Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Opening Rifle Hunting Season, Pemberton, BC and Bear Scare.

The wildfires have really affected this year’s hunting season. All the areas where I normally liked to hunt these days were closed to ATV’s.  Pemberton had a ‘senior hunter’ tease saying we could hunt doe but as it turned out in the fine print only on a postage stamp owned by the local government officials. Still I could save my new truck and use my Honda Pioneer 500 ATV in the Coastal Hunting region.
I wanted to camp one last time while the weather was still good. I had this Napier truck tent which we’d used in the spring.
The trouble is the rains we all wanted arrived Friday.  I just couldn’t bring myself after clinic to load the truck in the downpour.  I had so much organizing to do with the recent move too so Laura, Gilbert and I planned to leave first thing Saturday morning. Friday turned out to be a marvellous day of rest with bits of tidying and a whole lot of cozy cough reading.  We also watched the incredibly fun Robin Williams “RV” movie on DVD. When the rains let up we walked Gilbert meeting up with Dave and Emory doing the same rounds.  Great night of soft cozy king size bed with room for Laura and Gilbert.
Morning came. More rain.  I made coffee and enjoyed my new built in radiant fire heater.  The idea from yesterday had been to leave early so we wouldn’t be setting up in the dark and wet.  As the day progressed with more rain and more cozy book reading I felt increasingly guilty about not making Recovery Day in New Westminster. I was following it on Facebook but also packing for hunting and not really wanting to go outside or see anyone because I was on vacation. Vacation for me is getting away from work and people and even friends.  I tolerate Laura and the dog.  I just loved being on the couch reading.  I always think others get to do this but I never get enough of it.  So many I know are retired so ‘time’ is their’s.   Laura and I are constantly on the clock at the beck and call of beurocrats, colleagues, patients, lawyers, taxmen and countless ‘officious’ and increasingly angry people.  It was so sweet to be in the safety of my oh so comfortable and enjoyable home.  Why not stay home?
It was still too ugly outside to hunt, though of course when it’s ugly and raining is when the game are moving about and the fish are biting.  I loved another night in my own comfortable bed with Laura and Gilbert.
Sunday, we loaded the truck. It was thinking about Gilbert and that tipped the scale. Hunting is a dog’s dream.  He’s free to run and pee and poop anywhere. There’s so much to sniff. He’s with his favourite pack. And we’re doing a dog thing.  Hunting.
Having stopped at the gun storage locker I was armed but then all that was needed was the ATV.
Well that was a surprise. When I drove up on the ramp the ramp simply exploded out from under me leaving the rear wheels hanging. I’d done nothing different than I had a hundred times before. While others often don’t attach their ramps I had mine tied below to the chain hooks.  In future I am anchoring the ramps above and below with two straps.  If I’d been in the woods I’d have just backed the truck to a hill and drove the ATV off but in Vancouver I called BCAA.  BCAA is truly one of the greatest organizations in the world. I love their roadside assistance.
“I’m just learning to use the lift. This is great,” the young man said when he arrived and saw my dilemma. The older more senior guy guided the young one in the delicate lifting of the back end of my ATV till it was free with not damage to tailgate. I drove the ATV forward the rest of the way into the box, thanking the BCAA guys profusely.
I’d already loaded the camping gear before loading ATV Charles so with Charles tied down we headed north.
Squamish is our now favourite stop with the Canadian Tire, Starbucks, Escape North, Independent Grocers, Burger King all in one place with several gas stations to choose from.  Outfitted with dog food, and more mosquito repellant from from Canadian Tire, a new outdoor camping dress from Escape North for Laura, ground espresso coffee and Americano for me, and a thermos full of groceries and Whopper burgers for us all we headed north.   It was a beautiful day to be driving up the Sea to Sky Highway.  Lovely views of snow capped mountains and deep blue ocean. Traffic was better too, it being Sunday.
