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My Canadian Wolf
Old 03-18-2017, 12:10 AM
Dr4Body Dr4Body is offline
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Default My Canadian Wolf

A guide...for Novice Wolf Hunters,
By: W. Trent Saxton, DC. ME.

June 2016.My bucket list had only one item and that was Canis Lupus or the Canadian grey wolf. I started my wolf hunting journey many years before I ever stepped off the plane in Alberta, Canada. I studied the wolf species, locations to hunt, bullets to use, people that might have helpful knowledge about wolf hunting. I asked questions and was constantly reading about the wolf populations in the States or Canadian Province’s. Where was hunting wolves legal? When was the best time of year to hunt wolves and how would weather affect their pelts? Should I go to Idaho, Montana, Alaska, or Canada? It did matter, I wanted success and I wasn’t getting any younger. My father was whispering to me, “no more excuses”. It was time to go.
The perils of picking the wrong guide (because you never know who you are dealing with over a phone) can cost you your dream. It was June 2016, when I deposited half of my trip payment for a February 2017 wolf hunt outside of Kelowna, British Columbia. The broker at
Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. said December would be the final payment.
Those months would pass slowly but I filled the weeks and months by packing and procuring the right socks, gloves, head gear and even snacks that I would want for this hunt. I had many thoughts of how I was going to enjoy this hunt. The weather conditions, the blind, the timing, the shot, the size of the wolf, the smell, the relief, the accomplishment, the end of all the whispers. These thoughts and emotions passed endlessly through my mind while waiting for eight long months. I was determined to finish this once and for all.
February 2017: It was nearly time for gear up and flaps up just four more days and I boarded my flight to British Columbia. My “essentials” checklist was huge: passport, three copies of the RCMP GRC 5589e, (filled out but not signed) better known as the Canadian firearm declaration forms (I was taking my own rifle and ammo) Canadian money, I purchased at my local bank. The exchange rate is currently great for Americans. Medical kit, trip insurance, tickets, I have been packed for over a week. Each bag has its contents listed on a sheet of paper, I use it to repack for the trip home and to find loose items. Did I mention it was just four days to departure? Now I am excited, this is going to happen!
Then an email arrived…It was Adrian from
Global Sporting Safaris, he was my third party guide/sales representative; for this trip. “Hi Trent, Can you give me a call ASAP? It pertains to your wolf hunt. No bad news, but some urgency in speaking with you.” Sincerely, Adrian. “Call me,” he said…my mind spun with many thoughts but not with any disaster.
I immediately called him, never expecting to hear that the guide he had chosen for me in Kelowna, BC, was essentially unprepared for a wolf hunter in his camp. What? He had eight months to prepare! This guide (John) was into hunting lions and had several Lion hunters in camp, wolves were not hitting his baits, he said.
Earlier in the week, I had received another email from Adrian, five days before my trip to British Columbia, it read: “
They have 3 lion hunters in camp right now, so very busy. I think John bought 6 horses as bait in preparation for your hunt. They saw 4 wolves driving around yesterday. Should be a good go!”Adrian.
I was growing excited, leaning forward, and ready to go. I wasn’t going to be denied this trip. Adrian immediately said, “Listen, there is another guide that just had a cancellation on a six-day wolf hunt but he’s in Alberta, Canada. They have bigger wolves and he would love to have you. If you can switch your flights and make hotel reservations to Calgary, round trip the other guide (John) said he would pay any extra expense to make this happen for you, or perhaps another time, maybe next year.” Adrian suggested. That wasn’t going to be an option. I felt betrayed by the B.C. guide and Adrian…
The Switch: I spent six hours on the phone and an additional $1400 in changed flight penalties and room reservations. I would be on my way to the county of Northern Lights, in Alberta. I knew nothing about this province, I had studied British Columbia, for eight months. I was a little rattled by the events, the change in guides, weather and hunting conditions. My new hunting location was a full 1200 miles to the northeast from Kelowna, BC. I leave in four days, those eight months of preparation were for naught and the clock was ticking.
