Hunting Elk, Black Bear, and Wolf in The Peace River Valley

I’m a fortunate one that is for sure. For a week and a half, I traversed over 5,300 miles to hunt some of the most beautiful country that I’ve ever walked. The Peace River Valley in British Columbia, Canada was my destination. This may be the final time I set eyes on this valley before it is forever changed with the Site C Dam.

I am blessed to have Larry Jarnagin as my uncle and given the rules in this certain area I am the last in line to hunt under his supervision. Joining me on this long journey will be my dad Marion with the intent to harvest elk, black bear and wolf with a kicker antelope tag in Wyoming for me. There are plenty of miles between Oklahoma and Fort St. John, BC, but with luck our trip was eased with a super sweet riding Nissan Titan Pro 4X and a bunch of energy drinks.

After snagging my dad in Denver, we sat out immediately north in order to optimize our time on the Jarnagin ranch up in BC. We had 27 more hours to go so we strapped in tight for a complete drive through.

The scenery was beautiful in Wyoming driving up, but I won’t lie. The long drives we take as hunters, nothing passes time like seeing plenty of wildlife and picturesque views.

Picturesque views of Wyoming

We arrive in camp and have to struggle through the nights in a one room cabin off of the main cabin. This is home for the next six days, but our first step is gearing up and heading out to the woods. It doesn’t matter if you have been on the road 2 hours or 27 hours. There is enough energy in the tank no matter the distance for an evening hunt. Our hunt begins with us heading out to oat patches, looking for elk that are looking for a meal.

Our home away from home for the next six days.

The smell of rubber on road barely a memory, we start getting ready for the first evening hunt.   This area is so special especially given it winters over 2,000 head of elk during the hard months. We anticipate high numbers and plenty of elk bugling their way to the ladies….or my calls.

My uncle has been up here since around 1982 or so, but has really grown the elk population. In his words, there used to be very few elk in these parts. It is hard to imagine that given that this place looks like a Big Buck Hunter Arcade game. Everywhere you look there is another critter on the move.

Preparing for the hunt

During my first calling session, four bulls came in to the call. Note to self: Never leave a turkey call in your elk calls. The results weren’t as bad as expected.

This 6X5 actually bedded down 100 yards from our location. My calling was good enough to get him in and bad enough to have him stick around. I suppose he really wanted to see what horrendous beast was making that noise. Fortunately for him it wasn’t my .300 Win Mag.

An elk spotted in the distance

My uncle has been hunting this part of the country for quite some time, and he has the trophy room to back it up.

I guess when you stack up enough trophies like this they all just end up getting put in a pile of some sorts. I wouldn’t mind getting a moose tag next time I head this way. See that lounger there? Many naps happened there. Many.

A view of the cabin porch

After a night’s rest we started the morning hunt. Going on long trips is always a bit difficult on your body, but I don’t think anything takes the abuse quite like the vehicle. Once shiny is now beginning its week as a complete workhorse.

This truck really was clean, but with rain headed in it is just bound to go downhill from this point. The mud around this area kind of reminds me of the mud back in Oklahoma, minus the deep red color and propensity to stick to stain everything in its path.

A clean red truck

Fog can be a hunt killer or a hunt hero. The first morning it was both. With three sets on this bull I was able to get into position and knock him down in his tracks. During the first set we had six bulls in the area ready for battle, but fog killed the set just when I had him in my blurred sight picture.

We moved half a mile at a hurried pace and set up only to be crushed once again with fog. The fog was just as bad as the satellite bulls that came in to see what was going on with the herd bulls ladies. Subsequently, the big boy moved another quarter mile where we caught up with him in the oat field where I killed a bull a few years back.

I guess third times the charm on this deal.

Elk antlers

Taking pictures in the field is tough to do, but they are important to preserve the hunt. All it takes is a bit of extra time to make the most of your memories. My dad is no photo expert, but with a bit of instruction and time he was able to snap a few shots that I’ll have forever.

I only wish he had a better subject holding this 6X6.

Part of the reason my uncle has been able to grow a great population of elk is the nutrients he offers. He has quite a bit of ground and to hold a bunch of animals you have to be diverse in your plot selection.

Elk

Well placed shots make for easy tracking and good eats. The area around us was pretty thick so getting the animals down in a quick manner is crucial. After a good nights sleep, you think you feel good enough to pack an elk out, but why waste the energy when dropping it in the field means you can haul it out in a Titan Pro 4X.

Elk heart

Having a tractor nearby is the only way to do this elk thing. I mean, you guys backpacking these things out have my respect. You are tough, but this is the way to roll.

Using a tractor to haul elk

The elk are big and the views are not half bad! This is off the back porch of the cabin (AKA) the trophy room. Below the fog is the Halfknife River, which offers great access to public hunting and great fishing. If it didn’t get so cold in the winter I swear I could call this home.

View of the area

Speaking of views. You never know what you will see decorate the walls in a hunting cabin. A crow wearing an overcoat and boots is just messed up. I always knew artists had different ways of viewing things, but please stop.

This is by far one of the creepiest paintings I’ve ever encountered. Since I’ve been coming up here to the Peace River region this thing has haunted my dreams. I could seriously see this in some horror show. You see art, I see therapy sessions.

A painting of a crow wearing a coat and boots

It was time for the old man to step up to the plate. He hit one out of the park.

He sat on a field watching a woodline where we had heard some bugling the night before. He had another four or five bulls in his location. I still can’t get over how many bulls are in this area.

