Nothing quite hurts your pride like running a hunting blog and not filling your tags, but that is exactly what happened to me this year. I still had a fantastic season despite the fact that I had already written it off as a “maybe Ill go hunting this year” kind of a season. That was the result of me going back to school this fall, meaning that my free time would be weekends only and it would be a delicate balance of employment, homework, and hunting. As it turns out, luck was on my side and I was able to go out hunting every weekend this season. I put on a lot of mileage this season, averaging about 15,000 steps, or about 12km a day. My typical hunting day was get up at 615, walk out to my spot and wait for a deer to come on out, once I got tired of sitting I would walk around my parents farm and slowly make my way back to the house for breakfast, then in the evening I would go to “The Lease Land” and hike in to an old trappers cabin, long since collapsed in, and wait until dark there. This season I didn’t see much for whitetail deer, which is all I had a tag for. But, as you could imagine, with that much time and mileage outside I managed to see some pretty neat things. So maybe let me run down a little list here:
A rabbit – You just dont see lots of those in that area
A few grouse – not rare but they still manage to get your heart rate up when they seem to thunder out from under your boots
an impression in the snow from where a bird of pray picked up a small rodent
4 Coyotes – the first was in an open field in a snow storm about 60 yards from me I stood up and moved to try and get a better look at it, it had no idea I was there despite all my noise making. Another was the biggest coyote I had ever seen, it was easily the size of a golden retriever. Someone said it may have been a wolf but it looked too thin featured for that to be correct. I also saw what I thought to be a cougar but turned out to be a coyote. I was just coming through a fence and in the distance I saw something tan coloured that ducked down and slinked away in a very fluid cat-like fashion. I also could have sworn I saw a long thin tail waiving behind it. I walked up to where I had seen it and found only coyote tracks… maybe theres something to those old native stories of coyotes being tricksters and shapeshifters after-all.
a herd of 17 mule deer- I was walking across the eastern portion of my parents farm and spotted a small group of mule deer so I had a seat in the snow and pulled out my binoculars to watch, they were about 500 yards away. At first it was a large buck with seven does. As I was watching, a coyote snuck out of the bushes near the group and was immediately run off by three of the does. I continued to watch the group and slowly more and more mule deer started to show up. At first it was a much smaller buck and a single doe. This was all mind blowing to me, then even more showed up. By the end there were at least 3 very large bucks and two or three spikers and forkers. All mingling together, I would have though with mating season so close they would have all been fighting each other but no, they just moseyed and ate. I would have never believe that mule deer would herd up in that large of a group.
3 white tailed deer- I saw all three on the last two days of hunting. The first was in the morning when Erin and I were sitting watching a spot that had a lot of tracks and rubs, way off to my right was a rather portly whitetail doe. I wasnt in a position to take that shot and I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway, for a few reasons; first it was on a ridge meaning a miss would send that errant bullet miles away, the second was she was standing in brush which can deflect or slow a bullet causing a wound instead of a kill, lastly she was quartering away meaning a proper placed shot at her would almost certainly result in the loss of one of her shoulders minimum. The next day after my morning sit I went for a walk and stumbled into a buck and doe pair again shrouded by bushes, in hind sight I may have had enough fire power to cut through the branches and hit that buck, but he wasn’t very big and my freezer isn’t very empty so there was no real purpose in risking it beyond giving me something to write about, but if the day comes where I fall into the hole of taking an unethical shot just to give me content for my blog I think it will be time I shut this website down.
I dont know if I would call this season successful or not. I learned a lot, saw some amazing things, and spent a great deal of time outside. Its hard for me to call that a failure but at the same time I’ve still got my tags tucked into my binocular case… there is always next year I guess.
I hope your season was as fun as mine and maybe even a little more fruitful and if not, just remember, next year will come and there will be deer then too…. and they will be bigger. We’ve just gotta find them.
Posted in Huntingwith no comments yet.
It was recently announced that Wholesale Sports will be shutting its doors. I feel it is important that I pay my respects.
When I was a kid, it was always exciting to come to the city because it meant we might go to wholesale sports. I can still remember the layout of that old store and how I would drool over the airguns. When the new location opened, I couldn’t believe how spacious it was. When I finally moved to the city for university I, of course, applied. I told the manager I was willing and able to work in any department. I was hired on in the camping section with the understanding that I would train and fill in for other departments when they needed it.
It was at that camping kiosk that I read my first Capstick book. That turned into a lifelong addiction to books on African hunting and exploration. It was from that old used rack that I bought my first deer rifle. I paid $450 for a used Ruger M77 in .243, I’ve still got the sale papers for it buried away in my safe. It was also that job that financed by trip to New Zealand and Fiji. When I got back from Fiji I had $0 in my account but I walked into the store and was given a job, at the gun counter this time. It was all those conversations with hunters over the years that made me decide to take up bear hunting. It was those Capstick books that convinced me to write about it, and it was a coworker who told me to send my story into Alberta Outdoorsmen. It ended up being my first published story. When I finished university I moved on to a job on an oil rig. It paid well but was short lived, I was laid off and Wholesale saved me again, this time with a job in their warehouse. That job helped keep Erin and me afloat until our wedding and trip to South America.
