Moose hunting by road
I passed by this tiny settlement so many times on the train between Moosonee and Cochrane yet I had never set foot there.
But on Oct. 18, I was among those who disembarked the train at the regular rail stop. I was there for the moose hunt along with my friend Ryan, his father Patrick Sr., and his son and nephew. My original hope was to hunt with my dad, who traditionally moose hunts on either the Abitibi or Kwatabohigan River near Moosonee. But he said he was ill, which left me to contact Ryan about his hunting plans.
Located along the railway at mileage 69, Fraserdale is about 130 kilometres north of Timmins and was originally a stop for rail workers and those who lived at the nearby Abitibi Canyon, a settlement established to house construction and hydro workers who were building a generating station in the 1930s.
Until the 1960s, the area was only accessible by train when a year round road to Smooth Rock Falls was built, thereby connecting it to the highway system.
Ryan and his family reached Fraserdale by truck. We stayed in a tent frame at a camp owned by his common-law partner’s uncle, who stayed in his own cabin. The uncle, a Moose Cree member who grew up in Moosonee, is one of few people who now reside in Fraserdale.
Upon arriving at the camp, I was surprised that the cabin had not only a working stove, fridge and freezer, but also satellite TV.
But there is no running water and I asked if he got drinking water from a nearby spring.
“No, I get it from town,” he said, then added with a chuckle: “We’re not that savage-y.”
The area has a network of gravel and dirt roads, one of which crosses a dam and leads to Otter Rapids, another dam along the Abitibi River.
As we prepared to drive out the first night, I was reminded to put on a bright orange vest, something I have always associated with non-Native hunters in the south. I have never seen hunters donning one around Moosonee.
The uncle and Patrick said hunters are jumpy and some will even fire at objects from afar. So I put one on and jumped on the back of a four-wheeler to head out.
It felt odd moose hunting along roads. On the river, you only decide whether to go upriver or down. Here, you decide which road to drive along and there are a lot of them.
But I suppose the methods are the same: look for fresh signs of tracks, feedings or bush breakage, and try to call them out.
There were not many hunters the first two days save for the hunters who own camps in the area, but when the weekend came, so did the trucks on the road.
At one point, the five of us were in a truck driving along the main road when we spotted a moose cow and calf. They trotted into the bush by the time we were ready with our rifles.
Patrick dropped Ryan and I off at the four-wheeler at a spot we saw a bull moose that morning, and Patrick decided to return to the spot where we saw the cow and calf. As he stood along the road, calling, non-Native hunters stopped nearby to shoot a partridge with a shotgun. They promptly picked up the carcass and drove off, leaving Patrick to abandon the spot since a shot rang out.
The road leading to the highway added a convenience factor to the hunt. Where on the river you must pack what you need and survive on that until you return home, in Fraserdale you can just drive to Smooth Rock Falls or Cochrane if you are low on supplies. We did so one day to pick up more fuel. We ended up going to Cochrane, where Ryan picked up some fast food. That evening, at camp, we were eating a bucket of KFC.
I felt spoiled hunting at Fraserdale. I was used to roughing it out, setting up a canvas tent with pine branch flooring and living off what we had. It made the hunt feel more authentic and primal.
There were a lot of moose around Fraserdale. We saw them at least three times, but not long enough to fire a shot. It was difficult to call them out and they never returned a call.
I asked Patrick how he liked hunting at Fraserdale.
“Too many people,” he said. “You don’t get that on the river.”
We left Fraserdale after five days, each of us needing to return to work. Despite the foreign experience of hunting along roads, it was a fun trip. It was my first time fall hunting in years and I enjoyed the cool air and changing leaves; and I experienced the exhilaration of seeing a majestic bull moose, which unfortunately ran off into the bush.
I want to go again next year. Hopefully on a boat this time.
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