Two Dream Hunts

 In Stories

Congratulations to Doug Sampson on the biggest billy of 2009.

 

Hunting and being in the outdoors has always been a passion of mine. It started with my dad.
He did a lot of bird hunting and since I wasn’t old enough to pack a gun I was the “bird” dog. I
didn’t mind, but I still couldn’t wait till I was doing some of the shooting too! My first gun was a
pump 20 gauge Winchester. One day while hunting pheasants on the breaks of the Snake River
we jumped a BIG muley buck. I retired my 20 gauge for a 7mm Remington mag. Since that day
mule deer are still my favorite and it was way back then that I started dreaming of someday
going on a guided hunt for mule deer, elk, whitetail, goat, sheep, grizzly, and the list goes on,
and on, and on! Back then when researching guided hunts I pretty much knew about the fact it
takes a lot of time and a lot of money. That’s why I knew I was just dreaming, dreaming until I
met Don Wolfenden of Beaverfoot Outfitting.
It was in the early 80’s when I really got the “bug” to start looking for an outfitter. I called
numerous outfitters in Idaho and Montana, (I lived in Washington at the time) but to no avail. It
seemed like everyone I called was either booked out a 1 year in advance or didn’t have the
days open I wanted. It was then I decided to check out BC. I called around and just when things
were looking pretty bleak a guy picked up the phone by the name of Don Wolfenden of
Beaverfoot Outfitting. He was very helpful, and super nice on the phone. His area is right in the
middle of Kootenay and Yoho National Parks. He had the last week in October and the first
week in November open for elk and mule deer. Perfect!! I booked my first guided hunt.
When I arrived at the Beaverfoot Lodge I finally got to meet Don, His wife Patsy, and there
three boys Warren, Troy, and Adam. On that hunt I didn’t get an the elk I, (It was my own fault)
but I did get a decent muley buck. At that time I didn’t realize the long journey I’d be on, what
lasting friendships I’d have with the Wolfenden’s, or that someday Troy would be guiding me on
two unbelievable dream hunt’s!
I stayed in touch with with Don and Patsy through out the years. I would go up in the summer
when my son Josh was on summer break and do some hiking and fishing. (The fishing is
amazing!) As for the guided hunting trips, family, work, and of course money put a stop to the
BC hunting. Time passed and things changed. Don and Patsy sold the Beaverfoot Lodge and
retired. (No worries on where to stay. Troy puts you up in either a bed and breakfast, Chalet’s,
remote cabins, etc..) Troy and Claire bought the hunting rights and took up the family tradition.
Warren and Adam still guide, but have other jobs.
In the spring of 2008 Don and Patsy stopped by our house in Idaho for a visit. When he saw the
landing next to the fireplace he said, “You need to put a full life size mountain goat up there.” I
talked it over with my wife and she said “go for It.” I ended up bidding on the hunt over the
phone, and my dream goat hunt was set up for September 2009.
In the mean time a good friend of mine had booked a grizzly hunt for the spring of 2008. He
called me up and asked if I wanted to go! On the 8th day of his 10 day hunt he shot a beautiful
Silvertip Grizzly. (We saw 15 grizzlies in 8 days of hunting, plus numerous black bears) After
that hunt, I knew I would be going on a grizzly hunt, but first things first. The goat!!
2008 went by slowly as did most of 2009. Waiting for September to come around was HARD! It
was a good thing though. I was able to get into pretty good shape so when I found myself in the
Canadian Rockies again I was filled with excitement and ready to go! I’ll say one thing for goat
hunting, it’s pretty demanding! On the 5th day we managed to get a “good” 10 year old billy
fairly late in the day. We took pictures, he caped and, boned out the goat. We had to get off the
mountain before dark and back to our tent. The one “sketchy” area was just that, “sketchy.” Troy
said staying up on the face over night wouldn’t be much fun, actually it wasn’t even an option.
Troy took the meat and I took the cape. Up to this point, the weather had been almost to warm.
The wind was picking up and you could feel the weather was definitely changing. We made it
almost through the bad part before turning on our head lamps. When we hit the top of the ridge,
we stopped and took a picture of the moon. We cached the meat and cape away from camp up
in a couple of trees, had a quick freeze dried dinner, and then of to bed.
The next day was much cooler. We broke camp, headed for the truck and back to the Chalet’s.
Troy finished caping the head and feet out plus we ground up the goat meat and froze it for the
