After suffering through a hot and dry Midwest summer, I was looking forward to my September departure for Newfoundland to hunt Eastern Canada moose. I had decided to try for two moose because I would be field-testing new 330-grain and 350-grain brass hollowpoint bullets developed for my .416 B&M and .50 caliber B&M rifles.
The B&M family of rifles and calibers was developed by my close friend and longtime hunting partner, Michael McCourry. SSK Industries in Winterville, Ohio, built my rifles using Winchester Model 70 WSM controlled-feed actions. In conjunction with various bullet manufacturers, Michael has designed a wide range of bullets for the B&M calibers. The bullets I would use had been extensively tested on the range using wet paper as a medium, but had never been field-tested on game.
I booked the hunt with Grey River Lodge, owned and operated by Tony Tuck and Dennis Travener. Grey River operates two camps in the south of Newfoundland. I would be hunting out of the Salmon Brook Lodge, situated on a tributary of the Grey River. I flew from my home in Dayton, Ohio, to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. At the motel in Deer Lake I met Joe Vogel from Erie, Pennsylvania, who would also be hunting for moose out of Salmon Brook.
Before packing for any hunting trip, I check the projected weather conditions for the duration of the hunt. The weather report for September 18 through 27 said that Hurricane Igor was expected to pass off the eastern coast of Newfoundland. That would mean rain and wind, and I packed accordingly. What no one knew at the time was that Igor’s path would change and the storm would bring more rain and wind than anticipated causing more damage than the province had seen in its recorded history.
Early Sunday morning Joe and I were driven from Deer Lake to the small town of Peter Sikes, where we met the helicopter that would fly us to camp. The 2½-hour drive along the coast was picturesque. Our helicopter pilot, Scotty, who has 34 years’ flying experience, told us about the topography and pointed out game as we flew for about 35 minutes to camp. We saw countless lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. From the air, Newfoundland looked completely saturated. On the ground I confirmed this observation. I have traveled around the world and, except for the Great Lakes in the United States, I have never seen so much fresh water as in Newfoundland. We landed on a slightly elevated wood platform no more than 40 feet from the front door of the lodge. The weather was beautiful. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the last day of good weather until Friday.
We were met by Alvin Young, who would be my guide; Dennis Travener, Joe’s guide; and Marie Young, our cook. After unpacking, I made certain that my rifles were shooting correctly. In my view, no hunter should ever start hunting until certain that the weapon is sighted in. This is especially important for scoped rifles. Even the best optics can be knocked out of alignment during transit. Sure enough, one of my scopes needed minor adjustment. I also believe that hunters must know the ballistics of the bullets they are using. I normally carry a 3×5 laminated index card in my jacket that shows the rise and drop, at specific distances, of the bullets I will be shooting.
Because Newfoundland law does not allow moose hunting on Sundays in September, we spent the rest of the day looking for signs of moose. One thing I quickly discovered was that no matter where we walked – level ground, uphill, or downhill – we were walking in water or muskeg.
Monday morning I awoke around 5 a.m. to the sound of howling wind and pouring rain. Hurricane Igor had arrived. Nevertheless, Alvin and I walked, climbed and glassed. Within a couple of hours the wind was blowing faster than 60 mph and the rain came down so hard that it looked like the sky had become a gigantic waterfall. We decided that the moose were not moving and returned to the warm, dry lodge. We watched the river rise at least four feet. Alvin told us he had never seen the water anywhere near as high and fast.
Tuesday, the weather was slightly better. But while the rainfall had lessened, the wind had not. I knew that with the wind blowing so hard, the moose would continue to stay in thick cover. Everywhere we walked we were in at least a foot of water. I had noticed an Argo in camp and told Alvin that I had had enough of trudging through water and muskeg. I wanted him to use it to get us up the hills or mountains where we could do our glassing. Alvin obliged and even though the Argo with its eight tires wasn’t comfortable, it sure beat walking. We did a lot of driving and glassing that day but never saw any moose. In fact, we never saw any game at all.
By Wednesday it had stopped raining, but the wind was still blowing at 30 to 40 mph. We figured that by this time the moose, which had been bedded down for the better part of the last two days, would start moving. The river level was returning to normal, and the flow had slowed considerably. Dennis and Joe had taken the rubber raft, which was tethered to a rope that spanned the river, and crossed to the other side. They climbed an unnamed mountain, where they spent the day glassing for moose. While Alvin and I never saw any moose, Dennis and Joe were luckier. Joe took a nice bull at a little more than 200 yards.
On Thursday, Dennis, Alvin and I got started at about 6:45 a.m. Dennis crossed the river and climbed the mountain so he could glass for moose on our side of the river. Alvin and I took the Argo to the top of a mountain and glassed from there. The wind was blowing at more than 40 mph. We glassed everywhere, but none of us saw any moose. Alvin and I decided to move to a lower elevation to get some relief from the vicious gusts. Around 1:30 p.m., we decided to go back to the lodge so I could get my windproof rain jacket and pants. After a short rest and hot drinks we headed up the mountain again to do some glassing. I was starting to think that the moose were going to stay in the timber until the day after my hunt ended. Late in the afternoon, the wind started to abate. Alvin spotted a moose on Dennis’s side of the river, but it soon disappeared into the thick cover. We decided to call it a day.
