Dozens and dozens had gathered in the trees around our house; koltrast, björktrast, bofink, calling chattering and our "local" blåmes and talgoxe added to the cacophony. Some of the birds were quarreling with one another, while others were seeing off the local bullies; crows. It was like standing in a huge aviary... And while I was standing there, looking at them I saw in my corner of my eye a fast moving shadow coming in. A grey dart dashed between the gathered birds and all of a sudden the skies were empty and the calls became shrieks.
Hunting started in earnest for me on thursdag october 16th. Esbjörn had invited me to join him and his huntingleague in this year's moosehunt. He had explained the basics to me; silent clothes meaning no noise and no flashy colours. We'd be spending the day on location, meaning stationary and we'd start early 06:30.
So thursday morning I was ready. Wrapped myself in my beloved woolies for the first time this season, packed a backpack with foldable tripod seat, food&coffee, poncho, first-aid kit. Binos in one pocket of my huntingcoat, a pair of knitted gloves and a dito turtleneck in the other. Jeepcap on my nogging, knife within reach. I met the whole huntingleague at the greenhouse and introduced myself to each of them in person. Scored good notes with that I learned afterwards. A little later we set out and everyone made for his post.
As we came up to ours, we had to pass another post on foot and as we did I already spotted 3 moose in the distance; a big one and 2 smaller ones! Right in front of the location we were supposed to be at!! Looked promising And I caught myself thinking ;"One of you will be dead very soon." We moved up and as we did the top of a low hill moved in between us and the moose-trio. When we reached our post I could make them out just over the top. Esbjörn set up his stool/backpack and made his rifle ready. I did not get that chance.... The moose seemed alerted by something of to our left. Heads and ears held high.... Then they started to move; slowly at first, but soon speeding up to a trot and they headed our way. And out of nowhere 2 more adult moose showed up right in front of us!
At 07:30 we were busy fielddressing the first kill of the day,,,,,
... Of which I will spare you the visual presentation, which I did not get since I hand my hands full....
As we approached the animal the first thing I noticed was the size of the calf. It was big!! Turned out to be a young bull. The shot was a good one, ensuring a clean kill. Went through both the lungs. Looking at it I felt a pang of sadness go through me. It was a fine looking animal. Beautiful fur. Strong too and it might have become a beautiful bull...
Here I made a mistake, not the first one this day, but I will elaborate on that later. I had my knitted gloves on, since the temperatures were just above freezing and the grass was wet. We had to move the calf in order to fielddress it, meaning taking out the intestines and blood and I handled the calf with my gloves still on... and so they got soaking wet, both with blood, but also with the water that was in the fur around the ankles.... Dumb, dumb, dumb.....
I took them off and after I held apart the legs, he cut open the belly of the animal. It felt strange handling the dead, yet still warm animal. The skin was cut and the intestines came bulging out, neatly packed in a strong membrane. That I had not expected! A lot less messy than I anticipated! But hang on... I was quickly being served my portion of messy-ness! One of the stomachs got caught behind a sharp edge of the chestbone, tore open and spilled the peasoup-like contents.... The smell!! And I was hanging over it less than half a meter away. It came steaming up into my face and I felt my stomache protest....
Esbjörn was having his share of messy-ness too. Apart from the torn stomache, he was faced with 2 lungs torn to pieces. One bloody mess in there. As I held open the abdomen he cleaned it up as good as possible and we then turned the animal on it's belly to let the blood run out. As we rolled it over, it made loud squelching sounds.... Esbjörn then asked me if I had an axe with me. Not knowing why he'd need it, I fetched my little forest axe and his foldingsaw. Turns out he need a stick or 2 to keep open the abdomen, so that the carcass could cool down fast. We rolled the animal back to it's side and propped the abdomen open with 2 sticks, leaving the pile of intestines next to it.
I said mostly, because just before noon we got word from another post behind us that there was movement again and as we turned around I saw an animal move over a ridge to our far right, coming toward us. I warned Esbjörn and as he was preparing a young cow emerged from the treeline, spotted us and dashed off immediately again. We could hear her thumping and crashing away to our left, straight for the posts we passed in the morning. Very soon after that we heard 3 shots echoing through the valley and we waited for the confirmed kill over the radio..... which did not come. Further inquiry made it clear that one of the guys fired 3 shots and saw the cow tumble down, roll over and straggling off afterwards. So another search was in order and that took the rest of the day. With nothing to do we remained in position just in case the cow would wheel around, away from the dog-led searchparty. The only result from that was that I saw 2 pine martens rummaging around in a pinetree right behind me, we saw plenty of crows and deer and a handful of woodpeckers.
Just after 17:15 we got word to call it a day and we packed our gear, headed toward the carcass to load that up onto a trailer and drive to the location, where the moose got slaughtered. I noticed that the intestines had become bloated like a large balloon.
I asked if I could have the hide and brain of the calf and explained what I intended to do with them. I caught some strange looks. One of our neighbours was helping with the slaughtering and learned of my intentions. I looked him in the eye and said to him;" You better be careful. You have got some very strange neighbours, you know." I do not know if he got my sense of humor... I did witness the skinning of "our" calf and learned a few things about skinning too!
Appearantly my presence was being appreciated, because I was asked if I wanted to join the next day as well!
At first I was hesitant, feeling my feet, remembering the boredom and knowing I had things planned, but my wife thought she could handle those by herself and I accepted.
We left for home at about 18:30, carrying a heavy load; the skin, the head and 2 paws of "our" calf...
And today, friday 17th, was the last "day" for me.
I was present at 06:30, but we started off a lot later than yesterday. We sat in the car by the day we were field dressing the moose the previous day. The guys seemed a lot less eager... It was about the same weather as the day before, but with much more humidity in the air. It felt more chilling. We headed for the same place again and we arrived under daylight. There was nothing to be seen and that was to remain for the rest of the "day". This day ended when we received a call just before noon, saying the hunt had been cut short. No reason was given, but I suspect the unsatisfactory appearance of moose was the main cause. None were seen at all....
While we sat there, mainly in silence, I looked at some roe deer. Even their presence was less than before. I also payed more attention to the birds, specifically the ravens I and listened to their calls. We also saw some migrating geese. The last stragglers I guess. One group consisted of Canadian geese, the other I could not determine. They were quiet and flew in a tight v-formation.
The highlight of the day was the presence of a nice, healthy looking fox with a beautiful bushy tail, who greeted us upon our arrival. Today'slows were a stonecold rainshower and a tick I found crawling on my upper leg. I thought these critters were not active under 5C??
|much of my view all day.....|
On the other hand I can see myself hunting, absolutely. I know I have the feeling for it. Spotting wildlife before others do showed that. Having interest in and understanding of the animal in question enhances my chances greatly. I know I will pull the trigger on a prey. No doubts there. And these past 2 days I handled a rifle several times and it felt strangely familiar and comfortable in my hands.
The one thing I do drag my feet a little at, is the slaughtering process, but I guess that'll pass with knowledge and hands on experience.