Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Pheonix Turns 10!


Since she was 6 shes been begging us to let her hunt. In BC though the legal age to hunt is 10. So every spring and every fall, out we would go hunting and Pheonix begging us the entire time to let her hunt. So obviously she was on the countdown until she turned 10, which was the beginning of May 2018. In December we allowed her to do her hunter education course, but the paperwork could not be sent until it was closer to her birthday. She passed her hunters education and we sent her papers in a week before her birthday. The day after her birthday, she received her hunter number and congratulations from the BCWF- she was now allowed to hunt and it was spring bear season! To say she was excited is an understatement.

The first day she could hunt, we took her out. Easton decided to stay with Oma and Papa decided to hop in the jeep with us. We came to a road that Kyle and I had seen a blonde black bear and he dropped Pheonix and I off to walk it. He stayed parked and watched us in the binos. Pheonix and I didn't get very far down the road before I told her to stop, there on the side of the road about 150 yards ahead of us was a bear. He seen us and was sitting on his backend eating grass. He wasn't worried. I told her to stay put and I walked out so I could get a better look at him. I put my binos up and was watching him, she made her way over to me quietly and sat down. Unbeknownst to me, Kyle had seen me react to the bear and knew I had my sights on one and was making his way to us. He came up beside us and got really excited, which got Pheonix excited. He was getting her to get her rifle ready on the shooting sticks....I told him No, its not the right bear. He kind of brushed me off and said its a huge bear, it has no hump I already looked. So more sternly I said to him No Kyle! Look at its face...look at its head...its a Grizzly! He rolled his eyes, and looked through his rifle scope for a better look (has a higher power than our binoculars), after a minute or so he told Pheonix to put her rifle down. Mom was right. It was a massive grizzly bear. We sat and watched him for a few minutes as the great brute got off his butt and waddled up the road and off into the bush. He was so fat he had no hump!
When we got back to the jeep Kyle apologized for not listening to me, he was just overexcited with the idea Pheonix might have got a monster black bear for her first big game animal.

Our next outing we found a beautiful black bear really early in the evening. Kyle and Pheonix jumped out and pulled a stalk on it. They got within range and Pheonix got set up, after a minute the bear spooked off and they came back to the jeep. I asked what happened and Pheonix quietly said she left her clip in the jeep. She was upset, but she learned a lesson! We seen 3 more bears after that (all cinnamons) but they didn't stick around for her.


We ended up getting a bunch of rain for a week straight, so on the first break we got we headed out. We went back into our favourite bear area, the same area she forgot her clip, and things seemed pretty quiet. We decided to go down a road we don't normally travel, but we had seen 3 cinnamon bears in that area before so figured we would give it a shot. We slowly drove down keeping a close eye out. Suddenly, Kyle stops the jeep and is staring at a pile of rocks. I asked what he was staring at and he said there's a bear behind it, sure enough all we seen was a black ear moving behind the pile and he threw the jeep in reverse. He parked us a ways back down the road and he and Pheonix jumped out and went back down towards the bear. I stayed with Easton at the jeep. Everything was saturated and mosquitoes filled the air. As we sat in the jeep they swarmed around, trying to find a way in. I felt bad for Kyle and Pheonix, they had to have been getting eaten alive. I watched Kyle and Pheonix disappear out of view and I got out of the jeep to listen. It took a while before the gun shot. Apparently they set up 9 - 10 times before taking the shot. The bear had a sow with him and they moved around a lot, so they had to constantly move to stay in range. Kyle would help her adjust her shooting sticks to where she needed them, I guess she was quite bossy about what she wanted haha! Eventually a gun shot rung out into the evening air. I slowly started to walk down the road a bit and seen Kyle, he motioned for me to bring the jeep down.

 I parked the jeep down where they were standing on the road and jumped out. Pheonix was vibrating and telling me all about it. Kyle said the bear dropped just at the treeline (they were in a clear cut that I couldn't see before) and that she had made an excellent shot, but when he ran Kyle was worried it would make it to far and darkness was coming. So when it had stopped to look back at them, Kyle let off a shot too. The bear only ran 5 feet and he dropped. So off we went to find her bear. I was really wishing for a pair of rain pants or gaiters! There we found him at the edge of the treeline, I looked at the bear and I looked at Kyle- it was a big bear. He had a big noggin on him and was 6 feet. Much bigger bear than we were expecting for her first bear! We got some photos of Pheonix with him and we got to work quartering and skinning him. I checked the skin and noticed it only had one entry and exit. I looked at Kyle and asked him again, Pheonix for sure hit him? He said yes no doubt about it, she hit him good. I laughed and told him he missed then! He said no way and looked at the skin. Sure enough...only the 2 holes. He covered it up with saying he shot at it free hand lol!

