I’m out of the “spike-fork” moose lottery.
After nearly three decades of searching for that elusive, seemingly mythical beast known as the immature “spike-fork” bull moose, I concede defeat.
Never again will I plunk down $25 for a moose tag in my collection of plasticized hunting tags. Instead, I will put that money to more useful purpose, like air freshener for my hunting boots, or car wash tokens for my Jeep.
For those who aren’t clear what I’m babbling about, let me take a moment to explain.
B.C.’s hunting seasons are ample, allowing hunters a generous amount of time in which to hunt beasts.
For the most part, there are open seasons that allow hunters a chance to pursue nearly all B.C.’s wildlife, including moose.
In our area, there is a general open moose season from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, a time when anyone with a tag and the desire to be out there can have a chance for success.
The only catch — hunters around here who hunt the general open season (not the Limited Entry Season [LEH] season, more on that in a bit) are only allowed to shoot a “spike-fork” bull as they are called — a yearling animal with antlers sporting no more than two points on each side.
And the reality is, there are very few immature bull moose around.
Biologists I’ve talked to in the past suggest that no more than three per cent of the moose herd is comprised of yearling bulls, and that means there ain’t many spike-forks stumbling about the woods around Kamloops.
There are certainly moose around here; every season I come across a few. But they’ve been cows, calves or bulls with antlers too big to fit the “spike-fork” definition.
Still, for years and years, I’ve bought a tag on the slim chance I’d one day come across that young bull and be ready to capitalize on a very rare opportunity.
To be honest, I could have had one chance for a spike-fork bull one morning about 25 years ago, the only time I’ve ever seen an immature bull moose in the bush in B.C. in a hunting season.
I say could have because we were lacking one key piece of gear to make that harvest happen — a tag.
Two friends and I were driving a logging road into an area we were hunting deer for the weekend. We came around a corner, and in the middle of the road before us was a spike-fork bull moose, just standing there.
“Anyone have a moose tag?” asked one of my partners.
No one did.
So, for five minutes we watched this young moose flit his ears and prance about, until he finally bored of playing roadblock and wandered off to munch food in the clear-cut.
Ever since then, I’ve made sure to have a moose tag in my licence, just in case such wild luck would repeat itself and hand me an opportunity of the kind it did the day we were not able to avail ourselves of it.
And of course, I’ve not seen another immature bull moose in a hunting season again.
After yet another season of coming up empty for moose, I’ve decided I will no longer put myself through the “spike-fork” wringer and set all hope aside.
Why, you might ask?
Why not keep buying a tag, just in case?
I guess I’m a little bitter, just a wee bit ticked at the nature of the game the government seems to be playing with regard to the hunting of moose in southern British Columbia.
I’ve become just a teeny bit tired of being given the possibility of getting a moose and encouraged to buy a $25 tag, when really, the odds of success are terribly, terribly low.
It seems to me there is a better way, one that would take much of the blind dumb luck factor out of the equation. I think the time has come for B.C.’s biologists to re-think the rules, shut down the spike-fork season altogether and manage moose hunting entirely through the LEH system.
People who get an LEH permit in our province’s annual draw have solid reason to buy a $25 tag, as the chances of harvesting any bull moose are substantially higher. Those who don’t draw an LEH permit — and that would be most of us — won’t need to feel compelled to buy a moose tag for those “just in case” encounters with animals too few to really worry about.
LEH management of moose hunting might allow biologists to offer more tags as well, as there would be tighter control of the overall harvest. Hunters wouldn’t need to fret the appearance of a bull moose with small antlers and engage in a frantic game of “count-the-points.” The hunting would be easier, safer and more meaningful.
It’s not likely government will do that, though. I can’t imagine B.C.’s wildlife managers will be keen to turn away the money that flows from the sale of many, many $25 tags to hopeful hunters with little chance of putting them to use.
And it’s possible there is a contingent of hunters out there who like to play the moose lottery, and don’t mind shelling out for the equivalent of a lottery ticket.For me though, I’m going to keep my $25 next year and put it better use.
The irony of my decision is that next year, when I won’t have a spike-fork moose tag in my licence, I’ll probably see a herd of them, licking salt from the bumper of my parked truck.
Robert Koopmans is an avid angler and hunter who spends as much time as possible in B.C.’s wild places. He also hosts the Hunting & Fishing
British Columbia podcast (find it on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts). To share a thought, send an email to email@example.com.