I don’t know what their reason for the shutdown was but I would speculate they placed the blame on outside competitors and overall market down turn in the face of Canada’s current recession. I also have some strong held beliefs that some things could have been done much better, but that is simply a byproduct of working on the ground floor of a company for nearly a decade… You get to see behind the curtain from time to time.
Wholesale has announced that their last day of business will be December 28, 2017 until then there will be a continuous clearance sale. So when we go to cash in on the sales and pick the flesh from the bones of the dead.. lets try to remember that this old relic of the past was once a hub of education for young hunters. It also helped more than one person become who they are today… for better or for worse.
Posted in Fishing, Hiking, Hunting, Travelwith no comments yet.
Erin and I had a pretty crazy weekend, it appeared we were double booked, plus we wanted to go hiking. Naturally, there was no compromise. First, we took our young Jasper to the Vermillion fair where we learned that he doesnt mind crowds, but has a real problem with heavy draft horses… I think its the bells that make him go so crazy. I also came to the realization the a fairway is dog heaven.. its covered in food and interesting smells.
After the fair we went to the farm where he just ran and ran to his heart’s content. The following day we went on a four hour drive to meet up with some friends to go camping. Again, Jasper was in his own version of heaven, the campsite was full of dogs and people willing to feed him.
The following day we drove another three hours to the town of Jasper. I giggled most of the way at the thought of taking Jasper to Jasper. We arrived late in the day and scrambled to find a campsite, as we pulled in there was a big no vacancy sign. I decided to go ask if they knew about the other camp grounds.. it turns out that sign was lying and they had a site we could take. We took it, set up camp, and made dinner.. smokies, cooked on the camp stove, with caramelized onions… because I’m fancy. The three of us cuddled up in our tent and froze all night. Erin was cold from the air mattress bringing the cold up from the ground and I was cold because Jasper stole my blankets. The things we do for our pets.
In the morning I made my super secret homemade pancakes and some homemade bacon I got from my step-dad at the farm. It was exactly what I needed. In fact, I was so set on that breakfast that I made a trip into town the night before to round up some maple syrup, we took Jasper to the dog park at the same time, it was quite nice. After overfilling ourselves on breakfast, we broke down camp and headed to the trail head. We decided to do Whistlers, its a hike that takes us up to the gondola which we can then ride down and hike along the road back to our car. Its also one of the few pet friendly hikes in the park. The higher alpine ones they are worried about dogs harassing the caribou.
The start of the trail was heavily treed and consisted mainly of switchbacks. Jasper loved it, so much to smell. As we approached the treeline we had to cross a few rock slides. The trail was very well marked and not too treacherous but from Jasper’s low vantage point it was quite daunting. So Erin carried him, which allowed me to snap the best picture I have ever taken.
All along the hike we crossed paths with people who had to stop and pet him and ask his name. All were excited about his name. We also crossed paths with a few marmots, Jasper was not a fan but luckily we kept him on his leash so he wouldn’t harass the wildlife and they were inclined to keep their distance. We reached the gondola and decided to go a little farther up the trail. Im out of shape so my legs were killing me from the 7km uphill, Jasper was still pulling me up the hill. Along the route we met a friendly stranger who stopped to pet Jasper and poured some water from his bottle into his hand so the dog could have a drink. It was a very kind gesture.
We reached the first summit and I had decided I was tired enough, we still had a gondola ride down. We headed back to the gondola and purchased tickets for the ride down.. and an “I heart Jasper” sticker for my water bottle, I couldn’t resist. While in line we started talking to the kind stranger who had given Jasper some water, he had a family with him and they all had English accents. We crammed in the gondola like sardines and made the 15 minute ride down. We still had to walk from the parking lot to our trail-head, about a 5km walk along the road. As I readjusted the gear in my pack and dug out my sweater, the English family took one more chance to pet Jasper before heading to their vehicle.
Erin and I were walking back along the road to our car when a camper pulled up beside us and yelled “hey Jasper, want a ride?” Erin and I shrugged and said “sure” so we hopped in with the English family and chatted while they drove us. It turns out the gentleman who shared his water was from Vancouver and everyone else was visiting from England. My guess was they were his aunt, uncle, and cousins, but that’s purely a guess. I asked him to drop us off at the turnoff about a mile from our car as the road was really rough and there was no sense subjecting that nice family and their rented camper to those kinds of roads. We hopped out and thanked them for the ride. They waved and were on their way to explore more of our country. I got the impression they’ll fit right in.
After we reached our car we headed for home and I finally made a point of stopping and walking around in that nice shallow water just off the road outside of town. For years I had been driving passed and saying “eh, next time”.
P.S. Sorry mom, I got into a vehicle with strangers. But don’t worry, I had a terrier to protect me.
Posted in Hiking, Photo Dropwith no comments yet.
I remember years ago reading about a Mardi Gras in the 1970s that was rumoured to be cancelled… it ended up happening but it was so last minute that no one from out of town came. It ended up being one of the smallest Mardi Gras ever celebrated and has been remembered by the locals as the greatest Mardi Gras ever…. youd think I’d be able to find that information again and verify it but alas the internet has failed to provide me this information.
