When we decided that it was useless to hunt this lake any longer, we went back to the river to put in a few days hunting up and down it. I got back to the camp in the evening and found Thompson there. He had had no luck and intended to leave for the settlement in the morning. Accordingly, the next day he started down-stream and we went up. We hadnít gone long before we heard what we took to be two shots, though, for all we knew, they might have been a beaver striking the water with his tail. That night, when we got back to camp, we found that, on going round a bend in the river about a mile below camp, Thompson had come upon a bull and a cow moose, and had bagged the bull.
The next morning it was raining as if it were the first storm after a long drought, and as we felt sure that no sensible moose would wander around much amid such a frozen downpour, we determined to put in a day after beaver. In one of my long tramps with Bill we had come across a large beaver-pond, and at the time Bill had remarked how easy it would be to break the dam and shoot the beaver. I had carefully noted the location of this pond, so managed successfully to pilot Willie to it, and we set to work to let the water out. This breaking the dam was not the easy matter I had imagined. It was a big pond, and the dam that was stretched across its lower end was from eight to ten feet high. To look at its solid structure and the size of the logs that formed it, it seemed inconceivable that an animal the size of a beaver could have built it. The water was above our heads, and there was a crust of ice around the edges. We had to get in and work waste deep in the water to enlarge our break in the dam, and the very remembrance of that cold morningís work, trying to pry out logs with frozen fingers, makes me shiver. It was even worse when we had to stop work and wait and watch for the beavers to come out. They finally did and I shot two. They were fine large specimens; the make was just tow inches less than four feet and the female only one inch shorter. Shivering and frozen, we headed back to camp.
My hunting costume had caused a good deal of comment among the guides; it consisted of a sleeveless cotton undershirt, a many-pocketed coat, a pair of short khaki trousers reaching to just abode my knees, and then a pair of sneakers or of high boots-I used the former when I wished to walk quietly. My knees were always bare and were quite impervious to cold as my hands, but the guides could never understand why I didnít freeze. I used to hear them solemnly discussing it in their broken French.
I had at first hoped to get my moose by fair chase staling, without the help of calling, but I had long since abandoned that hope; and Willie, who was an excellent caller, had been doing his best, but with no result. We say a young bull, but his horns could not have had a spread of more than 35 inches, and he would have been quite useless as a museum specimen. Another time, when we were crawling up to a lake not far from the river, we found ourselves face to face with a two-year-old bull. He was very close to us, but he hadnít got out wind, he was merely curious to find out what we were, for Willie kept grunting through his birch-bark horn. Once he came up to within twenty feet of us and stood gazing. Finally he got our wind and crashed off through the lakeside alders.
As a rule, moose answer a call better at night, and most almost every night we could hear them calling around our camp; generally they were cows that we heard, and once Willie had a duel with a cow as to which should have a young bull that we could hear in an alder thicket, smashing the bushes with his horns. Willie finally triumphed, and the bull headed toward us with a most disconcerting rush; next morning we found his tracks at the edge of the clearing not more that twenty yards from where we had been standing; at that point the camp smoke and smells had proved more convincing than Willieís calling horn.
Late one afternoon I had a good opportunity to watch some beaver at work. We had crawled cautiously up to a small lake in the vain hope of finding a moose, when we cam upon some beaver close to the shore. Their house was twenty or thirty yards away, and they were bringing out a supply of wood, chiefly poplar, for winter food. To and fro they swam, pushing the wood in front of them. Occasionally one would feel hungry, and then he would stop and start eating the bark from the log he was pushing. It made me shiver to watch then lazily in that icy water.
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