Contributors to this thread:
My buddy Chip (aka Longsprings) and I finally took our one year delayed Canadian moose during September. It was a great adventure and a great challenge of nine days of riding and hunting in Willmore Wilderness Park in Alberta. It was one of the most beautiful and scenic hunt locations I have ever experienced. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Looking forward to the pictures.
On the way home from the airport, I told Chip about the nice Shiras moose I had seen near my house. About ten minutes later, we saw him from the road. I heard he met his demise a few days later. A good omen for the trip?
We drove to the hunt which was just north of Jasper National Park on the BC border. Jasper is known for their nice bull elk and we watched this one walk across the road in front of us. We were 50 yards away when he stepped out when he gave us a head shake and little false charge. All was good and Chip got the photo.
We camped two nights in Banff and Jasper. The fall colors are amazing.
The Canadian Rockies seem to have a certain look to them. Rugged country and worth a visit.
Athabascan Falls was a must see stop. They show up on various scenery calendars like one in my docter's office!
We over-nighted in a motel where we checked and re-checked our gear. The weight limit was a stated 50 pounds each. I think a couple guys fudged a little and took more, but I was right at 50. Never saw the duffels weighed . The panniers were though . After a visit to Tim Horten's,we drove to the trailhead to meet everyone for the trip in.
Looking forward to the rest!
The whole process took awhile to get the horses unloaded and rigged and then all the gear and fresh food and stuff all packed and loaded on the stock. I can't remember how many horses we had, but I think it was upwards of 15. Four bow hunters (aka dudes) and three guides.
The horses were massive, even the riding stock. I was told they were Percheron crosses. This one was estimated at about a ton in weight. Made you really pay attention and not get stepped on! Speaking for myself and Chip, we were not what you would call cowboys. Don't think the other two hunters were either. We finally rode out, headed in to camp, about noon. I knew we were in for a tough ride, but couldn't have imagined how tough!
Check out that set of hoofs.
This is what the ride in looked like. It was a beautiful fall day. We were going moose hunting in moosey looking country. The vistas were beyond description with the fall colors and the blue sky. Talk about being pumped. We had signed up for this hunt in 2018 to go in 2020. The Plague had suspended the hunt until the border opened which happened on August 9, 2021. Some of you know how all that went down. We couldn't even be sure we would get to do the hunt. So, what a rush when we finally started up the trail. Just so happens my horse's name was "Rush".
We rode about 20 miles in six hours without hardly stopping. Probably a good ride for experienced horsemen. I have to say, it was a torturous for us, but we survived. The outfitter and the guides were almost all former or current pro rodeo cowboys. Cowboys never complain about pain. Just rub a little dirt on it and keep going. In this photo Chip is using all fingers while waiving at me. Surprising, since I kind of talked him into this hunt .
We finally got into camp which was set up and ready to go. Three wall tents, cook tent, guides tent , and hunters tent. The horses were unpacked and gear stowed. We were way back in and it sure felt like it.
Wrangling a bunch of horses takes a lot of work. Unsaddling , stowing tack, carrying panniers, and hobbling horses. All real work after a long ride. But these guys seem to love it.
The cook tent was naturally the gathering spot for everybody.
Our tent had a wood stove, four cots with sleeping pads and even a 0 degree sleeping bag supplied. I guess some former clients had not really appreciated what "bring a warm 0 degree bag" meant and brought inferior bags. The outfitter bought some real warm ones, so that was one less item for us to bring.
Nice beginning. Ready for more!
We hadn't been in camp very long when Chip entered the cook tent to find one of the other pair of hunters sitting there in obvious pain. When he asked him if he was OK, he told Chip he thought he was "having the big one". The long story short, the next several hours were not what any of us bargained for, especially for the guy having the heart attack! Luckily his partner happened to be a physician. With little to be done there in the backcountry, the Inreach was used to text the authorities. An attempt was made for a Life Flight helicopter, but by then it was too dark to attempt a rescue. Riding horses back out was almost unthinkable. Finally, some local trappers who knew the area and were personal friends of the outfitter, drove a pair of UTVs into camp bringing Search and Rescue. That took until 1:30 AM. They evacuated him to the trailhead, ambulance ride into town, and then a flight into the hospital in Edmonton. There, he underwent surgery and survived to later fly home.
