Mary's Farm: Moose Lottery
I have always been ambivalent on the subject of hunting. I understand the arguments but love our friends in the wild. A trip to New Jersey, which inevitably includes the sight of deer carcasses scattered along the roadside like so much litter, can help along the arguments not only for thinning the herd, but also for allowing the animals their habitat, which increased development removes. And if you think about all this long enough while maneuvering through New Jersey traffic, knots can develop in the brain and in the solar plexus.
Brian, who takes care of many things around this place, loves to hunt. If all hunters were like Brian, I’d be in favor of hunting. Last spring, his number came up in the annual moose lottery, which is how they decide who gets to hunt moose in the fall in New Hampshire. This happened to be at a time when he had promised to paint my new room. The day he was to start, he called to say he was going moose hunting up north. I was disappointed, to say the least.
“If I’m lucky, I’ll get the moose on the first day out. This won’t take long,” he said to assuage me. A week passed without word from Brian.
When he called, his voice had a certain buoyancy. He would be there to start painting the next day, he said. The thing was, he had gotten the moose on the first day, just like he said. The problem was that the moose, a bull, had weighed nearly 900 pounds. That’s dressed. So it took him a lot longer to butcher this animal than it had to find it and kill it. I tried to imagine the size, but could not. How many moose could there be that size? I wondered, feeling a wave of sadness and a weird sense of loss — loss of something I didn’t know I had.
Soon after that, I was driving alongside the Ossipee River, rain-swollen and nearly overflowing its banks. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something moving in the water. It was the rack of a moose. I pulled off onto a strip of sand between road and river. Soon, the moose surged up out of the swift current and stood majestically on the shore, river water dripping from his matted coat. His rack was so large it seemed to be pulling him off balance. Standing easily 9 feet from tip to toe, this moose was huge. We stared at each other for a good while, his eyes like shining black marbles looking down at me. When he started to move, I looked in my rearview mirror to make sure no cars were coming. The road was empty. He moved past my car. If a moose can strut, he was strutting, proud, nose slightly in the air. Safely across the road, he disappeared into the thick woods.
Brian’s triumphant killing and my roadside encounter, a lottery all its own, happened within days of each other. Small moments, no doubt, but the appearance of that vigorous, magnificent beast emerging from the river and crossing to safety made me feel better — about a lot of things.