Moose hunting: A little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck

Submitted by: David Hamilton, MNO Chapleau Métis Council President

Moose hunting
A freshly killed moose is packed into a canoe and is ready
for the voyage home. Click here to view a larger version of
the picture.

The following is a first-hand account by David Hamilton, MNO Chapleau Métis Council President:

My grandfather used to say that to be a successful big game hunter you have to have hunting luck; without luck, you will not see even a single hair of an animal no matter how much skill you have. To increase your hunting luck, you must always treat the animals you harvest with respect and never waste any of the meat. Animal remains should be returned to the land for other animals to use. By sharing your harvest with those who cannot hunt, you will also increase your chances of killing game. These are the rules my family and I have always followed.

There are two times to hunt moose during the year: the early fall season during the moose mating season and when rut is on, or during the less popular winter season. Before deep freezers, moose used to only be hunted in the winter. At that time, if a moose did happen to be killed in warm weather, all the meat would have been bottled in mason jars in order to preserve it.

My father tells a story of his grandfather who killed four moose in January on his trap line. The meat was hauled back to town on toboggans and distributed amongst the residents of Lower Town. Lower Town was an area in my home town primarily inhabited by non-status Indians and Métis people.

This year’s moose hunting plan was the same as in years past. I would float or paddle down some of the major rivers on my trap line calling for moose with a traditional birch bark moose call. If I received an answer from a bull moose, I would try to coax him out of the bush by breaking branches, splashing in the water or scraping trees with a moose shoulder blade, which imitates moose antlers. I try not to call too much as they may detect something is up. My previous eight trips down the river had resulted in no moose sightings and only two answers from bulls. I was also plagued by bad weather and all-around bad luck! High winds, heavy rain and extremely warm fall temperatures coupled with a rifle malfunction and mechanical problems also complicated matters and resulted in an unsuccessful hunt.

On day nine, I could feel that things were going to be different. I had taken a hiatus from hunting for four days to attend my cousins wedding and was eager to get back at it. Fresh tracks beside my canoe are always a good sign. Three hours into the hunt, I drifted quietly around a bend in the river only to encounter a young bull moose walking along the shoreline. He was obviously responding to the call I had made in a bay up the river. One grunt stopped him in his tracks, and with one shot I had my meat for the year.

My goal is always to harvest a young bull if possible. I never shoot cows (a mature female moose) for conservation reasons and older bulls meat is not as good quality, particularly during the rut. Big bull moose are also much harder to handle for a lone hunter.

I have been hunting alone now for 10 years and prefer it to hunting with a group as I am on my own timetable. Some people think I am crazy for hunting alone and working so hard, but if you love what you do then it is not work!

After a successful hunt, the moose is first skinned and cut into nine pieces rather than cutting the moose into four pieces, which make the quarters too heavy for a single hunter to carry. The moose is then packed into the canoe and transported the five miles back to the landing. On this specific trip, it took me two trips with my canoe to get out all of the meat. Nothing from the moose is ever wasted: we keep the heart, liver, kidneys, and wistigat (fat around the stomach and kidneys). I have even known some hunters who would keep the intestines and lungs, however, I do not.

As far as hunting luck goes, if I had paddled around that bend in the river five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I would never have seen that moose. Now that is lucky!

Published on: November 24, 2016

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