So we shouldn't have internet access right now because we are supposed to be in the backwoods of Alberta...however, as it seems our situations have gone lately, we are now stuck in a po-dunk motel in Whitescourt, Alberta because Continental never got our bow case from Houston to Canada. We flew out of San Antonio to Houston to Calgary to Edmonton. When we arrived, our outfitter got a call that his bear camp was being threatened by a wildfire and everyone must evacuate. We made the decision to go to the largest city nearest bear camp...about 2.5 hours north of the airport and stay in a hotel there and have the airport deliver our bows when they arrived (there is about $4K worth of equipment in that case...2 pairs of binoculars, 2 bows, broadheads, archery releases, etc etc). We landed at 2PM and the case was rerouted and would not arrive until 9PM. Well we drove the 2.5 hours north only to be stopped by a roadblock because forest fires were encroaching on that town. Sure enough, the fires jumped the road and began burning the city down...hospital, police station, homes, car dealerships, and on and on. As of the next morning it was reported that about 40% of the town had been burned…40%! Winds were gusting up to 90mph! They said they have NEVER seen winds like this. We were in the roadblock for over 2 hours til we decided to turn around and go back to our outfitter's hometown, about 2.5 hours another direction...so after 21 hours of traveling, (we started the day at 4AM) we checked into a po-dunk motel with the biggest jacuzzi tub with carpeted steps into it & giant wall sized mirrors you have ever seen. :-/ (ick!!) Oh, and I forgot to mention that this guy we were stuck in the same car with for 7+ hours uses more profanity in every sentence than in any R rated movie you have ever seen. It seems to be the normal thing up there, but it is beyond belief.
I'm sure things will get better as long as his bear camp wasn't burned down...that's yet to be determined...oh and if our livelihood ever shows up in Edmonton.
So this morning started off with good news. Derrick’s cell phone rang at about 8AM and Edmonton airport has our bow case! Woohoo! However, the plot thickens again as we were told that because our bow case was locked, they would not clear it through customs and we had to come back to Edmonton to claim it with our case keys and passports. It is an SKB case, and all SKB cases have TSA approved & accessible locks meaning they are made to be transported in airports! Security is supposed to be able to get into them! So Derrick made 5-6 more phone calls and we actually got some helpful people on the other line, but final word came from customs, and they said we had to come. SO…we had our outfitter pick us up at the Western Budget motel and take us back 2 hours to Edmonton. Derrick got taken back after a few minutes and security/customs had Derrick pick it up, put it on the table, unlock it, open it, and handle everything…apparently, our Octane stabilizers looked like pipe bombs and they were legitimately concerned!! So, after a few minutes, they were convinced it was all ok and Derrick came out of the sliding glass doors victorious. We then loaded back up and started north again. We ended up back in Whitescourt (where we had just come from), met up with the other guides who had had to evacuate from the camp the night before because of the fires and we kept on going. However, the normal route was closed, so we had to take a HUGE detour around (several hours)….what should have been a 3 hour journey yesterday, has turned into another 12 hour travel day today because of many stops along the way to get needed supplies and more delays. We stopped at a gas station to get our hunting licenses and I have nothing at all against foreigners, but for heavens sake, if you are going to run a business in a country that speaks English, you’re going to have to learn to speak it better! This poor little Chinese man tried to process our licenses but somehow accidentally processed us as residents versus non-residents and the system would not allow a bear tag to be purchased. Fortunately, our guide caught this and told him to void them all & start over. Unfortunately, he couldn’t figure out how to void them…turns out our guide figured out that he had stapled my wildlife certificate number to Derrick’s wildlife identification number so he had the information crossed. Finally our guide asked if he could come behind the counter and do it himself. Thank goodness the little Asian man agreed! Finally, we got them all voided out and started over. What should have taken 15 minutes took 1.5 hours!! So, we then took off again until we reached the last town of civilization before bear camp. We pulled over to get gas and when we took off again, the other guide who was pulling the trailer full of everything forgot he had the trailer on the back and slammed the tire against a curb. It bent the rim and blew out the tire!! Seriously, could anything else go wrong?? Oh wait, the answer is yes…the gas station we were at had had the end of the air machine stolen so we couldn’t fill the tire up after the rim had been hammered back in place. So we went to another gas station….theirs had been stolen too….so we went to another gas station, and fortunately, they were good to go. So, we are off again and I type as we drive. Supposedly, we are less than an hour from camp….hopefully, that is true, eh?
Well we did end up making it to bear camp last night. For a while, we thought we were lost on some oilfield & logger backroads, but Blair took the correct roads and we finally made it! It was about 11pm but we got to see 5 bears on the way in!! One big ol guy and 2 babies climbing a tree which made it really fun. Then, all of a sudden, Blair slammed on the brakes, threw it in reverse, and yelled that he had just seen a black timberwolf! Derrick had bought the wolf tag and boy howdy would a wolf have made his day. The wolf disappeared, but we grabbed a gun and ran up the logger trail after it. Derrick spotted it again and slammed himself up against a tree to try to get stable and pulled off a shot. The wolf was running, Derrick was breathing hard, adrenaline was pumping, and unfortunately, he missed it. I somehow got the moments on camera so we verified later that he shot right over the top of it…DARN! Having a black wolf mount would have been pretty darn cool. Derrick of course was sick about it, but his chances were slim to none in the first place.
