Moose on the Loose

Mating Season in Boundary Waters
By Roger Hahn

We had been planning our annual October canoe trip for several weeks, as always, and had finally decided to return to the Frost River area for the first time in a number of years. We knew for certain that we'd see a few moose along this beautiful winding waterway, but we never suspected what lay ahead.

As we left Long Island Lake, on a clear and crisp fall day, and paddled up a very shallow Long Island River, we spotted our first moose, a huge bull, in the shallows near the right-hand shore. My wife, Debbie, grew up on the Gunflint Trail but still has a healthy respect for the largest inhabitants of our area. I, of course, knew better and suggested we "paddle quietly by" to the portage just beyond the moose.

We heard the cow moose bellowing on our left long before we saw her and were still looking her way when we heard her new boyfriend bearing down on us from the right side. Our hearts stopped and our paddles froze as we waited for him to crash through our brand new Kevlar canoe in his frenzy to be near his mate. I had the presence of mind only to wonder what our two Golden Retrievers were going to do when they came face to face with this angry beast. But they never moved a muscle or uttered a peep! And neither did we!

Fortunately, the love struck boyfriend went just across the bow of our canoe. As our hearts began to beat again we had a birds-eye view of the magnificent pair running in the shallow water next to the canoe. Obviously they were in search of a more private place to resume their courtship.

As we made camp that night on a wide sand beach on Frost Lake we could hear the thrashing and bellowing of more than one bull moose in the alders near the end of the beach. The dogs were as nervous as we were and decided to stay quiet lest they attract the attention of whatever was causing the terrible ruckus in the nearby woods.

We spent a restless night listening to the thrashing around our tent and awoke to find our sandy shore completely covered with moose tracks. While the water was boiling for coffee and oatmeal we broke camp and loaded our canoe. For the first time in our paddling careers we ate breakfast with our life vests on and our paddles laid across the gunwales. We could hear the moose nearby and wanted to be one hundred percent ready to go. The dogs gave us no argument when told to 'STAY' in the canoe.

As we paddled away into the early morning mist on Frost Lake we breathed a large sigh of relief and began to joke about the first day of our trip and what we thought were a couple of rare encounters with Boundary Waters moose. But we hadn't seen anything yet!

The second day of our trip, the real Frost River, is a tough day in and of itself. With the numerous portages, and multiple beaver dams to traverse, it means a long day in the saddle and some tired bones that evening. And considering the extra energy required to elude seven pair of courting moose, we thought we might never get to camp that night. That's right, seven! It seemed as though there were a pair at every portage and we had to be on our toes the entire day for fear we would surprise one.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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