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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oh, Canada! British Columbia: Prince George & Day One of our Moose Hunt!

Leaving Jasper, Alberta we headed for British Columbia, stopping at Mount Robson for coffee and to enjoy the beautiful view:
Doesn't it look fake? Like a plastic set for a production of "Heidi"? LOL

and funny things, too...















We made it to Prince George in the late afternoon- just minutes too late, sadly, to be able to tour the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum, so we strolled around outside the fence, looking at the trains & shooting pix on my Nexus7...









We then killed a few hours until North 54, the restaurant we wanted to have dinner at, opened, getting our first cash machine batch of Canadian money and stopping at a pharmacy, where we got what is undoubtedly one of Canada's great inventions: Life Brand "Analgesic & Muscle Relaxant" (Ibuprofen + Methocarbamol). :-) We then had a yummy "foodie" dinner of Sambuca Tiger Prawns in a garlic Sambuca butter broth, handmade tagliolini pasta with  prawns, scallops, mussels, and garlic confit in a saffron chardonnay butter broth, and filet mignon, accompanied by several glasses of good British Columbia wine, at North 54:
The funny part was that our server, an extremely debonair and sour man, was quite obviously both the owner of The Fine Restaurant of Prince George, and a snob of the first rank! His demeanor was SO incredibly snarky that I finally asked him, (with a big, sweet smile), if he was mad at us- which got an instant denial and a wan smile as he literally ran from our table! My gut feeling was that he felt that we- in our baseball caps and jeans- were tres déclassé for his fine establishment… I was able to log onto Facebook and FourSquare from the restaurant, which was nice, as we had no idea if we’d be able to do so from the hunting camp...

By now it was early evening, and we set out for the hunting camp, supposedly "only" 45 minutes from Vanderhoof... according to the little hand-drawn map the outfitter had emailed us.
We arrived at the hunting camp at 8pm, in the dark, after a merry drive through Extremely Rural BC in pitch-blackness. Everything was Swell until we got on “Old 27” out of Vanderhoof, and missed the turn onto Sturgeon Road… which sent us into The Great Unlit Canadian Wilderness. We finally managed to flag down a passing car and ask directions, and thus found the Vanderhoof airport and the turn onto Sturgeon Road, and yes, the road Did turn to gravel as the map stated it would, but the comment “camp is about 45 minutes from town” had us questioning Everything, as it seemed to be The Longest 45 Minutes In The Known Universe! But find it we finally did- Dan fortunately remembering the “watch for Private Drive sign” notation on the map, which led us from Millard Road onto The Pitted Driveway From Hell. We got to camp in time for Dinner No. 2, camp cook Celine’s rather tasteless spaghetti, and at least a pleasant, if not ecstatic, welcome. And BOY was I glad we travel with booze… LOL We met our Guide, Joe L. (the husband of the lady I'd been corresponding with for months about how we would process and transport (hopefully) a lot of moose meat), Mike H, the owner of the outfitting company, Tom, the “go-fer”, who seemed a sweet and funny guy, Lorne, their young trainee guide, and the other couple hunting this week: a young, proudly blue-collar husband and wife from Washington State. The wife joyfully regaled us all with a gleefully bloodthirsty description of her most recent dream- which she supposedly had twice- a “happy dream” (her words) in which she slit the throat of a moose stuck in a creek by its deformed horn, while her husband admonished her not to “blow the whole, expensive hunting trip on the first day”. :-O I have to admit I was at first surprised and disappointed by the roughness of the accommodations; I guess I was expecting a warmer welcome, somewhat finer food, finished walls that were thicker than paper, and better beds than two lumpy and uneven camping cots for $8500… Dan wasn’t surprised at all- this being par for the course at hunting camps... But as he always hunted rough (sometimes VERY rough...), and he'd never done a fully-guided hunt, he had much lower expectations than I. But as he was happy with the accommodations and people, so was I… 

Hunt Day One: Miss(ed) Moose
We were up at 4:30a.m. and having a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon at 5...

