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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: “Big Country Outfitters”, British Columbia, Canada: NO!

After our 8-day $8500 “fully guided” two-moose hunt with “Big Country Outfitters”, we can definitely say that we do NOT recommend them. They are unprofessional, unprepared, incompetent, and just plain ugly people, who seriously shouldn’t be allowed to deal with the public, much less run an international hunting business. “Big Country Outfitters” advertises themselves as offering fully-guided moose hunts “for all ages and abilities”, and this is NOT accurate. If you don't know how- and can't physically deal with- a 700 lb. moose after you've shot it, this is NOT the hunt for you. Their contract with us was no more than an itemized receipt, and the only tool their website checklist suggests one bring is a “skinning knife”, which is totally hilarious! If not for my US Army Retired, experienced Alaska and Canada big game hunter husband’s knowledge, skills, abilities, sheer physical strength, coupled with our personal set of meat knives and saw, I’d still be sitting in a field with a (now rotting) moose carcass- and I have the photos to prove it. When I finally did get a moose, on the penultimate day of our hunt, our guide, Joe L., who claims to be the partner of the company’s actual owner, Mike Hawkridge, literally had no ability to properly deal with it: all he literally had was a pocket knife. He had no appropriate meat-cutting knives or a saw, no chainsaw, no chains, no winch, no lamps (save for his tiny headlamp), no tools- nothing but a piece of rotten rope and a manual ratchet “come along”, 3 old and rotting pieces of wood, and the dying pick-up truck that he’d had to constantly swap for a tiny Suzuki throughout the week (at the expense of our hunting time), as it repeatedly cut out on him. We were hunting in the tiny Suzuki in the late afternoon when I got my moose, and my husband and I waited for over an hour in the field in the dark (until 10pm) with the gutted moose carcass; no way was I leaving my husband there alone, or leaving the animal to the bears, wolves, and coyotes- we’d already seen bear tracks in the area, including a mama bear and cubs, as well as 6’ tall bear running up the road- while Joe went back to camp to swap out the tiny Suzuki for the pick-up he hoped would run! (I shot a 5-point moose; had I shot a truly large "trophy" moose there is no way he and my husband could have physically handled it). Joe L then cheated us out of our last day of hunting and my husband’s last chance to get a moose, telling us that night, (in lieu of any celebration of my successfully taking the moose), that it was in our contract (a lie) that both of us had to spend the next day dealing with the meat processing of my moose- something that should have taken but a few hours in the early morning at most. Having to listen to- and ignore-Joe L’s pro-Nazi rants for 8 days (“if Hitler hadn’t been in such a rush they would have won”, “America and Canada should have stayed out of it”, “I hate Churchill- he tricked America into getting into the war”, etc.), along with racist remarks (how hot sauce made him “sweat like a n-----“ was one), made it a Truly special week- especially as my name is Goldstein, it’s no secret I’m a Jew, and over dinner the first night, when we were asked about our military backgrounds, the fact that my husband is US Army Retired and I’m an Israeli Defense Forces Veteran was made clear. His stories about point-blank murders ruled “hunting accidents” made the week even More special, and it was topped by his going postal in a foul-mouthed burst of scary ugliness on our final day at the local meat processor- who couldn’t/wouldn’t process our meat, and whom Mr. L. insisted was the only processor in the area, which we found the next day to be yet another lie; we gather this is their racket to get USA hunters to leave them their meat. Mr. L’s ugly outburst was followed by him literally slamming up the tailgate of his truck, jumping in it, and driving away in his supposedly non-working-properly truck at top speed with my moose, costing us the opportunity to plug in our freezer at the processor, which the processor had offered, IF he and my husband would skin and quarter the moose, which they had agreed to do- until Mr. L. went ballistic in their parking lot and drove off in a rage. Although we had booked this hunt over a year in advance (based on sterling online reviews, as well as glowing testimonials from Outdoor Connections, whom we booked though, via TripAdvisor.com, and Hardcore Huntresses, who apparently had their bear hunt comped, and so is still singing their praises), the company’s owner, Mike Hawkridge, couldn’t even manage to do our hunting permit paperwork correctly, and when we arrived we found that both my last name and birthdate on my license were wrong. Hawkridge not only refused to change it, he actually laughed at my concern, telling us that if I had a problem with US Customs I should “tell them to call me”. (And leave a message on his answering machine? He is unreachable most of the time- as he was for 5 days during our hunt). But the icing on the cake was when Mr. Hawkridge finally returned to camp (he was with another hunter couple for 5 days at a “spike camp” and “unreachable”), and learned of all of the above, he was absolutely fine with it, totally unapologetic, and not only did nothing to rectify any of it, but spent hours- while we packed our meat, (my husband having spent the day he SHOULD have spent hunting, quartering and skinning my moose with some help from Mr. L., and driving for hours to buy meat bags and salt, which they didn’t have, either), and belongings- laughing at the top of his lungs with his crew right outside our room to make his contempt for us crystal clear.
We left that night in the rain to find a motel with an electric outlet for our freezer so our meat wouldn’t spoil; their tiny generator which constantly cut out day and night wasn’t an option. My husband getting diarrhea from sandwiches made from canned salmon left in a cooler box or outside for 3 days (they have no refrigeration), wasn’t particularly amusing, either; fortunately that’s all he got. This company’s Very big problems obviously start at the top.  In our humble opinion, the damage they are doing to Canada’s tourism hunting reputation needs to be looked into ASAP.

 

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