Claude, Jacques and Marcel just finished their shifts at the copper mine outside of Whitehorse and decided to go for a beer in town. They couldn’t agree on which bar to go to, so they drew straws and ended up at the Edgewater. All three of them were healthy and robust looking and it could be said they were equally handsome, though their features differed considerably: Marcel had a broad forehead, Claude a nose like an eagle, and Jacques eyes as blue as the summer sky.
Ordering a round of drinks, they laughed and joked; the air was stuffy and saturated with the smell of cigarettes and booze.
Claude said out loud, “So, what do you say, guys? Are we still going hunting tomorrow? I think we should head out to Faro. Everyone says the wilderness out there is exceptional and that it’s filled with Dall sheep, moose, mountain caribou, bears, anything you want. They say you’ve got to be a real idiot if you come out of there empty-handed.”
“I have a better idea,” suggested Jacques. “What about going to Carcross? After all, they didn’t call it Caribou Crossing for nothing. And besides it’s a lot closer; we could be there in less than an hour.”
The two men argued about where to go and they couldn’t agree. Finally Marcel came between them. He disapproved of hunting all together because he was a vegetarian. “Look, why don’t you just forget about it; hunting is a bloody and violent sport. Do you really want to go into the bush and kill some beautiful animal that’s wild and free? It’s not even fair game. And besides, the supermarket is full of meat.”
Claude couldn’t take Marcel seriously and he began to tease him: “What’s the matter with you, Marcel, are you getting soft on us? Man has been hunting moose since the beginning of time, so why stop now?”
Then, “Oh, I get it; it’s that girlfriend of yours. What did she make you eat for dinner last night, lentil burgers or maybe tofu tortière? You sure like your women telling you what to do! Hah, hah, hah!”
Then Jacques joined in with a few choice words of his own and the two men couldn’t stop laughing.
Marcel preferred not to listen; he took a drink of beer and withdrew into himself. But they just wouldn’t let up, so finally he told them to shut up.
When several minutes passed Claude started up again, thinking about their trip.
“I can’t wait to go hunting. I love to be in the bush but the kill is what makes it hunting, beating the wild animal at its own game. One good shot and it’s over!” Pretending to be holding a rifle he began shooting into the air, “Bang! Bang! Bang!”
Early next morning, packing their gear into Claude’s pick-up truck, the three French guys started up the Mayo Road –- they would go to Faro. Marcel agreed to go along but only because his girlfriend was in Vancouver on business and he had nothing better to do. After about four hours of driving, coming to Carmacks, they turned east on Highway 4 and then traveled another couple of hours.
None of them had ever been to Faro before, a small but bustling mining town tucked away into the Tintina Valley. There were mountains all around and the wilderness couldn’t have been more pristine and beautiful. Home to the largest open-pit leadzinc mine in Canada, trucks traveled non-stop from the mill, and carried ore concentrate to Whitehorse, where it was later taken by rail to Skagway, and then shipped south down the Pacific coast.
With a population of about two thousand, the houses were all prefabricated and dull, as if thrown together overnight. Stopping for a quick beer at one of the drinking establishments, the bartender there told the three French guys that directly east of town were the best hunting grounds. He went on to say and very proudly:
“Here in Faro we have one of the most densely concentrated wildlife regions, not only in the Yukon but in the entire country, maybe even in North America!”
The three French guys were really impressed, and Claude and Jacques couldn’t wait to get started. They went to the truck, and securing their guns and supplies, started along a well-trodden path. They had food with them, warm clothing, and a tent big enough for the three of them. It was mid-September and there was already snow on the ground. The day was cold and gray and it felt like winter.
Claude couldn’t wait to spot that first moose. He said all fired up: “I can already feel the adrenaline rushing to my head. To eat wild game — there’s nothing like it. When I pull the trigger and hear that crash to the ground, that’s the ultimate high!”
Marcel looked at his friend and shook his head, “You and that rifle of yours — it’s nothing but a phallic symbol to you.”
Then he swore at him in French, “Vas faire foutre a la vache!”
The three French guys kept to the path until it disappeared. Soon dense forest patches emerged and they found themselves in the heart of a raw, difficult wilderness. They climbed and climbed but gradually, and their feet forever hit upon soft, spongy lichen. High up on a ridge, in the distance they could see meadows and plateaus, winding rivers and clear blue lakes.
The panorama was breathtaking and everything looked as if it had just been created the day before. Claude took out his binoculars to have a better look and then passed them on to Jacques, who in turn passed them on to Marcel. With the approach of evening the air grew colder and stiller and the sky became a leaden grey.
The hunters pitched their tent on a grassy meadow above a gurgling mountain stream. They then built a small fire and cooked their food. When darkness fell, they jumped into the tent and fell asleep, and they slept till morning. They all snored but Claude snored the loudest.
With the break of dawn the three French guys set out into the woods in the hopes of finding that moose. It was cloudy and a wet snow began to fall. Claude and Maurice both had rifles, while Marcel carried his camera.