The flight to Calgary from Reno, Nevada was thru Salt Lake and uneventful. Salt Lake to Calgary a breeze. Once in Calgary, clearing Canadian Customs with my rifle, not a problem.
The customs officer (at entry) was very interested in my hunting trip. He never asked me a thing about the bombs and contraband I was bringing into his country. I was smiling all the way through the customs interview. His questions: What do you shoot, what grain bullet, where are you going to be, do you have enough cold weather gear? I thought he might double as a guide but he wished me luck and good hunting after five minutes of questions (it was a slow night) when he welcomed me into Canada. I was laughing by now and so was he. All my paperwork was in order and by 11 PM; I was in the Calgary Marriott Airport Hotel for a brief overnight. In the morning, I would catch a one hour flight on West Jet, to the small, oil boom city of Grand Prairie, Alberta.
I landed at Grand Prairie, it was 11:30 AM, and I would wait another five hours for my “new” guide. Cathy (my guide’s wife) arrived at 4:30 PM. She was returning two hunters from the lodge that had missed opportunities on wolves. The returning hunters had a later flight and required the delay on my trip. I took the wait in stride. Cathy and I picked up my WIN number, (Wildlife Identification Number) at a sporting goods store, got a bite to eat and started the three and a half hour drive north toward Manning, Alberta. This part of Canada is fairly flat and wide open. It is hundreds of square miles of haying country divided by large poplar groves, pines, and aspens. I would be hunting in clear cuts over bait in the middle of nowhere. There was a foot to two feet of snow everywhere. It was dark, snowing, and 14 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived at the ranch. Cathy and Byron had built a new modest ranch style home on a half section of land, just a few years earlier. My quarters was their old doublewide trailer which included a lovable black cat as a roommate. Byron, met us as we drove into the snow filled farmyard.
Meet Byron Wolf, Yes “Wolf”. Byron is 34, born and raised in Canada, he had years of guiding experience. He was six feet tall, probably 210 lbs., wore a trimmed beard, slightly balding but his ball cap made you believe otherwise. He’d listen to every word you would ask and then he’d make you laugh with his answer; the perfect guide. I sensed he loved his work. He was direct, candid, and realistic and wanted a wolf for me as much as I did. He guides for deer, bear, moose, and elk… but his favorite BIG GAME was for wolves. I researched his website as I talked with him on the phone. Immediately I read “Wolf Huntin Adventures” yes huntin, without the letter “G”. It read, “If wolf hunting is on your bucket list look no further!” It was then that I knew the good Lord was watching over me. I also realized his last name really was “Wolf”. Does it get any better than this? Let’s see, “bucket list” on his website, last name “Wolf”... a little too serendipitous? There must have been a reason for the previous guide to bow out. It was divine intervention, a God thing, and too many indicators that told me I shouldn’t ignore this opportunity. I listened to those faint whispers from my Dad too.
You may have seen Byron on sporting channels, (DreamPoint Outdoors, Presents Game of Inches) guiding a black bear, bow hunt, “Back to Peace River”. He works hard to make his clients successful. Byron has four kids and his wife and partner Cathy. It is a team effort at the “Wolf’s lair” to make your hunt comfortable; even the kids get involved. When my unexpected “change in plans” occurred…Byron stepped up to the plate.
I would be hunting at a blind in the morning. We had dinner, and a cocktail, exchanged a few stories and I was off to sleep. I was exhausted after two days of travel, the years of anxiety and anticipation had caught up with me. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I was up by 6:30 AM, showered, fed and after sighting in my rifle on the 200-yard range, Byron and I headed off north, up route 35. I was wearing heavy snow camos and layered merino wool long johns, beneath all that clothing. Every step was an effort in my heavy cold weather boots, I was sweating and I hadn’t done anything yet. The moment I stood still, the cold crept into the exposed areas and reminded me it was seven degrees outside.
