A rain squall swept in just as we got to camp, a gray wall flying in from the west. Several more whistled in behind it. When I got up at midnight to check the stars, it was snowing—just enough for atmosphere but not enough to stick.
“Rise and shine cowboy!”
Never mind it was full dark. Jordie was up rattling the stove. I waited until it started glowing orange before sticking bare feet to the floor. It was a Merino wool long johns and GoreTex kind of day.
Just as we rode out, the sun broke. The autumnal splendor had intensified overnight. Leaves glowed yellow, orange, red and scarlet as if plugged in and even the moose were feeling the change. Two young bulls were now in the sedge meadow by the lake. Jordie watched them.
“Let’s head north and look for that big one,” I said.
“Wait. Hear that? One’s grunting,” said Jordie.
I lifted the fleece cap from my ears and turned out of the wind. Sure enough—bull grunts.
Tall, wide, dark and full of himself, this bull was the epitome of a rutting moose. He didn’t walk. He swaggered. He turned and rocked his palms. He was a mammalian peacock, and he headed right for the smaller bulls. We forgot all about the big bull to the north.
“This is the same bull that was lying down here yesterday,” Jordie said. “He’s no record, but he’s got three brow tines on each side and pretty palms. Nice balance. And he’s a lot closer to camp.”
Hint hint. Well, my goal was adventure, a wilderness hunt and moose meat. The first two objectives were already met. The third stood 400 yards away.
“Let’s sneak closer.”
As we slipped through the birches and down the slope, the two biggest bulls raked a young fir then clunked antlers together and pushed. The rut was starting. In another day or two they’d scrape shallow pits, urinate in them and roll. Cows would start moaning. When one with an intoxicating odor caught their noses, they’d fight in earnest. But this day they were just sparring in their summer prime—fat, tender and perfect for taking home to the table.
I sat against a small tree, elbows inside my knees. The bulls were 200 yards away and partially blocked by young trees. I was shooting a Blaser R8 chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum with three Winchester bonded, 150-grain Power Max spire-points in the magazine. I quietly bolted one into the chamber and waited. Back home this combination easily punched bullet after bullet into a 10-inch circle at 300 yards, but something was different in this Prophet Muskwa country.
Thinner air, I think, had me breathing harder. I tried to break the bull’s spine with a high shoulder shot. Too high. He merely stumbled. I lowered my aim and that knocked him flat.
Jordie and I sat quietly and watched the remaining two bulls trot up into the trees behind a light shower of snow. After they left, we picked our way across the bog and reacquainted ourselves with the enormity of a dead moose. There would be work. But with two of us skinning and cutting and lifting and joking, we soon had the surrounding logs festooned with meat.
When thirsty we stuck our faces in the spring that arose amid the mossy rocks and drank. You can’t do that back in the whitetail fields. We took half of one tenderloin back to camp for a feast.
The next morning we returned and loaded everything onto two pack horses then started the long ride back to the cabins—a ride some folks would pay good money to take—a ride through the high divide between the Prophet and Muskwa rivers in northern British Columbia that was wilderness 75 years ago. It still is.