To say a pall was cast over the camp that night would be an understatement. The guides and the hunters were pretty shaken, especially the guy's hunting buddy. But the next morning we knew he was going to be alright and knew he wanted us all to get on with the hunt. So we did. But every day we would think back to that night and maybe it gave us a little better appreciation for what we were doing and where we were doing it. Here I might suggest you read what was recently posted in the Bowsite thread "A Good Bowhunter" by Rgiesey. Some things to think about. As Gus said in Lonesome Dove, 'Life is short and shorter for some."
So on to the hunt! We climbed the mountain behind camp to look over the country that morning. When we topped out, several mountain caribou were spotted running over the crest. They are scarce and getting scarcer in those parts. We split up and went to different vantage points to glass for game. The wind blew pretty solid. We didn't spot any moose or any grizzly either, but they had to be around.
You could see for a ways. Potential for mountain goat, bighorn sheep, mountain caribou, grizzly, black bear, and moose. There were elk lower down in elevation. We didn't see any where we were. Our elevation was around 6000 to 7000 feet.
Awesome adventure Rich!
Love horseback hunts, but my untrained backside does appreciate how tender that day after riding in to camp y’all must have been!
Getting hurt or having any health issues at all in that kind of place is serious business! Probably a long story just about getting him out and living through it…
Looking forward to the rest of the story!
In the afternoon we rode to another location. The strategy was to locate bulls at a distance, then ride down near them and try calling. The wind made long distance calling pretty much impossible. They couldn't hear us and we couldn't hear them. Kept our scent down in the valley somewhat too.
Good view. We rode the horses up the hill to the glassing spot. Way easier than walking, but you better hang on! And I am glad I'm not the only one who wheezes when I climb steep hills......
Our camp was just over the pass to the left in the photo
The next couple of days we used that vantage point. The guides used hand-held 15x binos and used lots of bracing to hold steady.
In the last photo the top of my arrows are sticking up out of my pack. I had my takedown recurve in the pack which meant I had to assemble it any time we got into moose, but there wasn't really any other way to carry it on a horse. The other guys used bow scabbards strapped to the side of their horse for their compounds. That has worked well for the outfitter in the past. But they hadn't dealt with a tradbow before.
The Grim Reaper
The Grim Reaper
The guide spotted a bull down in the meadows, so we hustled after it. We set up in a spot which was close to where he was seen. Chip was out front by a big spruce downwind of us while the guide called and raked with a shoulder blade. We waited a long time but nothing showed. We wore black hoodies which had worked for the guides before. Looking up at Chip, it occurred to me he looked just like the grim reaper with his hood up and a bow in his hand. The Reaper didn't harvest anything that day.
The Intrepid Guides
The Intrepid Guides
Two of the guides back at the camp. The one on the left was a twenty year old who had just come from guiding in the Yukon where "he had shot" a 72 inch moose. That's guide talk for "his client shot the moose", but they that's how they say it. Anyway, he had just had one overnight at home before he went out with us. Seems he had fallen down while packing out a sheep and cut his hand pretty bad and needed stitches. With no medical available he had to just keep hunting with it wrapped in a cloth. Later, he did decline to skin his clients wolf with the wounded hand. When they finally flew out, it was too far healed for stitches, so he was still nursing the wound. See the bandage in the photo. He showed me the cut and I am telling you it was nasty. Those boys are tough. Anyone what to sign up to be a guide?
We ate well when in camp. They pride themselves on their cooking and it didn't disappoint.
Sandwiches and snacks during the day in the field
Big dinners. Steaks, chicken, planked salmon, lasagna, pork chops
And those solo cups were put to good and extensive use in the evenings
We hunted hard. Leaving before dawn and back after dark. Great light for photos
Set ups calling bulls seen from a distance. Either they were not in the mood or the wind screwed things up .