At Pemberton we filled up one last time with fuel. I believe in going backwoods with my fuel tanks full.  One never knows.  Then a final quick stop at Spud Valley Hunting and Sports Store right in town where the brothers supply all the very best in back country camping fishing and hunting gear.  I just needed more 20 gauge grouse load having remembered the shot gun but forgot to bring the box with ammo. I had my stainless steel Ruger break down 22 long rifle, Ruger Mini 14 .223 caliber back up deer gun and my all time favourite, Ruger Stainless Steel 30:06 rifle, “Sexcaliber”.
When I’m on the ATV I just have a grouse gun and the main big game hunting rifle. I love my 30;06 which I load with the 180 grain Federal Nosler Partition bullet. My old friend Bill Mewhort introduced me to the Nosler partition.  With the 180 grain it’s a good load for deer, moose, elk and bear.  I’ve shot 30:06 in 150 to 220 grain loads but have settled in the 180 grain because it’s sufficiently powerful enough for bear which can always interrupt a hunt but good for all other game as well. I don’t have to change the sites which I would have to do if I was changing the loads from 180.  Whenever I think of powerful calibers and the bigger and better rifles I remember the story of grandad shooting a bear up close in the head with a 22 LR.
I love Pemberton. It’s a great little town I’ve been coming to for 30 year.  I remember staying in the horrid little old rooms in the Pemberton Hote. The bar back then  was just full of drunks like something out of a cowboy dime novel. It’s always been a farming and  rodeo town and a railway town.  It remains those. The last decade though has seen it make the transformation to tourist town.  Now it’s the ultimate  hiking, white water canoeing, cyclist,  river and lake fishing, destination. It’s always full of beautiful young people dressed in the latest outdoor gear.  Duffy Lake Road since being paved is one of the great motorcycle routes.  Then there are hunters like me.  The valley still produces the potatoes the remain the best on the planet, outside of Ireland.  Hence the name Spud Valley.
It was another half hour of driving on a main logging road gravel with hardly a pot hole, to get to the wilderness campsite. I remembered picnic tables but there weren’t any, just one outhouse and a dozen or more sites by the river, but a ways back, because of flooding concerns.  With all the inland hunting closures I’d worried that this campsite would be full but when we arrived there was only a couple of  other hunters with a couple of ATV’s.  I’d come across a half dozen other hunters at another site the next day but really the place was empty compared to other times I’ve been there. Pemberton has always been a late season hunt because at this time of the year only the local resident deer population are bout. When the snow comes hundreds more deer migrate through. The heat this year and the flies have pushed the deer high up by the glaciers.  In the past I've climbed the mountains up to the glaciers.  Also I’ve horseback hunted  high up there all years ago.
I’m the lowest of hunters now. A road hunter. It’s not because I can’t climb. I’m not as sure footed and really do worry about twisting an ankle or breaking a leg these days.  I don’t have the balance for leaping from rock to rock and have learned this by painful falls. That’s humbling.  I used to run up and down mountainsides and carry deer out of the woods on my back.  I’ve carried  quarters of moose out of the woods a mile or so on my back.  I now have to hunt close to road only so I can get the game out. Ever since I quartered that last elk I shot early morning and had to spend all day hauling the thousand pounds up out of the valley, I’ve been very much aware that I’m not the world class athlete I once was. That dead elk almost killed me. It doesn’t help that I’m more a desk jockey these days and love my couch, Netflix and Hagen daz ice cream.
“The sign said there were grizzly bears,” Laura said as we drove along.
“Mostly black bear, grizzly bear are rare.”  I said, having learned from past experience that Laura’s not a big fan of bears.
“The sign said the bears are ‘aggressive’. “ she continued.
“That’s only because vegetarians have been feeding them.It’s only by the hot springs.” I countered. ‘They shouldn’t let vegetarians out in the wilderness because they don’t know how to behave around wild animals.” I joked.
She wasn’t looking happy.
She wasn’t happy either when there was only one other site at the campground with a couple of hunters.
