Every chance I could, I opened up the beasts legs the best I could, sometimes propping up a leg with thick stick, but the second the moose started moving again, the stick would fall and the gap closed quickly. Air circulation in the cavity was at least some help, even if it did nothing more than allow the winds to push out the heat. Every little bit helped, and I did not consider that time or effort as a loss.
Finally, we were close enough to the road so Paul could move the block and tackle closer as well. However, there was no anchor point any closer to the road that the one he was already using, so he had to cross the road and try to find one over on that side. He found a six or eight inch softwood stump that was still alive and solid in the ground. The rest of the tree was still alive though it had fallen over and rested mostly upon the ground. However, once the cables pulled taut, we heard squeaking and pops, until finally the block and tackle broke through the stump itself! Apparently, it wasn’t as solid as he thought!
By now, I was walking back and forth from the road, to the truck with the tow strap and then back to the moose to make sure it didn’t get hung up. I suggested he try securing to an eight inch live white birch, but that was further down the road and that meant dragging the moose further, not to mention changing the angle of drag again, which required more work and more time. Time was not our friend that day!
I suggested a four-inch diameter cedar or spruce tree along the woods line. It was already leaning the opposite direction of pull, so I figured it may hold up. I was wrong. After only a few feet, with a shallow root system probably due to the bedrock beneath, the tree toppled over as if a bulldozer was behind it.
Paul, tired, and frustrated, decided to use the white birch after all. He was struggling to walk, but he was stubborn and wouldn’t let me do that part of the job. While he moved the block and tackle yet again, I worked the cable over more stumps and small trees to get a straight line for this new angle. I decided to let Paul be and let him do what he needed to do no matter how long it took him. I figured the least I could do was walk down to the road, and then, to the truck, stretch the lines straight and then back the truck up to where Paul would enter the road. That helped, but just getting into the truck at that point was an extreme chore for him. His determination was unwavering! I was quickly reminded of our friend Sherri whom is also disabled. She, too, could shoot from a vehicle, and loves to hunt! I thought of her a lot on this hunting trip. Some people just impress the hell out of me! She is one of them.
Luckily, the birch held steadfast! WOO HOO! However, now the moose was approaching a series of wet holes. Last thing I wanted at that point was to have the moose cavity fill up with standing ditch water and contaminate the meat inside. Luckily, the first wet spot was shallow, but there was a 15 inch embankment on the road side of it that the moose had to “climb”, and that meant that I had to help it climb.
Again, I waved my hat for Paul to stop. I yelled, ‘You can only go a few feet and then the nose is going to dig its nose into an embankment. Pay attention to my hat, I need you to stop quickly when you see it.’ He replied that he understood. I waved my hat to start the motion and then after about six feet of moose movement, I waved it again. Paul stopped abruptly. I straddled the moose neck and pulled up on the antlers to help give the nose some lift. I yelled for Paul to go, but he was waiting for me to get out of the way of the cable, and then, my hat movement. He never heard me yell, and there was no hat movement, so I yelled again, “GO”, but nothing. The moose head was getting very heavy by then. I finally let the antlers drop out of my hands and then yelled to Paul again. He got out of the truck to see what I wanted. I told him that I could not wave my hat because I needed both hands to lift the moose head. Our next attempt was successful. It worked! I could lift the nose up out of the water just enough for the moose nose to clear the height of the embankment. PHEW!
A few feet later, I had to wave my hat for another stop. The moose nose had wedged up against a four foot log hidden in the tall dead grass. That tangled grass was tough and acted like a harness that held the moose at bay. There was no pulling up the root system. There was no breaking the grass or folding it over, either. That was tough stuff, and I had no knife in my pocket! After a minute or so, with the grass worked free of its nose and antlers, I could finally lift the moose head. Only this time, I hoped to use that log as an aid! If I could work the nose and head just right, I hoped it would catch the log, and not only help lift the moose, but help roll it along underneath him to do avoid the next pool of water from getting into the cavity. Thankfully, the log was at the waters’ edge and not tangled in the grasses, too. It was a great risk, but it worked perfectly. By the time the log stopped rolling with the moose, it was at the cavity and it gave the moose just enough lift to keep water out! WOO HOO! I remember graciously telling the log, “Thank You”, and then looking at the grass with much less appreciation.
Paul kept pulling the moose up out of the ditch and into the road with the log rolling the entire length of the moose and coming to a rest half way up the ditch. It took several hours, but we finally had the beast in the road! WOO HOO! What an accomplishment! With a sigh of relief and great sense of a job well done, we were happy, but had no time to rejoice in anything other than thought. Well, maybe we did smile, and even grin a bit. I know we both let out a huge sigh of relief if nothing else.
