Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Weekend of Hunting

© Othmar Vohringer

On November 24, I posted In Search Of Big Bucks. As my regular readers will remember this is the story of my hunting trip into the wilderness on British Columbia in pursuit of big racked mule deer. On that hunt I had a few opportunities to connect with big bucks and saw plenty of deer despite unpredictable weather. In the end I came home without ever having fired my rifle but promised to redeem myself.

Last Saturday (December 8) was the day I wanted to make good and at least shoot one buck with my new rifle. For this I chose a hunting region that had an “any buck” season. At this point, the last day of our hunting season, I lowered my standards from a trophy buck to any-buck-will-do. Heck, if shooting a doe at this time of the season would be legal I would have been happy with that too.

My hopes of hunting success soared sky high on Friday when my wife told me that she took a series of pictures of a group of deer, among them a huge eight-point buck, frolicking in a field not ten driving minutes from our home.

Exited, my wife told me the story of how she drove along the road when she spotted a few deer in a field, drove further up the road to turn around and come back to a narrow drive way where she could park the car and take a few pictures. Then she discovered the buck nearby watching the does and took a few pictures of him too. “That’s good news honey,” said I, “this means the rut is still in full swing.”


(Picture courtesy of Artemis Graphics & Design)

My wife decided a few days previously that she would make a weekend of hunting too. House hunting and photography subject hunting that is. (You can read about her “hunting” trip here.) She went to Merritt and Ernie and I went to Hope which is along the same route and so we decided that I would accompany my wife to Hope where we would all have breakfast together. After eating, a kiss and good wishes, I jumped into Ernie’s truck and we headed our way and my wife went her way.
Ernie and I left the highway and drove up some icy and bumpy logging roads toward our hunting area. Secretly I was worried about my wife because of the icy road conditions in the higher elevations. I know she is a very good and careful driver, but I still worried. It’s not her I don’t trust, it’s all the other road users and their habits that worries me more.

The moment we arrived at our hunting destination my hopes of succeeding with my plan sank to rock bottom. The snow was solid frozen into a layer of ice and each step sounded like when you step onto popcorn only much louder. How could anyone expect to see deer when they could hear our approach from a mile away? Still I did what every hunter would do who was determined; who knew, perhaps a love-sick buck would ignore the noise I made while walking on the frozen snow in search of him. I certainly had nothing to loose.
















(This is the condition that greeted us on our arrival. Ice and frozen snow that made walking difficult and noisy. The worst imaginable conditions to hunt deer.)

All was not lost though because Ernie’s daughter, 12-year-old Katerina accompanied us on this hunt. Katerina has shown an interest in nature and animals from an early age and more recently has voiced her desire to hunt. (Her plans for the future are to become a wildlife biologist.) Ernie took his .22 rifle along to hunt for grouse but all we wound up seeing was rabbit, coyote and cougar tracks. We decided at this point that now would be as good a time as any to give Katerina shooting lessons.

Ernie put a tin can up as a target, and handed the .22 rifle to Katerina. She had previously been thoroughly instructed on gun safety but had never shot a firearm before. Katerina aimed at the can from 2O yards away. The first shoot zipped through the air and with a metallic sound into the tin can.
Okay…
The first was a lucky shot. But when the second, the third, the fourth…the twentieth went into the tin can Ernie and I looked at each other knowing here was a natural talent at work. I could tell that Ernie was one proud papa.


(Katerina under the close guidance of her father carefully aims at the target, squeezes the trigger and the gun goes off and sends a bullet smack into the middle of the target. Well done Katerina. We were so proud of that young lady- a hunter in the making.)

After the shooting lesson was over it was time to head to a different location and try our luck there. We drove an hour west to Chilliwack where Ernie knew of an area that held a fairly good deer population. Unfortunately, it seemed that almost every other hunter knew this as well because on the drive in we encountered dozens of other hunters cruising the logging roads.
At several points along the road we found obvious evidence of recent hunting success in the form of disposed deer hides and guts- right out in the open. “Wow” was all I could say, not knowing that I was soon to make an even more eye-popping discovery.

