(pic courtesy:Bullmoose inc.)
Michel’s dad had been an avid hunter and that’s why he had bought that land – a 20-acre thickly wooded and otherwise flat spread east of the mammoth Lac Memphremagog which straddles the US-Canada border. He’s glad that he did.
In Canada, folks buy vast stretches of densely forested land for the sole purpose of hunting and charging others for the privilege of hunting on their land. When you consider that a hunter will pay anywhere between $1500 and $3000 for a season, it makes good business sense. Besides, hunting on private land is the safest. On crown property you don’t pay nothing but its hazardous. In season, it is always crawling with hunters and you have to face the very real possibility of being mistaken for a doe and shot by some drunk hunter.
Thanks to Michel, this is my third season on his spread and it’s wild, fairly flat country – no civilization for at least a hundred miles in all directions. And teeming with game – wild fowl, partridge, rabbits and hares, whitetail and moose. And for target practice, there’s always the coyote.
Even when you own the land you want to hunt in, you still need a permit. That’s the first step you take if you want to hunt in Canada – you decide where you’ll hunt : the zone. And then you go get a season license for that zone. Remember, seasons are short – a couple of weeks for every category of game and weapon. Moose season with bow/arrow/crossbow was mid October, for just two weeks. November is for rifle and black powder muskets.
Hunting season is over by the end of November (except for black bear, caribou and elk, which continues into December). By the first week of December you’ll find whitetails ambling along the streets of small towns and villages, completely unconcerned. Somehow they sense that with the start of December they’ll be safe. They’ll expect humans ta chant..”Deer are our friends, deer are our friends, deer are our friends” (remember Shark Tale?). In Duhamel, the deer walk into your kitchen looking for food if they find your patio door open.
Assuming you already have a hunting permit and a firearm/crossbow license, here’s a step by step guide that will see you through to your first kill…….
Foremost, you have to remember – hunting season is short, maybe two-three weeks. So if you are a full-time employee like I am, the first thing you got ta do is make sure you have secured your leave authorization for the period of the season. Like you, there are many in the organisation who’ll want ta go on a hunt. And then if you have a boss like Nurse Ratched (flatter and more rectangular than Saskatchewan) you have ta apply for leave early so she doesn’t hem and haw over it, like she’s letting you peek into her knickers (yuck).
Okay, so you have nailed down your vacation time. Then you organize a season permit and coupons. These are available at all major hunting stores and outfitters. Coupons are little tags that you have ta attach to the corpse of the prey before registering your kill with the ranger station in that area. It has to be attached to the earlobe of the kill, so for C’s sakes don’t throw away the head, even if you know you’re not aiming ta eat it. The coupon is your authorisation to kill that animal and if you kill your prey and then start patting your pockets for the coupon and realize you left it home, three hundred miles away, your ass is grass.
Having taken care of all the licenses and coupons, you are now going to get your gear ready.
First, the weapon. If it’s crossbow season, I check out all the moving parts of my TenPoint Vector, a $1500 mother that I got for $300 from a neighbor who had given up hunting due to old age. The Vector can put a bolt (as a crossbow arrow is termed) right through a moose at 60 yards and come out the other side. The crossbow’s range being severely limited and the bolt’s trajectory having to follow the laws of ballistics, I’ll need a range-finder, which is a tiny device that emits a laser beam which bounces off the target and the device measures the time the beam has taken to bounce back and from that, it gives me the range. Before I shoot, I input that range into the sights of the Vector and I’m good ta go. All this I got ta do real fast since the moose isn’t going ta oblige me by hanging around for long.
If it’s rifle season, I take out my Sapua Magnum .306 and make sure it’s oiled and ready. At a mile, it will drill a neat hole into anything that moves and all I’ll hear is the click of the bolt action. I never fail ta visit a shooting range and check out the calibration of my scope, prior to the expedition.
Next comes the rest of your gear. Here are the requirements that I would term as basic –
- A reliable hunting partner – bad things can happen to you when you’re on a hunt. It could be anything – a broken ankle or a collapsed tree stand with you on it, causing you ta plummet twennie feet to the ground below and damage your spine. Frostbite, if you are hunting caribou in the Tundra. I mean shit happens, y’know. So always take a partner with you, someone you can trust with a gun in the wild. Anyways, if you want ta go on a moose hunt, the permit allows only one moose for two hunters, so you don’t have a choice. You have to have a partner ta hunt moose.
- A large pick-up truck – Hunting gear is heavy : food and supplies, guns, ammo, ropes, first aid, sleeping bags, tents, carving and cleaning knife kits, bait, electrical winch for suspending the carcass after cleaning it. Trust me, you cannot set off on a hunt on a piddly Corolla. Besides, a fully grown male moose weighs anywhere between 700 and 1000lbs. You need a means of transport that has enough hauling power.
- A place ta sleep, nights. Michel has this old school bus that his dad drove into a clearing at the entrance to his spread and converted it into a cozy one room shack. There’s a wood burning stove, a generator, a fridge, bunk cots to spread our sleeping bags on and a larder stocked with racks of Michel’s favorite red shiraz cabarnet.
- The only inconvenience is the morning poop. For that, you have ta predesignate an area that’s a ways from your camp and just plop down in the brush and do your job. Remember to take your handgun with you and lay it on the grass within reach. Not that it’ll stop a determined black bear though – but if you make sure to have a large caliber piece like a short barrel Glock40 or a Desert Eagle .50, the loud bang is likely ta scare Yogi away. Caution: Remember not ta take your handgun on the actual hunt. Handguns are banned on hunts.
