A drawn-out moan came wafting over from the middle distance, then ended abruptly. Sam and I looked at each other with the same question – what was that? Not a moose, that much was clear. We were sitting out in the woods, as we have been for the past couple of mornings since Sam came home from his contract job, hunting for moose. Actually, waiting for moose is a more apt description I find.
As the mornings before, we had gotten up in the inky darkness of 6 a.m. and after breakfast, I had got out my long johns, winter fleece pants, windbreaker pants, thermal shirt, winter fleece, fleece vest, winter parka, scarf, fleece hat and winter mittens, plus winter gum boots with felt liners in preparation for the chilly moose wait. At our chosen hunting spot, the damp and cold of dawn nonetheless crept into my curled up toes and fingers after half an hour.
The beady eyes of a grey jay seemed to be assessing us as coldly as the morning: over the past days, we had produced no moose carcass for it to feed on, and although Sam and I looked semi-frozen, we obviously weren’t dead yet and not ready to be pecked on. Chittering raucously, the jay flew off again. The snow-dusted mountain top on the other side of the valley blushed pink with sunlight when the eerie moan suddenly arose. The relatively high pitch seemed to indicate a smallish animal but in a whispered idea exchange, we couldn’t make head or tails of what it could be.
After a while, Sam got up again to do a bit of moaning himself. In the great stillness of the morning that only tinkled with the rushing creek and bird voices, his cow moose imitation echoed loudly off the mountain sides. I curled my fingers tighter in the mittens and flipped the page of my book, being utterly immune to the supposed excitement of sitting around relatively motionless for hours in the morning chill while trying to ward off hypothermia.
The book helps me to pass the time that stretches voluptuously, endlessly and it also distracts me in a minor way from the “hey, we’re freezing” messages my toes and fingers send out in increasing frequency. Why anyone would pay thousand of dollars for this and then only be interested in snuffing out the life of a wild creature for the sole purpose of displaying part of the carcass in their living room is truly beyond me.
Sam nudged me when the sun slid a bit further down the other side of the valley, torching a small stand of poplars and cottonwoods lemon yellow. Mesmerizing reflections from the creek skipped over the trees where on the past two mornings, a branch had cracked but no moose had shown itself. This morning, there wasn’t even that tantalizing, hopeful crack.
We sat until we were both twitching constantly in the effort to keep semi-warm, then we surrendered to the cold and our lack of patience. On our way home, Sam called my attention to a grey stump that looked a bit odd. What seemed to be a bleached out root turned out to be a lynx when viewed through the binoculars. Sitting erect by an old tree trunk, the lynx stared at us, its face strangely eyeless it seemed – the dark nose and mouth stood out well-defined from the grey-brownish fur, but the light-coloured eyes were lost, almost invisible.
We got ever closer to the lynx. A powerful set of canine teeth emerged when he opened his mouth in a long, luxurious yawn. Completely at ease in his contemplation of the morning and unperturbed by our presence, the lynx scratched his chin and turned his profile to us, the black-edged beard hanging most collar-like on his shoulders. Uncoiling slowly, every limb suffused with tightly controlled power, he stretched in slow motion, the inside of his legs cream against the forest duff. With that sensual tightrope way of walking that is the essence of all cats, he started to move off slowly, fluidly like water rippling over rocks.
As he vanished into the alders like a grey ghost, we remembered the strange moan we had heard earlier – it may have been the lynx, we thought, quite possibly hunting too.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who
lives at the headwaters of the
Yukon River south of Whitehorse.