S: Dad's Hunting Stories
1: Johnny Sam Jones | The stories of a great hunter.
2: The Canadian Wolf Hunt | We began our trip from Baker, Montana on Tuesday, March 5, 2009. We were told, before we left, that the weather was poor and getting worse. But we were determined to go anyway. It was an easy 14 hour drive from Baker to Rimbey, Alberta in Canada. We traveled north from Baker through Lethbridge and Calgary along side the Canadian Rockies to Red Deer, Alberta then northwest to Rimbey. We were encouraged to find it snowing when we got to Rimbey but it did not last long. Just a week before, temperatures were in the minus 30s and snowing heavily. We found 18 to 20 inches of snow still on the ground in the heavy timber. | by Johnny Jones
4: The Canadian Wolf Hunt | The forest was different than any I have ever seen. The trees were spruce, pine and aspen, all mixed evenly and densely. Many places would have been difficult, if not impossible, to walk through. I found that in 18 inch snow, I was not very anxious to walk through it anyway. Regardless, it was pretty to look at! The next morning, we were ready to begin our hunt. The hunting area was about 15 miles off the paved road to a small park area. At the park we unloaded snowmobiles and traveled another 2 to 3 miles of trail into the back country. Because of the high temperatures and the lack of new snow we were forced to sit in blinds hoping the wolves would happen by the bait. They did but it was always at night. We never saw them, however, we were fortunate to hear a pack. Just after day light one morning we heard the pack on a hillside near us.
7: The Canadian Wolf Hunt | The chorus of howls echoing through the forest was a unique experience. We got to watch many Golden and Bald Eagles feeding on the bait with many noisy ravens. This is truly a wild and beautiful place. After a few days of sitting in blinds the guides suggested we cruise the trails on snowmobiles looking for fresh sign of the pack. The trails had not been traveled so we plowed over (and under) 3 and 4 foot drifts of snow. I found riding a snowmobile is not as easy as it looks. It takes lots of work to stay upright in unpacked snow (we were not always upright). When we did get stuck, it was major work to free the 600 pound sled while standing in near waist deep fluff. At one point we traveled several miles down a barely passable trail only to find our path blocked by a huge beaver pond. It was frozen but we knew with the warm weather there was some risk involved.
8: The Canadian Wolf Hunt | After considering the option of backtracking on the tough trail we decided to scoot across the pond. The only flaw in the plan was, we had to enter the pond from a steep 20 foot bank, which seriously limited the amount of speed we could carry on to the ice. At the bottom of the bank we opened up as much speed as possible and shot out on the ice. Things seemed to be going well when I began to sense we were loosing speed and the sled appeared to squat lower than it should. When I looked over my shoulder I quickly realized why. With over 120 yards of pond yet to go, we were breaking ice. The snowmobile track was half in water and throwing a rooster tail like a boat; however, unlike a boat snowmobiles do not float very well. The guide screamed to get as much weight as possible forward over the skis which were still on top of the ice.
9: "Whew...what a feeling. I thought we were going to get wet!"
11: The Canadian Wolf Hunt | At full throttle and with barely enough speed left, we finally made it to the other side. Looking back the drive track of the snowmobile had cut a path through the ice all the way across the pond. The much anticipated hunt is over. We had a great trip, the only way it could have been better would be if we had killed a wolf; however the weather did not cooperate. We had to endure 3 days of record heat. The wolves do not move around much in the relative heat. Boy, was the scenery beautiful. So in the end, we did not disturb the wolves much but we had a great time and a little adventure in an wild place. I do not consider it time wasted. Kathy really wanted a wolf... maybe next time. I will now consider it my duty! -JJ
13: "Hunting is a one of my passions!"
14: The Great Bear Hunt | Monday, April 28, 2009 After driving for 11 hours, I finally got to the lodge in Plains, Montana. Plains is a misleading name, I think of plains being somewhat flat or at least rolling hills. This is a small town wedged between very tall, very steep mountains. Originally known to Indians as the “Wild Horse Plains”. It sits in a beautiful valley alongside the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. This protected valley became the winter grounds for the Flathead tribe horse herd. | by Johnny Jones
15: The hunt was not scheduled to start until the next day but the outfitter and guides were anxious to get started, so we dumped our gear and took off for a quick afternoon scout/hunt. The weather was cold and snowing, visibility was poor but spirits were high. The outfitter did not expect to see much but to our surprise we did see several bears. Nothing we were inspired to pursue but we took it as a really good sign since the weather was forecast to improve over the next few days.
