Hunting Adventures: Muskwa Elk

dept-how-to-101-HOLMESTom and I left for Fort Nelson from Prince George early in the morning on the 20 of September, heading for Fort Nelson to meet my wife’s cousin, Rock Donkey (Davin) and his pal Mister York (Richard) for a week of elk hunting on the Muskwa River in the Northern Rockies.

A first for Two-Tins (Tom) and I, Davin and Richard have done this a half dozen times. We should have left the previous night as I didn’t sleep a wink.

We are off to the boat launch, located 30 minutes out of town, to load the 18-foot Harbercraft Jet boat into the Muskwa River. It’s a balmy -8 degrees out but once we are moving upriver our smiles are frozen. Davin and Richard did a run up the day before with our gear; five hours later we picked a camp, the water is a glacial gray unlike the mud downriver. After a tiring trip with fuel stops and moose sightings we set up our wall tent-Home for a week. An elk bugles in the distance.

We decided on a quick afternoon walkabout and were into elk immediately. Davin set up with his bow intent on taking a cow, I was 50 metres away from him when a cow strolled up the game trail towards him, waiting for him to fire the elk stomped and ran four metres from where Davin was setup — facing the other direction. When the cow disappeared I see Davin slapping his chest no doubt he got spooked, me on the other hand, well, I laughed for a while.

The first morning took Tom and I up a mountain, followed a well-travelled game trail until we broke treeline; my what a sight…  we just sat for a while taking it all in. We heard of last week’s hunters shooting a six-point bull up here and losing half of it to a Grizzly, we found it 100 metres from where we were resting.

Oh yes — Tom is terrified of Griz!

So why not come up a river named after a bear? We had a bull going; however, he busted us on an open slope and he was 700 metres above us. The first morning has us hooked on this country! The afternoon had us calling in a few five points and even though we needed 6 there was no frustration, just enjoyment!

Day two brought us an elk that Richard had shot, a cow less than 100 yards away with his .300 and down she went, got up and ran. He knew he hit her hard and fatally so sat for 20 minutes before looking for her, called on Davin to help and five hours later with some huge blood piles and two river crossings they never found her. We all just felt sick about it but this does happen. It was a quiet night around the fire.

Day Three — we found nine different goats sunning on the mountain behind us and since none of us are goats  we took photos through the spotting scope. Davin and I ran downriver for firewood and spotted a further 38 goats on the mountain range behind the first one, along with a dozen elk. Davin decided to climb one mountain, but fog rolled in and spoiled the view. When he arrived back at the river he pointed out where he was at the top of the mountain and there was a goat on the game trail he walked down not an hour ago… more laughter broke out!

Day four took us for a burn upriver to new country and into amazing country. We all went in different directions and always somehow met up. Tom and I were together, remember he is afraid of bears, we broke out of the trees facing an open meadow and the decision was made to doff some clothing as it was warming up. Long johns off and carry on — we ran into Davin at the other end of the meadow up on a ridge having lunch, said he was shocked while glassing this meadow and sees two of his hunting party in their underwear, henever used his binos again after that! Elk were returning bugles but staying in the bush, and we watched a wolverine hunt the meadow — this was something I had never witnessed before.

Day five was to be my day! Richard stayed around camp as he had some honey holes he wanted to explore and we went up river to new grounds. After meeting up in the middle of nowhere, again, Tom and I headed into the bush to chase another bugle. I broke off on my own heading towards the bugle, each time I let one out he hammered over top of me but he didn’t seem to move. I set up on some shooting lanes three or four times thinking “he’s coming this way” but he isn’t, he seemed to be staying put so I go towards him. I knew he is within 150 metres, still bellowing  away.

I finally saw him at about 75 metres, so I hit the dirt, well the moss actually, I crawled to within 50 metres and all I could see was one side of his rack which clearly showed five points; a big rack but with the trees I cannot see his right side. I peered once again around the tree and he had busted me, staring me down, bugling again and again, I am on my knees and not comfortable when I see that right side 1,2,3,4,5 and there it is, that magical number 6, all I have is his head broadside. I fire my brand new Sako A7 in 300 WSM and he bucked like a bronc! Moss flew everywhere, even landing beside me. I watched as he slowed down and then is still. I take a moment to pinch myself as I have taken a beauty 6-point Muskwa bull elk; I have shot elk before but none like this one and certainly not as remote.

We had our work cut out so we got to it. We  were running short on daylight so we left the front half up a tree — if the three of us could lift it, not! So we dragged it 50 metres from the gut pile and crossed our fingers, we would be back tomorrow. We got to the boat with little light left and after a 20-minute run downriver we make camp, and planned to return in the morning. (That’s where Davin earned the nickname “Rock Donkey;”  and that’s why Teflon is on the hull, all joking aside an admirable boat captain he is!)

The final day was spent relaxing getting ready for our trip home, beautiful weather, fabulous company, unmatchable country and an unforgettable adventure. The trip downriver seemed a lot quicker than up, go figure. Arrived at the boat-launch around 6 pm, a quick dinner in Fort Nelson then the redeye to Prince George. I tell everyone this was the trip of a lifetime, after this year’s trip I will say the same — for the second time.

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