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2014 Great Elk Expedition – Part Deux

In summary, Elk 2 – Marty 0

For those who don’t know, elk licenses are limited and on the average you only get drawn under the Alberta provincial lottery about every 3 to 4 years. As such on the years one gets drawn you go back as often as you can for the duration of the season or until you bag one.

So after one tour of duty at the beginning of December my boys and I re-enlisted and went back later in the same month.

Got there (Willow Valley) at 7:30 AM on Thursday and met up with my friends Rob and Ronnie and we started driving around looking for Elk. It’s called glassing, the whole point is to cover as much ground as possible until we spot the elk. In this case we drive around and uses our binoculars (glasses) looking for game.

We saw lots of deer, moose, and finally around 10:30 AM we (I, yes it was me) finally spotted the herd about 2 kilometres from the road and up a mountain. It’s illegal to do any hunting or shooting within 400m of the road and it was windy as phuck, we were going to have to stalk/sneak up to the herd close enough to shoot with enough confidence in that wind.

Two things about hunting elk, they can’t see you and they can’t smell you or they’ll move on. We had to get there unseen and downwind from them. This implied climbing up two big mother $%#@%ing hills in the wind and the snow just to get within visual range.

But first we had to drive to two separate ranchers homes to ask permission. So finally at about 12 we started hiking up a mountain on the other side of the mountain where the elk were. This is because of that “the elk can’t smell you or see you thing”….

We climbed up one mountain, then into a valley, then up another mountain before got even close enough to see the elk over a rise and down the hill, about 300m away. On a clear day it would have been an easy shot, but on that day and with that wind there was no way, we had to get closer. I snuck up within about 150m when the wind shifted (and they smelled me) and they moved down the hill away from me (see the picture below). I tried sneaking closer a few more times but I’m still not sneaky enough. I gave up for the day and we decided to come back the next day.

Ronnie told us the herd wouldn’t go far and we could come back the next day. So we did. The next day, more of the same sneaking (no glassing, we already knew where the herd was). But this time when I got close and I was about to pull the trigger some assholes started blasting into the herd (multiple shots at a distance and in the wind….no way they were aiming…they were just “flock” shooting….blasting into the herd and hoping to hit something…immoral and illegal).

The herd took off and ran into a field we couldn’t get permission into. Hunting trip was over, no more elk within the operational area. Words were said, people were called names, but the trip was done.

Again, Elk 2 – Marty 0.

2014 Great Elk Expedition

In summary, Elk – 1, Marty – 0.

Wednesday morning I was faced with fogged up roads with low visibility, in the picture below there’s a actually a fuel tanker about 100 meters ahead of me.


Around Chain Lakes it brightened up a bit and I saw a Moose cow and her youngling but didn’t dare to stop on the road.

Eventually got to Willow Valley and it started snowing, we got there too late for the morning hunt but managed to get out for the afternoon hunt. For those who don’t know, there’s no point in hunting between about 10 AM and about 4:00 PM as the animals tend to hunker down and rest for most of that time during which there’s no point in hunting. Most days we just go back to the cabin to rest and in many cases people start drinking (not yours truly however).


Saw lots of Mule deer on day 1 but I didn’t have tags or permits to hunt those guys.

Then overnight (it’s Thursday now) the weather changed and we woke up next morning to rain and +5C, all the snow was gone and instead we had freezing horizontal rain (Willow Valley is windy as f%$k) and icy footing everywhere.

Again, saw lots of game but due to geopolitical reasons was not legally able to go after anything. Either they were the wrong species or on the wrong side of the fence. Many urbanites that move to Willow Valley for their vacation cottages post (no hunting signs) everywhere. We’re reduced to hunting on crown land and with some of the older farmers who are still holding on (they won’t be there for long, most farm kids have left and these old guys will sell their farms, mostly to yuppies).

Nonetheless Willow Valley is always a beautiful place…


Overnight and by Friday the weather had changed again…


All the previous day’s rain was frozen underneath the snow of course. We hunted from our trucks in the morning but again nothing and I left around 12:00 PM so I could come home to take my wife to the Telus Christmas Gala that day.

I didn’t get anyting but it’s always great to go out there. Except that outhouse, I hate that shitty thing.