Nature answered back and it was awesome!
North Thompson area hunter Liam Borsa talks about Cow calling and getting answered back in the Moose Rut season.
Interview by Dougal Muir
Q: What was your first introduction to hunting?
A: My mom and dad got my sister and I into it at a young age. We always went "camping" with them on their hunting trips before we are old enough to hunt. It was a hard sell when I became a teen but I rekindled my love for it in my 20s.
As a kid, I loved running around with a BB gun looking for squirrels and birds in the back yard with no avail, they were doing a grown up version of it.
Q: What is the most thrilling moment for you?
A: When you let your guard down, it’s like anything, when you become complacent after days of no sightings and nothing’s happening and then all of a sudden when you get a sighting or a sound – the rush of adrenaline is amazing, even our dog perks up.
I remember a crisp morning in the moose season and they’re in the rut and you call, a big long cow call. It’s deftly quiet, even the beating of your heart is too loud and you hear that grunt from the bush and it’s like nature just answered back.
Q: What are the ethical considerations around game hunting for you?
Not being a cowboy! I’m a product of my family and their hunting methodology. There are too many hunters out there who ruin it for the rest of us. They’re the ones who brag about the headshot, which is a really low percentage shot. It’s a pretty stupid shot actually. They all want to be able to be the American sniper and all you hear about is the one percent who actually make the shot. Nobody talks about the misses and the potential for wounding an animal with a low percentage shot like that.
We pride ourselves on being able to make a clean, ethical kill. Powerhouse shots are the highest percentage shots, right behind the shoulder – all the vitals are there, heart, lungs, spine, everything.
Yes of course, there is a primal instinct. I don't necessarily enjoy killing and I know that sounds strange saying that when I hunt but it's the process I enjoy and it's hard to explain until you’ve done it. But you want it to be quick …there’s nothing more satisfying than when you pull the trigger and that animal is dead before it hits the ground.
Q: What happens when you get a draw for a female?
A: We typically don’t hunt females (cows). If I take a bull moose in the rut he has the potential to mate with one or, if he’s lucky, two cows. If I take out a cow she has the opportunity to mate with several bulls per year and it’s offspring will have the opportunity to mate in to many future generations. Taking a bull might reduce the population by maybe two or three potential moose. There are always enough bulls out there to get all the cows pregnant. We rely strongly on the government’s conservation efforts for keeping the population at a healthy number.
Q: So food not trophy?
A: I am going to say there is definitely a trophy aspect to it. Especially if you’re going for a big one there’s definitely a trophy or prize to the kill – but it’s still primarily about providing protein for your family and that’s the end of the conversation!
Q: Do like to hunt in pairs, alone or as a family?
A: It’s a bit weird … well my Dad is retired and loves to play host, and he’s a great host! He knows the area like the back of his hand and he’s like ‘you go here or you go there.’ But I am his son so I definitely don’t like him ordering me where to hunt so I like to do my own hunting. I might want to try out some new weird calling or try something out I saw on YouTube etc. How am I going to know it doesn’t work unless I try it. And also for me, it’s my own personal connection with nature.
My sister, Connor, likes to go out with somebody else – my Dad loves helping her out. But my Mum loves to hunt with the whole family and she loves trying new things out too, nothing gives here more satisfaction than to hunting in the wilderness with the whole family. And although I don’t like listening to him, my Dad never ceases to amaze me. When I’m out with my Dad I really have to try to not have pre-conceived ideas about a situation because 75% or better of the time it turns out he was right!
Q: I’d like you to tell me about a particular hunting expedition that was a great success.
A: The quintessential hunting story? Well there is the time where we shot one in the river and we had to get it out with a Zodiac boat by inflating it under the animal and then floating it out down the river … but I think I’ve got a better one for you.
Ok so one of the best stories is the one about the big bull Moose my Mum shot. 52.5” spread, 1200lb, 730lb on the hooks. She shot it at 11am and by 11am the next day we were finally done skinning it [laughs].
Basically, the situation at home is that anytime we get an animal, we don’t go parading around shouting “Hey I got a Moose!” We like to be cool about it and perhaps wander about twirling an empty shell in our hands to see if anyone notices. The other trick is when we’re on the radio in different locations and one of us will get on the radio and simply say “what are you guys up to – cuz it’s lunchtime”. ‘Lunchtime’ is code for we got an animal.
So my mum gets on the radio and casually says “guys it’s lunchtime, are we gonna take a break?” So my dad gets the message and starts laying on the horn in the truck and I’m so pissed off because I’ve just heard a response from one of my moose calls and he’s totally screwing with my mojo man! So I come out of the bush like WTF is going on and my Dad is telling me to settle down because it’s ‘lunchtime’ and then I get it and I’m kinda pissed and kinda excited all at the same time.
It’s mid-morning and my mom shot this Moose in a swamp in a clearing in the woods and it’s about 30km up the road from where my dad and I were. To get there you have to follow a winter road to the swamp, which is great in the winter because it’s all frozen and you can drive on it easily … but this is October not winter and you can’t drive on it. So we spend the next 4 hours bucking up dead trees in to logs that we can lay down and fill up the ditch to build a bridge so we can get our vehicles in there. My dad tries to drive it first and he gets stuck and I have to pull him out! Then I try with my truck … and I get stuck and he has to pull me out! By the time we made it 10 feet in my dad’s ripped the bumper of his truck and we’re both secretly blaming each other while outwardly maintaining a level of calm and tolerance [laughs].
This is the biggest animal my mom’s ever harvested and to get it out of the swamp we first try three pulleys attached to the trucks, trees and the moose. The force on the pulleys is so strong that it actually just tips one of these ‘telephone pole’ sized trees over and the moose refuses to move an inch. That’s when I figure out that we’re gonna have to halve it and maybe even quarter it to finally get it out of there.
14 hours after it was first shot we finally get that moose carcass on the truck, and a full 24 hours after it was shot it has been gutted, halved and skinned. And most people go to Safeway and scan a barcode [laughs].
Q: How do hunters tracking an area treat other hunters in the same area?
That depends on who you are. I’ve met hunters who are really friendly and helpful passing on lots of great location tips etc. My dads mentality, and I’m the same way, is to keep real quiet. It’s called hunting (not shooting) for a reason and it’s hard enough as it is without giving the game away to anyone you might happen to meet.
Here’s a classic story: My dad and his buddy Al get a moose, they gut it, they put it in the back of the truck and there’s one of it’s legs sticking out of the tailgate. They head off down the road and run into a couple of hunters looking for a little action.
They roll the window down and one of the guys asks Al if they’ve seen anything. Al, straight as can be responds with a “Nope, nothing all day.” They shoot the breeze for a couple of minutes and when they drive off my dad is just laughing his ass off. Al turns around to look at him, says “What?” My dad says “Look in the mirror you idiot, there’s a moose leg hanging out of the tailgate of the truck and you’ve got blood smeared all over your face and shirt! Nope, nothing all day!”
And that’s kinda they way we do it in The North Thompson of BC.