“I’m scared of bears,” she said.  I didn’t think it needed repeating.
“That’s why I have the truck tent. “  I said.
“ On Facebook, I saw where a grizzly bear went through the side of an RV and where bears broke into a truck.” she said. “Catherine and her husband don’t tent anymore in the north because of bears.”
“That’s because people left open food in their camp or their vehicle.  They shouldn’t let people like that out in the woods. Around here there are only black bear. The grizzly bear are further north. I’ve got a whole lot of fire power and a bear tag as well. If a bear comes to the camp I’ll shoot it. It will save me hunting for it.  Besides bears hate dogs and Gilbert’s a vicious bear dog. You should have seen him chase the big bear we came across last year. ” I told her. The truth is I’d seen grizzly about a few miles north of here up by the hot springs.  I’d only seen black bear scat in the region. I’d expected other hunters around or I”d not have planned on this place. I leave Laura alone when I go off hunting and like to know she has others to call on if she needed help.
Having campers around is a mixed blessing. Vegetarians and other city folk who aren’t aware of animals or their behaviour are a real hazard in the country where their stupid behaviours  attract animal violence.  They don’t know carnivores from herbivores.   Undersocialized and  being leftists they ‘blame’ the animals which then get the animals killed by forest rangers. Then because these immature adults can’t take care of themselves we get all manner of funding for more and more police to protect them from the wilderness.  It’s never their fault or their behaviour that needs to change.  The next thing we’re not only living in a police state without freedom in the city but the wilderness is full of police to protect campers from the wilderness.   I loved when Sarah Palin said ‘We consider it child abuse to take children camping in Alaska without a gun.’  The fact is that animals are almost always scared of humans and almost always run from loud noises, except those bears that have been fantasized as potential lovers by Canadian feminists. Canadian feminists having regulated all  real men to the point of castration then write novels about sex with bears.  These folk ruin the outdoors as much as the young people who bring the ghetto blasters and drugs and turn bits of God’s country into the DTES.
I don’t want to shoot a grizzly.  I don’t have a tag. As my friend Dianne says, “No one is concerned about an endangered reptile and snake , but they sure get excited about creatures that have furry cute babies.” I’m just out hunting in hope of shooting a deer so I can add to the barbecue and  eat venison stew through the cold winter. I like my own cooking and I love coming home to frozen stews and curries I just need to microwave for a nutritious meal at the end of a long hard day of work.
I also like camping, the outdoors, that my dog can run free in wilderness campgrounds. I love my truck. I love quadding. I love shooting.  This weekend I shot a lovely three shot pattern with a bull’s eye with Sexcaliber, my Ruger 30:06.  I didn’t need to shoot more. Last weekend I’d shot off a whole lot of cheaper 22 LR rounds and .223 target practicing.  This weekend Laura did some target practicing with the 22 Rifle.
At the campsite I unloaded the Honda Pioneer Side by Side  with some trepidation hoping the extra tie down strap would stabilize the ramp.  Backing up is always scarier than riding up onto the truck.  Laura is helpful as a second set of eyes.
Once ATV Charles was off the truck I could settle into setting up the Napier truck tent. I was a little concerned as I’d only done it a couple of times in the spring and found I’d lost the instructions.  There was some colour coding to the poles so it really wasn’t that difficult.  In no time I had it up and only had trouble getting the fly over the top which I did with the help of the broom. It was evening by the time we had the tent up and Cabelas air mattresses and MEC Sleeping bags in. There’d been a moment of drizzle but it let up. I considered going out on an evening hunt but thought Laura would appreciate the company since it was rather ominous.  Increasingly I don’t like evening hunts which have never been as productive as morning hunts.I really don’t like gutting and cleaning game by flashlight, especially if I’m in grizzly bear country.  When I’ve had to it’s been a race against time with a flashlight in my mouth, ears open and a loaded rifle close at hand. I’ve loved having my dog with me when I’ve shot game in the evening.
