We join the boys in the middle of action on their second last day of a New Brunswick Moose Hunt.
With Dad’s pep talk sinking in I mustered the gumption to man my post. But, as the morning wore on, I could feel my spirit drooping. It wasn’t long before Dad tapped me on the shoulder, recognizing I needed some lunch, a cold Pepsi, and some new scenery. And scenery we did receive!
A short distance into our travels we came across a fresh set of moose tracks meandering up the road followed by another set shortly after. Both moose must’ve been bulls because there were signs of a clash – gravel and shrubs were torn up on both sides of the road — an impressive display. We called with the hopes that moose were still nearby, but nothing came to fruition. One thing was clear, a switch had flicked in the Ackerman and the boys were out to play!
A tale as old as time, Boys fighting over a woman..
We returned to camp for a quick lunch and decided to approach our hunting spot from the other direction that evening. This route would take us through the scene of the clash before arriving at our spot, the last hour before dark.
As we made our way toward the fight scene, we met an oncoming truck. Bouncing along in a trailer behind them was a 6-point bull. Our worries went unspoken until we arrived at our calling destination and realized that was where they had shot it. Even Dad was starting to become disheartened with our luck.
Hopes to the wind, we drove right to our spot, parking in the middle of the cut. We settled in for the final hour before dark and debated even making a call. Finally, Dad decided to offer up a single cow call. What could it hurt? We were both well-aware that tomorrow was the last day of the season.
Dad wandered up behind the truck. He stopped nonchalantly and peered through the fading daylight toward the treeline. He came back to the truck with a concerned look on his face, grabbing binoculars. This grabbed my attention as well. He returned to his vantage point bringing binoculars to his eyes. No sooner than the eye cups touched his brow did his knees buckle and he spun toward me mouthing M-O-O-S-E!
I grabbed my gun loading three .270 Winchester rounds into my top loader Model 70. I shoved the bolt ahead and peeled toward Dad. He reminded me to grab my shooting stick from the bed of the truck and pointed me in the direction of the moose.
“Assuming a cartridge can make its way on merit alone, that cartridge is the .270” – Jack O’Connor
“Take your time bud. Find your shot.”
I locked the rifle onto the shooting stick. I focused the scope and peered through the glass. I spotted the lone cow almost instantly. As I readied myself, I saw another cow to her right. I held two fingers out to Dad indicating I saw two moose.
Dad whispered, “there’s two cows out there, Matt, take your time. Pick the one you want.” , clearly unaware I had already indicated such to him.
While panning my scope across to the second cow, I spotted a third moose. I lifted my cheek from the rifle stock to whisper back that I’d spotted another, and I was greeted with Dad’s exclamation of the same.
“Three Matt! Three!”
With uncharacteristic composure, I scanned each moose systematically for antlers or size differences. While surveying the third, I noticed movement even further to the right. I shifted my sight picture to see a bull feeding on a maple sapling.
“Bull Dad! Bull!” is what I thought. “Bull Matt! Bull!” is what I heard. The chaos was unfolding so quickly it was almost comical. Dad reminded me to take my time and stay calm. This would likely be our final chance.
I readjusted my footing and settled myself into the gun. I used this moment of calm to reflect on past mistakes. I found the bull’s front leg. I followed it up to the base of his neck. I adjusted slightly to center mass. I breathed. I felt the trigger on my finger. I slowly squeezed.
CLICK! — Damn safety!
‘You’re such an idiot’ I thought as I peered out over the gun and thumbed the safety. The moose had stepped behind the maple clump. I slid up the road further using a tractor push out to conceal my movement from the 8 eyes now staring me down. I posted up. Refocused. I found my shot.
BOOM! – fire blasted out the barrel in the fading daylight.
I shackled another round as the moose pivoted toward the treeline. I swung on him, finding his body, leading ahead and squeezed as he entered the sight picture.
BOOM! – the shot stopped dead. There was no noise. There was no movement. I turned to Dad, still holding his binoculars; so much for that second gun! His face told the story. We exchanged a couple high fives but knew we needed to get in there now. If that moose had anything left in him, he was only steps away from the Ackerman and hard night ahead for us.
Landmarking where we last saw him last we made our way through the cut. We headed toward the maple clump to find hair or blood for confirmation of a hit. That wasn’t necessary. There a few yards from the tree line, a large antler protruded up from the underbrush. We had a big bull down and we were ecstatic!
