Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hunting, Clinton and Caribou Lodge

Bill , my old hunting buddy from Gold River and Campbell River, first took me hunting to Clinton. We stayed at Circle H Ranch.  It was 30 years ago. I shot my first moose there with Bill.
Mostly Bill and I would hunt deer in Sayward with his son Allan or one of his many friends.  Once every year or so he’d make a trip up to northern BC to hunt “Big Mule Deer” or Moose.  Mostly we went up by Vanderhoof. The Big Mule Deer are everywhere on the mainland. The Vancouver Island deer are about half the size, a black tail strain of red deer I seem to recall.  They’re mule deer but not like the majestic creatures you see in the coastal mountains.  “My son, Allan, just loves hunting these mule deer.”  Bill died a few years back and hopefully some day Allan and I will follow in the tradition and hunt the Big Mule Deer.
Ever since that first moose I shot in Clinton I’ve liked going back there. I love the cowboy country. I love the sage. I love the rolling hills. I been up there dozens of times over the year and yes I’ve shot a deer or two but mostly I’ve come back with grouse.  That moose I shot must have been a miracle of Bill’s incredible power of attracting wild game.  Everyone knew, if you hunted with Bill, you were always going to have game. He’d begun feeding his single mother and sister shooting deer in Quebec between age 12 and 16, when he lost his father.
He’d known his sorrow. Hunting isn’t much about killing.  The nutbars who know nothing go on and on like they know things but they know nothing. Men hunt and fish to talk for hours to each other.  When we’re hunting we’re silent. When we’re fishing we’re not talking.  But when we are driving to and fro the hunting and fishing places we’re the worst chatty Kathy’s.  I heard all about Bill’s first wife, the love of his life, how he visited her as often as she could until a nurse seeing what a great man he was took him for herself.  He never forgave himself for that. He beat himself up a whole lot.  He talked of his sons and daughters and his sister. He loved his family.
Bill didn’t drink.
I drank when we met.  On one trip I felt and was injured.  We drove home with me half drunk and every bump causing me exquisite pain.  I cursed so much that trip I was surprised that Bill wanted to hunt with me again. We went on to hunt a decade more.It was always fun. He loved the outdoors and taught me how to call deer.  They’d walk right up to him. I loved doing my ‘tai chi’ in the woods and walking up to sleeping deer to startle them awake blowing in their ear. Bill was a great guide and coach.
When we came north we’d stay in his camper and he’d have us up before dawn serving his god awful percolated coffee with the greasy bacon and runny eggs and toast.  Thanks to him I learned to carry ‘wet ones’ in the woods.  “You’ll thank me after you shit in the woods and use your wet ones.” All the guys hunting with Bill had their wet ones along for the inevitable crap in the woods.
Younger I’d come up to the north and tent but then I stayed at Caribou Lodge.  I was hooked. What a great place. Terrific rooms , great service, wonderful people catering to hunters and cowboys, miners and loggers.  It’s upscale with fine decor. A bit like a woodsy Hilton decor but rustic. Clean.  So no longer liking roughing it lying hard and cooking around a campfire I’ve become older and enjoyed the Caribou Lodge.
When I got my Honda CRF 230 motorcycle and then the 250 CRF I’d bring them up to the Caribou.  I’d load my gear on the back and sling my rifle over my shoulder and head out of town on gravel roads loving driving around the back woods. I shot every can for miles around but didn’t ever shoot anything living. That’s just what hunting is.  For me it’s just getting away from work and everything after that is Grace.
The last time I’d been at the Caribou was last year with Laura and Tom. That was the weekend Gilbert hurt his back and we had to come back in fear thankfully to find that Gilbert responded to steroids and antiinflmattories. Now here we were back again.
I’d shot a deer in Princeton so was able to enjoy the trip and hunting in a way one does once there’s meat in the freezer. Tom by contrast was still eager.  I’d have slept in that first day but Tom was adamant we were up before dawn.
So dressing in the dark we got the thermos filled at the gas station and headed into the backwoods. A half dozen other hunters were there too.  Everyone dressed in camo with belt knives and gears driving 4x4 trucks is a pretty good give away as to what we’re all doing.
