Monday, 25 November 2013

Pincher Creek High Efficiency Hunt 2013

Headed down to Pincher for me & Jesse's annual hunt on the November long weekend. We rolled in on Friday night and headed out at first light Saturday morning. We saw one white-tail about 5 minutes after leaving the house, but unfortunately it was on land we didn't have permission to hunt that weekend. Fortunately, we did see another good-sized doe about 30 seconds later! She was on the right side of the fence, but was on a hill top so it wasn't a good shot, and she took off before we could get any closer. We started to sneak up the hill after her, but unfortunately couldn't find her. Fortunately, we did see 2 more deer at the bottom of the hill on the other side! They hadn't spotted us yet, so we crawled over to a nearby downed tree branch for a nice shooting rest, with the pair about 100 yards out. I took the first one with a high-ish shot through the lungs and the bottom of the spine and she dropped on the spot. The second one didn't take off right away, so Jesse shot it too. Turned out they were a doe-fawn pair, and Jesse had taken the young buck. Pretty damn big for a fawn, though - we couldn't even tell he wasn't an adult until we got right up to him. 
Elapsed time: 15 minutes.
Back home, Andrea and Jorden were just getting up and heard the shots. "Already?" We got the deer home, and that's when the real fight began - the Pinto-Otis showdown over the carcasses. Better toughen up my gal for next year - she's got a 40 lb weight disadvantage to overcome.

On Sunday, after Linnea and Todd arrived, Todd joined us and the three of us went out all morning to the Castle Stock Grazing Reserve just south of J & A's to try for an elk. We had a great, extremely snowy day in the foothills and covered a lot of ground, saw a ton of elk tracks and beds, and even a few moose, but there were no elk to be found. For next year, we talked about setting up a wall tent way back in the reserve and taking a week off to go and find something. Anyone want to fly back to Alberta to join the fun?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Speed Goats

Since moving to Colorado I have wanted to go pronghorn hunting, but the tags here are difficult to get. Fortunately, in Wyoming they are begging people to kill them, and doe tags are only $35 out of state. So Jesse and I put in for tags last March and each drew one for a unit 2 hours north and west of Fort Collins, near the town of Medicine Bow. 

After 3 days of excessive drinking we packed up my truck and headed north  

Yeah, I bought a truck

We left on a Tuesday morning and got to our unit around midday. Wyoming gets a bad rap sometimes for how it manages wildlife but this unit was an example of something they definitely do right. It is part of a program called the Private Land, Public Wildlife program, where land owners get paid to allow Fish and Game to control access to their land. Basically we just had to apply online for a permission slip and had multiple sections of a mix of public and private land, with 2-track access roads on which to hunt, and all with minimal fences. 

The unit descend from higher elevation in the south, where we came from, and so we did not see any pronghorn for the first few hours, but that would all change. Once we lost some elevation we were in prime habitat, however this looks slightly different than what either of us are used to hunting. 

Fuck, it is flat, and there are no trees
A different perspective...
 The first animal we saw was a lone doe that we chased for half a mile before realizing we would have better luck keeping up with her by getting back in the truck. As soon as we did this we started seeing more animals, but everything we saw spotted us first, and was on the move before we were out of the truck. We spent most of the first day driving around, spotting large groups at over a kilometer and trying in vain to get close enough for a shot. We did get close (within 400 m) a couple times and got off a few shots from pretty far, but all of these missed. 

Ultimately we started realizing that a lot more stealth was needed. The pronghorn were spotting us way too early and were really unpredictable in how they would move, ducking behind some slight topography and then doubling back as soon as they were out of sight. With some knowledge gained, we headed into town to enjoy some local hospitality.


Originally we had planned to camp, but it is windy as fuck in Wyoming, and we are old, fat, and lazy. So we got some dinner and a hotel room and mingled with the locals at the famous Virginian Hotel, which is supposedly the setting for the first Western novel ever written.

Oh yeah, it looks just as classy on the inside
Needless to say, the locals provided some excellent entertainment, as well as enough second-hand smoke to cause Jesse to go into nicotine addiction relapse. 

