Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reflections of Fall

If I had to pick a favorite season, it would be Fall.I do enjoy all of the others, but Fall is harvest time.
It is when the crops have to be brought in and the firewood has to be stacked.
It is when all of the wild creatures prepare for the long, cold, darkness of winter.
It is when the hustle bustle rush of summer begins to wind down to the slow, crawl of survival, through the endless frozen nights of the arctic winter.
It is the sound of a loon at sunset on an unnamed lake.
It is the sound of the clashing of horns of the moose and caribou.
It is the howls of a pack of wolves on a night hunt.
It is the song of a flock of geese preparing for their long flight south.
It is the splash of a dying salmon having spawned in the river of their birth.
It is a time when both man and beast have to change their daily routines in order to be ready for the challenges ahead.
It is a time when I look back on what has been accomplished and what more I yet have to do to be ready for the blowing snow, and the bitter, cold, darkness, of an Alaskan winter.
The camper will need parked and covered where it won't be in the way of snow removal.
The plow will need put back on the Polaris ATV.
The snow blower will need fueled and the oil changed.
The vehicles will need winterized.
The studded tires will need put back on, with winter-grade oil in the engines.
All of the outside equipment has to be put away before it is buried in a blanket of white.
Fall is the time when the hand of the Master Painter makes a stroke with His brush; spreading the reds and golds across the landscape, in the splendor that only He could accomplish.
How could one look at the beauty of Fall and not "believe"?
Fall is the time we get together and give thanks for all we have been blessed with.
It is a time when we reflect on family and friends and pitch in to help those not quite ready for winter.
It is a time I make sure that my freezers are full of moose, salmon, halibut, clams, frozen berries, and all of the other things the land has provided.
This winter we are once again blessed.
Last year at this time I was near death with three plugged arteries in my heart.
Thank God for the Doctors at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California.
This Fall I am especially thankful for another year.
This Fall I am also thankful for my readers and their comments.
Your e-mails and encouragements inspire me to keep on sharing our Alaskan experience.
Thanks to you all!
Bubba n Lin Hunt, walking "The Wilderness Trail"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Moose Camp 2007

I got back from Carson City Nevada, after three days of filming of my step-daughter's wedding at 10 PM August 19th.
My camper was already loaded and my Prowler was hooked up on the trailer.Moose season was opening the next morning and I had to be in camp.
I was up before day break and out on the trail.Day light found me miles back on a muddy trail with a lot of places where the water, in the many mud holes, was 2 feet deep.
Thick brush and timber were my companion. Neither were as bad as the head-high bear grass that grew everywhere. Visibility was down to the bumper of my ATV most of the time.I rode standing up most of the time so I could see over the grass.
The reason the grass is called "bear grass", is because they use it to stalk moose and moose hunters. They don't need to see their prey to stalk it. It always gives me a nice feeling when I'm walking or riding through the stuff.
Lin was coming to camp in a couple of days. She was driving her mother from Carson City back to San Fran, but for now I was on my own.
I don't hear like I could when I was a youngster, even with the hearing aids. That isn't kool in bear country.It keeps me a bit on edge. Top that off with glasses splattered with rain and mud, and it gets down to good old unsafe for a old codger to be poking around out there.
Bears sometimes will blow or chomp their teeth when they are mad about something. It usually isn't a good practice to overlook such warnings, provided that you "hear" them.
The best time for the big bulls to be seen was just before dark. I knew if I was going to bag one, I would have to be out there till pitch dark.Many nights found me miles back in those ugly swamps, and muddy trails far after it was safe.I knew if I got stuck or broke down, I couldn't walk out.
The worse part was I really couldn't call for help because I wouldn't be able to tell anyone where I was. I did carry my GPS, but it could only tell me the direction and position.Lin didn't have a GPS in camp to co-ordinate my location. Luckily I didn't have to use the thing.
Lin also wasn't able to go out on the trail due to her back problem. She had just gotten an epidural spine shot in San Fran., and had doctor's orders to not do anything.
My brother, Gibby, and his wife Linda, came in to camp with us the second week. It was good to have a hunting partner.Their first evening in camp, I drove them out to the muddy trail that I had been pounding for a week. Ten minutes later, Linda shot a nice bull. I hadn't even SEEN a shootable bull all week!!It was so close to camp that I went and got my ATV trailer, winched it in, and drove back to camp with the whole moose in back.
We saw several big bulls just before dark, but we couldn't make out how big the horns were. The law says 50 inches wide or more, or three brow tines. I learned long ago that if you can't be sure, you just don't shoot. I have let a lot of big moose go free because I wasn't "sure" enough to pull the trigger.One evening a very big bull and a cow ran almost through camp, but Lin and Linda weren't able to see the horns well enough to make a shot.
Gibby and Linda had to go back to work on the 10th. of Sept., which left me to hunt alone again.
The last couple of weeks of moose season is mostly restricted to no vehicle travel for moose hunting.That rather stupid law left me with having to walk from camp.
I had hung two tree-stands a quarter of a mile from camp so I'd have a way to get up out of the way of the bears. It also allowed me to be able to see over the tall grass.Many wet, cold mornings found me walking through the grass and heavy brush, before it was light enough to be doing it. It's just one of those things that you have to do if you want your winter's meat.
My tree-stands and camp were in a natural moose pass. It was a brushy, timbered ridge surrounded on three sides with swamps. We had taken several moose there in the passed years.This year was to be different.
The land was owned by the University of Alaska. For reasons known only to them, they decided to bring in helicopters and do some sort of seismic work the last week of moose season.Needless to say, they drove every moose out of our area. Since I couldn't drive, it left me hanging in tree-stands for days with the moose over on the next swamp.
My brother and I always share all expenses and meat, so half a moose is plenty for Lin and I.We did get skunked, but Lin and I had a chance to pick a lot of wild currants, rose hips, and crow berries.
During one berry picking event, I was walking on a large pile of logs picking currants, that had grown up between the logs. The bears get the easy ones and are too lazy to climb up on the log piles.
I was coming down off of the logs when I stepped between the logs where the ground was supposed to be. WRONG!!It was a deep hole instead. I fell down on to a log that had a branch sticking up. The limb broke and jabbed into my back below my ribs. If I had not been wearing a shirt and vest, it would have penetrated my back and left me in a real mess. I can't afford to cut or scratch myself due to the blood thinners that I take for my three nice stints in my heart.I bleed very badly. We were way back in the hills when that happened. It was the only day that neither of us had our cell phones.
I'm still wimping around about my sore back.I still have a chance to go back out in the late season, but I don't know whether I will or not.Mean while I'll just lay around and lick my wounds and dream about next year.

Bubba Hunt, walking "The Wilderness Trail"