The annual DMay fun shoot suffered a similar fate. The week before the shoot Darrel, myself, and my friend brad had set up and painted all the steel and cut all the necessary grass. Things were looking good until the evening before the shoot when it appeared some rainy weather was rolling in. As a result the turn out for the shoot itself was down from the original projection. Typically we see around 30 shooters, this year we saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 15.
The morning was drizzly and overcast, but that did little to dampen our spirits. We still got on our rifles and spotting scopes and made steel sing at 400, 500, 700, and 1000 yards. That last one was easier for some than others… I did it, but it took time and a very large target. In the afternoon the rain rolled in heavy, we officially had a downpour. Luckily we had several shelter tents set up. Rather than be dissuaded, many of us saw both the challenge and humor in shooting in heavy rain. I found my rifle still accurate to 500 yards but had trouble at 700. I also found that I received a brisk blast of water to the face with every trigger pull. I was under the shelter but the front half of my rifle wasn’t, that placed it in a small waterfall.
When the rain subsided we went back to our benches and continued to shoot. I had to chuckle, when I picked up my rifle from under the tent water poured out of the stock and action all over my forearm. I was surprised it could hold that much. It was an interesting experience to shoot in heavy rain and the smaller number of shooters gave us all more time to chat with one another and try each others equipment and at a place like a long range shoot there is a lot of fancy equipment to see.
Much like “The Greatest Mardi Gras” the 2017 DMay fun shoot has minimal photo evidence and few witnesses, and perhaps thats part of the fun of it. Knowing that those there, were there for the moment, and any story of it will be a short and poorly written blurb (see above), that fails to do it justice… I guess you just had to be there.
Posted in Marksmanshipwith no comments yet.
For years my family has been indulging my unhealthy fantasies of someday becoming a professional hunter, chef, and writer (see Steven Rinella and his extensive collection of hunting and cooking books along with a TV show that features both). So it seems every birthday and Christmas I am given a wild game cookbook from someone. They are fantastic and I use them all the time but one problem they all seem to have, is that no one seems to know how to make a good burger. They all say the same thing, take the ground meat and shape it into patties and cook in the oven. To me thats the same as boiling a steak (no, I’m not talking about Sous-Vide), sure you can do it and its technically edible but you are really missing out. So here is my version of a proper venison burger. Please note that this recipe works well with any red meat. My dad showed me how to make these burgers years ago with beef, from there I made some adjustments, its a simple recipe to remember and I have used it while travelling to make friends more than once. Cooking on a barbecue works best, but I have baked them in an oven and a fried them on a stove top and they were just fine. I have never fed these burgers to someone and not had them seem overjoyed by them… unlike a few recipes of mine that I am still tweaking… thank you, Erin, for your patience.
The ingredients are all pretty forgiving and interchangeable with anything similar, its a hard recipe to mess up as long as you do not over spice it, that can make it salty.. but even then you can just drown it in ketchup. So you have no reason not to try this recipe.
You will need:
- 1 lb of ground venison (or any other red meat)
- 1/4 lb of bacon (this is not required if you are using a fattier meat such as beef)
- tortilla chips (tortilla chips work best but any kind of cracker, chip, croutons or shredded bread works)
- 1/2 of a medium sized onion
- one egg
- steak spice
- the softest buns you can find (I usually go with kaiser or onion buns)
- all the regular fixings for burgers: ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, lettuce, onions, tomato etc
Step 1. Chop the bacon into as small of bits as possible usually about 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares. Typically I use the fattiest pieces of bacon from the pack, the purpose of the bacon is to add a bit of fat and grease to the venison for taste, texture, and making them hold together. Throw the chopped bacon in a large bowl with the full pound of venison. You can skip the bacon in the mix if you are using beef. I usually buy a full pound of bacon so that the remainder can be fried and used to top the burgers afterwards.
Step 2. Finely chop the 1/2 of the onion and add it to the bowl with the meat. I usually buy a whole onion and use half for in the burgers and then slice the other half to go on the burgers after the fact.
Step 3. Add an egg and a handful of tortilla chips to the bowl with the meat and onion. The egg and the chips work to hold the burger together, the chips also add a bit of flavour. This is also where I add some steak spice, make sure to use just a little as the chips make it salty and cooking the spices in the burgers really strengthens their flavour.
Step 4. Now mix all the ingredients with your hands, try to beak down the chips as much as possible and make sure all the other ingredients are evenly distributed
Step 5. Form the meat into equal sized patties, I usually make 6 so that it lines up with the number of buns I buy but the size isn’t super important as long as they are all close to the same size. Make sure to pack them as tight as you can.
Step 6. Place the burgers on the barbecue on medium heat. With my grill I find I have to flip them after about ten to fifteen minutes, they change colour a bit and the exposed chips will start to burn a little. Try to flip them only once or twice. After about 15 minutes on each side (every grill is different so dont hold me to this time) cut one in half and make sure it is cooked all the way through, typically that means no pink in the middle, however the bacon adds a bit of pink so go by texture and evenness of overall colour.. This is also the time to toast the buns and place some cheese on the burger so it melts nicely.
