Sometimes things don't work out as planned.
At the 2016 Weatherby dinner, I had no intention of bidding on a hunt, but when the wife and I got there I discovered Darwin and Wendy Cary's Scoop Lake Outfitters had donated a Stone Sheep hunt in northern British Columbia. I had taken a nice Stone with Scoop Lake three years earlier, and the hunt ran like clockwork. As you can probably guess, when the auctioneer lowered his hammer I found myself with another booked hunt much to my wife's dismay. She was muttering something about this year's three back-to-back sheep hunts being a bit excessive. Sometimes nin0hunting spouses are hard to figure out.
The hunt was supposed to being on August 16th, but Darwin asked if I could postpone it by two weeks. I said, OK not realizing what difference those two syllables and those two weeks would make. Let me tell you my tale of woe.
Every hunter but one who was in the field during the earlier time frame took a ram. The one who didn't saw legal rams but was looking for one for the book. For those of us hunting two weeks later, it was just the opposite every hunter but one did not take a ram. The one that was successful did a back-pack hunt and had two guides with him. He was looking for a 41 ram that had been spotted previously but wound up settling for a very respectable ram of somewhat smaller proportions. But I am getting ahead of my story.
Six other hunters and I arrived at Watson Lake to catch a charter flight to Scoop. The weather was not cooperating. Cloud clover was so low the pilot did not think it was safe to fly, so all of us booked motel rooms to wait out the weather. As the hotel lacked a hospitality suite, three of us visited a local retailer to buy wine, crackers, and cheese to set up our own. Just as the win was uncorked and the cheese sliced, the pilot called to say there was now a small window of opportunity, and he could take two or three of us to Scoop if we hurried to the dock where his float plane was stationed. Grabbing our gear and goodies within two hours we were at Scoop headquarters.
The weather closed in once more and we settled in waiting for the clouds to lift. Four long days later, I was flown to the Island Lake camp which would be the base for my hunt. The following day Richard Arundel, my guide, and Hamish Berrett, a 19 year old wrangler from New Zealand, loaded up six pack horses and along with Thyra, Richard's wife and camp cook, we set off for Paddy's Creek camp where Richard had seen rams earlier in the season. The day was pretty much over by the time our ten horse pack train arrived and camp was set up.
The next morning we headed out for our first day of hunting. I was mounted on Bradford, who was named for well known outfitter, Myles Bradford. Turns out Myles had sold Brandford's sire to Darwin over 22 years ago, and Bradford was the sire's first foal. I had a connection to Myles too. Almost 20 years before, I had taken my first Stone with him so riding Bradford made it seem like everything was coming together nicely. That was premature thinking.
We saw a couple of ewes and two grizzlies but no rams. Richard and I did a perfect 2000 yard stalk on a pretty good billy, and I was able to take it at about 350 yards with my 300 Weatherby. This was my second mountain goat which I think is a much under appreciated animal. To me, physically they are the hardest animal to hunt in North America because they are usually found higher up and in more rugged terrain than sheep.
During my many years of hunting, I've never taken a wolverine, but id certainly like to. One showed up about 25 yards above us as Richard and Hamish finished skinning the goat. It took all of my discipline not to shoot, but both the wolverine and I knew it was not in season. As we departed, the brazen opportunist tauntingly dined on the left behind scraps.
The next two days at Paddy's Creek were unproductive. We saw one banana ram by itself and a group of five youngsters. We did run into three wolves who had taken down a young caribou. We treated them rather rudely.
Another problem arrived from above, and it wasn't weather this time. An inconsiderate pilot kept flying his light plane over the entire area, especially along the ridges. We saw him every day, and we were pretty sure he was trying to spot sheep for some friends on the ground. It was futile to stick around, so we packed up camp and headed to Moose Valley.
On the way there, you might say things kind of evened out when we spotted a helicopter flying over with the errant plane dangling underneath. We contacted Darmin to see if he had any info on the pilot. During one of hid flights, Darwin had flown close to the plane and called its pilot on the radio. The offending pilot refused to answer and attempted instead to land at his mountain camp top camp. While landing, he flipped the plane! After seeing the pilot crawl out of the wreck with no apparent major injuries, Darwin exercised great restraint with his only comment being a pithy that's sweet. I would have cheered!
Heavy rain canceled our first day at Moose Valley, but we were able to hunt the next two days before rerunning to the Island Lake camp. No luck at either spot although we saw another five rams. One almost was legal about an inch short.
While things were not going well on the hunting front, we were kept very well fed. Thyra had brought a Dutch oven that she baked in by inserting it into a hole in the ground lined with coals. His was one great camp cook! We had several types of pies and cakes as well as my favorite, chocolate chip cookies. I try watch my weight and exercised some restraint but Richard and Hamish never did less than two desserts a night in addition to always having seconds of the main course. I was more than a bit jealous.
It was one of those trips. Sleet, snow, rain, or a combination every day but one. A two week hunt where we hunted only five days. Saw the prized and illusive wolverine which I could have hit him with a rock but the BC government said no. Saw 11 rams but none were legal. If you ask me if I would go again, Id have only one thing to say - You bet I would!
Why does my wife keep shaking her head?