16: April 29th '09
17: The Great Bear Hunt | Tuesday, 4/28/2009 The morning started with a favorable weather report and very little snow at the lodge. When we got to the hunting area we found it had snowed 6 to 8 inches on the mountain. That was enough to block the upper mountain roads which would have made the hunt much easier. Now we were forced to park at the foot of the mountain and walk in to the hunting area. I knew that was a BAD sign for a fat old man. Heck, spring bear is supposed to be a relatively easy hunt (that is what I thought). I am still thinking “I can not go over that mountain”, but the guides were almost gleeful. According to them, this makes the hunt more interesting! With that thought we left the truck and began a multi-mile hike up into the steepest terrain I have ever seen.
18: Bear hunting is a bit more difficult than anticipated. | The Great Bear Hunt | Tuesday, 4/28/2009 cont. After a long steep hike we settled in for several hours of glassing mountain sides for bear in near blizzards conditions. We did see a couple but we determined they were not worthy of the effort it would take to get near them. So just before absolute dark we started the long steep hike down to the truck. I do not like staggering down steep slopes in the dark any better than going up.
19: Wednesday thru Friday, 4/29 thru 5/1/2009 Slowly the weather improved so to keep balance in nature the guide increased the length of the hike. We pushed higher and further but the bears did not appreciate the better weather. The sun which caused us to be soaked with sweat did not bring the bears out like we expected. We saw nothing to get excited about. .
20: The Great Bear Hunt | Saturday, 5/2/2009 The outfitter, feeling a little pressure to produce a shooter bear, decided to take us on a trip to a hidden valley “that always produces good bears”. That was nearly 7 miles at an uncomfortable pace with the same result. My top guide Tim suggested we hunt the last area where a good bear had been spotted. It was a shorter hike only 4 or 5 miles but much steeper. I did not think it could get steeper so I agreed. Actually, I was just ashamed to say I could not. Since I was the only hunter in camp the other two guides volunteered to go with us. .
21: This is the same as taking two pet coons for a walk in the pet store. Both full of energy and hormones, craving adventure and excitement and more than willing to make it happen if need be. Sure enough half way to the hunt area we found a very young sow with twin cubs about the size of a football. David and Zack immediately began to challenge each other to tree the sow. Not too difficult on a single bear but not a real good idea on a sow with cubs. But without regard for such boring thoughts both went racing down the hill howling and barking like dogs. As dumb luck would have it the young inexperienced sow panicked and ran, leaving the cubs in the creek, but she would not tree.
22: The Great Bear Hunt | Saturday continued When the mad dogs stopped chasing, the bear stopped running. David and Zack were a little unnerved by that but true to form they charged her again. After a short run she was clearly getting tired of the game, the cubs were beginning to whine and the sow started to growl and pop her jaws. Amazingly the wild bunch took that as a warning she was not going to put up with much more of that. In their words they were tired of the game anyway. That is the same energy and enthusiasm they apply to every task. After surviving the comedy break we climbed on into the hunting area. We spent several hours watching and glassing the mountain sides, it was not looking very good, the day was fading fast. About an hour before dark the guides suggested we further into the canyon, thinking we had nothing to lose.
23: There was only one way to move further up the canyon, we had to descend another 100 yards to get to a ledge. I was reluctant to give up any elevation, knowing we would soon have to climb back over that same ridge, but it was the right thing to do. Tim was the first to get to the ledge and he immediately spotted the bear just at the edge of the thick timber of the creek almost straight below us. The bear we came after was a large cinnamon but this was a black. The guides had seen a small black in the area before, so we assumed this was the small bear. But the next time he emerged from the timber it was clear this was no small bear.