Step 7. Take the burgers off of the grill and let them cool for about five minutes (lets all be honest, I often skip this). Then put the patty on a bun top it with bacon and all the other fixings. Enjoy!
Step 8. Tell everyone where you go this great recipe!
Posted in How-To, Recipewith no comments yet.
I was sitting in a ground blind placed along a row of bales. I was on the hunt for a doe that I had missed a 40 yard shot it with my bow a few weeks earlier. I was still working on my archery skills, I am good out to 60 or so yards on a target but I found when a deer comes into range I tended to get a bit of “buck fever” which is strange because I have shot some nice bucks in the past without so much as a tremor. For some reason, when a doe wanders with 50 yards I get my heart thumping so bad I don’t bother risking taking the shot sometimes, tracking an arrow wounded deer is a terrifying prospect that would cause me loss of sleep. This particular day I was trying two new ideas. First I was using a ground blind instead of just sitting motionless against the bales. I had found that deer would come to within about 20 yards of me but would naturally spook and flee as I tried to draw my bow to make a shot, a blind seemed a simple solution. The second tactic was that I had a decoy doe out in front of my blind. I did some quick research the night before and found that putting out a doe decoy early in the season will bring more does in and that is what I was after. The plan seemed rather fool proof since every time I sat in that area before I had a few deer within range but just nothing that would stay close enough and still enough while I drew my bow. Many hunters pride themselves on certain strengths; some are amazing shots, some have a never quit attitude, some can stalk silently, others can think like a deer. I think mine, were I to toot my own horn for a moment, would be my ability to learn. Cold hard research works for me, reading about tracking deer got me my largest deer to date and I am always on the prowl for more information. This set up I had concocted with the use of various internet resources was sure to be a hit, the decoy would lure them in and the blind would conceal my movement as I drew the bow. It was nothing revolutionary but it was two tactics I had never needed to use for rifle hunting.
As I sat waiting for the deer to start wandering out, I heard a truck come down the dead-end road that led to the corner of the field. The truck came to a stop and in the silence of the October afternoon I could vaguely hear their conversation. “Oh look! a big whitetail buck!” I immediately started looking out the windows of my blind, all I saw was my big doe decoy. Is it possible there is a big buck behind me? There was some more chatting and some shuffling in the truck before it occurred to me that they might be lining up a shot on my decoy! I was watching the truck through my binoculars but the cab itself was obstructed by some trees so I couldn’t quite see if they were leaning a rifle out the window. Suddenly I heard “wait wait, there is a ground blind by those bales!”. The truck immediately made a U-turn and vacated the premise, almost as though they were doing something they shouldn’t, somewhere they shouldn’t be. A few minutes later I heard the report of a rifle from the direction they had gone. It upset me that I wasn’t able to get a license plate number off of the truck. It got me thinking, doing things the right way is not that hard. In fact, to me it almost seems easier. All I have to do is sit in my field and wait. If they are doing what it looks like they are doing they have to drive around looking for deer, shoot one that is likely running away from the noise of their truck, then retrieve it and leave the area before the fish and game department come running to the sound of a rifle shot out of season. Then they still have to make it home without getting stopped. All at the risk of their hunting rights and ANYTHING deemed an accessory to their poaching, including the automobile in use.
Hundreds of years ago, when all big game animals were considered the property of royalty and the common men and women of the land were left to starve, poaching might have been considered noble. The story of Robin Hood has him as a poacher, technically. They had to outwit animals, and the royal guards, all at the risk of their own lives, the pay off being food for their families. In modern-day North America poachers are usually people trying to do things the easy way, and its shameful. Poaching gives us all a bad name, and believe me public opinion of hunters is not high right now, we do not need anyone making it worse. In my grumblings of people breaking the rules, I was reminded of a time when a close friend wanted me to break a law they didn’t see a use for. A friend of a friend had said she would pay $700 for a bear’s gallbladder because her grandmother wanted it for “medicine”. As coincidence would have it, I was bear hunting that spring. In Alberta, as well as in most places, it is illegal to sell any part of a hunted animal. At the time I flatly refused simply because I didn’t want to break the law, despite $700 being a considerable sum of money in my fast nearing empty bank account. My friend tried to talk me into it with the reasonable arguments of “you aren’t going to use it anyway, better to sell it instead of throw it out” I was tempted, lordy I was tempted, but I stood strong. The subject was dropped and never really came up again because I failed to fill my bear tag that year. I realize now that I made the right decision for more reasons than the law. Upon further review I think encouraging ancient traditional medicines that use parts of animals is a terrible thing for a hunter to do. Sure it was just a black bears gallbladder, but its the same ideology that is leading to poaching and extinction of rhinos. I am glad I chose not to be a part of that. Poachers, and those that encourage or enable poaching destroy what hunters try so hard to create, they also often get lumped into the same categories as hunters by people who don’t care to do any research on the subject. As hunters we need to do our best to separate ourselves from poachers, even if its something small like selling a gallbladder or shooting a deer a week before or after the rifle season, all of these little things add up and contribute to big things, big things we don’t want to be a part of.