Now the work begins…
We called our friends for help. A jeep, a quad, a poorly tuned chainsaw, five men and seven hours later we had our moose on the trailer. It was the longest 218 yards any of us had ever covered! The bull would eventually weigh in at 853lbs, sporting a 12-point rack with a 54 inch spread.
Handshakes and rest were required, especially since those boys still had to hunt the next day. We felt bad for taking so much of their time, but we knew they wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. You see, moose season isn’t just about hunting. It’s about comradery. It’s about sharing experiences with peers.
Back at camp Saturday after the moose was registered and delivered to the butcher, Dad reminded me, “Everything happens for a reason Matty!”
With moose season in Newfoundland heating up let’s enjoy a bit of footage from the 2013 season. As you can see, I had about 20 pointed reasons to hunt where I did. For those interested, take a look at a series of articles I produced on my 2013 moose hunt — hopefully you learn from my mistakes!
Stay tuned for my series about my 2014 moose hunt. Here’s to a successful season!
My third trip to the area came on the long weekend in October while most folks were at home enjoying their turkey dinner. Hard to believe it had been two months since my first site visit. On this trip, I brought along my axe, rope and tarps in order to establish camp for the beginning of the season and, the arrival of my father the following week. Hard to believe that my first Newfoundland Moose hunt was really about to begin!
My strategy was to use my tarps to build a lean-to that could house me for up to a week. After arriving at the site, I selected two, appropriately spaced, strong looking trees for use as the shelter’s vertical supports. I quickly scanned the canopy directly above for potential widow makers, and decided that this was the spot. I moved onto the task of acquiring the main horizontal support beam and three angled supports. The angled supports were for a little extra support – snow was not out of the question. For the beam I brought down a dead, but strong birch tree with my axe and lashed it tightly with paracord to the vertical supports. I gathered the three angled supports, lashed them to the beam, and secured the tarp – it almost looked habitable. For the floor, I gathered boughs of balsam fir and placed them upside down for maximum support and comfort. Finally, I covered the boughs with a smaller tarp to provide extra insulation and keep me off of the cold October ground.
With the shelter complete, I began collecting wood. The area was full of dead, standing birch trees ideal for firewood. Standing deadwood is always preferred; by standing it remains dry, as opposed to downed logs, which absorb moisture from the forest floor. I was felling and bucking these trees into four-foot sections and stacking them under a second tarp. I planned to cut these pieces in half with a saw at a later date.
After piling a respectable amount of wood, I decided a few more logs would be sufficient. On what was to become my final tree, I made two upward strokes and noticed movement in the tree’s top. I’d seen enough workplace health and safety videos to know that it only takes a small branch at 30-40ft to do some serious damage. Not wanting to be struck in the head with a widow-maker, I focused on the treetop while performing my first downward stroke. That momentary lapse in concentration was all it took; my stroke glanced off of the tree almost as suddenly I felt it strike my left leg. I dropped the axe to the ground, pulled up my pant leg and to my horror realized I could see my shinbone and the supporting tendon. If in the best of situations, this was a horrific injury my situation was devastating. I was one kilometer from my truck through thick woods and over rough terrain. Fortunately for me, my fiancée decided to come along for the trip. Unfortunately for her – so she soon found out – she doesn’t deal well with the sight of blood or grotesque injuries.
The moments following the axe injury were – as you can imagine – hectic and rushed. While staring at a gaping hole in my leg, I attempted to recall my first-aid training. I ripped apart a t-shirt I found in my bag and wrapped it around the cut to hold the wound together and apply pressure to slow the bleeding. Danielle gathered up our supplies and started rushing towards the truck while I started hobbling behind her. Up until this point I had been running on pure adrenaline, but as I stumbled over the rough terrain the pain began to hit. I spent the first 200 meters swinging the axe at anything that looked like it had walking stick potential, ultimately finding a strong length of birch. Over the next 400 meters my adrenaline levels evaporated and my pain receptors sharply reminded me of my stupidity. I had a moment of uncontrollable breathing when I began to wonder if I was going to make it to the road. After a few gulps of water I fought my way up the final hill to the road level.
With the truck in view, Danielle started running despite my attempts to tell her that if she didn’t slow down she was going to hurt herself. As I crept over the final few yards, I heard a splash and a faint cry. I looked up the road to see Danielle face down in a puddle trying to pick herself up without me noticing. Under less strenuous conditions I would probably give her an earful for having not listened to my warnings. However, these were tumultuous times. When she pulled the truck up I saw she was covered in mud and so was the inside of my truck! I attempted an “I told you so” but it was disregarded as she reminded me that I was not in a position to be arguing. Apparently there were more pressing matters, like the 1.5 hours drive to the hospital. I had one thing I needed to do first, take a picture of my leg for the blog!
