Hunting 2018

Davis, Loren, Dad and I all made our way up north to deer camp near Valleyview Alberta on November 10th this year.

Deer Camp 2018
Deer Camp 2018

Davis and I arrived first and helped the last remaining owner Remo and his friend pack up their stuff so they could get on the road home and then Davis and I squeezed in a quick evening hunt to get the lay of the land, look for sign and hopefully even shoot an animal. While we didn’t see any ungulates, we did see tonnes of sign on the property and on all the adjacent/nearby fields that we like to hunt including a plethora of tracks, rubs and scrapes.

Warning: numerous large and graphic images ahead. Proceed at your discretion.

Click on images to enlarge.

Deer rub
Deer rub
Deer Scrape
Deer Scrape

Loren and Dad arrived later that night and we had our first of many excellent feasts with two Indonesian curries that Davis made, a rendang curry using moose meat, and a coconut vegetable curry. Both were excellent and really reminded me of my honeymoon with Janet in Indonesia.

The next morning, after our morning hunt, Dad, Loren and I went out and set some snares with the intention of snaring some snowshoe hares. Setting snares means that you have to check your snare line every day, but it also means that while you are out doing other things (like drinking wine by the fire), the snares are still working and hopefully catching hares.

Rabbit Snare
Rabbit Snare

The next morning when I went out to check the snares there were two hares and a grouse waiting for me on the snare line. Dad has done a lot of rabbit snaring over the years and has never caught a grouse, truly an unexpected and delicious by-catch.

Kyle with hares and grouse
Kyle with hares and grouse

We spent the next few days hunting sunrises and sunsets and while we continued to see lots of sign, we weren’t seeing many animals, and we were getting even fewer shooting opportunities. It was starting to feel a bit like last year (lots of sign, precious few animals). We did however see some other wildlife.

Short eared owl
Short eared owl
Frost flowers formed from the extrusion of freezing water as a result of capillary action from plant material
Frost flowers formed from the extrusion of freezing water as a result of capillary action from plant material

Just as things were starting to feel a little desperate, with no animals in the meat locker, on the morning of our fourth full day at deer camp, Davis and I set out before legal light to check the fields adjacent to the property and found a big whitetail doe grazing in a field that had been planted with peas. It was still before legal light, the wind was blowing across and wouldn’t betray our presence, and the deer seemed unaware of us. I took my time getting ready, got into a prone position, waited for the clock to tick over to legal light and took my shot. One bullet through the heart and lungs and she hit the dirt. The day was off to a great start and our slump was broken. We finally had something to put in the meat locker.

Kyle with whitetail doe
Kyle with whitetail doe

After that, the deer started to come in fast and furious, perhaps it was the rut ramping up, or the fluctuating weather (which swung from very warm and dry, to very cold and snowy and back and forth), whatever it was, we started shooting whitetail deer as quickly as we could process them.

Loren got the first buck of the trip, and what a buck it was! It might be the biggest rack on a whitetail deer that any of us have ever shot and all the locals we are friends with in the area were suitably impressed.

Lorens whitetail buck
Loren’s whitetail buck

As always, we harvested the livers and hearts (when they weren’t hit by bullets) and for the first time, I harvested the caul fat from most of the deer. Caul fat is a very thin delicate transparent membrane laced with fat that encases the stomach and intestines of ruminants and pigs. It can be used to wrap around a roast or heart, or meatballs or meat loaf, or just about anything you can imagine in order to re-introduce some fat and flavour to the exceptionally lean meat and to hold things together. It can even be used to make a type of sausage the french call a crépinette. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this new ingredient. Stay tuned for the results!

Kyle with caul fat from a deer
Kyle with caul fat from a deer

With all the animals that get processed at deer camp, it’s a pretty great place for weasels to set up camp. Roughly every other year we see an ermine (weasel in his winter coat) at deer camp and this year we were lucky enough to see one again. With a life span of 4-6 years it’s entirely possible we’ve seen this particular guy before.

Ermine with kill
Ermine with kill

On our second last day at deer camp, we organized a big hunt with some local hunters that we know. Our deer camp is adjacent to a few quarters of crown land and it’s a big rugged piece of bush to try and push with just 4 guys so we teamed up with our friends and coordinated a big push with 6 shooters setup on cut lines in the bush and another 6 hunters pushing the bush to try and move the animals towards the shooters. We were hopeful that this plan would pay off as some elk were spotted heading into this patch of bush the day before and we suspected they were hunkering down in there.

Sure enough, within 30 minutes of getting to my position, I started to hear shots being fired. Later we would discover that Dad had shot a big cow elk on the run right through the heart and lungs, and my brother shot a calf elk, which, while smaller, is still as big as the biggest deer you’ve ever seen. Our friends who we teamed up with also shot another cow elk so it worked out well for everyone (except the elk).

Hoisting up the cow elk to be skinned
Hoisting up the cow elk to be skinned

At this point we had enough meat to fill our respective freezers. Such a dramatic turn around from the first three days which were so slow. We decided that we would spend our last morning and evening hunts looking for an animal that really caught out interest, perhaps another elk, or a whitetail with a particularly impressive rack. However, in the last minutes of legal light on our last day of hunting, Dad saw two whitetail does and it would seem he got caught up in the moment and he dropped both of them! Our last night at deer camp would be spent butchering an additional two deer in the driving snow rather than relaxing by the fire and preparing for our departure the next day. We were once again blessed with an abundance of meat. We all started to think about the people we would be fortunate enough to share some of the bounty with.

We ended up getting out of camp a little bit later than expected the next day but as always we got the camp all cleaned up, and locked down tight and ready to go again for next year.

Now we have moved on to the daunting task of cutting up all the meat that we brought home.

I also tried to capture some pictures of animals which we weren’t able to shoot due to lack of appropriate tags:

Mule Deer buck and doe
Mule Deer buck and doe
Bull moose
Bull moose

Some of the animals that we saw on this hunting trip which we weren’t lucky enough to get pictures of include:

  • Calf and Cow Moose
  • Red Fox
  • Bald Eagles
  • Snowy Owl
  • Grey Owl
  • Sandhill Cranes

Author: Kyle Maclean

IT Guy during the week, hunter, mountain biker, and snowboarder on the weekends. I was born and raised in Calgary and attended the U of C where I completed a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science. Shortly after graduating I got a job with Calgary Alternative Support Services as a Systems Analyst and I've been there ever since.

8 thoughts on “Hunting 2018”

  1. Fabulous pics, especially of the ermine. I saw one skiing last year. You outed Ken about the last 2 deer.

    1. Thanks. Those ermine sure are photogenic and it was cool to catch him with his kill!

  2. Great blog Kyle and fabulous photos of all the critters! Peter and I are heading over to Loren and Vicky’s this evening to help butcher/ cut up some of the meat. I know we will be getting some great pieces to bring home!

  3. Great write up and pictures Kyle! Glad to hear that the week ended up well for everyone and of course now comes the hard work of butchering. Hope you got lots of help to make the task easier!!

    1. Fortunately for us we did have lots of help and we were actually able to finish cutting last night. I still have some cleaning and knife sharpening to do and a euro mount to complete but the cutting itself is all wrapped up.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Kyle! Glad it turned out to be a banner year. Your pics are great.

    1. Thanks ? they were all taken with my phone which is a testament to how close I was able to get to some of the animals (with the exception of the bull moose and mule deer which were taken using my phone through binoculars).

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