Waking up the next morning, smelling like stale smoke and shame we realized we only had 3 bullets left, as I forgot the second box at home. So we had to drive back to Laramie (an hour away) to get more. Fortunately, there is nowhere for pronghorn to hide during the day, so starting at 11 am was not a big deal. 

The first pronghorn  we saw (a group of 3) were on the run before we even thoguht about slowing the truck down, but we got out to take a look around regardless. We eventually spotted them around 2km away from the road, and there was some actual topography between us that we could hide behind as we tried to get close. 

Needless to say, we spooked them pretty quickly, but walked up to the top of the ridge they ran behind and saw a group of 20 does on the other side. We were able to sneak around behind the ridge and crawl through the sage to within 200 m of them. Laying down, Jesse took a shot but missed. Fortunately they did not run too far, and he was able to drop one at around 300 yards. 
Sweet picture
 We were a couple miles from the truck at this point, but we quickly learned that the best thing about pronghorn, is that they are light enough to do this...

Once back at the truck we continued on down the road to a place where we had gotten close to some pronghorn the previous day. We did not see any animals, but there was a ridge off the side of the road, and on a whim we decided to check out what was on the other side. The ridge had a large water tank on top and we were able to walk up behind this to stay hidden. Looking out from behind it there were 6 pronghorn does and bucks. I missed two shots completely, but they did not care at all, which was surprising given how skittish they were the previous day. I eventually calmed down and nailed one at 220 yards. 

All-in-all it was good trip, and one we will try to do again. Anyone is welcome to come down as well- tags are cheap and you have to put in some time in March. It is definitely a different experience than other big game hunts as you get to see animals non-stop. Trying to stalk up on them is a blast, and you know you will get multiple chances. After reading some more since this trip, it sounds like a lot of people crawl up to 400 m to get to better position, so you might be able to get closer than we did, but longer shots are definitely the name of the game. I think I will hit the range a little more before the next trip, and try to dial my gun in a little better.

I'll leave you with some parting shots...

My truck being badass

Celebratory whiskey

Tenderloin...pronghorn tastes real good

Monday, 11 November 2013

Trans-Atlantic Migrations ( + Product Review)

I made a quick trip to la belle province last week.

In between a conference and seminar I managed to sneak off for a quick (24hr) hunting trip just north of the Maine border in the QC Appalachians. I stayed at Steeve's cabin, which perhaps not surprisingly, bears much resemblance to Caw Ridge. In addition to hunting, we had a bit of work to do on the cabin so Steeve kept me well fed:

This is venison, caribou, and wild boar (shot in texas) - also this was for one meal.

We were hoping for ducks, geese, and grouse: only the latter cooperated. It was a little too late and too cold for the migratory guys - although I did see thousands of snow geese just west at lower elevations.

Having not hunted for over a year, it took me a while to get into the groove:

I was using a Rossi 410 - this gun to be exact. This gun is amazing for two reasons: i) it has an interchangeable 22 barrel; and ii) it easily fits into a backpack. This will be my next gun purchase for sure.

Back to the hunt: after a little warm up...  I took to walking with the safety off (I forgot how quick grouse flush). Eventually I succeeded. This ended up  being the most expensive bird of my life: aka a $90 non resident permit.

Having little time to prepare a meal, I opted to return to Scandinavia. 

Examining our Swedish icebox revealed fresh truffles (Kim bought from Italy) and pasta. A meal worthy of a ninety dollar bird?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Pinto Strikes Out

Yesterday we took Pinto out for her (and my!) first attempt at grouse. Totally struck out, and she was more interested in barking at horses than sniffing out birds. Damn border collie and her farm animal obsession. And she didn't even blink at the one bird we actually flushed. But at least she's not afraid of the gun! Maybe if I ever manage to shoot a grouse she'll learn what they smell like.

Family road trip!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Holarctic musings

One of the advantages of moving to Sweden is that is shares much of its flora and fauna with the homeland(s).

