Postcard from a Chilkat River Valley Moose Camp
We spent the weekend camping on a bench next to the woods and swamps so far up the river we were practically speaking Canadian. Perhaps the moose up there do, as we didn't see a legal bull, or at least I don't think we did. I am sworn to secrecy since the hunt continues until October 6. The antler restrictions for this subsistence hunt require a spike or a fork or 3 brow tines on either side, or that the whole rack be over 50 inches wide. Yes, it is complicated, and it means you have to be pretty darn close to that huge amorous bull moose to see it clearly before you shoot. It all makes for a very exciting, and I think, pleasant hunt, as it is quiet, thoughtful, slow, and very cautious, with a lot more glassing than shooting, along with moments of sheer terror as the big bull is called in so very close, and we all hold our breath and hope he doesn't see us, and I look for a good tree to climb, just in case he does. There is much tip-toeing through the brush as well, and hiding behind cottonwood, birch or spruce trees, ducking down in the cranberry and alder bushes, and a lot of sitting on rain jackets looking and especially listening for cracking brush, grunts, and the thrashing of antlers in the branches. You can smell moose, too. Four of us took an air boat up into river channels to shallow for jet boats. We traveled light, with two nylon tee pees. One had a small stove in it. The engine almost overheated once, so we bumped onto a sand bar and waited for it to cool before continuing. We were up at five for coffee and bacon and eggs, and hiked a half hour or so through challenging country, thick alders, ferns, roses, boot sucking swamps, and forest primevil, but also into park-like cleaings of dry green and white lichen meadows, red leafed dogwood groundcover, and white barked birch trees, to the wide moose-y meadows by dawn. We stayed until lunchtime, when we trekked back to camp, then napped until two and then went back out and hunted until dusk. We pulled off our hip boots, and heated stew around the campfire, my companions recalled other memorable hunts-- when they were boys, or with their sons, or with each other -these guys go way back-- and then we feel fast asleep until the next day, when we did it all over again. Just as I was getting used to the dirt and the rhythm of camp life, it was time to come home-- until next week, or maybe before, when we'll do it all over again.