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Buck Fever

24 - Buck Fever



from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

I have never written a story in my life but I am going to try my hand. It's about a moose.

During the hunting season of 1950 I decided to get a license to try my luck at moose hunting and to get some fresh meat for my family.

At the time I was working for the A.N.D.Co. at Millertown Division, making tractor repairs at their Lake Ambrose depot. This area was a good hunting ground but because the company owned all roads and machinery we had to hunt near their roads in order to get our meat to the depot. However, my partner and myself decided to get a boat and row around Lake Ambrose as there was good hunting around the lake. We secured our boat, a type known to woodsmen as a "Galloping Bally" This is a flat-bottom boat with a fairly square stern and straight sides, or, as we call it, wall-sided. Obviously it is not the best rowboat, but it served our purpose.

On November 15th we took our guns and lunch, got our paddles ready, and started off. We had only two paddles, so before long my partner decided he should land and walk around the lake on an old trail, not too far from shore. If he had any luck, I would hear the shots and land to assist him. I am sorry to say things did not turn out so well, he walking and I rowing.

About 9 a.m. I looked ashore on the south side of the lake at a small burn where a camp had burnt years before. I thought I saw something move but the sun being in my eyes made me uncertain at first. Then I made sure it was a moose. I headed for the south side of the lake leaving my partner on the north, the lake being about a mile wide at this point. I rowed hard and on reaching the beach I was tired and out of breath. I was also darned excited, because the moose was only a hundred yards in on the burn.

Now we could not kill a cow at that time of year and the sixty-four dollar question was, will it be a cow or bull when I get in where it is? My old rifle was a 303 with no magazine, so I knew I would have to put in a shell by hand every time I fired. I soon got to where the moose was and was pleased to note it was a beautiful young bull with two small horns.

I lost no time in taking aim (I never did), but the moose jumped and so did I, so I had to get another shell in the breech. When I looked up, all the moose in the world - or nearly all - had come up to take a look at the goings-on. My moose was nowhere in sight. All the moose were cows by now, so what should I do but stand and look? As I said, it looked like all the moose in the world were on this small burn and all of them cows. Then I discovered the small bull on the far side. I took another shot. This time I was sure I had hit my target, but of course you've guessed what happened: I was left alone on the burn with not even my small bull for company.

Then I decided to count them where they had herded on a small rise on the edge of the burn next to the green timber. I counted twenty-three and then turned to walk over where I had last seen the small bull. After I'd taken a few steps I saw something in my path and did I stop fast! About ten feet away and looking at me was the grandfather of all the moose in the world. He stood and looked and so did I for perhaps two minutes - to me it seemed two years - then he, too, went over the rise after the cows, but not until he had stopped and turned sideways to have a last look at me. I dropped to one knee and, leaning the rifle across a windfallen tree trunk, I tried to take aim. It was then I discovered that I had Buck Fever. Or was it Moose Fever? Or plain excitement?

I am not sure how, but I finally got aim on the bull. It was just before I drew the trigger that I realized I was taking sight through the breech sight and on to the bayonet clip. (It was an old army rifle.) I was so disgusted I just stood up and fired in the air to drive the bull, for I knew I could not shoot him.

I walked all over the burn and never saw the small bull I had been so sure of getting when I went ashore. Then I went back to the boat and started on up the lake to try and find my comrade, as it was getting on for noon by now and I still had the lunch in the boat. I rowed around the lake for about an hour and then decided to go back to the burn, or "my happy hunting ground" as I have called it ever since.

I had walked about two hundred yards when I saw a bull with very large antlers. As I did, the buck fever returned. I sat on a fallen log for ten or fifteen minutes. Thinking by then it might be gone, I got up walked over behind on old burnt stump and decided to wait for my chance to get a good shot. From this point he was partly just in by some young fir trees and he seemed to move very mysteriously. My fever was just as bad as ever. I waited for some time and wished a thousand times for my buddy. When he did appear out on the opposite shore, he saw first the boat and then the moose. He decided to wait, thinking I might be trying to shoot the animal. After a few minutes, he shouted and I did likewise, completely forgetting the moose. But the moose did not forget to run and when he finally got out in the open he had his girlfriend with him. I then went to the boat to go across the lake for my buddy. He hadn't seen a thing and when I told him my story he nearly died - not with disgust, but with laughter.

We had a good lunch then landed at the burn. We walked across it and on the rise where we discovered an old logging road used by the moose to go into the woods. We soon came to a branch in the road, he going one way and I the opposite. On leaving he said "If you see a moose, for God's sake don't shoot me". I said, "Well, boy, this is sure where the moose are".

We had walked about five or six hundred feet when I came to a small bog. He must have been opposite me on the next branch, for as I stepped on the bog I saw a cow coming my way. I not only had a mind to shoot at her but to tell the truth I felt like throwing the gun at her. Then I had a second thought that as the moose might do a better job with the gun than I was doing. Then here comes Uncle Bull. I went down on one knee and fired, but the bull just laughed and went on, and no wonder he laughed: he had come my way, but if he had gone the opposite way, my buddy would sure have put a frown on his face.

Well, we decided that we'd had enough for one day and went back to Lake Ambrose depot. The following morning we went out one of the company motor roads and got our moose. The next day we left for home. Of course, I had a good story to tell my old buddies, but it was the last time I got a chance to go hunting with that guy.



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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