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My Second Chance at A Newfoundland Moose

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April 30th, 2016

Andre1 Gull river 

A second chance for moose in Newfoundland, October 19th, 2015

How did I do this?  I actually don’t know, even today. The path had already been trodden earlier this year in September and I was definitely itching to return. The fact is that my wife had said OK and with her blessing I could return to Newfoundland, Canada, after just one month to try and fill the still valid moose tag I held.

Now I am flying from Amsterdam to Montreal where I’ll stay for the night. Early in the morning I take the plane to Gander via Halifax, where promptly upon my arrival, Craig my big game hunting outfitter, is waiting in less than three hours we are at the lodge where I feel like a regular and even get the same room. It turns out that I will be the only hunter in camp for the first couple of days as the couple who were supposed to be here would be delayed by two days due to an unforeseen circumstance. Apart from Craig there is Dexter who will be my guide. The main cook, Craig’s wife Alice, is waiting at home to bring the other guests into camp upon their arrival.

We set off immediately upon arriving for a “flick in the road” as since the first Saturday of October, hunting is allowed on Sundays too. Ninety minutes of quad driving is not a waste of time because on our way back to the lodge, we come across a cow moose feeding by the road. After a while of mutual gazing she decides to leave us slowly; it is then we notice two calves that had been hiding in the bushes and they now begin following their mother. A month earlier, during my previous stay on the island, it was too warm and the rut was late keeping our sought after game from moving. My hosts commented about the highly unusual season and apparently not much had changed for the better since my departure. There had been some single cool days when the moose were moving more thus presenting hunters with more shooting opportunities but the weather had stayed abnormally warm both day and night. Based upon this I am determined to shoot the first bull I see. We are all tired, so at 9:30 pm Dexter switches the generator off and we go to bed.

Now the wake-up call comes later than in September. We have breakfast and we leave at 6:30 am. My spirits are high as the morning welcomes us with some frost. The sky is starry and there seems to be a cool and sunny day ahead of us. “Maybe today” - that’s what I’m thinking when I leave the lodge with Dexter. In the last moment my hunting guide decides to make a change of plans for locally, the wind is blowing in a different direction than the forecast said, so the planned hunting place I’ve never been to is postponed. Instead we choose a road I know very well, it goes south along the Great Gull River. At the start we come across a large, old cow moose. We see her in the distance but our presence does not seem to bother her at all. Dexter calls using a calling technique whereby he is trying to imitate a moaning sound to attract a bull, but there is no male with the cow. If there is the bull won’t answer and doesn’t show. When the cow becomes bored with watching our strange vehicle it moves slowly towards the bushes and slowly vanishes. As for us, we continue to drive to the unknown. What is unknown is whether we will be lucky enough to see a bull moose, I know it can happen at any time, at least in theory. We agree that we will go to some place that Dexter knows and from there we will cross some wet meadows to get to the river which marks the hunting zone border. The drive is slow and we reach the place at 7:45am, while driving both of us watch cautiously along the roadside and some open bogs to see if there are any moose but we see none. Fresh tracks on the road in several places are the only sign that moose have been here. It rained yesterday which caused the older tracks to disappear, so we can suspect with a high degree of certainty that the new ones we see are only few hours old.

Andre2

We reach our destination and leave our ATV on the road and begin walking so that we can listen to any sounds coming from moose within the forest and also allowing us to better pinpoint the location of any of these moose. A take a minute to load my rifle as we slowly head down towards the river and the opening along its banks where we might cross paths with a feeding moose. As we near Dexter stops and tries a call but we get no response. We decide to follow along the rivers edge keeping the open bog on our left. We don’t travel far when ahead of us we hear a distinct “cough” coming from somewhere between the bog and the river’s edge, I also think I hear some moose grunting. It sounds to be a long way off but just these sounds fill us with hope. A little brook flowing into the river nearby masks the noise we make while walking as we follow a wide path that is well trodden by moose and caribou, several sets of moose tracks were very fresh. The game trails in the area are many and almost every step of the way we see “beds”. The meadow is separated from the river by a narrow strip of forest so we decide to go through it and the river emerges before our eyes. It flows slowly and majestically, its water pure, cold and clear. The water level is unusually low where we emerge as the river is wide. We stop at its banks and carefully check both sides within our view. Dexter repeats his calling as we begin to cross the river to gain a better view of the area within our boundary on the rivers left side. As we move our motions draw the attention of dozens of pan size trout that are hiding among the rocks and they quickly head away from us leaving a distinct vee in the water, their dorsal fin and tail above the water.