After an uncomfortable drive – for the length of which Danielle drove like a bat out of hell — we made it the hospital. After several heavy gauge stitches and a few x-rays, the doctor informed me I was one lucky man. I had barely caused any damage to anything but the skin and flesh – my beautiful knee. I got away with a slightly nicked the tendon – the one that supports the foot – and a slight depression in my tibia. However, nothing was damaged to the point that time wouldn’t heal it. Only one thing was certain, I needed to heal fast, moose season opened in a week! Injury or not, I was going hunting!
The long weekend in September I returned to the hunting area to see if the moose trail I found before had fresh tracks on it. I also hoped to find a spot where I could set up for a hunt. I wanted to make my way down to what appeared to be a meadow/scrub area between three large ponds to check for signs. The topography lines on the map indicated this area was somewhat flat compared to the surrounding country; and I hoped it would be holding moose.
I parked the truck on the new extraction road and began the long walk across the new cutover. I used the wood extraction trail to walk in and immediately noticed abundant moose tracks. As the crow flies, the truck was only 500 meters from the back edge of the cut, but I can’t fly like a fucking crow. I was forced to walk 1000 meters up and down hills to get there!
Having made my way to the back of the cut, the boundary line to the park was just beyond the wooded strip. I followed the moose road (too large to be called a trail) well into the park and I realized that I was walking on an old logging road system. The park would have been harvested in the past prior to its induction into the Canadian National park system in 1973. I caught a glimpse of the smallest of the three ponds I was targeting before finding a gentler slope to descend into the valley.
The gentle slope turned into Mount Everest about half way down and – as I was starting to question my decision to ever start hunting in the first place – I experienced my greatest blunder. I must’ve been daydreaming because the next thing I knew, I was sliding down this hill on my ass in the mud! As I scraped myself off, I cursed myself for my clumsiness and the two new holes in my pants. I looked around and realized I had made it to the scrub-like area on the map, but – more importantly – I realized I wasn’t alone.
Through the fir and birch mixed forest, I noticed the outline of the big black fella I was hoping to see. I tentatively lowered my knapsack to the ground and extracted my camera. I stalked between trees to get a better view while doing my best imitation of a small inquisitive bull. After 25 yards of stalking, I found myself in a staring contest with a wide racked moose.
I snapped photos as fast as my camera could take them while I made my way back to my gear. I didn’t want to spook the moose from the area so I was trying to be as quiet as possible. When I arrived back at the trailhead where I left my pack, I noticed that Bullwinkle was not content in letting me leave just yet. I had aroused his suspicion with grunts and now he wanted to let me know I wasn’t welcome in his house!
I scampered up the side of the hill somewhat and nestled myself in behind a blown down tree. I set my camera up for what was promising to be a vivid and close encounter. The 16 point bull-moose was sporting 3 brow tines on one side, 2 on the other and was showing impressive antler growth on his young frame, a true testament to the quality habitat he called home. He slowly approached me, swaying from side to side. He dropped his head in numerous places to show me his impressive antlers. He blew and grunted on a couple occasions and I was starting to get nervous.
At this point, I realized he was locked onto me and was showing minor signs of aggression. Being alone and with no gun I had to speak up and tell him “That’s enough! Get out of here!” Hearing me speak confused him enough that he became alert to the situation and he began to change his mind about running me over. He postured up, turned away, and slowly trotted back through the scrub and stopped to looking back at me, wondering what I was. I envisioned the shot and marveled at the opportunity I just had. If only it were moose season!
I was convinced; this was the spot to hunt! I made my way back onto crown-land to find a place to set up camp (I wasn’t driving 200+ KMs everyday just to sleep in my bed). With a good location marked out I vowed to return another day to set up Moose Camp!
To be continued…..
- Two men save shark from choking on moose (foxnews.com)
When I arrived in Newfoundland last fall I had the unfortunate designation of “Non-Resident”. This meant anything larger than a coyote was off limits to me, as far as hunting goes. I was going to miss those early mornings in the tree-stand with the bow, but I hoped the small game license would maintain my interest — it didn’t help that NB was having one of the best hunting years in recent memory, but I digress. Anyways three months, $140 at the DMV and a trip to the Wildlife Division later, I had my Newfoundland Hunter’s Card.
