December 8, 2022

Guest Blog By: Jodi Gullen, The 4L Tracker

“Who could be coming this early in the shift?”

At the first glimmer of a light in the tunnel, I raised my safety glasses from their perch on my chin, up to where they were supposed to be. Over the roar of the drill, you couldn’t hear it, but I sensed the boss’s jeep pull up close (too close) and my little cave world lit up in the glare of headlights.

The focus on my cap lamp jiggled and danced as I leaned hard on the drill, exaggerating the effort. Working the final, of 7 long graveyard shifts underground , I was nearly played out. His shadow loomed across the face, then, over mine and the spot of his lamp flitted around the workplace, looking for trouble. I peered back over the rim of mud caked lenses, hoping he hadn’t found any. He smiled. Nodded his head appreciatively and gave me the thumbs up!

I leaned in again, thinking “Good shifter, that Curtis! Silent supervision.”

That’s when he tapped my shoulder and handed over the note.

“CALL HOME A.S.A.P.” How many times had I asked her not to call me at work unless it was an emergency? Boy, what a woman I’ve got! Curtis sensed the urgency and gave me a lift up to the lunchroom, where I made the call.

It seems that the outfitter, where my wife worked, had a bull moose tag available for the archery season in a nearby zone. I could fly in, at a discounted price, if we’d construct a camp frame for his bookings that were to hunt in the rifle season. I had recently purchased a new crossbow and, though we had never bow hunted, Alan, my brother in law and hunting buddy, was available and a nice compound. It would be a five day hunt (weather pending). “But,” she stated “You’ll have to leave tomorrow, and he’s gotta know tonight! Do you want to go?????????”

So, you see, it really was an emergency!

My fellow miners were envious at lunch time, once everything was confirmed. Many were northern boys, like me, with keen hunting blood in ‘em. Frosts were heavy most mornings now, and there were still ten days till we could gun hunt. And in 10 days, we’d be back in here, slavin’ at work. Yeah, the fellas were itchin’ pretty bad, once I rubbed it in. A lot!.

I drove home from that mine like a man possessed, a violent stream of dust, howling due south into the rising sun! Sneaking up a little early at the end of shift, I blew out the gate ten minutes ahead of anyone. The roadway kicks up a blanket of gray stuff that rises thick, and very slowly fades to hang, like fog, over the northern lowlands. No one would catch me today. Two hours to civilization. Four hours, home. Hammer down!

I rustled the feathers of a few road partridge as I flew into the dawn that day. No time to stop. I had bigger fish to fry.

Saw a cow and calf scamper to the bushline and hardly touched the brakes. Sorta’ in a hurry!

An hour out, I hit flat hard pavement and stepped on it a bit. The sky was lit with orange and pink wisps of high cloud. A good sign!

I daydreamed of hunts past, and started to get pumped.

I am a Hamilton lad who let the fickle road of life take him north, at 18 years old, to expansive waterways and wilderness. Mining and money led me away and now the bush has

me in its grip. From hunting bullfrogs and squirrel, to moose and bear, it’s quite a transition. Success was limited, at first. Luck would flourish periodically. But, living and working in the moose’s back yard, certainly has it’s benefits! Like hunting almost daily for six weeks, or a quick hunt on the way to work. Or getting one, on the way home. Spend a lot of time in the bush and opportunity will come your way.

I credit the tag allocation system for much of my knowledge regarding moose behavior. In my early hunting years, one could shoot any kind of moose and they could be brought down two and three at a time. If you saw a moose you simply shot at it. Now, we must often watch cows, calves and bulls interact with each other, with other animals, and with humans. These observations evolve into insight and intuition that can add a great deal to one’s success rating. Still, “many a moose made a monkey out of me.” But each failure brought new insight, and each kill greater confidence.

My, soon to be, father in law, was inspirational in those early hunting years. A true northern Ontario Ojibway, he was born in the bush and his youth was hunting, fishing and trapping. Wise in the ways of the moose, (world calling champ 1964) he straightened me out on many an issue. Our outings were always a lesson and an adventure and, most often, successful. In his later years he would pour over the maps with us, listening to our daily results and give great advice for tomorrow’s hunt. A Zen Moose Master. Sadly, he’s now hunting in a far better world and, thanks to him, I’m a better hunter in this one.

I was home at 8:30 in the morning. A 3 ½ hour trip out.

Funny, after seven long days in the bush, I was dying to head right back into her. The wife had my sleeping bag rolled and a selection of hunting clothes laid out on the couch. She gave a status report on the arrangements and supplies while I threw them into a hockey bag and wolfed down a beer and toasted western. What a woman I’ve got! Kissed her thanks, and goodbye, and thanks again, and I was off and on the dock by nine.

Alan was transferring lumber out to the waiting Beaver. George Theriault, our outfitter host and pilot, was handling load placement along with Andre, a carpenter friend of ours. Both he and Alan had worked with George at one time or another, so it wasn’t long before we taxied out onto the lake, smooth as glass, and powered up. Andre and I flew in with the first load without Al, as surely the big fella would have put us over the load limit! As it was, we took a long run before lifting off and rising, ever so slowly, into the western sky. Banking right, we climbed northwest on a picture perfect fall morning. The landscape below was a splash of paisley, gold, orange and green, with ominous dark patches of bush still in shadow. Pothole lakes wore a faint mist of gray that glistened snow white where the rising sun met the western shore. The sky was cloudless.

We passed over my usual moose hunting area and I stared down, fascinated, comparing the scene to what I had perceived from ground level. I spotted a brand new pocket of prime real estate, seemingly, just a short walk to the west. Scouring the brushlines, I caught a quick glimpse of faint paths running along the edge of the cut. And quickly , the scene was behind and lost, but not forgotten. Insight from 2000 feet.

We began our descent fifteen minutes out, as we crossed the broad expanse of Kap Lake and picked up the C.N. Line. A bright red-headed southbound freight snaked out below us and the heat from its three mighty engines distorted the scene below. More than a mile long, it wound in and out of view, flashing here and there through the trees. But it was soon

behind and I returned to the panorama ahead. That sinking feeling was now in full effect and contours of the landscape became evident, as a monster hill loomed to the north. We skirted south of it, our shadow racing across the hillside ahead of us. George banked sharply right and bore down on a banana shaped lake, curled in the mountain’s shadow, that was just catching its first rays the of the day. A ghostly mist scurried and parted as the pontoons touched water in a quick, smooth landing. We taxied to a rocky point on the western shore and blew away the fog that was rising into the quickly warming forest. A thin frosted trail led uphill from a small dock that was sheltered by the point. Lumber, supplies, and two adventurers were unceremoniously dumped on the rocks and the Beaver was roaring back into the morning sun in minutes.