We head upriver now moving along a slightly steeper river bank covered with forest to the high water mark. We round a turn in the river and suddenly Dexter who is leading stops. There is a moose on the other side of the river partially hidden by brush but we can clearly see a portion of an antler that catches the morning sunlight as it moves. When I see the moose I know immediately that this is my chance. Without a word I leave Dexter and glued to the forest wall, I creep ahead a short distance to a heavily branched tree growing near the river, I use it as a blind. First taking time to check my rifle I then look out to see the bull standing in the open, ignorant to our presence. Dexter kneels next to me and ranges the moose, we are 190 yards away which I know I can shoot easily. The moose turns and seemingly looks straight into our eyes, very calmly, as though he has noticed something but is unsure. My gun is propped against the tree, and I am on one knee, behind it. I see in the scope the bull’s large, immobile chest. I want to take a shot immediately but Dexter suggests that we should wait.

 “He is calm and quite curious” - he says. “Let’s wait until he is broadside to us”  Dexter starts to call him, moaning and making noises in the bushes next to me. Without warning the moose turns and heads back into the trees and I stare dumbfounded; my hopes fading with each step he takes. I don’t know what has made the bull so nervous but after a short time my heart rate soars as the moose reemerges immediately near the river, closer to us. He moves slowly towards us, on the opposite bank of the river. He is out there, ready for shooting. I follow each of his steps, waiting until he is side on to us. He stops several times, always looking into our direction. I have this terrible itching inside telling me that I should shoot just in the middle of the chest, but keep repeating to myself Dexter’s words: “He will not go away, just wait”. Suddenly the bull turns to the river as if he is going to cross, but if he does he will be out of our hunting area. “you had better shoot” Dexter says so I aim and shoot him straight in the chest. He stops, completely grounded. I reload and shoot again. As every guide insists, Dexter wanted me to take the second shot. He has barely uttered something when I take the third one. The moose falls down where he was when I made my first shot.

We are both very happy and we congratulate each other looking at the trophy, lying there, on the other side of the river. This is not the biggest moose in the world, but it has great antlers and he is mine. I’ve crossed the Atlantic twice to get him, hunting hard and I savor the moment.

When we come closer we discover why the antlers were so visible from afar. It’s already 8.30 am but they are still covered with ice. We inspect the game carefully. All three bullets hit the chest, and each was lethal. This confirms that the 7 mm Magnum, considered by many as too small for such a big game, is effective if the shot is placed properly. The moose is so heavy and large that we need to take photos on the scene. We hardly manage to put him in a prone position and there is no chance to slightly hold the head for the photo session. After I dwell in my joyous thoughts for a moment it now dawns on me that it won’t be easy to extract my trophy and I mention my thoughts to Dexter who seems to be optimistic, claiming that with some small preparation we can come to the site on quads. “Try me” - I say in my thoughts. As for now, we proceed with the field dressing, everything is larger and more difficult than in that of the red deer for which I’m used to dealing with. Moving the bull unto its back is the first challenge. Then, it becomes easier, mainly thanks to Dexter’s experience. When the job is done the moose is cut into half, covered with branches and ready for transport. It’s 9:50 am so we head back to our ATV to return to camp and return with Craig and a chainsaw. Once we arrive at camp I waste no time and use my phone to send a text message to my wife to rebook my return flights. Now I can depart tomorrow provided that there are available seats to fill the four flights in my itinerary. I should know that by the time we get back with my moose.

At camp we decide to come back after lunch at which time three of us leave on three ATV’s, two of which are towing a small trailer each. Equipped with the gasoline, saw and without any obstacles we reach the place where Dexter has decided to get off the road and start cutting the trail. Then we start, Craig uses the saw while Dexter and I throw brush from the trail and fill in holes, the distance we covered in the morning in 25 minutes on foot now takes 1.5 hours as we cut, clear and move along the quads. In the meantime I get the confirmation that my new flights are rebooked. On the river bank things go smoothly. Quads cross the river and climb the slopes without difficulty. It is relatively easy to load the moose when you have three pairs of hands. At one point it becomes difficult for the loaded quad to climb a steep incline but the extra power of our muscles solves the problem. Finally, at 4:30 pm we arrive happily back at the camp with our precious load. We just need ninety minutes to clean and quarter the carcass and to separate the tenderloin which I want to take with me back to Warsaw. We have a dinner - the second tenderloin from our morning game, prepared by Craig. Craig is a very good guide and makes great breakfasts. As for dinners… his wife always cooks them… In one word, the tenderloin needed to be chewed, vigorously, but the taste was good.

              I’ve slept like a child but awake to a back that hurts like hell, I must have worked hard yesterday helping with the trail I figure, regardless it was quite the day overall. We enjoy a great breakfast again and it being still early in the morning we leave as planned for Craig’s home. We spot five moose on the way home including the second bull I’ve seen here plus three caribou. This time I have everything in my hand luggage including my rain boots, binoculars, clean and soiled clothing and three kilos of fresh moose tenderloin. I am ready for any flight delays in Montreal where I change from Air Canada to KLM but there are none, so at peace I register myself and my tenderloin directly from Montreal to Warsaw. I arrive at the airport to see my wife who has been waiting for my return. She greets me with a big smile as I look at her and say, “love I would do it all again in a heartbeat” 

Andre Bilip,

Poland

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