About a half hour later we got out of the truck and I walked for about a mile to an overgrown clear cut that looked very promising. I keep telling myself that I would find my deer here. After sitting for an hour in the freezing cold on an elevated and windswept spot overlooking the clear cut without seeing any movement whatsoever, not even a bird or a squirrel, I admitted defeat. With cold and stiff fingers I pulled the radio out of my pocket and contacted Ernie to let him know that I had had about as much fun as I was prepared to have and would be on my way back to the truck. On the way back I chose a different direction, still somewhat hopeful that I might yet run into a buck. At least this area had no crunchy snow, which made walking much quieter.

About halfway back to the truck I became aware of the stench of rotting meat coming from a ravine. Following my nose I arrived at the source of this foul smell and my eyes almost popped out of their sockets. On the slope of the ravine I discovered a heap of bones, hides and guts. Closer examination revealed that this must be the remains of at least 50 animals. The remains were scattered for a long way down the ravine and consisted mainly of deer bones that led me to believe that this might have been the handy work of poachers. Then I discovered cattle and hog bones and that started to make it look more like the illegal dumping place for local meat processors- or maybe I should say clandestine meat processors.



























(The bone yard. This is an illegal animal remains dumping place, attracting a lot of predators and birds of prey. I have seen tracks of coyotes, bobcats and cougars. A bald eagle, buzzards and ravens were perched nearby in the trees waiting for me to go away so they could continue with their dinner party.)

When Ernie arrived at the truck I told him about my bone yard discovery. Katerina immediately was exited and wanted to see the bones. She asked me many questions about the individual bones and where they belonged in the skeleton of an animal. I told you she showed and interest in animals and nature from an early age and she is not squeamish at all. A few years ago I cut up a deer and she watched the entire procedure very carefully and asked questions about the anatomy and finally she asked if I could get the brain out of the skull so that she could have a look at it. Her parents agreed that if she keeps that interest up she could one day become a veterinarian or animal biologist.

I phoned up my wife from the truck but her cell phone was out of reach, which worried me instantly. I hate if my wife does not answer the phone because I worry too much about something happening. On the second try I got the answering message. Finally an hour later my wife phoned me to tell me in a chipper voice what a great day she had had and that she was about an hour behind us and would drive into Langley to pick me up from Ernie’s house. I am always glad to hear the voice of my wife but at that point it sounded like the most beautiful music in my ears.

We were all in Langley at about 8:00pm and on the way back home to Maple Ridge my wife told me of the many pictures she had taken of the beautiful landscapes, a cattle drive done by real cowboys on horseback, and of particular interest to me photos of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.


(Picture courtesy of Artemis Graphics & Design)

Now if I were so inclined I could get flat out jealous. So far my wife has had the better hunting season then I. She has shot, with the camera, one buck in velvet during the early season, then a black bear near our home and three blacktail deer on the same day and now she just shot the classic British Columbia trophy: a Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. I am not jealous of her success, quite the opposite; I am proud and very happy for her. You can read all about my wife's adventure of that weekend on her blog.

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4 comments:

SimplyOutdoors said...

I loved seeing the youngster shooting the gun in the picture. Kids getting involved in the shooting sports is so awesome. In this day and age we need more of them to get involved.

Sweet, sweet.

Kristine said...

First of all, way to go Katrina. I'm so glad she has you and her father to encourage her. Sounds like she has the makings of a great hunter in her.

I'm sorry you didn't get your buck, but it sounds like it was a good day despite that.

Matt said...

Good post. The shooting lesson is a great example of how to make a hunt fun for kids even when they don't see game (live game that is.)

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you all for the comments. Yes it was a joy seeing Katrina shouldering that little .22 rifle for the first time.

Over the years I have made it a tradition to assist young and novice hunters with their first steps. Watching them evolving and learning fills me with pride and a feeling that our hunting heritage will be in good hands.

The North American hunting heritage that enables everybody, regardless of income and social status, to take part is unique in the world. My commitment is to keep it that way for future generations.

-ov-

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