There are several ways I could start this story, and it wouldn’t change the ending. Since I need someplace to start, I will go back eight years and tell you a story I have rarely told, since I was never looking for a pat on the back.
It was closing day for Wisconsin’s deer season. I had worked my midnight to noon shift and was too tired to go out for an afternoon hunt. I figured a drive by my favorite spot and a stop at my brother’s place to see how the gang did would be all I could handle.
I noticed an unfamiliar truck by my hunting spot. That’s not a big deal as the landowner is great about letting people hunt as long as they ask. I was scanning the fields and fence rows looking for orange when a buck caught my attention and then disappeared. I knew he must have bedded down. Tired or not, I pulled over and put on my gear. As I snuck up to the tree I had marked, the buck jumped up. One shot dropped him back down.
When I got to the deer, I realized something wasn’t right. My shot was in the front shoulder, but there was also a liver shot. I followed a blood trail from where the buck had been and ran into a father and son on the trail.
“Did you get him?” the dad asked.
I said I finished off a deer that was hit hard. I asked if they had shot it, and the dad said his boy had shot at his first buck. I told the young hunter that his deer was lying on the other side of the fence. His dad seemed confused, so I told him that I had watched the buck from the road and had I not come along, they would have tracked the deer right to its bed. The young hunter put the first fatal shot into that deer, and I felt he deserved to tag it. To be part of that father-son moment was worth everything to me.
Fast forward to a 2008 moose hunt at Black Bear Camp in Webbwood, Ontario. I had been preparing for this outfitted but unguided hunt for a full year and had packed everything I would possibly need to get a big bull out of the bush. I knew there were two things I could not control: the weather and hunting pressure. I tolerated the weather, but the grouse and moose hunting pressure were heavy.
Limited to the wildlife management unit my tag was designated for meant scouting and planning in order to find that “moosey ” spot. One evening at camp, my outfitter said he had done a little scouting for me and found some large moose tracks. I went to that spot the next day and knew it was where I would spend the remainder of my hunt.
Long before daylight on Saturday, the bush was quiet. My long sweet cow calls went unanswered. The sun came up and lit up a hillside just as a cow appeared and began to soak up the cool morning sun. She bedded on that hillside, and I burned my binoculars through the area looking for a bull. A pickup truck snapped me back to reality. I figured it was another road hunter looking for the plentiful grouse.
The cow moose, now up and alert, turned to the North and headed for a quieter spot. So much for my decoy I thought. Saturday afternoon started out slow and just got worse. After a tough sit, it was getting to be prime time, but instead of moose, another truck came along. I didn’t mind until I saw through the binoculars that he had stopped 30 feet from my truck. I could easily hear and see him grabbing logs and tossing them into his truck box with a bang, while his two young boys played and screamed.
I walked to within earshot and barked “can’t you do that another day? I am trying to moose hunt.”
“I am making wood eh,” the guy replied.
I shook my head and sat down, wondering if I was jinxed. Two friends of mine were now at camp, and I could have easily headed back for a warm meal and a cocktail.
“You can’t shoot your moose at camp,” I told myself and put the idiot out of my mind. A half hour after my “friend” left, an ATV came down the logging road and stopped near me.
“Are you moose hunting,” the young voice called out. I said yes and told him I had a bull tag to fill.
“Really? My family has a cow tag and some calf tags. Do you mind if I park my ATV by your truck and walk up the bluff to the South?” he asked.
I told him I didn’t mind at all and thanked him for asking. I mentioned that I saw the cow in the morning and that she had gone northwest. The young hunter decided to see if he could find her tracks. With thanks and good lucks all around, he was off. I stopped to think about what had just happened. In a matter of 45 minutes, I had met the rudest SOB and the most polite young hunter. Life is funny.
I spent Sunday morning moving bear stands with my hunting partners. It was chilly and windy, and my motivation was a little low. After lunch and with a little push from my friends, I was back in the bush. An odd noise caught my attention, and I turned to see a hunter on the logging road with his hands in the air. I hiked over to him, and he asked if I was the American who told his brother about the cow the day before. I said I was, and he told me about a nice bull that had bedded down in the hollow he was overlooking.
I was trying to remain calm as we walked to where the bull was. I was thinking that this hunter just came 500-600 yards to help me out, likely ruining his own hunt for the afternoon. As we snuck onto the rocky bluff, the bedded bull was easy to spot. I sat down and settled the rifle on my knee and completely lost it. A lot of breathing and talking to myself allowed me to settle down. I held the crosshairs steady as the gun barked. The bull stood, staggered and immediately took a round from my new friend. The bull immediately dropped and wasn’t going anywhere.
After a cautious walk down the rock bluff, we were at the bull. I realized we hadn’t exchanged names, so I introduced myself to Robert. He explained that as soon as his family showed up, his dad would have the moose field dressed in no time. I explained that it wasn’t necessary, that I had everything I needed to do it, but he wasn’t hearing me.
After assembling the group, his dad, Bill, jumped in and said he would have the dirty work done in no time. He didn’t lie, and he didn’t stop. Bill then backed up his ATV and hooked on to drag my bull out. When the bull didn’t budge, he had his boy back another ATV up and, when locked together, the bull lurched and started to slide right out of the bush. Night was coming fast along with the rain. I can’t say the bull came out easy, but it came out. These men had done this before. Seven men and a lot of lifting got the moose into the back of the Black Bear Camp truck.
Back at camp that evening, Bill, Robert and Ollie stopped in to see the bull. I had a chance to tell Bill about meeting his boy the day before. I wanted him to know what a pleasure it was to meet such a polite person and also wanted him to know how grateful I was to him and Robert for basically handing me my dream moose, which had a 48” spread and weighed in at over 1200 lbs. Bill seemed as happy for me as if he’d shot the bull himself.
A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about Bill, Robert, and the rest of their family on that moose hunt. What was supposed to be an unguided hunt was anything but. Tom and Karen Ellin from Black Bear Camp spent a lot of time scouting areas and asking others about moose sightings. My moose story was supposed to be about me calling a big bull out of the bush with some sweet cow calls. The real story is far from that and, truth be told, I like the way it happened even better. Good people help good people. That’s the way it should be.