As the moose says, turn down those headlights, man! Someone might get hurt!
That’s what I heard back in the day during a long pause from sheer darkness on a back road near a lake that shone in the moonlight. I had lit a cigarette, only to be told to hide the flame from the elusive moose, that is only interested in the opposite sex and can be mean and ornery. Then my buddy let out a few moose grunts to entice some nearby buck.
About 10 hours later, we settled into our office chairs and pretended to work, thinking of that moose that didn’t answer our bleats and calls. Either we didn’t have the right tone or there just weren’t any moose around. We would kid that we had better luck playing loud music and driving around and bumping into moose, rather than standing still for hours calling and listening.
The listening felt like I was stretching my eardrums tighter and tighter until the sound of silence was deafening. Or was that the air pressure we could hear resonating in our heads? No, it’s just our own body sounds – the blood pulsing, the lungs breathing and the occasional intestinal complaint. The second night seemed longer even though the hunt was less than half the time of the first night. Ah well, that bull will live on, wherever it was.
I might not be a crack moose hunter but having just explained the entire hunt in two paragraphs doesn’t make me a couch-potato moose hunter. The interest is there, but not the forest or the time.
Couch-potato hunters constantly compare rifles, bullets, weights, range velocities, scopes, and the ruggedness, fog-free and waterproof qualities of those night-vision goggles. And so on and so on. On occasion, they might try a moose hunt when the time, wind, moon, and wife’s permission all come together to coagulate into a real one-night hunt. Don’t forget the reflective clothing, emergency self-inflating dinghy and the guaranteed 24-hour steaming thermos. Also, use those cold-fusion lighters so that the flame won’t spook the moose when you need that cigarette.
Then the gallons of moose urine will be carefully loaded into the back of the already tightly packed SUV. We weren’t sure if it was supposed to be used as a lure or a protectant, so we liberally splashed it around in a pentagram symbol, just to be safe and sure. Then a smudging of some scent on our camouflage clothes and we’d be set for the long night of waiting, thinking overtime, and the battle against the urge to make a sound.
The silence is maddening. If you break it and there’s a moose just 10 feet away checking you out in the darkness that engulfs everything, then you will serve a life sentence of reminders and jokes. You will be forever known as the loud hunter who couldn’t keep his mouth shut and ruined it all for the entire clan.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen as a shot rang out after a strong beam of light, so strong that it melts fog, pointed out a moose barely 50 feet away. The moose was picked up and processed, and, thankfully, was close enough to the road making transport easy-peasy.
It’s a familiar story. As are the ones about the close calls with poachers who very nearly became victims themselves. The stories of game wardens and of the one that got away. Most times, there’s no time to chit chat, only to cut up meat.
One day, perhaps, the moose will be more than just a story in the dark, or roadkill. Instead, it may be a year-round staple at the supermarket. Then we could start our own mooseboy culture, our version of cowboy culture.
Imagine riding a moose around. It would be equivalent to the off-road version of the Italian stallion. But that would take years of evolutionary change in the moose and in our mindset. Remember, call all night and shoot to feed a family.