By Ian Feir
A gentleman and an ambassador to all we love was taken from us far too early just a few weeks ago. Dave Marsh passed away suddenly due to a severe allergic reaction sustained on a multi-week horseback hunting trip in Northern BC. He leaves behind Cory, his loving wife and his newborn daughter Alexis, born September 5th 2016. Alexis was just shy of one month old when Dave passed.
Many in the mountain hunting community knew Dave whether that was in person, through his writings in the JOMH, his conservation efforts with the Sheep Society of BC or WSF or the Facebook groups he created. He truly lived life to the fullest and regularly did things many of us can only dream of.
I write this with a sad and heavy heart as Dave was a close friend who had a great deal of influence on my life. He would mentor me on mountain hunting as I would mentor him on duck hunting, carving and charcuterie. I have fond memories of our hunts together, like my Roosevelt hunt on the Sunshine Coast where he joined me simply to help out. Dave always did far more than just help a person get started in the outdoor pursuits. He had a way of igniting the passion he felt for hunting and especially mountain hunting in everyone he helped and always treated everyone with respect whether they were a beginner or an expert. As an example, the day after his daughter was born I texted him to let him know it was okay to cancel our planned longbow coaching session, but he insisted it go on. He knew I really needed the help before my pending Yukon trip. That’s who Dave was. And it was the last time I saw him.
You meet a few people in this life who are true catalysts, those that bring others into their fold and sow the seeds of passion that provide the fulfillment in life we all seek. Dave was one of those people. His passion for hunting, the outdoors and most recently traditional archery were and are unmatched. He was able to do what many hunters can only dream of, dovetailing his work and pleasure to allow for an enviable number of weeks afield each year. He was that friend that encouraged you to go out on a limb, to ask “Why Not?” instead of “Why?”, and to collect your own memories just as he did.
When you talked with Dave it was like being with that uncle who seemed to have done just about everything, and yet he never made you feel small or unimportant and always did what he could to help you enjoy your time whether it was with him or not. The mountains and the hunting community lost a friend, a brother and a true ambassador for everything we all cherish about life and the outdoors. May you sleep soundly in your last sheep camp.
Hunting with Dave
by Alan Dabb
I first met Dave Marsh in the fall of 2011. Fittingly, it was our shared passion – hunting – that first brought us together. We had both drawn a Conuma River Roosevelt elk archery tag on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I had posted on huntingbc.ca looking for information from anyone who had experience with the unit, and received a personal message from someone with the internet handle “BigBoar”, who said that he had also drawn the tag.
On November 12, 2011, I met “BigBoar” – Dave Marsh – in person as my dad and I were driving up the Conuma Main FSR and Dave was driving down. We stopped to exchange pleasantries and then each continued on our way. Over the next few days we ran into each other repeatedly and always stopped to discuss hunting techniques, how we were doing on the hunt, and where we were seeing elk. Dave asked many questions about how to hunt Roosevelt elk, and I later learned that he was constantly trying to improve his hunting knowledge. Towards the end of the hunt Dave and his wife, Cory, had us over to their trailer for dinner. They were friendly from the moment we met and it was the start of a great friendship.
Dave and I ended up hunting the same bull at Conuma River. At one point I managed to stalk within 50 yards of him, but he wouldn’t give me a shot in the thick second growth. Two days later Dave stuck an arrow in him, which you can read about in his “Chasing the Dream” article.
I wasn’t able to connect with an elk during my initial 9-day hunt, so I returned for the final weekend of the season and was finally able to arrow a 5 point bull just before dark on Sunday evening. I remember texting Dave “elk down” when I arrived home. He texted me immediately wanting to hear all the details, and then called me a few minutes later. He seemed even more excited about my bull than he had been about his own – but that’s just the kind of guy he was.
Dave and I stayed in touch after that first hunt, getting together on various occasions and introducing each other to our respective families. I still remember the first time that Dave and his wife, Cory, met our kids. They came up to our cabin near Kamloops and Dave, like a pro, entertained my daughters with magic tricks. To this day my 11-year-old daughter still believes that Dave swallowed one of our butter knives, and then threw it back up! In addition to magic tricks, Dave was good at almost everything else – almost annoyingly so. Whether it was karaoke, board games, hunting, archery, drawing LEH tags or telling stories, Dave was good at it.
