Hunting Adventures: Alberta Dream Hunt

Big-Bull-Camp-2010-139A dream hunt is made of three things; a unique opportunity, a great area to hunt and the people you make your memories with. This hunt had shaped up to include all of these things. A covered wagon, pack horses, an outfitters tent, a beautiful piece of Alberta and last but not least people who share my passion for the outdoors set the stage for our week long adventure.

It was day three. A veil of darkness surrounded us as a warm breeze struck my face. The Chinook winds had returned and hunting would not be easy. Although pleasant to be out in, the warm weather would mean the elk would be high in the foothills that we were hunting. With abundant grass in hidden meadows all through the area there would be no reason for any animal to leave the safety of the forest for the dangers of the open valley down below. We were in for a hike and to get to where we were going meant leaving well before daylight broke.

The day before had met us with success. A nice 6×6 elk had been taken high in the hills and today, my hunting partners Ken and Tim were getting ready to pack him out. With two packhorses they left to retrieve the elk and that left only Tom and I to hunt. Anticipation was building as we made our way down the trail. It wasn’t long before we came to a fork in the trail and decided to split up. I was heading back to an area I had hunted the day before while Tom continued on. The area looked perfect for elk. Hidden grassy meadows, poplars and water, really there was no reason for any animal to leave the bush.

The day before I had found a very large six point elk shed as well as a few other elk sheds that gave me optimism and assured me this was an area that elk frequently visited. This morning found me at cross roads. Follow the same trail up the hill or take a fork in the trail that went a little further north. I chose to take the north fork. It was less than five minutes into my ascent and there it was. The match to the shed I had found the day before! Both sheds had been found not 30 yards apart and I was more optimistic than ever I would find elk here. At this point in the morning it was still dark however the temperature was rapidly rising with each breath of wind. It didn’t seem to matter how high I climbed the air was still getting warmer by the minute.

Day started to break and visibility was getting good. I continued my accent and I knew I would need to get to the top if I wanted to have any chance at all. These foothills are as big and as steep as they get and it was taking me longer than I had expected to reach the top of this one. CRASH! I quickly looked up and saw two moose standing 50 yards from me. The cow was good size and the bull was a shooter but it was elk I was after. The pair slowly wondered off and I continued on my way. With my heart racing from the excitement of seeing the moose I continued up the hill. Finally I reached the top; with the exception of a few small whitetails I had not seen any more animals. There was animal sign everywhere but what had started out as promising area had turned into an unproductive morning.

Back on the main trail I picked up the elk shed I had found earlier and headed towards camp. I was over five km from camp at this point and it was going to be a long hike back with nothing but a warm breeze and the memories of the morning hunt to ponder over. I did however have a set of trophy elk sheds now and although I would not take an elk on this trip I was more than happy to just have the experience.

Halfway back to camp I sat down, took off my pack and rested for half-an-hour. There was no point in rushing back to camp. The evening hunt was a long ways off and the day warm and sunny. I stood up and reached for my pack when I saw him. The tines were so tall and dark I wasn’t sure if it was a mule deer or a whitetail. As the buck turned I saw his tail and got a better side profile of his antlers. There was no doubt now he was a whitetail and a good one at that!

It was early in the season well before the rut but this buck had his head down and was sniffing as if following a hot doe. A small pool of water at the edge of a bluff of willows held his attention but only momentarily. Not aware I was only 80 yards away he continued to wander around the edge of the willows stopping occasionally to sniff the air and to take in a mouthful of grass. I knew it was now or never. At any moment he could slip back into the willows and my shot opportunity would be gone. The report of my rifle echoed through the valley and he was down! As I approached him I was unaware at how good of a buck he actually was. He will not have a huge score and I will not likely ever put a tape to him but he is a trophy of a lifetime. This is by far the largest three-point buck I have ever seen or put my hands on.

Luckily for me a hunt of a lifetime includes good friends. Tom was making his way back to camp when he found me with my buck. After several pictures and some hard work we finally had him quartered. It was shortly after Tom arrived when we realized we had a picture of this deer the day before! One of the other guys had taken a photo of him on hoof . He had traveled a long ways from where the picture was taken to where I was finally able to put him down.

A couple hours later Ken and Tim made their way back towards camp with the elk quartered and packed. Luckily there was still room left for a little more meat on the horses. Tom and I ended up packing the rest of the deer back to camp but were grateful that some of the load was being taken by Cody and Rascal. That night we all reminisced over the past couple of days. We had hunted hard and had been rewarded with a couple of great animals.

This truly was a hunt of a lifetime!

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