Hunting in the Rugged Mountains
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
57Trip End May 2010
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Hunting is a big tradition in both our families and Det and Sally (Ben's folks) have been hunting up in this area for decades. Therefore, we were pleased to partake in this tradition, learn about the area, and spend quality time with our families (Lindsey's dad, Allen, came too!).
Chris carrying a massive moose thigh to the pack horses. This northerner is one tough guy!
First, we have to set the tone of the trip by telling you a little about the man who accompanied us: Chris. Chris is a friend of the family from Fort St. John (about 90 miles or 150 km south of Pink Mountain) who has 10 horses, and has lived and hunted the area all his life. Chris and his wife Sandra, also a lifetime local, live on a large, family-owned plot along with their darling daughter, Kira, and are both quite entrepreneurial. In addition to being a teacher, Sandra teaches dog agility a couple nights a week and has the most impressive garden I've ever seen. Chris used to be a hunting guide but now helps set up oil refineries and uses his past welding experience to build amazing structures on their property. When he's out on a hunt, he's not just hunting game, he also collects fossils as the area is ripe with millions of ancient artifacts.
He also happens to be a very talented artist. He collects antlers and horns and turns them into great works of art. For example, he can sculpt out of a moose palm an entire three-dimensional scene of a bull elk standing proudly on a hillside with spruce trees scattered about. The detail is so intricate; you can tell Chris has spent years studying these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.
Now more about Chris. He's a character in the highest degree. He is good natured, has hundreds of jokes ready to pull out for any instant, appropriate or not :), and loves his food.
One of our desert staples was peanut butter and jam on a Walker's Oatcake. Most of us just had a light smearing, but Chris wanted his PB to be piled high!
Despite Chris' two-candy bar-a-day-and-never-say-no-to-an-extra-helping diet, he still managed to lose 4 lbs on the trip, putting him down to the last notch on his belt!
The best part about Chris was he was so much fun on the trip, like family really. An added bonus was he was so knowledgeable about the area and it's history, which really added to the richness of the experience.
The Halfway River area is a diverse, open, and rugged country full of beautiful animals. The excitement and beauty of these seeing, hearing and even smelling these animals in this rugged wilderness is an experience of a lifetime. Coyotes yelped from the poplar groves outside our camp, elk bugled at dawn and dusk from the surrounding hillsides, and wild buffalo mingled with the horses while they grazed outside our camp!
Here are some that we saw:
Some decades ago, guiding outfitter Lynn Ross imported plains (non-native) buffalo to the area. Since, these species of buffalo have made a tremendous adaption to the area and nearly 8000-9000 can be found here. Here's one bull of dozens we saw (and some were closer than we would have liked!).
Bull elk, actually taken from Jasper. We say many in the area where we hunted, but Jasper has some of the largest we've seen! One had 8 points!
Northern Goshawk. Lindsey and I witnessed the Goshawk's spectacular "rollercoaster" display and surprisingly gull-like calls. It's rare to spot these secretive forest birds and we got a kick out of watching this hawk for almost 15 minutes!
A pesky porcupine that hung around camp. Chris was worried he would come after all the saddles for dinner, so we sprayed the poor bugger with bear spray, which only made him cough a bit while he slowly made his way up a tree.
We also saw rams, caribou, moose, and a few of us saw bears. And this is just a fraction of amazing diversity of the area!
The Hunting - Gore and All
We practiced our elk bugle. In fact, it was from a bugle that we got our elk--Det called a six-point right out of a thick timber spruce forest during the rut!
Det and Chris "glassing" for animals from the hilltops
Some of the terrain we were glassing--we spotted several elk and three rams across the valley from here!
Leading the horses on a sneak around the hillside where several elk and moose were grazing
On day two of the hunt, Det spotted a legal moose and made his shot. The moose stood up after the first shot, and it took two more to take the critter down. When Det arrived at the kill, he was broken hearted to find his moose was standing in the only pond in the area. Det rolled up his sleeves, took off his pants, and got into the pond (up to his ginch as they say) and gutted and quartered the moose right there. Yes, you are looking at the moose's guts in this picture. Sorry.
