Essay Non-Fiction posted August 13, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level

Don't Kill Bullwinkle

by Spiritual Echo

It is still dark and the crisp chill of the October morning bites as Ivan embraces me at the front door. We smile at one another, both of us anxious to see the door close so that I may return to snuggle under my down filled comforter and he might march off to his annual adventure.

I have filled the thermos, packed enough sandwiches to impress his comrades and yet he lingers; the scent of his freshly scrubbed body, the Lifebuoy soap, fills the gap in our farewell. I breathe deeply, inhaling the moment, reminding myself from a decade of memories that when he comes back his scent will not be so sweet. He will return layered in sweat, stale tobacco and disappointment. But, he will expect a hero's welcome and so I suffer this moment, enduring Ivan's ritual farewell, his melodramatic absolutions and declarations of love, knowing full well that he equates this moment as a final farewell before he marches off to war.

Finally he is walking down the driveway, he swaggers, tilts his hat in a final gesture and mounts his steed. The truck rolls down the street. I can feel his eyes watching me in the rear view mirror and so I oblige his fantasy by waving enthusiastically.

Ivan has embarked on his yearly moose hunt and now I can finally go back to bed.

For the next fifteen hours Ivan will be in transit, slashing his ties to the urban environment where he makes a living and lives a life, and retreats back to his youth, his singular and personal experiences of living off the land.

Long before it became a cliche, perhaps now only in China, Ivan's family knew if they didn't work, they didn't eat. They were farmers, mixed crops, but from a young age, the boys were taught how to hunt. Every kill meant that the family would have meat.

As a vegetarian, it was difficult for me to accept the enthusiasm of the hunt and it took me years to understand that Ivan's pilgrimage into the bush in Northern Ontario had more meaning than a blood sport. Initially I thought it was some primitive Neanderthal instinct that empowered these men, made them virile and I scorned the ritual, laughing at the impotence of armed men tracking a helpless animal. In time, although I never condoned the practice, I began to understand the subtext of the mission.

Men are not afforded the kindness or compassion of women, to be with their own kind. Even Monday night football evokes outrage in women who do not understand why their seemingly normal men want to watch a battle. While women demand their 'girl time' and hairdresser confessionals, they deny their husbands the right to bond with rage, territorial protection and victory. Women have been given the tools to evolve and we have, men have been punished for natural and biological instincts; a sexual comparison that should never have happened.

The moose hunt requires much in the way of preparation. There are at least four meetings during the year to discuss important issues leading up to the actual event.

First and foremost is the meeting about security, the assignment of keys for the lock up of firearms each evening. In order to protect the innocent drunks from retaliating for a bad Euchre hand. This meeting acts as an insightful peek into possible ramifications of primitive testosterone gone wild. It seems while the women may mock the hunt week, men are clearly aware of the uncharted wilderness and make plans accordingly.

The next meeting usually centres on food, the menu and the appointment of the head chef. This meeting is far more significant than most people would appreciate. With fifty to sixty miles between the camp and the nearest retail outlet, it is essential that every component of survival arrives at the site with the men.

The third meeting usually takes place sometime in the midst of summer heat. In general, men suffer the weather, making excuses for their beer consumption and ante up the cost, throwing their dues and share onto the table, scooped up by the treasurer. Oh yes, they have formality and titles in the club.

The final meeting, usually sometime in September is almost like a bridal shower. The members try to impress each other with their flatulence, make jokes, giggle and slap each other on the back, anticipating the big event. Transportation options are finalized and the men leave quietly, almost in reverence. The hunt is just a breath away.

Inevitably they make a video, tracking their buddies into public washrooms, cataloguing grunts and expletives, recording their trek, the laughter and anticipation. The hours of the trip are absorbed by the sheer joy, the freedom from spousal and employment expectations.

Sometimes, from year to year, the camera keeps rolling after the group reaches camp. It is then that the layers of urban life and expectations start to peel and shrivel. Men weep and share their sorrows, failures and lost dreams. They threaten their partner over a trumped ace and then fall silent as one after another piles their truth onto the table; they don't comfort each other, they simply listen.

When the silence becomes too intense, chairs are pushed out, scraping the old pine boards that line the floor of the lodge and conversations slowly begin once more, returning to the goal, the kill, the moose they spotted on the ridge; a safe retreat.

And while I bask in my aloneness, suffering my spa days and theatre evenings, not for a moment do I lament the moose, nor the hunt because I fully realize that Ivan walks into the bush, not to kill, but to find himself.

Non-Fiction contest entry


I always hated the concept of hunting. I resented the anticipation of the hunt week and thought it was about killing and was often challenged on my views when I purchasedd meat at a supermarket, hygenically sealed. Having been married to a hunter I needed to reconcile and refute my feelings or take a walk in their shoes. I chose to try to listen and understand.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by bd shutterspeed at

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