Going hungry on Peace RiverForty years ago another young fellow and I drove to Chetwynd, British Columbia where we met an outfitter to embark upon an 18-day packtrip into the Peace River country.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Forty years ago another young fellow and I drove to Chetwynd, British Columbia where we met an outfitter to embark upon an 18-day packtrip into the Peace River country.
I was 23 years old, and it was my first time in riding a horse any distance. We rode all day from the highway to get to base camp. I remember very well witnessing a packhorse fall into a creekbed and smashing a pannier. It was the horse just in front of the one carrying my extra rifle — a custom .280 Rem. that I still own!
Our guides were cousins — Ross and Frank Napoleon, Athapaskan natives and like most northern Indians, they were superb horsemen. (Curiously, Frank wore a construction helmet while hunting!)
It was an August trip, so we endured plenty of rain and insects, but what I remember most was the lack of good food. Breakfast usually was a couple eggs with two strips of bacon, lunch (carried in saddle bags to eat during the day) was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and a bit of hard candy. Supper was more often than not fried Spam, potatoes and a little canned vegetable. Frank, who had a great sense of humor, would say, “Pass me another steak,” referring to the fried Spam.
The outfitter and his wife ignored our not-so-subtle complaints about the food.
My partner, Bruce, shot a bull moose about 10 days into the hunt, and we ate moose meat even though it had not been aged and was very tough. We were hungry all the time.
A couple days later Ross and I spotted a pair of mountain goats high on a mountain, we climbed to within 150 yards, and I killed one of them — a nine-inch billy — with my old 7mm Weatherby. (I hit the goat twice with 154-grain Hornady Spire-Point handloads, although I believe only one shot would have been necessary.)
Imagine my surprise and disgust when the outfitter scolded me for not shooting the second goat for my partner. I didn’t like much about this guy, including his careless attitude in tossing cans and jars back into the bushes rather than packing them out.
The goat meat, by the way, was even tougher than the moose!
I remember one day when we came upon some beaver ponds. Ross had along an ice-fishing outfit, of all things. He would toss the lure out by hand about 15 feet, then I would reel in the lure. I caught enough Dolly Varden char to feed the whole camp, and it was a welcome change from the tough moose and goat meat.
I saw my first mountain caribou on that hunt, although none was big enough to shoot, and I saw a black wolf that gave me only a long, running shot, which I missed.
When we reached the highway at the end of the hunt, and then my car in Chetwynd, the outfitter offered to “cook up some moose steak” for us before we departed for North Dakota. We politely declined, located the nearest hamburger stand, and gorged on burgers. We did that for the next 2-1/2 days until we got back to Jamestown. Even after all the burgers on the road, I weighed 193 pounds. (I had weighed 205 prior to the trip!)
In retrospect, I wish I had put the $1,000 I spent on the outfitter fee toward a Stone sheep hunt with someone else. It was the poorest hunt of more than a dozen outfitted hunts I have been on over the years.
About 15 years ago, I had the goat head remounted with a beautiful cape that a taxidermist had on hand, and it even was from B.C.
I applied for mountain goat tags for a dozen years or more in Montana, never drew and finally gave up on the idea when I started to have arthritis problems a dozen years ago. So the Peace River mountain goat was the only one I ever have taken.
I haven’t eaten a piece of Spam since!
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974