Here's the meat from the kill
A day later, we (Det, Chris, Lindsey and Ben) returned to the kill to pack it back to camp. This required cutting unnecessary bones out of the meat, bagging it, and loading the packs onto horses. It was quite a rough ride back!
The moose antlers--this bull was still in velvet, very late in the season!
A few days later, Det found a perfect six-point (that's the regulations for hunting elk in the area), but he had to call him out of the spruce to see him and shoot him. When they bugled right over top of the elk's bugle, that sent the elk fuming out and Det got his shot. Here's his head--quite a spread on him, eh?
Thankfully, no grizzlies got to the meat of either kill. When we arrived at the elk, there was lots of VERY fresh grizz scat, but he missed the food. We took back the meat to camp and cooked delicious moose tenderloin for one meal and tasty elk ribs for the last night in camp.
Chris and Allen setting up with tripod to cook the elk ribs on
Ben sneaking in a fish face next to the newly hung ribs--a six-hour masterpiece of slow cooking!
While we waited for the ribs, we nibbled on stick meat, a Chris specialty
Here the ribs have been flipped and there just about an hour from being finished!
And they were oh so delicious! Lindsey looking like a crazed carnivore as she devours nearly one pound of meat on a bone.
Just to provide you with some perspective of how massive these ribs were--they don't even come close to fitting on a plate!
We are a rare type of hunting family. We hunt and travel more on foot than most hunters. However, without the horses, we wouldn't have been able to cross the same terrain across the mountain slopes and we wouldn't have been able to pack out the meat from each kill. These guys have personalities of their own and became an extension of the family.
The pack train
Captain tied up and ready to head out. He was the old, large, solid workhorse and was usually Ben's horse on trips.
The Tweedles. We never did learn which was Tweedle Dee and which was Tweedle Dumb, but they were often causing mischief (playing hard-to-catch, digging massive holes in the ground by our tent sites and jingling their cow bells in an incessant, unchanging ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling while tied up) when the rest of the pack stuck together and behaved.
Chris' horse, Seven, a tall purebred quarter horse, and the fastest in the pack. He set the pace and all the other horses in the string constantly ran to keep up with him.
Daffodil. Lindsey's horse. The smallest horse of the group, but he was the only one who could keep up with Seven on the trails without having to break into a trot. That doesn't mean he wasn't constantly fighting with Lindsey to trot anyway though! This horse was bought at an auction for $100 for dog food because he was sorely mistreated and in bad shape, but Chris and Sandra nursed him back to health and he became one of the best horses in the string. Lindsey developed a special bond with Daffodil, often giggling with him as he nudged her for a bite of her sandwich or pushed her over in a desperate plea for a rub on the head.
The horses hanging out just outside of camp, carelessly intermixed with a herd of buffalo.
We also took in a quad, borrowed from one of Allen's friends in Jackson, WY, to help haul out the meat on the road out from camp. It also was our saving grace in getting Allen out without further injuring his torn bicep, swollen knee, and saddle injuries!
When we weren't out hunting, we enjoyed a cushy camp life setup. Between Chris (the ex-welder), Allen (the ex-architect), and Det (the not-so-ex-builder), we had all the comforts made: mess tent with table for cutting and food prep, tables and chairs around the constantly roaring fire, latrines, etc. Life wasn't all that rough out there!
Lindsey and her dad, Allen, fished the river just outside camp
Enjoying a game of cribbage
Sally and Det waiting for the next round of coffee to boil on the fire. Next to booze, coffee was up there as a camp staple!
It was so great to spend so much time with our families, see beautiful wildlife, eat great food, and just be outdoors. But more so, it was a chance to experience the excitement, the fear, the work and the dedication it takes to hunt these wild animals in relatively untouched wilderness. Having grown up hunting next to our fathers, it has given us a certain respect for the wild animals and their habitat in which we hunt. It has also given us a true understanding of the toil and rewards in hunting for this healthy and tasty meat which will feed our famillies for well into the next year.
It was a trip not to forget!
More pictures can be found here:
If you're interested in reading more on the area we went, this article paints a nice picture of what it's like up there!! :