“Uh,” grunted the bull, “uh!”
Silent except for his grunting, the moose moved around in the trees, tantalizingly close but invisible at the same time. He would not come out.
Sam splashed around in the water with the canoe paddle, hoping to imitate the natural movement of a cow.
“Uh,” said the bull again, “uh, uh.”
He was starting to remind me of a flatulent trotting horse – his monosyllabic grunts came at a similar rhythm and sounded much the same.
This bull was a careful suitor and that was fine with us.
We were now just out for the fun of it, hoping to see some more bulls.
After an eternity of unsuccessful outings, one bull had finally come out and could be shot, so that our meat supply is now secure and we are able to appreciate the pure beauty of moose again without any murderous designs on them.
Sam splashed in the water some more and from somewhere in the trees came the sound of the bull thrashing his antlers against a sapling. Then all was silent except for the perky scolding of the grey jays who were maybe entertaining hopes that we might produce another carcass for them. Had the moose grown tired of the game, was he suspicious that there was no cow around?
Suddenly, we heard water splashing further from the north where the creek flows into the lake, but the bare alder branches barred our view. Then, bobbing slowly among the twigs, we saw antler tines. The bull was finally coming out.
We craned our necks and then there he was, half immersed in the lake, turning his head constantly, his nose twitching to pinpoint the location of the cow who he thought had called not too long ago. The black bell under his bottom jaw kept dipping into the water as he sloshed around close to shore, looking this way and that. He did a little circle, then disappeared again behind the alder bushes and presumably into the woods.
“I’m just going to call again,” said Sam and doubled over for another soulful rendition of a lovesick cow. I kept the binoculars trained on the forest but could neither see nor hear any sign of the bull. Maybe he had left now? We sat a while longer, Sam splashing in the water again, but this time there was no reply anymore. Only the grey jays kept checking up on us and a shaft of sunlight stole through the solid blanket of grey clouds to highlight a patch of snowy mountainside; otherwise, the land seemed to be holding its breath.
We decided to get going again, after all, this was just for fun now, the pressure of getting meat subsided for another year.
After stretching our stiff limbs, we nosed the canoe around and began paddling again. Silver riffles flowed across the dark jade water in our wake and then, there was a huge splash in front of us.
The moose! Oblivious to our presence, or so it seemed, he was back in the lake after circling around as far as he could on shore. His antlers cradling the grey sky, he swam purposefully now, no more looking and sniffing around for a lady love.
I was quite happy about that – there is something about sitting level with a moose head that makes you appreciate a bull’s disinterest. We let the canoe drift, keeping very quiet, while the bull proceeded royally across the bay, his shoulder hump going up and down. When he reached the other shore and climbed out, he shook like a dog and rained a curtain of water on to the rocks. All power and muscle, he jogged into the woods, probably cruising for a less elusive cow than there seemed to be here.
Sam and I breathed a quiet “wow” at each other, eyes shining with awe at the sheer beauty of that bull moose before we dipped our paddles into the water again.
On our way home, the increasingly drab forest was still lit in the odd place by a patch of optimistically yellow poplar leaves, although the snow has been steadily creeping down towards the waterline.
Back at the cabin, we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with a meal from the moose whose life we took, our minds still out there somewhere with that other bull, the luckier one, roaming the woods.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who
lives at the headwaters of the
Yukon River south of Whitehorse.