Prairie Travels

I’m sat in the airport in Frankfurt waiting for my next flight to my next adventure to another unexplored part of this little blue dot we all call home. This seems like the perfect time to share another story with you all. This one comes from our frequent photographer Ben who lives in Canada, and it’s rather tense. Happy reading

– Tom @ indieroad.


At heart, I’d like to think of myself as an adventure seeker. Like all else who contribute to Indie RoadI like hiking, canoeing, hosteling, camping, photography, and the occasional pub night with random travellers. Generally speaking, people would describe me as a moderately liberal person with a mild flare for arts. But in the spirit of an adventure seeker I wanted to do something that was truly different from what my normal inclinations direct me to do. I wanted to break free from this west coast hipster life that I’ve recently embraced, and just go balls out into something that is entirely contradictory to who I am. So, for this short trip I decided that I would go deer hunting and live the life of a redneck hick and hunt deer for a weekend.

My weekend started early on a Friday morning catching a prop plane leaving Canada’s hippie heartland of Vancouver Island venturing towards the northern prairies of Alberta. Riding early meant that I got to see the beet red sunrise over the Okanagan Valley framed by the foothills of the Rockies. In the early day, I was flying over the snow capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary. Finally, by midday I landed in Grand Prairie.

From the sky, I knew that this was a different place. It is flat! For hundreds of kilometers! And the guys I was about to go hunting with were tobacco dipping, whiskey guzzling, artillery hauling prairie boys – just the type of people I was looking for. Hanging with these guys gave me many lessons to the life of a redneck;

1 – Don’t swallow tobacco chew, and dipping too much WILL induce vomiting.
2 – When you shoot a bullet from a rifle, the bullet will go one way, and the rifle will go the other way. And if you do not hold that rifle tight against your shoulder the scope will give your eye a nice black shiner.
3 – Prairie oysters are not oysters, their testicles. That’s why they’re chewy.
4 – Prairies boys drink hard, they drink straight, and they don’t care how early they have to get up for the morning to hunt.

Fortunately for me, first light the next morning came late at 09:07, which meant we were starting our hike at 08:37. Under the purple dim of the Grand Prairie morning I learned a few hunting tips that I would normally overlook on my typical hikes on the west coast;

1– Standing down wind from deer or other game limits the sent you give off.
2 – Shut up and don’t move, because they can hear the smallest step from 200 yards away. 3 – Look for shit and feel for warmth. It will tell you what’s around and how recent. For example Grizzly is large, deer is bunched pellets.
4 – Bear paw prints are easily camouflaged, so be aware.
5 – Barbed fences will catch hair from game if they’ve brushed by.
6 – Hold binoculars up against a tree to limit the micro-vibrations to help differentiate small details at far distances.
7 – Animals move location at sunrise and sunset and rest during the midday.

This last bit of information proved to be among one of the most important lessons. Shortly after starting our hike we spotted a couple doe, but due to my clumsy newbishness and the lessons learned above we missed our shot. But taking this to heart (with also some much needed target practice), my trip was about to get much more interesting.
To prepare for sun down my friend and I decided we would perch in a tree house and wait for some game to come by in an open oat field. We were stoked about this idea, but after a couple hours rolled along and the sun dropped behind the trees on the horizon we started to get disillusioned. It was only when we started packing our stuff 2 minutes before sundown when 3 doe came upon us. I was lucky and this was my chance. I quickly sighted my target, rested the rifle firmly in my shoulder, squinted my bruised eye, lined up my hash lines right behind the shoulder. I was as ready as I could have ever been
and the deer had stopped, standing broadside with it’s head turned towards me. I had the best shot I could ask for at about 130 yards…but then the worst thing happened. I lost my will to kill. The deer started to take a few more steps. Then I heard our others friends pull up up on the back road behind us. The doe then started into a gentle saunter. Time was running out and I was losing my chance. So I took the shot. I missed.

It was now sundown and we had to chase the deer into the woods. As we got to the ground level, we found a blood trail in the snow. The deer had been hit hard in the belly and the trail was thick. We were confident we could find it, foolishly confident. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but sometimes it’s not wise to heedlessly chase a maimed animal into a dark forest next to an oat field. The signs were obvious too. Bear shit and prints were everywhere, but still we kept trudging. Jumping over barbed fences, skipping over frozen streams, running into the brush with night sky getting darker and darker. But finally, as we got further into the brush there wasn’t any white snow on the ground to contrast against the red blood. We were lost, and right when you thought things were at their worst we heard something from beyond a bush. Using our cell phones, we could see vigorous rustling in the brush just ahead. Immediately, we all pulled our guns out and pointed them in the direction of the bush. Half of us were in squatting stances locked and loaded ready to blast this bush like it was the opening scene of Jurassic Park. But then it stopped, and we took this was our cue to bail. And we did.

The next day saw more lessons with fewer tribulations. I learned about leading a shot on moving targets, and differentiating deer from other scenery at 400 yards away. When my friend got his buck, we learned about the gutting and skinning process while getting our elbows deep in blood. But the best lesson of all came when we made a last-ditch effort to find some game. As we swept through the farmlands in our mud caked pickup truck the realization of going to home empty handed was starting to burgeon a need to come back to this place and do this all over again. And it was in that instant that I realized that this life of a redneck prairie boy has a lot more to it then I had ever imagined.
– Ben, guest blogger.

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