This year I was given the honour of representing the Devon Fish & Game Club at the Annual Alberta Fish & Game Conference in Edmonton. Aside from the fantastic food, the amazing opportunity to provide input on conservation activities in our province, and the incredibly educational speakers, the networking was top notch. My co-delegates and I met several people from across the province that were filled with knowledge about different animals and different areas, and different hunting and fishing experiences and we used the conference to soak up as much as we could.
We spent a large portion of our free time, speaking with other delegates just like us looking for ideas to improve their own clubs, and contribute to our amazing sport and to the conservation efforts in our province. One person in particular was Josh. We connected pretty quickly with Josh, although his strange Southern Alberta dialect initially threw us off. Once we were able to get past it, we learned that Josh was struggling with some of the same things we were, and had the same passions. And we also learned that the hunting options where we live, and those where Josh lives have a very particular difference that would provide an opportunity for us to strike a very special deal.
Josh shared with us that he has been fortunate enough to harvest a bull elk in his hunting grounds 5 years in a row. Something that without access to a large area of private land where we hunt, is extremely difficult. On the flip side, while they do exist, the number of large white tail deer in Josh’s home territory, is much smaller than those that we are used to. So we all decided to give each other the opportunity of a lifetime by agreeing to locally host each other in our own hunting camps in the upcoming season. In short, Josh would take us hunting for elk in his WMU, and we would take him hunting for whitetail in our WMU. The results were nothing short of stunning.
We met Josh in Claresholm after a four or five hour drive from our hometown (I wouldn’t know, my companions were hell bent on leaving at 3AM so I slept the whole way). We had left so early with the intent to get there with enough time to set up camp and go for an evening hunt, but the icy roads slowed us down. We convoyed with Josh into his chosen spot for camp and we set up our wall tents while we marveled at the amazing scenery and the mountains that surrounded us on all sides - all the while keeping a secondary eye peeled for our chosen prey.
It turned out, however, that the best way to find these animals, in this country, is to go up. Brandon, one of my fellow delegates and the current President of our club, who is a somewhat physically challenged due to his cushy oil patch job which requires him to sit in a truck most of the day - was adamant that he doesn’t do ups. He perpetually quoted some comedian who maintained that he doesn’t climb up, doesn’t do push ups, sit ups, pull ups - or any other thing of the sort. Despite his constant complaints, he dragged his butt up that hill every morning, and back up in the evening after lunch, every single day. Josh was committed to the endeavor of getting us a legal bull elk for our freezer, and we didn’t want to disappoint him either by taking the lazy route and hanging out in camp the whole time. So when Josh said up, up we went.
The entire hunt was spent hiking up steep hills for hours at a time, as Josh said many times “the shortest way up is straight up, and the shortest way down is straight down”. The days were grueling, and after some rough calculations it turned out we were hiking around 12kms per day, mostly uphill, and burning around 8000 calories each day. It was the most difficult and one of the most rewarding hunts I’ve ever experienced.
Josh didn’t disappoint either. We saw hundreds of animals over the course of our 9 day hunt of all varieties. We saw herds of mule deer up on the mountain from far away distances to merely 60 yards away. We watched white tail bucks in full rut chasing does. We saw bald eagles and hawks stalking their prey. We walked in the tracks of massive grizzly bears with paws bigger than my brother’s size 13 boots. We saw a cougar making his way across the mountain, always keeping an eye on us, and us both eyes on it. Bull moose, and trophy sheep, and over a hundred elk.
Unfortunately, as my dad always says, “they call it hunting, not shopping for a reason” and we did not end up finding a legal bull elk on this trip. However, the experience of hunting in a landscape that we otherwise never would have seen, much less hiked up and down for 9 days, was incredible. The friendship we made during this hunt will last a lifetime, and although we were not able to make the time to hold up our end of the bargain this year by taking him on a white tail hunt, we’re already making plans for next fall to host him at our hunting camp.
When I reflect on the whole experience, it’s hard to the ignore that none of this would have been possible without my participation in the Devon Fish & Game Club. I’ve never been more energized to contribute to my club and to the province as a whole, and if meeting like-minded people, with the same passion as you, and being able to share amazing experiences with those people is something that interests you, I’d highly recommend joining.