Turn over a new leaf. Or in my case, a vapour trail of yellow birch leaves as my ATV zooms down a long-abandoned logging road in the French Creek area north of Revelstoke.
Moose hunting. Not something a past me would have envisioned me doing. I like challenging myself with completely new experiences, so here goes.
There I am, helping unload ATVs at first daylight, strapping the rifle on and cruising around old logging roads. Stopping, waiting, ‘glassing’ with binoculars, listening and waiting some more.
Let me back up a bit. The full wolf hide in my grandfather’s den was endlessly fascinating when I was a boy. So were the many, many rifles and guns on the walls. Some from the war, many for hunting. When it was time to sell what remained of the family hobby farm, they were cleared out and dispersed.
I ended up with a lever-action Winchester .308. A cowboy gun, of sorts. Borderline big enough for moose hunting (“I wouldn’t put anything bigger on that rifle,” the gunsmith says as I’m shopping for a scope. I perceive a sleight after I rebuffed his sales pitch for a Browning .300 Win Mag, which I couldn’t really afford.)
I open the envelope. Success after two tries! I get a moose draw in the Goldstream, despite 19:1 odds.
I take a weekend gun and hunting course in Nakusp. I can tell a mule deer from a whitetail, know how hard it is to sex a mountain goat, and can identify upland game birds. I learn where a moose’s heart is located, and how to tell by the blood trail if it’s been shot through the liver, lungs or major blood vessels. We watch a hunting safety video from yesteryear. I learn that if you’re a yahoo, mixing beer, bullets, guns and sweet late ‘70s pickups is a deadly combo. I learn to never point a rifle at anyone. And don’t put the wrong ammunition in it.
I learn about limited entry hunts, bag limits, draws, tags, management units, restricted weapons, over-unders, shotgun chokes, bolt-action, pump-action, rimfire, field dressing (gutting), quartering and survival basics.
I pass my hunting licence test. I pass my gun licence test (100 per cent, thank you very much!) Get my draw, my tag and I’m ready to go.
At the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club’s Bullet Basin, I get help to figure out sighting-in the rifle. I’ve shot the rifle in the past, but I’m forced to cram in the days before the hunt. Given all the time in the world and some luck, I could hit a Loonie at 100 meters within a few shots. But I hear your heart races when it’s time for the real thing.
It’s a 4 a.m. wake-up, Tim Hortons, toques and gloves, logging trucks, loggers, the chalky jade of Revelstoke Lake, slash-pile smoke obscuring Frenchman’s Cap. The deer that always seem to jump out in front of me on Highway 23 are conspicuously absent.
(stories continue below photo gallery)
GALLERY: Images from a two-day ATV moose hunt in the Goldstream River Valley by Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review. Click on individual photos for captions.
Out in nature, it’s a different way of being. There’s no rush to get to the summit. No viewpoint to stop at. No physical destination to achieve. You go different places and look for different things.
We travel up logging roads, onto older roads, then bushwhack through completely overgrown roads. We travel past smouldering slash pile fires, skirt marshes and scan clearings. We spend lots of time on the binoculars.
I’m reading the wrong signs. Are those mushrooms edible? Is that a poplar or a birch? That would make a nice photo. What are those furry, ringed flowers called? Look at the colour on that moss!
It causes me to miss the fresh wolf scat, moose paths through the tall grass and hoof marks on the trail.
A new wave of hunters
About a year ago, there were a flurry of stories about urban foodies getting into hunting to bag organic, natural meat. I tried to connect with local newcomers to hunting, but found a real resistance to being publicly identified as a hunter. That’s aside from the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club annual award winners, who we’ve featured annually in the Times Review. (And here’s a note to future Times Review editors: don’t send your vegetarian reporter to the banquet! He’ll report on the salad and be formally requested not to report on future banquets! True story.)
Having come this far, I’ve got a few key personal observations. Like my instructor said, it’s not cheap meat. If you do full-cost accounting, and enjoy success and luck, it’s OK, but not cheap. I’m not into the trophy scene, so the cost barrier is something to consider if you’re there for the meat. Add the cost of travel from the city, and I’m skeptical we’re about to receive an influx of urban meat hunters.
Second, I realize more and more just how ‘managed’ wildlife are in B.C. I’m guessing others who grew up in urban centres like Vancouver don’t have a good sense of that. I think that’s the source of a lot of misunderstanding. I’m not saying that wildlife and hunting is well-managed, just that it’s much more managed than many perceive.
Third, hunting has been part of both lines of my family as far back as I know. On my great-great grandfather’s sod-house homestead on the Manitoba prairie. On the other side of the family, famous Kootenay elk sausages. I had that feeling if you don’t give it a go, you’re giving something up.
I had a fantastic time in the Goldstream last week. I’d like to send out a special thanks to my host, who showed me the ropes. People come to Revelstoke because it’s an authentic place, and it was an authentic experience. I’d encourage anyone interested to just tag along on a hunt – it’s a unique experience.
Finally, I’ll say I’m not yet sure hunting is for me. I kept thinking I could do it with just a camera. (Except fill the freezer with moose.) I spent most of a decade as a vegetarian, and still think I should consider going back. I have a pervasive feeling that going somewhere beautiful to take a life is somehow wrong. I realize we could pull up two chairs and debate this forever; I’ll skip that here. And I’ll keep trying this season and see where it goes.
Unfortunately for me, the only hoofed game I’ve seen since I got my new scope sighted-in are the doe and fawn that walked across the range at Bullet Basin. But I’ll keep trying.