BLOG: Huntress goes hunting
The flamboyant leafage, colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours collectively shout at me that autumn is here. And along with it there is a drag of excitement in the air; the hunting season is around the corner, and I am just about to put theory into practice. Thinking there is no point in holding back, I team up with a group of local moose hunters, going straight for the big game.
So I pack my rucksack for the weekend, and shortly after I find myself being part of an old tradition. In this coastal community the art of hunting has been passed on from fathers to sons for centuries, and over recent years also to daughters and curious, thrill seeking urban girls. Here, hunting is part of daily life, and any controversies around the issues of killing animals are absent. The team already consists of three chasers and three shooters. I opt for the chasing. And in retrospective I can see that was a good move. The shooters are basically sitting on their post, requiring a solid portion of patience in addition to being a good shot. The rest of us literally line up for a walk in the woods.
We hunt in a typical Norwegian coastal landscape, with mountains, mixed forest, heather and moss. And rain of course. In these surroundings the moosestock seems to flourish, facing no natural enemies except for these few autumn weeks. Throughout the summer whole parties of moose can be seen grazing peacefully in gardens and on the farm fields. However, the moose has also been part of this game for centuries, passing on tips and tricks to his descendants. So that now, when the hunting season has begun, he seems to have disappeared mysteriously. But these men know what they are doing. Reading the weather and the surroundings like the morning newspaper, and setting the agenda accordingly. The shooters find their posts, determined by the wind direction, we start walking. Amazingly the moose is there, right where the hunters predicted. It’s a thrill. Never before have I been so close to so many animals. However, none of the “right” animals are so far within shooting range. The team’s quota has been set to two animals, one bull and a one year old, and they are obviously quick learners. So we call it the night, and give in to the weather conditions.
The next day I’m already familiar with the procedure, and we go off again. Lining up, keeping contact over the radio. Walking through the harsh but beautiful terrain, changing in line with the varying weather conditions. In one single weekend we experience all four seasons. At one point I have lost all visual contact with my team hunters, zigzagging my way between the birches. All of a sudden I’m standing face to face with THE bull. Bold and brave he is standing just a few meters away, checking me out. For a short eternity we stare at each other. Then he turns up hill, strolling calmly right in the direction of the shooter. I turn on my radio, half whispering, half panting;
-Big bull, coming right towards you!
Feeling both anxious and excited, wondering whether I am driving him into his certain death, I follow. At the top I meet the rifleman, no shot has yet been fired.
-I saw him alright. He was big and proud, beautiful. Too good really, a real breeding bull. We usually let them go. At moments like this you should be equipped with a camera rather than the rifle.
I am impressed. These guys have integrity! It’s not all about shooting and bragging about it. Over a short meal we plan the next move, and decide to take one last round, down a narrow valley.
The shooters take the easy rout down, while we keep walking. On and on, and on. Finally staring down the valley I’m thinking this is it! There is something about the shape of this valley, and the anticipation in the air. Again we spread out to cover the entire valley, and start descending. I bravely keep moving. Simply ignoring the hail pounding down my neck, the lactic acid ordering me to kneel, frozen body parts, blisters the size of coins and the rain cascading down my face*. All of a sudden, the radio is sparking.
-We have animals ahead, young male and two females on the right side. Slow down!
Senses sharpening, and I keep moving slowly.
Bang! A single loud rumble echoing between the sides of the mountain, followed by seconds of silence. All I can see is a deserted valley, no sign of life anywhere. What is happening? Was it a hit? A miss? Again the voice in the radio speaks.
– ….and there he fell!
I forget all about exhaustion. High on adrenalin I run, this I want to see! A third time the damned radio interrupt.
– Should we go for the second animal? I have a young female here, and she is limping. I think we should take her out.
Confirmative whispering from the others, another rumble, and this year’s quota is filled.
Filled with awe I approach the no longer limping female. Although it’s my first time, in this context slaughtering the animal seems just natural and straight forward. Kids and grandparents come to watch, well knowing where the food comes from. The meat is left hanging to tenderize, while I start the long drive home, worn-out but happy. The whole experience has brought a whole new dimension to my outdoors life, well knowing I would never push the trip this far simply picking berries.
The following weekend when the team meats up to split the catch there is one person missing. She has gone grousehunting with the girls, and leaves it to the guys to prepare the food.
Camilla Næss, NINA
* all good hunting stories include a certain degree of exaggeration