Claude was in good humour, and punching Marcel playfully in the arm, said to him, “Hey, Marcel, if you want to try out my rifle, go right ahead; you know, for old time’s sake.” As it happened, Marcel had always been an excellent hunter, the best of the three, but about a year ago everything changed when he met up with Alicia, his girlfriend, who was a vegetarian. Marcel now abstained from consuming any kind of meat, and hunting was out of the question. It was all out of respect for sentient life, is how he explained it. At once moose tracks appeared and the men studied them to see if they were recent or not. “I’d say they’re at least a couple of days old,” Jacques was disappointed. The men continued on. They walked between trees piled up one above the other and over small rushing streams. Save for the sound of the odd hawk-owl, silence prevailed. The wilderness went on and on and when a gust of wind picked up it blew them all to one side. With the sun showing itself dimly from behind the clouds, suddenly it felt warmer. However, there was an eerie calm everywhere; it was as if this brush-covered no-man’s land was waiting for something to happen. Then Claude shouted at once and pointing, “Look, moose tracks, and they’re fresh! Those hooves are perfectly pointed and they’re enormous; they definitely belong to a mature male. He’s somewhere here close.” In his high boots and red hunter’s cap Claude went straight into a spruce thicket, looking first to the left, then to the right. Rolling up a piece of birch bark into the shape of a cone, he used it to make moose calls, and then later he tried grunting. But the forest remained unmoving, as if everything living was hiding away. Flung over his shoulder was his game bag, which he hoped to soon fill. Followed closely by Jacques, Claude was confident it was just a matter of time before they would spot the animal. Marcel trailed considerably behind; he didn’t want to be witness to the violent onslaught that was about to take place. He was now so far behind he had lost sight of his two friends. But he knew a gunshot would be coming any minute now. Closing his eyes and holding his breath he listened and waited, but nothing came. A minute passed, and then another, and still nothing. A branch snapped overhead somewhere, and then quiet once more. Marcel gave a deep sigh of relief and thought to himself, “Maybe the animal got away.” Then suddenly to the right there came a crackling sound, followed by the rustling of leaves, then a heavy thumping on the ground. It sounded as if footsteps. Pinning himself up against a tree, hardly breathing, Marcel stood there and waited for what would come next. And suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a moose appeared before him and he was very big, the biggest he had ever seen. Amazing! Standing more than seven feet tall, he had extra-long legs, a massive body, and a very large dewlap under his chin — he was beautiful through and through, a perfect specimen. “He must weigh at least two thousand pounds!” thought Marcel. At once a tingling sensation passed through him. He became very excited and it was not long before his hunter’s instincts all came rushing back at him — and he had no way of stopping it. He forgot all about being a vegetarian. The feeling of exhilaration started going to his head. If only he had a gun! More than anything he wanted to corner the beast, to bring him down — he wanted to feel the triumph. As he was about to call out for Claude and Jacques, at the last minute he couldn’t bring himself to do it. And suddenly the prospect of death made him feel horrible. He shouted to the moose, “Go on, shoo! Get out of here!” Picking a rock up off the ground as hard as he could he hurled it at the animal, hitting him in the ribs. The moose kicked up both his front and hind legs, snorted, and then bolted into the bush, disappearing somewhere down into the valley. Claude and Jacques, coming up empty, called it a day. The next morning the three French guys got an early start. As they set off into the bush, this time Claude held a double barrelled gun cocked in his hand, while Jacques kept his rifle over his shoulder. Marcel went along but in the same capacity as the day before. Hour after hour went by, and after walking over roots and branches and under overhanging trees, to Claude’s and Jacques’ dismay, once again they had no luck. Claude finally put it all together. He said to Marcel angrily, “It’s you who are the cause of all our problems. You’re driving all the animals away!” The men at last decided to take down their camp and head back to town. Their trip had been a bust. As they approached Faro, the dismal little houses with their grey rooftops and tiny square windows gradually came into view. Smoke billowed out of their chimneys and formed a thin veil across the darkening sky. Spires of spruce trees dotted the landscape all around and the mountain tops were filled with snow. The men went for a beer. There was a live band playing and the bar was filled with people, mostly miners. Claude, Jacques and Marcel took a table in the corner and ordered food along with three Labatt Blues. Somehow Claude became all charged up: “In the morning,” he said, “we’ll try another spot, on the other end of town. The moose are in rut and I heard some guys over at the gas station say there are a lot of good swamps and wallows out there. But this time we’ll bring the moose decoy and spray her with scent. If that doesn’t get our moose going I don’t know what will. Since we only have one more day left, what do you say, should we give it a try?” Jacques raised his bottle; he could feel the booze already going to his head, “Here! Here! Let’s do it, let’s go get us that moose!” A few tables away from the three French guys was a table with another three guys but they were American. They had on plaid shirts and khaki pants and were wearing hunters’ caps. They were speaking very loudly and acting obnoxiously. This is what they were saying to one another: “Well, fellows, we finally got