In this four-part series, SRS member Will Norton explains the meat and potatoes, pardon the pun, of wild game hunting in Canada. You can view links to other pertinent SRS articles by clicking the highlighted words in the text!
Moose are majestic and beautiful and they’re huge. It’s one thing to take one of them down, it can be the cleanest shot in the world and that beast can drop without realizing what hit them. You run through the powdery snow, if you’re lucky it’s not too deep for you to take your snowmobile through it, but where the moose like to go… lots of times the powder is too thick for any machine to get through.
You get up to the freshly dead moose and you realize that it’s still dying. No matter what, it’s still dying. Life is not like in the movies and nothing dies quite a quickly as Hollywood leads us to believe. Hopefully in your excitement you remembered to bring everything you needed to bring, because otherwise, you’re going to be running right back the way you came…
Lets get down to the basics. Before you go hunting anything, there are rules. You might get mad about this and say something stupid like: my ancestors didn’t have to put up with crap like this.
Oh yeah? You must be talking about ancestors that were trying to figure out ways to hunt woolly mammoth and not get killed by sabre tooth tigers, because the rules that make everyone so pissed off? Those rules have been around and a lot worse since before the Romans. So, if you’re mad that you have to follow the rules, you must have a mighty long memory and an even more mighty and pointless rage.
Lets get a real brief history lesson on how a lot of our ancestors ended up in ‘The Colonies’ as the Europeans so disdainfully put it and why they’re disdainful about us Colonials. One of the big reasons why our ancestors ended up being shipped off to North America, Australia or one of the many other colonies: poaching.
Yeah, we were sentenced to an unknown fate and a messed up and uncertain voyage for a lot of other things as well, but poaching was a big deal. Let’s not forget the story of Robin Hood, he was originally an outlaw for accidentally following a deer off of his father’s land and onto Crown Land and which time it magically became: The Queen’s Deer. He was caught out in the forest, on the Queen’s Land, in his mind, (so the story goes) completely innocent of any wrong doing. He was gutting a deer and the Queen’s men found him, red handed up to the armpit if my own experience of field dressing a deer is any example, in blood and gore and wondering why they were so pissed off at him.
What am I saying?
It is and always has been incredibly easy to break the rules. This seems unfair now, but now the rules are easily accessible. They’re online, they’re published (and hey, we can all read), and even though they change, they only change at the start of hunting season. Nevertheless, it is really easy to break the rules if you don’t pay attention, and the rules are usually different from animal to animal and region to region.
But I am sick and tired of all the moaning and groaning I hear from my friends about the rules. We only have a fine to pay if we mess up, we aren’t going to by hung and chances are we’re out drinking beer and having a good day of it. Our ancestors, our blessed ancestors who apparently roamed around putting bullets and arrows and spears in anything they wanted; well, in actuality, they could get arrested for something as slight as taking firewood from the wrong tree. Like, a branch still attached to a living tree.
The rules in Europe and Britain are still pretty tight about a lot of things like this. Some guys found a downed tree and thought they’d use it for a Yule log, it turned out that it was considered to be ‘part of the natural decay of the forest’ and if they had taken it they would have gotten seriously sued.
So: how to get a moose into your freezer. The first thing you need to do is to find out what the rules are for hunting in your area. There’s always a season for hunting each type of animal, we’re hunting moose, find out when the window opens for moose hunting in your area.
The next thing is that you can’t march into the Service BC Office (where we get our hunting licences in BC) and get your hunting license. It’s usually a lottery unless they’ve decided that they need to take a species down a notch. Say, if the deer population explodes because they’ve been breeding too much and their natural predators haven’t been doing their job, then they’ll issue a lot of licenses without a lottery because otherwise the deer will start to get diseases and die from overpopulation and a lack of food.
Generally speaking, Canada is cautious about its wildlife and makes sure that there aren’t ever too many animals taken by hunters so that the population is ever put into jeopardy for any reason. This drives some of my fellow hunters kind of nuts because there were will tons of moose around making a nuisance of themselves and no more licenses issued. I’m a bit more philosophical about it: if they gave a licence to everyone for every moose they could spare and didn’t allow for disease and things like vehicular moose slaughter and other random events, where would the future of wildlife be?
