waiting for things that never come

Just about everybody knows the situation: waiting at a bus stop, not knowing if you have just missed the last bus and slowly starting to feel cold.

Just about everybody knows the situation: waiting at a bus stop, not knowing if you have just missed the last bus and slowly starting to feel cold.

With your feet turning into blocks of ice, you sit and wait and nothing happens.

That’s what hunting moose is like to me. Oh, I can hear the uproar of moose hunters everywhere, pointing to the suspense, the beauty of spending hours sitting quietly in the woods.

Or so my partner said when I confessed to finding a moose hunt about as wildly exciting as unwittingly waiting at a bus stop after the last bus has long left. The boredom, the increasingly numb limbs, the cold.

A very poor attitude, Sam scolded. But the problem is, whenever I come along on the hunt, we never even so much as see a moose. I’d love to feel that happy sensation of finally springing into action, moving around and re-introducing circulation into near hypothermic body parts, and securing our meat supply thanks to that one unlucky moose.

Admittedly, I also feel a bit bad about taking advantage of the bull’s urge to procreate, conning him into a situation where he thinks he’s going on a hot date, only to be met with death.

But I’m trying to change my attitude to the whole thing, take a different, more positive view of it. So when I found fresh antler velvet hanging in the trees the other day, I was eager to go with Sam and try to call the bull in.

The antler velvet had been easy to find; the ground around a few cottonwood saplings was strewn with broken off leaves and branches were hanging askew.

The dogs went into a sniffing frenzy around the spots, although their body language (noses to the ground and tails down) later on the trail indicated that the moose was no longer in the vicinity.

The strip of velvet that dangled off a branch was still moist, and a bit further on I found a big flap of it hanging on the blood-streaked bare trunk of a small poplar that was leaning across the trail.

Picturing the bull in the woods ahead of me, his antlers draped in tattered bloody velvet, thrashing them against branches and trees, suddenly made a moose hunt look a whole lot more exciting to me.

I knew that by the time Sam and I had moved into position at a spot not too far from where I had found the velvet, the moose might well be kilometres away. Also, it is just the beginning of the rutting season and, as Sam explained, right now a bull is more likely to respond with careful curiosity than with mindless passion to the imitated call of a cow moose.

But after discovering the fresh evidence of a bull in the area, it being a pleasantly warm afternoon, and having equipped myself with the kind of clothing I usually wear at -20 degrees, I was able to keep that bus station image at bay as we sat and waited.

A chorus of ravens could be heard in the distance. Maybe a kill? Shifting my glance from the mountains to the vegetation close by, I admired the lime, lemon and peach hues of the dying poplar leaves.

Black flies tried buzzing into our eyes while I attempted to quietly stem the nasal drip caused by a cold I had managed to catch somehow.

The capillary action of a piece of toilet paper, halfway inserted into the nostrils, worked surprisingly well in soaking up the mucus and made blowing my nose unnecessary.

Although I did wonder briefly if trumpeting into the toilet paper might not sound a bit like the snort of a bull and elicit a response from our vanished moose.

Eventually, the charm of sitting and waiting wore off and the familiar sense of futility and boredom settled in and my feet went to sleep. I tried to develop a keen interest in the chipmunk that also sat motionless, staring at us, but to no avail.

Twigs did crack twice, but if it was our elusive bull, he had the good sense not to come any closer and show himself.

As the afternoon wore on, we finally gave up on our quest and made our way back to the cabin. It was our first moose hunt of the year — better than most that I accompanied Sam on, even if the bus station scenario is now fresh on my mind again.

With any luck, one day the bus will come.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

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