by a Moose Nugget!
Most true stories start out with the date of the story. I guess we will have to dispense with that foolishness, I am afflicted with a serious disease and can’t remember the date. My affliction is called “Old Timers Disease” and it just gets worse as time goes on.
There was a time in my trapping
career that I trapped full time. By full time I mean I would leave home
for four or five days and stay in my trapping cabin. I trapped a small
valley and had four spur lines that accessed the surrounding ridges, as
well as the main trail into the valley. I had a lot of traps out at that
time and it took a long time to run them all.
One fine day at a brisk temperature
of about –35 below zero, my partner and I were checking our wolf sets.
We had one fairly close to the main trail, but actually in a patch of
willows on a gravel bar of the river. This was to be one of those trips
that I would later come to call a “learning experience”. This set
consisted of simply snares that were set in an existing wolf trail,
where it crossed the gravel bar. The willows concealed the snares
As we drew near to the set, we could
see that there was a moose that had become entangled in one of our
snares. It had evidently been eating willows and as it walked through
them it must have stepped through a snare with one leg. As it moved
forward the snare slid up its leg and tightened about half way between
what would be the elbow and the shoulder. The moose had then turned and
stepped over the taut snare wire and in turning; it had wrapped a coil
of the taut snare around one of its back legs also. As it turned out,
this was a blessing in disguise because it effectively “hobbled” the
moose so that it could not move around easily. This, in turn, kept the
snare on the front leg from tightening so much that it would cut into
the flesh from the moose lunging.
Now we had a real problem, of course
when we tried to approach the moose, it would get belligerent and try to
get us or kick us with its long legs and feet. We decided that this was
just too dangerous and decided to go home and call fish and game and ask
if they could help. We thought that they might loan us a dart gun to
sedate the moose so we could get the snare off of its leg. At the very
least we thought that perhaps we could get one of their biologists to
come out and do it for us.
We had a surprise coming; they would
not come out and would not allow us to use one of their dart guns
unsupervised, especially since we had no experience at this sort of
thing. The officer that we spoke to said that we would have to try to
get the snare off by ourselves…”oh great”!
He suggested that we try to get a
rope around the legs of the moose and then pull it tight so that the
moose would lose its balance and fall. He told us that this was
dangerous for the moose also. He said that it was very probable that
when the moose lost its balance and hit the ground, it would go into
shock and possibly die. This is a built in reflex in moose, he said. It
is the same reflex that kicks in when a moose is taken down by wolves.
Wolves very seldom kill a moose outright. Usually a pack will run the
moose until it cannot run any more, then they all jump on it and tear at
its hamstrings and belly until it drops. Then the feast begins, with the
wolves actually ripping and eating the moose while it is still alive,
until it finally succumbs from loss of blood.
I know this sounds gruesome, but
this is real life, this is the way wolves are able to take down large
prey animals even if they are perfectly healthy. In the course of this
gruesome sounding attack, the moose goes into shock immediately on
hitting the ground, this is the last defense mechanism they have and it
allows them to feel no pain during this last part of the attack.
This is what the officer said would,
in all likelihood happen to the moose when and if we were successful in
taking the moose down, but he also said that this was the only way to
possibly get the snare off of the moose.
This all took about four hours after
which we arrived back at the moose with reinforcements; two other
friends who were just dying to have a go at removing this snare from the
moose. Try as we might, we could not get a rope around the legs of the
moose. Her long legs and sharp hooves kept us from getting too close,
and the thick willows would keep us from dragging the rope around her,
oh we could get the rope in a circle around her, but we could not pull
it tight because it was strung out through the willows. We tried
everything we could think of without success. Finally someone suggested
that one of us drive back to his house and get a bow and arrow and some
While he was gone, we continued to
try to get the rope around the moose’s legs. By this time she was not
in a very friendly mood and would kick out viciously when anyone got
even a little bit close. If you have never seen a moose kick, it is very
impressive. They can actually kick sideways unlike a horse or cow. I
convinced my friends to try to get as close as they could safely and try
to distract the moose, while I would try to “sneak up” close enough
the get the rope around the enraged cow moose.
It worked; she turned all her
attention on my friends….I thought! Funny thing about prey animals,
they have their eyes set on the sides of their head. They can actually
see as well backward as forward, even though they seem to be looking the
other way. I also forgot about the exceptional hearing they have. She
knew I was there and just when I thought we had her set up, she sprung
her own surprise.
I was almost close enough to be
within her effective kicking range, she had planned it that
way….suckered me right in. I should tell you here that it was cold and
we had been riding snowmobiles, so we were bundled up pretty good. I had
on my single piece snowmobile suit that had a LOT of insulation; I also
had on padded thermal long johns.
She suddenly sprung her trap; she
had cleverly concealed a rock hard frozen moose nugget very close to her
back feet. Suddenly she kicked out, picking up this frozen mini-ball and
launching it as if she had a hidden catapult! No pro golfer could have
hit a ball any harder, or any more accurately than this cow moose
launched her deadly mini-ball. She got me as sure as if she was shooting
a scope sighted rifle. The moose nugget hit me right in the middle of
the thigh. I let out a howl that was a very good facsimile of a wolf in
full pursuit ( one of my friends insists that it was more like a woman
screaming at the top of her lungs). I am sure it was more manly that
I wisely retreated, (before she
could spring any more cunning traps on me). We decided to wait for our
friend to come back with the bow and arrow. While we waited I unzipped
my suit and had a look at the damage, oh, I was damaged all right. I had
a purple, green, black and red bruise on my thigh; it was almost the
size of a golf ball. I am reasonably sure that I hold the sole dubious
distinction of being the only person ever shot with a frozen moose
nugget. My friends were in awe that the moose could have kicked that
nugget that hard and done that much damage. Looking back at the moose
calmly standing there, I was sure I could hear a snicker and there was
no mistaking the evil look in her eye.
My other friend arrived with the bow
and arrow and some fishing line. We were able to attach the rope to the
line and even managed to shoot the arrow under the moose. Now we had the
rope in a straight line underneath the moose. With one guy holding one
end of the line, this made an anchor point. I took the other end of the
line and circled the moose twice. Then we began to pull both ends tight.
Every time the moose moved, we were able to pull the rope a bit tighter,
until finally she could not keep her balance any longer and fell.
She had no sooner hit the ground
than her eyes rolled back in her head and she went into shock. I
approached her from the back side, away from those feet, yep; she was
out of it, but breathing.
I lay over her side and took a pair
of wire cutters and cut the snare from her foreleg, then unwrapped it
from her hind leg. All this time I was sure that she was playing out
another slick moose plan to get me. I was very anxious to get away from
her, but at the same time did not really want to take my weight off of
her and chance her springing another moosie trap. Finally I chanced it
and jumped clear….she did not move. We all converged on her and were
able to get her front legs under her and her head partially up, still
she did not respond. We packed snow around her head and eyes and shook
her by the hair on her neck and she seemed to be beginning to regain
some life. We quickly retreated and watched as she shook her head and
still lay there. From a respectable distance we threw some snowballs at
her and all of a sudden she lurched to her feet.
There was no climax to this story, no hair raising escape to tell about. She had the audacity to simply lower her head and calmly walk off. Not even a “thank you”, but again I was almost certain I could hear a subdued snicker. Her and our adventure had ended as quietly as it had begun on a cold winter day on the Alaskan trap line.