I always like that sportsman pay for 95% or more of the Conservation Costs for the Province.  Rifles cost thousands. Ammunition costs thousands. The vehicles cost tens of thousands.  As a ‘sport’ its the most expensive, costing more than golf and skiing. It’s not elite either. Rural men and women shoot game every year with little effort since the deer and moose are pretty much in their back yards. My friend just carries a gun in his truck and invariably gets a deer on the way to or from work each year. All the farmers complement their winter fare of beef and pork with much appreciated venison or moose.  It still costs to have the rifle and ammo and to get a firearms license and hunting license.  The courses for firearms licenses can cost hundreds of dollars as can the courses for hunting.
I got my first marksman award at 12 yo , my ‘Bronze Rifle Safety Award.’  My brother got his ‘Silver’.  I began accompanying my dad hunting at 6 years old but only began shooting a 22 when I was 10 or 12.  My brother, 4 years older, was my Dad’s companion hunter shooting ducks and geese. I did the plucking and loved being along with the ‘men’.  Later after medical school I got back together with my dad hunting ducks and geese and wild chickens. Borrowing my brothers Irish Setter, Tartan, those were some of my fondest memories.
The real cost is for city folk. It’s the hunters and fishermen who buy the trucks and RV’s or support the rural economy staying in the motels and hotels and spending a fortune on gas and restaurants.
When I told my Yukon friend I’d shot 8 moose, he said, “that’s pretty good for a city boy. I’ve shot 40 but I shot them out the kitchen window while they were walking through my vegetable garden.”
I’ve shot more grouse than I can remember and tell everyone I only shoot big game if it comes upon when I ‘m out hunting grouse. I have a 22 for shooting the chicken’s heads off.  My present love is the new break down stainless steel Ruger 22/10 rifle. Hunting with Luke I learned about the Ruger semi auto. On our trip to Fort St. James Luke was the most proficient grouse hunter with his Hawkeye accuracy and the Ruger 22/10 that Gilbert our grouse dog stopped hunting with the rest of us and latched on to Luke as obviously the best hunter among us.  On another hunter Sonny had a 20 guage and I loved watching him take down a grouse on the fly.  I loved shooting skeet and ducks but with a 22 I only shot the grouse on the ground or in the tree. A 12 guage is too heavy for grouse, pellets embedding deep in the meat. By contrast the 20 guage  6 or 7 shot is light enough that it drops the bird but doesn’t mess up the meat.  So now I carry the 22 and the 20 guage on a rack on the ATV.  My stainless steel Ruger 30:06 which Bill called the “Sexcaliber”  when I first got it rides in the Honda Pioneer’s cab with me.  When I bought the Ruger is was one of the earliest stainless steel rifles.  I wanted the stainless steel because I was living on a sailboat.  When I took it out of the box at Bill’s cabin in Campbell River, it was so shiny, I said, “It reminds me of Excalibur.”  Sherry said it looked ’sexy’ and Bill laughing said “It’s the Sexcalibur”.  The name stuck.  It’s been an amazing trustworthy reliable rifle for 30 years.   I used 180 grain bullets for everything on the mainland, bear, moose, and deer. On the Island I’d switch to 120 grain.  Bill turned me on to Nossler Partition bullets for big game, twice the cost but having dropped a charging bear and a charging moose in my time I’m thankful for the knowledge about bullets Bill shared.
I love the delicacy grouse is, similar to cornish game hens but bigger and better.  This weekend we didn’t even shoot a grouse. I had three take off before I could get the gun out. They really were skittish which could be expected given it was the end of the season. Tom and I drove out before dawn and unloading the Honda 500 Side by Side ATV from my Ford F350 at dawn. With Gilbert on my lap Tom drove us back into the woods. The only trouble was that we picked a short road.  So back we came.  We crossed the road only to drive along another short logging road.  We decided to bring along the truck and go a little further. Tom got in the truck with Gilbert. Gilbert really likes the truck. He ’s a suck for luxury and warmth so at first opportunity he’s in the truck happy to be standing on the centre between the men eyes peeled for grouse.  I drove along the ditch about 500 yards finding the next logging road. The only trouble with being camouflaged Tom drove by me and thought I’d kept on going.