Dave had an adventurous soul. Anytime I suggested we try something new, he didn’t have to think about – he was in. One of my suggestions was that Dave start applying for tags in the US. In 2012 I convinced Dave to apply in Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah and in 2013, Dave and I drew our first US tags together: Wyoming antelope and mule deer tags. Along with my father and brother we headed to the cowboy state for an epic hunt. The first day of our hunt we managed to fill our three antelope tags (my dad also had a tag). Dave took a beautiful, heavy buck late in the day after passing up a number of smaller antelope. He was a dedicated trophy hunter, always seeking to take mature animals.
After filling our antelope tags, we turned to mule deer. We hunted the mountains of western Wyoming, near Yellowstone Park, and each day would hike about 2500 vertical feet to where the bucks were. We hunted in pairs: my dad and brother, and Dave and I. Grizzlies were plentiful, which made for nervous hunting. Heightening our nervousness was the fact that we only had one rifle between us, as Dave hadn’t been able to obtain an import permit for his rifle due a US government shutdown. I had applied for my permit before Dave (he wasn’t always the best at that sort of thing!), so I had first dibs on the rifle. I did provide a can of bear spray to Dave, although the date on it indicated that it had expired three year’s previously. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t much fun hiking out after dark on a trail with fresh grizzly tracks on it. I lost count of the number of time Dave yelled, “hey bear”, and banged his hiking poles together.
Dave and I both managed to take good bucks on that Wyoming trip. Dave took his buck on the first day muley hunting, and after that did everything he could to try to talk me into shooting one of the many bucks we were seeing. I can still hear him saying, “That’s a huuuge two point! He’s regressing. You need to shoot him.” Despite Dave’s urgings, I held out and shot a nice 5×5 late one afternoon. I had attempted a failed stalk on another buck and was walking back around the rim of a basin. Dave was waiting for me on a lookout point on the far side of the basin, and was on the radio urging me to hurry back so that we could hike down before dark to avoid the plentiful grizzlies. I would walk steadily when I was in view, but stop to glass every time I was out of sight from Dave. When I was only about 150 yards from Dave I spotted my buck and dropped him with a single shot. Suffice it to say that we didn’t make it back to the truck before dark!
After filling three muley tags we had time for some sightseeing in Wyoming. We toured Yellowstone Park and visited the Wild Sheep Foundation headquarters in Cody. Along the way Dave managed to talk my dad into eating a Rocky Mountain oyster, displayed his amazing collection of hats, and entertained us with his riveting storytelling.
Our next hunt together was in 2014, and ranks as one of the most epic hunting adventures of my life. I had been putting in for a bison tag in northern BC for roughly 25 years without success. Thinking strategically, Dave suggested that we put in for a shared hunt together with our wives, so that we’d have 4 chances to draw (it wasn’t all luck that he drew 2 Roosevelt elk tags, a sheep tag, 2 bison tags, and a bunch of moose, deer and grizzly tags in only a few short years). Dave was confident that, if we drew, our wives would choose to forego the cold northern hunt so that he and I could fill the two tags. He was right.
After a 20-hour drive followed by a 10-kilometer snowmobile ride we arrived at the Sikanni River Outfitters lodge that would be our home for the next eight days. From day one we were into bison. Our plan was for me to shoot the first cow we saw, as I’d never hunted bison before and didn’t plan on being selective. Dave would then hold out for a big bull, as he already had one bison. As they say, the best-laid plans often go astray.
The first day we weren’t able to close the distance on the one herd of bison we saw, but day two upped the adventure level significantly. As we hiked into our hunting area, Dave suddenly said “wolves” and dropped his pack (Dave was an absolute wolf magnet, and was in on about a dozen wolf kills during his hunting career). I immediately saw two black wolves about 300 yards away, and followed Dave’s lead. As I settled behind my rifle one of the wolves stopped for a look back. My rifle barked and the wolf dropped. I swung on the second wolf and snapped a quick shot, a clean miss, as he raced into the timber. Strangely, Dave didn’t fire a shot. After the second wolf disappeared I turned to Dave to see him examining a couple of rounds – he had experienced two misfires.
