Sometimes, when a hunter lays aside his passion and takes on duty or responsibility, nature takes note of the sacrifice. In moose season, my Uncle Mike was like an eager dog on a short leash. He loved to be in the moose woods with his buddies but he could barely walk around in camp let alone push through the heavy cover that moose like. Shrapnel in his legs, courtesy of the Nazi artillery at Dieppe made every step a painful struggle for him. He took on the duties of camp cook and sometimes tried to call in a lonely bull from a logging road close to camp. While he was splitting firewood in camp once, a dominant bull heard the resounding crack of his axe on dry hardwood and mistook it for an intruder bull whacking its antlers on a tree. The belligerent bull swaggered into camp looking to thrash the upstart.
My uncle coolly dropped the axe and got a couple of shells into his rifle before the moose had back pedalled out of sight into the bush. His buddies heard two shots and thought Mike had blown the hunt by target shooting in camp. When they came back for lunch, it was like a therapy group for Terret Syndrome gone out of control. There was no need for that kind of language. Mike liked a joke as much as the next guy, so he hung his head and quietly served steaming bowls of thick pea soup with ham hocks and chunks of fried bannock. After chow, he grabbed the block and tackle, the axe and his skinning knife and hobbled a few steps into the bush. One by one they followed him wondering if they’d been to harsh. When they saw the bull where it had fallen just out of sight of camp, it was the same kind of language all over again but this time with tones of awe and heavy doses of apology . That was one time when staying by the stuff didn’t put Mike out of the hunt.
Downshifting from moose to goose, Dan had a small dairy farm and dearly wanted a to put a wild goose on his family’s table at a special occasion.. The geese were feeding in his corn field but the milk cows needed scheduled care and it was as if the geese knew the schedule. They only dropped in when he was busy with the daily chores.
When three local fellows came by and asked if they could hunt geese in his field he told them to get at ‘em and ached to be going with them as they headed down to the back. He heard their shots several hours later as he was cleaning up the milk room. A few minutes later he heard geese honking and stepped outside the barn. A flock of eight Canada geese was going overhead . The ones that got away, he thought. Behind them came a single goose flying lower and slower than the others. He could plainly see its white chin strap meaning it was in shotgun range. If only he had his old side by side in his hands. In frustration he grabbed a barn board; one of several that a recent storm had blown off the barn. Nailing them back in place was another wretched chore that he had to get to before winter. He slammed the board, with a major league swing, flat against the barn. The whack off that plank was within a few decibels of a heavy 12 gauge load. Astonishingly, the lone goose tumbled from the sky at the same instant and crashed to the ground beyond the drive shed. Dan recovered it and when cleaning it found a single pellet in a wing joint. When the goose heard the plank slap the barn, it had pumped hard enough to break the fractured wing.
When the three hunters came back an hour later they offered Dan a goose out of the pair they had taken. He told them it wasn’t fair for him to have two geese while the three of them shared one bird. He got blank stares so, he showed them his goose. They asked him what he got it with. He told them he used a Pine Model 1 X 8 and pointed to the board. That led to more head scratching and mumbling.
Limitations and duties are cruel masters on a frost rimmed October morning to a person with strong hunting instincts. But sometimes, and no one knows why or when, the selfless hunter is honoured.