Mighty moose

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One of the annual rituals that nearly everyone in Quebec with a forest in the backyard takes part in is the fall moose hunt. Tales of the legendary moose and the dangers involved with the hunt are often mixed with taller tales of the hunt for the largest land animal with antlers in North America. Indeed, it is a blast after you bagged one, because making the stories is all part of the experience.

Back in the day, a man was once able to venture out with his axe and gun and come back with a handmade canoe and a moose a few weeks later. Such were the times when man lived alongside the animals that lived in the boreal forests and hunting wasn’t part of a festival or rite of passage, it was all about surviving and staying fit with enough fuel to keep you going until Christmas, depending on how many were harvested.

Today, roadside hunting has replaced many ancient practices, especially in the southern regions, where logging roads make easy access to lands once only reserved for wildlife. Boundaries have made hunting areas even more limiting in scope and more often than not, because a moose has legs and no political affiliations, bagging a moose on your tract of land becomes more and more essential. After all, a moose does need its space and deservedly so.

Lately, moose are venturing further north, after years of forestry, sports hunting, big development projects and the ever needful cry for resources to convert into something worth money, the moose has no real choice but to head to areas totally void of human activity. Or so they thought…

Moving north for a moose means travelling about smaller trees and fewer areas to live in or “moose yards” to those in the know. This seems to have an immediate evolutionary effect on the growth of their antlers. The spreads and points are much wider and this seems to be related to the more open spaces of the far north. With less woodland growth to inhibit the antlers growth, the bigger the spread, making the moose of the north possible contenders for winning contests. Too bad for us in the north, the moose is just arriving and now, a certain culture is coming out, with a few tentative moose calls and moose estrogen packs, the moose hunt is now becoming more and more common by the Hudson Bay.

In the land normally dominated by caribou, northern Quebec seems to changing a lot when it comes to animals’ habits. Caribou, once strictly within the domain north of the 54th parallel, are now seen much further south, while their cousins, the mooses (or is it meese), are heading further away from mankind. Maybe, humans will do the same, move north in their need to harvest and shoot to kill for sport to sustain an annual festivity, which is closely linked to man’s need to assert his place in nature.

Soon the annual moose festivity will strike mid-northern communities, with moose heads lashed to car hoods and off-road trucks galore, and the streets of small towns proud with moose blood. Meanwhile, much of the carcasses are tossed into local dumps to feed the many crows and seagulls. This was the scenario to my first exposure to the moose hunt, and the outcry of many people when the rotting meat of many moose was wasted, back in the glory days of the ’80s. Hopefully today or tomorrow, the entire moose will be used, but I don’t see that happening overnight.


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