I awoke to the sounds of driving rain. A thousand drumsticks beating on the roof of the lodge, the raindrops pinging off the glass in the door. Ugh. Hunting in the rain is not my favorite thing. Yes, you can do it. Yes, sometimes you find success in the rain. Yes, when I was younger I once hunted deer during a hurricane. I was young and foolish then and still believed that being out in the woods and killing a deer was the most important thing I thought I would ever do. I have killed a lot of deer since then and realize it isn’t a life changing event except for the deer. Typically, I don’t hunt in the rain anymore or any other time it doesn’t seem enjoyable. But typically I’m not in a magical place full of moose called Newfoundland.
The first day of hunting had ended for us uneventfully. As we returned to camp, I said to Wade “Maybe tomorrow will be the day”. And I meant it. Hope is the spark that keeps the hunter returning day after day despite lack of success. There was a time in human existence when all of life hinged on the success or failure of the hunt. Success meant food, clothing, tools, and safety. Failure meant hunger and uncertainty. There always has to be hope. We had five days remaining to find a moose. I was looking forward to more time in the field in this beautiful place.
On Monday evening after our arrival back at the lodge, I quickly changed out of hunting gear and made my way toward the kitchen in anticipation of whatever Craig had cooked up for the evening meal. As I stepped out of of my room, I heard words like “Congratulations!” and “That’s great!”. Clearly, someone had found success. It turned out that Matt and Bob with their guide Kegan had come across a cow almost immediately after they set out.
Matt made a great shot on it and we had our first moose in camp. I think Trevor may have been hoping for a bit more opening day success but the mood was celebratory at dinner.
I had slept soundly after that first day. I am a morning person, usually up by 4:00am most days but admit to one last, longing look at the cozy bed and blankets before donning my rain jacket and stepping out into the deluge to make my way across the dark camp to the kitchen. I opened the door to the common room and the smell of fresh coffee and a warm glow of light emanated from the kitchen. Marley slept on a bit of carpet near the door and didn’t move as I passed by. As always, Craig was busily working on our meal and seemed happy to see another soul moving about on the dreary morning. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to wait for my companions.
Breakfast was the usual merry affair I had come to expect from all meals with a bustle and hubbub as hunters and guides filled their plates. It didn’t last long. We ate with a purpose and then filtered back to our rooms to change in to our best
waterproof rain gear before sloshing our way down muddy resource roads to our chosen hunting spots.
This morning found Wade and I bouncing along a relatively new power line far North of camp. During deer season here in Pennsylvania it inevitably rains a day or two. These days, I usually stay in camp and read. But in the past when I was more gung-ho, I’d go find thick cover where a deer could hunker down and wait out the storm. It seems this strategy is good for moose too as this was Wade’s plan for the morning.
It took a long time for the rain-soaked sky to brighten enough for us to have hunting light on this sullen morning. After waiting roadside for a while, we crept the last few kilometers along the bouncy, rocky road built for the power line. Ever alert, Wade rolled windows down to listen and we watched roadside bogs as we went. You never know where you might spot a moose.
Finally, we parked at a wide spot in the road, and made our way up a trail through the timber. It was a very well defined moose trail. I noted the kind of damage moose did to a well-used trail.
In places it was like walking in a ditch where the water filled the hillside path churned up by sharp hooves. Like most places we went, it was a moosey looking spot and it kept getting moosier. As the trail reached a plateau, a large bog interspersed with spruce patches opened before us. “Wow! A moose could be anywhere out there!”, I thought. We sneaked along the edge of the bog to a small patch of trees that jutted out into the bog. Just as I thought to myself that this would be a great place to call from, Wade indicated we would do exactly that. We got setup and as the first mournful “ooh aaaHHHH” echoed over the bog, I double checked my rifle. We stared intently around the bog expecting to see the black, antlered hulking form of a moose appear from the mist at any moment.But no moose came and no return calls emanated from the surrounding timber. There had to be bull moose nearby but they just didn’t seem interested in talking to a friendly lady moose.
We gave up on the location, packed the caller and headed slowly across the bog, sneaking from tree cluster to tree cluster always on the lookout for a moose. The steady rain persisted as we left the bog and entered a trail through the spruce trees, hoping to catch a bull hanging out just off the bog in the relative dryness of heavy tree cover. As we inched along, every upturned stump and branch looked like a moose in the low light. Upon investigation with binoculars, none of them turned out to be moose but I’ve learned that about the time you don’t look, one of those stumps morphs into an animal. That didn’t happen this time though and, after a few hundred yards (or meters in Canadian) we reached another promising looking bog and tried calling again.