Byron was transporting me further into the wilderness toward a baited blind. The further north we traveled the less civilization existed. New snow had fallen overnight, I’d say six inches of dry powder. It was a dry cold, knowing that I would be sitting for a long period, it would chill me to the bone. We traveled thirty miles by truck from the lodge to a side road off Hwy 35 that was gated and locked. The road was heavily snowed in yet we traveled another three miles with trailer and snowmobile in tow before we stopped. Byron unloads the snowmobile, fires it up and helps me load my gear. Off we go together into the unknown. Fifteen minutes further into the bush by snowmobile, we pass wolf track. We eventually broke into an area where the loggers had cleared a full section of poplar and pines. Byron’s blind appeared to be the only noticeable structure taller than four feet in the entire area of six hundred acres. Temperature, 10 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing, wind 7 mph. and increasing, overcast and no visible sunlight, it was still early. I was about to spend six hours in a plywood (box) hunting blind, far from any civilization, somewhere in northern Alberta, Canada, by myself. Just two hundred and forty yards away was a bait pile of frozen meat scraps (pork) that wolves love to eat. I couldn’t help but think that I was tempting “them” to find it and not me.
I once thought think duck hunters were nuts. I was talking to myself. I continued silently murmuring… I have never heard of ducks eating a human. I nervously chuckled as Byron snowmobiled away. In my head I was screaming out loud “but wait, you can’t just leave me out here”. I remember Byron’s parting words, “I’ll be back around 6:30 to pick you up” and suddenly, reality replaced years of dreams. What in hell do I do for eight frigid hours?
Remember, I was a newbie at hunting wolves. I had called coyotes and killed hundreds of them but never like this. I always knew where I was and I could leave when I wanted to leave. This was my first time to sit in a blind hunting anything. I absolutely had no idea what to expect on this hunt. Essentially, I was going along for the adventure and doing whatever my guide told me to do. It was his territory and his job to instruct me regarding the fine art of blind-hunting and killing wolves. Warning! If you have claustrophobia…this won’t be your kind of hunting. If you don’t like spending long, motionless, monotonous, hours by yourself in remote (wolf infested) areas… this hunt is not for you. On the other hand, if you want to bag one of the toughest, apex predators on the North American continent; this is how you sacrifice. The plan was to empty that bucket right? Time to put on my big boy pants and do the job.
Wolves have extreme senses. As an apex predator, all of their senses are honed to a keen edge. They are visual predators, so their vision is acute, but their hearing and olfactory senses are extraordinary. They are ghost-like creatures and they can travel 50 miles in a day for a meal. They can eat as much as twenty-five pounds of meat in one standing and then go for days without eating. They generally travel in a circuit, which means they will often return to a site where they enjoyed a good meal. It might take five to seven days, but they’ll return.
Sitting, waiting, watching: There were cell towers in this region and I had my cell phone for any emergency. When I arrived at the blind it showed two bars of reception and my battery was at 50%. “When” I got a “Dog” I would call Byron, he was only an hour away by truck and snowmobile. I checked my watch, 8:45 AM. The ravens were out in force on the bait, some 240 yards away.[IMG]file:///C:\Users\Trent\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\ clip_image004.jpg[/IMG] These scavengers spent the day picking, ripping, snatching, tearing, and flying off only to return in minutes. The view at my twelve o’clock was a logged over area of about two hundred yards. There was a tree line followed by another logged area that held the bait.
A crosswind howled and whistled through small cracks in the blind. It was so cold that any thermostat would be beating on the door wanting in. The snow was like talcum and it filled slight openings in the door or windows like spilled salt. My flooring was thick with new sawdust shavings, a great insulator for the bitter cold and wind. This blind was not equipped with a heater but it had four Plexiglas portals to shoot from. I was chuckling, the snow was building up on the east side window. I had to let snow in to clean the window, I’ll make it fast. The blind was well built, it had a corner seat but no padding.