So instead I got the Coleman stove set up and boiled some white potatoes with the water I’d brought in in the 5 gallon blue container.  We have got into using paper plates on the the aluminum camp plates to reduce clean up.  I fried up pork chops I’d had in the cooler with ice in it.  Virgin olive oil works wonders for cooking.  I’d brought the Honda 2000 generator and had a safety lamp hung from a tree on a screw driver to use as hook. I’d pounded it into the tree with my hatchet to use as a hook. I’d have preferred a nail if I had one.   A lovely halo of light and happy sound of the generator in the background kept Grizzly Bear thoughts  away.  While Laura had been sitting in the Orange Canadian tire lawn chairs worrying about bears Gilbert and I had systematically been marking our territory around the outskirts of the camp.  Men do that.
“Why wouldn’t the other hunters come this weekend? Do you think the Grizzly Bears are that bad that they’d scare away the hunters?” she asked as we were enjoying pork chops and potatoes with butter and little fat cherry tomatoes.
“No. I thought there’d be a lot of hunters but it was on Vancouver Island that opening season was the biggest event. Here hunters come out later because the animals are up so high. I don’t think hunters are bothered by grizzly bear.” I said that. It’s a fact, thought, thata lot of hunters don’t like hunting where grizzly bear are common. It’s an unspoken reason why most moose hunts are done as a group, not just because of the size of the game but because there’s comfort in numbers, moose and grizzly sharing the same habitat.  Most hunters aren’t bothered by black bear who many hunt. One fellow I love hunts them annually with bow and arrow but I doubt he’d take on a grizzly so willingly.  He uses a tree stand and wounded grizzly have been known to tear out  trees and  maul the hunter in revenge.  Personally I’d hunt cows if farmers would let me.  Though I’ve shot charging bear and charging moose and been stalked by a wolf pack it’s never been my plan. I’m a comfortable hunter especially as I get older. The fact is, I was glad that Laura was with me and I was saved from the evening hunt.  We were in bed early then, all the garbage and food inside the truck.
I’d bought Laura a new bear banger, showed her how to use it and made sure Gilbert went with her when she made the short trek to the outhouse in the dark.
My principle animal deterrent now is the truck key fob which allows me from bed to flash lights and make loud honking sounds. I sleep with a rifle at my side but no ammunition in the barrel and a hatchet and a knife. I’ve punched a bear in the nose that was trying to get in my tent years past but really prefer not to have company other than Laura and Gilbert. Gilbert is a major source of alarm.  Little dogs are the best alarms even if they do disrupt the sleep, overreacting to squirrels and raccoons and such. The beauty of the tent is it’s high off the ground, and you can stand up in it and it’s dry.  Getting up in the night though to pee is a challenge. I had to lift Gilbert up and down. I couldn’t find my leather mocassins.  So barefoot I’m out with Gilbert enjoying the night. Alone and naked out for a pee,, I’ve often enjoyed the night and moonlight and actually danced.  Not this night.   The sky was cloudy. Great air and sounds and yet, I couldn’t help but consider I didn’t have a key fob, a knife or a rifle and here I was in t shirt and shorts some ways from ‘home’, i.e. the safety of my truck.  Man’s advantage in nature is ‘tools’.  I was glad to get back into the tent with Gilbert and lie down in my Dako sleeping bag beside the beautiful blond.
In the morning the chimes of my iPhone alarm went off at 6 am.  I ignored them and buried the phone hearing the next campers heading out in their ATV’s.  I got up a half hour or so later early dawn, the light just coming up.  I hadn’t slept well. I’m not comfortable on air mattresses. I miss my bed.  I’d been worried about bears.  I had felt the responsibility of Laura and Gilbert upon me. Now I wasn’t keen to leave Laura in the dark.  So I made coffee. I love coffee, especially, Starbuck’s Expresso made in stovetop expresso machine over a Coleman Stove.  I made a press coffee too for the thermos.  Laura got up and joined me as the sun’s light was coming over the top of the snow capped mountain in front of us.  Part of the problem was Fen Shui. I’d allowed my head to face south rather than north.  So now we were aligned right watching the sun come up sitting in lawn chairs in God’s country.