Pulling the Moose onto the Truck
It wasn’t long before I had the ramp set up with a section of rugged, slippery, and heavy tarp from an old portable garage. I figured it would help drag the moose when we got it, but it was much too bulky and heavy to lug up that hillside, so instead, I thought it would help the moose go up the ramp a bit easier and with less drag. If it helped, we couldn’t tell!
We had used the ramp before on our both our son’s and Paul’s moose hunts and it worked well. However, for their moose hunts, the ramp sagged in the middle and prompted me to put a cooler underneath for support. Knowing this, we brought an old cooler just for that purpose this time, too. However, before we left camp, I decided to take a pressure treated 2x6 and screw it diagonally on the bottom side of the ramp to offer more support that way. The cooler was a “just in case” this time. We did end up using it, but not quite where or how we expected!
The ramp never sagged at all, so the cooler did no good where I placed it. I was happy to see this, but had a feeling that we’d be using it otherwise just the same so I kept it where it was. We lined the ramp up with the moose and then strategically placed his head and antlers on the ramp to give the winch a head start. Even so, the winch struggled to pull the moose, and it wasn’t long before we knew we had to help the winch as much as possible or it would burn up. This, despite the winch pull capacity of 2,000 pounds! However, we had to wait until the entire moose length was on the ramp before we put any ideas to work. I grabbed a bottle jack and a pointed spade, and Paul jacked the ramp up enough for me to move the cooler closer to the base of the ramp an inch at a time as the ramp raised. Even at that gentler slope, the winch struggled, and we knew we had to help it as much as possible. It would be a shame to have to quarter the moose up when it was so close to the truck bed! The thought of that prodded us to continue thinking outside the box a bit more freely!
As the moose inched up the ramp, the weight bearing part of the ramp rested more on the tailgate and Paul was nervous about that. That was a lot of weight put on it, so I lifted up the base of the ramp and with my foot, I slid the cooler down to the end. As the winch worked hard, and so did we. I raised the ramp end a bit more each time until I finally went back to that ditch to retrieve that four foot log. Paul placed that underneath as well while I lifted on the back end of the ramp even higher. I was amazed how easily the ramp lifted despite my fatigue. Once again, I was thankful of my strength. Living off the grid, lifting is what I am used to. I’m just not used to lifting the “lighter” end of a ramp with moose upon it! Unfortunately, advancement up the ramp was much slower than we anticipated. We had to keep stopping the winch due to overheating and slipping.
Finally, I got behind the moose and pushed its ass with my shoulder with all my might. That helped, but at 5’6”, I was only tall enough to do that just once. We hooked a three inch wide tow strap around the antlers and I crawled up onto the bed of the truck, stood next to the cab with both tow strap ends over my shoulders and wrapped around my hands. When Paul started the winch back up, I pulled like hell using all my body weight, strength, and gravity. Thankfully, my boots gripped the truck bed liner so I had added pull that way, too. When we needed the winch to cool down, I attempted to pull the moose on my own, but that was like trying to pull a bulldozer. I couldn’t budge it!
Between me and the winch, we could only pull about six inches at a time before I had to drop the straps and take a rest. The straps, though wide and soft, were too much pressure across the tops of my shoulders that I felt my shoulder blades press downward toward my back each time. I was afraid I would injure them. As it was, I quickly felt my right shoulder blade from where I cracked it a few years ago when I flipped a snowmobile. That ached something awful and each time I pulled that strap, the ache worsened. I actually had visions of it breaking under the immense pressure. I told Paul that it felt like it did while it was healing, a deep, dull, painful ache. Despite that, I had to keep pulling with all my might because the beast was not fully up onto the truck yet!
I don’t know how many times I had to pull with such force and through such aches, but after all that work going up and down that hill up, until that point, my body was tired, and I was getting more and more dehydrated, too. The cold winds only sped up the dehydration process … as well as my fatigue. My body was going into muscle spasms (“Charlie Horses”). My calves were first to cramp up and then my fingers, and then the spasms started traveling. I kept pulling only stopping after every few inches or until I thought the spasms were to the point of tearing muscle.
Eventually, the moose was up far enough so Paul could go to the other end of the ramp and lift upward even more, resting the base of the ramp on the top of his cane to help keep the ramp more level without his own fatigue interfering. Knowing he was doing this gave me more determination to pull harder, but in reality, I could not be pulling any harder than I already was. My effort was maxed out. My body was maxed out. My brain was nearing that maxed out point, too. I was all but down for the count, and I was once again very thankful that despite my weight, my heart is still very, very strong! I had reached a new level of determination. One that could not come only from will alone, but from experience …this experience.
