ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A married couple who spent a cold night lost in the woods of western Newfoundland shot a moose calf and used its freshly skinned hide as a life-saving blanket.
Steve and Sheila Joyce of Steady Brook, N.L., were hunting Tuesday afternoon when they wounded the animal and then became disoriented while tracking it through woods between Corner Brook and Bonne Bay.
As dusk fell and the temperature dropped to a few degrees above freezing, they realized they were hopelessly lost.
That’s when they suddenly came upon the wounded calf and killed it, a recovering Sheila Joyce said Thursday from their home.
She recalled saying to her husband: “That’s a godsend. We could skin it and use the skin to keep warm. And through the night we both kept speaking about how we were so thankful for it.
“We never would have made it through the night because we were both wet, shivery and cold.”
Joyce, in her mid-40s, has hunted with her husband for the last several years, she said. She described him as in his mid-50s with decades of hunting experience.
They had followed a blood trail from where they had wounded the calf near their SUV. Their food and water was in the vehicle and her husband had set down their survival pack as they tracked the animal for what they thought would be a brief chase, she explained.
“We could see the Jeep from there so we didn’t think there was any possibility of getting lost when we went into those woods,” said Joyce.
“Always keep your provisions with you, regardless, especially when you’re tracking. I think we were so taken up with tracking this animal that we weren’t paying attention to the twists and turns that we were making.”
After not eating since noon, they bedded down Tuesday night wet, hungry, thirsty and cold, with the moose hide covering their torsos, Joyce said.
When dawn finally came, they fruitlessly tried to find their way but were losing hope and facing the prospect of another night in the bush.
“I said to my husband: ’I don’t think we’re going to make another night in these woods.’ I knew with the lack of food, the lack of water, our strength was going. And without dry clothing, if the weather got any colder, I just didn’t think another night we were going to survive.”
The parents of five children then heard a noise they’ll never forget, Joyce said. Nearby hunters, alerted by the couple’s son after he and his friend had searched through the night, fired into the air to find them.
“When we did hear that gunshot, it was just like another chance at life,” Joyce said.