Vancouver

I had just finished school and decided it was time to move on from my retail job all at the same time. I sometimes look back on both of these ending as a rather unfortunate state of affairs and generally regard them as poor decision making on my part. However the past has past and will remain in that state and I must always remember that remembered time is vastly different from actual time. Hence the common action of looking at the past with rose coloured glasses. It was luck, coincidence, and a touch of planning that resulted in Erin getting back from her two month trek  across Central America and as luck would have its she didn’t start her new job for another few weeks. She has always been the type to plan ahead that way, I on the other hand had no real plan for employment, again… kind of regard that as a poor decision on my part. We decided that this was about the best chance we were going to get to go on a trip together for a very long time so it was settled and done. We would drive my recently acquired truck, full of gear, to the west coast and enjoy ourselves.

We set out early in the morning and thoroughly enjoyed our scenic drive. We spent the first night in Banff. I had awoke to find that when I had done an oil change on my truck before the trip I hadn’t quite tightened my drain plug on enough. As beautiful of a town as Banff is, it is amazingly difficult to find a wrench in that town. We eventually found a hardware store and I climbed under and snugged things up so we could resume our trip. Along the way we made a brief stop at the Revelstoke Railway Museum, which I highly recommend.

Sweet rig at the train museum

Sweet rig at the train museum

We arrived in Vancouver, this had been my first time visiting, and my ever so handy GPS device led us to our hotel via Hastings road, the poorest postal code in the country. Sadly in reflection of my character I was nervous that our hotel was in the area, in hind sight I worry that being afraid of the down trodden makes me a part of the problem. Luckily for my nervous and poor character, our hotel was a touch outside of the area. We promptly checked in and I did my best to park in the unfortunately congested city, I was then showed where the hotels rear parking lot was. We promptly checked into our wildly inexpensive hotel, did our best to ignore the smell and went to bed. I should clarify that the hotel wasn’t that bad, it was just a budget hotel, with a kitchenette, that smelled kind of like someone else’s cooking.

The next day we opted to take the local transportation rather than have me attempt to drive. Our travels found us at a place that I was excited to see and had only hear rumor of for many years: The Museum of Anthropology. It was everything I ever thought it would be. We then took in the city for a few more days including a delightful visit to an old friend of ours who had recently taken a job promotion which required him to relocate to a rather suave apartment in downtown Vancouver, I got the impression it wasn’t exactly against his will that he moved there.

Museum of anthropology

Museum of anthropology

 

Outdoor exhibit

Outdoor exhibit

Vancouver

I’m not much for the city but it sure is pretty

It was during the next day that Erin began to notice the big city life was starting to take its toll on me. I firmly believe that people should not be crowded in as close as they tend to be in cities and I find it makes me a bit edgy and claustrophobic. Erin, light of my life that she is, came up with an award winning idea, we should make use of the “just in case” camping gear crammed into the vehicle. So we pulled up stakes and caught a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

We spent our first night, on the island, in a very quaint house that had been converted into hostel it was homey and cozy my only complaint would be that the bed was barely a twin size and creaked at an unreasonable volume every time I would move and calling me a fidgety sleeper is certainly an understatement.

After checking in we set off to make our travel plans. We began where many adventures begin, at the local sporting goods store. It was actually the local branch of the store I had just ceased to be an employee of. Naturally I enquired if my employee discount was still valid, it was not. I then proceeded to pick the brain of the local fishing counter gents as I had recently purchased a fly rod and was itching to try it out. One of them jumped at the chance to help us and immediately named off several useful flies by name, as well as a few useful lures for the small spin caster rod I was going to buy for Erin. To his expert knowledge I replied with a blank stare, I had never heard of these hooks before. Bless him and his patience he walked me around the store showing me what I needed, Erin and I then asked about good local camping spots and it was decided we should go to Cowichan River to camp.