Anyway, we made it in and set up the necessities. Because the whole place had been evacuated just the night before, EVERYTHING except the structures were piled in a trailer. We pulled out cots and sleeping bags, unloaded our stuff, and went to bed to the smell of smoke and the sound of tent walls flapping in the wind. This morning, we slept in a bit as bear hunting doesn’t start until late afternoon. Froggy had cooked us a yummy warm breakfast which got our day going. We pretty much hung out the whole day…napped, talked, learned about bears and Canda. We went out at about 3PM to a treestand set up that had been built for us and Billy Jack and Blair set up the bait. They sprayed vanilla all over trees, threw the rotten stinky beaver carcass into the bait bucket along with oats, chocolate syrup , and every other random concoction of calories. We got a Gorilla treestand set up above the perma-treestand and I settled in as hunter and Derrick as cameraman. 2-3 long hours went by and Derrick was listening to the iPod when I heard heavy footsteps coming up behind us. I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, a pretty black bear was coming in! She got pretty close to our stand sniffing and snorting and such and then took a big wide circle around to the bait bucket. I was ready and standing with my bow, but we were having such a good time watching her, I wasn’t quite ready to shoot…plus we wanted some good footage. Well unbeknownst to us, beavers were her favorite and she grabbed that beaver right out of the barrel and took off with it. My heart sunk because I was afraid that I should have shot the bear and we had lost it. Fortunately, she only went about 20 yards behind some brush and chowed down on it for a while and fortunately again, she came back for dessert! We didn’t give her too much time this time as we didn’t want to risk losing her again. She had stuck her head in and out of the barrel once or twice and as soon as she gave me a good shot, I took it. I hit her a bit far back but she was quartered away from me a little so we were hoping that the arrow went through the vitals. She took off running and we were both shaking. We viewed and reviewed the video and got more and more nervous until quite a while later we heard the “death moan” a pretty good ways off. I was honestly saddened by the sound as the actual death of an animal brings me no joy. However, we were glad to know she was down and ready to be tracked. We climbed down with the camera and bows and started looking for blood. Took us a while to find any, but once she started to bleed, she had left us a good trail. We tracked her for several hundred yards and then Derrick finally spotted her. At that point, we knew where she was and so we headed back to the stand to sit for the remainder of the evening. About an hour or more later, the most eerie change of conditions occurred. The sky turned dark with an orangey/yellowy tint. It got so dark, we lost camera light. We started getting nervous that we were going to lose our lives to ravaging forest fires. We decided to crawl down and head back to camp to make sure we weren’t missing an evacuation or some important memo. We got in, but they weren’t too worried so we headed back out for another hour or so. We had no more activity until the guides came in with 4 wheelers to pick up my bear. We got her loaded up and back on the road, when I spotted a black blob way down the road. We got the binocs out and Blair said that we had a big bear coming in so we took off down the road towards it and got into the woods to wait. Unfortunately, he decided to detour and must not have liked what he saw because he disappeared. We then took off again only to go several hundred yards when Blair and Billy Jack blew to a stop and signaled for us to get out of the truck and run. Sure enough, ANOTHER huge bear was coming down the road, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with us either. So…we didn’t have a chance at the big guys, but tomorrow is another day and we know where they’re hanging out. The camp cook, Froggy, had a wonderful sirloin/potatoes/vegetable dinner waiting for us and here in a minute we’re hittin’ the hay. Check out my black beauty!
I slept like a baby last night! Blair got me another sleeping back and a foam cushion and good golly I just melted into bed and slept through the night. We got up to another warm breakfast compliments of Froggy and then lounged around for a while until Derrick and I decided to try our hand to pike fishing. We took out the little motored jon boat and both caught our first pike ever. We caught about 8, got 5 in the boat, and kept 2. I caught the BIGGEST, but Derrick accidentally let him go right before he got in the boat! (seriously, I’m not just sayin that!).
