I’ve guided many moose hunters who were very patient, and some who were anything but patient, and perhaps even a few who needed to be patients of another kind - but I have yet to convince a hunter that a straitjacket actually helps you sit still on stand. (Do they make straitjackets in camo?)
As a general rule, I’ve noticed that a hunter’s patience is directly proportional to his age. On a scale of 1 to 100, 1 being “can’t sit still infant spasms” and 100 being “dead, won’t move without electricity applied”, you can pretty much tell how patient a hunter will be by how old he is.
Based on this scale, Troy would rank 25, meaning he’s past the ‘bounces off the walls’ stage, but not yet to the ‘no longer fidgets’ phase. This makes Troy’s patience even more remarkable.
One of my guides, Jarrod, took Troy to Cateye Lake the first morning of his hunt. It was cold, really cold, so cold it was difficult to distinguish between fidgeting and frostbite. About 2 hours into their hunt, two cow moose walked out on the lakeshore, and behind them just inside the timber emerged the paddle of a moose antler.
To hear Troy tell it, you’d think that bull moose was so big the antlers could only be seen on the skyline above the tops of the trees as he swayed back and forth behind those cows. One step is all Troy needed and the bull would be in the open to shoot. But alas, it was not to be. Perhaps it was the violent chattering of teeth, perhaps it was the out of place bluish hue to their skin, but whatever the cause, both cow moose left, and the bull went with them, trees shaking like they were in a hurricane as it’s antlers brushed past.
For the next 8 days I witnessed one of the greatest feats of patience known to man. Troy, inspired by the antler he saw, was determined to shoot that bull. He was equally determined that at some point the moose would return to Cateye Lake. From one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset Troy and Jarrod sat on Cateye Lake. Hour after hour, day after day, one week was slowly turning into two and as he approached the end of his 10 day hunt without seeing another moose I began to be concerned.
That night as we went through the daily ritual of thawing the two of them out, I finally had to get rough with Troy.
“Now Troy” I said in as firm a voice as possible, “ That bull isn’t coming back. You’ve got to move on man. You need to finish the grieving process and go find another moose.”
“I don’t believe it!” Troy exclaimed in disbelief, “That really makes me mad! Maybe if I sit just one more day, he’ll come back won’t he? I’ve wasted my whole hunt on that bull.” This last outburst came with sobs and tears. I moved to console him but he quickly straightened up. “OK, I’m good with it now. Where do you want to go?”
A little taken aback by the speed in which he transitioned through the five stages of grieving I had to pause to think about it.
“Long Lake,” I said.
“Why Long Lake?” Troy asked?
“Because it’s been a long hunt, and you’ve sat a very long time, and it’s a long walk, and we’ve got long legs, and it’s a long shot across the lake and –“
“Ok ok,” Troy cut me off, “I’ll go, I’ll go.”
And so it was the final morning of his hunt I took Troy to Long Lake. I heard the water splashing when we were still 100 yards from the lakeshore. We looked at each other at the same time, we’d both heard it, and it was too big to be ducks. Our pace quickened as we snuck down to the edge of the timber to get a look.
A cow moose was in the lake feeding, we could make her out easy enough but the shore behind her was covered in fog. We heard antlers raking a tree. Our adrenaline was pumping now, a bull was somewhere behind her! We watched her for a less than a minute when we saw him on the lakeshore through a hole in the fog.
It was at this point I believe that Troy reverted to his 25-year-old self. He’d had his fill of patience. A normal hunter probably would have patiently waited for the fog to lift or the bull to follow the cow into the open water. Troy didn’t hesitate for even half a second. He lined up and shot that bull moose, and shot it again, and again, and without explaining the ballistics of shooting a moose at 400 yards with a 300 Win Mag, let’s just say eventually Troy got his first moose!
It wasn’t the moose he waited for so patiently, but it really was a dandy and Troy was thrilled.
Several months later I contacted Troy to see how he was doing.
“Well,” he said, “I don’t hear the voices from Cateye Lake anymore, doctor says I’m safe to return to society. I’m thinking of coming back up with my wife. I’d really like her to shoot a moose.”
“Glad to hear it,” I replied, “Is she as patient as you?”
Troy’s snickered, then he chuckled, and then he made an full throated evil laugh, growing louder and louder with each passing second.
Maybe one day I’ll tell you about hunting with his wife, but my doctor says it’s best to avoid retelling those sorts of traumatic experiences.