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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Newsetter

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gale's moose hunting day

After more than 30 years of being married to Bob and owning and operating Rainbow Point Lodge, I have been moose hunting many, many times.  I think my favorite part of the hunt has always been walking through the woods and enjoying nature in general but, the moose meat is a great bonus too, so don't get me wrong!   Being a rifle hunter, I typically go hunting with Bob to fill our our personal moose tags after the 1st snows have arrived and most of the area hunting traffic is long gone.  This year we thought we'd get out in the bush a little earlier since I had was drawn for a resident bull tag.  For locals of Ontario, we are part a draw/point kind of system, and sometimes you have to wait for years to get a bull tag.  This was MY year! 

We took a couple of trips out in the bush to start out with on the ATV to areas that Bob knew quite well from bear baiting/hunting earlier in the season, and from archery hunting which just finished a couple of weeks before.  We head out at about  5:30 a.m. and try to be in the right general areas at daybreak.  1st day out we walk a long trail along a swamp and settle in for awhile to wait for daylight.  As daylight approaches, Bob lets out a moose call and I wait, 308 in hand, ... and wait.  His call echoes over the swamp, and I am definitely impressed every time I see/hear him do this!  Definitely takes a lot of practice to be a good caller.  Another call, and more waiting; and so it continues.  We watch the local squirrels and ruffed grouse around us, but sadly no moose here today.  We venture on to another area to check for sign, and take another trail walk.  Suddenley from the silence, a loud crashing through the woods that seems to go on forever!  We must have nearly walked on top of the bull that we just saw running off into the thick bush.  No sense sticking around at this point, but we know where to come back to on another day.   It was exciting non-the-less.

Sorry to make you wait, but the real story comes a few days later.  We are joined by 4 friends of ours, also Ontario residents, one of which has a cow tag.  Between the 6 of us we could shoot a cow, a bull, and 4 calves at max.  We know of a great area where we have heard some moose calling the evening before, so have a solid plan for the morning.  We unload our ATV's in the dark, and head out down the trail. We split up on various points on the trail, to head off into different "cuts" (old logging areas great for hunting), but still close enough to be in radio and distance range to be part of a legal "party hunt"  Myself, Bob and another couple (Rick & Leanne) stop at the 1st trail while the other carry on to the next.  We quietly gear up and walk in the darkness through the dense bush and fallen trees to access a clearing,    Above us is a steep rock cliff which could give a good vantage point for a good size area, so Rick, Leanne and myself assend and find a comfortable vantage point and Bob stays below us. He will try calling the moose from below.

As the 1st light of day starts to break, Bob lets out one of his famous moose calls.  The 3 of us on the ledge are spanning the clearing as the sun breaks through, and far off, we sight a bull and a cow, obviously still active in the rutt!  Forget outdoor tv - this is the real thing!   Normally this time of year the moose are no longer in the rutt, but after hearing the calling the day before, we knew there was still some activity.  The excitement on our rock ledge was amazing as we realized that there was a huge bull & cow, both in the clearing.  We could see the 1st bits of sunlight reflecting off the massive rack of the bull, and we know this is a real trophy!   We are very excited to take a shot, but we talk about the distance, and options, and know it is out of range, & best to wait it out.  Bob's call has gotten the bull's attention, and there is no reason for the moose to be afraid - the wind is just right!

Time ticks on and Bob lets out another cow call.  The moose are on the move, slowly towards our direction in the distance, and to our amazement there is not only the bull and cow, but ANOTHER bull over to the south.  After further watching, there is yet ANOTHER moose - another cow.   The excitement for the 3 of us on the ledge is unbelievable!.   We would have been so happy to have the opportunity to see even 1 moose, but FOUR!!! All 4 animals are ever so slowly making their way closer to where we are, sticking in pairs.  We can see the big bull raking his massive horns on a willow just in the bush line.

Bob, down in the willows below us cannot see any of what we see, but we have been trying to signal to him that we 1st had seen 2 moose, and now that we have 4 in the clearing.  He looks up at us in amazement, holding up for 4 fingers, and looking for our acknowledgement.  Each time he lets out a moose call, it is haunting.  It echoes over the clearing, and you'd think it were coming from far off, not just below us.   

Since we have a bull tag AND a cow tag in the group we think that the opportunity is perfect for us to take both animals at the same time since there are 3 of us up on the ledge ... we just have to wait it out for the right shot.  (ok maybe greedy, but how often does this kind of opportunity come along?)  Waiting...waiting... and the shot is just about perfect..... rifles raised, we have our plan made out.  Suddenly over the ridge we hear a gunshot.  Our hearts sink and more than one profanity is mentioned.  The moose below us do not seem alarmed at this point luckily enough, and continue as they were.  The shot is definitely from one of our other hunting party.  Now we need to find out what they have shot - we can't risk shooting the wrong sex of animal!    We get on the radio (that couldn't have made any more static noise if it had tried!!), and frantically ask ... "What did you shoot???? What did you shoot????"   Moments later we hear the news - they have a bull down.  My heart sinks as I realize the trophy bull in front of us would not be mine today.  Quickly we re-compose & our focus moves on the cow instead.  The bush is so dense, and there are so many uprooted stumps in the way - we have rifles up, each waiting to let the other know if we have a clear shot.  As luck would have it, another shot rings out over the ridge - our hunting party has had to take another shot to finish the job.  Now the moose have become alarmed below us, and they are on the move, and fast.  In and out of thick brush and then off into a distant right-of-way.  Long out of our range.  I know that if Bob had been on that ridge with me with rifle in hand, he would have had the confidence in his shot to be able to take the cow, but with my experience, (or lack of) and that of the couple that were there with me, we did not want to take a shot we were not positive of.  Off in the distance they disappeared! 

This was a morning to remember for the rest of my life!  Even not having shot my own trophy bull, I, along with my friends, were able to watch 4 majestic Canadian moose for well nearly an hour and a half!  It was a sight that is still engrained in all of our minds!   Now I truly understand what kind of excitement our archery moose hunters must experience hearing and seeing their moose up close.  Usually by the time we are hunting the rutt is done, and moose do not answer to calls. Moose don't come to calls, and it is more tracking, and distance opportunities.  This was our lucky day, and I can certainly see why archery moose hunters love the hunt so much.  I'm very lucky to have had my personal moose hunting guide that day to give me the opportunity of a lifetime!   Thanks Bob!  Tip ya later!!!