It measured 42 inches deep by 32 inches wide by 74 inches in height all this and a sawdust floor! I improvised a pad using my extra baklava, and an additional pair of gloves. For a 200 Lb. hunter with heavy clothes, boots, backpack, rifle, binoculars, range finder, lunch and a half gallon container to relieve me; it was confining. My rifle could be brought to bear easily, just drop the window, avoid making any noise, take aim and send a projectile down range. It’s now 9:00 AM; my how time flies. Seconds would turn into minutes, and minutes into hours I thought, but never this slowly. Whose idea was this?
Hey look, in the distance, the ravens had all gotten up at the same time, what made them fly like that? Were they spooked by something? Wolf? Nope, just a dominant raven that seems to cause all the trouble. The prevailing wind is now left to right with swirls occasionally; wind velocity is 10 to 15 mph. with gusts that rock the blind. The snow and the wind are building up and Byron’s snowmobile tracks have disappeared. What if I have to spend the night here, I thought? Let’s see, hand warmers, food, gun, water, toilet paper, phone, knife, yeah I’m good. Flashlight? Oh ****, no flashlight. God, that was a miserable thought, it’s not going to happen. Byron would come and retrieve me for sure. I might be solid as a rock but I was already in a coffin, all they had to do was tip me over and bury me.
I have to urinate, no I don’t, and I can string this inevitable urge out a bit longer. That thought only made me think more about the whole exercise. This was going to get interesting, I had just settled in for a long winter’s day and now my bladder goes on a pressure purge. What was I thinking before I got all nice and snuggled into this sardine tin? Let’s see, where is that plastic jug? It's 9:30 and I'm wrestling with my jacket zipper, bibs and zippers to relieve the buildup and still stay warm. What does this look like from the outside, I thought? Are there wolves watching this silly dance in a box? I was supposed to remain quiet and motionless as much as possible. This place needs a portal in the standing position just so you can see if anything trots by while you’re seeing a man about a horse. Relieving oneself is a necessary exercise and it goes without saying that it will be on your mind as you watch the crows and ravens fly by.
Where in the hell is the sun? Canadians didn’t pay their electric bill this month the overcast is dreary. At least I’m hunting and that is better than perfect weather. Wow, almost lunch time, I need carbs to repel the freezing temperature.
Eating was easy, lunch was filling and tasty. My bottled water and canned drink would freeze if I set them out in the blind; I had to drink fast. Bad decision, my core temperature was chilling down; just so the soda wouldn’t freeze? Dummy! I won’t do that again. Just keep the drinks in the rucksack, if they freeze, so be it. It's 12:10 PM. nothing was moving except the blind in the buffeting winds. I wonder what they’re doing in New York, I thought with a smile. I’m warming the inside of the blind so much the windows are icing over in places and I can’t see clearly. I use my knife blade to clear the ice, nope that doesn’t do it. The back of my glove, nope, makes too much noise. I grab a handful of wood chips from the floor and bingo, the ice breaks up on the windows. I’m so smart.
It's 12:20, I wonder what they are doing in Florida, I am hallucinating. Only six hours and thirty minutes to go. Do NOT nod off. My head falls slightly and I can feel and see my eyelids close. Really? You came all this way to hunt wolves and now you want to sleep? It’s cold outside and inside you are sleeeeeppping. No, I am not…I fall forward and startle myself into the combat mode, what did I miss? Where are the animals? The darn birds are eating my bait. I am wide eyed and alert once again. Whew, I could have been sleeping with the fishes.
I am going to practice getting my rifle on target. Let’s see, open window, push rifle through the portal, take aim on distant crow and bang. The time to perform this operation, 15 seconds. I gotta do better than that to be successful. So I repeat the drill, one thousand one, one thousand two, ahhh, 12 seconds, then 10 seconds. I’m feeling rather dangerous for a geriatric. At 67, I can hold my own when it comes to speed and shooting we’re not talking about bourbon here. It's 1:05.
