During my first years in the North moose were very plentiful, especially further south. It was no trick at all for the natives to get as many moose as they wanted because the animals would spend whole nights feeding in the water to escape the flies. Cows, calves and young moose generally entered the water early, but as a rule, an old bull would not come until after midnight. Once, when the flies were particularly bad, I saw thirty moose standing in a lake, but that was the most I ever saw at one time, and it happened when I first came into the country. The moose did their feeding on Cowan Lake and down toward the dam at Big River. In 1926, I used to see moose and jumping deer (whitetail) on the Cowan River, but even then the Beaver River was too well travelled and hunted for much big game to be seen.
We liked to get to our camp on Russell Lake about the middle of September. That is the beginning of the mating season for moose, and just before mating, the bulls are good and fat, at their very best. An old bull moose will have an inch of fat all over his back. Next, to bear, moose in good condition is an excellent source of the grease that a man needs with his meat to withstand the northern cold. It is hard to call up moose in mid-September, but easy enough a month later when they are thin and the meat is dry and tough. We never ate moose at that time unless we had to, although a dry cow moose is pretty good eating in October. We aimed to get two moose around September 15. If that failed, we could always get some later during the winter.
A moose is a big animal, and they say one will attack a man sometimes during mating season, particularly if he has been in a fight and is in a bad temper.
During the mating season, moose get in some terrible fights. Once I heard fighting and went about a mile into the bush to see what was going on. When those big antlers come together with the weight of two big bulls behind them, the crack can be heard for a long way. I found these two moose fighting in a stand of small jackpine so thick that they couldn't see any distance, and I was able to get within fifteen feet of them - still not close enough for a shot. I didn't want to come any closer in case they turned on me and instead began circling them, trying to find an opening for a shot.
A cow moose standing there discovered me and away she went. The two bulls soon followed and I never saw any of them again.
The mating fights of bull moose result in many tragedies. Since I have been in the North I have seen three different sets of locked horns, evidence that the two enemies starved together when they couldn't get free of each other. Then, I have seen moose that had nearly all their ribs broken in fights. Of course, sometimes a moose can break a rib from a fall since they travel in pretty rough country, but usually, a fight is responsible. They say that an old bull with big antlers hasn't much chance against a young one with smaller horns because the younger animal is so much quicker. The young moose breaks the ribs of the older one.
After mating season from late October on into January, four or five old bull moose will stay together and feed on small jackpine. Other moose live on young birch and willows that they find along the lake shores. Only along the lakes and creeks is there this good feed for moose. Otherwise, there is just jackpine which is not so good for them.
I often used to call up moose in the fall. There is no use to call when the weather is windy, but on a calm night a moose can hear for four or five miles, and he will swim across a big lake to reach the place where the call came from. A good place to call from is on a lakeshore. When a moose hears the call he comes very slowly, but he knows exactly where to come and he never misses the place. If a man wants meat, he should stop calling as soon as he hears the first answer from a moose, it will come. If he keeps on calling, the moose will become suspicious and run away. Actually, it is a good idea to go and meet the moose. At night and early in the morning are the best times to call.
Once I wanted meat and was calling for moose. I heard one answer. I was beside a creek that came into a lake. There was a big open meadow and I could see either way for half a mile. There wasn't a tree around. I hid my canoe in the creek and waited for the moose to came. Finally, he appeared - a big bull. A moose comes very slowly. He takes five steps and stops to listen, shakes his ears, takes another five steps. At every step he grunts.
All at once another moose came out of the bush! Every time the moose in the lead would stop, so would the one behind. I let the lead moose pass me to get the second one within range. They knew the call had come from close around. When they were near enough for a shot, I let a call go. They both stopped, and I got the two of them with two shots! There was a small island in that lake where I had put up a scaffold to hold meat before.
I skinned and quartered those animals, hauled them to the island and hung up the meat. It was enough to last me until spring. I hung some traps on the scaffold to keep the ravens away - for those big black birds are a real nuisance at such times. The meat dried a little on the outside. It was nice fat meat and got well-aged. Some of it I dried and hauled to my camp with my hunting canoe.
Often at night when I was camping around the lake and had all the meat and fish I needed, I used to call up moose just for fun. Once I called up a moose in October. He not only came, but he also stayed all night, circling me, calling continually and knocking the trees with his antlers. My fire didn't seem to bother him at all. I certainly didn't get much sleep that night! In the morning, just as it was coming daylight, I saw him leaving, calling as he went. That was good moose country. Once I was calling now and then as I went up a creek, and seven moose were answering me. But I didn't want any of them. I was calling just to hear them answer. In a place like that, generally, a pack of wolves will move in and kill some of the moose and scare off the rest of them. After making a kill, a wolf pack begins to howl and that is enough to send the moose running to safer territory.
When I used to call moose at night, I learned that they come a long way and it takes a long time for them to come sometimes. Occasionally I would wake up in the morning and find a big bull looking down at me. Occasionally I would find tracks in the morning where one had stood nearby while I was asleep. I decided it was better to have a dog with me because a dog will warn you if anything comes around at night. But I kept the dog tied up. I reasoned this way: If he heard a moose, he would run after it. Then the moose would turn on him, and the dog would run to me for protection. A man doesn't know what the moose might do then! But I did enjoy calling moose on clear fall nights. It was an interesting way to pass the time.