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Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh, Canada: Moose Packin', Haulin' & Hide-Scrapin'!

Day 8: Moose Packin'... Out
As my few intrepid blog readers know, Dan and recently I went moose hunting in British Columbia, Canada, and the preceding post was about me learning to hunt and, finally, getting a moose. J The morning after I got the moose, Joe, our Hunting Guide, whom we'd taken to referring to as "Nazi Joe", (behind his back, of course, as you don't want to piss off your (armed) guide), due to his oft-proclaimed love for the Nazis, managed to damn near destroy our long-planned and saved for "one in a lifetime" hunting holiday in less than 30 seconds. At our late breakfast- no point in getting up early, since Joe proclaimed right after I got the moose that we were not hunting on the last day of our hunt, as we had to deal, instead, with the processing of my moose- my husband- who just got cheated out fo his last day of hunting by this POS- volunteers (as usual…) to not only take our truck to the meat processor so Joe can drive his "non-working properly" truck (which currently has my moose in it) to the repair shop, but to then drive Joe back to camp! So we follow Joe, who is driving his “non-working” truck like a psycho on speed, running stop signs, etc., seemingly in a deliberate attempt to lose us in the rural wilds of Vanderhoof. We get to their meat processor- the one Joe's wife had told me about in our year-long email correspondence, in which I repeatedly asked her for very specific details about the meat processing issue, as I didn't want any surprises- and boy, did we get a surprise. Mrs. Joe had made it all sound easy-peasy, and told us it would cost $1.00/pound. But when we got to Mr. Processor, he flatly informed us that that he couldn't and wouldn't be able to process our meat for at least 5 days- if not longer- as he was just Way too busy- all of a sudden. Moose started rutting two days ago, he explained (tell me about it...), and Everyone was bringing him moose... (On top of which, if he had been willing do do it, he would have charged us $1.25/pound, cash only. And while that extra 25 cents may not sound like much, where you're talking abut an 800 lb. moose, you're talking Money). Joe smirks at the butcher’s assistant, a fat, homely, and sullen girl with a bad hot pink haircut held back with a bobby pin from her big, round face, and says “love your hair”. She stares back at him coldly, blankly, and without a change in her miserable expression. Then Mr. Processor tells us there’s no way for him to ship our meat to the USA. And then that there’s no Plan B, no alternative, no nothing. He thinks we’re from Washington State, and finds it laughingly funny that we have a 10-day drive home to West Virginia towing a freezer, and have to get home in a timely fashion to run a business. By this point I'm civil, but ice cold; I’m not a happy camper, and I have a Very good reason. After both Dan and I ask Mr. Butcher and Joe if there’s anyone else we can go to get our meat processed, Joe mentions 2 other processors who are supposedly "far away" (making it clear he doesn't want to- and has no intention of- going to either one), but won’t give us their names, and the butcher says he doesn't have a phone number for either one (and doesn't even try to get one, or offer to make a call- nothing), and that’s that. So Dan and I both ask again: what are we going to do? I start to smell a racket: this is how they get American hunters to leave them their meat. Interestingly, we’re supposedly having Celine’s moose stew tonight for dinner- frozen from last season- and I can’t help but wonder whose moose was donated for the cause... Mr. Butcher finally says that if Joe and Dan will skin and quarter the moose, we can hook up our freezer to his parking lot outlet, and let the meat freeze solid for a couple of days, and they both agree. (Had it been just me, or me with someone who had no clue how to skin and quarter a moose, or hadn't the sheer, physical strength it takes to do that, I would have been SOL). Joe, of course, has no knives, the butcher offers nothing, and it’s going to be up to DIY Dan- again- to drive all the way back to camp to get our little set of meat knives. It’s bitter cold, so I go inside the butcher shop, and watch Joe and Dan through the window start to wiggle the 300+  pound hindquarters of my moose off the truck. As Mr. Butcher and Miss Pink Hair busy themselves wrapping sausages, I mention how we had wanted to have sausages made, too, and he actually laughs in my face. At this point I will throw my moose meat in a dump if it’s rotting and I have to, but this bunch of uglies aren't getting one piece of it. We were obviously about to fling about $1000 at him, and he obviously couldn't have cared less- I guess business must be Very good in Vanderhoof. I tell him that I understand fully that this mess is not his fault, but that no, I’m not a happy camper, because the outfitter had no Plan B for any of this, and that I