I sat in my blind going over how I hoped those guys were just scouting and that rifle shot was someone else getting sighted in for the upcoming rifle season. Suddenly two does wandered into the edge of the field about 90 yards out, one was noticeably larger than the other. They slowly made their way toward my decoy, I was relieved to see that my plan was working, maybe… at the very least it wasn’t scaring the deer away, so I am counting it as a success. In my mind this was the doe I had missed a 40 yard shot on weeks before, lucky it was a clean miss and not a wounding shot. I was trying to range her as she approached my decoy, knew she was somewhere around 30 yards but my range finder was having trouble reading through the mesh windows on the blind. Finally it spat out a number, 25 yards. I decided my best bet was to put my 20 yard pin just high of center on the kill zone and any drop would still be where I want it to be. I slid forward onto the edge of me seat and came to a full draw, I checked the level on my sight, I was dead on and my heart was pounding. I took aim and released, the deer reacted to the sound of the bow and crouched down a few inches, the arrow flew clear over her shoulder. I had missed again, and to add insult to my injured pride, I had lost the arrow into the tangle mess of the fields stubble. The deer looked around, unsure of what happened and trotted to the edge of the field, I looked at her closely with my binoculars. Not a mark on her luckily, a clean miss is by far better than a bad hit. I think my problem is I need more practice shooting from a sitting position and I definitely get too excited when an animal walks into range. It’s nice to know the excitement of hunting hasn’t worn off on me, but it also gets a little infuriating, especially since I am actually a really good archer… when there aren’t deer around.
Posted in Huntingwith no comments yet.
I was sitting in my blind… The same blind I had been sitting in day after day for the past few months. It sat on the edge of a pile of bails in the corner of the field. I had started there sitting on pail with my bow across my lap, by now bow season had come and gone and I had along the way upgraded to a ground blind and a folding chair. I had also upgraded to an old Steyr-Mannlicher rifle chambered in .270 win that my aunt and uncle had given me. They had decided that they didn’t want their guns anymore and gave them all away. I was more than happy to accept it. When I first got it, it had a scope but I found it didn’t shoulder very well with it on because the scope sat too high. So I took it off and sighted it in at 100 yards with the iron sights, just as the factory intended. That old gun with those iron sights made me a little nostalgic for something I never had… I love to read, especially books about the old adventure hunters in the early and mid 20th century like Capstick, Corbett, Bell, and Selous. They all used open sights, mostly because optics technology was in its infancy, and partly because the reliability of sights. They were all also prone to fancy European rifles. Holding and shouldering this rifle, every time I blinked I could imagine standing in a humid jungle waiting for the Man-Eater of Kumoan to walk around a rock. Needless to say, I am fond of this rifle and am prone to waxing poetic about nearly any rifle. So lets move the story along.
There I was, sitting tired in my blind. I had faced crushing embarrassment and disappointment during bow season. I had missed four, yes 4 shots, at does with my bow up to that point. They were all clean misses and they were all my fault, for four different reasons. The first was a forty yard shot, that is a distance I can easily shoot in practice with field points, but I didn’t realize that broadheads fly drastically different at that range. I grouped my hunting arrows and found that beyond 30 yards the group just opened up too much to be reasonable. The second miss I was too excited and rushed, it was buck fever, plain and simple, well except for the fact it was a doe. This was really starting to drain on my confidence since I am usually a very talented marksman. The third and fourth happened back to back on the same deer. First I misjudged my distance and shot clear over her back. She snorted and circled around and stopped 20 yards from the blind, a perfect broadside shot was looking at me.. I drew my bow, took a deep breath, and steadied the top pin right perfect behind the shoulder. My release was perfect, there was a strange flump sound and the fletching grazed the bottom of her ribs. She looked at me funny, and trotted off unscathed. I sat flabbergasted staring at the hole in the side of my blind. I had been holding my bow too low causing me to shoot through the side of the blind, thus slowing my arrow and ruining its trajectory…
After these misses I started to think I should sell my gear and take up golf. I remember what an old co-worker of mine once told me. He was an older fellow and had certainly been around the block a time or two and was undoubtedly the best salesman I ever knew. He once told me, all he ever wanted to do was be a farmer he said “I tried and tried for years to be a farmer, my wife and I bought a place and we worked it right down to our last dime. We had rainy springs, drought in the summer, and falling grain prices. I tried and tried, and God simply wouldn’t let it happen.”. Now I am not a particularly religious man, but you’ve almost gotta believe in divine intervention to miss those kinds of shots. Maybe I just want meant to be a hunter.
My wife, of course, figured I was just being silly and gave me a pep talk.. Or maybe she saw how much a set of golf clubs is worth? Either way, she reminded me that that is the nature of hunting and if it were easy I probably would have a different hobby. I had the whole month of November off and she had no intention of letting me and my wounded pride sit on the couch. So I packed up and headed to my mom and step-dads farm, I had historically had good luck there and this year I was awarded a tag for a mule deer doe. I spend just over a week sitting in my moms house hoping the weather would drop. It was simply too hot to go hunting, anything I shot would spoil before we could butcher it and get it in the freezer… My options were to go north to my dads where it was colder, or go look at golf clubs, at least then I could enjoy the heat. I opted to go home for a day and then head north to my dads.
