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It began over 50 years ago when my first adventures were had as a young boy, tagging along with my father and his friends during a few rabbit hunting excursions. This fed the fire inside this young lad, pushing me to pursue my passion as an outdoorsman, gaining knowledge and wanting to become as experienced as my father as a woodsman and a hunter. This was the start of a lifetime journey for me, where I would find myself along with a couple of friends spending most of our free days venturing out into the wooded areas around our small town of Spryfield.

As my skills grew as a hunter, I became very successful using traditional firearms during the small and big game seasons. This was a great beginning, although I felt there was something missing and it was time to broaden my interest and skills as a hunter—this was pulling me into the world of archery. With the help and guidance of my slightly older uncle Gary, I decided it was time to try my hand at archery hunting for whitetail deer. As it turned out, we would spend a lot of time just practicing and shooting a lot of balloons in the back of his acreage; the archery season in Nova Scotia at that time was very short and game was limited.

Many years later and living in Alberta with a young daughter and son of my own, it seemed inevitable they would possibly have that same desire for the outdoors as I did. It would only be a few years before it was time to join me on my adventures as I had done with my father. The Alberta wilderness was beckoning them for some well-deserved adventures. Traveling and hiking the vast areas north and west of Calgary, I began their journey with shotgun hunting for snowshoe hare while I was teaching them the ethics and responsibilities of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.

Jennifer (my daughter), at thirteen seemed content trying to take small game with the shotgun while Mark (my son), just twelve, wanted to get out for bigger game, although quite disappointed he was not of legal age for a rifle, which was fourteen at that time. Not to worry, as he was excited he could use a bow and arrow at twelve and that was it, the process was to begin. Later in life, my stepdaughter Brianna, the youngest of the three, decided to take the same but decided hunting was not for her. She doesn’t hunt, but she enjoys fishing and the wild game meat and the treats we make.

Now back to the story at hand. 

Mark had his own agenda and was determined he was big game hunting. A new Hoyt youth edition bow was purchased and the practice began. He was now ready to take his big game with an arrow.

We set out that season the first week of September to our location in the foothills, sleeping in the back of the 1996 GMC Safari van. We were ready for the adventure, and this was to be his first taste of what would become his own addiction.

The first morning of our trip there would be a young moose at a distance and a few deer approaching his ground blind that I had set up in a small patch of brush on the edge of a new cutblock. While I watched from a hillside not far off, he would let an arrow fly at a deer standing thirty metres out, only to fatally wound a rotting tree stump. He was excited to look for the arrow and while disappointed he had missed he was riddled with enthusiasm, as he had the opportunity to feel the adrenaline rush that comes with such an experience.

Hooked for life in pursuit of that adrenaline rush begins a great journey. Many years of hunting and being successful with firearms and his bow has developed this young boy into a skilled and successful outdoorsman and hunter. However, the ultimate challenge of an archery moose is the adrenaline rush that would not come soon enough.

While the years go by, being my hunting partner and cameraman, Mark would witness numerous moose being arrowed. Not discouraged, he would keep up his pursuit and continued the exhausting and often fruitless passion of archery hunting.

With many deer and elk taken by means of archery and rifle, Mark has been vigilantly adding to his collection of wall-mounted bones. However, undeniably the archery moose has been haunting the dreams of this young hunter for decades. Now the young boy that started this adventure at the age of twelve has become thirty-seven. This was the year he would once again get his antlered moose draw in the zone we have hunted for twenty-plus years.

This season would be different for us—I was diagnosed in early September with an aggressive prostate cancer that may have a negative effect on my life and my abilities to enjoy future hunts. This was a season we would have to relish and enjoy in the successes and failures knowing the journey we are on is a privilege. We were going to put our all into this hunting adventure, developing memories that can only be made once. We would arrange our holidays for the first week of October, which would be the day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. Our plans would include two friends, Adam and Aaron, as we also all had mule deer tags for the same zone and let’s face it, four guys handling a moose would be much easier than two, based on the assumption Mark would seal the deal.

The time has come, the camper and the trailer with the ATV and UTV were ready to go, and our adventure was to begin. After a couple hours of travel, our camp was set up and we headed to our spots for the afternoon to set up the portable tree stands. Most of our calling is done from above where the sound will travel much further.

Here we are, September 31, 2021, and we have a plan. Aaron and Adam would be several kilometres away hunting mule deer and Mark and I would be set up where I could call in a moose during the weeklong hunt.

It was time! We were set up and the camera was rolling. Mark was twenty metres in front of me, fifteen feet up a pine tree while I was at the same height in another pine tree. I begin with a couple low grunts and then few light cow moans. The wind was light and the sound would carry for a few hundred metres. I made several more cow calls, increasing the intensity and volume as I normally do. I’m demonstrating calling techniques, hoping Mark is paying attention and learning some of the sounds the moose whisperer uses (me). We listened for sounds of grunting or brush and trees snapping in the distance. Nothing was to appear that evening but we were staying positive—it was great to be here sharing this experience.

The next Morning, one and a half hours before sunrise, we made our way into the swamp while Adam and Aaron headed back to the hills where they had set up the night before. I wait until I can see it’s legal time and there is visibility a few hundred metres across the swampy forest before I begin my calls. I usually start my sequence of calls with a couple of bull grunts followed by a low moan of a cow. I pause a minute and begin cow moaning slightly louder for ten seconds. I do this three or four times, listen for five minutes, and repeat.

We hear the distinct sound of a good size wolf pack not far from our location west of us. It’s not too concerning but if they get closer, there is a chance any moose in the area would become quiet and not respond to our beckoned calls.

Twenty minutes go by before I attempt a few more calls and there it was, a low grunt east of us across the pine-filled swamp and coming directly towards us. I see mark gesture that he sees the bull coming at a steady pace but going to the left of us. I set the camera to the direction of the bull. I didn’t have a great view, as there were quite a bit of pine branches in my way, but I can see it’s a young bull and was sure Mark would let this bull pass. He had told me that he wasn’t interested in shooting the first small bull we would see.

I turn my cameras to Mark to get some footage and it appears he is at full draw with a slight tremble to his arms. I am thinking he’s just getting warmed up for the next one and as the bull stands at fifty metres, he lets the arrow fly. CRACK! The young bull takes off away from us. I was a bit surprised but understood his desire to arrow his first bull. Waiting to see the results of the shot, we reviewed the poor video footage, looked at the area, and concluded he had shot under the bull and had hit a small branch.

I could see that same twelve-year-old boy disappointed and yet riddled with excitement to feel that adrenaline rush that causes the arms and legs to shake and heart to beat so hard your eyes go blurry. Thinking his bow may have been off, we set up a target back at the campsite and sure enough it was dead on-the small branch was the reason for the miss.

We took a hike around the area and I had an opportunity to harvest a mule doe, filling one of my mule deer tags. ■

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