I just finished a great meal. A moose roast cooked slowly at low temperatures for a few hours and surrounded with potatoes, onions and carrots. It has been a while since I had a taste of wild meat and this moose was just the fix I needed. As a matter of fact, the way this chunk of moose made its way to my plate is quite a story.
Thanks to my dad Marius and my mom Susan who brought me some of this fine moose meat from my dad’s recent hunting trip. My dad, my brother Anthony and a friend of theirs, Tony Tourville, went out on a hunting trip a few weeks ago, and they got way more than they bargained for. Now my dad and my brother are both incredible hunters. They are more comfortable out on the land following the ways of our traditional Cree ancestors than any other place in the world. They know hew to survive on the land and on the great James Bay. Their friend Tony must have got a real education when he joined them for the hunting trip that took them from Attawapiskat and onto the very cold waters of James Bay.
These three hunters traveled in two freighter canoes, out the Attawapiskat River, then north on the bay to Opinnagau River, which has long been a hunting ground for the coastal Crees. Their two-week trip was like a ride back in time to when my people roamed the shores of James Bay and its rivers living off the land.
During their hunt they managed to shoot a couple of moose, and on location in the wilderness, skinned and butchered them for the one-day boat ride back to Attawapiskat. When they had filled the canoes with moose meat, they made their way back through the frigid air out of Opinnagau River towards the bay. At the mouth of the Opinnagau they could see the wind was strong and waves high. So my dad decided it would be best to camp overnight.
The men set up camp by erecting their prospector tent. They laid out their moose meat, had a bit to eat, reviewed the day in words over tea and then went off to sleep. Late in the dark of the night they were rattled out of their sleep with sounds nearby. When they awoke they realized that something or someone was at the door of the tent.
It took a couple of seconds for their vision to clear and then they realized there were two polar bear cubs nosing around at the door. They noticed, to their dismay, that the mother was just outside the door behind her cubs. They reached to find their guns, but realized they had left them outside the tent. My brother crawled out the back of the tent and made it to the guns.
With a couple of loud shots fired into the air, the cubs and mother were scared off. The men gathered outside the tent and watched as the mother and cubs hurried away. The trio, full of adrenaline and excited by the night’s happenings, stayed up for a few hours anticipating the possible return of the polar bears. However, after a couple of hours they headed back to bed. Just as they were nodding off to sleep, another series of sounds from outside the tent flap jolted them awake. This time they were ready, but still it was indeed a shock when they pulled back the tent flap and came face to face with an adult male polar bear.
They fired shots into the air again, and the giant bear turned and ran off. As he did so, he dislodged the portable radio antenna which was strung out at a height of about five feet off the ground. Imagine – even on all fours and running, this bear stood at least five feet high.
In the morning, after very little sleep, the hunters gathered their moose meat, packed the canoes and wasted no time in heading out on the bay and back to Attawapiskat. Although these bears must have been very interested in the fresh moose that lay near the tent at the mouth of Opinnagau that fateful night, they didn’t manage to get away with any. So there you are – I ended up with a great meal of moose and a story to share with you.