Real Women Hunt Moose by Richard E. McCallum

 

I carry the light for women. Since leaving the Marines a few years back, I am determined to challenge female stereotypes. I notice a tote bag in a store window with a moose head imprinted on it, and the saying, “Real Women Hunt Moose.” I commit to becoming one of them. Trained by the Marines to drive all types of vehicles, shoot rifles, track men, and survive in the wild, I know I am qualified.

My hunt begins with the State of Maine permitting me to kill. “A hunting license for a moose, please,” I ask the outdoor supply store guy as he rings up my purchases of camping equipment.

The store clerk looks like a good ol’ boy from the backwoods. Missing a few teeth, and chawing tobacco, his remaining choppers, and fingernails gleam yellow from smoking, and he smells like a brewery.

“You win one in the State moose-huntin’ lotto?” The outdoorsman questions with a tone implying he already knows the answer.

“Lottery?”

“Don’t recollect seein’ you ‘bout these parts before. You a Mainer?”

“No.”

The tobacco chewer aims towards a spittoon near my feet. “Got one could transfer to you, but it’ll cost a thousand bucks.” He hits the rim, and it oozes down both the inside and the outside of the container.

I step away from the mess. “Where do I find a moose?”  I ask the man, “and how do I get there?”

“Ayah,” he moans, and with my help, bags my purchases. “The most important thing about huntin’ for a moose …”

I await the moose hunting guide’s words of wisdom, but, apparently, he wants me to restate the question. “What’s the most important thing about hunting for a moose?”

The weathered drunk reveals, “lies in a knowin’ at least one crittah’ looms in the area whar’ you’re a-goin’ huntin, and …” He pauses and leans in close to me. I smell booze. He blows over me as he says, “… Bull Moose lure.” He whispers, and his slimy eyes enlarge to express how important this top-secret formula could be to my success.

This seller of Bull Moose attractant aromas floats the elixir under my scent glands. It smells like cheap perfume. He lets out a moose call, “Mouahahah” sounding like a buzz saw.

“Ahhhh, moose, come?” I say to the wildlife romantic consultant and blush with embarrassment upon realizing the double entendre.

Lucky for me, the bourbon-soaked hunting advisor lacks quick wit, and replies, “Sure they come. They detect the slightest fragrance in the wind, and they’ll charge through heck and high watah to get to you.”

“How many bottles will I need?”

“You only got one moose permit, so I reckon you don’t need too many bottles. On the other hand, it may take you quite a few times, in different places, before you’re at the place whar’s thar’s a moose lurkin’. Like I said earlier, don’t go huntin’ for moose whar’s thar’ ain’t no moose to hunt.”

I smile at him and push on. My purchase includes three six-ounce bottles of Bull Moose enticement at a hundred bucks a pop. “A lot to pay,” I say. He shrugs and responds, “Collecting fresh-female-moose-urine-in-heat takes a special talent.”

“I can imagine…”

I pay hundreds of dollars for all the supplies, and the clerk throws in a little Swiss army knife—you know, the ones with the medical cross on them—as a thank-you gift. He says, “folks often find it a ‘needful thing.”’ 

My first night out, it pours rain. The tent fills with water. Grabbing everything, I run to the truck, slipping and stubbing every part of me against rocks, branches, and roots. Cold, wet, hurting, fouled, and miserable my aching body slides into the cab. Putting on my stocking hat, my heated, waterproof bodysuit, and my fishing waders gives me a little comfort. I gaze into the black, flooded wilderness until sleep overpowers me.

I awake with a start. The vehicle moves sideways. What the heck? Just pre-dawn, and now the river floods. The pickup gets pulled out into the current. Scrambling out the window as the rear end smashes into the embankment; I get body slammed into the mud. Slipping and slouching my way to the trailer, my best effort succeeds in rolling off the ATV. Loading it with as much gear as possible, and hopping on, I fumble but manage to get it started. Zooming off the river bank and onto the trail, happens, just as my truck rolls over and sweeps downstream.

“Bye, bye, a hundred thousand dollars,” I say to myself.

The loss of my transport and supplies irritates me, and I decide to vent my rage on the monstrous beast that caused my misfortune.

The terrain gets soggier and soggier along the swampy part of the river. Finally, the mud and the brush became too thick for my ATV. I barely get my gear off before it flushes down.

Woooshhhhhhh, gurgle, gurgle.

I spot an overhanging tree on the river side of the island and figure the intertwining branches will make a good hunting lair. I hitch up my fishing waders and carry my gear over. Slipping, falling, and just about drowning, it takes four trips to haul everything across. Exhausted, I notice it’s not even full light yet.

“Marines endure. What’s your objective soldier?” I drill myself, “Join the ranks of the

Real Women. Get it done. Sir, yes, Sir!” 

Climbing the tree and crawling out on a low entanglement of branches offers support for

all my gear. The river runs deep under me. I fill the bucket and mix in the lure.

I pour a steady stream into the water, at the rate I estimate a female moose might, and the bucket nears empty.

Jaws, the shark, attacks.

Or so it appears. A huge bull moose with trophy antlers breaches up out of the deep. The bull’s spines jam the entanglement of branches supporting my lair. The beast curls his lips and bellows in ecstasy.

The attractant worked.

Only problem?

No female moose. His spikes entwine my clothes, and my body snares on top of his head.

Unbelievable.

By now, the bull knows he did not capture the object of his desire. Floundering in the deep water and struggling to keep his nose and mouth above water, he cannot fling off my body.

A Scream.

A Prayer.

Finally, the bull smashes into a logjam, which shifts with the impact and traps him. The moose panics and tosses his head from side to side. Thrown onto a log, one of my feet gets caught under his antlers. Fatigued, the moose can’t hold his nose and mouth above the river and drowns. His upper head, with his eyes just above the water line, stay afloat supported by the log ensnared antlers. He stares at me.

My warm camo outfit and waders keep me waterproof from head to toe, and gratefully, my stocking cap didn’t abandon me during the wild ride.

The day passes with me squirming, wiggling, and suffering panic attacks until drained. Famished; could I eat the moose? Incredibly thirsty, but I dare not drink the river water. I cry.

Night falls. Chilled, I feel the spirit of the moose.

Spooky.

Sleepless. Thoughts of other people trapped in life-or-death situations come to mind. One man cut off his hand to free himself. I search through my pockets for anything I can use to slice off my foot. I pat the pockets of my jacket and discover the one thing not paid for: the Swiss army knife

“‘Needful thing.”’ I quote the wise man who gave me this gift.

I sleep fitfully as the sun warms but awake as the mosquitoes and flies target my exposed parts, like a tortured soul left for their demonic pleasure. Late morning, I decide to push as hard as possible to move the logs and gain access to my foot, instead, at that moment, the timbers spin apart, and the whole entanglement comes undone.

Flung free of the moose and catapulted onto one of the logs, my glance back reveals the moose’s head, his glazed motionless eyes beholding me, sinking under the bubbling foam. A spiritual connection forged; I know this grandiose creation of God forgives me and will protect me.

I hug my log like a koala bear, as it breaks free from the jam and heads down the river. I shoot out of a series of rapids at a pretty good clip; my log targets a woman in a canoe dead ahead. We collide and spill into the water. Struggling to help her as she struggles to help me, together we make it to shore and collapse. My attempt to apologize, and her feigned anger, both end when we burst out laughing. We laugh for such a long time; we can’t catch our breath.

We fall in love. I carry the light as my totem gifted to me by my moose.

 


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