This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
South-Western Nova Scotia, particularly the counties of Queen and Shelburne, has always been noted for its big game moose, cariboo, and bear being abundant.
One Monday morning in September, 1870, a party of three Jack, Bob, and myself (Tom) started for the town of Liverpool, Queen Co., on a week's moose-calling expedition, in the neighbourhood of the Broad River Lakes, the source of the fine fishing stream of that name. With a team loaded with all the necessaries, we drove out on the Shelburne road nine miles, then taking a mill-and-log road extending back into the timber lands, we followed it seven miles to our intended camping-grounds.
Having sent our team back to civilization, we proceeded to make a sharp-peaked tent, and while Bob and I were getting the forked uprights and lean-tos, Jack was stripping the large white birch of their rain-proof bark. It was not long before it was up and covered, and such a rain-proof palace as we had might well be envied by the king, if in the woods on a similar errand. For bedding we used small hemlock and spruce boughs. These, laid in consecutive rows, made a bed good enough to boast of. After getting a supply of wood for the night, we loaded our smooth-bores with an ounce of lead in each, and started for the calling-ground, three quarters of a mile distant a meadow three hundred yards wide and half a mile long. Situated between our camp and it was a lake known as "Long Lake," containing 300 acres of water, from which flowed a heavy, deep stream into Broad River. During the afternoon we had constantly heard the quacking of duck, so we approached the lake very cautiously, and beheld hundreds of " blue-wings " feeding; but to attempt to shoot any of them was oat of the question. Sneaking round the edge of the lake, we found that, in order to get near enough to reach any game on the meadow, it was necessary to cross the stream, otherwise the distance was too great for a sure shot; so we crept along through the high meadow-grass, until under cover of the underbrush at the edge of the stream, which we found to be so strong and deep as to deter us from attempting to ford it, so we continued to follow it down, hoping to find a bridge, and in this we were successful.
But the crossing-stringer (an old tree) did not seem over-safe. However, we had to get over some way, and that speedily, as the time for calling was getting short so upon it Jack started with gun and call, as boldly as a sailor walking a greased pole over the water, when, just in the middle, with the words " All right" on his lips, it collapsed, pitching him into the water with his feet from under him, one hand in the air holding the call, the other on the bottom, clinging to his gun, with his face just out of water, blowing like a bull for breath, with the ludicrous expression forced upon our ears, " This is a d 1 of a go!" We got him out at last, with clothes completely soaked and gun full of water. This cooled his and our ardour so much that we were not inclined to seek another crossing that night, but decided to retrace our steps, get as near the edge of the lake as possible, and give a call to ascertain if there were moose on the ground. So Jack placed himself behind a spruce-bush for concealment, while Bob and I crept as near the edge of the lake as possible, hiding ourselves with spruce-boughs and meadow-grass. Presently we heard the call" Mwar! " * Jack's trembling adding the additional r. Before this sound had died away in the distance, our ears were greeted with the desired reply, "Bwar I"
"Ah ! " said Jack, " he's there. Look out now" Jack speaks again. Nearer came the answer. "He's coming, boys. I see him up the meadow, and he's trotting down fast. He's a rattler I What horns 1 Oh, if he were only on the edge of the meadow, we'd have him sure!"
* Mwar should be sounded with nostrils closed so as to get the correct tone.
Now he comes in, and I confess I was not sorry the lake was between us. He walks for some 50 yards, then stops, wheels round, showing his side. Oh, what a chance for a rifle! Those great ears of his are intently listening and his eyes glaring. Jack speaks: not a move; speaks again, coaxes: not a budge. What can be the reason? Now he is pawing the mud fiercely, and looking in the same direction.
" Listen, boys," said Jack. " Do you hear a noise like the breaking of old dead branches? "
" Well, that is another bull coming, and he is making that racket to frighten any that may be on the same rounds."
Scarcely had he said this when out of the woods came another monster, apparently as fierce and as ready for the fray as the fellow that was waiting for him. Number one stands his ground, and number two halts 50 yards away. You can readily imagine, reader, this was rather an exciting moment for us. Jack coaxes in faint tones, so as to help them on, for we were all eager for the fray. A bull-moose fight is not often seen. Presently they marched towards each other, and when within a few yards, stood on their hind legs and rushed together, striking with their fore legs, then receded a few yards and at it again. Such blows! We expected on every encounter to see broken legs. At the distance they were from us, fully 300 yards, we were confident we saw blood then, as we did the marks of it the next day when on the spot. The struggle lasted ten minutes, when they both got satisfied, and went off on opposite sides of the meadow. We felt like caged birds during the contest, for we were too far, even with a chance shot, to reach them, yet were aggravated by the fact that they fought within 60 yards of the very spot we were aiming for when Jack met his mishap.
