Monday, August 6, 2012

Ostomate Carries a Moose

Oct 2010
As an ostomate I have been told … avoid extreme activities, don’t lift big weights, don’t over-exert.  As a hunter I have been told … never hunt alone, a moose is too big for 1 person to handle, you need a truck or a quad for moosehunting.    I ignored all these suggestions.

I was reluctant to write this story, not wanting to offend those who dislike hunting, nor those who decline to eat meat. I have full respect for those differing opinions, and make no attempt to change them.  I hope others will quietly allow me mine.

In 2009 I was recovering from cancer and a colostomy, so didn’t hunt, and wondered if I would be able to hunt again.  It became a must-do on my Ostomy Bucket list

There are 3 parallel forces that take me hunting.  Philosophically … I easily connect with the natural world, and feel very comfortable and belonging while alone in the bush.  And Practically ….for the past 20 years, several families anticipate the steaks, roasts, and burger from my moose hunts.  And Ancestrally ... there is something buried deep in the reptile part of our brain that makes us hunters, gatherers, and survivors.  And yes, perhaps spending too much time alone in the bush, conjures up such thoughts :)

A Canada Moose stands 6 feet (2metres) tall at the shoulders, and can weigh up to 1500 pounds (700Kgs). 

My location is NorthWestern Canada.  I drive 4 hours from my home to the end of the road, then 28km by boat to my cabin.  I will be alone, and I will hunt every day for the next 10 days.  Here is a typical day. 
I woke to the alarm at 4:30am.  Made a thermos of coffee and ate a bowl of porridge.  Left the cabin at 5:00am.  It was very dark this morning, as it was cloudy and with almost no moon.  When it is this dark, it’s good to have the route in my head, and take clues from surrounding terrain to avoid being lost or hitting rocks.  After a dark 4km boatride, I transferred to a canoe and paddled 400meters up a small creek. Canoeing up the creek is more difficult than the lake travel, as I am low to the water, the creek is only 2meters wide with tall reeds growing on both sides, and VERY winding.  I did some moose cow-calls that can be heard (by bull moose) for up to 5 kms.  

By 10:30am it was obvious that no bull moose would be showing this morning, so I reversed my route and returned to the cabin.  Lunch, a short nap, a few chores, then back out for the evening hunt from about 4:00pm to sunset at 7:30pm.
These are long days, with 8-9 hours of sitting, silently, and moving only my eyeballs.  Many similar days passed.  On a typical moosehunting day … nothing happens.
One morning, I thought I heard a moose walking slowly in the creek, then quickly climb the bank, splashing as he lunged out of the water.  This added to a number of events that have tricked me over the years.  The noise was actually a flock of ducks that had probably slept in a bay on the creek.  A few started to move and stretch their wings, then they all stretched and splashed thru the water as they took flight.  Not a moose, but a new, exciting, and uncommon observation anyway.

On day 7, I woke to the alarm at 4:30am.  It was drizzling, and the forecast was for light rain all morning.  Staying in bed seemed tempting, but I decided to go hunting anyway.  It was so dark – no moon and heavy clouds.  Navigating in the dark was difficult as the terrain-clues were harder to see, and distance from shore was difficult to judge.  I traveled at lower speed, but it seemed like I was going way too fast for conditions (like overdriving your headlights, except there was no light).  At 9:30am the drizzle was tempting me to go back to the cabin, but then I heard a branch snap.  Doesn’t count as a moose until I have at least 3 clues (branch snaps, grunts, raking antlers, walking in water…) or actually SEE the moose.  He was just a silhouette, standing in the heavy bush.  I had to use binoculars to positively identify him.  I wanted a broadside shot, so waited.  Finally, at 40 yards, he turned and stood broadside, and I hit him with a good double-lung shot. He walked away, about 30 yards and went down.  I watched him thru the binoculars.  

I took a few pictures, then gathered my things, and went back to the cabin.  I assembled the gear I would need, ate a hearty meal, then returned to the site.  He had gone down in a burned area, so the entire forest floor was black and all the dead trees and shrubs were black.  And of course my clothes were blackened with the char.  I was glad that he wasn’t a big moose (there are no small moose when you are working alone).  Young or big or full-of-shit guys talk about quartering a moose.  A moose is only as heavy as the pieces you cut, so I cut him into ninths.  I hauled each piece about 50 yards, and loaded the 9 pieces in the boat.  

It was 5:30pm when I got back to the cabin.  It was tough lifting to get all the pieces from the boat up onto the dock.  It took 2 full hours to clean the pieces and  wrap them in bedsheets (to keep them clean and keep any flies off them).  
It was dark by the time I finished.  

It was a long hard day for a 61-year-old ostomate to handle a moose by himself.  
Despite the excitement of the day, sleep came easily that night.

This was an exhausting but immensely rewarding day for me.  Another Ostomy BucketList accomplishment 
… yes, I can still moosehunt with an ostomy.

And I earned freedom from ‘the rules’…
avoid extreme activities ... NOT
don’t lift big weights ... NOT
don’t over-exert ... NOT
never hunt alone ... NOT
a moose is too big for 1 person to handle ... NOT
need a truck or quad for moosehunting ... NOT


  1. This is a great story, and I'm glad you felt free from restrictions. I don't agree with your implication that guidelines are pointless. Over-exertion, especially alone, is be dangerous. Your defiance sounds like fun, and I definitely don't think ostomies should completely hold people back from doing the things they love. I'm young, but I have problems with fatigue, dehydration, and heart rhythm. I long to live carefree, but I am stuck in a broken body whose limits deserve respect. Can you offer any advice to me and my friends who struggle with chronic illness, but want to "live bigger"?
    I should mention that it's often not our attitudes that hold us back, but dramatic physical responses like fainting or collapsing.

  2. Of course guidelines are in place for structure, discipline, safety, and consistency. Individual people need/want different levels of guidelines. Personally, I need/want minimal guidelines, and have a lifelong style living successfully while minimizing guidelines. Each person has their own needs/wants, and should live based on their own lifestyles and comfort levels. Certainly we all must accept and respect our own personal limitations, whatever they may be. I am most fortunate that my attitude is algined with my physical condition and capabilities. While I sincerely would like to offer advice, I am 'over my head' in that capacity ... I am just being who I am and doing what I do, and hope that my stories and pictures may motivate others to live bigger in their own lives.

    1. Thank you for thoughtfully responding, and for sharing your stories! There are so many ostomates who can benefit from a little extra motivation to get out an explore the world. On a slightly unrelated note, I need to get back to deer hunting. We'll just make the same accommodations for me that we would for my grandpa.