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Peace River British Columbia: A Wilderness Whitetail Hunt
The bitter, subzero temperatures of British Columbia were unlike anything I have ever experienced on a whitetail hunt. This was a true test for the equipment that I was relying on so heavily. It was Yeti Cooler COLD! The Remington Model 700 7mm Ultra Mag topped off with a Leupold scope performed flawlessly every time I called on it during this trip. From the rifle range after three back-to-back flights to the kill shot on a 165-inch whitetail to the 200-yard poke it put on a coyote, I couldn’t ask for a more reliable rifle/scope combination. Two thumbs up!
My BC adventure began when my alarm went off at 2:00 am on Black Friday. Although I spent Thanksgiving Day like every other: eating great food and spending time with family, my mind kept drifting off to the adventure that was ahead of me. I boarded my first flight at the Philadelphia International Airport at 8:00 am and headed for Denver. From Denver I flew to Vancouver and then from Vancouver to Ft. Saint John, BC Canada. I didn’t settle into my hotel room on the night of November 23rd until 11:00 pm Mountain Time. It was an adventure just getting there!
I’m always amazed with the adaptability of the white-tailed deer! In the last 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with deer management programs across the whitetail’s range. This was my first trip to the scenic Peace River region of northeastern British Columbia, the extreme northwestern fringe of the whitetail’s range.
Why are the deer so big in the Peace River region of BC?
1. The Peace River region consists of rolling hills with grain and cattle farms. The river bottoms, much like the Midwestern U.S., have extremely fertile soils. Rich, fertile soils equate to nutrient enriched natural forages and agriculture (grains including oats and barley).
2. Animals living in colder climates tend to have larger body sizes as an adaptation to extreme and prolonged periods of cold weather. Biologists refer to this hypothesis as Bergman’s Rule.
3. In recent years, scientists have proposed an alternative hypothesis to Bergman’s Rule. Their data supports the idea that geographic variations in body size are more specifically based on food availability during the growing season (known as Net Primary Production or NPP). The areas agriculture supports this theory. As a long time follower of the Tecomate food plot system I personally believe in this theory as I’ve watched deer managers and property owners defy Bergman’s Rule by producing big bodied, large-antlered bucks in regions that historically produce smaller bodied deer. David Morris and Gary Schwartz have managed to do just that on their South Texas ranches.
4. There is very little hunting pressure on whitetails in this region and low harvest rates equate to more mature bucks available for harvest. My outfitter, Gary Drinkall and his partner, Blaine Trenholm control outfitting rights to approximately 2.6 million acres!
My hunt, filmed by cameraman Jeremy Heid of Orion Entertainment, for the Bucks of Tecomate TV show on the Outdoor Channel was unique considering it’s a true wilderness adventure hunt for whitetail deer. Further, the endless world-class whitetail hunting opportunities in British Columbia are never covered in print or on television. This 6-day hunt was sure to be an impressive story of overcoming extreme obstacles.
Day one found us in no hurry to get to the blind. In fact our guide, Gary Drinkall, wanted to spend some time scouting and checking a few Reconyx trail cameras for recent buck patterns. With Gary in the lead and Jeremy rolling, we crafted a great stalk on a fine 4.5-year-old 150-class buck but decided he needed another year. Our hopes soared with a great start to the week. Gary then explained we would be heading to a blind where three shooters had been showing up on the Reconyx trail camera. The largest buck, a mature 180-class giant was nicknamed Chunky because of his 7-inch bases. This buck was truly impressive; however, he had only showed up once more than a week prior to the start of our hunt. The second largest buck was estimated in the mid-160s and had a split right G2 so we nicknamed him the “Split Right G2 Buck”. The third buck was a mature, clean 8-pointer that was flirting with 150. We decided if any of these three showed up the Remington 700 would take over.
