I hope all you folks with moose or caribou licences have your rifles tuned in to the bull’s-eye, and your sharpshooter skills honed and ready. It’s getting close, here on the Avalon that is, because for many areas west, central, and north, moose hunting as already begun.
I see on Facebook that folks are shooting moose, and hauling out their winter’s meat with quads and side by sides. Oh my, how the hunting world has changed. It’s still plenty of hard work to bring a moose from hoof to table, but nothing like it once was.
I shot my first moose when I was just 19 years old, and it was oh so distant from the nearest woods road, a solid 45-minute brisk hike though a mix of muddy stumpy rocky terrain.
My two buddies and I were about to find out what we were made of. It was 1979, long before there were ATV’s around this neck of the woods. We field dressed the beast, in a downpour of rain I might add. It began to pour about 10 minutes after I fired the fatal shot with my new .308 caliber levergun. Then we crafted a handbarrow of stout spruce sticks bound with 1/4 –inch nylon rope. After shooting the moose at 7:30 a.m. we reached my Ford pickup at noon with one hindquarter and the antlered head. It had been tough going. We called upon friends and family for the afternoon and had the full moose hung in Dad’s shed by dark.
But all that has changed.
In the 1980’s hunters discovered the Japanese-built trike. Honda and Yamaha were selling three wheeled motorized all-terrain vehicles. Big-game hunting would never be the same.
These dandy little rigs could haul out moose, tow carts of logs and firewood, get you to your rabbit slipping area in a hurry, or tow a flat-bottomed boat to a remote fishing hole. It was amazing, and all outdoor hands wanted one.
Why wouldn’t you?
Mind you, the early rides weren’t particularly comfy.
My first ATV jaunt was on a 1984 Yamaha Tri Moto. It had a 175-cc engine that transmitted horsepower to the wheels via a chain and sprocket sort of bicycle like arrangement. There were no shocks, springs, or suspension of any sort that I could see or feel. The engineering was crude, with only the foam filled seat and tires to protect one’s tender parts and body from the terrain. I rode about 500 yards across a barren and back again. My comment to the owner was that I’d rather walk.
We actually ended up hauling a couple of winter’s worth of firewood with the Tri Moto beast. It wasn’t ridiculous, except maybe for the balance. I recall us securing a burlap bag of beach sand to the front rack to keep the front wheel from lifting. On times the ride was treacherous and bone jarring, but it was still better than hauling wood with my unreliable old snowmobile. You could never rely on snow in this neck of the woods either.
ATV technology moved quickly.
In 1986 I bought a Yamaha 200-cc three-wheeler with a shaft-drive transmission, a reverse gear, electric start, and a rudimentary suspension. It was actually a very reliable little workhorse of a machine. It did everything I demanded of it.
At the time I was working a beaver trap line and for that application alone it was worth every cent I paid for it. I could get around the woods quickly and also tow my old red canoe behind me. I would love to have a photo of me riding that trike with a canoe behind me, two beavers strapped on the back rack and my rucksack full of traps on the front.
Those were the days, young carefree, red plaid jacket, and running the trap line. I loved trapping. It the closest I have ever felt to nature.
I remember the first moose I lugged to the road with that vintage Yamaha — four trips, one quarter at a time on the back rack, but boy oh boy, it was a lot better than on the shoulder.
It was a small moose in Salmonier Area. Rick, my brother-in-law, and I had spotted it with binoculars about a mile from the Fox Marsh woods road. We executed the stalk successfully and I made a nice clean one-shot kill.
What a pleasure it was not to have to face on lugging out he bloody beast solely by manpower.
I was nearing 30 years old and I was already terribly sick of slugging moose quarters. I think there is no harder labour than clumsy 150-lb mass of meat and bone riding your tender shoulder while you hike over tricky terrain. I fell once and buried my head in bog, but that’s another story.
I know I’m gone soft, after another 30 years on this planet, now I’m shopping for a new quad and only power steering will do.
I think it will be a Yamaha 700-cc Grizzly, a dandy smooth ride, with power steering, LED headlights, 3000-lb winch, low-range four-wheel lock, and lots of cushy suspension travel.
It’s light-years from that first ride in 1984, and I’m not 25 anymore. I’ll take the power steering and the suspension. I’m hoping to be on the new ride by the time you read this.
Some of you might be smirking and laughing about wanting power steering on a quad. Actually, that’s why I’m replacing my old 2004 Arctic Cat right now, sooner rather than later. You might recall that I ruptured my distal bicep tendon last March. Well it’s pretty well healed now and I have 80 per cent or so of my strength back, with the help of many working out and physio hours. I certainly don’t want to mess it up after all that good healing. You can take quite a jolt to the arm with manual steering when your knobby front tire hits a rock.
I know very fit folks who have been injured that way on challenging terrain. The trail to our moose hunting cabin is rough and I’ll only chance it with power steering. So it’s time for a new ride. The old cat is relegated to snowclearing duty.
Stay safe this fall. Wear bright colours while hunting and a helmet on the trail.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.