had corresponded with Joe's wife about this exact issue for a year. “Who's she?" he asks. At his point Joe barrels in, apologizes to the butcher(!), and bellows at me, as he runs back to the truck, “It’s not his fault!” “I know it’s not his fault, and I told him so!” I said- and was about to say “it’s YOUR fault- and Mike’s”- when he heaves the hind quarters of my moose back into his truck, and, as Dan and I stand there with our mouths open, slams the tailgate shut, yelling “I’m taking it back to camp, I’m gonna skin and quarter it, and then you can do what the hell you want with it!” And then he jumps into his "non-working" truck and takes off like a bat out of hell- all of a sudden his truck is running Just Fine. On the drive back to camp- Joe has disappeared into the wilds- Dan and I try to work out exactly what we will do: Dan, how he will skin and cut up a moose- hopefully before Joe hacks it to pieces in a fit of rage- and both of us, how we will keep it frozen after Dan spends today skinning and quartering and bagging it up- instead of hunting. Hooking our freezer up to their wonky, little generator that blows out every 5 minutes is not an option. So much for Dan’s holiday. L Angry doesn't even Begin to go where I am right now. We've basically decided to get out of here tonight and find a motel, possibly in Vanderhoof, where we can hook up the freezer for a day or two and let the meat freeze solid before heading home- there is no way we want to spend one minute more than is absolutely necessary with a foul-mouthed Nazi lunatic with obvious Anger Management Issues- whom I consider- especially after listening to his stories of hunting murders: the wife and boyfriend who shot the husband square in the chest (“right here” he said, repeatedly, poking at the center of his ribs), went to town and partied for 3 days before reporting him missing and had it ruled an “accident”, and the Mexicans who ‘accidentally’ killed their friend who came back with a deer over his shoulders, shoved his lifeless body in the back of a car, and then went on a drunken binge- to be dangerous. And I Definitely don’t want Dan or I going out hunting with him again- this creep has “hunting accident” written all over him with an indelible Sharpie pen.
When we get back to camp I go into our room and start packing our belongings back into our plastic tubs, while Dan gets our set of meat-cutting knives and goes to the shed where Joe has already hung and started cutting up my moose; Dan, of course, has no fear of Joe at all. My hope is that in his blind rage Joe hasn't destroyed my moose and hacked it to useless pieces- he’s obviously a nut-job of the first stripe, and a 6’2”, foul-mouthed, Nazi-admiring, armed, racist, and scary nut-job, who just had a little 4’9” Jewish (IDF Vet) girl take out a moose at 275 yards with one clean shot to the chest, and he’s obviously Pissed Off Big Time. Because I Really don't want to be anywhere near Nazi Joe, I don't go to the shed to watch Dan skinning and cutting up the moose, which I badly wanted to see and photograph- and help with, if I could. The whole point of this trip was for me to learn to hunt, and I wanted to learn that part of it, too. :-( Dan comes in to tell me that we are stuck here until at least tomorrow, as Joe can’t do our tag paperwork, and we have to wait until Mike gets back- and, inexplicably, no one knows when that might be. Joe is, quite obviously now, very definitely not a “partner” in this screwball business. Dan also tells me that we now have to go into Vanderhoof to buy meat bags and hide salt, as they don't have either one. Celine is sitting in the dark in the kitchen reading her book under the skylight; the generator’s off, and although she turned it on so I could flush the toilet(!), she has now apparently turned it off again, because the lights aren't working and my computer goes dead. I sit there on our cot for about a half hour staring into dark space, as I truly want nothing to do with C- or any of them- at this point, and then I think: “This is NUTS! We have paid them $8500 and I'm sitting here in the freakin’ dark?!” I nicely ask Celine to turn on the generator, explaining that I have nothing to do to kill time except write my blog (hint, hint...), and she does, and I reboot the computer. I ask for a cup of coffee and she tells me they are out of milk, too- as far as she's concerned we're already gone. They have no refrigeration, and their little generator is a tiny joke that cuts out at least 4 times a night, so their food sits either in a plastic chest with a bag of ice or outside (which is currently a balmy 50 degrees)- which is what made me question 3 days of her canned salmon lunch sandwiches; sure enough, Dan got diarrhea from the last one. Both Celine and I are ignoring what’s happened- I will not say a thing unless she brings it up, and she obviously- and wisely- isn't going to. I have pretty much packed us up; waiting for the word from Dan so we can get the hell out of here, hopefully with my moose meat, hides, feet, rack, and cape intact.