After another long night of me attempting not to move and create a bed creek that sounded like cats fighting over a coyote call, we set off to our campsite. Again the drive was wonderful and scenic and naturally I got a little lost trying to find it. We eventually found it and set up our tent. We then set off to the edge of the river and began casting our new gear. My casting skill was certainly… lacking. After standing in the icy water and not catching much I considered the possibility the spot was not the best for fishing.

Me doing an impression of a fly fisherman

Me doing an impression of a fly fisherman

It was then agreed that we should drive off to the nearby lake to try out our recently purchased inflatable kayak. Again I managed to get us frustratingly lost but Erin with her perseverance and patience, the kind required to date a man like me, got us to location. We unloaded all the fishing gear that was on top of the rolled up kayak and began attempting to build and inflate it. It is worth mentioning that it did not come with instructions and those things are surprisingly complex. After a lot of time confused we noticed a few rather large cuts along the side that prevented inflation, I presume a packing error in the plant. So with sadness in our hearts we packed it back into the truck and drove to the camp site for dinner, liquor, and roasted marshmallows. Which are pretty much all anyone needs at the end of a difficult day.

 

Erin making a gourmet dinner

Erin making a gourmet dinner

After dinner I excused myself to the washroom on the other side of the camp site. On the way back I sparked up a conversation with two of the campground’s staff members who were cleaning up debris on another campsite. I have a habit of talking to strangers, but don’t worry, I developed this habit as an adult. As with most of my conversations it eventually led around to my love of fishing and eventually me asking them if they had any suggestions for where I should fish. They told me of a great spot within 50 yards of where I had been fishing before. The catch is that those 50 yards were composed of a rather cold, deep, and fast running river. Lucky for me they gave me directions to the spot that involved a bridge.

Late that night I awoke from a dead sleep and shot up in my sleeping bag to ask Erin if she had put her fishing rod back in the truck after we had failed to construct the kayak. We then promptly searched the truck and found it was not there. I could picture it in my head clearly. We…ok I… had left it leaning gently against a short wooden post at the lake, I blame our grief over the premature death of our kayak for our forgetful behavior.

The next morning we drove to the lake to retrieve our lost fishing rod, of course it was nowhere to be found. Some lucky individual had just found themselves a beautiful fishing rod with less than half a dozen casts on it, my only hopes are that they needed it and made good use of it.

We then drove to the trailhead of our fishing spot. I packed the essentials in my big orange backpack: camera, fly rod, fly reel, flies, chest waders, snacks, water, and beer… Erin also made sure I brought sunscreen. We then set off on our voyage through the pines. It was a beautiful mossy path filled with thick trunked trees.

Big downed tree on the trail

Big downed tree on the trail

We found the fishing spot, a little gravel island with rushing water on one side and a nearly stagnant, deep, crystal clear pool on the other. We walked atop mossy logs and muddy ledges to get around to a fallen tree that led us to the island our own little piece of paradise. Erin promptly lied down a towel and relaxed in the sun while I did my best to cast my fly rod. It wasn’t pretty but the hook was landing away from me and some days that is all it takes to feel good. Erin took a brief break from relaxing to put on my oversized waders and try her hand at fly fishing. Her first casts were certainly better than my first casts, but in the end she decided to just lay back and soak up some sun. Most of the morning went on like this occasionally interrupted by a sip of beer, or our staring at a nearby family of otters.

 

My best angle

My best angle

Erin showing me how its done

Erin showing me how its done

 

Family of otters

Family of otters

 