Newfoundland has a lottery system in place for big game tags. You apply for both Moose and Caribou at the same time indicating in which zone you would accept tags. You also choose which type of tags you prefer — Bull only, either sex etc. There are nine different pools for ranking applicants; the probability of success increasing with decreasing pool number. Pool 1 is reserved for applicants that have applied for several consecutive years without success, those who received a tag in the previous year are entered into pool 9. I was a first time applicant – Pool 8 – looking for the coveted either sex moose tag on a single license.
In typical Matt Chase style, I got my application in on the last day, during the last hour of business. That puts my ticket at the top of the pile right?! I completely forgot about it after that, figuring my chances were very low. Until one night in late June – during Grant’s visit – we were hanging out around my charcoal BBQ having a couple cold ones when my neighbour stopped in for a chat. He offered us some moose sausage for the grill; explaining he got his license again this year. True to form, I had no idea that the results were even out! I thanked him for the sacrifice to the grill gods and hurried inside to log onto the Wildlife NL website. A few clicks and a couple minutes later, I was staring at this:
I was ecstatic! I called my dad immediately to tell him to save some vacation for this fall. We were going moose hunting in Gros Morne National Park!
Most Canadians will tell you that, when they think of Newfoundland they think of three things, great accents, codfish, and a huge moose population. And, when they think of Gros Morne National Park they’ll think moose problem. Moose were originally introduced to Newfoundland from New Brunswick stock in 1905 to provide a food source for residents of the island. With the virtual extinction of their only predators, wolves, in the 1920’s moose populations have been rising unchecked. In places balsam fir and white birch have been so heavily browsed, that the park’s forest structure has been changed. A recent report by Memorial University released information that some bird species which inhabit middle aged stands within the park boundaries are in population decline. In 2011 – in an attempt to control the population -Parks Canada began awarding moose tags for usage specifically within the boundaries of Gros Morne.
This might lead one to believe that a moose hunt in Gros Morne would be like shooting fish in a barrel. However, just like anything, you need to read the fine print! Within the National Park boundaries you must not: use a motorized vehicle other than a boat/plane or snowmobile in approved areas and when conditions merit safe travel, cut any trees or shooting lanes, set up camp outside of approved spaces, have an open fire or transport your firearm in the view of other public members using the park. All this, and the topography in the park changes faster than a woman’s mood! This makes things a little more interesting eh?
Armed with little knowledge of moose habitat and behavior, I began scouring over maps and satellite photos of the area. I was looking for a place I could access from a crown forest road that would facilitate a short bushwhack into the park — and hopefully good moose habitat. I identified areas with sufficient cover, edge, and bog all in relatively gently sloping terrain. With a couple of places in mind, I began planning an in-field scouting session.
In late August, I traveled the 102km from my house in Corner Brook to the Little Bonne Bay Pond area just south of Gros Morne National Park (GMNP) limits. I traveled in on a road that was in an active logging area, which turned out to be a bust. The slope down into park-land was so steep that it wouldn’t even facilitate safe walking, let alone moose extraction. However, I was able to view the park from a good vantage point — looking down into the river valley where I wanted to hunt.
I went to option two. I drove as close as I could to the park boundary and followed a bear trail (I know because there was fresh shit everywhere) through a 15-year-old balsam fir thicket singing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, the last song playing in my truck, in order not to spook a bear. When I finally arrived at the park boundary, I was faced with yet another steep slope – this one more manageable. This knob also provided yet another great view of GMNP limits.
I negotiated down the hill on the boundary while looking for the bogs and ponds that I could see on my maps. On the way down, I found a great moose trail connecting a couple of the water bodies that excited me. As I was wandering around aimlessly doing what I thought was scouting (taking pictures to show my dad and playing with my axe) I happened upon a recent cutover that I hadn’t noticed on my drive in. I was sure this meant a new road and, more importantly, a shorter walk. Turns out Google Maps are not always the greatest source of info! I marked a tree at the base of a hill in the cutover so I could reference my location. If a road was indeed at the top of the hill, I figured I would be able to see the marker. I returned the way I came, whistling the same tune. On my way out, I found the new extraction road, scampered up over the hill and was able to locate my marked tree 600 meters in the distance. I had found a new way in for the next scouting trip!
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my moose hunt thus far! The hunt is ongoing and I plan on producing a series of posts that document the trials and tribulations my first Newfoundland hunt! So follow me while I continue to search for this elusive ungulate — until next time!