We had our very effective little yellow motorola radio communicators but Tom didn’t have his turned on at first and I was calling on the wrong frequency.  After realizing he wasn’t coming back anytime soon I headed off into the woods. That’s when I saw the smart grouse who’d survived thus far and by being paranoid about cammo geared men carrying long guns lived another day.   I thought if I’d had Gilbert I might have got one.  Meanwhile Gilbert and Tom were watching does in the woods hoping that a buck would join the does but none did.
Getting the radios right and me on the right frequency, I called Tom. Gilbert was ecstatic to find me.  We loaded the ATV which we’ve named “Charles’ and headed down to the Big Bar Ferry. It’s all posted now.  Much of Clinton is off limits to hunting now. So much farm land. Lots of dude ranches.  Everywhere I go I see the development.
We did see a whole flock of turkeys’ “Are those wild turkeys?” Tom asked.  I quickly check IHunter an amazing app I have that works with the GPS puts up the hunting regs for the region one is in.  “Not in season here.” I said.
“Besides that farmer is giving us a really mean look.  Tom looked to where I was pointing and there was a farm house and a farmer had come out of his kitchen to watch us watching what obviously must be his turkeys. The turkeys picking up on our unhealthy interest had turned about and scurried across the road back to farmer who had a rather prominent sign posted saying “No trespassing. No hunting”.
Tom said, “I guess that pretty much ruins a good turkey hunt.’
We headed back to Clinton after that.  That night we had great pork roast in the restaurant. They were singing karaoke in the bar. The Trump election win was playing on the tv with the media still acting like the left hadn’t run.  CBC news was the worst, calling on every Trump hater to denounce him and singing the praise of Hillary and Bernie despite the fact that the majority of Americans and American Colleges and States had voted in Trump. To hear the media there’d been armed coup.  Meanwhile the Democrats were hypocritically  staging riots after days before saying they were afraid of the violence of Republicans.  Black leaders kept coming forward complaining that they couldn’t see any reason that black Democrats should break into their stores and steal their VCR’s and TV’s as a ‘demonstration’. It was chaos on the news and we were glad to be out in the simplicity of the country.
Tom or I said Grace each meal.
The salisbury steak the second night was so delicious , a spicy sauce to die for. The non fattening home made apple and berry pies with non fattening vanilla ice cream really topped off the meals. Gilbert loved the all beef paddies the chef cooked up especially for him.  When we got back to the room relieving him of his guard duty he was very happy to eat his delicious dog reward. When we go hunting we all have to rough it.
We found a fabulous place in the hills where deer trails became highways became freeways. So first thing in the morning before dawn we were back there. A fellow had shot a white tail deer along the trail the day before. We’d seen the remains.  Now we unloaded Charles the Honda Pioneer ATV. Tom headed up the little trail to where we’d found the trails leading up into he hills. I took Gilbert and we began an epic exploration of the surrounding area. I got off Charles back on a mountain side and Gilbert and I climbed up into the tree line to watch a clearing for an hour before cold and stiff I went back to the ATV.  All I’d seen was a Whiskey Jack.
Then we drove all over this incredible land , sometimes slow, sometimes fast, just enjoying seeing the terrain.  A white rabbit appeared in the woods alongside the trail I was driving along. It was probably thinking it was really stupid to have traded in it’s brown fur coat for the white fur coat too early. It really stuck out. I thought of shooting it with the 30:06 but it was too big a gun and there was too much chance of missing the head and simply wasting the fellow. So I let Gilbert out and the two of them had an epic chase in the woods the rabbit eventually winning with Gilbert returning tongue lolling.
In some savannah high country I spooked a flock of ptarmigan.  I thought at first they were ducks the way they rose up from a hollow and burst out ahead of me at high speed.  It was only when I watched them in flight I realized they were ptarmigan.  Over the years I’ve shot a few but they’re a whole lot smarter and more wiley than grouse.
