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Moose Campby Don H. Meredith © 1998
(published in the October 1998 Edmonton Sports Scene)

planning the hunt

As I write this, the poplar, birch and dogwood leaves are finally turning to various shades of gold, orange and red. There's the wet-dog scent of wild cranberry in the air, and early-morning frost is finally appearing in my garden. Fall is in the air, and my den is strewn with camping equipment in various stages of readiness. Why? The moose rut is about to begin, and my moose hunting partners and I have licences for early season bull moose. Despite nearly 25 years of chasing the wily slobber nose, I still get excited about going out and setting up a moose camp.

I'm an old-fashion kind of camper. I like to hear the wind blowing through the trees or the patter of rain marking time on the canvas over my head while I sleep. I prefer the smell of wood smoke over the convenience of propane. And at this time of year, I crave the isolation and wilderness immersion of a camp in the northern Alberta bush.

When my partners and I first started this moose hunting business, we camped frugally in a nine-by-nine-foot tent, cooking outside over an open fire. This worked O.K. as long as it didn't rain for long periods or get too cold. In cold and wet conditions, condensation builds in clothing, sleeping gear and on tent walls. Without an efficient way of drying things out, a hunting trip can become pretty miserable, and several of our trips were cut short.

Successful moose hunting requires several days in the bush. I figure it takes at least three to four days to find out what is going on — that is, where the moose are and what they're doing. Only then do you start focusing your efforts for success. In Alberta during the fall, the chances are great for some inclement weather over a period of a week or more. So it became obvious that if we wanted to increase our success at moose hunting, we needed a better camp.

Pooling our resources, we purchased a large wall tent and a portable wood-burning stove. The tent with stove can sleep six people comfortably. Since we rarely have more than four in our party, we have lots of room to spread ourselves and our gear out. Most important for those cold wet days is the wood stove. A fire-proof ring in the canvas ceiling allows the stove pipe out, while keeping the stove a safe distance from the walls. We also have a weather fly (with stove-pipe ring) that keeps the rain and snow off the tent's roof, reducing the moisture condensation on the inside ceiling and walls.

Another feature I like about this tent is the lack of a sewn-in floor, made necessary by the wood stove. We clear an area of burnable material around the stove, and then lay tarps over the remaining area. This allows adequate air to come in under the walls to feed the fire in the stove and dry any damp gear we may have. It also makes for easy clean-up when it's time for the tent to come down.

Now if I'm cold and wet after spending the day slogging through damp woods and damper muskegs, I can at least look forward to a warm place to change into dry clothes and to enjoy a warm and dry night's sleep.

Another piece of equipment I've come to appreciate is my sleeping cot. It is comfortable and keeps my bed off the ground, allowing the moisture that accumulates in my sleeping bag to escape. The result is I sleep much warmer than if I were on the ground.

The layout of a camp is also an important consideration. Bears are looking for easily acquired food before their long winter's sleep, and a poorly laid out or unclean camp can be a temptation. A moose camp should be designed to discourage entry by a wandering bruin.

First, separate cooking and eating areas from where you sleep by several metres. Don't bring food into the sleeping tent, and definitely don't cook there.

Store food in vehicles or hang it in bags at least three metres off the ground and away from the tent. Hang any game you've bagged at least three metres off the ground and away from the tent. Burn garbage or store what can't be burned in a bag away from the main camp area. Any cans with remaining food or food scents should be burned out to reduce odors. Haul out all garbage when you break camp.

Leave your scent around the campsite by frequently walking around it, and urinating at various locations outside the camp's perimeter. Like most mammals, bears use their noses to tell them much about the world around them. If a bear picks up your scent — and not that your food — prior to arriving at your camp, chances are good it will avoid you.

Leave your campsite in better condition than when you found it. Keep our wilderness wild!


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Check-out Don's adventure novels:

Grizzly One
The Search
for Grizzly One
Dog Runner
Dog Runner