Tom, the "go-fer" has just walked in. I am listening through the paper-thin, unfinished walls (as if they are in the same room with me) as Celine tells him that no one has heard from Mike for 5 days; this really is nuts! Seriously- how can you even Think about running a business- not to mention an international tourism business- when you won't contact your employees or clients for a week at a time?! Would I recommend this outfitter? You have Got to be kidding! I hear Celine tell Tom about my one-shot kill, and Tom is ecstatic; when I walk into the kitchen he makes a fuss, congratulates, and hugs me, and basically does what I really needed to be done last night, when I wanted to break out our sparkling Spanish wine from Jasper, share it with the whole gang, and have a celebration. But he’s a day late and a dollar short; I am pleasant but cool as I regale him with the short version of my shooting the moose, and we trade a few comments about hunting adrenaline rushes- how you literally don't feel the gun going off, or flinch, or shut your eyes, even for a second. (Yes, adrenaline is really interesting stuff...) On my way out the door I SO want to turn back and say “and Joe destroyed it all in 10 seconds this morning” and leave them with their mouths open, but I don't. I still have hope that Mike will return and rectify this mess.
Dan and I buy Kosher salt for salting the hides at the Co-Op, meat bags at the one sports store in Vanderhoof that sells them, and a bottle of whisky, which we have a feeling we're going to want later on this evening, and get back from our 4+ hour “run to town” at 7p.m. On the way to town we accidentally find another meat processor- the one Joe insisted was So Far Away that he wouldn't be bothered to even call- or give us the number- but “unhelpful” doesn't Begin to describe the sullen, expressionless woman there, too. (Is this a Vanderhoof Thing, or is it just us? LOL)  No, they won’t process our moose, and no, they don’t have meat bags, and no, she doesn't know where one can buy any, and no, she doesn't know of any other meat processors. We stop at the A&W to have a rather nasty bite to eat- ballast, essentially, as we're unsure if we’ll be having dinner at “camp” or bugging out. I know for a fact that I’m Definitely not sitting at table again with Nazi Joe. The camp’s “driveway” is so badly pitted that even driving our 4WD truck at 1 mph makes our strapped-down 7’ freezer bounce on the truck bed like a rubber ball- and while funny the first time or two, after a solid week of it, wondering if we've damaged the truck or the freezer, it's decidedly less amusing. We return to camp to find that Mike and the couple from Washington have finally returned, but are out hunting- as Dan should be- as all they got during their cold, wet week at "Spike Camp" was hubby’s small bear- really small, judging from the tiny ball of fur outside next to their tarp-covered pile of meat. According to Celine, the wife did not even See a moose, much less get to live out her fantasy of slitting its throat in a river, so methinks she’s Not a happy camper. My gut feeling is that when she saw my 5-point moose rack, sitting next to my two giant moose skin hides, (not to mention the shed full of my hanging moose meat, or the Extremely Disturbing eyeless, hornless moose head which would have been Just Her Ticket…), she put her tiny Cabela’s-shod foot down and demanded to be taken moose hunting Right Now. Psycho Joe is gone- happily- as I hoped he’d be. My moose has been cut up into five pieces (two hind legs, two forelegs, and neck) and is hanging and covered, and Dan managed to get the hides partially scraped. Dan said that Joe calmed down "somewhat" while they were skinning and cutting up the meat, and hadn't deliberately hacked it all to bits as I feared he might, but apologize, or leave me an “I’m sorry- I totally lost it” note, he didn't have the balls to do. Dan shared the stunt Joe pulled this morning at the butcher with Celine, and she acted appropriately aghast- so she’s at least pretending to have the right attitude, if nothing else. We spend a bit of time chatting with her in the kitchen, acting like everything is Just Dandy, and she asks if I’d like French Toast for our last breakfast the next morning. I tell her that it’s lucky Dan had the knowledge, skills, abilities, physical strength, and our set of meat knives and saw, or I’d still be in that field with a now-rotting moose carcass, and she thinks I’m joking and starts to laugh! So I tell her I’m very much NOT joking- and that since she was there, she knows I have a dozen photos proving my point, and she shuts up. It will be interesting to see how Mike- Boss Man- responds to all this, this evening. I sit at our laptop in our room, eating some yummy moose carpaccio Dan brings me J If we’d thought about it, we would have bought capers, parm, and balsamic vinegar in Vanderhoof, and not just another bottle of whisky, but we were kind of focused on the meat bags and getting back to Camp before Psycho Nazi Joe did something Else crazy, and the thought of being able to have a drink that evening was foremost in our minds... Dan brings me a tiny piece of "half-smoke" salmon from the Washington couple, who apparently travel with salmon, as well as beer and hot sauce. Still no moose stew, which I am waiting to try...
