When a decision
was finally reached and accepted by all, we hurried down the break to be in
position to head off the moose when he crossed into the next section, while a
single tracker followed along in his tracks. After two miles, the tracker
shouted for a gun. Malinovsky, who was near by, went in for the coup de grace.
The moose was down, and with his heavy carbine Malinovsky put a shot through
his heart. But the tough giant struggled to his feet and moved off. Malinovsky
fired again, through his neck, but still the moose kept going. Finally
Malinovsky put a bullet through his head, and the moose dropped.
When I reached
the spot an argument was in progress between Malinovsky and a beater who had
slit the animal's throat in such a way as to damage the head as a trophy. But
it quickly subsided, and Malinovsky broke off a sprig of spruce from a nearby
tree, dipped it in the animal's blood and, laying it on his hat in the approved
European manner, presented it to me.
Once more there
was a soviet. How was the 1,000-pound carcass to be got out of the swamp where
no car, not even a jeep, could penetrate? After much scratching of heads, the
smallest of all the beaters said in best parliamentary style: "I have a
proposal." Zavodov replied: "We shall hear Stepan's proposal." The
little beater said: "I'll run down to the woodcutter's cottage and get his
horse and sledge." Everyone looked startled, apparently wondering why the
thought had not occurred to him.
Back at the cars
Malinovsky produced a sandwich and a large hooker of vodka for each of us. Then
we went off on the next drive. It produced no game except for a large
snow-white hare, who trotted leisurely past my stand. Seeing me, he sat up on
his hind legs, waved his snow-shoed paws and twitched his black-tipped ears.
For a moment I imagined he was going to strike up a conversation, but he
thought better of it and hurried on.
The final drive
of the day produced nothing, too, except my friend, the hare, who re-emerged,
this time at full speed. Presumably he had just realized he was late for Alice
in Wonderland's tea party.
The sun had set
when we finally started toward the cars, it was getting cold and we were all
tired from slashing through swamps up to our knees. Shapatin and myself were
walking in front. As we rounded a bend in the path a cow moose with her calf
stood facing us. For several minutes they stared curiously. Then the calf took
fright and darted into the brush, followed by its mother.
yards beyond, a slight movement in a ravine to my right caught my eye. Two
formidable bulls were standing in the draw. I tried to hand my gun—the only one
loaded—to Shapatin, as it was his turn to shoot, but he refused. In the failing
light I saw what looked like a large tree in golden autumn foliage behind the
larger bull. But then he shook his head, and I realized my large tree was the
bull's antlers. I carefully squeezed off a shot, and the huge beast dropped in
behind me rushed to the spot and, reaching it, let out wild shouts of
excitement. Zavodov carefully examined the head and then came over to me, his
eyes shining with tears of excitement. He clasped my hand and said it was one
of the finest heads that had ever been bagged in the territory. "You must
have the whole animal mounted," he said. "He is too beautiful to mount
merely the head." I had a vision of my wife's face when I returned home
with a stuffed moose nearly 8 feet tall.
At the soviet
that followed there was no dearth of propositions. Only Shapatin and Malinovsky
remained aloof, like schoolteachers letting their students work out their
problems alone. One beater suggested they should remove the head and leave the
carcass till morning. Another proposed they butcher him on the spot. A third
volunteered to stand guard against wolves until they sent out a truck. As
usual, Stepan, the littlest beater, had another idea. "We shall hear
Stepan's proposal," Zavodov ruled. Stepan suggested they stuff the beast
into the beater's truck.
The truck had a
special enclosed body, inside which were several benches, a table and a small
wood stove. Zavodov was skeptical. "It won't fit," he said. But Stepan
was persistent. In the end 20 strong Russians pushed and shoved and tugged
until only the huge head stuck out the rear door. With a final roar and a
mighty heave, the antlers were pushed in and the door slammed.