The law is you can’t have loaded rifles in motorized vehicles.  When you’re transporting rifles on public roads you need a trigger lock on the vehicle. I take the trigger lock off in the backwoods logging trails or when I’m hiking in the mountain. But shooting game then requires getting the trigger lock off, loading the rifle and shooting.  If the game sees you first, naturally they’re not likely to wait for you.  I’ve missed so many deer and moose and birds and bear because of the tight laws that hunters have to abide by. If we don’t we risk forfeiting all our equipment.  It’s certainly not worth losing the right to hunt and tens of thousands of dollars of gear.  But for those nutbars who have never hunted know nothing about hunting and don’t know the restrictions we hunt under or how the animals aren’t just waiting to be shot like zoo animals well it’s not at all like the CBC stories tell it.  I bow hunt and that’s even more difficult because you have to be closer than with a rifle.  I’ve shot deer at 50 yards whereas I shot moose at 300 yards. Distance is all the difference. That and timing.  Most of the time the deer have gone from where I hoped to see them. They don’t keep appointments well and obviously get tired of waiting for this aging hunter.
BC is God's country. I loved travelling about the autumn back woods. I loved the winter chill in the air. I loved meeting men out back chain sawing their winter supply of firewood. I love the country. It's so incredibly beautiful in the fall with leaves changing to browns and yellows falling off trees while the pines and evergreens remain.  I love the rolling hills and plains, the rivers and the mountains in the distance.
When I was ready to go back to the truck I called Tom on the Motorola and we coordinated our return.  I was there first so drove on to pick up Tom walking back along grown over logging road. Gilbert was ecstatic to see his long lost friend, barking and running in circles. Tom is Gilbert’s favourite ball and stick thrower. Gilbert can do this all day and Tom is pretty happy to indulge him.  So back and the truck Tom threw stick and Gilbert fetched. I actually shot he was showing us that he really was up to fetching game if only we did our bit shooting it.  If Gilbert could switch to a different hunting team he would have. He knows he’s all star and that Tom and I this weekend were farm team.
Back at the Caribou Lodge we loaded up, dropped of the key and headed back to Vancouver.  We took the scenic route through Lillouete down past Pemberton. Arriving in district 2 before dusk we drove along a longing road looking for grouse only to realize that it just kept going up and up. I turned around when I could remembering previous experiences with high altitude roads and winter conditions. When we got back to the highway it was dark and the sleet had begun.i was thankful I’d turned around.  We drove down to Pemberton through thick fog and hail and sleet. It was good to get below the weather and off the slippery slushy road.  The drive down Whistler to Squamish was busy with traffic.  Night driving in rain wasn’t too much fun but better than the sleet. I remembered how many times I’d driven this sea to sky highway for skiing or hunting or motorcycling. In the day time it’s one of the most beautiful words in the world but this night it was work.
At Squamish we stopped at Gilbert’s Golden Arches. He loves MacDonald’s.  We got burgers and he was so happy to have his little paddy.  Back on the road the traffic had passed.  We somehow must have caught a rush hour because the rest of the way back was clear of cars and the rain actually stopped.
Back in Vancouver we unloaded the guns and ammo at the gun storage and then in Burnaby unloaded all the hunting clothing, chain saw, ropes and binoculars and radios and such. Tom was going to take Charles and the Truck out to his place.He was staying the night on Naomi his yacht before heading back to the country.  I had to get myself ready for work the next day. Winding down.  Shifting gears.  I watched some tv, had a ginger ale and fries.
Soon enough sleep came. It was a great weekend. Too bad we hadn’t shot anything but Gilbert had the time of his life and Tom and I had a good go of getting some game. We’d done all the right things.  Another time.  I figured this would probably be the last time I hunted this year.  I really was thankful for the deer I shot Thanksgiving when out in the country with Gilbert and Laura.  I’d sent Tom home with some of that venison and sure was enjoying barbecuing steaks and eating the stews I made.  Victor had shot a moose and given me some moose meat which I was looking forward to in a big way.  All in all a good year. Tom and I still have rabbits we shot early in the year. I love my rabbit stew.  
Thank you Lord for all your blessings
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