Then I hear, through the paper-thin, un-insulated walls, that Joe is back. And chatting to Dan in the dining room like everything is hunky-bunky! Ugh! I steel myself: I’m going to try to let Dan handle this one. I’ll sit here in our room, sip scotch (with dinner at some point, hopefully), and play on the computer, and let Dan do the Guy Thing with Mike and hopefully fix this mess. Not only did Mike write my name wrong on my hunting license, refuse to change it, and make fun of me for being concerned that the name on my license didn't match the one on my passport, saying, with a smirk, that if US Customs gives me a problem at the border I should “tell them to call me”, (and leave a message on his machine which he Might bother returning in 2 weeks?), I have just realized he wrote my birth date wrong, too, and I am now Very concerned about taking the moose meat through Customs at the border. As we booked this hunt over a year ago, and Mike Facebook-messaged me asking for our exact names and birth dates and I responded immediately with both, there’s no excuse; either he’s an incompetent idiot or a crook- and either way he shouldn't be allowed to run an international outfitting company. My hope is that Mike is smart enough- or gets smart fast enough- to at least offer Dan another day or two of hunting (with another guide) to make up for this ugly fiasco. We're more than willing to pay for another day or two of hunting (if he's a prick and wants to charge us), and we're also willing to spend a night or two in a motel in Vanderhoof at our own expense so we can plug our freezer into an electric outlet. For as the chances of us having another opportunity to drive cross-country to go hunting here are infinitesimal, we need to do it Now.
At 8: 42p.m. I hear Joe try to get Dan into another stupid WWII conversation about Nazi atrocities, braying again his respect for the Nazis, and how, again, if they just hadn't been in a rush they would have won, and for me that’s the last, stinking straw. I call Dan into our bedroom (“Honey- when you get a minute. I need to speak to you…”), and put my foot down. Either he deal with that piece of walking Nazi excrement- and Mike- right now, or I will- and it won't be pleasant. I’ll be damned if I- who shot the only thing with bragging rights this week- am going to sit alone, holed-up in our bedroom, because I don’t want to be in Nazi Joe’s stinking, fetid presence. The whole idiot band is now back and yukking it up in the dining room full-volume, right outside my door; Joe should have Long crawled back into his cockroach hole with the darling wife he claimed to have been away from too long- or at least be in his room with the door shut- and Mike is the one who needs to send him to his room. After what he pulled this morning, why he is even Here tonight is beyond both of us. I warned Dan- with tears running down my face as I slammed my sunglasses across the room and shattered them- that he’d better do something fast, because if I go out there I will give a little speech that will leave them all with their jaws down around their ankles. Tonight was the night for Mike to make amends for Joe’s fiasco and make it up to Dan and I, and it's not happening; he obviously thinks he’s 10 feet tall and bullet-proof, and doesn't give a shit. At 10:26p.m. Dan comes in our room to tell me that he took Mike aside and told him the whole story, and that Mike professed to be “appalled”, but it’s obviously a lie; he not only isn't doing a damn thing about it, he and Nazi Boy are Still sitting at the dining room table right outside our bedroom yukking it up. And no, Dan can’t stay and hunt for a day or two to make up for this ugly fiasco and being screwed out of a day’s hunting, because they have a whole new bunch of hunters coming in; Mike is, however, taking the other couple hunting in the morning to try to placate the wife who didn't see a moose all week. Dan is now furious:  he’s stunned that Mike didn't even come in to speak to me, much less apologize, and he wants out of here now even more than I do. While Dan is packing the meat and hides into our freezer and loading our truck, Mike is laughing louder and louder at his own jokes right outside our room to make Sure I get the message and know how much contempt he holds us in. And get the message I do-and so will the BC Hunting License Authority. It is now pouring rain and 50 degrees; apparently Mother Nature didn't listen to genius Celine: “the meat