The mighty moose, felled

moose

“Where still the mighty moose wanders at will” went the words of a song many of us learned in school. This photo is how I like to think of moose – not what they look like when they have been hunted down and killed. (Photo from the website of the Canadian Wildlife Federation)

So there I was, standing at the ATM in the front lobby of the Toronto-Dominion Bank in Madoc, beside a window that looks out onto the village’s main intersection. Vehicles coming from all directions meet, stop, and give each other priority at this busy four corners. Cars pausing at the four-way stop while travelling north may bear people heading home from jobs in Belleville. Vehicles travelling east and west may be taking people to and from those edges of town, or further afield to Tweed (to the east) or Marmora (to the west). Or they may be bound all the way to Ottawa or Toronto or beyond.

As for those coming through from the north, down Highway 62 from Bancroft or places much more northerly than that: often they are huge trucks carrying logs cut from the woodlands up there, travelling to the mills in the south where they will be turned into lumber and/or paper products. Those trucks always remind me that not very far away from us here in the Queensborough area are vast swathes of Canada’s natural resources. In the summertime, meanwhile, you see cars and trucks pulling boat trailers, or with kayaks or bikes on the roof racks – cottagers and adventurers returning to the city from vacations on the lakes and rivers of the near north.

At this time of year, though, you see something else. You see the hunters returning with their trophies.

That is what caught my eye when I glanced out the window for a split-second while waiting for the ATM transaction to finish. There was a big pickup truck pulling a big trailer – nothing unusual so far. Then I saw something huge, pointy and broad. It registered: antlers, probably more than a yard across. And what was that massive rounded mound sticking so far above the side of the trailer? It was the size of my entire upper body. It was, of course, the muzzle of a moose. A gigantic moose. As the truck turned the corner to carry on southward, I could see the moose’s long legs tied together, also sticking up into the air.

My first reaction was shock at the sheer size of the beast. I’ve had few experiences with moose; there was a smallish one crossing the highway once in front of a car I was in (mercifully not travelling very fast); and after that, maybe a couple of stuffed ones in natural-history museums. But even that limited experience told me that the dead one I’d just seen was not your average moose. This was truly the “mighty moose” of that old Canadian folk song we learned in school. In the song, of course, the mighty moose, used as a symbol of the essence of Canada’s wildlands, “wanders at will.” Not this moose. Not any more. Never again.

My sadness about that is the more lasting reaction I’m having to the surprise sighting of the moose though the bank window. The sadness is sticking to me, so much so that I find myself writing about it quite a few days after the fact of spotting the moose’s carcass.

Hunting ad in the local paper

Ads like this in the local paper used to catch me by surprise. Not any more.

We live in an area where hunting season is huge. I have been away from the city long enough now that I am no longer surprised, or even taken aback, when our weekly newspapers have full-front-page ads for guns and other hunting gear come October and November. Or when the parking lots of local restaurants are a sea of trucks and trailers hauling rugged ATVs – groups of hunters stopping for a meal before heading into the bush. I have finally learned not to expect men to be available for social events or anything else in the weeks when deer hunting is open. I understand, and have written about, the camaraderie of the hunting camp. I totally get that hunting is extremely important for this area’s economy. I get it that it takes skill, endurance and hard work to be a good hunter, and that many, probably most, hunters have a deep respect for the animals that are their quarry. I know that they love the woodlands and the wilds that are so important to Canada, and that a lot of them work to protect those wild places.

All those things I know in my head.

But in my heart is this: a sadness that will not go away over the sight of that moose, that magnificent beast, killed and trussed up and being hauled south. And for what? Food? Maybe; maybe. A set of antlers on a wall? Probably. Is that really worth the death of such a magnificent – yes, mighty – creature, a symbol of our country?

Like I said, I get the hunting thing, that there are reasons for hunting to be allowed, that it’s important to many people (many of whom are my friends), for many reasons. All of that.

But I have a very hard time believing that anyone or anything in this world is better off because of the killing of that mighty moose. I mourn for him. And I think I always will.

10 thoughts on “The mighty moose, felled

  1. Hi Katherine,

    Goodness, just the other day I was remembering a similar time when I was walking north on Russell Street, probably 1965, or so. I was just outside the butcher shop (“Lockers”) when a pick-up truck passed me as it was coming south, to turn at St. Lawrence St. W. On the back of the truck was a scene like the one you saw from just around the corner, except it was of three deer.

    I knew that the hunters were proud and happy to be returning home with their goods, but I felt badly that such beautiful animals had lost their lives. Now, like you, I understand that, for some, hunting is a great sport, and it is a source of food. And we all know that groceries can be very expensive. But, I was still saddened to think that these beautiful creatures were no longer able to live, peacefully, in the woods that were their home.

    As I was thinking about that incident, it made me wonder if hunting is still such a popular activity in the area. I think your post has shown that to be true. I join you in mourning.

    • Yes indeed, hunting is very popular here, Sash. Over the years I’ve seen enough deer carcasses in truck beds and on trailers that I’m not taken aback by it any more; and indeed, the deer are certainly plentiful and their population is not at risk. That said, I greatly relish a memory from the height of last year’s hunting season, when I came upon one beautiful specimen right in the middle of the road between Queensborough and Hazzards Corners while I was driving to work. I slowed, it examined me for a bit, and then it jumped across the fence and dashed away through the misty fields. “Stay safe, my friend,” I quietly told that deer. And I feel quite sure it did, given that so many of the local men were way off in back-bush hunting camps, far from my local deer!

  2. Katherine, I concur with you totally! My father was a hunter and I ate moose and venison, but I’ve always hated the idea of felling these magnificent wild creatures. I’d rather “shoot” with a camera!

    • My dad once hunted too, Caroline, and I have dim memories of eating venison way back in my childhood. But he stopped, I think having decided, like you, that it is better to see and enjoy these creatures alive and in the wild.

  3. Had a similar experience myself, Katherine, at the major east-west/north-south intersection in North Bay many years ago. I was pointing south, waiting for the light to change, when a truck and open trailer pulled alongside my car into the left-turn lane. There was a tangle of two sets of very long legs sticking up and, as the vehicle pulled away with the advance left-turn signal, I couldn’t keep my eyes away and saw the bodies. I don’t object to someone’s killing an animal for food if they need/want it, but I agree with you that there’s such a sadness in the death of such magnificent creatures. That few seconds in my life is still with me.

    • Wow, Brenda – pretty much exactly the experience I had. Even though North Bay – and Madoc – are big hunting areas, it’s still a shock to at least some of us to see the magnificent and beautiful beasts, dead, who are the spoils of the hunt. I feel oddly comforted to know that the sadness has stuck with you they way it has me.

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