It was beautiful on the lake with lots of ducks, loons, and sunshine. Around 5 oclock, we headed back out to the bear stand to sit and sit and sit…around 9PM or so (it stays light until 11ish), I heard a rustle of leaves way behind me. Derrick was listening to his iPod so I had to get his attention. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a squirrel scratching around but finally I was convinced that it was a steady pattern of footsteps. I turned slowly and I finally caught a glimpse of him behind me and he was coming straight in. When he got a little behind our tree stand, he made a big loop around to the left and came out right in front of us then turned towards us. We had thrown a little bit of sandwich crust out on the ground in front of us so we both thought it was funny that he was headed to the sandwich rather than the bucket full of yummy bear stuff. However, he wasn’t interested in the sandwich….he was interested in US! He came straight up to the steps on the treestand and looked right at us with his beady little eyes. He then proceeded to put a foot up on the ladder…then 2…then 3. Derrick finally freaked out and “pssshhed” him back down. He retreated but stepped behind our stand for a little while huffin and puffin and again considered climbing the tree up to us. He then made his way back around to the front of the stand and looked back up at us. At that point I had disconnected the camera from the camera arm because he was so close I couldn’t get the right angles on him. The bear was about 5 feet in front of the stand and Derrick drew and let one fly. The bear dropped immediately and let out a terribly sad sounding moan. Derrick thought he KO’ed him right there! But unfortunately, he didn’t. The bear got his senses back and started fighting and twisting and turning. Derrick grabbed another arrow and shot at him, but he was flippin and kickin’ and didn’t get a fatal wound on him. The bear dragged himself away and we were freakin’ out!! Seriously, we were both shaking involuntarily. I couldn’t hold the camera straight. We waited a while but wasn’t sure what to do as we never heard the “death moan.” We knew we were running out of daylight though so finally we climbed down and started following his trail. Fortunately, the wound was bleeding a lot so we made it about 75 yards or so and decided we Texas kids had no idea what we were getting into and Derrick only had one arrow left with no gun. We decided retreating was the wise decision and we headed back to camp to get Blair. In most circumstances, we would have waited until morning to track him, but Blair was concerned we were having fires move in on us and might not have a chance to track him in the morning. So…we got flashlights and rifles and headed back out. We tracked him on and on through “the bush.” We kept finding blood so we stayed optimistic and kept on going until we got to a pretty dense area and Blair became uncomfortable with the situation. He said the bruin could be anywhere within reach and he could easily be mad and well enough to charge without notice. So, again, we made the wise decision and decided to retreat with the hope of coming back in the morning.
So, we ate dinner around 12:30 (our first taste of moose…yum yum roast) and went right to bed. While sleeping well, we heard a loud entrance to our tent and a loud voice saying “this is RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and you guys gotta get up and start breaking down camp now. Fires are coming and y’all have to leave.” WOW!!! 2:30 in the morning! We flew out of bed and started piling our stuff in our suitcases and stuffing everything wherever in might go. A few minutes later, Blair came in relatively unconcerned and said we would be waiting until morning and would then pack up and head out…then he left. (little more information please!)…Derrick, being the natural protector/worrier that he is (totally legit in this situation) was VERY concerned and could not go back to sleep. He went ahead and finished packing up and then decided to take all of our stuff up to the trucks so it’d be completely packed up in case we needed to leave in a heartbeat. He kept coming and going checking the skyline for fires…there was definitely smoke, but there had been smoke the whole time so that wasn’t anything too new. Finally he settled back in bed for a little bit of sleep. The alarm went off at about 6:30 and we were up and at ‘em packing the camp up. Now when we say packing the camp up, we’re talking about 5 HUGE perma military tents, the kitchen tent with stove and appliances and woodstove and food and frig, etc etc. They had a boat and shower and 2 outhouses and gear to last 2 months. Finally, Blair mentioned Derrick’s bear and asked if we wanted to give it another go. I could just feel Derrick’s heart explode. He was SO sick that he would have to leave his bear out there to burn. SICK SICK SICK. Blair, Derrick, and I loaded back up and went back to the blood trail. We went another 500 yards or so…tracking blood the whole way. We finally came up against a big lake with an old beaver run. We turned the corner and Blair said “there he is” as he was bringing up his gun and sure enough, there was the big ol black bear! He was quite alive and was trying to make his getaway so Blair had to shoot him…3 times! That guy was resilient! Blair didn’t want to risk him getting up and running as we wouldn’t have time to track him any longer. We got him out with the 4 wheeler and back to camp. He was skinned just in time and we loaded up and headed out of camp. As we were leaving, we could hear the roars of the fire approaching! We got about 20-25 miles down the road and ran into a police barricade and we asked them if they had any news. They said the fire had jumped the road at mile marker 17....right where the camp was and we had just left! Glad we got out of there. Check out Derrick's black brute!!
At this point, we were done with the hunt. We had two tags left to fill and only got 2 out of our 7 days, but we were ready to be done. There had been so much stress associated with the whole experience. However, flying home early would cost hundreds of dollars of change fees and price upgrades so we decided to explore Alberta! We found out that the Canadian Rockies were just a few hours to our west and if anyone has ever been to Bamff, Jasper National Park, and Lake Louise, they can't say enough about it...so we rented a car and away we went! We spent two days driving and found a cute little hotel along the way. Spent way more money than we had budgeted for the trip, but really had no other choice. Rather than type any more, I'm just going to use pictures to say the words....thanking the Lord for his BEAUTIFUL creation and creativity! WOW...ever get a chance to see the Canadian Rockies....don't pass it up!!