Moose, sighted from Michel’s tree perch, range approx 100 yds – too far (pic courtesy : Michel Gagnon, colleague at work and partner in hunt)
Have you tried moose? Tastes a lot like horse meat, though a bit more tender. Prepared rare, with fried farm picked potatoes and tomatoes on the side and a jug of Rickard’s Red to wash all that down, a moose steak will bowl you over.
First you got to hunt one of course and in that, the Canadian wilderness affords you ample opportunity.
Moose is the largest member of the deer family and a 1000-lb adult buck is not uncommon. The largest I ever got was a 700-lb King Kong with huge spiked racks on both sides of the head. You know the racks as antlers on deer. While antlers look like large dendritic twigs with branches, a moose’s rack is flat, like a pan with spikes. As for size, deer are way smaller. A whitetail or caribou would rarely go over 350-lbs.
Another thing – moose usually graze in pairs and not family units or herds and therefore you miss one and you can pretty much abandon the hunt for the day. Deer on the other hand appear in large family units of maybe ten – twennie animals, consisting of a coupla bucks, four – five females and six – seven kids and it’s a bit easier not ta miss. And caribou? You’ll find caribou in the tundra, roaming in large sluggishly moving, tightly packed herds of five hundred or more and you have to be a raging schmuck to miss one of them.
That’s how the quota system works – on availability. You’re allowed one moose per two hunters, one deer per hunter and four caribou per hunter, on any given season. Just as well, since a moose carcass really does need two strong guys to handle, cut, clean, load into the truck and all. Hunting moose isn’t meant for men with back and shoulder problems.
Aside from the size and the antlers, moose and deer have similar character traits. The males are suspicious and jumpy. It takes a lot ta make a moose appear in your line of sight and draw him close enough. You got ta have the patience to pin one down and put a round into him. A male won’t venture into your field of vision unless it’s dusk or early dawn. The females on the other hand are more – ‘bindaas’ (that’s Indian for happy-go-lucky). You might catch a doe with her kids sauntering around in full view, in the mid-morning or early afternoon.
Doesn’t mean you can kill a female or the kids though. It depends upon what the permit says. If you are only allowed a male and you end up shooting a doe, you won’t get arrested since killing an animal in season is not a crime. But you can kiss your hunting permit goodbye, along with your precious $2000 Sako .306, your gun license, your gear and – if the ranger has had a fight with his missus that morning – even the pickup truck you drove in on, along with a mandatory fine of around $5000.
But don’t let’s think of what negative things might befall you. This is moose season – time for some fun, time ta replenish your basement freezer with a year’s stock of moose steak and ribs.
Assuming you do have the right permit, it’s way easier to kill a female but then the moment you kill one, your deer or moose season is over for the year and you got ta go home. That’s no fun. It is the challenge of the hunt, the back and forth ‘jugalbandhi’ of those mating calls – the genuine rasping bark-like grunts from the moose, against your doe-in-heat calls ‘khra khra khra’ produced by the ‘Deer Calls Pro’ app you have on your Iphone – astonishingly real ovulating-doe sounds played through those tiny camouflaged bluetooth-ready loudspeakers that you tucked away at vantage locations throughout the clearing where you have your tree stand.
There’s another method – genuine, doe pee ($15 a 100ml bottle). The stench is overpowering. You could sprinkle a few drops on the ground in the middle of the clearing, but I have noted that it doesn’t work with moose buck. To them it’s like, “Oh, yeah? So, some bitch peed, doesn’t mean she’s horny, right?” Deer bucks get turned on by doe pee – moose, no. So, remember to keep your Iphone charged and make sure the speakers didn’t get soaked in last night’s downpour.
Remember I said that your season is over once you shot one animal? It is a bit complicated actually. There are rules for everything, beginning with the exact dates when the season begins and ends, the categories of weapons you are allowed ta use, the hunting license, the firearm license, the zones where you are allowed to hunt, the animals you are allowed to hunt in those zones and the period of the year when you are allowed to hunt specific species and so on. You don’t just heft your Beretta .335, load it into your pickup truck and drive off with a squeal of tyres and spray of gravel.