- Hunting Accident & Liability Insurance – Don’t even think of going on a hunt without insurance. It’s expensive, will set you back by $500 for two weeks in the wild, but you don’t even want ta think of how much it’d cost if you had to be extracted in a hurry by chopper.
- Satellite phone (where there’s no cellphone coverage) : How are you going to call the chopper? Smoke signals?
Before season begins, you have ta ‘set the field’ – which means, prepare the hunting ground. That is something you do a few weeks in advance of your expedition….
- Check out that tree stand you had installed a couple of years back. See if the nuts and bolts got rusted and need replacement. As mentioned above in ‘basic requirements’, a collapsing tree stand could kill you or at best turn you into a paraplegic.
- Fix 3G-enabled motion sensing cameras all over. Michel and I have six SpyPoints that begin transmitting images in real time, telling us if the location we have chosen has moose traffic at all or not. Two weeks prior to season, our Iphones will start pinging as images of animals – deer, moose, coyotes, rabbits – start flooding in, making it look like Times Square at rush hour. Makes me mighty glad.
- Install large blocks of salt on tree stumps in and around your location. Moose love licking on them. If its deer season scatter bags of apples – whitetail love macintosh. Mid November, deer season begins and I already have 15 sacks, 25lbs each. Let the poor bastards have a feast before they taste some lead.
Okay, so now you have the basics – the land, the licenses, the weapon, a pickup truck, a partner and your own spot. Let’s get down to the nitties…..
Any decent crossbow will weigh at least 25lbs. Try holding it up for a clear shot, it’s painful. So, get yourself set up on your tree stand such that you can rest your arm from where you’re going ta shoot. That goes for a gun too. My Sapua weighs twennie pounds, with scope and everything.
Hunting season coincides with mating season. Get one of those mating call apps with wi-fi speakers when you’re moose hunting. There are buck calls for does and doe calls for bucks and moose are so dumb that they invariably fall for it. But with deer, don’t bother, deer are real smart, they don’t get turned on by Iphone mating call apps. For them, you get genuine doe pee at any outfitters, for $15 a bottle. Whitetail bucks are like Donald Trump in Moscow – they get a hard-on when they smell does’ pee and come charging ta check it out. Just a few drops, sprinkled on a rag and left on a branch at nose height will do the job. Moose don’t believe in kinky sex, golden showers and all, so don’t bother wasting your money on moose pee.
You could get awful cold and hungry, waiting immobile all day, on your tree stand. Make sure you have short eats, like granola bars, chocolates and a coffee flask. DO NOT CONSUME ANYTHING AT GROUNG LEVEL. The scent will scare moose/deer away. You have no idea how strong their sense of smell is. Up on the tree stand its okay, the smell doesn’t get down. But even so, it is always smart ta station your tree stand downwind from your hunting ground zero if that is possible.
Autumn, days are short and it is likely that when you are making your way through the brush toward your tree stand early in the morning, it will still be dark. And the same, when you descend in the twilight to get back to your shack. So, get a sturdy flashlight. Do not use it unless you absolutely have ta. Light scares game away. Btw, the rules specify that you can start upto a half hour prior to sunrise and finish upto a half hour after sunset. Beyond that if you are caught out in the woods with a crossbow or a gun, the rangers will have your ass on a platter.
If dawn is at 6am, you wake up around 4:30 inside your trailer/shack/cabin (in our case – Michel’s dad’s bus), make yourself a sandwich and a coffee, force yourself ta go poop so you won’t have ta go later in the day.
The next thing is important if you want a kill – take a shower with an odorless soap and put on fresh clothes. Spray on some of the special deodorant that you can get at any outfitter. Buy the soap and deodorant at hunting outfitters only. They know what they’re doing.
Sling your backpack on, grab your crossbow and quiver and walk the 2-3 kms to your tree stand, taking care not to trip over a stone or a sapling in the darkness. If you do and sprain your ankle, hunting season is over for you. While you are up on the tree stand, keep quiet, stay still and do not smoke. Moose hunt is boring, but think of the year’s stock of chops and ribs that you will wash down with Rickard’s Red while that redhead you met at the library nuzzles you in front of the fireplace.
The moose have their own schedule – they venture out around dawn and forage for food until around 10:00-10:30 in the morning and that’s when you got ta get one. Wait for a good shot, and if it’s a crossbow, aim for the liver, heart or lungs. With a gun, go for the side of the head or the neck. Don’t shoot unless you’re sure you have a good shot angle. It is irresponsible and cruel to wound an animal and watch it limp away, maimed for life, and be set upon by a pack of wolves or coyotes who are waiting for the opportunity ta tear it apart.
After 10:30, the moose disappear until around 3:00-3:30pm, so you can get down and go have breakfast, take a nap and generally chill out. You can even make love (if your partner is female). Its mating season for the moose so why should it be any different for ya.
Come 2:30pm, get back up on your tree stand. The moose keep their schedule. A short while later they reappear and that’s your second and last window of the day ta get one, until the sun sets.
I haven’t been able to figure out where they go when they disappear in the late morning. It’s like, all of a sudden they aren’t there anymore. All the mating calls in the world and all the pee won’t make any diff. They must have a well camouflaged den deep in the woods or something.
In the next part, I’ll tell you all about what happens from the time you have managed ta get a 1000-lb moose buck, right up until it’s final trip to your basement freezer in neat little shrink-wrapped portions, ready ta grill.
Don’t go away.