|Looking over Bearskin Lake from Caribou Rock|
This will be the last of the wilderness guide stories, I promise. But these last two must be told to round out the previous posts.
The False Bay Fiasco, as the event was dubbed, was simply a long hard paddle across Cache Bay on Lake Saganaga, only to be aiming for the opening to the Silver Falls Portage, but reaching instead, a dead end deep wide wind blown bay.
|That Quetico Ranger Station is on the South side of Cache Bay, Lake Saganaga, Canada|
I was paddling with my friend Mark and he had his faithful Golden Labrador Retriever with him. Mark insisted on fishing while we paddled. That should be while I paddled as he didn’t do much in the way of work. Hard to paddle and steer while fishing.
We were deep into the false bay when we knew we had to turn around and get out of there so we could proceed to the real bay which was about a quarter mile to the West. Mark got a strike. He was excited and started to tend to his rod and reel in anticipation of catching a fish, and hoping it would be big enough for all of us on the trip to have dinner.
He waited and tended his line. All the while, the dog was on alert as he sensed something was happening, after all, his Master was intense.
All of a sudden, Mark is ready to set the hook as the line had been running out of the reel. Mark knew the fish was on. He shouts, “Hook’em Dano!”, as he yanks hard and fast on the rod and reel to set the hook. This is a famous line said weekly on the TV show Hawaii Five Oh, the old version, from the 1970’s. When the star has his sergeant make the arrest of the bad guy. Of course in the TV show, it’s “Book ‘em, Dano.”
Note: The last link contains a 40 second video of scenes from the 1970's TV show Hawaii Five-O featuring the star of the show, Jack Lord, saying the immortal words.
The dog leaps into the water, after all, he is a retriever, and gets his rear paw stuck on the thwart of the canoe and starts howling, crying out and thrashing around with his front paws in the water, splashing and trying his hardest to keep his head afloat. The canoe was unstable as it was in the wind and Mark, not wanting to lose the fish, holds the rod and reel steady and looks at me. I’m paddling the canoe as the wind is pushing us ever closer to shore and the rocks.
To be honest, no one was hurt, not even the dog, and we all made it out alive without mishap, even the fish, as Mark never did land it. But to this day, when I talk to or visit one of my old friends from that trip, we say to each other, “Hook ‘em, Dano!”
|North American Moose, stock photo|
The wind can be treacherous on the large fresh water lakes of the North Country. In 1987, a friend of mine told me he was going on a moose hunt in the BWCA. I know there are special rules for use of the BWCA and I wondered about opening the area for hunting. But it was true. My friend Howie signed up with three other guys. The foursome were picked in a random drawing. Only so many moose hunting permits were given out and Howie and his group got one.
We had the idea of me going up with them as a guide. I would end up being more like a camp attendant. Howie called the DNR and asked them about having a guide. He was told that as long as I didn’t have a hunting rifle and didn’t participate in the moose hunt, it was okay to be there with this group as a guide.
I helped these guys get their gear into a place where I knew there to be moose. I had been there often and seen the trails. We loaded the aluminum canoes and set out across Poplar Lake.
|A loaded canoe sits on shore, stock photo|
The wind was fresh and out of the Northwest. We had to cross the lake across the wind. The canoes had quite a lot of stuff in them as travel in October, with night time temperatures getting down into the teens, had all of us with extra gear. Add to this the hunting rifles, ammunition and all the tools, packs and equipment to cut up, wrap and carry out a moose carcass in five parts, well, we had an extra heavy load on each of the three canoes.
There were two good sized islands in the middle of the lake. I knew it would be a good idea to head for a spot between the islands to get out of the wind and regroup, then finish the paddle across the rest of the lake. I instructed the guys in canoe number three to do this. I was in canoe number one and the guy alone in number two, who had most of the extra weight, paddled alone. I knew number two and we had a lot of paddling experience and savvy. The guys in three, not so much.
I waited between the islands, in the calm, out of the wind, in hopes of seeing that they made safe passage. But the longer I waited, I pretty much knew the worst had happened.
The wind had grabbed their canoe and beat them up against the shore. They were able to stand up in the shallow water, but every piece of gear and every bit of them were absolutely soaked.
We beached the canoes on the island and immediately started a fire. Ever try drying a winter Gore Tex coat? The nature of the space age material is to allow moisture, like perspiration, to pass through in one direction, but to keep moisture, like precipitation, out. It took forever to dry that coat and most of the other gear.
The rifles were in cases, but not waterproof cases. These had simple latches on them like a suitcase would. The inside was lined with a foam pad. These pads were so water logged from the dip in the lake that they sank to the bottom. They got retrieved, and the foam padding dried out, but the guns themselves needed to be torn down, dried and oiled. The other canoes had ammunition. Their ammunition was ruined from the dunking.
I can go on and on about what happened over the next few days. There was one mishap after the other with these two “hunters”. Suffice it to say, they were drummed out of camp after two days and the group never shot a moose, although they did see one, the first night out. A large bull walked within 60 paces of the campfire down towards the water, right where I said there was a well worn trail.
It was dusk when I spotted it. One of the over zealous greenhorns grabbed his loaded rifle and shot three times and scared the thing off into the woods, never to be seen again. Had he waited, the group could have had a trophy bull moose head to mount and the field stripping would have taken place at water’s edge and not deep in the woods.
In Minnesota at that time, if you got picked to be on a moose hunt, you had one chance in your lifetime. You were not eligible to ever get picked again. So, when the hunt ended early for these two, it was over forever. Their one and only chance to hunt in Minnesota was gone. They had seen a moose, but came up empty.
A few months later, we gathered to recap the hunt and see how everyone was doing. I was there as I was on the trip. I did work my butt off cooking, gathering firewood and doing campsite chores.
I had brought with me a shotgun, fishing gear, binoculars and a camera. I shot grouse and ducks to eat, I fished for pike, I spotted game with the binoculars and photographed nature with my camera. During the day while the hunters were beating the bush, I relaxed at water’s edge and enjoyed bright Autumn sunshine while cast iron kettles of soup and stew simmered on the campfire and bannock baked away in the Dutch oven.
Our meeting was held up North. I lived up on the Gunflint Trail, everyone else had about 300 miles to travel. We met at Vince’s Windigo Lodge, the second one. The first had burned down.
When the guys got there, I had put together a small gift for each one of them. My friend Howie knew what was up, but the others didn’t. They took their gifts home. I will tell you that the small flat box looked like a box of chocolates, and were even labeled as such. Well, they were chocolates, originally.
|Moose dung as commonly seen on the forest floor|
Moose droppings, or moose dung, is shaped like a football and are about one and one half inches long and might be three quarters of an inch wide at the center. These chocolates were shaped like this and were sold as novelties at the souvenir stores and gifts shops throughout the North Country.
|Souvenir candy that (sort of) resembles moose dung|
A Minnesota original
I took the chocolates out and replaced the ‘candy’ with actual dried up moose crap. I got them damp and rolled them in coconut flakes. They looked great. There was no odor as these droppings had been sitting on the forest floor for a while and were well dried out.
Aside from my friend Howie, the other guys took the gifts home. Now, I heard stories throughout the next few months that they were going to get even, someday, somehow. All of them said they knew right away they weren’t real candy. But I never believed it. I knew that at least one of those guys bit hard into a piece of moose dung chocolate and got a nose and mouthful.
This happened, as I said, in 1987. That’s 24 years folks. I haven’t talked with Howie since 1991. The other guys never did get even. I still look closely at everything I eat. You never know how long revenge will take.