In terms of fish and bugs, I can therefore pull from my disjointed repository on how to fly fish up-and-over here (I guess just over for Oliver).

I have had the urge for a few weeks, but no vehicle prohibited anything overly ambitious. I settled for carpooling to a stocked lake just east of Uppsala and renting a row boat. I grew violently ill from this faux fly fishing expedition (could also have been the snus). Something had to give. What did I do, you, the faithful SS&S readership, asks? I will tell you what I did:

I bought a fucking Volvo.

No need for a photo. It gets us from A to B aka home to the river. But seriously, Kim and I felt this was a good investment if we wanted to properly tour Sweden and the surrounding countries. Plus it is a Volvo.

While Kim was away in Italy, I decided to head northwest to see what I could find. I ended up here:

I settled on the municipality of Alvdalen, which translated means river valley. Seeing that all of us contributors (I apologize to the excluded SS&S readership) honed our research skills at the U of A, I was aptly prepared to find fish in this foreign land (google: fly fishing + Sweden). I did ask around at the fly shop, but in somewhat typical Swede fashion, I got only uninformative one liners from the guy at the desk.

I did, however, have a few destinations in mind - x marks the spot:

I had no set plans, just get up there, find water, fish, and make camp. The latter turned out to be pretty easy. Swedes, of course, have randomly placed shelters across their hinterland:

Night one I polished off two indian packs, a bottle of port, and slept with no fly on the tent.

Oh wait, there is the Volvo

Swedish infrastructure is incredible:  you go from pristine roads to one-lane (40 km) groomed gravel roads - in the middle of a forest - that meet up with another maintained two lane gravel road which in another 30 km leads you to a good asphalt road. These seem to zig zag across the country and I only passed a handful of cars.

I won't even try to describe this landscape. Just come see it for yourself.

But back to the fish. The intraweb told me tales of grayling and browns, but all I landed were some variety of whitefish (D ID?)

Sweden is in a serious drought right now and water levels are very low - I suspect this is why I only got these guys + I have no clue how to fish for browns. But regardless, it was a fun two days of fishing with enough action (and snus) to keep you on the water for 8 hours at a time.

We plan to head 200 km further north with Joe and Lani (mid august), if not sooner.

Sorry about the photos, I only have my shitty IPhone at the moment, and you know what they say about IPhone cameras...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Far up the poudre

I have been out fishing a lot this summer with the intention of getting some good pictures to write a blog update. Unfortunately I never catch any fish. The cache la poudre (pronounced pooter) is a pretty tough river, as it runs right through Fort Collins and so gets a lot of pressure. On top of that there was a big fire last year and we have been getting rains recently, the combination of which has led to lots of runoff, mudslides, and poor visibility. All of this typically leads to me fishing for 3 hours, missing a few fish and eventually hooking one on a nymph while I am not paying attention. To combat these issues, and my generally poor casting abilities, Lani, myself, and a couple friends decided to go far up river to a place I have had good luck before.

The pool I have fished before is about a 1.5 hour hike upstream
The hardest part about this hike is bypassing all the early, amazing-looking pools, and looking helplessly at the inaccessible parts of the canyon that are teeming with fish like...

this one- picture taken from about 35 feet above

However, it is all worth it- the pool is the biggest I have seen on the whole river and we were so excited that we decided to take some artistic shots for D...

I fished dry-dropper all day...

We caught a lot of brook trout
And some cutthroat

And some really nice looking cutthroat

Lani is learning to fly fish and is getting better at casting

She could use some work on landing fish- she hooked probably 5, missed 5 others and landed none. She fought the biggest fish of the day for a couple minutes before losing it. What she lacked in alertness in setting the hook she made up for in force, nearly ripping a fishes head off at one point with her spastic jerking. 

On our way back out I was able to make my way down to the pool we had spotted fish in from above. 

I fished it for 5 minutes and caught 5 fish, and missed about 3 others. I don't think I had a cast that a fish did not hit my fly. 

All-in-all a good day, and it restored my faith that I can catch fish. 