will be fine- there’s no humidity”. The only saving grace of this entire fiasco is the moose meat, and we need to get out of here and get to a motel where we can connect the freezer to an electric outlet ASAP so we don’t lose it. Lorne, the kid trainee guide, comes into our room to help carry out the last of our cases and actually congratulates me on my great shot with a big, shit-eating grin. That’s the last freaking straw, and I go off on the poor sod and succinctly tell him- loud enough for Mike, et al to clearly hear- how Nazi Joe essentially destroyed our once-in-a-lifetime, year-long-planned hunting holiday in 10 seconds flat that morning. His eyes go wide like saucers, and it’s patently obvious he’s a clueless nit and that 99% of what I am saying is whizzing right past him at 100 mph; he’s def not the sharpest knife in the outfitting drawer. I have written a letter to Mike, but Dan convinces me not to leave it. We leave, instead, $20 Canadian on the table with a note: “thanks for the cigarettes”. It continues to amaze us both how none of them were the Slightest bit interested in getting a tip from us- and we were prepared to drop Lots of money on both Joe and Celine, as one normally would. As I walk out of our room and towards the door no one says a word, and as I go out the door Celine says to me “Are you coming back in?” Not “goodbye”, or “I’m so sorry”, or anything a normal person in the hospitality business might say. I say “I don’t think so, but I’m not sure”. “Safe travels” she says. “You, too” I say. It’s now clear she’s either a POS who thinks Joe & Mike’s treatment of us is appropriate, or she’s their pitiful slave. She told us a number of things this week, including how she sold a huge tract of her land to Mike, and as she sits in the dark in the cabin all day rather than turn on the generator, I have the distinct feeling she’s beholden to him. And then Dan and I triple-check the truck to (hopefully) make sure we have everything (we leave behind the ghastly eyeless, hornless moose head, and accidentally forget our excellent bottle of mango hot sauce that we bought at the winery), and begin to slowly drive down their I-so-wish-I had-a-Deuce-And-A-Half, pitted, mud-soup “driveway” from hell towards Vanderhoof in the wet dark. Never did get a plate of that moose stew, much less Celine’s vaunted French Toast. LOL
We check into a motel in Vanderhoof, hook up our freezer to their outlet, pour ourselves shots of Scotch, and happily crawl between crisp, clean, white sheets, feeling like 1000 pounds has been lifted off our shoulders. But I do not sleep well. The whole ugly mess keeps replaying itself in my head, and I toss and turn all night, waking up repeatedly from “the Rolodex” as I call it, and disturbing dreams, one of which has people stealing our suitcases out of the truck; I wake Dan up to ask if he’s locked the truck, which, of course, he has… I finally give up, get up, and boot up the Nexus...

Days 9: Moose Haulin' - Prince George
We stop for breakfast and coffee on Highway 16, and the waitresses go Totally Bananas over my pink-trimmed, rhinestone-encrusted, and Hello-Kitty festooned Real Tree handbag, wanting to know where I got it, and we share shopping, handbag design, and eBay stories. J As we drive towards Prince George, about half-way there (30 minutes out of Vanderhoof), we see a billboard advertising bison for sale, and think: what the hell- let’s throw some bison in the freezer, too! Dan turns the truck around and we see that Chilako Meats also offers meat processing (more proof of Joe being a lying sack of shit), and the gate is open, so we pull in, and although the sign on the door says “Closed”, as we turn the truck around and pull up to the building we see a nice, smiling man in the window. I lean out and say “I know it’s Sunday, but we were hoping you were open…” and he says “what do you have?”, and I say “a moose”, and he says “come on in”, and the next thing you know Dan is standing in our freezer helping to hook my moose’s giant hams and forelegs to Mr. Butcher’s meat hooks (450 lbs. at $0.89/lb., double-wrapped), and our Really Nice Butcher, his two, happy, laughing, girl assistants working away in the back room, is arranging to cut up our moose tomorrow (“I’m waiting on a 900 lb. moose and a bear today, but they’re local and I can push you to the front because you’re in a hurry…”), and have it ready for us to pick up in 2 days! J
Dan in the freezer, haulin' moose...

