[A Western Canadian Mule Deer Buck]

Big Game in Western Canada

The snows had come unusually early in October, 1996 to the hills of Alberta and British Columbia. That did not dampen my enthusiasm when my hunting partner for many years, Ben Hanson of Kamloops, BC, called to suggest a moose and deer hunt in the Bonaparte Hills west of Little Fort. Although there was snow throughout the Bonaparte plateau, the overnight temperatures were not yet extreme so he suggested we packpack into a "moosey" area with just a tarp and sleeping bags for the last weekend of October. Ben's son, Jeremy, needed a break from his Cariboo College studies so he planned to join our outdoor safari as well!

I left my home in Kelowna on Friday October 25 in skies that hinted of rain or snow. After overnighting with Ben's family in Kamloops, late morning of the next day found us putting up a tarp near a picturesque lakeshore over a mossy spot grown deep from many years undisturbed in a thick stand of large hemlock, fir and cedar trees. Aspen and cottonwood groves grew like islands in a lake, interspersed in the conifers and excellent habitat for moose! [Ben and Jeremy Hanson] A day of hiking in this outdoor wonderland yielded nothing but track soup for our evening campfire dinner. The moose were still there as evidenced by fresh tracks and recent bark gnawings up to seven feet high on the aspen trees. As we sat around the evening campfire, we made plans for another morning moose hunt and of course, the star filled skies, flickering shadows of the great trees around us and the sheer joy of being miles from civilization led to many stories of past hunts, both successful and not! The chill evening air didn't bother us in the least as we snuggled deep into our sleeping bags spread on the moss covered ground under the tarp. The lapping waves on the lake shoreline just a few feet away soon lulled us to sleep.

It must have been about 2:30 am when I heard Jeremy stirring from his sleeping bag. Snow had been falling in his face! We all got up and hurriedly placed whatever camp gear that we could under the tarp to protect it from the snow. Then, with the ever present hunter's enthusiasm, we went back to sleep suggesting that the new snow would be ideal for tracking moose the next morning! I awoke at dawn with that uneasy feeling something was amiss. Sure enough, one foot was damp in my sleeping bag! It had snowed so much that it pushed the tarp onto my sleeping bag at my feet and the warmth had melted snow right into the bag. Luckily, I had spare socks so little time was lost in preparing dry clothes for the day's hunting. However, even with the new fallen snow and Jeremy's young legs churnning through miles of up and down forest glades, nary a moose was spotted that day!

By early afternoon, we decided to break camp and head back to Kamloops but we would try to work in an afternoon deer hunt on the way home. [Jeremy Hanson with his First 4 Point Mule Deer] The area we picked was very hilly, mostly covered with aspen trees now devoid of leaves. Much of the country had been logged in previous years and the steep hills were a good test for my GM 4X4. Mule deer does in prime winter coats were spotted in three locations. We picked a spot to hunt where young Jeremy could climb up an old logging cut and work through a groves of trees to a place where Ben and I would be waiting on the other side. We had only been in our positions for about 15 minutes when a shot from Jeremy's 270 rifle rang out. We hurried back to the hillside where we had left Jeremy and huffed and puffed to the top. There was a sight to behold, Jeremy proudly grinning by a beautiful 4 point mule deer buck that he had instantly felled with one well placed shot. After offering our happy congratulations to him for his first big buck, and a few pictures to keep our memories sharp, we helped Jeremy to dress his deer. Conditions could not have been more perfect as we slid the big buck down the hill over the new snow and straight into the back of my pickup truck! A perfect ending for a true outdoor hunter's weekend!

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