I packed my new to me .270 and headed north. I immediately changed into my hunting gear when I arrived and went to my same old blind that had caused me so much doe frustration during the bow season. I sat for a few hours with my rifle across my lap hoping something would walk by. Finally, just after sunset before last legal light, a doe wandered out to the edge of the field, about 100 yards out. I watched her with my binoculars, she wasn’t small, but she certainly wasn’t big. There were also two more deer behind her, I could barely see them in the trees. I was losing light fast and had to make a decision, I flipped the safety off on the gun, then she turned. I flipped the safety back on and waited.. This happened a few more times. Finally I decided that’s it, now or never. I flipped the safety off shouldered and aimed. I could barely make out the black steel bead on my rifle against her sides in the darkness. Finally she turned broadside and I squeezed off a round. It sounded like the blind was going to launch into orbit, my ears were ringing, the shoot-through-mesh in front of me shredded and the blind filled with smoke. I chambered another round and looked at my doe on the ground. She was thrashing a bit, as they sometimes do.. it hurts to see and I considered shooting again but it would be at the cost of meat which was my purpose for shooting her.. Then she stood up again, and I realized I hadn’t made a very good shot. I quickly shouldered and shot, she went down this time without a twitch. I set the timer on my watch. I like to give deer at least five minutes of peace and quiet after I shoot. I need that time to organize my thoughts, let what happened sink in, calm down, and make a plan. I also like to give that animal a few minutes of peace in their final moments. If they are still alive, I dont want to scare them or have them jump up and run. I never take my eyes of the deer during this time. I had a friend who told me he once shot a beautiful white tail buck, it dropped like a bag of hammers. So he got up and did a victory dance, complete with a spin or two and when he turned around, his deer was gone, never to be seen again, no blood trail, nothing. Don’t get cocky, and do not take your eyes off the prize.
I dug out my tag, texted my dad to come get me with the truck and then headed over to the doe. I walked up from behind and touched her eye with my barrel to ensure she was dead. This, I am told, is the best way. If the animal is at all conscious it will blink, so its an easy and clear test, approaching from their back also ensure that if they are alive and they get up and run, they wont do it over you or give you a quick kick. I looked at my shooting, The first shot was high and far back and the second shot was a little higher than I wanted. It had hit both lungs and the spine. It was the absolute highest I could have hit and still be considered “kill zone”. I also noticed that it wasn’t a she, it was a he. It turned out to be a very small buck, his antlers were only little buttons hidden under his fur, hence being called a button buck, so it still counted as an “antlerless” which is convenient for me.
I was relieved to have some meat for the freezer. I was also reminded persistence pays off and that shooting iron sights is not as easy as it seems. Like many things, it is slowly becoming a lost art. I found that with that course sight the entire kill zone disappeared behind it, yet I have seen people shoot amazing groupings at much farther distances with similar sights. I guess more practice is warranted. I also decided to try butchering this deer myself, it went well, but it was obvious I need much more practice at it.
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I drove to Calgary in the morning to pick up Erin, her flight landed at 11 am. It was the first time I had seen my wife in just over six months, at that point, since our wedding we had spent more time apart than together. From the airport we went to Canmore and checked into our Air BnB. We didn’t do a whole lot the next few days, just a short hike down Grotto Canyon. It was a nice hike and it was neat to see that towards the end people had built hundreds of little inukshuks. From Canmore we headed to Banff and camped for two nights, we were informed that we were catching the tail end of the camping season since it was starting to get so cold out. We wandered around town a bit and cooked over and open fire. I also took this time to help Erin learn to drive a car with a manual transmission. She did much better than I did when I first tried to learn. While in Banff we also got a chance to see the northern lights during some sort of magnetic storm making them extra bright. From Banff we headed to Waterton for no particular reason other than a change of scenery. It began to rain quite heavily as we packed up camp in Banff, we hurriedly filled the car and sought refuge in a parkade to have breakfast and let our gear dry a bit. After two nights of camping in Waterton I decided I was far too cold to continue tenting, Erin on the other hand, wanted to do some back country camping. During the day the weather was nice and we came across a lot of mule deer that had no real fear of people. While hiking the Bears Hump hike we actually, accidentally, got between a doe and her two fawns, neither parties seemed concerned but didn’t want to run passed us on the trail. After a few tense minutes of having three wild animals withing a few meters the mother finally trotted into the trees above the trail and we were able to sneak passed.
