My friend, Bill Poppy, and I ventured to the northern Rocky Mountains of BC in mid-September on a hunt for elk and Stone sheep. It was a new area for myself to go, but Bill had been in there 3 years ago so he had a good idea what we were up against. He told me that it was a difficult ATV ride into the hunting area, and he certainly wasn’t exaggerating on that front. The drive to northern BC from our homes to the trail head took about 14 hours then it was time to drop off the ATVs and load the trailers with our gear for the trip to base camp. The ATV ride was extremely challenging on our bodies and our equipment, but we made it in about 6 hours with a few pit stops to conduct field repairs on my ATV trailer as we went. It was raining hard the entire way and when we arrived at base camp we were both soaked. We got the wall tent set up and the wood stove going and it didn’t take long to dry out and get warm. It rained most of the first night, but when we got up long before daylight the next morning for the first day of our hunt, it had cleared a bit and there was some low-hanging cloud and fog in the valley – perfect for elk hunting in the rut! Bill headed up the valley on his ATV to try a spot he had scouted his previous trip and I decided to head up the valley right behind camp. I was just getting my pack ready to head out and I could hear a bull elk bugling right behind camp. Game on! I hiked up a small ridge behind camp and determined where the bull roughly was and snuck in that direction. I went a couple hundred metres and bugled to the bull. I got an immediate response and the bull quickly started coming my way. We bugled back and forth a few times and then I could hear the bull coming through the thick timber towards me. He came straight at me and I was having trouble counting 6 points to make him ‘legal’. He came to about 15 metres of me and I could then see he was a nice, big 6X5 bull and readied for the shot. He knew something was not right and swung around me to get my wind. I never had a clear shot even at that close range and he ended up winding me and taking off. Disappointing, but I was still shaking and very stoked with this fast action the first morning. I then thought I would head farther up the valley, but could hear another bull bugling straight across from me. He had obviously heard the commotion and was coming to investigate. This time I got set up where I could see a lot better and had a small opening in front of me. I bugled the bull a few times and saw him emerge across the valley form me. I could see he had 6 points on each side, so was much more prepared this time. I kept calling and he made his way to my side of the valley and came up to about 25 metres of me where I could see him fairly well. One shot with the 7 mag. and he was mine. I looked at my watch – exactly 1 hour since I left camp. Very fast start to this hunt!
I called Bill on the radio at 9:00 as we planned and he told me he had called in a 4-point bull and sounded very thrilled. I told him I had already shot a 6-point and he wasn’t sure if he could believe me or not. He did believe me when he got back to camp and saw the blood on my hands, though. It was easy to get my bull out of the bush and hung up to cool, then we had lunch and planned our afternoon hunt. We went up behind camp again and could glass a pretty good bull in an open burn with a couple of cows. We couldn’t be sure he had 6 points, but kept watching him through the spotting scope as he was bedded out in the wide open. Bill and I split up a few metres apart to glass two different areas, and just after Bill left, I looked over my left shoulder to see a nice bull emerge from the timber about 100 metres away and start walking straight towards me in the wide open! I got Bill’s attention and he quickly scurried over to where I was sitting. We looked the bull over and were trying to determine if he had 6 points or not. By the time we were 100% sure he was legal, he had figured out something was wrong and made an escape. Oh well, pretty good action for day 1. Day 2 we hunted elk in the morning with no action, but did see a pack of wolves feeding on a kill way off in the distance. We quickly closed the gap on them, but by the time we got into shooting range they had just slowly wandered off into the timber. Only a matter of a couple of minutes earlier and we would have had them in a very vulnerable spot at under 400 metres and in the open, which is a very rare occurrence with wolves. There were at least 4 black ones and a very large white one. Disappointed, but still excited in coming so close to a great shooting opportunity. We headed out that afternoon to scout a new valley and did some glassing. We saw a bunch of Stone sheep, including one good ram we figured would be legal. We watched them until close to dark then headed back to camp to get some sleep and dream about the upcoming sheep hunt for the ram. Morning of day 3 our plan was to hunt elk in the morning and if we had no luck, go and hunt the Stone ram in the afternoon. We climbed a big ridge behind camp at first light and kept working our way up and bugling and glassing as we went. We had one bull calling back to us, but he wouldn’t move closer, so we figured he had cows with him. We kept climbing higher and could see some beautiful country all around us. The same bull would call occasionally and later in the morning I was glassing where we last heard him and could see him in a small opening about 1000 metres below us. We put the spotting scope on him and could see he was a legal bull. I sent Bill down off the mountain to close the distance on the bull and I kept tabs on him with my spotting scope. He had a cow with him and I was able to keep track of his location almost until Bill had worked his way into shooting position. The bull then bedded in some thick timber and I could just barely make him out. Bill couldn’t see him, so I suggested to him on the radio to let a bugle rip. Bill did just that and the bull came unglued. It headed straight for Bill and stopped about 90 metres from him and tried to locate where the intruder was located. Bill didn’t have a clear shooting lane and started to get a bit panicky after several minutes. He then tried a head shot, which didn’t work out as planned but it did hit the bull and made him move to the side a bit where Bill was able to cleanly finish him with a neck shot from his 30-06. Bill was stoked! It was his first bull elk.
The work then began and as we packed out the first load of meat, we could see very large and fresh grizzly tracks on the trail heading the same way as us. We had to walk right by where we had hung my elk two days before and we were on pins-and-needles as we got closer to where my elk was. I glassed ahead to where the meat was hung and could see one quarter on the ground. Great! We both had our rifles cocked and locked and were on edge. Bill then looked just a few metres to our right and could see another quarter in the bush. We had obviously just interrupted his feeding frenzy and knew the bear was right there in the thick jungle, watching us I am sure. Believe me, when they say the hair stands up on the back of your neck, this is a literal expression! We made it back to camp and then moved my elk meat closer to camp and hung it and Bills as high in a tree as we could. The rest of the day was spent getting Bills meat out and cleaned up and a few cocktails in celebration.
Day 4 was for sheep hunting. We went back to where we had seen the ram on day 2 and started glassing. We picked up the mature ram right away feeding with a smaller ram. The plan was for me to keep track of the rams as Bill hiked into position. I kept watching the rams, but before Bill could close to shooting range, they both bedded in some scrub timber. I could barely make out a piece of the older rams butt through some trees, and tried earnestly to guide Bill into where he was bedded over the radio. Pretty frustrating as he got to about 40 metres of the rams and could not make them out. He eventually spotted the smaller ram then the bigger ram must have caught Bill moving as they both got up and started to move off. Bill could see the bigger ram, but was having a bit of trouble making 100% sure he was legal. The rams were not overly spooked and started feeding after a few minutes. Bill was eventually able to confirm the ram was legal and made a nice one-shot kill on him. The ram was at least 9 years old. It was broken-off on one side, but still a beautiful trophy. Bill packed the ram out and we had another celebration in memory of the old ram that night. We talked to another group of hunters on the way back to camp and they had been having a huge amount of trouble with the same grizzly we were dealing with. Morning of day 5 we started heading out of camp at first light and decided to look at our meat cache on the way out. We quickly saw the carnage from the same grizzly and this time he had completely eaten one of my elk quarters and stolen another. We were angry and frustrated and decided we had better salvage the meat we had and break camp and get out before we lost all the meat. It was a shorter trip than we were wanting, but we knew when to cut our losses and make the best of things. We packed up and made the gruelling ATV trip back to the pick-up and the long drive home. On the way out, we saw a huge pile of very fresh grizzly crap on the trail. I think he was sending us a parting message! We will be back to that area one day, but next time, we will be hanging our meat at least 15 feet in the air.