Beautiful Joe
Chapter 23


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


"Well," Mr. Wood began. "I was brought up, as you all know, in the eastern part of Maine, and we often used to go over into New Brunswick for our sport. Moose were our best game. Did you ever see one, Laura?"

"No, uncle," she said.

"Well, when I was a boy there was no more beautiful sight to me in the world than a moose with his dusky hide, and long legs, and branching antlers, and shoulders standing higher than a horse's. Their legs are so long that they can't eat close to the ground. They browse on the tops of plants, and the tender shoots and leaves of trees. They walk among the thick underbrush, carrying their horns adroitly to prevent their catching in the branches, and they step so well, and aim so true, that you'll scarcely hear a twig fall as they go.

"They're a timid creature except at times. Then they'll attack with hoofs and antlers whatever comes in their way. They hate mosquitoes, and when they're tormented by them it's just as well to be careful about approaching them. Like all other creatures, the Lord has put into them a wonderful amount of sense, and when a female moose has her one or two fawns she goes into the deepest part of the forest, or swims to islands in large lakes, till they are able to look out for themselves.

"Well, we used to like to catch a moose, and we had different ways of doing it. One way was to snare them. We' d make a loop in a rope and hide it on the ground under the dead leaves in one of their paths. This was connected with a young sapling whose top was bent down. When the moose stepped on the loop it would release the sapling, and up it would bound, catching him by the leg. These snares were always set deep in the woods, and we couldn't visit them very often. Sometimes the moose would be there for days, raging and tearing around, and scratching the skin off his legs. That was cruel. I wouldn't catch a moose in that way now for a hundred dollars.

"Another way was to hunt them on snow shoes with dogs. In February and March the snow was deep, and would carry men and dogs. Moose don't go together in herds. In the summer they wander about over the forest, and in the autumn they come together in small groups, and select a hundred or two of acres where there is plenty of heavy undergrowth, and to which they usually confine themselves. They do this so that their tracks won't tell their enemies where they are.

"Any of these places where there were several moose we called a moose yard. We went through the woods till we got on to the tracks of some of the animals belonging to it, then the dogs smelled them and went ahead to start them. If I shut my eyes now I can see one of our moose hunts. The moose running and plunging through the snow crust, and occasionally rising up and striking at the dogs that hang on to his bleeding flanks and legs. The hunters' rifles going crack, crack, crack, sometimes killing or wounding dogs as well as moose. That, too, was cruel.

"Two other ways we had of hunting moose: Calling and stalking. The calling was done in this way: We took a bit of birch bark and rolled it up in the shape of a horn. We took this horn and started out, either on a bright moonlight night or just at evening, or early in the morning. The man who carried the horn hid himself, and then began to make a lowing sound like a female moose. He had to do it pretty well to deceive them. Away in the distance some moose would hear it, and with answering grunts would start off to come to it. If a young male moose was coming, he'd mind his steps, I can assure you, on account of fear of the old ones, but if it was an old fellow, you'd hear him stepping out bravely and rapping his horns against the trees, and plunging into any water that came in his way. When he got pretty near, he'd stop to listen, and then the caller had to be very careful and put his trumpet down close to the ground, so as to make a lower sound. If the moose felt doubtful he'd turn; if not, he'd come on, and unlucky for him if he did, for he got a warm reception, either from the rifles in our hands as we lay hid near the caller, or from some of the party stationed at a distance.