24: The Great Bear Hunt | It was time for action, I threw my pack on the ledge and tried to get comfortable for an extreme downhill shot. It was a shot I was very uncomfortable with, I have never had an occasion to shoot at such a steep angle. I knew from ballistics tables that my range marks would be useless so I had to guess how the bullet would perform. The guide called the range at 412 yards, I set the crosshair on the bear for 350 yd and fired. The bullet sailed over the bear missing high. I quickly reset for near 300 yd and missed high again. The bear was curious about the rattling rocks, he began to turn toward the noise, presenting a quartering away shot and a much smaller target. I set the 300 yd mark below his rib cage and fired what I knew would be the last shot opportunity. It was like music to hear the unmistakable
25: THUMP of impact as the 300 WSM entered through the last rib, and exited through the off side shoulder. The bear left like the devil was chasing him, straight to the bottom of the timbered creek. This time I did not mind giving up my elevation, I knew he was hit hard and could not go far. Another long steep decent down through thick brush and timber found the bear upside down between two logs beside the creek. The guides quickly went to work. With less than an hour before pitch dark, time was wasting. It took nearly an hour and a half to skin and bone out the meat.
26: Whoo Hhoo!! Man, what a hunt.
28: Way to go, Dad! | What a huge black bear! | 5.2.09
29: We loaded close to 70 lbs of meat and 90 lbs of head and hide onto the three guides which each already had over 40 lbs of equipment in their packs. I was gracious as I insisted that I would carry my own pack and rifle out. Even that brought protests from the wild bunch, they continuously begged to carry my load as well, hell they said they would pack me too, if I needed it. With that settled we began a 4 and a half hour trip out over three treacherous drainages on a dark moonless night. I still do not know how I made it, at times I wondered why I did it. Through out the night the wild bunch joked and harassed each other, constantly pushing, picking and tripping and challenging each other to go faster or a more difficult route. They were having more fun than drunken sailors on shore leave. They think it is just another day, besides this means they get an extra day off before the next hunters arrive.
30: The Great Bear Hunt | Sunday, 5/3/2009 Amazing how a good nights sleep and the thrill of taking a great animal dims the pain of the last few days. Yesterday I doubted why I would attempt such a challenge, today I am thinking when can I do it again? I had to take the bear to Thompson Falls for the Department of Fish an Wildlife inspection. When I got back to the lodge to start loading gear for my trip home, I noticed two of the wild bunch had finally got out of bed and left. I asked the outfitter (who is a little bit on the churchy side) where they went. The outfitter said they were low on some supplies so they went to Missoula to restock before the next group arrives. After the outfitter drifted away the head guide informed me that there was a wet swimsuit contest at Hooters in Missoula. I would not expect anything less! WOW – What a hunt! Johnny Jones
31: Look at my new rug!
32: The Backup Plan | Thursday, November 11, 2010 I had reluctantly agreed to go on the caribou hunt with Lee. I’m never opposed to a hunting trip but caribou just wasn’t high on my list of dream hunts. Lee was persistent so I agreed; besides the hunt was in the legendary Brooks Range of Alaska. After months of preparation and anticipation the idea was beginning to grow on me. All my gear was gathered and packed; I was in the process of checking it for the third and final time. Then a few days before we were scheduled to leave, we got the call from our outfitter that our hunt had to be cancelled. Suddenly reluctance grown into anticipation crashed in disappointment! Oh well, I still had bird season and antelope season about to start, with deer/elk season soon after. | by Johnny Jones
33: I should be able to make it without a trip this year. That was my plan and it was going pretty well until I spent a day scouting my favorite deer hunting area. Unexpectedly I found a small herd of elk. The bulls were in full rut. I spent the day watching the bulls fight and bugle. Nothing in the world gets a hunter more fired up than the sight and sound of a herd of elk in rut. I wasn’t ready to admit it but I think I knew, I would at least try to get in on one hunt this year. Kathy played the game as if she had read the script. With just the right amount of encouragement, I let her convince me, I really deserved to go. You only get so many opportunities, it would be a shame to waste one. Besides my gear was still packed and ready.