It was a great spring for all of us! Although Kyle and I didn't get our bears at home, we both got our bears in Saskatchewan which was a first for me...third times the charm apparently! But we all got big impressive bears and our freezer was loaded with pepperoni and cheese smokies!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Saskatchewan Bear Hunt 2018


It has been 3 years since we were last in Saskatchewan chasing the giants of the woods. Well this year we made it back to hunt again with Warren and Kerwin in north-central Saskatchewan. The last 2 years just didn't work out with Kyles schedule for Rescue Competition season. This year it did, so we took advantage. We planned to be there on the 20th of May and stay for 7 days. Kyle had to be back to work the 28th for rescue training. So we packed up the kids and dropped the dogs off with his mom and dad and we were off. We made it to Kerwin's late on the 19th and stayed the night, unfortunately he wouldn't be able to come hunt with us until later in the week. We all had a good sleep and left in the afternoon. It was another 2 hours before we would get to Warrens family ranch.

When we arrived we noticed they were having a big family gathering, Warrens sister and husband were there with their 2 boys as well as an aunt. The kids were excited they had someone to play with. It was so nice seeing Warrens parents again, they really make you feel like you're at home on the ranch. After we visited for a few hours, Warren asked if we wanted to sit for the evening because if we did we needed to get a move on. We only had about 4 hours until dark! Warrens mom offered to watch Easton, he could play with Warrens nephews and Pheonix decided she wanted to sit with me in the tree. So we got our gear on and set off to what Warren calls the "pasture", from there we quaded in to our stands and went our separate ways.

Kyle was sitting alone and Pheonix and I were cuddled up on a double ladder stand. I helped her get in to the stand and made sure she was tied in good, this was only her second time sitting in a tree- the first time was 3 years ago with Kyle. She was nervous- the wind was blowing pretty good and it was moving our tree around- so I couldn't blame her. Now if you have ever met Pheonix, you know she has no off switch...like at all. She talked non-stop the whole night, with multiple reminders to keep her voice down from me. It was nearing 8pm now and the wind started to die off, and get really quiet. There weren't even birds chirping, although a squirrel had me all excited and scaring Pheonix for a while. Now when I'm in a treestand I don't stop searching and listening the entire time im in the stand. I heard the slight snap of a twig off to my left and it had me swinging my head over and full attention scanning the bush. It took a few minutes until my eyes locked on black through the trees, But the bush was thick so I couldn't be sure. I sat staring, straining my eyes to catch some type of movement from the black. Pheonix knew I could see something and went very still, and repeatedly asked me if it was a bear. I wasn't sure so I just told her I didn't know. Finally movement, after what felt like forever, I was able to catch part of his face pass through and opening while he was smelling the air. I quietly told Pheonix it was a bear and she finally went quiet haha! I had my rifle between my legs so it was easy to get it up into position. I waited to see what we he was moving before shouldering my gun. He was coming straight in, but very slowly. So I shouldered my rifle and watched him come in through the scope. From past experiences, I knew that if the bear was a boar he would be very wary of coming into the bait and might not give me lots of time to get a shot, or he would skirt the outside of the area- never coming into sight. I held my rifle up in my shoulder waiting...and waiting...he would take a couple steps, stop and smell, and look around before coming a few more steps. He repeated this the whole way into view. Just when he got into my view he stopped and stood up on his back legs- he was looking into the bait without having to come in. Checking for sows. After about a 30 second sniff check on his back legs he dropped down again and changed his course of direction. Instead of coming into the bait he was going to skirt around it- he wasn't interested in food, just ladies. So I followed him with my scope until I had a good broadside shot. He wasn't walking fast, but he wasn't stopping either- so once I had an opening I took it. Pheonix had her ears plugged from the moment I put up my rifle. I took my shot and it was perfect. He ran about 10 feet and piled up- unfortunately he did quite the death moan, my first bear to do one and Pheonixs first time ever hearing it. It scared her and I had to reassure her he was dead and that some bears do it when they die.