A Damn Fine Bull
A Damn Fine Bull
We split up later in the hunt. Chip did see one huge bull at 65 yards sneaking in downwind during a calling session. He swears it was 6 feet wide! The Willmore is known for big ones, but......
I really got into the moose one day, seeing four bulls and a cow in one small meadow. I walked up on one good bull at 15 yards but had no shot through the trees. I did manage to screw up on another smaller bull, but it is too painful to tell that story. The one in the photo above would only stand and lick his lips at us across the draw. Just refused to come in even after all the nasty and insulting things my guide said to him. A damn fine bull. Anybody want to make any guesses on size?
I saw some goats across the valley over my left shoulder in the photo. We glassed some other game there as well
Saw a bighorn ram at the top of the mountain in this photo
Rode up on this band of ewes getting to the basin
Just can't get enough of the scenery
They found this deadhead one day. Outfitter rough scored at 195. Even stretching an outfitter tape that's a great Canadian bull
They found some sheds. Matched set.
Monster rack, Monster Horse
Monster rack, Monster Horse
All good things come to an end. Packing up to go out. Cody is a big man, but doesn't look it next to that horse
Hitting the trail. One way to clear out the overhead branches on the trail back out
Long ride out
Long ride out
It was a long ride out, even with some walking to let the legs re-adjust.
Last Ride for this Cowboy
Last Ride for this Cowboy
It was a great adventure, a good hunt, an experience not to be forgotten........but this is a historical photo of this cowboy's last ride!
Great adventure is what it is all about! First day/night sounds like a different kind of adventure. Great photos! Thanks for sharing!
Sound like a great adventure! Beautiful country!
Great story Rich , I can attest it was a great adventure , one that wont be forgotten to soon. I really would do it all over again . It was a sight to see
Thanks for writing Rich! Looks like a great adventure in a different area. Now I’ve gotten a look at it.
Great write up and pics. Glad you had a good hunt.
Rich, I would expect so many hunts turn out that way but we never hear about them not being successful, i.e., actually killing and species after. I am sure you would have liked to bring home, not only just the memories of the hunt, but many pounds of wild game moose meat. Success can be measured in many ways as you presented with words and pictures, and we all appreciate that.
Just get back on the "horse" and try again,---"cowboy". my best, Paul
Enjoyed this post a lot. Great pics. Thankyou.
That's the kind of hunt that is worth the money regardless of outcome. What a cool trip and thanks for sharing!
Great write up, adventure and pictures, Richard. Thanks for sharing, I am glad you were able to enjoy our beautiful province. Good luck to you.
My hunting buddy, Chip aka Longsprings took some of the photos here, so props to him. Having a good-natured, easy going partner along on a hunt like this is a real asset, so thanks, Chip. I'm thinking I should get rid of those six coolers. This is the second trip with those empty coolers on the ride home from a moose hunt. They must be jinxed!
Rich, if you have a Kathy Kelly bowcase you can do what I did and sew some "D" rings onto it so you can tie it onto the saddle and use it as a bow scabbard. Mine works great.
That sounds interesting. Any photos you can post? To tell the truth, I would rather have my bow and quiver safely in my pack. We were riding through thick spruce reprod and a couple of times I think any kind of scabbard would have got hung up or knocked off. Hell, it about knocked me off! Those compounds hanging down the side of the horses just looked scary to me, but they all survived. My bow goes together pretty quick and easy, so it wasn't a big deal. Thanks for the suggestion, Ron.
Congrats on one heck of a fine adventure! Your pictures are 100% worth the look alone and the trip sounds like a blast. Not all successes are measured by a punched tag...
Great write up and pics! The Alberta mountains can produce some big bulls but not many moose overall, usually as you found.
Who was the outfitter or guides? Curious why no mention of any of their names?