A 7X5 is a great way to finish off the elk portion of the trip. Did I mention how many elk are around the Peace River Region?

A photo of a captured elk

If I was smart, I would have found someone to do this for me, but what would be the fun in that? The works really starts after you pull the trigger. At least there is a tractor handy and plenty of family members around to help out with the massive undertaking.

Cleaning the elk

It doesn’t matter how young you are around here. If something falls, you are called upon to help out. The youngster at the end is one of the most useful hands on the farm.

He didn’t ask questions or wait for someone to ask him to help out. He simply got his place in the assembly line and went to work. I conveniently grabbed the camera and went to “work.”

A youngster helps the successful hunters

On the menu for the upcoming hunts are bears and wolves. Typically the bears aren’t an issue. They absolutely love the oat patches, but in recent years they have avoided my reaches like the plague.

This would be the closest I would come to a bear on the trip. This was taken the first night of the hunt.  I don’t know for sure, but I think he fell for my ploy to call in elk with a turkey call that found its way into my elk diaphragm case. Works every time.

A bear is spotted in the distance

There are no guarantees when it comes to hunting, but you prepare the best you can. I originally set out to build a custom Surgeon rifle specifically for this trip. Targeting the 6.5 Creedmoor, I had a local gun builder the parts in plenty of time to get this firearm before the hunt was to start.

Well, life got in the way and things happen so the gun didn’t get completed until the day before I set out. The first time I shot the gun was in Canada. Needless to say, I was eager to get behind the gun I pieced together. It did not disappoint. I adjusted my plan to take the antelope in Wyoming with the Surgeon.

As the Canadian portion of the trip came to a close, tuning up the Creedmoor was in order.

Tuning up the Creedmoor

Here are a few details about the piece.

            Surgeon 591 Action
            McMillan A3 Sporter Carbon Fiber Stock
            Timney Calvin Elite trigger
            CDI Precision Bottom Metal
            Proof Research 24-inch Sendero Light Barrel
            Bushnell Elite Tactical LRS 3-12x44mm Riflescope
            Hornady  ELD-X Precision Hunter 143 gr.

The 6.5 Creedmoor

I said the bear hunting was slow for me, but while I was on the range my dad was busy putting the super sneak on this BC bruin. When he called and said he scored it was time to put up the Surgeon and head back to work taking more pictures.

This would be our final evening here in BC, but after this hunt it will be hard to keep us out of the Peace River region for very long.

Now that I see this picture I am pretty upset that the bears eluded me. I sure do love a good bear rug. Plus, I love a good smoked bear ham.

A hunter poses with his captured black bear

Loaded down and en route to Douglas, Wyoming for speed meat. I remember this truck being much cleaner when I began.  We have 25 hours to travel. If you are ever taking a long road trip make sure you know the person who will be your co-pilot.

Dad is a real road warrior and loves driving at night. We are the perfect match since I like sleeping at night.

The truck is packed and ready to go

In long rides, you find the oddest ways to keep yourself sane. Enhanced selfies is one way to relieve boredom. Here are a few more options if you are looking for ways to entertain. There are only so many social networking one can do on that long stretch of road

            Staring out the window
            Eating junk
            Pounding energy drinks
            Staring out the window
            Play would you eat the roadkill game
            Play how would you cook your roadkill meal       

A photo of the author and his camera

By now, most are asking why on God’s great green planet would you ever drive that far. It is simple. With a limited budget, airfare and shipping or trophies and meat the prices of such trip could weigh heavily on the pocket book.

I’ve done this trip both ways and getting everything back when travelling by air is just a tough way to do it. Attempting to coordinate shipment and preserving game is one of the biggest challenges. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it just makes more sense to save a few bucks. It stills takes some work, but the scenery and time spent with my dad are worth it.

Finally arrived in Wyoming and settled in our home for the next few days. At $43 per night, KOA cabins are a great way to save a little bit of cash. I’m glad we didn’t camp because it was cold and rainy the few days we were there. If you have never been through Wyoming on an antelope hunt you are missing out on a boatload of action.

A photo of the truck parked outside of the cabin

Well that didn’t take long. These goats dot the countryside by the thousands. It doesn’t matter if it is on public ground or private. I was fortunate enough to get on this goat early in the day.

An hour into the hunt, I put the custom Surgeon 591 into action. Mission accomplished. Drive 25 hours and put a goat into the Titan.

A hunter poses with his captured goat

This hunt has become an annual event for the Ellison crew from Oklahoma. We caught up with them

I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with hunting buddies Mike and Jeff on a couple of great stalks. Jeff anchored this goat at 500 yards. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend reaching out that far, but Jeff has been preparing for long shots for an entire year.

I was on the glass giving him distance and windage. Jeff was dialing in just like he would on the range. It took one well-placed shot and the goat hit the ground. His countless hours on the range were the difference maker when it came to the long-range shot.

Hunters pose with their captured goat

I logged over 70 hours in the Titan XD and couldn’t think of a better guy to share it with than my dad. Great road trip hunts are becoming a rarity lately. I get why they are rarely taken. Air travel with firearms is an easy way to get from point A to point B, but has our sense of adventure diminished?

One of my favorite things is travelling back with a bed full of trophies and getting congratulatory nods and honks of encouragement on the way back home. With check stations a thing of the past, the road back home become our gathering grounds for diplaying our trophies. Why not expand your horizon and hit the roads and highways that make this sport worth it? Get out there. Bring back the great road trips that I used to hear about. Just don’t forget the energy drinks. 

A photo of the author and his father

 

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