Daylight next morning found us on the move, Bob cooking breakfast, Jack cutting wood, and I off to the lake for a mess of blue-wings. What a sight met my view as I reached it! There they were by the hundred I might almost say by the thousand, many of them asleep with their heads under their wings, which gave me an extra chance of creeping on them. When I reached the position I wanted, I turned my gun and whistled, when up went their heads. Oh, what a shot! I pulled, and had the extreme satisfaction of hearing the cap map. I worked some powder into the nipple, and got on a new cap. Then I ranged my gun again,gave a whistle, so as to make them raise their heads, and give me a better chance, as ducks feeding towards one with their heads down make a bad target, there being so little of the body to shoot at; but with their necks up, every shot tells. Then when they drew together, suspicious of the whistle, I pulled, and was greeted with a " bang!" Then for a little I thought I must, like Pat, have put the wrong end of the gun to my shoulder such a recoil as she made. When the smoke cleared away there were eight dead, four with wings broken, and two others out 100 yards or more, that had fallen out of the flock as it went over the lake. As soon as I noticed the wounded ones, I kept concealed, and watched where they landed, as it is a peculiar trait of the blue-wing, always to take to the shore when hurt, so by walking along the edge of the lake in less than twenty minutes I had all four. And then off with boots and pants, and waded for the dead ones, making my pile, for it was a pile, numbering twelve. The other two we got on the opposite shore of the lake the same afternoon. The twelve were more than I could carry, so I took four only, concealing the others from foxes until later in the day, and went to camp for breakfast.
In the afternoon we went to the stream and felled a tree across it, that would carry over an army, then captured fourteen trout in a small still water on it. Half an hour's run found us on the edge of the meadow, within easy range of the spot where the contest took place the night before. Jack spoke: no response, and he repeated the call again and again, without a reply. Then I was reminded that the shot at the ducks had frightened the moose away. Just at dusk, however, away in the distance we heard a feint " Bwar! " To the next call the answer seemed nearer, but was followed almost immediately by " Mwar !" " Mwar! "
" My goodness! " Jack says. " Now there will be trouble! That is a cow calling him back."
And it was, for, after coaxing for an hour or two, we were compelled to give up the idea of a shot that night, and so resolved to still hunt them in the morning, if we could not get him to come. At peep of day we were on the spot, with a most favourable morning, there being a heavy white frost. The air was resonant with the quacking of duck. To Jack's " Mwar I" came a speedy reply only some 300 yards away. " Now, boys, lay low! Have your guns placed, and make sure shots, if I get him near enough, which I think I shall," said Jack. To his second call a line two-year-old bull trotted into sight, but stopped suddenly about 150 yards off, then came very slowly, as if frightened. Jack puts his call almost to the ground, and speaks very low. He walks towards us, but very cautiously. After much coaxing in this way, he stood about 75 yards away, facing us, we with our guns both aimed at him, but waiting, and hoping he would turn a little and enlarge our target. In a few minutes he did turn a little from us. As previously arranged, I gave the "One! two!" and the report of our guns echoed through the woods. He made a jump, wheeled, and started up the meadow at a furious pace for a little. Well, well, can it be possible neither of us hit him ? We rushed to the spot where he had been standing, to see if there were any evidences of his being hit. We did not follow his track 20 feet before we saw, from the blood on the grass, that he was badly hurt, while Jack, who had been watching him from off a tree, called out, "He has left the meadow about 250 yards up, and is going very slowly, as if very hard hit." So we followed his track by the blood on the grass, which led us to the place where he took to the woods, and soon we came to where he had been down, and apparently had only just got up. About 75 yards farther on we found him a fine fellow of over 500 lbs. One bullet, the fatal one, had gone through his neck just in front of the shoulder, the other through the upper part of the neck. That was a proud moment for us, as it was our first moose. Jack was an old hunter, and therefore to him it was no novelty.
We really had a moose! After dressing him where he fell, we procured withes for thongs, and birch-bark to lay the meat upon, and each shouldered his load and off to camp. But this was not all of it. There were two more similar trips to be made, so that by the time we had the carcase hung up out of the reach of foxes and bears, close by the camp, we were quite ready to rest for a couple of hours. Then we had moose-steak, tender, juicy, delicious.