Moose Hunting and other tall tales

The following blog entry is probably unnecessarily long and it does contain blood and gore.  Don’t read it if either of these two issues will adversely affect you.

Some definitions, explanations and introductions to start off:

Älg:  This is the Swedish word for moose.  It is supposed to be pronounced sort of like “elly” but in the Värmland dialect, it sounds more like “erry”.   The moose here are the same species as in Minnesota, but are a different subspecies.  The obvious differences are that the moose here are smaller than Minnesota moose.  That said, they are still great, hulking beasts.  Also the antlers come in two different forms.  The most common form grows as tines, like other “deer” throughout the world, lacking the broad flattened “spoon” of most moose.  The spatulate form, common in MN, is the less common form, here, and this form doesn’t grow as large as back home.  For many Swedes with whom I have spoken the North American moose is legendary for it’s size and large antlers.

Jakt:  The Swedish word for hunt, pronounced like “yacked”.

Firearms:  Gun ownership in Sweden is high, per capita, but it is also very tightly regulated.  If a crime has been committed with a 30/06 rifle and the bullet has been recovered, the authorities know who owns that kind of rifle and they have the right to come to your house to retrieve your gun.  Then they can fire it and compare the ballistics of that gun with the bullet from the crime scene.  By law all guns must be stored in a locked gun safe.

Borrowing a gun is kind of a big deal, involving official forms from the police department.  I cannot have the gun here at home as I do not have a safe.

The gun I am using is an Italian-made Valmet with interchangeable double barrels (over-under).  For moose hunting I am using the double barreled 9.3x74R which has a red-dot scope on it.  This is a really big load and it kicks like a mule.  When sighting it in in September I shot at plastic bottles at a range of about 80 meters.  The first two shots blew the pop bottles to shreds, but the following shots went wide of the targets.  According to Ulf, this is a design flaw in this gun.  As the barrels warm up they expand and the accuracy drops.

Valmet rifle/shotgun combo with large rifle barrels shown.

Valmet rifle/shotgun combo with large rifle barrels shown.

 

 

Another barrel for this gun is a combination 12 gauge shotgun and a small, accurate rifle barrel.  I can’t recall the caliber of this barrel but I think that it is a 7.62×54.  These barrels are used for hunting red deer and tjader.  Ulf says that any roe deer within 30 meters should be shot with 12 gauge with bird shot and farther out with the rifle.  The idea of shooting a deer with bird shot is foreign to me, but he says the shock of the shot hitting is enough to take them down.  Tjader are large game birds which perch in the tops of trees and can be shot at long range with the rifle or close range with the shotgun.

The final barrel is simply a double barreled 12 gauge.

 

 

Ulf, cooking his lunch between drives.

Ulf, cooking his lunch between drives.

 

Ulf:  Ulf means “wolf” in archaic Swedish, but he could just as easily be called “Björn” which means bear.  Ulf is not an exceptionally large or imposing figure, but I suspect he could remove my left arm with only his bare hands.  Our first handshake gave me some idea of his power.  Professionally, he is a doctor who travels throughout Scandinavia for short periods, doctoring in Norway Sweden and Denmark.  At home Ulf is a farmer with an interest in sustainability.  He raises a few cattle, a couple of dozen sheep and a goodly sized flock of chickens.  He heats his home with wood and is finishing a new building that will have a central wood boiler, a bastu (sauna) and a room for butchering, complete with a walk-in cooler.  He butchers a dozen or so sheep every year (to sell) as well as moose and roe deer.  He hopes to have a steer to butcher in coming years and this year he bought and butchered two young reindeer.  Right now he is in Germany hunting roe deer and wild pigs.  In other words, they eat a lot of meat.

He is, apparently, prone to try to arm wrestle anyone within reach after a few beers.

Ulf is Anders’ morbro (mother’s brother, or uncle) and Mia’s father.  His wife’s name is Berit and she is a very sweet and lovely woman.

Älg Jakt

The älg jakt in Sweden is huge.  I have read that Swedes shoot 100,000 moose every year and that the cause of death for 93% of all moose in Sweden is hunting.  Moose are treated here almost as a free-range domesticated herd.  The moose hunt is an organized harvest of a set number of moose within a defined geographical region.  The limits for each hunting zone are set by a land stewardship committee based on the previous year’s harvest and on regional trends.  The moose numbers have been dropping since the 70’s in Sweden.

Hunting rights for a given piece of land are controlled by one person who then cedes some of those rights to others in the hunting team.  Private ownership of land does not automatically ensure you the right to hunt there.  It may get you on the team, though.  I have not been able to ascertain how this system works, really.  It is just how it works, here.  My questions about it this system are often met with confusion.  It is just how it is.

Ulf has included me in two different hunting teams in the Arvika area, the largest of which has been the Mötterud hunt.  Mötterud is a small village, a cluster of small farms and homes, about 5 km from Arvika where Ulf lives.  Had our house swap with Martin and Mia worked out we would have lived there. In all there have been 19 people hunting in this team.  The land we are hunting in Mötterud encompasses about 5 square kilometers, or just about 2 square miles.  The team is allowed two calves and one bull in this hunt.

 

The pre-hunt gathering.

The pre-hunt gathering.

On the first morning of the hunt, in early October, we all met in Mötterud before sunup.  Someone had started a small campfire and we all stood around in the fog.  The wet air was charged with stories of previous hunts and the anticipation of this year’s hunt.  Everyone signed in and 100 kronor fee (about $16) was paid by everyone and license forms were filled out.  Ulf told me that he had taken care of all of the details for me and would not take my money.  He had even filled out my license for me.  Who gets the money is another of those questions yet to be answered. 