We stayed in the stand for a few minutes to make sure he wasn't going anywhere. I messaged Kyle Bear down and he was floored. He asked me how big of a bear was it and I told him it was a decent bear but nothing like "double chin" (a giant of a bear that Warren has been hunting for for a long time). After talking to Kyle I told Pheonix to stay in the tree while I climbed down to check him. I clambered down the ladder, shaking uncontrollably, and walked over to my bear. He had a skinny back end, but once I got closer to him his back just kept going, then I got to his shoulders and head- I had underestimated this bear! His head was so big I couldn't lift it and he had massive muscular shoulders. I texted Kyle saying I was wrong and he was BIG, I wouldn't be able to load him onto the quad...at all. So Kyle said stay there I'm on my way. He had called Warren and told him and he left his house and was on his way in too. I helped Pheonix come down just before Kyle showed up. He was speechless when he seen my bear. Even him and I wouldn't be able to load the bear and there was no possible way he would fit on a quad. We got some pictures and then Kyle had to go meet Warren with the Quad and pick up the quad trailer too. It was starting to get dark now and I felt uneasy being on the ground next to the bait- hidden in the brush. Pheonix was freaking out too. So we hopped on our quad and headed out of the trees out into one of the big open fields to wait for Kyle and Warren. I left the quad running so we had some light but she was still crying and scared-I gave her my phone to play a game and that helped calm her-kept her mind busy. We probably waited out there for a good 30 minutes before they showed up, we followed them back into the bait to load the bear. It took Kyle, Warren, Nat and I to load it into the trailer that was laying on its side. We took it back to Warrens house and skinned it out there. Warren was starting to wonder if it WAS double chin, for the next 2 weeks the guys poured over every photo of big bears that they got to figure out if it was. Kyle is positive it isn't him.



And just like that, my week of hunting was over! Kyle continued to hunt, sometimes solo and sometimes with Pheonix but it had slowed down and there were just little ones coming in. I hung out with Easton and sometimes both kids- took them to the lake for some swimming. Kerwin eventually showed up, he got his bear the same night I got mine where he lives, so the night he came in he went and sat the stand with Kyle. Sure enough a big lanky bear came in, Kyle passed him up twice that sit before he decided he was going to take him right before dark. They came in with the bear loaded in the trailer like mine and pulled into the carport- holy hell did that thing stink! He was definitely a big bear, younger than mine and full of scars. His hair was really thin too. He was obviously a scrapper. As we were skinning him the smell turned to a rank smell- rotten almost, and it was all we could do to finish the job.

Warren was hunting the whole week as well. The mornings we spent helping him with checking his beaver traps, which the kids found fascinating! Our last day there, Kerwin had headed home and warren suggested we all go fish for some walleye and pike. It was slow but it was the perfect night to be on the water. The kids each caught a pike and that was it lol. And they got to see a beaver up close- one came off the bank by the boat and went swimming across the lake.

I love going to Saskatchewan to hunt. Not because of the chance to kill a monster bear (ok maybe a tiny bit lol) but because I have so much fun watching them around the bait. How they interact with each other, their personalities, and the cute little cubs. I was hoping to spend more time in the stand- mainly in hopes of being able to get some decent photos of the furry critters....but alas....maybe next time!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turmoil in the hunting community


What is happening to the hunting community? I have never seen so much turmoil within it and yet nothing is changing in a positive way. Why? As outdoors men and women you would think the recent anti-hunting attacks, and in our case here in BC-an outright hunting ban on Grizzly bears, would be pulling hunters together to fight for our love, our passion....

That's not what I am seeing at all. I've been sitting fairly quiet, watching what is unfolding on social media. To be honest it scares me.

The only way I can describe it is like a circus....these anti-hunting groups are the ring masters and the hunting community are the monkeys...scared, confused and lashing out at each other instead of doing anything productive. And it just keeps playing in this deadly circle, while those that wish to see an end to hunting smile and rub their hands together, ready for their next move.

The hunting community in BC has been in havoc since the government banned the grizzly bear hunt, some hunters were actually FOR  this ban....not thinking about what it means to animal rights organizations and the little bit of hold and power it gave them. They will take it and run with it. In Alberta, they are after cougar hunting. I'm sure many of you have seen Steve Ecklund and his beautiful cougar plastered and blasted all over social media...and not by hunters. News media will run with these stories (whether they have all the facts and permission to use photos...or not) because it gains them more exposure but it gives ARAs a platform to stand on and an agenda to push. Emotion will trump science, especially when your government has no backbone- it did for BC and our government proudly stated it.

But things started in BC before the grizzly ban...our animal populations are plummeting and they have been on a steady decline for decades. What has been everyone's answer for fixing the decline all these years? Change the regulations! Put more restrictions on! And yet, here we sit...everyone panicking because it has gotten SO bad. And what does a good majority want to do to fix things? The same thing that has been done for decades....change the regulations and now everyone is ripping each other apart because no one can agree on anything. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting new results. Everything needs to change, we need to start using our biologists for what they are meant for! Things need to be science based...without research and boots on the ground the whole program is running blind. For that they need money from the government, kind of hard when they keep cutting their funding. All of the revenue from license and tags should be going back into wildlife...that includes our biologists. Maybe we should be looking at the states and some of their programs like the Pittman-Robertson Act, something that is similar so all user groups are chipping in to our wildlife and spaces. I see all these people attacking other hunters...attacking our wildlife biologists (yes I had a guy-a hunter apparently- say that there needed to be an open season on biologists today!), none of this is the biologists fault, they work with what they are given and try to get more. The government is at fault here- for not giving a rats ass about our wildlife and wild places or the people that are employed to look over them.