34: The Backup Plan | It didn’t take long with the internet and a couple of phone calls, I found a hunt broker with a cancellation hunt that was exactly what I was looking for. A late season elk hunt on a Blackfeet/Cree Indian Reservation in northwest Saskatchewan, Canada. Just 800 miles and a 12 hour drive away. The hunt would take place in typical central Canadian terrain, hilly with thick patches of mature aspen trees and tangled undergrowth of wild rose and alder. The area we concentrated on was also in the erosion breaks of the Saskatchewan River. We were able to access the area on logging roads but primarily the hunt was conducted on foot. We spent much time glassing from high points when we spotted something of interest we had to try to stalk in close enough to evaluate the bull. As advertised there were many quality bulls in the area. The rut was past so the bulls were away from the cows beginning to form into bachelor groups.
36: The Backup Plan | Day 1 was amazing; a chance to see so many quality bulls was like a dream, but frustrating at the same time. It was difficult choosing which bull to pursue. By the end of the first day I had narrowed the choice to 3 bulls that I would be happy with. The bulls I was most interested in were symmetrical with good mass. The guide was concerned that some other bulls I had passed would score better but I was not hunting a score. I spent restless night thinking about the choice and how I would perform if and when the opportunity came. In this terrain and thick cover, we could not give up the high ground, so the shot would likely be long and into a small gap in heavy cover. Day 2 began with a weather change, the wind turned from the north as the humidity and cloud cover increased, no doubt snow was coming. I thought the weather change would have the animals up moving instead they bedded in the thick timber.
37: By noon we had managed to find a few bulls but not any of the chosen 3. We decided to have lunch at a camp on the bank of the river. The camp was a full size tipi with elk and beaver hide mats in side. The guides cooked elk tenderloin sandwiches that were delicious. We rested in the tipi around a warm fire, we intended to take a short nap but I could not sleep. There was important work to do.
38: Not far from camp one of the guides saw elk bedded in the thick brush. We climbed to a high vantage point where we could look into the brush. One of the bulls I was interested in was there but bedded in an inaccessible spot. We decided to move down the ridge to look for other bulls hoping the elk would get up and begin to feed. Just over the next point we spotted a bull up feeding in the timber. The guide thought this bull was with one of the bulls we were looking for, so we sat down to see if there were other bulls in the area. After 20 minutes of waiting and glassing we finally saw another bull working toward the clearing. The bull crossed the clearing quickly without presenting a chance of a shot. But in that brief moment I knew I had seen the bull I wanted. He was fairly heavy and as symmetrical as they come. From a side view the beams looked identical. | The Backup Plan
39: Something I had not noticed before was the exceptional 20 inch whale tails, the top most forks. This was the one! By now the bull had moved into more thick timber. The guide whispered he knew exactly where the bull was headed. We slipped over the ridge and hustled down to another point where we thought he would appear. We waited for what seemed too long, but no bull appeared. We were close to giving up to look for another when the guide whispered the bull had taken a different route and had cleared timber in a completely unexpected spot. To make matters worse he was 250 yards out and approaching more thick timber where we would likely loose him. The only chance was to swing around and shoot quickly. Just as the bull was about to step off of a steep ledge, I got into position just as the guide gave a soft cow call. The bull hesitated and I fired.
40: Wow, what a beautiful animal! Way to go Dad!
41: We saw the bull go off the ledge but nothing else. We were preparing to go down to look for sign of a hit when the other guide came up, he had been in a different point where he could see the bull clearly. He told us the bull had taken one step then flipped over the ledge, dead. We found to bull just as predicted, dead upside down in a tangled mass of fallen timber and brush with his horn underneath him. The shot was well placed, we found the upper half of the heart destroyed, and still the bull was able to attempt to run. Now the fun was over and the work began. We had to get the bull another 200 yards downhill to a spot where we could get a four wheeler to help drag the elk to a spot where we could get to him. There’s no fun dragging an elk through an alder and wild rose thicket.
43: The Backup Plan | I haven’t had the bull officially scored but it should score between 350 and 360. He was a mature bull as evidenced by the wear on his teeth. The 6 X 6 rack is nearly perfectly symmetrical with 20 inch tails. Very few animals, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt, look as majestic as a mature bull elk. A sight that is almost spiritual. It is a magnificent animal that will make a beautiful mount and a lifetime memory. Especially as my backup plan! -JJ
44: When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.