We Still Had to Pack up
After the moose was on the truck, we still had lots of work to do. We had to pick up the cables, block and tackle, the tow straps, and then figure out how to put a stack of stuff around the moose, too! We were tired, but our bodies were in constant motion. Our bodies moved like a bike slowing down after a long coast downhill and at the base of yet another hill. Even moving our bodies meant work. It was literally, “one foot in front of the other” with the focus not on each step, but getting the moose to the tagging station and butchers as soon as possible. Seven hours and 45 minutes had elapsed!
Though we never stopped moving, the hours passed by quickly, yet seemingly so, so, so slowly as we knew the moose needed to be cooled off at a faster pace than it was. Cold outside or not, the beast was still warm! I was thankful that Paul could rest as much as possible while using the winch. I was more than willing to do the leg work.
With my fingers cramping around the steering wheel at times, and immense pressure still felt upon my shoulders and blade, I had to use my wrists to drive and weave around holes and bumps in the road, not only for me, but for Paul, too. We wasted no time getting back to our campsite, and unloaded everything except the moose, filled a couple bottles of water for us to gulp down, and put a couple of blocks of ice in the cavity of the moose to help cool it down faster. Then, we were on our way to the nearest tagging station one hour 45 minutes away …a whopping 39 miles away. Luckily, after we got off the older, narrower, slower crawling woods roads, the driving was much faster.
The Tagging Statin & Butchers
At the tagging station, Paul and I declined to get the moose weighed. There were three other vehicles with moose, and if all took their time taking pictures of the moose hanging on the scale, we’d be sitting there longer than we wanted. We let the people take their time for photo ops by friends and family. It was something that we were not interested in doing. The moose had to get to the butchers as soon as possible to start getting cooled off at a faster pace. Driving down a cold road for several more miles helped, and we hoped it helped enough to prevent loss of meat!
At the butchers, we quickly found that their narrow driveway was lined with trucks with moose on the back. I got out and walked up to a group of men and spoke to them through the darkness. The man next to me turned and answered my question, “Do you know who I talk to?” He pointed to the man taking what looked like a chainsaw to a moose to split it in half down the middle while it was hanging. He said something like, ‘He’s over there’. There was no way to talk to the butcher. So, instead, I asked the man a few more questions. He said there were three moose in front of us and he suggested that if we drank, to turn around, head back into town for a few brewskies before returning. I thanked the man for his time and answers. Reluctantly, I’d have to relay the news to Paul.
At that time, we considered going to another butcher, but if people were finally getting their moose after the first cold hunting day, then that butcher was probably backed up, too. Besides, the next butcher was a long ways away. Our day was already long enough. The second we decided to stay put and wait, was the second another vehicle pulled in behind us. The butcher had called in for some help.
As we sat and waited, I went to message our kids when I heard a woman approach Paul’s side of the truck and speak. They spoke for a couple of minutes, and then I decided to get out of the truck and go around and chat with the woman, too. Her name is Tammy. It was her husband that answered my questions. Their son, Dillan, just got his first moose and they were the vehicle in front of us. They were very pleasant and we both enjoyed talking with them for a while. It was dark, so I would not recognize either of them if they came to the door and knocked today. I remember that as I was talking to her, I was so tired I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight. I’d start to say something and lose focus and words mid-sentence. I apologized for my raspy voice, fatigue, and inept conversation, as I told her it had been a very long, hard day breathing cold air deep into my lungs. I do remember her comforting and reassuring smile though. I didn’t have to say anything else. She understood.
Another man came to talk to Paul and took down our butchering wants. I was not present for the conversation, because I was on the back of the truck untying the moose to be hung. I did straddle the moose antlers, leaned over the truck roof and asked if he could save the tongue for me. Without much of a pause he said he could. I’m sure that is not a common request, and continued with, “I want to try it”. After the moose was hung, the butcher said it was time for his supper (and I believe time to get warm, too). His day was a long one as well. I grinned in appreciation of his fatigue. That was something I clearly understood.
Finally a Meal
As soon as we could, we were heading back toward our campsite. Fatigued or not, we had to eat something. It had been almost a day and a half without so much as a nibble of anything except for a small cluster of dehydrated bunchberries ….Paul a couple sticks of gum. I cooked up some thawed chicken strips. Paul had his in sandwiches, I had mine without. He ate his in bed, I ate mine as I was getting ready for bed. There was no way I had the energy to take notes on my phone that evening. That could wait. It had to wait. Paul was already in bed and his body was beyond fatigued, and beyond hurting. I was still struggling with muscle spasms in my neck and fingers mostly. My shoulder blade ached and had me concerned with damage there, but I also knew it was not a muscular ache, it was the ache of a previously broken bone that had been worked too hard …put to the ultimate test just as both Paul and I were. We both said we hoped that we could sleep in that next morning. We also hoped that our bodies would allow us to sleep!