Please, if you want your children and grand-children to be able to hunt you need to stop picking fights with each other. Take the fight where it needs to go....our government whom is so easily swayed by emotion instead of following science. And don't just do the usual "we want the regulations changed" because it won't fix this mess, demand real change from them. We are teetering on a very slippery slope and its not looking promising.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

2017 Whitetail Buck


Hunting with the kids can some times be a challenge, especially when the temperatures are starting to drop and you can feel winter trying to claw its way into the area. We do a bit more truck hunting when it's cold, mainly because Easton has a hard time staying warm. He's like me in that way, I have a hard time keeping warm and I always carry a backpack full of layers with me. This year we haven't been having to much luck when it comes to elk. The hot summer and drought conditions pushed the elk out of our usual elk spots and so we had to do a little more exploring. So we haven't been seeing much of elk, actually we weren't seeing much of anything for the first week or two after the bush was re-opened. Due to fires the bush was closed from September 2-14, they finally re-opened it on my birthday (15th) at noon.




We traveled a little more north hoping we wouldn't see too many people out, boy were we wrong. Truck after truck and we ended up seeing nothing at all. The terrain in there is to thick and steep for the kids to hike, so we chalked it up to a nice evening drive.


Next time we stayed a little closer to town and tried sitting. We each took a kid and separated.  I had Easton with me. We were seated in the middle of a rock ledge with a bunch of fallen trees to cover any movement. After about 30 minutes Easton was asking how long we were going to stay. The wind was howling and it was a bone chilling one that cut right through your clothing. I told him until dark. He was bored but played with his lego men beside me. I wasn't too worried about the noise he was making-the wind would cover his sound.  By this time he had his hoodie on and his jacket along with my gloves and toque. After another 15 minutes, he said he was cold. So I pulled out my down jacket for him to wear and pulled both his hoods up over the toque. I bundled up after I got him cozy, wearing my vest and softshell jacket, gloves and toque. We sat there for a little bit and he snuggled up to me. After an hour he was asking if daddy and Pheonix were back at the truck yet, I kept telling him no they weren't but he wanted to go check. This was his way of saying he wanted to go back to the truck. We sat for another 10 minutes and I could see he was cold, I was starting to get pretty chilled too. So I suggested we head back to the truck. I messaged Kyle to let him know what we were doing and he asked us to come pick them up then. Neither of us seen an animal, but that's part of hunting.

Finally, one evening I made a suggestion on where we should go. We have good luck with whitetail in there and we see bear and elk too. We were seeing a couple does, some little bucks. But not really anything either of us wanted to cut our tags on. We parked the truck where they deactivated the road and Kyle decided to go for a short walk on the other side, I stayed at the truck with the kids. I took a picture of the sunsetting and let Pheonix play with the big camera.
When Kyle came back to the truck it was about 20 minutes before we would lose shooting light, and we turned around and started making our way out. We only went about a kilometer down the road when he stops the truck and says big buck Niki. I coudn't see it, it was on his side of the truck down a pretty good hill. I didn't waste any time, I jumped out with my gun and dropped down into the clearing a little bit. I instantly seen him with the light bouncing of his antlers, he looked like he was the same size as Kyles big buck that he shot a couple years ago. He was standing just on the edge of the treeline in a cut block about 200 yards down. I didnt waste any time I put my rifle up, aimed and squeezed the trigger. Kyle watched him in his binos. As soon as my shot went off Kyle says you hit him hard, I reloaded and made my way down a little bit more to a giant root ball. I was going to use it as a rest if needed. But it wasn't needed. He was going down when he was heading back into the treeline and I watched him go down with a huge crash. I was over the moon! We waited a bit and grabbed our backpacks. Pheonix wanted to come with us, Easton stayed up in the truck and watched a movie snuggled in his nest of blankets. By the time we got down to him we were almost out of light in the clearing, it was dark in the trees. He was easy to spot though, he had fallen with his antlers stuck in the ground and his bright white throat patch seemed to glow in the low light.

Once we got to him he did have some ground shrinkage, but I didn't care. He was still an amazing buck. My biggest one and he had a unique rack- double brow tines on both side with a kicker on the one which made him  a 6x7.
Pheonix was getting nervous with the darkness in the trees, so I gave her my unloaded rifle to take back to the truck and she could stay up there with Easton until Kyle and I finished up, we kept Kyles rifle ready just in case.
It didnt take us to long to get him field dressed. We loaded him onto my pack and I hiked back up to the truck. Kyle didn't take a single piece of him. At the butcher we weighed just the 4 quarters, backstraps, and tenderloins- he came out to 67lbs.