Just as we got to camp, about 6:15 p.m., Joe, who was on the veranda, came inside and told us there was a large bull moose walking in the marsh across the river. I grabbed my .416 B&M and headed for the door. By the time I got to the veranda it was gone. Alvin got up on the roof of the lodge and tried to call it in. No luck. Dennis soon arrived, and a few minutes later he spotted the same moose crossing the river about a quarter mile downstream. We walked a path that paralleled the river as fast as we dared to reach a spot for a possible shot. We reached the same field where Alvin and I had been on Monday. Dennis tried calling, and I positioned myself for a possible shot. No moose, no shot.
When I got up Friday, the temperature was below freezing. It was foggy, and we waited until it lifted before leaving the lodge. The sky cleared for the first time since Monday. However, the wind had picked up again. We did a lot of glassing, riding in the Argo and walking. We never saw any moose. My hopes of getting one moose, never mind two, were starting to fade. Around 4 p.m. I suggested to Alvin that we go back to the lodge and hunt along the river until it got dark. At the lodge, Alvin continued making cow calls, something he had been doing for the past two days.
This time, Dennis, who had spent most of the day on a mountainside across the river, spotted a bull on our side of the river that was coming toward the sound of Alvin’s call. Alvin and I got up on the roof to see if we could spot the bull. Dennis, who could see the moose as he moved in and out of the timber, kept in touch with Alvin by radio and told him where the moose was traveling.
After about 30 minutes, Alvin told me that we needed to intercept the moose at the North Brook River, which runs into Salmon Brook. We hiked quickly through the muskeg, brush and timber. Reaching the river, we looked in the direction where Alvin expected the moose to show himself. What we did not know was that the moose had come out of the timber to our right and was looking to cross the river. Dennis could see the moose from where he was perched on top of the mountain and was frantically calling Alvin on the radio. However, Alvin had turned his radio off, fearing that any radio noise would spook the moose. Once again we were out of luck.
Saturday was the last day of hunting. The sky was overcast with intermittent rain. However, there was very little wind. Alvin and I started the day in the Argo. We stopped about halfway up a mountain and Alvin did some cow calling. No moose. After a while we changed location and Alvin, who is an excellent caller, repeatedly tried to call in a moose. We saw nothing all morning.
Around 12:30 p.m. we went back to the lodge, got something to eat and made a plan. Time was clearly running out for me to get a moose. We decided to cross the river and set up on the edge of the huge marsh that was visible from the lodge. The weather had changed, and it was the warmest it had been since my arrival. This brought out the bugs, which were awful. I tied a bandanna around the lower half of my face, wore sunglasses and pulled my jacket’s hood over my head. Even after spraying my exposed flesh with bug repellent I was frequently bit and stung. Alvin called all afternoon without success.
Sometime after 6 p.m. we decided to call it a day. The light was fading, and official sunset was 6:53 p.m. We crossed the river and made the short walk to the lodge where I made a brief satellite telephone call. Just as I hung up, Dennis told me there was a bull moose walking in the marsh across the river where Alvin and I had spent the afternoon. I grabbed my .50 B&M and binocular and walked out onto the veranda.
It was nearly dark. I could see the bull through my binocular. I estimated the distance to be about 300 yards. Alvin started cow calling in an attempt to hold the moose’s attention. It worked. I was shooting a 350-grain bullet. I knew the ballistics out to 200 yards, but had not contemplated a longer shot with such a large-caliber, heavy bullet. I held nearly two feet high and fired. It was a clear miss. It was getting darker by the second. I chambered another round and again shouldered my .50 B&M. As I looked through my Leupold, I held about 18 inches high and aimed at the body toward the front. I knew this would be my last chance to take a moose on this hunt.
I slowly squeezed the trigger and sent the bullet on its way. The bull collapsed. I quickly chambered another round and put the crosshairs on the motionless moose. Dennis and Joe, who were watching the moose through their binoculars, told me the moose had not moved since hitting the ground. Alvin agreed. I held on the downed bull for what seemed an eternity. Finally, I lowered my rifle and unloaded it.
Because walking in the dark would be difficult, Dennis and Alvin suggested that I stay at the lodge while they went to gut the moose. Getting the meat back to camp would have to wait until tomorrow. When Dennis and Alvin returned they told me that I had hit the moose between the eyes, a perfect brain shot.
On Sunday the weather was beautiful, with clear skies, no wind and temperatures in the 60s. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive at 10 a.m. Dennis and Alvin decided to ask Scotty to retrieve the moose with the helicopter so they could butcher it in camp rather than butcher it where it had fallen and pack the meat back to camp. Before the helicopter arrived, Dennis and Alvin went to the moose to rope him for travel.
This gave me an opportunity to use my rangefinder to see how far away the moose had been when I shot him. The distance was 314 yards. The moose was about five years old. The bullet’s impact had fractured the skull plate. However, my taxidermist, who made an antler mount for me, was able to correctly space the antlers. The spread was 34½ inches.
This hunt was quite an experience, and I was delighted to have made such a long shot in low-light conditions at the end of the last day.– Dr. Lou Imundo