I made up my mind to put in the last few days hunting from the Popple Cabin, so one rainy noon, after a morning’s hunt along the river, we shouldered our packs and tramped off to the little cabin from which Bill and I had hunted. Wirre was with us, and we left him to dry out the cabin while we went off to try a late afternoon’s hunt.
As we were climbing the hill from which Bill and I used to watch the little pond, Willie caught sight of a moose on the side of a hill a mile away. One look through our field-glasses convinced us it was a good bull.
A deep wooded valley intervened, and down into it we started at headlong speed, and up the other side we panted. As we neared where we believed the moose to be, I slowed down in order to get my wind in case I had to do some quick shooting. I soon picked up the moose and managed to signal Willie to stop.
The moose was walking along at the edge of the woods somewhat over 200 yards to our left. The wind was favorable, so I decided to try to get nearer before shooting. It was a mistake, for which I came close to paying dearly; suddenly, and without any warning, the great animal swung into the woods and disappeared before I could get ready to shoot.
“That mile back to camp, crawling over dead falls and tripping on stones, was one of the longest I have ever walked.”
Willie had his birch-bark horn with him and he tried calling, but instead of coming toward us, we could hear the moose moving off in the other direction. The woods were dense, and all chance seemed to have gone. With a really good tracker, such as are to be found among some of the African tribes, the task would have been quite simple, but neither Willie nor I was good enough.
We had given up hope when we heard the moose grunt on the hillside above us. Hurrying toward the sound, we soon came into more open country. I saw him in a little glade to our right; he looked most impressive as he stood there, nearly 19 hands at the withers, shaking his antlers and staring at us; I dropped to my knee and shot, and that was the first that Willie knew of our quarry’s presence.
He didn’t go far after my first shot, but several more were necessary before he fell. We hurried up to examine him; he was not yet dead, and when we were half a dozen yards away, he staggered to his feet and started for us, but he fell before he could reach us.
Had I shot him the first day I might have had some compunction at having put an end to such a huge, handsome animal, but as it was I had no such feelings. We had hunted long and hard, and luck had been consistently against us.
Our chase had led us back in a quartering direction toward camp, which was now not more than a mile away; so Willie went to get Wirre, while I set to work to take the measurements and start on the skinning.
Taking off a whole moose hide is no light task, and it was well after dark before we got it off. We estimated the weight of the green hide as well over 150 pounds, but probably less than 200. We bundled it up as well as we could in some pack-straps, and as I seemed best suited to the task, I fastened it on my back.
The sun had gone down, and that mile back to camp, crawling over dead falls and tripping on stones, was one of the longest I have ever walked. The final descent down the almost perpendicular hillside was the worst. When I fell, the skin was so heavy and such a clumsy affair that I couldn’t get up alone unless I could find a tree to help me; but generally Willie would start me off again.
When I reached the cabin, in spite of the cold night air, my clothes were as wet as if I had been in swimming. After they had taken the skin off my shoulders, I felt as if I had nothing to hold me down to earth, and might at any moment go soaring into the air.
Note: An excerpt from The Happy Hunting Grounds, published in 1920 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Text made possible by the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Library of Congress. Minor edits were made to the original manuscript, but the spirit of the piece remains as Kermit penned it.