“This is the grizzly bear’s home. We’re only visitor’s”  Laura said,  sipping her coffee with cream and honey.  I had had bacon sliced up at the butcher and was now cooking this up in the frying pan.. The smell was exquisite.  In my mind, I heard the Eagles singing, “sun’s coming up and I’m riding with lady luck’.  Laura really liked the bacon sandwiches on the fresh bakery grain bread.  It was a glorious morning.  Gilbert doesn’t like pork or bacon so just like last night I got him some of the sliced roast beef I had for sandwiches later to day.  He really likes sliced roast beef.  We were all happy campers then.
I loaded the gear on ATV Charles. I’d forgotten the grab bag I usually had for knives and shells so made do with pockets on the ATV and in my clothes.
I left Laura with the bear banger and Ruger 22 LR Rifle. She has a her firearms permit and has been deadly accurate with the 22 rifle.  “Remember my grand father killed a bear with a 22 rifle.”  I said.
“I’m not leaving the truck till you get back.” she said. She had her magazines and a truck full of treats and really, where else in the world is more luxurious than the cowboy cadillac 2017 Ford F350 Lariat edition Truck.  I knew she’d be safe and set out with Gilbert as my side kick.  He stands or sits in the passenger seat taking his duty as a hunting dog very seriously.
We headed up the rocky back woods trails and then along the hydro trails.  Finally I drove 10 km further to the main that heads through the mountains.  This was where two large groups of a half dozen hunters each were located. Normally seeing other hunters isn’t a positive experience for me but seeing these guys tenting was reassuring. There really were very few of us in this huge region though so perhaps it was all the wild fires and the ban through out the province on open fires and various other regulations as a consequence of the wild fires and the hot weather that had put other hunters off.
“It’s too hot to hunter this early this year. I’m waiting till later,” Rick had told me back in the city. They hunt from a cabin up north which the fires almost destroyed.
I did enjoy the quadding. I hoped mostly to see a grouse for Gilbert. I had the 20 gauge shotgun and was ready to make his day. Gilbert stands up beside me and me watches everything on the road ahead with his one remaining eye.  We got up really high, to the very end of where the loggers had gone. Everywhere there was old black bear scat.  One area there was some new day old stuff but only one area high up where old deer droppings were too. I met another young hunter with is very excited chocolate lab.
“My dog flushed a deer and a couple of grouse back in there. I didn’t have a 22 with me.” he said. The dog climbing out of the passenger window to looked over the roof at Gilbert who was sitting upright beside me.  Gilbert looked like  a general waiting for his driver to finishing conversing so we could get back to the hunt.  This was dog world.  Gilbert was in heaven.
“I’ve got a 20 gauge shot gun along just for grouse. In fact, the truth be known I’m grouse hunting for the dog and have the rifle along for bear and deer only if I’m forced to shoot them.”  we laughed and he headed up hill to the area where I’d chosen not to explore further. I headed down hill taking the branch roads and exploring each. This was great country for hunting especially on a quad and many places one could ambush deer going up or down at dawn or dusk. Yet nothing was here.
It was afternoon by the time I got down off the mountain meeting a off road motorcyclist on a big Triumph Tiger. I loved the way he was outfitted. He had a shot gun along and was looking for grouse, out on a day trip from Vancouver.
“I have to work tomorrow or I’d stay. Are there any grouse around here?” he asked.
“I’ve not seen any but I just talked to a guy who flushed a couple with his dog. I’ve not been up here a couple of years but it used to be great grouse country. Last weekend bow hunting  by Duffly Lake I saw a few ptarmigan but missed them with the bow. Nice rig you have.I’ve a Harley but I don’t take it off road. I used to take a Honda 250 backwoods before I got the Pioneer.   Have you read Ted Simon’s travel’s around the world on his Tiger 500? It's an incredible read. “
“No I’ve not but it’s now on my list. Thanks."