trip home. Claire made us an awesome lunch and we discussed where we were going to go the
next day for mule deer. The plan was to head into Blind Valley and do an overnighter in his tent,
just like we did on the goat. It was a pretty good hike into the valley. I’d been in there years
before with one of Don’s guides. We ended up getting a nice muley. (It’s the muley I mentioned I
shot on my first hunt.) You used to be able to drive fairly close. Not anymore, which I liked! As
we gained elevation we started seeing quite a bit of fresh grizzly sign. Troy said “no big deal.”
I’m thinking, yeah right! We got to the old camp. The chainsawed table and benches were quite
nice, along with the metal containers for our food. We quickly unloaded most of our things, put
the food in the metal containers, and set up the tent. As we started up the valley Troy goes, “see
that tree and the all the claw marks.” I said yeah. “You see all the hair on it.” I said yeah. Well he
said, “that’s a grizzly tree and there’s a bear wallow just over there.” Geez, nothing like making a
guy feel comfortable about the place we were going to eat and sleep that night! We saw a few
does and one small legal buck (bucks have a 3pt minimum) before heading back to camp for a
good homemade meal that was prepared by Claire just before we left the Chalet’s. The wind
had really picked up and it was spitting snow. It was a hurried dinner and off to bed, wondering
what the next day would bring. Baring one of us didn’t get eaten by a grizzly in the night!
The next day dawned COLD and WINDY, plus there was a dusting of snow. It was on that day I
knew I would be saving to go on a grizzly hunt. Starting out of camp we didn’t see anything. We
headed up to the end of the valley, and then up, up, Up! Just before we got to the top and into
the screaming wind, we sat down for a look. That’s when Troy spotted a beautiful black Silvertip
grizzly. Watching it excavate the hillside looking for food was pretty amazing! After taking a few
pictures through his spotting scope we headed up into the screaming cold wind for a look on the
other side. As we were we were glassing Troy said, “something really spooked those deer!” He
just got the words out of his mouth when out stepped a sow grizzly and her cub. I was watching
the grizzlies think about how I was going to afford a bear hunt, while Troy was checking out the
group of bucks. There was one in the group that had a huge body, 4 pts on his left antler, but the
right antler had been snapped off just above the eye guard. There was no way we were going to
shoot anything with the grizzlies around, even if was a keeper! We took some pictures of the
bears, then left. They were getting way to close! On the way out we talked about how much fun
the hunt had been and the possibility of a grizzly hunt in the near future.
When 2011 rolled around I mentioned something to my wife about going up to hunt a grizzly
with Troy. She said “call him up” so I did. (My wife Kathy is so AWESOME!!) He said he had
already booked another hunter. Boy was I ever bummed out!! Then I heard him say, “ but I have
another tag.” I couldn’t believe my ears!!
The middle of May took forever, but when it finally arrived, I found myself up in beautiful BC
again ready and rearing to go!! There was a slight problem though. Mother nature wasn’t
cooperating!! It was snowing in the high country. There is usually snow in the bottoms of the
valleys you hike into. (Snowshoes are used quite a bit of the time) When the bears come out of
there dens in the spring, they head down low to where the grass coming in is nice and green.
Then as it warms up and the fresh grass gets to tall and looses its nutrition value they head up
the valleys to the avalanche shoots that have slid and greened up. That’s where the spot and
stalking takes place. It sounds easy, but there’s a reason the snow slides on them. They call it
STEEP!!! Well, the avalanche chutes had a blanket of about a foot of fresh snow! Troy was with
his other hunter for a few more days so the two brother’s Adam and Warren each took me out
for a day. Adam took me out on the first day. Late in the afternoon we saw a boar and a sow
(It’s mating season) in a pretty good sized cut block. (It’s a logged off area.) It was hard to tell
much in the spotting scope because it was snowing so hard, so we decided to get a closer look.
As we snuck into the last place we’d seen the bears we got there and nothing! We decided to
keep sneaking along when all of a sudden out stepped a grizzly!! It was about 20 yds away and
we were instantly had! It was wheeling when I got on it and after a quick “what do you think” we