No fish were caught until later in the day when I opted to remove the waiters and stand on the far side of the 20 meter island away from Erin. She was fast asleep camera in her hands when I watched my fly sink into a deep pocket of water and my rod bounced excitedly at the tip. I began pulling in line and almost died of laughter when I pulled out a fish the size of my index finger. I called to my companion to come get a picture, but between the water flowing and her snoring I doubted she could hear me. I began walking towards her barefoot on the gravel. I quickly realized that at that pace both, the fish and I would expire before I got to her. So I released my miniature catch without ever having photo evidence of it. I resumed casting optimistically in the same location and sure enough my rod bounced with excitement again and I pulled out an absolute monster this one was nearly the size of my middle finger. In my laughing shame I carefully placed the fish in the water and slowly walked back to Erin with the awkward hilarious mosey that only walking barefoot on gravel can provide. I told my recently awakened partner all about the pair of monster fish I had caught. We then decided that we best start heading back to camp and start to prepare for the long drive home the next day. The drive home was just as wonderful and scenic but that being said I still opted to let Erin drive while I slept. It was a wonderful trip and I would do it again any day but it was certainly nice to be home.


Posted in Fishing, Travelwith no comments yet.

Fishing On a Whim

This past summer Erin and I had gone on a camping trip to the Pembina River with some friends. As some of you may or may not know the big draw with the Pembina River is that you can rent tubes and lazily float down it. This was our plan, one of our friends had been kind enough to bring her camper so we could all just sleep in there. We parked at a campsite at the top of a hill which was pretty far from the river, in fact all weekend the weather had been so poor we had only looked at the river… from a distance… during a break from the rain. It was a rainy weekend that was only salvaged by good food and good company, honestly with my grumpy disposition I didn’t play much of a hand in either.

We planned on tubing down the river on the last day if the weather was good. It was not, so we decided to pack it in and head home early. Erin and I had driven ourselves there and at the turn to come onto highway 16, Erin was driving I dared her to drive us to Jasper for a day of hiking. She called me on it and we drove towards the mountains and then changed our minds as we remembered we had none of our hiking gear… So sadly we headed toward the city. On the way the weather broke and it was starting to get nice out, then we saw the sign for Wabamun Lake and decided to try out Erin’s new fishing gear and her new inflatable Kayak. I’m the old school kind of guy that just doesn’t trust anything inflatable, so it took a bit of convincing on Erin’s part.

We pumped up the boat, threw it in the water and set off on its maiden voyage, fishing gear in hand. I gotta say, that little inflatable kayak impressed me, I didn’t expect it to be able to support two people, in fact I vaguely recall telling Erin I thought it was a silly purchase. It not only held both of us with fishing gear it felt more stable than my old fiberglass canoe, I made the mistake of saying this when Erin could hear me, naturally her victory was rubbed in… Also in classic Erin fashion she out-fished me nearly to the point of embarrassment. It was madness just pike after pike. I do take some comfort in knowing that it was with a rod and hook that I had selected and purchased for her, but it did still hurt the ol pride a bit.

Check out the video here on my youtube channel


Posted in Fishing, Videowith no comments yet.

Treed

I am still pretty new to bear hunting, I get the basic concept, but its still pretty new and exciting to me. This past week my dads neighbor asked me if I wanted to come with him to his bear bait. I of course said “yes” and promptly headed to his nearby house via my dads side-by-side ATV. As I pulled up I noticed that Ken, the neighbor, had a trailer hooked to his quad which had in it three large pails and a fifty pound sack of oats. I was now starting to have suspicions of why a young guy like me was invited to “come see” the bear bait. Work or not I was still interested. I followed Ken down a long dirt trail, we then hopped off of our ATV’s, he loaded an old defender shotgun and I geared up with my bow just in case I saw something. We first hauled the pails in and Ken filled the drum with old grease and nasty old food.  We then walked the short jaunt back to the quads to grab the sack of oats for me to carry in. Ken did offer to carry it if I got tired, but I’m too bull headed to accept help. We filled the barrel and this time remembered the key for the trail camera, only to discover that the camera had failed to take any pictures.