After freezing in Waterton we got another Air Bnb, this time in radium. This was also our one year anniversary so we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner. From there we hit the hot springs and then went on to Revelstoke for two nights. The weather in Revelstoke was foggy and snowy but we still drove to the top of Mt Revelstoke and had a look around. Next we went to Kelowna, we stayed at a very nice hostel but we got dorms instead of a private room. The first night that didn’t matter much since we were the only ones in the room. Unfortunately on the second night 5 more guests had shown up, four of them were very friendly exchange students from India going to university in Vancouver. Erin and I went to bed and they went out partying, then several times through the night one would come in and pass out, his friends would try and wake him, then leave… then come back… then leave.. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, they all came in and went to bed, and one of them started snacking on some chips. Then they said something in their native tongue and all got up and got dressed again and left for a while. Only to make a whole bunch of noise coming back in. It was quite funny to me because they were genuinely trying to be quiet but were simply too inebriated to accomplish it, and they were very polite. While in Kelowna we met up with my aunt, uncle and cousin, we went to dinner at their house two nights in row. A home cooked meal was just what Erin wanted after a year of travelling. They also told us about a farmers market, so Erin and I went, she got peach salsa which was amazing and I got some candied salmon which is high on my list of favorite foods. The weather in Kelowna was pretty rainy so we didn’t get up to too much adventuring. Mostly we just spent time with family and walked around town a bit.
From Kelowna we headed to my cousin’s house in Surrey, he and his wife had a spare room he was kind enough to offer me. This was the first time I had been to their house and I was immediately amazed at all the trophies. My cousin does car audio competitions and is apparently quite good at it, as indicated by the many many trophy crammed into every corner of his home. As luck would have it his mother, my aunt, had come to visit him too so I got to catch up with even more family. Erin and I were given a key to come and go as we pleased while they were at work so we spent most of our time in Vancouver just exploring Stanley park. On one day though, we went to Grouse Mountain, we started by doing the Grouse Grind trail which is about an hour of walking straight up. From there Erin suggested we do Crown Mountain which we didn’t realize was up one mountain and down another then up to the top of Crown Mountain. It didn’t seem too bad until we reached the bottom of Crown Mountain, then it became clear that I was going to have to put my limited bouldering skills to use. At first it was just steep bits with lots of roots to grab onto, then it became a scramble on an exposed rock face with a lot of room below you… enough that if I fell I could contemplate how much the landing would hurt before I hit. I made it almost to the top, sadly the last 30 meters or so were just too hairy for my already shaky legs. Of course Erin, whom I’m convinced is part Ibex, made it to the top and got some pictures.
On the day we left his house we picked up our German friend whom we had met in Ecuador while working at the Donkey Den. She had just completed the Pacific Crest Trail which is a hike that runs from the Mexico border to the Canadian border. If memory serves, it took her about five months. She packed into our already crowded car and we headed for the ferry to the island. On the island we were able to stay with another relative of mine. My dad’s cousin and his wife live on the island and even though he was away for work his wife was kind enough to give us, and our companion, a great place to stay, she also gave us a tour of the island and their beautiful antique country home. Her cooking was also excellent, her moose stew was positively divine. Unfortunately for us, the weather was rather insistent on being rainy. So on one of the days we just sat and read books while looking out the window at the rain. The next day we took a road trip, in the rain, to Victoria to see the sights. The weather was so poor all we ended up doing was going to the Bug Zoo, it was pretty neat, we all got to hold a scorpion and a tarantula. I also learned that the most poisonous scorpions are small ones, with dull colors and small pincers…. Like the one I found in our room in Ecuador… which is kinda scary because at the time I was tempted to pick it up under the assumption that its too little to hurt anyone, glad I didn’t do that.
From the island we headed back to Surrey and spent another night at my cousins house, the next morning we dropped our German friend off at a hostel and we headed for home. We made it to Edmonton at 4 am, and thus ended our road trip.
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Erin’s flight was scheduled to land in Las Vegas on the 25th, my plan was to drive down and meet her. I started my trip about a week before her flight was due to arrive so I could spend the weekend in Calgary with a friend of mine that you might remember from my Buller Pass story. I arrived late Saturday night and he gave me a tour of downtown. It was exciting to see the nightlife, we also got some tasty pub food. I had no idea Calgary was such lively city.
The next day he took me for a real tour. We went to Glenmore park and did a bit of a walk around, we then headed to the Calgary tower and walked on the glass floor… a nerve wracking experience if there ever was one. The day ended with some awesome delicious sushi, it turns out its one of the few restaurant foods allowed in my strict diet.
Bright and early the next morning I hit the road south. I planned on crossing the border and spending the night in glacier national park. I stopped only a few times; once to fuel up, and once to stretch my legs and let my family know I was about to cross the border so they would not be able to reach me on my phone.
As soon as I hit the border, things went south. I explained my plans and told them about how I had quit my job to spend a month or so travelling around the USA…. and they told me they didn’t believe I intended to come back to Canada! They told me to drive back to the nearest town and print off something that would prove my intentions to return, like proof of employment or a mortgage. I told them to call my mother and hear what she would do if I didn’t come back… they didn’t go for it. I stood there for about a half of an hour suggesting things I could show them as proof, such as phone bills or cable contracts. Everything I could possibly show them they kind of shrugged off as not good enough. I could tell they just did not like ME, and had no intention of letting me in. When the border security agent said he believes my wife and I are going to throw away our lives, and her accounting career, so we could wait tables in Vegas for less than minimum wage while living in a Toyota echo, I knew I was done. America is great, but its not THAT great that I would throw away affordable healthcare, careers, family, and my outdoor adventures to wait tables… So, with a lot of cursing under my breath I walked out of the office, I was instructed to turn my car around and he would hand me my passport on the way by, so I don’t “make a run for it”. Once I got my passport back and was on the road, the cursing became much much more audible… I drove all the way home that day, and went to bed. The next morning I called all the places in the US that I had made reservations with and cancelled, Erin booked a connecting flight out of Vegas to Calgary. The plan was to pick her up in Calgary in a few days and then head west instead of south.
