Re: Off to Canada again, Mule deer, Whitetail, Black bear
That Ford Power Stroke isn't mine, I was "elected" to thread the serpentine belt after the others snuck a peek at the front of the engine. There are three different belts for that model Ford, the first one we tried was about 4" too short and cost us ~$120 and 2 hours of time, the second belt was correct and took about 15 minutes to thread and tighten (without the special tool).
Here's an installment on the "rest of the story". (It's gonna be a long one....)
Wheat fields, deer and “Whac-A-Mole” bears
My trip to Alberta started out rather uneventful with a casual online ticket purchase and a surprisingly quick pass through Baltimore’s airport security on flight day, good omens for the 10 days trip I thought. The short stopover at Minneapolis-St Paul airport was slick as ever too and I landed in Edmonton eager to begin the vacation with a much anticipated overnight excursion to Richard Graves (Wildcat Bullets) farm and soon-to-be fish sanctuary. Canadian Customs officials were very nice and after a short glance at my rifle and archery equipment I headed over to see about renting a vehicle for the day trip to Richard’s place… things started a bit south about this time as I recall… It seems there’s a gas and oil boom in Alberta and with the influx of folks eager to work in the expanding market there is a shortage of non-reservation rental vehicles but luckily I guess there was one, and just one, vehicle left for rent….. a Dodge…… minivan. I asked the counter staff what was wrong with it, questioning what it hadn’t been rented, the reply turned out to be a bit cruel and painful but yet somewhat humorous…. “No self respecting working man would rent a minivan!” So there I was weighing my pride as a “working man” against the long walk to Richard’s house…. Anyway, about an hour later I sheepishly drove into Richard’s driveway and parked the “Dodge”…. a respectful distance away from any manly vehicle or equipment.
Richard Graves farms and plays a short distance south-east of Wetaskiwin, Alberta. My arrival found Richard and his father in the act of finishing off a wheat field and preparing to combine another. After a brief introduction Richard’s father was off to swath a new field and Richard and I climbed into the combine and headed out to collect more wheat. Being a non-wheat smart guy I asked a few questions about the equipment and process, first few being about door operations and seating preference, I got an exit row window seat, “banker’s seat” as I recall. Richard and I chatted and cackled a few enjoyable hours as we circled the fields collecting grain and chasing mule deer and grouse. We just finished up as night fell and proceeded to the house for a fine supper of moose and a drink. Next morning Richard and I we up sort of early, it was a light rain and Richard had already been out covering up grain bins and trucks by the time I was cleaned up and presentable (recall that I now drive a minivan). We puttered about in the bullet shop going over Richards latest creations, pencil lead sized .17 cal bullets and some whopper .50 caliber specials. We also tested some of Richard’s toys, trying out the lead extruding press and making a visit to the lead wire extrusion building. A little before noon we made a short trip to a local gun emporium and cosmetics store whereupon our return to the farm it was time for my departure to continue with the hunting portion of my Alberta trip…. and to return the Dodge.
Back at the Edmonton airport I returned the minivan to a snickering counter attendant and scurried away to await the arrival of my hunting companion and our host. I was to be hunting with a fella coming in from Madrid, Spain with a scheduled arrival near 6:00 P.M. so I had a few hours to burn having been required to return the rental by 2:00 P. M. Airports are sort of fun I guess, so long as I’m not stuck there due to flight delays or complications, to pass the time I watched the folks flit about doing the little things required to make a connection and found it quite enjoyable watching the cart retrieval guys race the long strings of airport baggage carts across and through the lanes of human and vehicular traffic.
My host arrived about 5:30 P.M., a little late due to a broken driver side window and hurried replacement event (a common peril of travel on gravel roads) and together we awaited the arrival of Yawan from Madrid…. Surprisingly, Yawan arrived on-time on the Air Canada flight but not too surprisingly his baggage did not and we went into a seemingly continuous loop of check the baggage counter and await the next Air Canada flight from Calgary… At 11:55 P.M. Yawan’s baggage arrived and after a quick check that his archery equipment was functional and complete we began our long drive to Cherry Point, Alberta, a 650 kilometer trip.
We arrived at Ole’s lake camping area on highway 64 near the British Columbia border early morning and quickly set to getting our gear straight and finding a bunk in the 40 foot trailer. A quick nap after the long drive then we were off to check the bows sighted before our first foray into the field after the mule deer. I had been told before leaving on the trip that I should have sight pins to 60 yards, I questioned the method of hunting we’d use at that time and was assured we’d have some spot and stalk and maybe stands. Ron, our host, stated that we’d probably drive the roads glassing the many quarter-sections we’d hunt looking for suitable deer and setup situations. He also stated that it might be possible to come upon mule deer standing within 60 yards of the truck upon entering a field. Being familiar with whitetail deer and archery shots I asked about the likelihood of getting an arrow into a fully alerted deer at 60 yards. My experience with whitetail seemed to indicate that an alerted whitetail could cover about 3/4's of a mile in the time it’d take my arrow to travel the 60 yards to where he’d previously been standing… very serious string-jumpers in my opinion. None of us had any experience with mule deer and archery so the string-jumping question was answered with a series of dumb looks and shoulder shrugs, we were to find out on our own first hand soon enough…..