We continued this pattern throughout the soggy morning. Bog to bog. Timber to timber. At one point, we came across a giant sink hole that Wade and I agreed wouldn’t be a good spot to step in the dark. Despite being some 25 feet across, you could barely see it in the bog grass. I wished I snapped a photo but wrestling a phone out of a pocket in the rain with hands full of rifle and shooting sticks isn’t all that practical. Still, when I peeked into the abyss I’m pretty sure I saw a Chinese hunter staring back at me in the distance.
Eventually we made our way back to the well-beaten moose trail and the truck. Interestingly, in our absence someone had marked Wade’s trail with tape after spotting his parked truck. We unmarked it again, and headed back to the lodge to dry out.
I had stayed pretty dry. I’ve learned over a lifetime of hunting to not skimp on hunting equipment. Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to rain gear. I have good stuff, but it turned out the new boots I was wearing were a little loose at the top. The ideal scenario is to wear rain pants that you can stretch over the top of your boots. This keeps rain out and water collected from brush and trees from running into your boots. Alternatively, have boots tight enough to keep water out. Oddly, I remembered my boots being fairly tight at the top, not loose as was the case now. Strange.
When we returned to camp we found our Canadian counterparts in the kitchen playing a spirited game of euchre. From them we learned that moose hunting had been a washout for all involved. Few animals were seen and none taken that morning. The forecast for the afternoon was looking better though. It was supposed to dry up in time for the afternoon hunt. Wade and I left camp a bit early that day to head to town to get gas before going to our hunting location. We left camp in pleasant, sunny weather.
Almost anywhere you go, you’ll hear the expression “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes”. That holds true for Newfoundland, but you can add “just drive a few kilometerd”. We weren’t 10 kilometers from camp when the skies darkened and the a hard rain began falling again. In the midst of this, a black bear scampered across the road in front of us. Newfoundland is a truly wild place.
With the truck fueled up and heading North we left the bear and the rain behind in Roddickton and spent the afternoon hunting in absolutely beautiful summer weather. Wade had parked right along the main highway and we crept along a moose trail heading toward a beautiful looking creek or beaver pond. As we sneaked along the trail I noticed big, fresh moose tracks. We had had a solid inch of rain. These were very fresh tracks.
There was a pile or two of fresh moose droppings to go along with it. I looked ahead expected to see the south end of a northbound moose disappearing into the spruce. We skulked along the trail watching carefully hoping to get to the pond and either catch a moose out in the open or lure it out with calls. We setup along the waterway, hiding from the bright sun but were very easily found by hungry mosquitoes that were quite at home in the summer-like weather. They droned incessantly in our ears while we called, and bit furiously when they knew we couldn’t afford to swat for fear of giving away our hide. Movement must be kept to a minimum and swatting is verboten.
The waterway was extensive. I don’t know if it was a creek, or just a really big beaver pond but it went for hundreds of yards, winding through the thick spruce. It was ideal moose habitat, or at least it looked such to me. Evidently, the moose felt differently at least on that afternoon.
As we called, I pictured a big bull dozing back under the cover of the spruce and waiting for the coolness of night. In my mind I could see his ears flap now and then as he shooed away the buzzing mosquitoes. Occasionally, his paddle-like antlers sink toward the ground as sleep takes over, then lurching upward as the distant “ooohh aahhhHHH” from the caller echoes over the pond. It is enticing to the bull, but not enough to get up and stride into the hot sun. Perhaps he’ll go look for the lonely cow later when the sun goes down and it gets cooler. She can wait for him.
Wade and I worked our way around the long, grassy waterway. We watched, waited, and called but without any response except for a very verbal loon. It seemed like one moment the sun was high in the sky making me sweat, and then a moment later, a heavy vapor lay over the water, obscuring the far shore as the sun set behind the trees. It began to get chilly. It would be a cold night.
Wade and I walked now. Not so much hunting as returning to the truck. We walked the final few hundred yards over a very wet bog returning to the road. We had gone all day with no moose sighting despite the promising sign. We would try again tomorrow.
Back at the lodge as we polished off another amazing dinner from Chef Craig, Trevor looked troubled. The weather was bad. The moose were not cooperating. No more animals had fallen today. The prior week had apparently been fairly poor. Joe reassured him that we all were seasoned hunters and this is, in fact, why they call it hunting. There are places where one can be guaranteed of shooting an animal, but none of us signed up for, or wanted that. There was also still plenty of time and the forecast for Wednesday was very promising. The rain was gone, temperatures would drop to near freezing, and there would be a frost. All surefire ways to fire up the moose rut. I announced that tomorrow I would shoot my moose.
Ah, yes……Good, quiet rain gear and waterproof boots (Muck brand preferred)…..I saw those things on the checklist 🙂