Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

Our First Hunting Season

In 2014 my brother J and I began our hunting journey. At the time, we were lucky to have a friend take us on our first hunting trip and provide us with some basic knowledge on how to approach the season.

We spent 5 days camping in one of the 400 series WMUs (wildlife management units) west of Calgary. To make things simple we brought my tent trailer to sleep in and if you read about my first backcountry camping trip you would understand why!

Prior to the hunting trip my brother and I each purchased a Browning X-Bolt .270 rifle with a Vortex Diamondback 3-9×40 scope at the recommendation of our friend, JC. While we surely could have gotten away with a less expensive rifle to start we decided to spend the money up front. In the following years I have used a Savage Axis for most of my rifle hunting and the X-Bolt sits in the safe.

We were able to get a decent amount of practice with our rifles, but we both decided that a shot over 150 yards was best not to take for our first season. Setting good boundaries is super important!

With our limited knowledge of hunting we spent a lot of time sitting at the edges of meadows and clearings hoping to get lucky, we had scent control spray, buck bombs, doe urine on old rags, and all the gimmicky advantages we could think of (of which, we use next to none now). Both morning and evenings were spent this way, while we retreated to the camp and went looking for grouse in the afternoons.

To say that we saw a lot of game would be a complete and utter lie! To be honest, I only laid eyes on 2-3 deer that whole time. With our friend JC there giving us advice and sharing his hunting stories, we figured that we should pass on does until November and to only try to harvest a buck. In fact, I even had a small fork Whitetail buck at 80 yards and did not shoot because we were convinced he was too small.

The logic here seemed normal at the time and it took me a bit to realize that the size of the antlers (or lack thereof) in no way shapes a hunt. We were out there learning to hunt primarily to experience nature and to obtain our own meat. In seasons to come our approach changed, in my opinion for the better!

So, the hunt continued and we tried different areas and roads, we walked and walked and came away pretty discouraged. You see, in the mountain WMUs, once opening day hits it is common to hear 4-5 or more gunshots every morning and night. When you are not seeing any deer this really messes with your head. Makes you wonder if you are in the right spot, if you aren’t moving enough, or moving too much (it’s usually this!).

Even though the deer hunting was slow, we did get to have some success grouse hunting. On the third morning as we walked back to camp we flushed some Ruffed Grouse. Only carrying a 270 at the time we hustled back to camp and we borrowed JC’s 12-gauge Stoeger pump shotgun and went back up after the grouse. After walking for a few hours scanning the tree bottoms we finally saw another grouse! Truth be told, he was standing clear as day in the middle of a quad trail. A quick aim and in the words of Steven Rinella BLAUCKS! I had harvested my first grouse! Super excited, we continued and now it was my brother J’s turn. Another Blaucks and we had grouse number two! Triumphantly we came back to camp extremely proud of our harvest but without a clue on what to do next.

So, JC showed us how to field dress a grouse in the quickest way possible. Step on the wings, and pull on the feet. Just like that the wings were attached to two dark meat grouse breasts. A quick clean up with some water, a cut with a knife and we were ready to roast them over the campfire.

Two lessons were learned here, one, always check for pellets before eating. We had a rude experience biting into a pellet or two. The second, which in my opinion is the most important, grouse are delicious!!!!

So, while the first trip of the year was unsuccessful for deer we did accomplish our mission of harvesting our own meat. No freezers were full but we enjoyed a great bush meal of fresh meat and we couldn’t be happier!

The rest of that first season became day trips to go hunting when we had free time. Where we chose to hunt was around 2 hours of driving from home and we were aiming to be there prior to sunrise. A lot of really early mornings and long drives on winter logging roads took its toll and we saw very little game the remainder of the season.

We hiked and hiked, saw some beautiful sunrise views, had cold toes and explored lands that without hunting we never would have seen and when the season was all over despite the challenges we could not get thoughts of future success and adventures off our minds!

I’ll share my 5 biggest lessons from our first season hunting in an upcoming post!


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