We left off in Part 1 with the arrival in camp. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jake “the retriever”. Jake was the very first person to introduce himself in his Newfoundland accent. “Hi. I’m Jake. I’ll be the guy that comes and gets your moose when you shoot it”. When. I liked the optimism. It turns out Jake was so much more than that. If you are familiar with the term “camp jack”, Jake was a super one of those doing everything around camp that needed to be done including cooking up a wicked popcorn mixture for the bear baits the guides referred to as “crack for bears”.
After our orientation from Craig, we settled in to the common room to soak in the atmosphere. We played cribbage and caught up on the news. One by one, the guides trickled in. There would be 8 hunters in camp with 7 guides. Normally, the guiding was 1:1 but a father-son-duo from Ontario and Vancouver wished to hunt together. As each guide entered the room, they greeted us with “G’day, right?”, a local rhetorical greeting like “Good morning”. Some introduced themselves, others made their way to the kitchen for coffee. But as the day wore on we met each one by name.
Suddenly, the front door of the lodge opened and an exuberant yellow lab named Marley came bursting through the door. Marley made the rounds greeting each one of us with a cold wet nose and the opportunity to provide an ear scratch which we were happy to do. Following Marley was Trevor, the owner and host of Mayflower Outfitters.
Trevor was like-able from the start. He always seemed to have a smile, and a warm greeting. He and his brother Shane (one of the guides) were people you just want to be friends with. Both talked with a strong Newoundland accent but both could tone it down to a level us folks from the States could understand. There was definitely some Irish underpinnings to their speech as well.
Trevor welcomed us and asked if Craig had gone through everything with us? “Yes, he had”. With that, two other vehicles arrived and our fellow hunters were here. The other gentlemen in camp were all from Canada. There were three attorneys (Bob, Bruce, and George) who had practiced law together for many years, another gentleman named Bert who had gotten started with some sort of auto supply for high-end cars, and Bob’s son Matt who worked in sales for a microbrewery. All were from Ontario except Matt who hailed from Vancouver.
Going on a hunting trip and sharing a camp with strangers is a crap shoot. You don’t know if you’ll get along nor do you know what sort of folks you’ll be meeting. In this case, we couldn’t have asked for better new friends. These Canadians were true gentleman, terrific companions, and fun conversationalists. Their own interplay suggested years of friendship and adventures together. We would quickly develop a tight bond with them as the week went by.
We had hoped to shoot a few shots with our rifles that afternoon to make sure the scopes hadn’t gotten knocked out of adjustment during the long ride from Pennsylvania. We had shot hundreds of shots in preparation for this hunt and all felt confident in our ability and accuracy, but it is always worth a final equipment check after traveling. Unfortunately, Newfoundland game laws have a strange caveat that says no shooting or hunting on Sunday until October 1. We would have to hunt on faith in the morning that our guns were still sighted correctly. We’d be able to shoot a bit on Monday after the morning hunt.
The afternoon passed quickly as we learned about our new friends. About 6:00pm that evening we enjoyed the first of Craig’s fine repasts. Conversation and stories flowed easily. Then Trevor stood to go over how the hunting would work beginning with a safety talk. We were all experienced gun owners, and hunters but it never hurts to review basic safety information and none of us were offended by this.
Once through the safety discussion, Trevor doled out our licenses. We had two choices: Bull or either sex licenses. Trevor, like all outfitters, received a limited number of either sex licenses for the season. These tags allowed the hunter to shoot a cow or a bull. Clearly this greatly increases the likelihood of success since any moose becomes fair game. That said, Trevor allotted four either sex licenses per week and we were to decide democratically how to divide them among our group.
This was made easier by the fact that we could co-license with another hunter. As an example, the father-son team of Bob and Matt took one bull license and one either sex license with both of them co-licensed on each tag. This meant, either could shoot a cow and then they could still both hunt a bull together. George, one of the attorneys, was really only interested in hunting bulls, as was John. This made the allotment a lot easier. Bert and I both selected either sex licenses as neither of us are antler fanatics and both much more interested in some delicious moose meat. Additionally, Joe and I co-licensed on mine. Joe has been on numerous guided hunts for elk, bear, and now moose but had, as of yet, had any success on these hunts. On the other hand, I seemed to manage to stumble across animals no matter where we went. I wanted Joe to have success, so despite having the either sex tag in my pocket my plan was not to shoot a cow until Joe had killed a bull. I wanted to give him every opportunity to take an animal.
Once the licensing was decided and the paperwork filled out by all and given to Trevor he went through what to expect in the hunting days. Each day would start after breakfast when we would meet up with our guides and ride in their vehicles to their specific hunting areas.
The guides all had different locations to hunt so we wouldn’t be tripping over each other. We wouldn’t need packs. The guides had a pack and would be happy to carry anything we needed. This was different. I haven’t hunted without a pack in a long time. It turned out I enjoyed the simplicity.
After answering a few questions from the hunters, Trevor disappeared to have a word with the guides in the other room. One of Trevor’s gifts is that he is a pretty good judge of character. He has a special talent for matching up the hunters with the guides given personality types and physical abilities. After a few minutes the guides trickled into the kitchen one at a time, calling out their assigned hunter by name. Joe was teamed up with Kevin,
John with Trevor’s brother Shane, and I was to hunt with Wade. Apparently Wade is known as a big walker and given my recent athletic endeavors in marathon and triathlon it was suggested we would be a good match.
Wade and I got along fine though he didn’t prove to be much of a conversationalist. This held true to form for the first couple of days. He politely answered all my incessant questions about Newfoundland, moose, moose hunting, and what he did when not guiding for moose. But seldom did Wade start the conversation on his own. He would give me some idea of our plan for the day, and then he became very focused on finding moose. As we approached our hunting areas, he’d roll down the window and listen intently for moose calls. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
When I told fellow hunters I was going to Newfoundland for moose, they all laughed and reassured me I would not be able to understand my guide. They were right to a point. You see, the Newfoundland language is something to behold. While it is English it is almost it’s own dialect. I wish I had slipped my phone with voice memo on among the guides at a meal. The language of Newfoundlanders is something like a French-Irish accent spoken in a mumble, but very fast . . and with a mouthful of bread. It is not harsh and not meant to be secretive. It is a version of English carved from distant European ancestors, but hammered down to be simple and concise. It is a linguistic tool that allows for the fatalistic expressions needed to describe eeking out an existence on a rocky, wooded island in the cold seas of the North Atlantic. The language seems to flow with phrases that make sense no matter the circumstances, yet always seem to contain an undertone of optimism.
As pleasant as all that sounds, if two or more Newfies are engaged in conversation, you won’t understand a bit of it. In fact, I listened to Jake, Wade and three gentleman from another camp talk for five minutes. The words I understood were “16 pointer”, “Ford”, and “Chevy”. I implicitly understood the Ford and Chevy argument (some languages are universal), but Wade had to translate for me later that the gentleman had shot a large moose that turned out to be infected and unfit to be eaten. It struck me as funny that I didn’t catch a word of that and even funnier that Wade knew he had to provide translation without me asking.
The Newfies flip a switch when speaking to non-native visitors. The language is made more English like and slowed down a bit if not spoken louder. Even then the occasional repetition is necessary. It is a bit of a joke and a big point of pride among Newfoundlanders.
After Wade tracked me down in the kitchen, he asked a couple questions, and then we made small talk . . . okay not really. We shook hands, agreed to head out in the 6:00 hour after breakfast and then went our separate ways to turn in for a good night’s sleep prior to moose season.
Next up: The hunt! Day one.