Ghost hunt for wolves
Where: Chilcotin Range - British Columbia
Outfitter: Tatlow Mountain Outfitters
Guide: Mike Hawkridge
Friday morning broke just as forecasted with rain, snow and a little wind to move the clouds around. Gwen, our lodge chef, had a delicious omelet and potato breakfast ready and my green tea water was boiling on the stove as I walked into the lodge. Mike informed me that in an hour or two the rain should stop and we would head out out to find a wolf after checking my rifle.
I was hunting with Mike Hawkridge of Tatlow Mountain Outfitters. Earlier in this hunt I took a gorgeous mountain goat and now that we were off the mountaintops, I was eager to start a hunt for a very elusive predator.
We jumped into the truck and on the way Mike wanted to stop and catch some trout for supper. Next we followed a mining road for about 10 miles. Once we parked, we began a two-mile hike to the lake where a river inlet had formed a delta over the last thousand years. Mike informed me that the odds of hearing a wolf respond to his howl is usually about 1:100, seeing a wolf would be 1:1,000, and getting to shot one would be equivalent to winning the lottery.
Three quarters of the way into the hike Mike stopped and pointed down into the river delta. He tells me that if the wolf pack is here they will answer his call from one of two different points. Mike begins calling with his mouth and howls in a slow raising cadence about three or four times, stops and repeats the sequence with a lower tone but with more volume.
Halfway through the sequence a wolf responds. Mike becomes very animated and softly says, “Game on” as the wolf howls back three or four times. We are heading to the Narrows.
I have a shooting zone across the Narrows of about sixty degrees and a max range of 200 yards to the north and about 130 yards to the south. I set up the “The Rock” on the fallen tree trunk and whisper to Mike that I am ready for action.
Mike starts howling again, this time using a different tone and volume then he had earlier on the trail above the delta. It was a low tone but with enough volume to carry across the narrows and up into the delta spruce about 400 yards away. Then without any response a wolf appears out of the willows across the narrows. He hugs the willow tree line and moves swiftly through the chest grass. Mike whispers “Can you see him? Are you ready to shoot?” I see the perfectly camouflaged animal as it moves, almost ghostlike, through the grass about 200 yards yards away. When he is at just over 125 yards Mike howled, the wolf stopped, the Rock fired and the wolf dropped.
What happened next is what extreme adventure is all about. We crossed the narrows in a few minutes and beached the boat. After going about 50 yards we now see the dead wolf lying in the grass. His eyes are open. We approach with a humble heart as this is truly a trophy of a lifetime.
Mike positions the wolf with a nice background of willows for the photos. Mike takes five photos of me as the thrilled hunter.
Then Mike takes the successful guide position behind the wolf. I take one photo and start to take the next photo when Mike jumps up, yells “Wolf!” and moves swiftly behind me, shouting that there is a wolf growling right in the willows and to be ready to shoot if it comes out.
Just then three different wolves come out of the willows howling fiercely, but they do not stay long enough for me to get set up for a shot. We climb into the boat as the wolves now begin to howl back in the thick spruce forest. They carry on for a few minutes then go silent. I am shaking and suddenly realize just how close to a real life and death adventure I really was.
Many hunters head to British Columbia hoping just to see a wolf in the wild and here Mike and I are with a 130 pound trophy wolf in our hands. We headed back to the trail and made the hike back to the truck.
Rest assured we were extremely happy to leave the beach and hike back to the truck. On the way, I mentioned to Mike that the only animal I had not yet seen was a grizzly. He looks at me and says, “Be quiet and keep walking, you’re out of luck on this hunt for any more extreme encounters.”