A group of three men spent about an hour looking over the names in a notebook and planning for the day.  They then announced where we were going to hunt for the morning and we were all assigned hunting locations.  These locations are called passes and are ground stands.  No one hunts from tree stands like in MN.  I estimate that there are between 75 and 100 passes that we groom and use on this plot of land. 

Planning the next drive.

Planning the next drive.

 

Almost all of the hunters have radios which they use to communicate where the moose are and, if they move, where they have gone.  This is of utmost importance as they are only, at minimum, required to wear an orange stripe on their hats, though many have vests and hats of all orange or red.  They don’t want anyone to get shot.

While we are at our pass there is one, or sometimes two dogs heading into the area to find the moose.  If you hear the dog barking then it has a moose on the run.  The dogs stay about 10-20 meters behind the moose, but often the moose will just stop running.  They then stand around looking irritated for a while before they lope off again.  It is this fact that keeps the dog owner following the dog as he might get a good shot.  All the dogs have GPS trackers on them so that the owners can find them.

By 11am the morning push is over and we drive to a central location to build another fire and roast sausages and to drink coffee.  More stories and talking and the main organizer man gets the notebook out and spends another 45 minutes or so figuring out the afternoon.  Assignments are made and we are off again.  Some days we make two pushes and other days we do three.

 

00 coffee break.

The traditional 11:00 coffee break.

 

If the dog has run off and is not available for the next drive, several people form a very long line across the rugged terrain and push that way.  Their calls of “whoo-hoo” echo throughout the valleys as they communicate their position to each other and to us.  This method, as often as not, results in moose slipping through the line and back-tracking on us.

 


We have been allowed two calves and one bull in this area.  During the course of several weekend hunts everything that could go wrong, did, resulting in moose being seen, but not shot on most drives.  One man, Matthias (who was one of the workers laid off by the log home company), has shot two calves on two separate days.  We have one bull left to shoot, so in two weeks we try again.  The calves are about the size of a two year old whitetail buck and split 19 ways they do not go very far.

Matthias and his second calf of the season.

Matthias and his second calf of the season.

 

 

A few stories…

After hearing the dog barking near me for half an hour I heard what sounded like a truck blasting through the brush.  Out popped a cow moose (can’t shoot them in Mötterud) with the dog running and barking 10 meters behind her.  She was about 30 meters away from.  I’m not sure that I could have taken a decent shot even if I was allowed to as my nerves were so rattled.

At the end of the first weekend of hunting, Ulf and I were riding back to Mötterud on the tailgate of a Toyota pickup.  After a few minutes of travel, the truck stopped.  Ulf and I looked at each other and shrugged, not sure what was going on.  It was then that we both looked left and saw the large bull and two calves standing 30 meters from us in the roadside forest.  Our first response was to look back at each other and laugh.  Then we scrambled for the guns, loaded and took chase.  Of course they were gone before we could get a shot off, but it was very exciting. 

I am also hunting with Ulf and several others in a region about 40 minutes out of Arvika, called Växvik.  This is a very remote and rugged region and the pass that I have been assigned every time for this half day hunt (smaller piece of land) is Ulf’s personal pass and is one of the most successful sites that the team uses.  The first time that I was there I had a young bull run through my area at full tilt about 80 meters out but it was only visible for about 5 seconds.  No shot, but way cool.

Last week a Växvik team member shot a large cow (allowed at this site) in a bog.  The cow took three chest shots with a 30/06 and still kept moving.  The fourth shot took out the spine above the shoulders and she finally stopped.  Yarrow and I helped to butcher this animal and we received one share of the meat.  There was a total of about 140 pounds of ground meat from this one cow, alone.  Our share should keep us going for a while.

I had numerous close encounters and have had shots denied due to thick brush, distance or a small rise of land, but I have no illusions of actually being the one team member to shoot a moose on any particular drive.  It’s been fun just to be included and to see moose while in the forest.

Other hunting opportunities coming up include hunting roe deer (rådjur) with Ulf and Anders in Mötterud.  These are small deer, the adults weighing in at 20-30 kg (up to 65 pounds).  The males have vertical antlers that sprout off many smaller nubs or points.  Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capreolus_capreolus.

I also hope to do some tjader (Capercaillie in English) hunting north of here in Dalarna.  Ulf has a hunting shack up there and he has spoken of hunting them while skiing or snowshoeing in January.  The tjader is a the largest member of the grouse family.  Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capercaillie.

 

Miscellaneous photos…

 

Reuben is removing the moose's tongue as some in Sweden consider boiled moose tongue a delicacy.

Reuben is removing the moose tongue as some consider boiled tongue a delicacy.

Hunting success is recorded on the wall of Per's barn

Hunting success is recorded on the wall of Per's barn.

Everyone gets a little taste.

Everyone gets a little taste.

 

The moose are laid out on a special skinning bench.

The moose are laid out on a special skinning bench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Moose Hunting and other tall tales”

  1. Blind Squirrel Says:

    Will we be treated to another blog entry from the Meadlets?

    The North Woods seems empty without you.

    BS

    • meadsinsweden Says:

      My blogging ineptitude put Lily’s latest blog on it’s own page. Look to the right on the main blog page and you will see a link to it. It’s quite good, I think, and worth your perusal. Not a whole lot of note-worthiness has entered our life lately (not a bad thing, sometimes) but tune in soon as there are several good ideas and even one almost-finished blog in the hopper.

      Kurt

  2. Blind Squirrel Says:

    Merry Xmass, Meads and Meadlets!! We miss you.

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