Ken then looked at me and said “Wanna sit for a half hour?” I jumped at that chance. We climbed up the tree stand at about 7:45 pm and sat for about fifteen minuted before we heard some crunching behind us. I slowly looked over my right shoulder and saw a nice black bear walking towards us. Ken saw it too and we gave each other a bit of a grin and looked back at the bear walking towards the bucket left right under our stand then gave each other another smile, but a bit more nervous this time. The bear walked right between the tree and the ladder for our stand and began chewing on and playing with a green bucket we had used to transport old grease for bait, after about five minuted of chewing and playing the bear decided it was his now and promptly took it with him in the wilderness.

Ken and I had a great laugh at watching the lime green bucket disappear into the woods and trust me there are few thing that make as much noise as an empty plastic container brushing against trees. We sat and waited for a bit longer when suddenly an adorable little cinnamon coloured bear appeared at the bait and simply started eating, the cinnamon bear must have been a little smarter since he made it all the way to the bait.

The little cinnamon bear didn’t do much exciting, just had a bit to eat. It was about this time that the bucket thief came back to see what else there was to play with and sure enough he found the rope hanging from our tree stand. He bopped it a few times and then began to climb the tree, I had to think fast to try and remember if bears are good climbers, as best I can recall there are a few pictures online of bears inside tree stands. I opted to let Ken know there was a situation on my side of the stand. We immediately stood up and yelled at him which spooked him back about ten meters for about five minutes then he came back and started batting around branches and logs. He did a half hearted bluff charge towards the tree so Ken decided to show me just how amazingly loud that little defender shotgun is… Once my ears quit ringing I told him how impressed I was with the noise. Sadly the bear was barely phased (haha puns are fun) by the thunderous sound.

The cinnamon bear near the bait had somewhat retreated into the woods and the black bear simply seemed to lose interest in us. The cinnamon bear resumed eating and the black bear slowly worked its way toward the bait and eventually evicted the cinnamon bear. That black bear proceeded to stuff his face at the bait for nearly an hour. It was starting to get dark so Ken and I began yelling at the bear and waving our arms etc. According to Ken, who is quite knowledgeable about bears, they usually get scared and leave once they realize you’re human. This bear.. not so much, we would yell, it would look at us, and then keep eating. We fired some buckshot in its general direction, again to try and scare it off so we could leave, it stood up, looked at us, and resumed eating. We were stuck in a tree with a shotgun and a bow and it was getting dark, yet somehow all we could do was laugh hysterically… or nervously at the situation.

I was debating shooting the bear, I had the tag, it would have been completely legal, but it was a small bear and I wasn’t fully prepped at home to deal with skinning and processing a bear. That said I do think a bear that isn’t afraid of gunfire and yelling might represent a threat to quaders and hikers in the area. We debating the pros and cons of shooting the adorable little bear, and yes the fact that bears are pretty cute came into play. Our eventual plan boiled down to me going first out of the stand while he covered me with the shotgun at which point he would lower it down to me and climb down himself.

Just as we began to execute this plan the bear decided he was full and wandered away… good! Problem solved. I climbed down, knocked an arrow into my bow just in case, and Ken climbed down and loaded his shotgun as fast as he could. Once on the ground I noticed that both the bears we had seen that day were in sight and withing about a forty yard radius, luckily they still seemed pretty disinterested in us. We walked back to the quads and headed for home. By the time it was all said and done we had made it out of the tree stand a little after ten pm, meaning our half hour stretched to the neighborhood of 2.5 hours. But hey… It was totally worth it. I was also very disappointed to find that my video camera hadn’t been recording audio, its still new to me and honestly I dont think it has that function.


Posted in Archery, Hunting, Videowith 1 comment.

Bear Hunting And How It Got Me Hooked

This is my first post since starting this site, so I thought it would be appropriate to tell you all how it started. I found my love for writing as a result of a bear hunt. I had such a thoroughly good time that I felt the need to tell the story over and over to friends and family. One night at about three AM I was so “taken by the spirit” that I shot out of bed and wrote the tale of my adventure in a single sitting. I then sent it to a coworker who seemed to enjoy it and suggested I submit it to the Alberta Outdoorsmen. I laughed at the idea but other people who read it suggested it as well, so I sent it. To my amazement I was told it would be published. It was put into the September 2013 issue (which I’m sure had record sales as a result of my mother and I buying everyone we know a copy). You can read the published version and also take a look at their other content. Below is my original (somewhat longer) version.