A typical back roads brief encounter.  Most hunters are friendly but only socialize at camp.
Gilbert was happy to be back on the road. He’s a serious hunter.  What he didn’t know was I was just heading home.  He actually might have known that too since he just loves Laura and loves getting back to camp to protect her.
Laura was in the truck unmauled when we got back to camp.
“Didn’t see a thing.  Only old black bear scat high up. Nothing fresh. No grizzly sign.  Animals all must be high up. Not even one grouse for Gilbert.”
“Ah, poor Gilbert, “ she said.
I’d drunk the thermos coffee at the top of the mountain where the logging road ended and eaten a chocolate bar but had been thinking about the roast beef after that.
I made up a couple of roast beef sandwiches with mustard and shared a few slices with Gilbert. He doesn’t like the bread or mustard, prefers his roast beef straight up.
Laura and  I sat looking at the river and mountainside.
“The hunters left.  I felt safe when they came back and were packing up. I sat out here and enjoyed the camp but when they left I got in the truck again.”
“I saw them passing on the road leaving.”I told her.
“You know I don’t feel like there’s any deer here. I could shoot a bear but I’m not particularly interested in bear. There don’t seem to be a lot of grouse and frankly I don’t like the dust and dirt and could just pack up and head back. We’re be hunting again Thanksgiving from a motel or resort.  It’s a really dirty dusty dry year even with the recent rain.   I’ve come to like showering or having a swim after hunting.  Gilbert’s had a great time but if you don’t mind I could go back to town and enjoy being in the trailer.'
“I don’t mind at all,” she said, trying to conceal her enthusiasm.
“I really didn’t mind leaving you with other hunters around but I don’t like the idea of going out and leaving you alone in grizzly bear territory. I didn’t tell you before, but I’ve seen grizzly bear just miles north of here when I used to to go up to the hot springs."
“I’d stay.I’m okay in the truck but  I didn’t sleep last night.” she shared.
“It’s settled then.  If I thought there was more chance of seeing game, maybe. I also missed the campfires at night.  Especially in bear country.  I felt safe in the truck tent but don’t like leaving you this far out in the wilderness. Alone I feel safe tenting with Gilbert but worry about you.   If we were back where the other campers were or the guys next door had stayed maybe, but as it is, I’m game for going home.”
Laura didn’t put up a whole lot of resistance to that idea, despite being a regular trooper.
So we packed up.
The tent came down, the gear was loaded. I put out the ramps with double straps and gingerly loaded the ATV. Then everything was tied down, one last check, then we headed back. It was a short drive back to the main road. I felt good returning early.  Having moved with lots of disorganization still I looked forward to a day of puttering.  I also needed to take the truck in to get the plastic gate cover reattached. The truck was due for a check up too and I had to get Burnaby Hitch to install a fifth wheel hitch as well.

The irony was that driving out of the campground we actually saw a 2 year old black bear on the road. Later driving out of Pemberton I saw another young black bear in the ditch.
It was a great drive down the Sea to Sky with beautiful views.  I was thankful the storage lockers were open. Their offices closed but the lockers were there to allow me to unload all the gear and leave the ATV.  Back home we unloaded the food and cooler and dirty dusty clothes.
Then I was in the shower.  I love the shower. It was glorious. Thank you God for hot water soap and  showers.
When I was finished my quick shower Laura moved in for a lifetime of luxurious bathing.   I made us chicken noodle soup and we sat on the couch reading that evening. I fed Gilbert tidbits of left over roast beef.   He was up on the couch between as happy to be home as we were.  It was another great hunt concluded.
I was rather glad to not have to shoot a grizzly bear mauling my girlfriend and risk hitting Gilbert because you know he’d attack anything that threatened Laura.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for the story
and the pictures are beautiful