We split up and headed out in two vehicles and in about 10 minutes I had my first look at a fully mature mule deer buck, in fact I had a chance to look and dozens of the beasts, they were literally everywhere. We drove and glassed looking for something suitable, within stalk range and on land we had permission to hunt. In what seemed like about 12 seconds or so we happened upon a small bachelor herd casually walking through a wheat field, parallel to and about 60 yards off the road. We stopped the truck and with Nick using the laser rangefinder and calling out the range I crossed the ditch to stand on the top crest of the ditch in the wheat, the bucks kept walking, I crouched and followed, they kept walking, Nick kept shouting range; 84 yards, 90 yards…. About the time I figured the bucks really didn’t care if I followed or not so long as I didn’t rush forward toward them I was about out of earshot from Nick and still tracking about 80 yards from the bucks… I gave up and walked back to re-evaluate the hunting approach I had formulated. I had just walked/tracked alongside a small herd of bucks with a nice one in the 175” category waiting for them to stop so I could “sneak up” on them and shoot, the bucks I guess figured I was of no consequence and went about their business. For the next few hours we just glassed and drove examining hundreds of deer to include two massive bucks one of which was surely in the 200” class (non-permission land but only about 120 yards from the road). In the evening I opted for a stand on the ground hoping to catch some deer feeding in the wheat… good idea but poor placement on my part so no deer.
The next morning I’m out again but with a new idea; drive into the harvested fields (a process pre-approved by the farmer/rancher) to approach the deer. This seemed like a good idea until we executed the plan whereupon we discovered that the deer didn’t like being directly approached by the vehicle. Time again to form a new plan; drive in the field but follow the edge of the field acting as if we’re farm equipment so as not to directly confront the deer, this proved to be a very good and functional plan. We drove along the edge of the field and when we’d get close to the standard escape route of the deer they’d show a little excitement and walk toward their natural exit, we’d stop the truck and I’d get out and try to intercept the deer in their route of travel. This was better but I had trouble finding a suitable buck and they didn’t let me get very close before trotting and getting out of range to then stop just inside the treeline of the bush. A slight alteration in the plan allowed us to get very close to the deer by staying close to the bush edge of the field, stopping the truck at the trail and letting the deer approach the vehicle and enter the bush to stop before I emerged from the truck, now I’d be close, very close. We found a nice set of bucks so we did the approach and park, the two bucks passed the truck and entered the birch trees then stopped, I stepped out of the truck and stood on the very edge of the field peering into the birch trying to determine which buck was within range and if he was a shooter. After a bit of head waggling and foot shuffling I saw the buck and found a clear shooting lane, a narrow lane but no dreaded horizontal obstructions. The buck was close, about 30 yards I guessed having given up on the laser as a waste of time in this endeavor. My shooting lane was very narrow, perhaps 8” of chest width was all I could see clearly but I knew I was good as I could see antlers to the right and the “armpit” of the slightly quartering buck. With my 20 and 40 yard pins bracketing the buck’s chest I sent an arrow down the middle of the narrow lane and watched as it struck the buck about 1/3 up from the bottom of the chest, he make a little leap and ran forward. I felt as though it was a good release and with the visual on the arrow hit and the jump I gave a grinning double thumbs-up to Nick and Maria as I quietly listened for the telltale crash of the now retreating buck…. It was only a matter of a second or two and I heard it, the cracking of brush and scattering of leaf litter, the buck was down. Nick and Maria got out of the truck and I quickly went over the scenario with them and explained that I heard what I thought was the buck going down. We marked the spot I was standing in when I shot and with Nick standing on that spot I entered the bush to find the place the buck was standing when he was hit. Nick and Maria were quiet but I could hear them discussing the near impossibility of getting an arrow through those birch and into the deer when I came upon my blooded arrow and the bright red of the blood trail. The arrow had struck the buck in the chest, passed through both lungs as well as nearly through the center of the heart, the trail was easy to follow with the brilliant red contrasting on the white birch. The buck had traveled only about 80 yards following a well established trail along the top of a gentle rise before he fell; when we came upon him his companions were still waiting a short distance away apparently reluctant to abandon their downed partner, a nice velvet 4x4 of about 167” gross.
More to follow later; whitetails and “Whac-A-Mole” bears.