The wolves were just the beginning of our adventure that day. After skinning out the wolf for a rug (Dave could skin out an animal faster than anyone I’ve ever met), we continued hunting, and just before dark were able to relocate the herd of bison from the previous day. I took a long-distance shot at one of the bison, but didn’t connect. After the shot Dave and I followed the herd’s tracks in the snow to make sure I’d missed, so that it was well after dark when we returned to our snowmobiles. That’s when things really got exciting. Rather than following the route we had taken coming in, which involved a steep hill climb, we decided to sled down the frozen creek.
Dave headed down the creek first and part way down the ice gave way. I saw the back-end of his sled drop into the creek but he gunned the engine and managed to power his way back onto solid ground and continue down the creek out of sight. Now I was in a conundrum: should I try to follow Dave across what was now open water, or should I find an alternate route? I climbed off my sled to have a look, and promptly went through the ice into waist deep water. Trying to climb out I again went through the ice, this time soaking one of my arms as well. I eventually managed to struggle out of the creek and back onto my sled. At this point I decided to reverse out and trace the route we’d come in on, but my snowmobile wouldn’t go into reverse and kept stalling. Now I was in real trouble. I was 20 miles back from the lodge, soaking wet, with a snowmobile that wouldn’t reverse, and in a narrow creek bottom where the only way forward was across open water. Did I mention that it was mid-December in the northern Rockies, and was about 10 degrees below zero?
After considering my options, I gunned the snowmobile out across the open water, did a u-turn, crossed the water again and raced the snowmobile up the steep hill back to the main trail. There I met Dave returning to see what had happened to me. When I explained the situation he was understandably concerned. We hightailed it back to lodge, making the trip in half the normal time. Thankfully, the heat from the engine kept me from freezing, although we did have one more mishap when the gas can strapped to the back of my machine came off and one of the bungee cords wrapped itself around the tracks. When we finally pulled up to the lodge Dave was doubling me on the back of his snowmobile.
Over the next couple of days we saw several more herds, and on day five I finally managed to take my bison. Dave had spotted a big herd across a lake, and we stalked in within 150 yards. I dropped an old cow with a single shot to the heart, resting my rifle on Dave’s shoulder for the shot. We dubbed her “Crazy Horns” for the bizarre twist in her horns.
With my bison in hand, we focused on finding a bull for Dave. We did locate one herd with two enormous bulls in it, but they were high up a mountain and it was late in the day by the time we found them. We returned the following day with three other hunters whom we’d met at the lodge, but couldn’t relocate the herd. Dave and the other hunters headed further down the lake while I stayed behind with a radio to keep an eye out for the herd we’d seen the previous day. Within an hour I heard shooting down the lake, and Dave radioed to say that he’d shot a bison. Dave didn’t get the big bull he’d been after, but we’d made some great memories together. It was the last big hunt that Dave and I would experience together.
Although I only knew Dave for five short years, he had a significant impact on my life. Looking back, Dave introduced me to a host of things that I might never have experienced but for meeting him. The Wyoming and bison hunting trips might never have happened. I wouldn’t have snowmobiled in the cold north or eaten a Rocky Mountain oyster. Dave taught me long range shooting, how to play Catan, and how to entertain kids with magic. He reinforced my love of hunting and the outdoors, and my desire to follow his example and give back to the hunting community. Dave helped out dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other hunters; he volunteered his time at schools to teach children about conservation; he was a director of the Wild Sheep Society of BC; he helped organize the first Jurassic Classic fundraiser for wild sheep; and he started a Facebook sheep hunting page that now has over 6000 members.
Dave lived life to the fullest, and I can only imagine what else he would have accomplished if given more time. He was and would have continued to be an exceptional friend, an outstanding father to his young daughter Alexis, and a loving husband to his wife Cory. Dave would also have made countless further contributions to the hunting community. Dave’s family, friends, and the hunting community in general have suffered an enormous loss. All we can do now is carry on in the manner Dave would have wanted, living life to the fullest. I miss you, Dave. Happy hunting, wherever you may be.
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