Guest Blog By: Jodi Cullen, The 4L Tracker
Continuation of: Answering The Call, Part 1
Andre and I were just-a-grinnin! We sucked in a hearty breath of fresh energy and just got at ‘er. When George zoomed in, 90 minutes, later with another full load, plus Big Al, we had already carted load #1 to the camping area and set up housekeeping. The new gear was baled off of the plane and Andre bailed wonderful fresh, hot coffee. George sat down and mapped out the lay of the land, the location of our boat and canoe, and arranged a fly by for Friday. Al and Andre were reminded of the carpentry at hand, and with a big smiles all around, our pilot was up and gone. It was half past eleven
Chainsaws wailed and hammers rang throughout the day, as we cleared a spot for the campframe, cut firewood and shored up our own tent and facilities. Breaks were taken regularly. We pulled out the bows and a target was set up in the length of the clearing. My little Horton Legend was broken out of it’s box and bolts were readied with broadheads, leaving one with a field tip for practicing. Choosing a neutral sight, I was quickly on the board, but after a few pin adjustments, I found the range and could center hit a paper plate regularly over the twenty-five yard distance. I was impressed by Al’s shooting (for never having hunted with a bow). We also learned that each third cast or so, from the rocky point, brought in a follower or landed a scrappy two or three pound pike. So, even with big Al here, we would not run short of food!
During a mid-afternoon super-sandwich break, Al pulled a moose calling tape out of his pack and we listened, laughed and critiqued the whole thing. We started exchanging stories of calls and answers and heart-pounding near misses, and that was it! There would be no more working today. A tour of the lake was in order.
Our rocky point lay in the middle of the outside curve on the mile long, shallow lake. It was perhaps 200 yards directly across to the opposite shore, where the large ridge of tall birch and poplar rose sharply. It dominated the eastern horizon for the length of the lake and carried on south, highlighting a creek valley that ran into our lake. At the north end, the ridge flattened to a nice looking hayfield with a small creek running through. Moose Heaven! The ridge would bounce sound wonderfully and I wondered if the moose here had even heard a hunter’s call.
A little four-horse pushed three men in a car topper to the south end, where I was surprised to see a rickety old stand, high in a large cedar. Countless tracks littered the sandy beach and weedbeds, offshore, had been trashed by feeding moose. A well worn trail ran along a nearby grassy shoreline The stand wasn’t ideal, but good shots were certainly possible. I vowed to bring back a saw and open up some shooting lanes.
Small boulders at the water’s edge made the eastern shoreline a difficult walk for moose, but just inland, a moose highway had been pounded into the moss. Near the northern end , tag
alders and a thin hayfield bordered a narrow, sandy bay and outlet creek. Trials crisscrossed everywhere. The main highway ran directly beneath one very old, very dead, leaning cedar. Feeble rungs led to a thin platform, which perched questionably on a bare limb on the upper side of the tree. Finger thin railings, to guard against falls, were held together with faded, brittle twine. This was a very old stand. Perhaps the tree was alive when it was used, but now there was little cover in its scraggly branches. I figured if a guy brought some extra boughs with him, it would still be a dandy spot.
The big fella volunteered to go up and Andre and I struggled not to laugh as the smooth, white trunk sagged and groaned under his weight. But, he made it to the perch and gingerly tested its soundness. He was wearing the dirty white-gray jogging suit that he’d been working in all day and I told him he looked pretty good up there in his pyjamas, ‘cause they blended well with the dead cedar. He smiled, “Oh yeah, I’ll take this one!”
It was after 5, by the time we patrolled the northern shoreline back to camp. Al and I quickly geared up and fired a last practice shot. Though he did not hunt, Andre said he was pumped up just watching our growing excitement and seeing all the evidence of moose nearby. Good feed and sign were everywhere. No one had hunted here in years, and the weather was unbeatable. I hadn’t seen a cloud all day. A light breeze was, just now, dying and though it had warmed considerably through the day, bringing out more than a few hungry pests, a definite chill was now in the air along with the promise of a heavy frost for the morning.
The sun was dropping to the treetops as Al and I paddled silently up to the north end. I figured on dropping him at his stand in the hay, then stroking halfway back, making a call, and heading to the south stand. After that, he and I would both call.
The canoe bottomed out twenty feet from shore. It was dead calm, and each splash, knock and step, bounced around the bay as I pushed away. Al’s labored breath carried across the reeds and I laughed again on hearing the cedar creak and groan. Looking back, Pyjama Boy was up and, somehow, vaguely hidden against the twilight. He took his orange hat off, and I almost lost him. It was incredible. No cover or cammo, and he was barely visible!
Little noises, the rustle of my coat, reeds against the gunnel, swirls behind my paddle, each pained my ears while I slowly stroked the weedline back for about 200 yards and drifted to a stop. I managed to stow the paddle silently and did the long listen. The sun was almost down and, looking west, the shoreline was dark and indecernable. Andre was standing on the dock a ways to the south, but to see directly across was futile. Orange above, black below. My ears rang already.
A deep breath, a muffled cough into my hand, a little listen, another breath and I called. Long and low, back to the hayfield.
And again, pleading to the hillside.
My eyes watered from the effort and my pulse pounded in stereo, but I heard it. Right away.
Where, what? I wasn’t sure. Yep, there it was, a distant “pop”, west, in the blackness.
Or was it my belly?
I strained forward, to close the distance, and pointed one ear. Four beats of my heart and, snap, the branch that only a moose could break. Unreal! This is it! Red Alert!
I waved frantically to Pyjama Boy. Why? I couldn’t even see him!
It seemed to be a fair distance off, across the lake, in the dark, low lying bush. But, from the uniform, well spaced answers and frequent crashes, it was obvious that he was on his way,
and determined. While he was moving fast, I backstroked towards shore, beached, deftly grabbed the Legend and tiptoed, through 6 inches of water, to the alder cover on land. Suddenly breathless, I took refuge in a lovely trio of boulders at water’s edge, huffing like a locomotive. His distant pop had become a subtle bark, descending, quietly now, to lake level. Caution had entered his mind as he closed on the opening and, though his footfalls had stopped, the barking was steady, at 20 second intervals. My eyes were useless, but I felt his big ears scoping across the lake. He was locked on to this locale and I dared not move. A waiting game. All was still, and he called no more. The silence was electric. Sitting in the rocks, one leg started to vibrate. My leg was electric!