© By Othmar Vohringer
On Saturday morning Ernie, my wife’s cousin’s husband and my hunting partner, drove the three-hour trip to Merritt to check on our hunting cabin and do a bit of scouting. From the highway in Merritt
we drove another 40km (24.8 miles) on logging roads through the wilderness until we arrived at our hunting location.
Whenever I come to this part of the country it’s like being in a different world were time has no meaning. There is no sound of civilization - even airplanes don’t fly over that area – all you can hear is the birds singing and the humming of insects. The reason why there are no other hunters in that area is because it is to far off the beaten track and it is quite rough and hilly country to hike as you can see in the pictures below.
We arrived in the mid afternoon after spending an hour or so removing an illegal roadblock made up of big boulders and tree trunks. We encountered that roadblock last year but due to the lack of equipment needed we just could remove some of it so the Jeep could pass through. This time we came armed with pulleys, a come-along, a winch, ropes and chainsaws among other tools like shovels and pickax. Armed like that the roadblock had no chance of withstanding our onslaught.
On we went to where the bumpy wilderness road ends and big bucks begin. A short, one mile hike up the steep hill and we stood in front of our hunting cabin – actually it is a homemade type of wall tent. It seems the cabin survived last year’s harsh winter in very good condition. The only damage we could find was at the back of it where a young bear, judging from the claw marks on the wall, shredded the plastic window. By the time we fixed the window and a few other minor things it was time to go for an evening walk to see what game animals we could find.
Just a few short steps from the camp I spooked three mule deer, two does and one very huge buck. I did not see the buck’s antlers in full, but judging from the little I did see and the way he swayed his head from side to side in order to get his head through the brush it’s safe to assume he is a monster. As we walked through a cut with lots of blown down trees it became quickly apparent that this is a preferred bedding area for the deer as we encountered bed after bed and lots of smaller rubs.
After investigating this cut a bit more we saw lots of fresh deer droppings and Ernie spooked another good-sized buck. We were quite pleased with what we had seen so far but what was to come was even more pleasing if not remarkable. Walking along a forest edge we saw a big cow moose with a calf not 30 yards from us grazing in the remains of the fading daylight. Since it was getting darker we decided to walk in a circle back to our camp and by doing so we came through an area that we had not hunted last year.
In this new area we also found plenty of deer sign that confirmed our knowledge that the whole area is home to some very large mule deer bucks. To our surprise we also found lots of bear sign such as scat and clawing marks on deadfall trees. Since we usually hunt in that area during the November rut, when bears hibernate, we had no clue that there are so many bears in that area. Seeing all that bear sign led to the decision to hunt during the bear fall season too and not only in the deer rut. We also found plenty of evidence of a growing moose population in the area and we’re exited about that -we always knew that there were some moose in the area but it seems that the population has grown quite a bit from the past years. Up to now we only can harvest a cow or calf moose, but if the heard is growing like it appears to be doing then we hope that there soon will be a bull moose season too. We did not seen any bulls but we did see plenty of evidence that whatever bulls are in the area might very well be of trophy standard.
By the time we came back to the cabin it was pitch black and we made good us of the GPS with it’s illuminated screen which led us back quite accurately. However, never completely trusting modern electronic gadgets I make it a habit of also carrying an ordinary compass with me in the woods. And a good habit it is because once we got back to the camp the GPS screen went blank and the flashing warning “Low Battery” was blinking -then the screen went completely dark. Back home I had meant to take spare batteries with me but then I forgot them, which just goes to show that you don’t want to rely 100% on electronics that rely on (having!) batteries. Without a working GPS or a compass it would have been a very long night looking for a cabin hidden in the middle of a dense and very large woodlot.
That night I couldn’t fall asleep which is very unusual since normally I am sound asleep the very instant my head hits the pillow. Wide awake I lay on the bunk in a cozy sleeping bag gazing through the skylight at a clear night sky where millions of stars sparkled while listening to sounds of nature. Far off in the distance I heard a coyote singing and a second later another coyote much closer to the cabin answered him back. I wondered what they had to say to each other. A mouse was squeaking under the floorboard obviously happy to be in a coyote-safe place. The nightly serenade of sounds continued with owl hoots and a deer bleat. From the direction of the bog I heard a moose answering another moose so far away that my ears could not hear it. Next was a loon calling out probably disturbed in its sleep by the moose. Listening to the nightly wildlife and nature serenade I finally fell asleep dreaming of happy hunting.
The first beam of sunlight early in the morning entering the skylight woke me up. After breakfast and a steaming hot cup of black coffee I was ready to explore the area some more. Ernie and I hiked on Sunday morning at least 15 miles, exploring and scouting the vast wilderness around the camp. The morning and afternoon produced still more wildlife sightings and signs and put us in a great mood as we anticipated the upcoming hunting season. Eventually we had to turn back and pack up our camp but we were pretty enthusiastic with such a promising looking hunting area thoroughly scouted out. On our drive out we visited a few remote lakes to check out the fishing potential. Another hour’s drive later and civilization had us in its iron grip with maddening traffic on the highway. Early evening saw me tired but very happy and refreshed back home in the arms of my loving wife. I am ready and energized to face the rigors of everyday life while dreaming of the upcoming November, and possibly October, hunt. There only remains one thing to do and that is to get my butt out to the shooting range and finally shoot my brand new Weatherby Vanguard rifle in.
Here are a few photos from the trip. Enjoy!
The quaint frontier town of Merritt, British Columbia, on the horizon behind the hills is where our hunting territory begins with miles of wilderness seemingly untouched by humans.
Where roads end big bucks begin. This is the end of the road -from here on in its on foot or horseback only.
This is what the area we hunt looks like. Dense forest with open areas created by logging and brush fires. The perfect habitat for mule deer, bears and other wildlife.
Ernie is glassing a hillside across a valley looking for wildlife and possible hunting spots to stalk a mule deer buck this November.
This is the beginning of a steep and long hike to our hunting cabin.
This is the rub that got me hooked on this hunting location. I found a lot more rubs like this one last November. Only very large deer are able to “skin” a good-sized tree like this one in such a manner.
This is one of many rubs and rub lines we found this year. It is signs like these that tells an experienced hunter a lot about the trophy quality of bucks in a hunting area.
Here is the stunner of this years scouting trip. This is a rub made by a very large bull moose. Look at the height the rub is at: Ernie is about 6ft. and with outstretched arms he still cannot reach the top of the rub. This gives you a good idea of how large the bull moose that made this particular rub is. Monster is the expression that comes to mind here. As mentioned in the article above, in this area bull moose cannot be harvested, only moose cows and calves. However if the moose population keeps growing and at the same rapid pace it has over the last few years that might soon change and I’ll be ready to go after the bulls that make rubs like that.
Tags: Merritt, British Columbia, Scouting, Wilderness, Mule Deer,Moose, Bears, Coyote, wildlife, Hunting, Rutting Season