Stepping off the plane in Deer Lake NL for the second time in a month, I couldn't help but think about the journey to get back for the second time. Ferry delays, 100 mm of rain in a single day's forecast, combined with 130 K wind gusts on my earlier trip, all were a part of me stepping off the plane on this grey morning, with blizzard like conditions expected the next day.
Our ferry had 3 delays on this second trip over to hunt with Where Ya Wanna Be Outfitters. The owners decided that enough was enough, and they made arrangements to fly me over. It appeared from the forecast, we would have one good day of hunting...if we were lucky. Which was exactly one good day of hunting more than we had 3 weeks prior.
Early the next morning, long before light I met Barry, a well known moose and salmon guide in the area. Without the official title, I think it's fair to say Barry is the head guide at Where Ya Wanna Be Outfitters. The drive into the area we wanted to hunt was tricky. Perhaps a foot of snow was down. But with just the right amount of gas and breaking we chugged and spun our way into one of his favorite winter hunting spots.
On the 20 some kilometer drive in, I knew instantly that I was paired up with the right guide for me. Our general thoughts and philosophies on things in all respects of hunting were perfectly aligned. I senses he loved the hunt. Not just the taking of an animal.
On the skid filled, tire spinning drive in, we knew the area we wanted to hunt. A high ridge looking down into a valley where the moose go to in winter conditions. I was dressed light for a long day's walk of spot and stalk despite the blizzard like conditions.
Normally, I'd have had my Black Widow recurve in the back seat of the truck. However, on this day, it was my old Model 70 winchester in 7 rem mag cased on the back seat. This 2nd trip was all about getting it done. A moose tag and subsequent winters meat from such a large animal could provide is not to be taken lightly. And I didn't.
While I'm normally prepared to come home with an unclosed tag, on this 2nd trip, late in the season, with limited areas we could get to....I was ready to pull the trigger on a rifle hunt (literally). In short, unfinished business. I had an either or sex tag and was willing to use it on a good cow.
Driving in, the woods, hills and valleys were post card perfect. Snow laden spruce. The odd fresh moose track in the fresh snow. I was eager to get out and test my legs against the deep snow.
Shutting off the truck, Barry said it was now legal shooting time and that I should uncase the rifle. I hopped out and opened up the back door to break out the rifle. Odd as it sounds, the silver worn bluing on the bolt handle and floor plate and odd scratch brought back a flood of memories. I have no idea how many animals I have taken home with that rifle, but I do know it has taken moose, caribou, and deer.
Our plan was to glass this big valley from where we parked the truck before walking into it. In big country, it's often wise to do more hunting with your eyes than with your legs. Barry figured we had a great chance of spotting moose on the distant hills. Breaking out the glasses we meticulously picked the hills and basin apart. Tree by tree. Opening by opening. Nothing.
I figured it was on the distant hill but I asked " Where"?
" 30 yards" was the answer.
In the name of safety and for a view down the steep hill I had to walk around the truck to see.
Approaching Barry I closed the bolt over a fresh, solitary, bullet hand fed into the chamber. Instantly I saw the big cow. Right about the same time she started to make tracks. She was about 5 yards from the dark spruce when Barry let out a long, loud bawl.
The cow stopped dead at 40 yards, two yards from cover. The model 70 came up easily and smoothly from years and years of prior use.
The cross hairs settled and I touched off. The cow shuddered and the snow flew off her back. I heard the bullet strike home with an audible whap. And then she was gone.
There was only one way she could have escaped without us seeing her go. So I crept along that travel corridor looking for her or tracks. I went about 100 yards. I saw nothing other than a fresh, smooth , undisturbed blanket of snow. My heart rate quickened. I was feeling good.
I was 99% sure she was down right where she had been standing more or less. It was a perfect setup to have not seen her run away.... now that I was pretty sure she didn't escape down the only route she had with cover.
I returned to where Barry was. He had climbed up on the bike loaded on the back of the truck. He didn't see her go. We watched for another 10 minutes or so. Our confidence growing each minute after discussing what we saw. But, it's always better to caitious be on the cautious side, especially with an animal as big as a moose. Every yard they travel, is another yard you have to get them out.
We decided I'd go have a look while he remained standing from the elevated view of the wheeler in the back of the Tundra. Finding moose tracks in fresh snow is pretty easy . I slid another bullet into the rifle, closed the bolt, and double checked the safety again and slowly, step by step, started on her tracks.
When I got to where she was standing at the shot I was a little surprised I didn't see blood. However, 3 more steps around a little clump of spruce and I saw blood and lots of it. Barley 5 paces from the first blood was the big cow, stone dead. It appears she wobbled 4 or 5 yards and went down for keeps.
A couple pictures and congrats and we got to work. The fresh snow and sled made getting the 4 quarters out to the road about as easy of moose recovery as possible. However easy , it still took a couple hours to complete the quartering and dragging. The hardest part was getting it up and over the steep bank up to the the old road. There was a moment we thought about towing the quarters up with the truck. But with the snow and mud underneath, we figured we would leave the truck right where it was and muscle it up the steep bank.
When I closed the tag on the last quarter, it was satisfying to seal the deal. We had finished what we started. There was no more unfinished business.