Thanks, I was wondering if anybody was going to get around to asking. The outfit was Big Knife Outfitters. They have donated several moose and mule deer hunts to the Pope and Young Club over the years which is where we first ran into them at the St. Louis convention. I like to give credit to the guys that support the Pope and Young Club and more so to outfits that give their all in putting on a hunt for me which they did. That's one of the reasons I did this thread. The guides were as hard working as I have come across. Our guides were Matt, Evan, and Rhett. Never did get their last names. Cody and Steve came in to help later in the hunt. I wasn't sure about the Bowsite policy on talking about non-Bowsite sponsered outfitters, so thanks for asking. Check the link. I hope that its OK.
I kind of did the thread in a rush late at night, so maybe didn't cover some points which should be brought up. They gave a success rate of about 50%. The methods of used to come up with ratings vary widely, as we all know. In our group the third fellow actually shot a bull the very last evening on the way back to camp. I know he was looking for a larger bull, but was happy with the one he got. I should have come home with a bull, but screwed up. Chip did not get a chance within bow range. So, I using my un-verified and un-official method of calculations, we were at 49.6% success rate. As several Bowsiters have already said, we were 100% on a great experience.
Rich ,I think you forgot to mention the cowboy act No brand , no chaps ,just bucked right off and climbed right back on.
It was a great trip. The one giant moose I saw was truly magnificent Magestic you name it he was it. Looked like a giant yukon moose. And he knew just what to do Came in downwind took a few good wiffs and turned and left , faded off into the sunset along with my hopes of an opportunity. Think thats hunting But great comoany and great guides with a lot of want to and great attitudes and work ethic.
Thanks for sharing great memories.
Rich I will take some pictures and send them to you.
Enjoyed the story and can relate to your last ride comment. Took my first ride 8 miles into the sawtooths in Idaho a few weeks ago to elk camp…. Still recovering lol. Finally figured it out with the recurve, we took a pack horse with us everyday to carry the two bows
Great write up, Richard. As others have said, a successful hunt doesn’t always have to result with game taken. This thread is a testament to that. Sounds like you had a great hunting partner to share it with, as well.
A horseback pack trip is about as romantic of a hunting experience one can have, IMO. Those big mountain horses can sure readjust a guy’s hip sockets, though!
Rich, great write up of a fine adventure! You saw some nice country, some moose, got to play cowboy, etc! Sounds excellent. They don’t all work out as we all know. I always say, what is the worst that can happen? I have to go back for a redo! However the guy with the heart attack just shows that you might not get a re-do!
Roughly how far from BC were you in the Wilmore? Text me if you don’t want to post it.
Thanks sincerely for posting up your hunt. Great pictures and a wonderful story. I always say it's automatically a success just getting to do what many or most never will. Playing the game is what matters most. Congratulations and I mean that truly.
Like others here I have done the horseback-for-moose thing. Like others here I learned about the pleasures and pains of horseback riding every day for miles. My guide and I were both bucked off during the hunt. They build saddles specifically to cause pain for infrequent riders, and put them on horses so wide your legs stick out at 45 degree angles. But I will say this: Waking up in a wall tent and hearing horse noises....smelling horses, horse feed and sizzling bacon....listening to a cowboy guide quietly curse his sore ankle....that first cup of steaming coffee...and knowing you're about to go chase moose?.....that's as good as the hunting life ever gets. Amen.
Hey, thanks for all the comments. It's gratifying to know other committed bowhunters are out there enjoying the post and can relate to the whole experience through my limited attempts of a few words and a handful of photos. For my money, one of the best things about Bowsite is sharing the stories of adventurous bow hunts. I was thinking about doing a thread, but wasn't convinced. Keven Dill's moose hunt tipped the scale for me. So, thanks to all.
Kurt, I looked at the map of Willmore. As best as I could tell we were at least 55 kilometers east of BC (see, us Americans can think in kilometers). Jasper was in-between us. So relax, we weren't poaching on you! But, look out! I'm going to still try to upgrade my Canadian moose and BC is on my radar.
Thanks Rich, don’t know the wilmore at all. Just curious.
Memories for life right there.
Thanks for taking us along,
I really enjoyed your pictures and story. "The journey is the thing" Homer, The Odyssey. Thanks for sharing.