Packing in the Rain, Moose Hunters
Next morning came and the weather was wet, cold, and miserable. Just the same, we had to pack up after a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast. Paul woke and told me we left the block and tackle up in the woods where we got the moose, so before we left, we wanted to make sure to go get that. While sipping coffee, a couple of trucks went by at a slow crawl. We waved as they did. Not more than a few minutes passed and we heard gunshots. We smiled and hoped that meant they got their moose!
We waited over an hour before we headed that way to get the tools we left behind. This would give the hunters time to get out of the road so we could pass. Within a mile and a half we met up with the hunters and sure enough, they had shot a moose beside the road and with the help of five people, they already had it gutted and on the back of the truck! The convenience of more people ….and a close range shot makes all the difference in the world! They had driven a very long ways to find another area to hunt as they were not having any luck seeing moose either. We were happy for them, as it was obvious they had put in a lot of time and effort in their moose hunt, too. That was certainly something that we appreciate …someone that works for what they get!
It was a long trek home, but the truck certainly appreciated the faster speeds, and so did we.
It has been 2 ½ weeks since the moose harvest. Paul’s body ached and hurt for many days after our return. He is always in pain, but needed to adjust his meds for a week or so just the same. I woke the following day with a normal voice, lungs without irritation, and no lameness in the least. My body did not feel tired either. However, I did sleep for 8-12 hours a night for the next week. Otherwise, my shoulders and that one shoulder blade still feels the pressure of those straps, but all is good. Dragging my deer, if I should get so lucky to get one, will seem like lugging a gallon of milk in comparison to that mooosie …and that’s a good thing!
Game Camera Failure
Paul had set up a game camera the day we set up moose camp, but due to its location, it tilted back and captured more of the sky, the constant flapping of the kitchen canopy in the never-ending winds, and wavering dead grass between the camera and our camp set up. The camera chipped filled up quickly and captured a gazillion pictures of the same repetitive photos. However, I am quite glad that the camera angel did not capture us walking outside during the night time hours to pee in the nude. Well, we did have shoes upon our feet. Unfortunately, the chip filled up before the moose walked past our truck, or the one that walked down the road. Nor did it capture the bear that visited us, or me chasing around that mouse. All is good, but damn, I wished I had seen those moose, bear, and coyote!
Weight of the Beast
As stated, we never bothered to weigh the moose. One man, in the darkness, as he looked over the bed of the truck, estimated it to be about 660 pounds. Most otherwise estimated it to be 700 – 750, with some saying 800 pounds. I am comfortable with a 725-750 pound range, but really ….what does it matter? If we were trophy hunters, or talkers for a better story, I’d go with the 800, but that’s not within either of us.
Things to Remember
When you think you have enough ropes or cables, bring more. Cables are heavier, but more dependable.
When you see a spent bullet casing that is gouged after firing it, take another shot to ensure the gun will still work properly.
When you are not hungry / thirsty, eat / drink anyway, or bring food /drinks with you as you travel.
Why Didn’t We Use the Heater More?
That was a question asked by more than one person. The Mr. Buddy Heater runs off one or two propane cylinders. As it puts out heat, it also puts out moisture. In a small enclosure, though gaps around the clear plastic were numerous and obvious, our breathing put off moisture as well. Moisture means a damp interior. That meant damp bedding, damp clothing, damp walls and ceiling. As it was, we had frosty icicles on the ceiling each morning. When things are damp, you feel the cold more, and it is harder to warm up, even inside a sleeping bag that keeps one warm down to zero degrees. It was easier to be cold and dry(er), than cold and wet(ter). You have to make careful decisions when sleeping as we were.
We Had a Squatter! - Knowing we were going to be gone for two weeks, we had a Squatter, and her three dogs take over our home in Palmyra. When we came out of the woods and finally had a cell signal, Paul had three complaints of barking dogs and mention of a strange vehicle in our yard. Thanks to our daughter, a great neighbor, and a few people private messaging me, we learned who it was. Good people offered any information they could as well. At first, we thought she was “just” housing her dogs in our detached garage, but we quickly learned otherwise. We were able to contact the woman and told her she needed to get herself, her dogs, and her belongings out of our house and garage. We were very kind and generous to allow three days to do so. We could have had her arrested on the spot instead. However, if we had known that she, too was living there, and after learning of the mess she left behind, we would have sent over the police in a heartbeat! Our daughter cleaned up some of the mess, to include trash, shit and piss in the garage(s), and house, too. As a vendetta for making her move out, she, and/or her dogs, pissed in several bags of clothes that did not belong to us, but allowed a family member to store in our garage until the following summer. Those had to be taken to the dump, as they were not salvageable!