Mountain hunters understand and accept the inherent perils of their pastime. When getting to the mountains is more dangerous than hunting in them, it’s not so acceptable. Given the option of riding “shotgun” I gladly accepted, avoiding cramped 3-wide seating in the rear of the American-made Toyota 4-Runner. The broken front seatbelt was a minor concern at the outset, but that quickly changed. Kyrgyz drivers make their own travel lanes despite painted delineators, and passing blindly is engaged like it’s a sporting event. Speed sometimes doubled the posted limit – a fact that did not go unnoticed by traffic authorities. We were stopped twice, and these were the shortest duration traffic stops I have ever witnessed. The “fines” were paid in a matter of seconds with pre-counted bundles of cash, and no paperwork. Additional stops for food and fuel and camp supplies and “rest” for our drivers made the 12-hour trip drag on, and on…
There are few things in life more satisfying than setting a lofty goal and then achieving it through hard work and sacrifice. Honestly, I’m not sure what motivates a man in his Medicare years to attempt a notoriously difficult hunt in some of the highest and most rugged mountains on Earth. The progression from young and invincible to aged and vulnerable is slow and often laced with mental anguish – particularly when contemplating physical limitations imposed by Father Time. Taking a mature bull elk at 9,200 feet with a well-placed arrow while hunting solo the previous year in Arizona may have extended the window, but there were times when it seemed to be closing quickly. That hunt clearly infused some confidence. Nevertheless, uncertainty loomed… did this old graybeard, now sporting multiple shades, have one more mountain hunt left in him?
As many guides know it is hard to find a balance between work and play. The season is only so long, and sacrificing a week or two for some personal time in the field can be a difficult decision financially speaking. Last season, I managed to take off a few weeks at the end of the rifle season here in Montana as I had some new guiding opportunities open up in Sonora, Mexico that would make up for the lost wages. To be honest, I needed the break, and was excited to get some personal time on the mountain, to hunt how and where I wanted, and not be held back by anything or anyone.
It was September, and the mountains stood perfectly calm around us. The silence broken only by the intermittent croak of a ptarmigan. A ceiling of light clouds hovered above us in the brisk morning air. As I rolled up the tent, I continued to take stock of our surroundings. The snow that had welcomed us three days prior had receded generously toward the peaks. I shifted my vision to the east just in time to catch Emery emerging out of the narrow creek valley with a full bottle of water in each fist.
At some point you leave the nest. In my case, it was post-college, after I took a teaching job in California. When I say leaving the nest, I don’t mean in the traditional sense — moving away from home, making my own way. No, leaving the nest for me meant giving up the safety blanket of hunting with others. I had no one else to go with me, but my drive was there so I hiked the mountain to hunt alone.
Three years ago, my lifelong hunting mentor and — conveniently — my Father, George Lampreau, asked me if I wanted to put a Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) application in for any specific unit in B.C. for sheep. I had first set foot in the sheep mountains in 2009, though I had always hunted the general open seasons for mountain sheep. Needless to say, the excitement began to build at the thought of hunting a LEH zone for the first time.
Australian deer hunters consider the Wonnangatta Valley to be the Mecca of the Australian hunting world, the Home of the Sambar Deer. The famed and historic valley of the Sambar lies below the highest mountain peaks of the Great Alpine National Park. The National Park is situated in the South East of the continent comprising of 646,000 hectares — 1.6 million acres. It is the largest National Park in the state of Victoria and covers much of the higher areas of the Great Dividing Range, including Victoria’s highest point, Mount Bogong at 1,986 metres (6,516 ft).
British Columbia, as most of you know, is a mountain hunters dream come true. Covering a vast 944,735 km2, and made up of 94% public land the options are seemingly endless come hunting season. Yet, even in the backcountry of Northern B.C. there can be crowds of hunters. Popular lakes and rivers can see quite a bit of traffic during certain portions of the hunting season, no matter how remote. Last season my hunting buddy, “Ole,” and I wanted to avoid the hoards of hunters and hunt well away from the conventional access points for hunters in B.C.