The hunter became the hunted in Newfoundland.
Mooose and Rodney Buffet the hunter | Courtesy of National Park Service and Rodney Buffet
A war has raged on the island of Newfoundland for generations: the war of man against moose. One is a big, hairy, oafish creature that lumbers through the wilderness littering wrecked automobiles all along the highway, and the other has antlers.
I kid, of course—but not about the struggle. Moose hunting has been essential to the Newfoundland way of life since the animals were first (successfully) introduced on the west coast of the island in 1904. Every autumn the woods fill with hordes of hunters in camo jackets and blinding orange highlights looking to get their game for the winter. A photographer friend of mine just shot a wedding where the groomsmen came decked out in their finest hunting gear so they could head back to the woods direct from the reception. There is only one vow more sacred 'round the Bay than "with this ring I thee wed," and that is: gots to get me moose, b'y.
But sometimes, if you're not careful, the moose might just get you. Such is the story of one Rodney Buffett of Fortune, who tangled with a bull over Thanksgiving weekend and was lucky to escape with his life. He shot the moose twice and thought it was down for the count, only to discover on closer inspection that it was actually faking him out. He turned his back on the downed animal for just a moment when it suddenly sprang up and charged him.
Buffett was gored on the antlers, and then the moose flipped its head back to throw him up into the air before it began to trample him. A lesser man would have been easily crushed but Buffett was a match for the bull. Despite taking a hoof to the face, he managed to grab the moose by the antlers and drive it away with a few kicks in the head. These animals routinely demolish cars with their sheer size; that Buffett was still able to beat it away from him after being charged and thrown and trampled should earn him the Order of Canada—or at least a lifetime supply of Black Horse.
Fortunately, his fiancée was out in the woods with him and was able to get medical help. Buffett was quickly airlifted to a hospital in St. John's, where doctors discovered that the man had miraculously avoided both a concussion and any internal injuries.
Of course, the only thing tougher than Buffett's body is the immortal Newfoundland wit. Laid up in the hospital with a hoofprint stamped into his skull, he was still able to quip: "they tells me I'm hard-headed."
Rodney Buffett may have locked horns with death and lived to tell the tale, he still hasn't got his moose. There can be no rest for the Baymen's Champion until the beast is carved up in his freezer or frying on the grill, and he plans to head back out on the hunt as soon as the doctors give the green light.
This time, though, he'll probably make sure to double tap the next moose he brings down.
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