Nikita

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Stone Sheep Hunt 2017

July 27th, 4:30 in the morning and we were on our way north for our Stone Sheep hunt. Kyle, Kelsey, Southgate and I along with our hunting gear and fresh clothes were crammed into my little half ton Ram. There was not an inch of space to spare in the box. Kyle drove and Southgate claimed the front seat, while Kelsey and I had a nest of blankets and pillows in the back seat.  The first leg of our journey was to make it to Ft.Nelson, stay the night then finish the journey in the morning. Its a long drive from our homes in the East Kootenays, about a 20 hour drive all together and Kyle decided to drive the entire trip. Poor Southgate had food poisoning the day before and was puking the whole day, the long drive gave him a chance to somewhat recover but he still felt queasy. We got to the hotel after a long day of driving and we all crashed. Surprisingly, the beds were extremely comfortable, we all had troubles getting up the next morning.
The next morning we were off again, bright and early. We wanted to get to the beginning of the trail early because the hike in would be 8 hours. We pulled up to where the trail head started and we were relieved to see no vehicles were parked there, we were the first ones in. So we parked the truck and started changing into our hunting gear and loading the packs. We were off, I did my best to keep up with everyone else but being the shortest in the group has some major disadvantages...and I wasn't just the smallest by an inch or two-it was 5 inches, but Kyle stayed with me making sure I didn't fall behind to bad. What a good hubby! At about half way we stopped to have some snacks and rest a bit. Thank god! I was starving. After about 15 minutes we loaded back up to finish off the last half of our hike. About 2 hours away from camp my left hip was starting to protest the hike, it was getting pretty sore. I had a couple times where my stiff boots slipped on the wet rocks along the creek, i'm sure that combined with the long heavy hike was wearing on my hips. I ended up slowing a bit but still trekked on. We came up to a camp spot and Kelsey and I were so happy! Only to have Southgate say this wasn't our camping area-damn it. Still had an hour to go.

10 kms from the truck to camp. I was so happy to be able to drop my 50lb pack. It took a few minutes before I could walk normal. We went straight into setting up camp and I noticed all around were places where an animal had been digging. We figured it was probably a grizzly. After we were done we got to glassing, it didn't take long for the guys to start spotting rams. I was pretty excited to spot one sky lined, only a half curl ram. Beside me, Kelsey shifted then jumped up squealing that something had poked her. She turned around and hanging out of her pants was a porcupine quill. We both got a good laugh from it but started watching closely where we sat down. A little while later Kyle sat down where Kelsey had been, and soon found a quill poking into his pants. I started looking closer at the diggings around camp, the most was around the fire pit. Beside the pit was a stump full of quills- we knew who the culprit was that did all the digging!

By the time we called it a night we had seen 12 rams, none that were legal. At least we were seeing sheep!

I don't usually sleep at all when we are camping, especially in a tent. I was surprised I actually had a decent sleep until I woke up from a nightmare. Of course my nightmare was of grizzly bears coming into camp. But as I lay there wide awake, I could hear a strange noise outside our tents. At first I thought Southgate was snoring because the sound was by his tent. As I listened closer I realized it wasn't him snoring but an animal, but I had never heard this noise before. I listened a little longer and then a second sound came but it was closer to our tent, so now there were 2 animals wandering around our tents in the dark. I woke Kyle up and asked him what that sound was, he listened for a little bit then decided to check it out. He took his rifle with him and popped out of the tent, flashing the flashlight around camp. There by the fire pit were 2 porcupines digging, squeaking away. Kyle threw a rock at them and they disappeared back into the trees. He thought it was cubs at first trying to get our food out of the tree we hung it in, that's why he took his rifle. After a bit I was able to fall back asleep.

