© By Othmar Vohringer
“In a dramatic effort anglers rescued a young black tail deer from certain death by drowning on stormy Harrison Lake.”
Little did Sacha Szymczak, a local fishing guide and hunter from the Fraser Valley, know when he woke up that morning that he would end up saving the life of a young deer in a dramatic rescue operation. On that fateful morning Sacha and his friends Dave Donaldson, Dave Henry and Tom Gould, all avid anglers and hunters, decided that they would go fishing on the Lillooett River via Harrison Lake despite the windy conditions. Was it an intuition that led to the decision to go fishing on that miserable day?
Szymczak had this to say about the conditions on the lake: “The ride up Harrison Lake left something to be desired. Rather choppy on the back half, and I may need to have a few fillings repaired from all the jostling around. Even with the suspension seats in my boat, it was rough.” Despite choppy water the fishing was quite good; Sacha reports that they managed to catch a few trout with their fly rods before they headed back across a now even stormier lake with wind gusts strongly blowing.
The fishing party of four was about half way across the lake when one of the two Dave’s suddenly asked “What’s that up ahead of us in the water?” It could have been a wooden log or any other object that had been blown by the wind onto the lake. But as they got closer it was apparent that the object in the water was moving – in circles. This could be an animal and so Szymczak steered the boat closer to the moving object and it soon became oblivious that it was a deer trying to swim across Harrison Lake.
Sacha said that this was not uncommon, he had observed on numerous occasions deer swimming across the lake but this was different. This deer wasn’t swimming - it was struggling to keep its head above the water’s surface. This young deer was at the end of its strength and only seconds away from death by drowning.
The four fishermen knew they had to act quickly. Sacha carefully steered the boat alongside the deer, which was treading water and listing heavily to one side. The four fishermen decided that they would attempt to rescue the deer rather than letting it die by drowning.
“I was a bit nervous about bringing a live deer into my boat, so I had my buddies ready with some rope to hobble the deer, but in the end it wasn't needed, as she had no energy left.” said Sacha. Once the deer was in the boat it just laid there panting heavily and unable to move from exhaustion. On the way to the lakeshore the men took turns in massaging the little deer and drying it off with their own shirts in order to keep the blood in the tiny body circulating. The men chose to bring the deer to the opposite side of the lake to where they had to go because that is where the deer presumably had come from. Arriving at the shore the men proceeded to lift the deer out of the boat and bring it a ways up the bank into the bushes to a dry and wind sheltered spot.
The men stayed with the deer for a bit watching it from a distance to make sure it recovered fully from its near death ordeal. Szymczak said “I would have liked to make sure she was able to get up and walk away under her own power but I thought that the stress of us big fellas hanging around her for the time that we did was enough for this little girl.” The four fishermen also had to get back and across the lake before the storm got heavier and with that perhaps jeopardize their own safety. About half way back across the wind suddenly died down completely making the lake surface appear like a mirror. “This was perhaps the calmest ride I have had on the lake in recent history. I like to think it was Karma.”
It may come as a surprise to some people that hunters, often portrayed as heartless killers by those with a political agenda to end hunting, go out of their way to rescue an animal. However this does not come as a surprise to hunters themselves or to wildlife conservation officers. Hunters are known for their deep-rooted conservation tradition and have been very active in wildlife rescue and habitat protection for centuries.
Images by Sacha Szymczak. Exclusive publishing rights by Othmar Vohringer
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