Some people say moose hunting is all luck.
I suppose that might be true if you hunt by just driving along roadways and watching for a moose to pop out of the tree line or cross a bog. Although the hunter still has to shoot the beast, which certainly takes an appreciable level of skilled marksmanship if the distance is either bit substantial.
OK, there are lucky shots made sometimes, but for the most part those who depend on luck for bullet placement have ample empty space in their freezers. I suppose no matter how you slice it, hunting of any sort is a measure of luck blended with skill and expertise.
I’ve been moose hunting for 40 seasons. Indeed, and in a row, not one autumn have I missed going afield for moose.
I started as a teenager with a bull-only licence for Bay de Verde Area 34, and a brand new lever action .308 Winchester calibre rifle, just purchased from Sears in the Village Mall.
That was autumn 1979 and I was one hell of a lucky kid. I shot a lovely bull at 8 a.m. on the first day of the season.
Well, lucky to a certain extent, because the moose walked right out in front of us in less than ideal foggy and rainy conditions. In those days we had no idea how to call out moose or track them.
So lucky ,yes, but I did know how to shoot a rifle, send a bullet flying straight on target, and my friends and I had done plenty of preseason scouting. We knew where the moose were, and to some extent we created our own luck.
I suppose that’s the way it goes most of the time.
I mentioned scouting.
Knowing the country and where moose like to hang out is a huge part of the equation for successful moose hunting. You have to spend time in the woods. Due diligence often manifests itself as luck.
That said, sometimes and some seasons bad luck can foil your day even when you do everything right.
I remember a season some years ago when I hunted every weekend all fall and didn’t kill a moose until after Christmas. I saw moose now and then but just couldn’t seal the deal.
Part of the problem was the rotten weather we seemed to get every Saturday, our primary hunting day. Wind is the biggest enemy of the moose hunter, unless there’s snow down and you can track them.
Anyway, I eventually shot a moose after a fresh snowfall in early January. I learned a lot that season.
You learn the most in tough luck seasons, and I’ve certainly had a few.
I didn’t learn much this season. We have never had any better luck. There are six of us in our hunting group and two of the lads, Rod Hale and Ian Brazil, had licences. We went into our hunting cabin on the Friday night before opening morning Oct. 5. It was lights out at midnight and all hands on deck at 6 a.m. for a quick strong coffee, tea for Robert, and then off to the lookout hills.
That’s the way we usually start the day, searching from lookouts with binoculars, along with some moose calling. Robert Richards is the expert moose caller in our group and he was all primed and ready for some serious moose grunting and snorting.
It didn’t take long.
My ears picked up a moose bellowing back from well to the west of our position on a high knob of protruding Avalon Peninsula cliff. Rod heard it as well. Just a minute later we saw a big bull moving towards us at about one kilometre out.
I thought for sure we were going to get a crack at the massive beast, but for some strange reason he just got turned off from the call, or nervous, or something. Maybe he was very experienced.
Anyway, he turned around and headed in the opposite direction. Oh well, that doesn’t usually happen when you get Mr. Rutting Bull energetically calling back and moving in, but that’s it, and the day was still young. A little bad luck would not deter us.
We went back to the cabin, the Situation Room, for breakfast and further planning.
Actually, after another coffee, and still no food in belly, the boys headed back over to the hill for another go at it, the big reluctant bull still on our minds.
I stayed in the cabin and began cooking up some fried last year’s moose and beans. The plan was to text the boys when the grub was ready. Before the meat seared I heard a shot, and then a couple of more. I waited a while and then called Rod to see what was going on.
I figured they had one, but I never imagined the luck.
Sure enough, not long after Rob started calling a dandy bull, but not the same one, showed itself on the marsh below the lookout, younger and dumber I suspect.
That was the first shot I heard, and the moose fell down dead, from a .300 magnum to the lungs. The boys just started walking towards that beast when another bull the same size trotted out of the woods and stood still about 50 feet from the first. A couple of quick shots and we had two 400-lb dressed bulls laying about 50 feet from each other.
Wow, now that is indeed amazing good luck, of course with the usually skillful portion of the mix.
Rob can certainly talk moose language. The boys can shoot and we know the woods around our cabin.
So is moose hunting all luck?
No, but some years the gods smile, and sometimes not.
You never get your moose without that final approval. There are years when you must pay your dues, snowshoes, tracking, and blowing on frozen fingers. You know what’s funny? I think I like the tough years better.
Nah, scratch that, two moose on the first morning, wonderful. Now I have a long autumn to play in the woods.
Incidentally and to finish off, in 40 seasons I’ve used many sorts of rifles from the trusty old 30-30 to the big powerful magnums. Remember I mentioned the .308 levergun?
I’m anticipating a licence myself next year and I’m returning to my roots.
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.