We finally got settled in the blind on day one shortly after lunch. Sitting in the blind with Gary, cameraman Jeremy Heid, and all of his camera gear was certainly tight but we made it work. We did not see any deer during that sit; however, Gary pulled the card from his Reconyx camera and we quickly identified that two of the three shooters we were after were in there just prior to our arrival! Again, no sign of Chunky; however, great information and things were looking good.
Day two arrived quickly and we decided to get an early start to the blind. After a 7 or 8 mile drive in the truck Gary parked and unloaded the snowmobile. As we jumped out of the truck Gary said “sorry boys, this is where the road ends and the adventure begins!” We then loaded Jeremy in a sled hooked up to the snowmobile and took the 6 or 7 mile adventure back into the bush. Jeremy deserves an award for taking some severe physical and mental abuse on that ride! All three of us got settled in before daylight. It was extremely cold that morning, well below zero. At first light we were excited to see a doe and a fawn make their way in front of the blind…we knew something good was about to happen. Little did we know the rest of the day would be spent staring into the snow covered Canadian bush without another deer sighting. That was one long, cold sit! On the way out, Gary pulled the card from the Reconyx and we popped it into my laptop back at camp. We were happy to see the same two shooters on the camera. However, all visits were during nighttime hours. We knew it was only a matter of time before one of these big boys made a mistake and visited during shooting hours…so we decided to stick with our game plan.
Again, day three found us heading out before daylight on the same snowmobile adventure. I remember my Realtree fleece facemask getting wet from my breath and freezing around my face. It’s cold enough to sit in subzero temperatures all day…just imagine starting off in the dark on a 7-mile snowmobile ride!
As daylight leaked through the dark evergreen forest we were again set to sit all day. The morning dragged on without seeing a single deer. In fact, the woods were eerily quiet; lacking any life at all. As noon approached Gary mentioned that we would possibly visit some other locations and see what kind of recent activity we could find. With frozen toes and numb finger tips I wasn’t up for second guessing my guide! At noon, we decided to start assembling our gear and try to make something happen elsewhere. I remember reaching around my blind chair for my backpack and a glove. I then stood up and pulled one leg out of my Realtree Heater Body Suit and moved my Bog Pod out of the way. To this day, I’m still not sure why but I decided to lean over to take one last look out of the blind before unloading my rifle. During those couple minutes a great buck had managed to appear out of nowhere from the Canadian bush directly in front of our blind! I grabbed Gary and pulled him back down into his seat, repositioned my Bog Pod and settled down on my Remington. Just as I focused through the scope I recognized the buck by his split right G2. Gary immediately identified the same and much to my amazement, Jeremy managed to get his camera turned back on and focused on the buck. With his words “I’m on him if you can kill him” the Remington 7 mm Ultra Mag delivered a powerful punch and the “Split Right G2 Buck” folded just as he began to exit stage left! Of course, the celebration began.
When you think about hunting in British Columbia big game species such as sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose, grizzlies and wolves come to mind. However, the Peace River region of British Columbia is the last frontier for world-class whitetails. My outfitter on this hunt, Tracks BC and High Prairie Outfitters (http://www.hpoutfitters.com) is leading the way with several bucks scoring over 200” in recent years.
I can’t say enough about how hard they worked to put us on a big buck. Tracks BC is owned by Gary Drinkall and his partner Blaine Trenholm. These boys are killing machines! Their wives, Monique Drinkall and Sherry Trenholm, are incredible cooks and the deserts and coffee were always well received by the hunters at the end of a long, cold sit! As soon as I walked in the lodge I knew we were hunting with the best. Gary and Blaine come from a long line of big game outfitters and guides and they’ve successfully guided and outfitted hunters to world class big game animals including sheep, goats, moose, elk, caribou, grizzlies, wolves, mountain lions, Coues’ deer, black bears, mule deer and of course, world class trophy white-tailed deer. The day after I killed the “Split Right G2 Buck” I killed a beautiful coyote that will also find a special place in my trophy room.