Although the other couple got on the road early (they were hunting several hours north of the camp), as we were to hunt in this area, we supposedly couldn’t start our hunting until light (6:30a.m.). We basically spent the day having Joe drive us around the countryside in his pick-up truck very, very slowly, looking and calling for moose, hoping they’d come out of the dense forest and cross the logging roads. The scenery was totally gorgeous, with the sad exception of all the dead pine trees, which must be (and were being) cut down by loggers- except in the Park area, where the loggers are not permitted to log, and so the trees there fall on top of each other, creating not only an impassably dense area of downed trees, but an insane fire hazard... Thank you China, for yet another invasive insect that is destroying entire forests… But, as you'll see, we were definitely in Moose Country- and Elk and Bear and Grouse and Mule Deer and Wolf and Coyote Country, too!


Love those Waldorf Astoria slippers! LOL







 Bullwinkle- at least 500 yards away...

 Close-up of Bullwinkle...

THE Big Thing Of The Day was having a gorgeous Bull Moose park itself in the middle of the road in front of our car- way up a hill- over 500 yards away- and having Dan miss the shot. L (And then having Joe miss- twice. LOL He wasn't supposed to shoot once, much less twice.) Like idiots, neither Dan nor I sighted our guns when we arrived, and both were off- and Dan’s was Way off. L After three rifle blasts Bullwinkle took off like a moose out of hell, and then we proceeded on a merry moose chase through the woods, trying in vain to find a blood trail. We finally drove back to the place where Mr. Moose had made his stand, saw his tracks, and discovered there Was no blood trail. The good news was we hadn’t lost a wounded moose, but the bad news was Dan had totally missed the shot. And I think Joe was (and remains) even madder than Dan, because he was “helping” Dan by firing- illegally- and missed twice… He then (smartly) said "don't say anything about this to anyone", as what he had done was patently illegal... We took to calling this particular Mr. Moose “Bullwinkle” or “Lucky”, depending on our mood- for obvious reasons. I became convinced that big and old as he is, Bullwinkle was certainly no idiot, and knew by then that hunts last about a week, and that if he hung out in the trees for a week until the 3 schmucks in a truck were gone, he’d probably be good to go. I could actually picture the Hanna-Barbera cartoon celebration, in which Bullwinkle and his buds celebrated his cheating death at the hands of Three Schmucks In A Truck Who Couldn’t Hit The Broad Side Of A Barn With A Pole-Axe...


We did find Lots of different kinds of poo: moose and/or elk, bear, coyote, and wolf. I got The definitive answer to the age old question of whether or not bears shit in the woods (yes), and kept thinking how I really should shoot The Definitive Wilderness Poo Album while we were in Wild Poo World...

We did one long (5 mile) walk (which made my legs feel much better J), and came upon a female moose and her calf- which we’re not allowed to shoot. I didn’t know that, however, and as Dan shouldered his rifle (just to look through the scope), I just stood there like an idiot staring at him and then at Joe, trying to figure out why Dan wasn’t firing away, afraid to even take a picture, lest the click throw him off… We were upwind from her and she didn’t smell us at all, even when she poked her nose in the air and sniffed around…




 
Elisse, wearing the noisiest rain gear in the universe: Frogg Toggs...

 Joe, calling for moose...

We got to munch yummy little wild blueberries that Joe found for us, and sample rose hips, which I found mealy and oddly tasteless- I guess I was expecting those Vitamin C-packed little doobers to be tangy or sour… 

Rose Hips...

After the fiasco of missing Bullwinkle, we all went to the gravel pit and sighted our guns doing some target shooting, and Dan corrected our scopes. Then we drove around playing Find That Damn Bull Moose until dark… to no avail. Joe kept calling them- which was both eerie and fascinating to watch and listen to- but they were not answering... L
Dinner was nice and warming: Celine’s “Russian Chicken” (made with Russian Dressing LOL). The other couple hadn’t shot anything either, and also seemed a tad disappointed; she had a moose tag and he had a bear tag. They were hunting with Mike north of the camp, on the river, which was extremely cold, in a boat that apparently had a bit of a leaking issue… While we were game for that, too, we were game only if there was a point- in other words, if the hunting there was excellent- or at least better than it was where we were. Just to be cold and wet and miserable in a leaking boat and a freezing tent for the sake of being cold and wet and miserable wasn't something we had any need or desire to do: been there, done that! After dinner I took a wonderfully hot bath; blisteringly hot water- even brown water-  is a glorious thing- as are OTC muscle relaxants with an added pain killer: one of Canada’s great contributions to the universe as I know it...
Next: Moose Hunt, Day 2!

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