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Hunting photos, trophy pictures, grip-n-grins, field photos… its all the same thing. If you have been on the internet there is a chance you have seen a hunting photo or two. Usually with a caption about the people in it being monsters or murderers. If you’ve posted a hunting picture on the internet, you’ve probably been called a murderer or a monster. It would appear that is the price a modern sportsman pays… one of many payments it would seem.
The question comes up again and again by the masses of the internet: “why would you take a picture of yourself with a dead animal?”. For this question, there are many answers, and from many different people. One common reason, is that its a way to remember the event and the accomplishment. People want photos of themselves at the tops of mountains, the ends of races, and holding trophies after the big game. Hunting is no different, you just spent hours, days, weeks wandering through the woods or mountains trying to find an elusive wild animal. All of that was after months of preparation, planning, and hopefully, practice at the gun or archery range. After putting all this time, effort, and money in, people want a photo to remember that moment of success.
Another reason is so that the photos can be shared with friends, family, and other hunting enthusiasts. This is where the problems start, many people, myself included, love to share hunting photos on the internet. Sharing online is a great way to make digital friends who live a similar analog life. The problem is that those photos inevitably end up in front of someone who doesn’t understand why it exists, and often feels the need to say something about it. If you post hunting photos online, you are going to get hatemail, at this point its just a fact of life. I learned this quickly via twitter and instagram. That said, some photos attract more vitriol than others. The photos that create the most hate all seem to have something in common, poor choices in photographic technique.
Ever notice that photo of a girl with her boot on a dead lion and a great big grin makes people angrier than a picture of a professional hunter, with an expression of content, crouched beside an equally dead lion? Its deceptively simple, respect for the animal goes a long way. Even amongst hunters, this comes up and gets debated, but the majority of sportsmen appear to agree. When taking a hunting photo, respect for the animal should be top concern. This animal just died to feed you and your family, it deserves your respect. Keeping this in mind while taking photos can go a long way in improving your final product. Do little things to make the animal look dignified, try to clean blood off of the animals nose and face and tuck its tongue back in. Make sure you don’t stand or sit on the animal. Many people don’t even feel comfortable stepping over the animal.
I have also seen people try to use items for scale, this can be tricky because you do want to show how big your animal is but putting a beer can in a dead lions mouth to show its teeth (yes, I’ve seen this done) might send the wrong message on the respect front. Use yourself for scale, people know how big the average person is and can make sense of it from there. This brings me to my next point, forced perspective. I’ve seen many photos, often of elk hunters it seems, sitting a couple yards behind the animal in hopes of making the antlers look bigger by comparison, its obvious and a little cheesy. If you feel you need to misrepresent the size of the animal, you might be hunting for the wrong reasons.
The most commonly debated part about hunting photos is the smile. How much smile is too much? For this there is no real right answer. You just accomplished an amazing thing that you worked hard for, of course you are going to want to smile. But if the smile gets too big it can look a little crazy and send the wrong message. It effectively turns into a tight rope walk. My thoughts are: don’t force a smile. You’re likely in a pretty good mood when you’re taking a hunting photo so just relax and let your natural facial expression be what shines through. If you happen to be a big smile type, try taking a photo of you stifling it and see, it might look a little better. The key to the smile, much like all of life, is to just be yourself.
The quality of the photo is another thing that is important to remember. You put a lot of effort into getting here so you might as well get a good photo. Some simple things can be done to make the picture better: clear the foreground of twigs, branches and tall grass, and try to get a clear or solid background so the antlers don’t fade into brush or trees behind you. Low angles are also your friend, get the photographer to crouch to be at the same level as you and the animal, this will make the animal the focal point of the photo. It will also help you get the sky as the background which will again draw focus to you and the animal. Keep in mind that this is a photo you will likely be showing a lot of people, so you might want to make sure you take a moment and clean yourself up a little. You’re not modelling so don’t get too worried but make sure your hair isn’t a mess from wearing a hat and your hands aren’t covered in blood from field dressing. Having your firearm or bow in the photo is a great idea, just make sure it is pointed in a safe direction. No matter the situation, keep firearm safety in mind. Maybe out of respect, try not to rest the butt of the rifle on the animal.
I don’t know that I have ever taken a “perfect” hunting photo, nor do I think anyone has. The best we as hunters can do is try, just remember to respect the animal and try to make it a quality photo. As long as we are trying, I think the effort and intention will shine through to people we show them to. Lastly, make sure you take a lot of pictures. With digital cameras you can take multiple pictures from slightly different angles and see which looks better once you see it full sized. Some of my most memorable hunts I have made the mistake of taking only a single blurred cell phone picture simply because I was excited and didn’t think to take more than one snapshot. Which reminds me, don’t forget to bring your camera.
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