In the morning we spent a couple hours glassing. After, we decided we would all pack up camp and head farther up the valley. At one point we decided to split up, Kelsey and Southgate went up a draw we had seen sheep in earlier. Kyle and I went farther back into the valley with the hopes of getting to the lake at the very back. It was a rough go. We took a trail that went straight up the mountain and then disappeared in the caribou brush. So we bush whacked a little ways and then Kyle sees a trail down by the creek, cursing we start heading back down the mountain. It was thick and it was steep. Kyle has no problems pushing through the brush, hes big and has a lot of power and weight behind him. Me on the other hand, had a really hard time getting through.The branches would pull on my pack throwing me off balance and I wasn't able to power through the brush.We got back down to the trail and it wasn't to bad for a short while. It was a goat trail- I found tons of goat wool all over the brush on the trail. Then the trail got bad, I'm not sure how a goat goes through that trail but it was thick.
The goat trail
We finally fought our way to a knoll, we thought it was close to the back of the basin. We crest the top of the hill and had the wind taken out of our sails. We had gone about 3 kms...and we had about another 4 to get to the back. The basin was much much bigger then we had originally thought. We both dropped our packs and sat down to rest. I was exhausted. We had to make a decision- do we keep going, stay here for the night or head back down the valley and meet up with Kelsey and Southgate? It was very windy on the top of the knoll. I had suggested making camp, but Kyle didn't think it was a good idea. The only spot we could have camp was where we were sitting, and we had no cover at all. Part of Kyle wanted to keep pushing to the back, I was straight up with him. I knew if we made it back there and shot a ram or two while back there, there would be no way I could get a sheep out of there and back to the truck. We would be 20kms from the truck. It would take us at least 2 days to get out of there and it was all bush whacking the whole way. We glassed for a bit and then made the decision to go back down the valley and meet up with the other two.
Once we all met up we discussed what to do and decided to head down the valley to the last camping spot along the creek. We set up camp and had dinner then did some more glassing. While we were glassing a porcupine came wandering down the trail and Kyle was sitting on the trail. When it seen him it stopped and went back the way it came. Southgate chased it and it went up a tree. After we went to bed I didn't feel tired but my body had other ideas. I was warm and comfortable but could not stop shaking. The shaking kept me awake and lasted probably a half hour. Once I was finally able to sleep I slept like the dead. In the morning I told Kyle about the shaking and he said it was because my body was so exhausted.

When I woke up and crawled out of the tent, the guys were glassing. They thought they found a legal ram back where Kyle and I had been the day before. I was not exactly thrilled by this news. The guys decided to go back down to the old camp and do some glassing, Kelsey and I stayed at camp. About an hour later we got a message on the Inreach- 2 legal rams. Pack up camp. Both Kelsey and I were happier about this news. We quickly started packing everything up. I had my gear all done and was working on the tent when the guys showed up. I was still pretty stiff from the day before and my feet were sore but hopefully this would be the last time we moved camp. Its been colder today and we have had rain and off all day. I enjoyed having the day to rest my sore feet and legs. Later in the day the guys decided to climb to higher ground behind our camp so they could see into the basin where the rams were. While they were up there we got hit with a torrential down pour and the guys were drenched, good thing they were in rain gear.

It rained all night and when we woke up it was still raining. Kyle had to get up because his back gets sore, I stayed in the tent- wrapped in my sleeping bag, too comfortable to get out. Everything felt damp. Even inside the tent. I waited as long as i could in the tent, but I had to pee. I grumpily donned my layers of clothing and rain gear and crawled out of the tent. We checked the weather on the Inreach and it said the temperature was 7C but feels like 4C. If it doesn't warm up we may see snow in the morning. The Inreach said the rain was to clear by tonight and tomorrow-Opening day- would be beautiful.
The rain finally cleared off around 4pm and we were able to do some glassing. Southgate found a massive ram back up the valley-we had a target for morning providing he's there. The clouds finally broke up and the sun came out, we tried to get our gear out and dry it in the sun before dark. It felt good to be able to strip some layers off.
OPENING DAY
We were up bright and early and MY GOD was it cold. You could see your breath and the vegetation had a heavy frost on it. We loaded up without eating breakfast and set off for Southgates ram. He was there, and we were ready. We had a long hike up the valley then straight up the mountain to get to the same basin he was in. It took us 3 hours to get up to the lowest ridge in the basin, after that it was a long wait. We couldn't see him anywhere and unfortunately it would be too easy for him to just hope into the next basin. After an hour the guys decided to climb up higher to see into the one basin closest to us and to hopefully see farther down the ridges. Kelsey and I stayed where we were and watched the basin we originally came to. We stayed up there for over 4 hours before we all decided he must have moved to a different basin or dropped over the ridge to the other MU (management unit). Reluctantly, we all headed back down to camp. We all were hungry and tired. It was also a nice day- sunny and 18C, it gave us a chance to wash some of our clothes. That night while we were glassing, a ton of sheep came into our valley from over top the ridge. Sheep after sheep started making their way over. I think we counted 20 sheep, most were young rams. We figured a ram had been shot in the next valley and it was pushing all the others up and over to us. Right before dark we had a treat, 3 young rams just in the basin above camp, were playing and having a ball. We watched them ripping up and down the ridge, down the mountain, back up again, head butting each other and chasing each other.