Weighin' moose...

Elisse, 450 lbs. of moose on the scale, and our processor guy!
We work out with him how he should cut up the meat (tenderloins, roasts, ground meat, etc.), and he sends us off to the very nice Bon Voyage Inn in Prince George, where we get ourselves happily situated and enjoy a pleasant lunch at the motel’s restaurant- a Greek-Chinese Fusion Diner. LOL
I had shrimp won ton soup and pan-fried Chinese dumplings (a nice change from Celine's Fine Dining...), and Dan had the Canadian version of a Reuben, which was nice, but not a Reuben. LOL
In the evening we got All Gussied Up to go out for a fine dinner; I badly wanted to wear Dan's skinning knife on my Michael Kors belt as a Glunting (Glam Hunting) Fashion Statement, but Dan, afraid I'd get arrested, talked me out of it. LOL
Elisse, All Gussied Up...
He cleans up nice, right? :-)
Downtown Prince George was full of lovely places to dine, and we had a delicious dinner sitting at the elegant bar of TheTwisted Cork (my Canadian duck in a maple sauce, and Dan’s bison pot pie, with excellent BC Canadian wines). The really nice actor-bartender took our photo with his phone and emailed it to us, and then suggested another great restaurant for tomorrow's dinner! Happily surprised to find so many fine restaurants in this small town!

Day 10: Hide Heaven!
As I wrote this post, Dan was scraping Moose Hide Number One in front of our Bon Voyage Inn motel room, chatting with a guest who once did horse-pack guided hunts in the high mountains of eastern BC, and periodically feeding moose fat scraps to two very friendly and grateful doggies belonging to other motel guests. I thought it was amazing/hilarious to see Hunter Dan scraping moose hides in a motel parking lot, but this is apparently normal in BC- no one so much as batted an eye! After he scraped them clean, he rolled them in wax paper and put them back in the freezer, along with the 4 moose feet and all the meat; we'll figure out what we want to do with them when we get home. (I think the moose feet should become chair feet- a novel twist on "ball and claw", as it were. LOL). The truck is now packed like a drum, my moose's antlers topping all the suitcases and plastic tubs- there literally isn't room for One More Thing! LOL
Dan, scraping hides...

We learn that the bit of noise I heard in the wee hours was a fiasco in the parking lot that ensued when another hunter guest found his 2 giant moose back legs (twice the size of mine, judging by the rack) had been dragged off the top of his truck and eaten by dogs in the night… (It never occurred to me before, but “Please secure your game properly, as Management is not responsible for legs being dragged off your vehicle by dogs in the night” may be something we want to consider adding to our guest “rules” at the Elkhorn Inn…) While Dan scraped hides, I sat at the computer sipping Scotch and Googling “how to tan a moose hide in a motel parking lot” and "salting hides 101". LOL We then "cleaned up nice" and had another truly great dinner (with beverage selectiona from their absinthe menu!), at the fun, upscale BBQ place The Copper Pig, recommended to us by the bartender at the Twisted Cork!
At The Copper Pig, Prince George, BC
The next morning we picked up our moose meat at the processor: $504, exactly what I had budgeted- and found all the beautifully wrapped packages of meat almost totally filled our freezer! We are definitely going to be eating moose for a year! :-) Don’t know what we would have done had we bought a smaller freezer (I truly thought Dan was going overboard, insisting we needed a 7-foot freezer...), or if Dan had gotten the moose he should have; we certainly wouldn't have been able to take back the hides… We added a buffalo back strap (filet mignon), 4 packs of assorted buffalo sausages, and some yummy buffalo pepperoni for the road, and hit the trail for Jasper…

Next: Jasper and Banff, & Walking on a Glacier!

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