ourselves that Yukon moose we came looking for. And what a superb beast he is! Did you see the size of those antlers — I measured sixtythree inches across. Not bad for a day’s work! That moose head is a true symbol of the wilderness. It’ll be perfect for my trophy room.” One of the other guys objected and he even brought his fist to the table, “Hey, what do you mean your trophy room? What about my trophy room?” The third then started up but from a different angle and his tone was more practical, “When we get to Whitehorse we should ship our trophy out to an American taxidermist, and first thing; mounting an animal is an art form after all and we don’t want some rookie messing it all up.” Then the first guy for some reason kept glancing over at the three French guys. He noticed they were sitting there eating, drinking beer and looking kind of glum. Coming over to their table, he wanted to know, “Hey, are you guys hunters? Yes? I thought so. If you’re interested up in the bush a couple of miles in there’s a moose carcass. It took a few shots but in the end we got him. We brought down the head but we have no use for all that meat. It’s yours for the taking if you want to hike up there and get it. It’s going to start rotting soon anyway.” He gave Claude detailed directions of how to get to the slain animal. Claude thanked the man. What an incredible stroke of luck! Of course they would go and get that moose and first thing in the morning. At the crack of dawn, hiking a few hours, they found the animal easily enough. They approached it with caution making sure the way was clear of bears or wolves. Claude couldn’t believe it, “Would you look at the size of him! What a beast! Too bad it wasn’t us that brought him down. What a rush that would have been!” Taking the leaves and twigs out of the carcass, there was a lot of work to be done skinning and quartering the animal. The bones were massive. It was particularly hard to cut through the hide as it was so tough and thick, especially in the back. Finally they got it all done. They packed as much meat as they could and headed back to town. It took them four trips in total. Early the next day the men headed back to Whitehorse. Driving down the Mayo Road, there was something weighing heavily on Marcel’s mind. He began, “Trophy hunting is cruel and it’s wasteful; it’s just killing for the sake of killing. And they simply left the carcass there to rot. There should be laws against this sort of thing … ” Claude cut him off and with a laugh, “Hey, Marcel, chill out, will you; don’t be such a mood-spoiler. Just look at it this way: our trip wasn’t a total loss — now at least we have a truckload of meat. I say, God bless those Americans! God bless trophy hunters!” When they finally arrived in Whitehorse the sun had long since gone down and it was almost pitch-black. The moon and stars became lost behind the clouded sky and it started to snow. Claude said as he pulled into Marcel’s driveway, “We’re going to have to divide the meat up three ways. It has to hang for at least a couple of days; you know, to bleed it out, to bring out the flavour, and to tenderize it. I don’t have enough room in my place for all of it.” Marcel shook his head. “Oh no, you can’t expect me to take some of it into my house. I’m a vegetarian, remember? No, it’s absolutely out of the question, not to mention, Alicia would have a fit.” “But she’s not even here and she won’t be back for another week, you said so yourself. Hang it for a couple of days and then I’ll come by with Jacques to pick it up. You don’t want it to go to waste do you?” Marcel drew a deep breath and thought it over. He said with a gesture of irritation, “But I don’t even have anywhere to hang it. It’s not like I have a garage like you do.” “Well, hang it in the house then, wherever you can. A few days and it’ll be done. Come on, don’t be such a little brat about it.” In the end Marcel gave in though reluctantly. Lining the floor in the kitchen with newsprint he then hung up the meat from the ceiling by hooks, but there was too much of it, so he moved the remainder into the living room. The odour was everywhere. He was upset and angry with himself for allowing Claude to talk him into it. But it would only be for a few days and he would have plenty of time to clean things up before Alicia got home. But what Marcel didn’t know was that Alicia, having wrapped things up early, was at that very moment on her way back to Whitehorse; in fact, she was almost there. She never bothered calling because she wanted to surprise him. When Alicia arrived at the house it was already dark. Marcel was not at home, he was at the KK drinking with his buddies. Rummaging in her purse for her keys, she couldn’t seem to find them. If only there was some light. Going round back she decided to try the kitchen door, which was often left unlocked. Turning the knob, to her great relief the door opened and she went inside. Exhausted from her trip, all she wanted was to kick off her shoes and take a long, hot bath. As she was about to set her luggage on the floor, something unexpectedly hit up against her forehead, and it was wet and slimy and kind of soft. It was the strangest feeling and she didn’t know what to make of it. And there was an odd odour everywhere and it was very unpleasant. What was going on? Switching on the light, she froze on the spot; she was horrified by the gruesome scene. There was carnage all over the place — big red blocks of raw meat hanging from the ceiling, and there was blood on the floor. Her face turned a ghost white. She started to scream and she screamed as if the life was being taken out of her. Neighbours came rushing out to see what all the noise was about and passersby gathered round the front yard. Someone called the police. When the police arrived, Alicia was still screaming. Taking out their guns, slowly, cautiously, starting for the house, the police were convinced some kind of terrible crime had been committed in there, maybe even a murder. They were preparing for the worst.