both decide it was the sow. We never saw the boar. It had simply vanished. The next day
Warren took me out. It was a day on the snowshoes hoping to find a wondering grizzly. We
definitely had a work out, but didn’t see a bear one.The rest of the hunt was with Troy. We saw 4
other grizzlies, but never had a good shot. (They have since extended the grizzly season
because of the chance of late springs.)
I would like to add one thing. Sometimes you spend a small fortune going on a “dream” hunt.
Sometimes you get your animal, sometimes you don’t. There are a lot of factors that can come
into play. Mother Nature is one of them, a miss, etc… For me it’s being out in God’s country,
building lasting friendships, the hard work it takes to get into the places the game live, the
feeling of going back in time. Memories and pictures!!! Getting something is a bonus.
Now to the present. It is 2015 and I was hinting to my wife that I’d like to give the grizzly hunt
with Troy one more try. She said, “ok just one more try.” I have such an AWESOME wife!!! We
made plans to meet at his place on May 15th. The winter went by slow at our place in Idaho. We
usually do a lot of snow skiing and snowshoeing. There wasn’t a lot of snow so we did some
snowshoeing, but we didn’t even put our skis on!!
May 15th finally came and I was on my way up for another BC adventure!!!! Seeing the
Wolfenden family is something I always look forward to! After catching up on what had been
happening the past couple of years, we started getting ready for the next day. The plan was to
do an overnighter up Ice River.
We arrived at the old trapper cabin, unloaded the things we wouldn’t be needing, and headed
to watch some slides till dark. When your grizzly hunting thats all you do. Glass, glass, glass! A
good paperback book is a must, and maybe a nap? It didn’t take long for Troy to spot
something. It was a pretty nice black bear. It was about an hour and a half before dark when a
grizzly stepped out in the first slide. It was dark with light brown markings on his head and back.
By the time we took our sitting layers off, stuffed them into our packs, and got our packs on he
was almost through the slide. Troy told me not to worry, “He’ll be in the second slide” and off we
went!!!
We hit the slide he was in, and then we headed up to a game trail he knows about that connect
the two slides. The terrain was steep and rocky but we had to push. It was getting late.
We were just on the edge of the slide, when Troy whispered, “there he is on the other side of
the slide, what do you think?” I told him “a bear in the hand is worth ? in the bush.” He said he
didn’t think the saying went like that and that it was my call. His thought was to wait and try for a
bear that had more color.
We had a little more discussion and I decided to go for it. I got ready and fired. I heard Troy say
that my shot was low. The bear stopped and he told me to fire again. We headed over to where
we last saw him and could follow his tracks on the game trail he was on. He was flat getting with
it! (I guess I would to if someone was shooting at me!) We followed the game trail for a little
ways but since it was getting late we decided to come back early he next morning, just to be
sure.
The next day was my 59th birthday but the day turned up nothing. I have to say that missing
after all the years of preparation was a real bummer and confidence shaker. I was ready to call it
a hunt. Troy said “No way!” I have an InReach SE by Delorme so I texted my wife. She told me
to “hang in there, stuff happens.”
The third morning found us up Wolverine Pass. We hiked to a slide at the back of the valley and
got comfortable. The wind just about always blows up the chutes till a few hours before dark. In
the mean time you read and maybe take a short nap. Since I forgot my book, it just happened to
be the nap. I’m pretty sure I was in my REM sleep when I hear Troy say “There’s one.” This bear
was dark and had a lot more light brown than the previous one. It really shimmered in the sun
light. We never had a chance. The wind was wrong or Troy said he might’ve caught wind of a
sow. It didn’t matter. His head came up and he vacated the premisses. We took off to try to head
it off in the lower slides we’d already passed through, but we never saw it again.
It’s now day number 4. Troy decided that we would take a horse, our gear for three days, and
walk back into Moose Creek Cabin. We arrived at the cabin at around 3:00 in the afternoon, got
settled in, and off we went up the valley. We watched the first slide while waiting for the thermals
to change. Once that happened we headed to the back of the valley where there are other
slides and because of the warm weather a possible iffy creek crossing. The slides were