 

 

It’s strange the things you learn from the situations you put yourself in. For only a few years now I have been a self proclaimed hunter. My repertoire however is quite limited; grouse, deer, a lot of gophers. For quite a while I had been day dreaming about hunting a bear, it always looked like fun and I am inexplicably fond of bear skin rugs, this desire for one is not shared by my girlfriend. For some reason this winter I decided that a spring bear hunt would be worked into my schedule. It was possibly spurred along by working in a hunting store and having too much time to daydream.

Over the winter I had purchased a new bow and thought it would be a good tool for the job. I could picture it now… me in a tree stand… at full draw… waiting for a big bear to turn just right… and  thunk! This is what I wanted. So I began asking around, as I stated I work at a hunting store, so I asked my co-workers with known experience with bears. I got the basic information; set up a tree stand and bait near a swampy area with trees, chain the bait barrel to the tree, cut holes in it just too small for a paw to fit in it. This seemed reasonable and I was looking forward to the set up which I planned to do near my father’s house. As time went by school and work continually got in the way, as they tend to do. Finally after three weeks into hunting season, I still had no bait out, I got two days off and these were, as far as I was concerned, for hunting. I bought my wildlife certificate and my bear license and tags, but if I wanted to afford the gas to get there and back I couldn’t buy the bow license. I wasn’t quite competent enough with a bow anyway, following an angry wounded bear into the woods as a result of a poor arrow shot is certainly on my list of nightmares. I guess this hunt was my old Marlin 30-30’s chance to shine. Unfortunately my father’s schedule did not match mine, instead I went to a friend of mines house. Troy is his name and we have been friends for years and when it comes to wildlife, his land always seems to have it. I arrived at Troy’s on Monday, the first of my days off, we began the day by going for a quad ride to find bait. Beavers I was told make excellent bait and cause problems in the area. So the plan, I was informed by my “guide”, was to go shoot a beaver to use as bear bait.

So there we were, sitting… me with my 30-30 and him with a more task appropriate .22 magnum, staring at sizeable beaver dam and lodge. The whole time all I could do was question the morality, and a little the legality, of shooting an animal simply to use it as bait for another animal. On the other hand I was told they are a pest. After some time sitting quietly and no action a plan was built, “I’ll pull apart the dam, he’ll come out and we’ll get a shot at him, hold my gun” and he was off and standing in the middle of this dam pulling logs and tossing them aside. My moral question got a little bigger, we are now wrecking the beaver’s hard work to lure him out, and all I could picture was two hooligans pulling siding off my house to lure me out to be shot.  Luckily for me my moral qualms needed not be answered that day as it was still spring and that beaver dam was frozen solid after the first few inches so that plan was scrapped and my dreams of shooting a bear seemed to shrink a bit more. We went back to the house to formulate a new plan and have a bite to eat. After a few delays, such as dinner and my distraction by Troy’s newest additions to the gun safe, I figured our best bet for bait that we had on hand were cans of tuna, plenty of fishy smelling juice what’s not to like? It was now dark outside (I don’t understand where the day went) me, being determined, made my “guide” take me to where his treestand was already set. We were not setting bait for predators in the middle of the night, even at the time it felt like a bad idea. Looking around the area it was perfect I thought, nice slope along a cutline with some brush piles and a swamp, what more could a bear want?  I was told the tree stand was on the other side of the small swamp about 50 to 70 yards away from where we had nailed two tuna cans to fence posts and the third to a tree. All I had to do now was come back in the morning and carefully cross the supposedly small and shallow swamp to the nearby tree stand and wait.

