Groose Camp 2023 – Part 2
The next morning, Brian dropped me off at a beautiful wetland area that looked like a likely moose spot.
I nestled myself into a spruce tree and sat there, already shivering from the cold for quite some time. Eventually, I pulled out my book and began to read, figuring that if I scanned the area every few minutes, I wouldn’t miss anything. Some whiskeyjacks (grey jays or Canada jays) found me sitting there and hung around me for a while, curiously checking me out to see if I had any food. They’re apparently good luck, though not enough of it seemed to rub off on me.
After a while it began to rain, so I put my book away and hunkered down, keeping my eyes peeled for moose. After nearly a 5 hour sit, nothing had popped up and I was wet and very cold. I heard an ATV coming down the road behind me, so I popped out of the bush and saw that it was Paul. I flagged a ride back to camp, figuring that Brian would guess that I’d gone back with someone else.
We went back to the camp and had lunch and Brian eventually pulled in, saying he’d waited 15 minutes for me, calling out to see where I was. I felt a bit bad, but having warmed up by the woodstove, I still thought I’d made the right decision.
I took Arrow out for a wet bird hunt, continuing down that same grouse path that seemed to have endless grouse on it, and we came back with two more. These were wet and bedraggled and MUCH harder to pluck than the dry ones.
After lunch, I went back out for a walk pretty close to camp, finding more and more moose sign, all within 10 minutes of us. The other guys had been driving further and further afield (even boating down the river) without seeing anything, but maybe the moose were hanging out nearby?
It was still raining, and with the low cloud cover, it seemed to get dark very early. I made it back to camp, helped cut more firewood, then cooked Paul’s dinner for him. His talented wife had sent along some dinners, but Paul admits he stays way out of the kitchen and doesn’t know how to cook. I didn’t mind doing it though, and it was nothing more than heating up some delicious Caribbean style curry chicken with toasted naan that his wife had pre-made.
After dinner, I grabbed a paper plate and pen, and drew a map of the nearby area, including roads, creeks, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and trails. After some good-natured ribbing, I also included a North arrow. We formulated a plan to set up shooters along trails while, others would push the moose that had apparently been hanging out near us (according to tracks and sign) towards the shooters.
We got up early in the morning, had some eggs and coffee for breakfast, then moved into our spots. Paul, Tyler, and I would be waiting in the hopes of seeing a moose pop out, while Gio and Brian would push.
I parked myself into a tamarack tree and stayed vigilant, watching my opening for movement. After three and a half hours of seeing nothing but a yammering squirrel, I was glad to hear the ATVs making their way back. No one had seen anything and Brian and Gio were exhausted from tramping through the woods. Gio had had a particularly hard time in his stretch, and was sore and fatigued after the ordeal.
It had been raining the entire time so everyone was wet and cold.
We hung up our clothes to dry in the tent, but the woodstoves couldn’t keep up with the damp and nothing really dried over the rest of the trip.
Cold and miserable, we had a quick lunch, then I took Arrow for a nice long walk on the grouse trail. Due to the rain, we didn’t see any grouse, and both just got soaked.
I decided that since I was wet anyways, it was time for a swim. I made my way down to the lake next to our camp, stripped down, and jumped in, gasping at the coldness of the water. Scrubbing myself down as quickly as I could, I rubbed off a layer of dirt that had been building up all week. Getting out, I towelled off and put on some fresh clothes… boy did that ever feel good! I had done the same the year before and thought it was well worth it both times now. None of the other guys could be convinced to go do it themselves though!
Brian and Paul left for a supply run to Manitouage, but had to turn around due to a major wash out in the road. They then drove all the way back and went back up the highway to Long Lac instead, which took the entire afternoon and evening. We had them send texts out to loved ones so they’d know we were okay.
Staying back at camp, we processed all of the grouse that had been building up. We had over 30 at this point, and each one got plucked and gutted. I saved the hearts, livers, and gizzards from the gutted birds, and kept the dry feathers to send to my friend who makes art with them. Arrow and Ozzy got the heads and feet to chew on and play with.
When the guys got back from town, Gio made a big pot of spicy chili with beans, which was the perfect thing to warm us all up.
That night, I woke up to Arrow army crawling out of my sleeping bag and gasping for breath in the middle of the night. Looks like those chili beans had gone to work!
