In the last few months I have learned something about hunting that I didn't discover by studying tracks, scouting deer scrapes, or hanging trail cameras. I learned it by losing something very dear to me. I lost my two hunting partners, my gramp and uncle. I enjoy hunting with lots of people, but the man who spent the most time with me in the woods and on the water was my grandfather. His brother, my great uncle, lived far away, but his yearly visits always coincided with hunting season, so we were often the hunting trio. On occasion, we would be joined by my father or my brother, but the three of us spent the majority of our hunting time together. What I have learned in the last few months is that the memories created while hunting are more valuable than the trophies that you hang on the wall.
|Gramp and I with our deer in 2005|
In the spring of 2010, my grandfather was drawn for his moose license, and my great uncle was the sub-permittee. Plans were drawn up for the three of us to hunt. Later in the summer, my gramp was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I was forced to face the fact that I would not have him around forever. Despite his sickness, he wanted to carry on with our hunting plans, so my great uncle came up, and we began our quest to tag our trophy bull.
The alarm clock rang out loudly, signaling that it was time to get out of bed. This was no chore, since I had hardly slept between dreams of monster bull moose, and nightmares of trying to retrieve them out of a bog or swamp. The coffee went down well, and the anticipation was high as the headlights on the pickup cut through the blackness of the early morning in route to our hunting spot. We arrived at the location I had decided on while scouting, and shut the truck off to wait until it was legal shooting time to proceed into the cuts that we hoped would hold a big bull. As the sky lightened, we advanced into the series of cuts, and were at the first vantage point rewarded with a large cow staring intently at us. We quickly scanned the tree line behind her for the monster bull we knew was around. Seeing nothing, we continued, and as we approached the next vantage point, the rack appeared above all else. This was the bull we were looking for, and he was an outstanding animal. Uncle Dick and Gramp prepared to shoot, but Dick tripped and lost his balance and fell. After we had recovered, the bull had decided to move on, and with neither Dick or Gramp in any health condition to pursue him, we decided to wait for our next opportunity. We didn't have to wait long until we got to our next location and were rewarded with another nice bull. He was much smaller than the first, but his antlers were still sporting an almost 50" spread. As they got situated to shoot, Gramp didn't have a shot through the trees, but Dick was lined up. He decided to fire and as he did, I noticed a lot of small hardwood trees in between him and the bull. He fired, and the bull took off running and disappeared into the treeline 200 yards away. Next, came two and half hours of searching and tracking, only to discover he had a direct hit on a couple of small maple whips, that most likely deflected his bullet. The week progressed with several other bulls being seen, but when quitting time came on Saturday we still had the tag in our hand.
|One we opted not to take|
At first, I was discouraged by our lack of "success", but after sitting down in the living room with coffee in hand, reliving the entire week, I discovered the hunt was a true success. I had a great time and all kinds of memories of this precious time spent with Gramp and Uncle Dick. Despite the obstacles they were both facing, both known and unknown, their determination and the joy they felt just being out in the wilderness together had truly inspired me. The echo of my Gramp's advice will forever remain in my mind. I had a tendency to get overly concerned about harvesting an animal and he would calmly remind me, "just relax and have fun." This is the true trophy.
Unfortunately, that was the last hunting trip I was able to take with gramp, as he passed away this summer after a hard fought battle with cancer, but the memories I have from that trip will stay with me for the rest of my life. This year, I was lucky enough to be drawn for an antlerless moose permit of my own, and my Uncle Dick planned his trip to come up with me. It would be a tough year, as it would be the first one we would hunt without Gramp. The hunt went well, with us harvesting a nice 500 lb. cow moose. Little did I know that this would be the last hunt I would have with Dick too. He had only been home for three days after the hunt when he suffered a heart attack, and passed away at the hospital. I have lost both of my hunting partners, but I will never lose the memories, the heritage, and the experiences that we shared. The moose hunt of 2010 will forever stand out in my mind as quality time spent with two irreplaceable hunting partners. It will now be up to me to create new traditions, pass the heritage on to my own kids some day, and to share and relive the hunting experiences that have helped shape me into the man I am today.
|2011 Cow Moose|