greening up nicely. The Glacier Lilies in the third slide were thick, but the creek crossing looked
pretty dangerous. Heading back out to camp, we were wondering what tomorrow would bring.
On the way out Troy wanted to stop at the third slide and watch it till dark. There are some
Spruce trees in the bottom middle of the slide that manage to escape the wrath of the
avalanche’s that rip down the chute every year. I was just putting on something a little warmer
for the evening glassing when Troy says, “you see that spot that looks like a bull elk?” I say yes.
He says, “thats a blonde grizzly.” He said it so calm, at first I thought he kidding, but he doesn’t
kid!
The blonde grizzly was feeding in the alders and just happened to show itself for a few minutes.
We grabbed our gear and hurried out of sight. Troy already had a game plan, so we started our
stalk!!
We got into position to cut the grizzly off hoping he would feed out of the alders and into the
slide. Troy ranged everything we could see, and there wasn’t anything over 300 yards. We
waited, and waited, and waited. NOTHING!! It was getting late and we thought the bear
might’ve given us the slip. That’s when Troy see’s the bear coming out of the alders, but he’s
behind a tree. When it finally stepped out we had to make sure it wasn’t a sow with cubs. When
Troy told me it was a go I was right on the bears shoulder when the rifle went off. (I shoot a
custom 721 Remington chambered in 300WBY. I also hand load and use a 180 grain Hornady
Interlock bullet traveling around 3200fps.) I heard a thud. The bear dropped and started rolling.
It probably went about 50 yards and stopped. We waited a few minutes before starting up to
where we last saw him. No high fives yet. He told me he’s seen them hit hard and take off. As
we got a little closer, we both saw the bear try to get up (Unbelievable!) so I fired again. The rest
is history. The grizzly is a beautiful 6 1/2 foot blonde boar. My second dream hunt was now over.
I thanked the Lord for another successful hunt. (Even though I blew the first chance) I couldn’t
thank Troy enough. He congratulated me and shook my hand, did few high fives, kind of did a
little hollering, picture taking, then came the skinning and dealing with the meat. It wasn’t long
before he was skinning by the light of our headlamps.
Troy took the meat, I took the hide, and off we went. We arrived at the cabin just after 1:00 am.
We rolled the bear out to cool, and then into the cabin for a delicious dinner. We were starved!!!
It was well after 2:00 am when we finally hit the sack. I was still pretty excited so going to sleep
took a while.
We got up around 7:00, (I checked to see if I had been dreaming,) had breakfast, loaded up the
pack horse, and then headed to the truck and horse trailer about 7 miles away. When we arrived
back at Troy’s place the immediate task at hand was for him to skin out the head and paws.
Then salt everything really good as the temperature was in the upper 80s.
I decided to leave early because it was so hot. On the way home I was thinking about how It all
got started. First Don and Patsy so many years ago, now Troy and Claire. The hunts we had
been on. The beauty and ruggedness of the Canadian Rockies. The steep, long, sometimes
scary “sketchy” hikes we went on. Clear starry nights in September. Roughing it out in the
various elements mother nature sent our way. Maybe getting something, and maybe not. The
most important thing to me are the lasting friendships. I would have to say that all the hunts I’ve
been on with Beaverfoot Outfitting have been successful for me!!
The The CITES permit for transporting the grizzly across both the Canadian Customs and US
Customs finally came and I was able to get the bear back to Idaho and to the taxidermy. It’s a
full life size mount and is going on the landing next to the goat.
I can’t say enough good things about Beaverfoot Outfitting. Troy really knows his territory and
the animals in it. Claire makes the best homemade meals and lunches. ( I thought I would loose
weight with all the hiking we did, but I didn’t!) There two kids Michelle and Ryan are a lot of fun
to be around if you happen to be over at their house.
I’ve been extremely blessed to not only have a life long friendship with the Wolfenden family,
but through them I’ve had the opportunity to fulfill two dream hunts!!!
Doug Sampson

 

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Comments
  • info@beaverfootoutfitting.com
    Reply

    We are unable to hunt Grizzlies at this time, due to a decision made by our provincial government. We hope to be able to hunt Grizzlies again in the future.

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