In the morning you could see Southgate was a bit down about not finding that big ram yesterday. Kyle was the only one raring to go, Southgate was bummed and Kelsey and I were tired. So the morning ended up a bit of a lazy one, which annoyed Kyle haha but he managed to live. It only lasted a very short time anyway, because there...back in the same basin just sky lined...was Southgates ram. That added some spark back into Southgate. Kelsey and I made the call to stay at camp, we couldn't hike like the guys could and this way we could watch him in the spotting scope and relay messages to them with the Inreach if he decided to up and disappear on us again. While we watched him, more and more sheep were popping up and joining him- they were all ewes and lambs except one young ram who went to the next ridge line to bed down. Everywhere this big guy went, the ewes and lambs followed. This provided an extra obstacle to getting close to him. He had no problems sprawling right out in his bed and snoozing with those ewes around him...which gave Kelsey and I both a heart attack because we thought he had disappeared! While panicking he popped his head up and all was good again. After a couple of hours we managed to spot the guys making their way up to the ridges we were on the day before. Now we could watch them and the ram. While Kelsey and I were all excited about this new fact we heard some cracking in the bush beside us. We both stopped and looked at each other, then looked toward the noise. A porcupine stopped about 12 feet from us, noticed we were sitting there and turned around and followed the creek instead. So I got up and followed him with the camera. 
This was probably the same one that came into our camp last night. He was scratching at our tents. He started at Kelsey and Southgates tent...until Kelsey punched it through the tent thinking it was a mouse, you could hear him complaining the whole way across camp to our tent where he scratched at ours a bit then meandered away.
After 7 hours of watching this one ram, he FINALLY got up out of his bed and started making his way down towards the guys. Kelsey and I were getting pretty excited and stressed out. We both watched in the phone scope, anticipating the moment when that big ram would buckle and roll. But...it wasn't meant to be. As Kelsey and I are sitting there going why didn't they shoot it, he was right there! In reality, the ram never came close enough to them...780 yards was the closest he came and even if they had shot him there he would have tumbled down a really bad cliff face. In the scope he looked so close, a good reminder that things look very different in person compared to in the glass. We watched as he walked into the next basin up onto the ridge and disappear into the other valley. From 3km away- it was pretty frustrating- I couldn't even imagine how Southgate felt right in that moment. So close...yet so far. His dream ram and after 5 years, to watch that white furry butt disappear just like that. 
The guys got back to camp late- about 8pm. Southgate was exhausted and very sun burnt. We discussed what we should do tomorrow and decided we would play it by ear. Either way tomorrow would either our last day there or last day to hunt. For the first time we all went to bed early. The guys- tired from their all day excursion, Kelsey and I from sitting with our faces glued to optics all day and fending off Asian Beetles. OMG the beetles!! There must have been a hatch with the warmer weather because we killed at least 100 of those suckers.
Kyle was the first one up in the morning again...such a keener. He found the big ram right away again. He was in the same spot as the day before. Southgate had to make a decision- try again or leave the area and hopefully find another place with multiple legal rams for more opportunities. Kyle was also on his last day of food. Southgate made the call to let the ram go, with that we packed up camp and made the long trek back down to the truck. Its an 8km hike back down to the truck and it didn't take too long to cover the distance, but my feet were still pretty raw and I had some blisters I had to deal with before the walk. My feet protested the whole way back to the truck, it made me slow and I tripped on everything. I was getting extremely frustrated. Eventually I just turned my brain off and cruised on auto-pilot, I stopped focusing on trying to keep up and just made sure to keep my feet moving. The truck was a welcomed relief. We had traveled about 50kms on foot, and most of that was with a loaded pack. We decided to get a cabin at Toad River and relax the rest of the day, and to clean up a bit. The cabins were beautiful. But the Asian Beetles were terrible.
We were right on the lake and across from our cabin was a cow and calf moose swimming and eating. Once we were cleaned up we decided to go for a drive and do some glassing for the evening.

I have a hard time spotting sheep so after a little glassing I pulled out my DSLR to take some photos. The lighting was perfect and the area was beautiful.





When we made it back to the cabin the sun was setting and the sky was on fire with color. Kelsey and I both went running to the lake with cameras to capture the beauty.


















It felt AH-mazing to sleep on an actual bed and to have a luke warm shower haha! It felt so nice to wash my hair...i had sticks and leaves and bugs falling out of my lion mane. It was pretty gross.