I could elaborate on each rule but I would urge you ta access the 10-post series on my epic battle to kill a large whitetail I had named Zorba, after Anthony Quinn (link given below). It’s all mentioned there in greater detail –
Moose season closes this weekend, but hang on – it’s only for the crossbow guys. Gun season starts end October. You’ll be surprised just how many hunters in Canada are crossbow enthusiasts. All the guys I know (including yours truly) who hunt with rifles also hunt with crossbows and they really love it.
A rifle hunt is an easy hunt. If you’ve had practice, even a $250 Winchester .306 with scope can put bullet in a whitetail’s brain in 500 yards. Kinda spoils the fun of the chase. But a crossbow is another mother. You have ta get the moose within 60 yards, coz that’s the maximum range. And then you have only one chance, since the ‘thung’ of the string and the ‘thwock’ of the latch are loud enough ta scare the dude away, unless the wind is strong and you happen to be downwind. Besides, a crossbow is a bitch ta load, takes a lot of strength, even with those little winches that crossbows come with these days.
So I left my Lapua Magnum .306 home and brought the TenPoint Vapor along. You can kill moose at 60 yards with a Vapor. When you press the trigger, the latch releases the arrow with a ‘thung!’ The arrow leaps out in a blur, covering 50 feet every second. I use a SlickTrick Magnum broadhead (ie: the arrowhead) – razor sharp, made from the same blue titanium alloy that jet engine blades are made of. It will slice through bone, arteries and tissue like they were made out of butter.
With a crossbow, where you hit the moose is important if you want a swift painless kill. If you get him in the neck or even the upper torso, the bolt will pass right through and bury itself upto the fletching (the rear fins) in the snow beyond. That’s not a good thing – it won’t down the moose immediately and there’s no way you can load another arrow into the crossbow, take aim, adjust range and shoot all within those few seconds that the animal is in your line of sight. He will make a run for it. This is his country and he knows it better than you. He’ll keep running, leaving a long sprinkly trail of blood that you will find hard ta discern in the failing light and the deepening shadows of the twilight. But even if you are able to, imagine huffing and puffing and blundering after him through dense brush. No way you can catch up to him.
Rule-zillion : Don’t run after a wounded moose. First of all, running in knee high brush or snow isn’t easy and can cause serious injury if you trip and fall. This is the wilderness and getting you on a medevac chopper can cost you dear, if you didn’t take out insurance. Second, if you are in bear country (which the Canadian wilderness sure is), you won’t see a black bear coming. Bears easily interpret running as a sign of fear. Soon you – the hunter – will be the hunted, with nothing on you to defend yourself, since you left your crossbow leaning against the tree stand and this not being rifle season, you haven’t brought your .306 on this trip. Also, you can’t slip a Glock19 into your backpack for emergencies since handguns are banned on a hunt. Anyway, chances are that a pack of coyotes or wolves will follow the blood trail better and beat you to it.
So if you want to save your breath and make it short and sweet for the moose, you’ll have to be patient until it is sufficiently close and at the right angle for the heart, lungs or liver. You have to be sure you have lined up a shot that will kill as swiftly as possible. We are hunters, not apathetic sadists who don’t care if the prey is maimed and then waits to get slowly get torn to bits, still alive, by a pack of hungry coyotes.
There’s another reason why a smart hunter doesn’t run after the prey. During moose season, the forests of southern and eastern Quebec are crawling with hunters (especially the government-owned lands where hunting is rent-free). Another hunter – maybe one of those rednecks who has a bottle of Jack Daniels in his jacket pocket that he is constantly swigging from – could mistake you for fleeing whitetail and you might suddenly watch a third nipple grow in the middle of your chest.
I know you love nipples, but three nipples? That is crowd.
(to be continued…)
Ps: Don’t go away. Part-2 is all about this year’s hunt and the 800-lb Godzilla we got…