After lying sleepless and uncomfortable for a few hours on a leather couch slightly too small for me, the morning finally came. I fired up my truck and drove off alone toward the hunting spot. I left my tuck just outside the entrance to the cut line only a few hundred yards up hill from the “bait”. Upon my arrival a few things came to my attention; 1. It had rained that night so that nice fish smell likely didn’t go far 2. The swamp was much larger and deeper looking than I had been led to believe and there was no easy way around it 3. I have never been accused of being a good judge of distance but that 70-yards-away-treestand was closer to 200, a lot farther than I can push that 30-30. My doubts increased but I was already there and didn’t want to make myself a liar as I had already told people I was going bear hunting, I actually am that proud/petty. I decided to make myself comfortable, kind of, on a small brush pile between the “bait” and the swamp. It was comfortable…ish and I had a good view of the make shift bait but to see the swamp I had to look over my shoulder, several logs, and willow trees.

I sat for a few hours questioning most of my life’s choices most notably my poor planning skills in regards to hunting. Occasionally my thoughts would be broken by the sounds of squirrels making large amounts of noise in the bushes. I occasionally checked the clouds moving in, it was chilly and overcast and rain looked imminent. There I sat on a miserably overcast day starring at a tuna can nailed to a post for hours on end, slowly losing faith in myself as a hunter, wonder if maybe I should just stick to the gun range… or video games. When over my left shoulder I hear a splash, I look, it’s a bear coming right toward me and my bait. It’s beautiful, graceful, majestic, walking towards me… WALKING TOWARDS ME.  It hits me, my heart it pounding, it’s a bear, 20 yards away and ground level, eye to eye, it doesn’t see me but I’m sure it smells me, or at least my fear, I can taste my fear, that unmistakable metallic taste that screams “YOU’RE ALIVE! RUN! FIGHT! DO SOMETHING FAST!” The only thing protecting me from a mangled death on a brush pile is some logs and my old Marlin. I take aim behind the shoulder just like I know I should, it’s him or me, BANG! My old gun never sounded so loud, the bear yelps, curls, rolls, and runs into the bush, crash bang crack, that sound that only breaking trees can make, I can barely hear it over my pounding heart. I immediately run the action on my gun, for all I know the bear is injured, mad and knows where I am. I wait 5 minutes motionless, listening, I hear nothing but my heart, a good sign I hope. I dig through my pack, hands shaking, looking for my phone, no signal. I get up, slowly, and walk along the cutline to my truck, slowly, all the while watching the woods for movement and doing the best to stop my heart from coming out of my chest. I reach the truck still no service on my phone, I want someone else here if I go into the woods after that thing. I jump up on the tool box of my truck, finally, some service I call Troy, no answer, three times no answer. I decide to send him a text “Shot a bear. Get here quick… bring a gun” I’d have liked to have seen his reaction to that text. I got the text out but I don’t know if he will get it anytime soon or what he’s doing. I load another bullet into the tube magazine on my gun, I guess I’m going in solo. I walk back and start to track slowly and cautiously I’m no more than a dozen steps in when I hear the soothing sound of a diesel engine, good, this hunt got slightly safer. We begin again and he immediately spots a trail of water and blood, as I had shot the bear in a shallow swamp there was a heavy water trail too. 50 yards in we find it collapsed and dead. It’s a male, and he sure looks smaller now that he isn’t walking towards me. I am not comforted by the fact that based on his final run, had he wanted to he could have easily made it to me before expiring from his wounds, which I might add were perfectly placed through his chest in the right and out the left.

In my excitement, very few photos were taken

I understand now why people hunt dangerous game, I have never felt so alive as when I looked down those iron sights, heart pounding so hard I can feel it in my ears, taking a deep breath to steady and squeezing that trigger, hoping my shot is true because at this point it is all that can save me. But I think for the sake of my mother and my girlfriend, in the future I’ll use a tree stand, but some small part of me wants to try it again, but with a bow, just to see.

I now have a lovely bearskin rug


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