I like to hunt, but I like to see these animals more than I like to have them in the freezer. If it comes down to it, I’d rather shoot them with a camera than a gun. It’s an honour to have had the opportunity once in my lifetime to have hunted and successfully taken on such an adversary. I don’t want to rid our beautiful province of their presence and I appreciate the efforts of the Conservation and other enforcement officers. It is important when you go out into the forests that you realize that these people are not your adversary. These people can save your butt if you get in a tight space.
I think it’s an old, terrified part of our nature that feels terror about being called out as poachers. We are worried that we must be breaking some rule and the Queen’s Men (and Women) are here to find us out.
When you are in the wilds, especially in the heart of a northern Canadian winter, it’s easy to get desperate and to think it’s okay to break the rules. There are a lot of justifications that can happen in your brain when you’ve been out hunting for days (or in some people’s cases, even just hours) that can make it seem like there’s no one around who cold possible know, that no one is there to see you and judge you any how, that there are so many moose, what does it matter exactly how old they are?
It does matter. Of course it matters. Just like it matters how big the fish was that got away really. It matters. When you hunt, most places demand that a back quarter with the genitals be kept as proof of the gender of the moose you brought down. The very first thing you need to be doing when you run up to your downed moose is tagging it with your hunting tag. If you don’t put your tag on your kill, and the Conservation or RCMP come by while you’re working on your field dressing, then even though you have the tags, what you’re doing could be considered nothing different than poaching.
This goes for any type of hunting where a quota is involved. If there’s a limit on how many tags you’re given, you need to put those tags onto your kills first thing or you’re breaking the law. Too many people that I’ve been hunting with don’t even bring their tags with them from their trucks. I’ve been out twenty miles away, my buddy brings down an animal and doesn’t even have his tag with him. If you’re reading this now, that is why we didn’t go hunting together again, or, one of the reasons.
The next thing: your weapon. Make sure whatever you hunt with is both legal and up for the job of bringing down a moose. This is incredibly important and yet again, something you shouldn’t have to ask people you go hunting with about: and yet.
There are a lot of things that you can do to attract animals that are illegal: don’t do them. Conservation Officers and the RCMP are not stupid people and you should want to have some integrity in your hunting practice. I’m not going to list the illegal stuff you shouldn’t do, because I know someone will have their pen and paper out and be scribbling that crap down. Don’t do it!
1. Make sure the animal is the right age (usually specified by number of tines or size of rack)
2. Make sure it’s the right gender for your licence
3. Always take your tags with you, don’t lose them and use them first thing.
4. Don’t use illegal methods to lure or ensnare animals
5. Don’t think Conservations and the RCMP are your enemies because you might need their help. Treat them like your friends and they’ll likely be there when you need them.
6. Even if you get tired, cold or desperate, don’t let these factors cause you to make a decision you’ll regret.
7. Make sure your weapon is legal and appropriate for the animal you’re hunting. Never use a weapon that will cause unnecessary pain because it’s too small or because you’re not proficient with it. Practice your marksmanship.
This is the end of Part 1, Part 2 covers tracking, making a hunting blind and talks about moose calls, scent and other things that that you see in the hunting aisle. Do they work? Are they worth it? What happens when you use them? The big questions: how long does it take to catch a moose.
Part 3a is a detailed description in dressing a moose whether in a field or at home and a discussion on when you have to dress your moose in the field and when it’s safe to bring it home, the pros and cons and both. Includes pictures any idiot can use to cut up a moose for the freezer if you’ve got a good knife and instructions for wrapping.
Part 3b. Smoking meat versus freezing versus canning versus salting: what lasts the longest, what is the easiest and what’s the healthiest plus basic overviews of the procedures.
Part 4 is how I got the lovely moose hide wall cover and how you can too. Tanning methods that anyone in the north can use, chemical free, safe and easy and guaranteed to work. Living in the north has more advantages than just having moose.