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PAUL SMITH: Early autumn moose hunting

When the weather is warm you have to move fast. — Paul Smith Photo
When the weather is warm you have to move fast. — Paul Smith Photo - Paul Smith

I wrote last week that the hills were blue with blueberries. They are still blue, and we had just a tiny nip of frost in the wee hours of this morning, at least on higher ground.

I’ve been told that a little iciness brings out the sweetest of sugars in berries.

My daughter Alley and granddaughter Matilda are out around The Bay for a few days.

Alley and I are climbing the hills this evening to pick a few gallons of those extra ripened and juicy blueberries. I bought a small picker at Mercer’s Marine in Clarenville last Friday.

I might give that a try. There’s not a raw or green one to be seen right now, perfect for fast efficient harvesting. It’s a grand time to top up the freezer for winter, or maybe a brew of wine.

So it’s hunting time once again, and we have an early start to moose season on the Avalon Peninsula, Clarenville area and the Bonavista Peninsula this autumn.

It’s a good idea to get the skin off as soon as possible. — Paul Smith Photo - Paul Smith
It’s a good idea to get the skin off as soon as possible. — Paul Smith Photo - Paul Smith

 

For the 2020 moose hunt all areas on the island open on Sept. 12 and close on Dec. 31.

Nowadays, and going forward, season dates will coincide everywhere.

Areas before mentioned in the Newfoundland Far East used to open in early October. By then the weather is cooled off quite a bit and we can take more time to get moose out of the woods, cleaned up, and delivered to our butcher’s hanging cooler.

If we opt to hunt early we had better have a plan to move fast and closely monitor the temperature forecast.

Hot weather can spoil a tasty nutritious moose very quickly.

We debated hunting last weekend and passed. I think we are going to have a go at it this weekend. It’s easier if you are hunting by a roadway and can just field dress your animal and then toss it in the back of a pick-up truck or utility trailer. On a sunny day over 15 degrees that’s what really needs to happen.

Humidity exasperates the problem even more.

I’ve had early season big game hunting experience with caribou.

Robert and I hunted Cape Shore caribou for 10 years.

I loved that hunt and quit only when the caribou population declined to the point of nearly no licences.

We’d walk way back in the country, like 10-km sometimes, and shoot a big stag. Then Rob would walk out and come back in on his quad for retrieval. It was hardcore and we loved it.

Moose season and I’m hungry for a fresh fry. — Paul Smith Photo - Paul Smith
Moose season and I’m hungry for a fresh fry. — Paul Smith Photo - Paul Smith

 

Anyway, this hunt took lot of time, sometimes six hours from trigger pull to the ride home in my truck. We would only go hunting if the forecasted high for the day were under 12 degrees

Our moose hunting isn’t quite so extreme but getting the animal out to Robert’s garage still takes a chunk of time.

Our long-time butcher from Carbonear, Dave Garland, always tells us: “Get that skin off and the carcass cooled down as fast as you can.”

If the mercury hits 20 degrees there will be no cooling and you are in big trouble. Also there are the flies, which can lay eggs and cause maggots in your meat. You definitely don’t want that. It’s amazing how quickly those bloody, blue-arsed critters can locate and hone in on a downed moose.

Even in October they are still on the go in the millions. Do they have long-range radio or something?

It’s incredible.

We have a plan for this weekend.

We did it before on a hot day in October when we killed a moose right by our cabin. It takes about an hour to haul a moose in a cart behind a quad from the cabin to the cool of Robert’s garage.

There’s usually a decent breeze of wind in front of the cabin and it’s a fantastic place to hang a moose and do some skinning. If the weather is warm we will only shoot a moose very close to the cabin and skin it onsite.

That way the cooling process starts right away. Then we can wrap it in cheesecloth for the ride home. I better remember to save some of the hide for fly tying. The hair on a moose’s snout is wicked for caddis patterns.

Last season in early October, actually on opening day, we shot two bulls about 50 feet apart. I’m not expecting ever to be that lucky again.

Anyway, it was sunny and about 10 degrees.

The flies swarmed and I was a bit worried. So you have to be really careful. They say black pepper works well to keep flies away but I have never tried it. It took us over three hours to clean up the moose and get them to our cabin. Then we still had another hour to go from there.

If it were much warmer I think the moose may have spoiled. With this early season I suspect some folks who lack experience will have moose spoil on them.

But I hope not, as that would be a terrible waste.

As for other hunting seasons, ducks, geese, partridge and grouse opens this Saturday, Sept 19. You can hunt rabbits starting on Oct 3. I’m looking forward to that. Snowshoe Hare is one of my absolute favourite foods. I’ll be out snaring a few hares starting in late October.

I’ll end this week by stressing once again how important it is to practice with your guns and sight them in properly. Especially for moose and caribou you need to take the time to do your homework. You need to go to an appropriate safe site and ensure that you can consistently hit a vital area sized target from whatever range you plan to shoot. You need to do this from the position you plan to shoot from, whether it is standing, kneeling, prone, or with a rest.

This preparation is essential for conservation. Too many animals perish and rot due to misplaced shots and careless shooting.

Don’t be a part of this serious problem.

Happy hunting.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity.

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