|Hunting for Conservation||
Welcome to the TSO Blog:
|Hunting for Conservation||
Welcome to the TSO Blog:
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This morning after a quick breakfast, my local guide John and I, drove south on the hard-top road for about 30 minutes, before parking and heading into the bush. We talked along the way and I immediately liked him. He was born and raised in St. Anthony and has spent his entire life hunting, fishing, and trapping. His family lives on wild game, including mainly eider ducks, moose, harp seal, caribou, and trout. I asked, which was his favorite and after a brief pause he said, “seal.” They also grow potatoes in small fenced plots along the road where the government Crown Land has been cleared. John says the practice is illegal, but the government leaves them alone, as it’s part of the subsistence lifestyle.
We left the truck around 6:30 am and walked hard for an hour before we slowed to a hunter’s pace. John was trying to reach a series of bogs, lakes, and stunned spruce-fir fields while moose were still likely on their feet. Despite our best efforts to spot or call a moose, we encountered nothing until around 9:30.
We were walking along the edge of a narrow bog and scanning the opposite side for feeding or bedded moose. Abruptly, John stopped and blurted, “what the fuck is that?” I saw it immediately. Lying in the sun at the edge of a spruce-fir patch, was what appeared to be a dead moose. I said, “looks like a dead moose.” John agreed, but then after a quick look with my binoculars, I hastily said “she’s not dead she’s sleeping!” In unison, we both dropped down and backtracked to put some cover between us and the moose.
We watched for a while and then I decided to stalk closer to see if there was a bull with her. It was an easy stalk, but when I got to within 20 yards, my left boot made a slight sucking sound as I lifted it from the mossy bog. At the noise, she made a hard blowing sound and simultaneously jumped to all four feet. In a split second she made the forest edge and disappeared. It was fun and encouraging to have gotten so close.
We continued on, calling and glassing. On two separate occasions, we jumped a cow and calf and then a lone animal that was ghosting through the trees. John was disappointed with the number of moose and the lack of rut activity, but I was having blast seeing so much country and was grateful to see a few moose on my first morning.
John’s woodsmanship extends well beyond moose. At one point, we stopped to call and a bird landed immediately above John’s head and then flew to within feet of me. After our calling efforts, John said “do you know what that bird was?” I reeled off a know-it-all ornithologist’s answer and said, “well, it’s commonly known as a Gray Jay, Canada Jay, or Moose Bird.” John looked at me, smiled patiently and said, “you missed Whiskey Jack and around here we call them “Brazen Jays.”
Around 11:15, John must have decided it was time to roll. Without a word, he picked up the pace and again we were out of hunting mode. John is about 6’ 2” and around 225 pounds, and at 63 he can still move! I noticed on the way in that I had to walk about 25% faster than normal to keep up with him and when we hit those blasted bogs, look out—he was poetry while I was a drunkard on the sidewalk.
On the way out, I was feeling really spent. John must have sensed this and we stopped for a brief break in the middle of a massive bog. I thought we were fairly close to the road when John said, we’ve got about another two miles of bog to cross and then after we hit the road, we’ll have to walk south for another two miles. “Gulp!” Two miles of bog walking is like 5 miles of woods walking. About halfway across the bog, John turned to me and said “you’re doing great, most new guys would be dead by now.” I said, I think you’re right I can feel rigor mortis setting in!” John believes that native Newfies learn to walk the bogs at a young age and develop muscles that most other outdoor folks don’t excercise.
I have secretly nicknamed John, “Moose John.” He certainly knows moose and his long, moose-like legs are built for bog walking. I was relieved when we could finally catch glimpses of the road about 300 yards ahead. But then, all of a sudden there was a creek—too wide to jump and too deep for knee-high boots. John plowed ahead, saying he had an extra set of boots at home. With only one pair of rubber boots, I didn’t want to get them wet. I stripped to the waist and waded across. Wow! What a first morning.
My afternoon hunt was the polar opposite. We sat up on a single bog/spruce-fir field and didn’t move for nearly three hours. We simply called and watched. With just 30 minutes of light remaining, a single, large cow skirted the timber and we got satisfying, but ineffective looks.
One of my new French friends shot a cow today with a rifle. We had moose liver and onions for dinner.
The rest of the group is also seeing moose, but the rut seems to be lagging.
Tomorrow morning we’ll be back on our feet and bog walking.
Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!
I’m Ron Rohrbaugh, a professional conservation biologist, author, and long-time traditional bowhunter. For the next year, I’ll be hunting exclusively with vintage archery gear in what I’m calling The Classic Year. We’ll explore natural history and travel, geography and culture, and of course archery and hunting. The adventures and stories will be steeped in conservation, both past and present.