My mind wonders to my parents and fond memories, I’m praying at times that I will be successful. I think about this cold country and I wonder where in hell I am on the map. I pull out my phone and whisper to it, “OK Google” where am I? There is a long wait and suddenly the answer…We cannot determine your location. Great, I am in a space, time, continuum, in the middle of nowhere and my guide could get in a car accident and no one will know where I am. Poor planning Trent, you’re going to have to walk out of this place three miles to the nearest road. Hopefully, you’ll be able to stop a trucker in the darkness and make your way back into the real world. My imagination is having fun with me. I’m nuts. It’s so cold now the Polar Bears are wearing earmuffs. I’ll wait till morning to walk out if I have to.
I’m a trained doctor and experienced hunter of 55 years, what could go wrong? The first signs of hypothermia are shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops. Clumsiness or lack of coordination develops. Any slurred speech or mumbling? Nope, I am not there yet, I passed shivering a long time ago and my wife says I mumble all the time. I can’t determine if I am clumsy because I am enclosed in a wooden box and I can barely void myself standing up. Did I just say urinate? Not again. I checked my pulse, seventy-two, Bpm. I’m still in the game, where’s that plastic jug? The bladder dance starts all over again. It’s 5:00 PM only 90 minutes until extraction.
Obviously, the sunlight has dwindled, besides the increasing cold, there are low overcast clouds, the wind, and light snow. The elements haven’t stopped the entire day. My senses are ramping up because I know this is the time when wolves like to feed and they are on the move. I practiced my “general quarters” drill again, 10 seconds to battle stations.
All day, I am anticipating a 240 yard shot on target. I placed my 22 power, VX Leupold, varmint reticle on a raven and imagine the smooth action of the 1.5-pound pull, Jewel trigger. I’m shooting my Remington, .243, VTR. My Hornady 87 Grain V-Max, hand loads, have already killed several Montana mule deer. It’s all about bullet placement. I have been listening to my dad’s whispers all day, remembering all the lessons on hunting he taught me. I’m remembering this was his hunt too. Stay with me Dad, sit right next to me; I whispered under my breath. Its 5:40, I am anxious, perhaps today is not the day. I have an hour to finish this dream hunt for the day.
My eyes strain as I look out to the tree line over 400 yards away, I avoid my twelve o’clock view where the bait is at 240 yards. Instead, I move to my eyes slowly to the three o’clock position, nothing. The wind is still from third base to right center field, and steady at 7 mph. I shift my eyes to my nine o’clock and 800 yards out to the tree line. Oh ****, there is some movement! Right in front of me at my 9 O’clock, or darn near, perhaps fifty yards away. I’m startled, amazed and off guard. She might as well be in my lap you’re not supposed to be that close, I said.
My heart rate increased, my earlier practice immediately started my countdown procedures. I was so pleased I had practiced those drills. One thousand one, one thousand two, by the time I reached ten, I was following this beautiful animal with my crosshairs on her right shoulder. Safety off, stay on target, pull at the end of your exhale. I never heard the shot. All I can honestly witness is that the dog disappeared. I sat and stared through my scope, motionless, I was stunned and a bit in shock. I was so close to that wolf. I never practiced dialing down my scope to six power. I couldn’t see anything but fur at sixty yards, no one ever said I would be that close. Immediately I questioned myself. Was it a wolf or coyote? I didn’t know whether to stay with the blind or go retrieve the animal. Suddenly there was more movement where I had downed the wolf, it was up on its front legs, the first bullet severed the spinal cord, my second round followed. It was over.