Here is another artistic shot for D. All photo credits: Lani (except for the one of Lani)

Monday, 1 July 2013

The funny thing about deers is...

To mark the occasion of the death of Google Reader, my until-now trusty provider of Science Shoots and Skins updates, I think I may have discovered the patron saint of SS&S.

To be honest, I can't really handle more than about 3 minutes of this guy at a time, and I suspect in person he'd drive me to actual physical violence. I also can't really look away - this is genuine car-wreck territory.

Just in case a deer isn't enough, there's more, much more, here.

Oh, and I'm trying out The Old Reader as a Google Reader substitute. So far so good.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Planes, trains, and automobiles North.

Last week I was in the NWT doing some community consultations and some scouting.  We are in the process of gearing up for a small summer heli-portable program in the Sahtu and some new exploration blocks were just posted in the far northern Sahtu and southern Gwichin.  It was a classic northern trip: whirlwind-y, discombobulated, and in a constant state of flux right up till when it was done.  The trip also covered a huge amount of ground using a variety of interesting modes of transportation.
Day 1: Drove from Pincher to Calgary in the K Kart.  Drove from Calgary to Edmonton with my boss, Al, in a rented Jetta.  The K Kart drives like a gem, but has no muffler (no exhaust system, actually) so is really loud.  I’ve decided to wear ear plugs while driving rather than fix the little guy.  But hey, at least it’s registered.  Jettas suck.
Day 2, part 1: Flew from Edmonton to Yellowknife to Norman Wells  in a Boeing 737 Combi.  This is a half passenger – half cargo plane that’s really uncomfortable.  But, it gets the job done.  On the plus side Canadian North still serves a full meal en route and it’s not half bad.  In Yellowknife we picked up Marty, our northern affairs guy, and about 100 lbs of steaks for consultations.
Day 2, part 2: Flew from Norman Wells to Tulita in a Twin Otter.  I’d never flown in one of these before and it was awesome.  I swear we only needed about 200 feet of runway before we were airborne.  In the evening we hosted a BBQ in Tulita.

Overseeing.  And looking fab.

There’s an old bone yard in Tulita down by the river with lots of awesome old oilfield trucks and machinery.

All oilfield vehicles get permit numbers.  One of the last numbers issued was 5705. 
Day 3: Flew from Tulita to Norman Wells in an Astar 350 B2 via a detour to the Carcajou River.

The Mackenzie Mts in the distance.  One of our lines up front.

Day 4: Rode some bikes around Norman Wells.
The only sensible way to travel at 3 am.
Day 5, part 1: Flew from Norman Wells back to Tulita in that same Astar to pick up some elders to show them some of our seismic program from the past couple years.
Day 5, part 2: Dropped the elders off in Tulita and flew back to Norman Wells and then on to Inuvik.  En route from NWs to Inuvik we did a preliminary scout of some new lease blocks that were just posted by the NWT & Feds for exploration.  We saw some pretty spectacular country.
The Mountain River
The Ramparts River
The Arctic Red River
Melting permafrost makes for pretty epic slumps. 
The country in this part of the world is stunning. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever been to a place this remote. In all the time I've spent outside in my life, this may be the first time I've ever been somewhere with nothing.  Nada. 

This is a shale formation cut by the Arctic Red River.
I’m not a geologist, but this is very likely the same or related shale to the one being explored right now near Norman Wells and Tulita. When I crushed up this shale and threw it into the river, it produced a hydrocarbon sheen.

The other major shale oil formations being produced right now, like the Bakken in the Dakotas, Montana, Sask., and AB and the Eagle Ford in Texas, are about 8 m thick. 
Day 6, part 1: Flew from Inuvik to Edmonton to Calgary in the same Boeing Combi.  This time it was full of people; no cargo.
Day 6, part 2: Picked-up Bry-dog (Andrea’s brother) at the Calgary airport and headed back in Pincher in the K Kart.
All and all the trip was about 5,500 km; from almost the southern border with the US to almost the Beaufort Sea. 

All in a mere 6 days.  And it was really fun.