Seeing that the nearby moose hunt didn’t work out so well for us, I took Tyler’s truck the next morning and went for a drive back to the beautiful wetland area I’d sat at the other day. I parked the truck, leaving Arrow in there with my big sleeping bag and went and sat down in a comfy spot overlooking the water. I’d brought my book and a sandwich and read in between bouts of rainfall.
After four and a half hours, I’d seen nor heard a thing, so I packed it back in and drove back to camp for lunch.
I took Arrow out to a new nearby trail for a walk. I didn’t find any birds, but I did find a fen or hay marsh tucked into the woods. It seemed that THIS was where the nearby moose had been hiding! There was evidence of bedding, and lots of tracks and browse.
I dropped Arrow back off at camp and came back to sit in this marsh, hoping to see a moose come in before nightfall. I finished my book in between bouts of rain and then just sat there, watching the light slowly fade. No moose.
Trying not to feel discouraged, I headed back to camp and started up dinner. It was my turn again and I made sweet and sour fried pork chops with stir fried vegetables and jasmine rice.
The meal hit the spot, and we spent the night listening to music and drinking a few more beers and whiskys than usual; maybe because we were starting to feel like we weren’t going to get ourselves a moose on this trip.
The temperature outside was plummeting and our wood was all wet, making that night a particularly cold one.
We woke up in the morning and I was the first to go outside to start the generator for our lights. It had snowed!
I went back into the tent and exclaimed, “It’s a moose camp miracle!” to everyone snuggled up in their cots. We got breakfast out of the way, and excitedly headed out, hoping to find some fresh moose tracks in the snow.
I took Tyler’s truck again and drove down the road to several trails, which I’d park next to and walk down. I found one that brought me all of the way down to the river I’ve spoken about before.
I didn’t see one fresh track the entire morning, even after covering so much ground. I let Arrow out and we did some hunting together, coming up with the last bird (for us) of the trip, before making our way back to camp.
None of the others had seen any fresh tracks either, despite having covered an immense amount of ground. Where were these damned moose???
I took Arrow for a long wet and cold hunt down the grouse trail. She held a beautiful full point on a bird, which I had the audacity to miss when it eventually flushed out and flew away. Otherwise the birds stayed quiet, hiding away from the wet snow in the trees.
I was dressed warmly, which was good for sitting, but sometimes too much for walking.
I had a quick dry under layer on, then a merino wool sweater, then a fleece jacket, then my hunting jacket, which is water resistant, then my hunting vest.
Sitting down in this would still bring me to shivering quite quickly, though I’ve hunting in the same gear while it was much colder. I chalked it up to the overall dampness and that all of my clothes were always wet.
I hiked back to camp, then helped Tyler load up his truck and trailer with all of the stuff we wouldn’t need for the night. This was going to be our last night in camp, but the others would be staying an extra day and night.
Brian eventually came back after full dark and told us that he’d finally seen a small bull moose at a spot he’d visited that evening. The rest of the guys decided to head there come morning.
Tyler and I helped make some tasty spaghetti and meat sauce that Paul’s wife had sent, then we all set to getting a little drunk for our last night. We all signed the tent (a yearly tradition) had some cheers, and talked and laughed about the preceding week.
Tyler and I had decided to get up really early the next morning to get a good start on our 16 hour drive, but we ended up staying up quite late.
The next morning, I woke up groggily to rain pounding down on the tent, “Whaaa? What time is it??? 8:20!!! Oh shit!”
We scrambled around the tent, packing our last things and saying a hasty goodbye to the guys. Getting into the truck soaking wet, we began the looooong journey back home, barely stopping except for gas and quick pees. We made it home in amazing time, pulling in at around 11:30pm and unloaded the truck.
Exhausted, I stumbled into the shower, then into bed, where I lay sweating. We’d gone from -3°C to 18°C in one day! The unseasonable weather seemed exceedingly hot after all of the cold damp we’d just lived in.
The other guys eventually made their way home as well, mooseless, but we learned lots on this trip and had such a great time that it didn’t matter. Living cell phone free and hanging out with a bunch of good guys in a tent in the north woods is reason enough to drive all of the way out there, not to mention all of the ruffed and spruce grouse I got to bring home.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s Groose Camp. Hopefully we get a tag and get another stab at bringing home a moose!
Looking for moose recipes? Try out these delicious moose burgers on bannock buns!