I couldn’t believe my fortune, I walked to where the animal had crossed the road to see its track. I needed to confirm what I knew to be actual “wolf” tracks before I could turn toward the downed wolf. My legs ached as I walked through the foot deep snow. Wow, I said, that’s not coyote track. I pulled out my rangefinder and sighted it on the blind. Only a sixty yard shot the wind and snow would have no effect on my shooting at that distance. I was still dumbfounded by the experience and I will always remember how I felt. I moved toward the wolf but my head was on a swivel, were there more? I was alone, never having experienced this kind of loneliness or exhilaration after shooting anything.
I remember Byron telling me to perhaps “Howl” after shooting, to see if any other wolves might howl or come back. I shouldered my rifle, cupped my hands to my face and wolf howled three times. The wind and the snow dampened the howling imitation. Then I realized, I’m howling…to bring in more wolves? Am I nuts? I stopped and did a quick three-sixty in the “On guard” stance with my rifle in hand. I don’t know what in hell I expected, charging wolves with fixed bayonets? My head was swirling. By now, the imaginary wolves were gone and my bucket was suddenly empty. I looked to the heavens and felt relief, my dad and I had just a moment together. I listened to his acknowledgment, and then the whispers were gone.
I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It was a long time sitting in harsh temperatures and would be hard for anyone. There was no way to prepare for this kind of hunting. Overthinking the whole event was my biggest pitfall. Not wishing to foul up was another self-imposed pressure.
The remaining light was fading fast as I hurriedly pulled the wolf to the road forty feet away. I walked back to the blind and fumbled in the cold as I was dialing my phone. The cold had done a number on my phone battery, it would allow for one very short call. Byron answered and said “You better be calling me about shooting a wolf” my response, “Wolf down” I shouted… and my phone went dead. At 6:50 PM, the distant light of a snowmobile appeared on the horizon. I wasn’t going to spend the night here after all.
All I could talk about was my experience. I was like a kid that had caught his first fish. The excitement boiled over to Byron and we both stood there in the semi-darkness admiring the wolf. The ride back on the snowmobile was painless and there would be hours of reliving that experience over and over in my head.
I would spend three more days hunting over that bait and in that blind. Thirty-six hours total hunting nothing but ghosts. I thank God, I had my shot on the first day and I made it count. I had a great time getting to know who I was, what I could endure and creating unfounded fears. The mind plays many tricks on you when you are alone and in those cold conditions. I enjoyed the past memories of hunting with my father and conversing with both my parents on a more spiritual level.
Most of us have had great dreams or opportunities that passed us by for countless reasons. Perhaps it was poor timing, money, family, illness, work, or just sheer laziness that held us back. Reflecting on those missed opportunities, I regret not following through when the timing was right. The old saying “could-a, would-a, should-a” applies here. Down deep I quietly wished I had acted on many of my dreams but “stuff” happens and I chose a different path. We keep putting these items off until it is too late for all the aforementioned reasons. I profess I am guilty of most, if not all those excuses.
My senior status (chronologically) brought me to my senses; from now on there would be no more lost opportunities. Honestly, if it weren’t for my father’s dream (that he never achieved) of bagging a big elk on a guided hunt, I may never have followed through on my dream hunt. He had two children to support and I didn’t. Military officers in the sixties were not pulling down that kind of coin. We talked about his dream hunt many times as we hunted together over the years. His body failed him but his dream of that last great hunt never wavered. His passing was a blessing in many ways but I wasn’t going to let his dream go unanswered. His death was a constant reminder that pushed and prodded me to seek my own unmet dreams.
As I look back, I can repeat the words of Byron Wolf,

“No wolf is ever an easy wolf” If Canis Lupus, is in your bucket, remember Byron’s words.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg wolf best.jpg (86.1 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg Blind 2.jpg (496.2 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Hour 8.jpg (173.7 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Trent in Blind.jpg (185.5 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg WGI_0270.jpg (537.4 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Wolf Print 17.jpg (540.6 KB, 7 views)

Last edited by Dr4Body; 03-19-2017 at 11:20 AM..
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