Hunting larger game with my Dad was not for the faint of heart. Those were the days before modern technology simplified life. No GPS, ATV or hand held radio for him. He had only his own two feet and an uncanny sense of direction to depend on. He did occasionally take someone along with him but more often than not it was a solitary venture. He preferred to hunt alone.
He would head off on foot into the bush in Northern Ontario to look for signs of the deer or moose that he was after. Once he found tracks and knew which direction they were heading, he would take some time to study the terrain. He was quite skilled at predicting the path they were likely to take and he would set off on a route that would take him around in a wide circle to get in front of them. Then he could pick a spot that would put him downwind and in a perfect position to take a shot when the time came. Of course, all that tracking and circling meant that he often covered a lot of distance on a hunt. Anyone tagging along was taking the risk that they might find themselves trudging through 20 miles of forest and swamps before the day was done.
Dad was good at what he did so he seldom failed to bring home his prey. Once the animal was shot the real work began. If it was a deer he would shoulder the whole carcass after it was gutted and begin the long trek back to the road. If it was a moose things got a little more complicated. A moose is far too large to drag through the woods so it would have to be butchered on site. One man couldn’t hope to carry it all. Help would be needed in order to retrieve it and that meant hiking back to civilization to round up reinforcements. With a little luck there would be some relative or friend who was willing to lend a hand in exchange for a share of the meat. If no one was available he would head back on his own with a huge pack he kept for the purpose and used often. It would hold about 200 pounds and he would load it up with the choicest cuts and leave the rest for scavengers. Bushwhacking with a 200 pound pack on your back for any distance can take the stuffing out of even the strongest of men but Dad did it when he had to. It was all part of the experience.
One year he was out after deer with his 300 Savage lever action rifle. He’d been walking for some time and was caught completely by surprise when a moose rose to its feet almost directly in front of him. It was a cow and his reaction was instinctive. He lifted the rifle to his shoulder and fired before he had time to think about it. The 300 is shorter and lighter than the gun he normally would have carried to hunt moose but it was a good clean shot and she went down like a stone. He’d only taken a few steps toward her when a crashing in the brush some distance behind him brought him up short. He swung around in alarm to see a huge bull moose snorting and shaking his massive antlered head at the puny man that stood between him and the cow he’d been approaching.
When the animal charged Dad stood his ground and fired. He fired again and again until he’d used all 5 of the shots that remained in his gun after the one that brought the cow down. The big bull not only kept coming, it didn’t even slow down. I don’t know if Dad’s life flashed before his eyes in that moment but it well might have. He took a quick step back and stumbled, the now empty and useless gun dangling from one hand. He fell onto his back and lay there helpless as the moose, confused by the sudden move, skidded to a stop and stood panting over him. He was close…so close that Dad could have reached up and touched his lowered head. There was blood streaming from the broad chest where his shots had found a mark but it was obvious that with the lighter rifle he had failed to pierce anything vital. He held his breath and waited through ten long agonizing seconds before the moose turned aside and trotted off through the trees. He was lucky to be alive. As it was, he didn’t even get stepped on.
“I thought I was a goner,” he later confided. “It was a little too close for comfort.”