The next morning I did not want to get out of bed. I was comfy and it felt like I didn't sleep long enough. But the guys wanted to get an early start to the next part of our journey, another 6 hour hike up a valley to hunt for 5 more days. But first we would drive the highway and glass from where we could. Reluctantly I pushed back the blankets and hopped out of bed- I almost collapsed. My calves were so tight I could barely walk. I hobbled around getting my stuff together. When I turned around I noticed Kyle was watching me closely...he could see something wasn't right. It was written all over my face. But I stayed quiet hoping that once I was moving around they would let go. I was hoping we would be able to find some rams from the highway so Southgate and Kelsey could go after them and maybe get her her ram. Of course we didn't see any, just young rams.
We got to the trail head and I got out of the truck trying to move around, hoping the pressure would let up. It didn't, and the more I moved the worse it got. I stood staring up the valley we were to be hiking up and couldn't move or speak. I didn't want to be the one to call off our trip early and it killed me to know it was because of me that we would be leaving 5 days early with no rams. They all knew i was sore and having troubles - just not the extent of it. I didn't know if I would make the 6 hour hike in, if I did- I knew I wouldn't make it back out again. I stood in silence while the 3 of them talked and planned. Kyle came over to me and asked if I thought I could do this. I shook my head and broke down in tears. I wanted them to go on without me, to leave me at the truck to camp by the river, but I knew Kyle would never leave me there and later when I told Kelsey she had the same sentiments as Kyle. So we made the long journey back home. I stayed quiet most of the way to red deer and slept quite a bit, crying makes me exhausted. We stopped in Red Deer and stayed the night then finished our trip home the next day.

Nikita

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mause Creek Hike

July 6th 2017

 
Kyles suggested "Test Hike" for my legs. We packed up our packs like we were going on our hunt (just minus the large amount of food and our rifles) and headed out. We parked at the trail head, jumped out of the jeep and got eaten by mosquitoes. We loaded the packs after we sprayed down with bug repellent and we were off.

There was some blow down along the trail..but overall the trail was in really good shape. But the bugs were so bad for the first half of the trail before you really start climbing.I ended up spraying down 4 times on our way up.
Once we got to this point the bugs died down a bit, but there were more horse flies. Poor Onca was going crazy. All the bugs went after him instead of us.
 As soon as he seen the water he was swimming! He loves water, typical lab.




We continued to climb up the mountains on the left side of the saddle
in the picture above. We ended up having to climb up through snow
until we got to the pass. Where more snow awaited us as well as a strong wind. I welcomed the wind and snow and the significant temperature dropped it brought with it.  I dont do very well with heat, and by this point I had a headache starting.
The climb was somewhat steep, but the snow made it easier to go up. By the time we came back down though it was pretty soft from the hot sun which made it quite a bit harder.
Kyle standing on the top of the pass going over to the other side. It was an amazing view. He checked to see what the elevation was there and we were at 7400 ft.
A lot more snow on the other side. A good portion of the trail was snow covered all the way to the tanglefoot lakes. So we hung out up top of the pass for a while. Relaxed...I went exploring with Onca and Kyle had a nap on the trail.
Looking back at the trail while on my exploration.

I was actually surprised Onca came with me. He is the type of dog that takes the EXACT same trail you take when he is following you. When I left the trail to come over to this ridge, I took the rocks instead of the snow because I don't trust whats under the snow. He followed me through the rocks and got scared! He froze up and was shaking. I tried to give him a nudge to get him to keep going and he was like a statue. So Kyle tried calling him back and he still wouldn't move. Eventually I was able to help him get through it and he went back up to Kyle, but he didn't want to leave me. So he came down through the snow and joined me lol.
We eventually made our way back to Kyle and he made the call to turn around and go back down to the spring and meadow, and that's where we would camp.
We put the tent up and threw our sleeping pads inside then decided to have something to eat. We have been playing with our own meals to eat while out in the backcountry, rather then the typical Mountain Houses and this was the perfect time to try them out.
After dinner Kyle went in the tent to have a nap and I hung out with Onca and just relaxed. I have a hard time napping during the day.
Kyle was napping...and Onca was going crazy from the bugs so he decided it would be a good idea to sit on me. He is 80lbs...and does not fit on my lap easily...but he managed to get everything but one foot on me. See picture below


Eventually Kyle woke up and realized I wasnt in the tent and
started telling me to come lay down and relax. I figured it would give Onca a break from the bugs too. Even though Onca had the whole tent and there were no bugs inside...he insisted on sleeping on me.



After a bit Kyle decided that there was just way too much time between now and night time...and the fact we had to pick up the kids by 10am...to justify staying up there overnight. I was bummed but happy I wouldn't have to get up at 5am lol. 


So we packed everything back up and made our way back down the mountain. It was a good test for my legs, which never gave me an issue, and for testing our food ideas and to brainstorm how to help me stay cool when its hot.

We were also able to test some of the new gear we have acquired and decide if there is anything that needs to be changed.




If you are curious how hot it was, look below. That is the temperature when we got back into town at 8:30pm. Where we had the tent set up it was probably 30 degrees still, on the other side where all the snow was, it was more like 20-25 degrees.