I was working in Helsinki at the time so my dad came from Copenhagen to visit me. After a delicious Peruvian dinner and a long night’s sleep, we were picked up by my dad’s friend and drove out into the wild. The club was located on an island called Mietinsaari in one of the biggest lakes in Finland, Lake Saimaa. We were close to the Russian border and could feel the historical legacy between the countries, especially when hearing actual war stories from the past.
We took a ferry to the island, a place with just a few gravel roads for infrastructure and stopped to say hi to the most experienced hunter on the island – a guy who had more than 50 moose on his résumé. He gave us a truly warm welcome serving us Carlsberg (his favourite beer) and we had a friendly talk translated by my dad’s friend since the hunter didn’t know a single English word.
“Then the largest and most incredible moose cow presented herself, just 90 meters from where I was standing.”
We were accompanied by the Moose Chief to our lodge which was a beautiful house close to the lake. He needed to ensure we were not made of the same character as the two unfortunate Germans, but he seemed to like us and enjoyed a couple of beers with us and we shared the sauna experience. Finns enjoy to sauna more than any other people in the world, and there are approximately two Finns per sauna in the country.
The next day we got up early and were very excited! We drove off to meet the other hunters, a group of 25 Finns of whom only two spoke English and one Swedish (the other official language in Finland beside Finnish). We were unable to communicate with the rest at first, but they all smiled and waved as we were introduced. Our hosts wanted to give us the best experience so my dad and I got the ‘King Spots’ accompanied by the Moose Chief and the second Moose Chief (the two most important roles in the hunting club). We heard several moose walking in the forests and leaves being stepped on but neither of us got a chance at first.
We had not waited for long, though, before the largest and most incredible moose cow presented herself only 90 meters from where I was standing. My heart rate went up and I pointed at her. She stood just between two forests in front of a small tree and I waited to check if she had any calves. If I was responsible for killing a moose cow with calves, I would be persecuted by the Finnish authorities. There were none in sight, but I couldn’t tell. It was so tense, and she just stood there, only moving to look back, indicating she might have a calf. Since I couldn’t make sure, I didn’t pull the trigger.
Suddenly the giant moose cow ran and, just a few seconds after, a smaller moose ran in the same track. It was not a calf but it could have been. I didn’t get the chance to make a decision due to the speed of the animal and it was shot by my neighbour moments later. The experience has haunted me ever since and I still dream about that moose. I would not have done anything different presented with the same situation – but what an experience!
Then came the evening and dinner where we had the most amazing meal consisting of meat from the moose shot earlier that day. The meal was accompanied by beers and vodka. First, we were introduced to Koskenkorva, which is a quite well-known Finnish brand of vodka. As the evening developed, the Finns introduced us to local vodka from quite suspicious looking bottles. This went on for a while, and after having enjoyed a few Finnish songs, where we tried our best to sing-along, we suddenly understood our hosts a lot better. Language was not an obstacle in understanding each other anymore – now it was communication on a whole other level. Suddenly, a Finnish gentleman, a former policeman, even tried to joke with us, when he took his knife, slammed it into the table while staring at us with an evil look – just to scare us, we learned, and we all burst into a nervous laughter. Apparently, he was imitating an old – and hopefully mostly mythical – Finnish knife game.
At this time, around midnight, we were invited outside in the dark, where we got given yet another vodka drink and were directed towards a small wooden hut. Apparently, this was the sauna placed in the middle of nothing. We sat there, all naked, with some very Finnish Finns. Somehow, this experience encapsulated all that is truly great about Finland and Finnish people – sauna, vodka and good times, it was perfect!
“I have never tried hunting swimming moose before so this was truly something else. It paid off though.”
The next day most of us were a little hungover but our experience was not over yet. We were to learn a new style of moose hunting. The overall idea was that all shooters were placed along the coast of one island with the gamekeeping crew on another close by island where the moose might be. They then walked the island to get the moose swimming from one island to the other, where we were waiting. I have never tried hunting swimming moose before so this was truly something else. It paid off though, since our host shot the most beautiful moose bull just as it entered solid ground – you are not allowed to shoot the moose while it is swimming, because of the risk of it going to the bottom of the lake.
These Finnish people depend on moose hunting, and over time they have developed a very professional approach. We saw how they divided the meat between all participants with very detailed precision down to the last gram on a large wooden table – and insisting on not using a proper weight. All in all, it was truly amazing for us to experience, even though we did not get a moose ourselves – which just mean that my dad and I must come back for a moose in Finland one day in the future!
”Knæk og bræk” to all hunters!