Hunting Williams Lake British Columbia Mule Deer

One of my most anticipated guided hunts in 2006 was a trip to hunt mule deer in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. Leon Danielson and I had planned this trip at least a year in advance. Danielson traveled from Raleigh, N.C., and I came from Moorhead, Minn. Our destination was Williams Lake, which is about 341 miles north of Vancouver.

I caught a glimpse of Danielson in the Vancouver airport about noon, but we were on different flights to Williams Lake and needed to process our guns through customs. Canada has a $50 annual fee per gun for bringing firearms into the country. The customs inspector wanted me to take the "bolt" out of my Ruger No. 1! It took me a few minutes to convince her that wasn’t easy, so she let me leave it in one piece. I didn’t see Danielson again until later that evening when he finally arrived at the lodge.

The area around Williams Lake was a bit more built up than I had anticipated. It isn’t in the high Rockies, and has ranchland and highways edging out woodland in the lower elevations. 

A Fine Lodge
The log lodge was only a few years old, and was nicely decorated with trophies from the area including mule deer, whitetail deer, moose, and mountain lions. The eight guests had four double rooms in the lower level, which also had a laundry room and a game room. The dining area and main lounge were on the main floor. Dining was superb with meals prepared by real chefs who even wore actual chef hats!

Clearing the trail.

The first morning came early as it does on most hunting trips. After a nice breakfast and some introductions, Danielson and I were assigned to our guide Karl for our 2×1 (two hunters, one guide) hunt. Karl was a lean, young man accustomed to entertaining guests at the lodge. Our spotting vehicle for the day was a nearly new diesel, crew cab pickup. I couldn’t recall any guided hunts in the past with such new equipment! The lodge’s hunting method was advertised as "spot and stalk," which usually meant spotting from the truck and then stalking to within shooting distance.  

Karl decided we could do some walking, which was fine with Danielson and I, who were both hoping for, and expecting, a more wilderness-type hunt. On our first walk down some grown over logging trails, we spotted two small muley bucks. Their dark hides contrasted sharply with the light snow cover on the ground. They were probably last year’s fawns, or possibly 2-1/2-year-olds, certainly not what we traveled so far to harvest. Each could have been easily harvested within 50 yards. I had drawn the "shooter" straw for the day, meaning Danielson got to watch me shoot, but I passed on these two. Danielson’s turn would come the next day.

Spots Some Mulies
After a nice sack lunch and a few more hunting stories, we drove 20 minutes or so to an area with signs saying something like, "mule deer research area." I thought there certainly should be some big bucks here! We drove another 15 minutes in four-wheel-drive, once through a large swamp in the road, before getting out to walk to a spot Karl assured us had a high percentage chance of seeing deer.

Danielson followed me and I followed Karl slowly and quietly down the trail until Karl either saw or heard something. He pointed and said, "there they are, right up there." As hard as I looked through the dark timber I couldn’t see anything! I thought he was just imagining there were deer there for our benefit. Karl made some squealing noises that sounded to me like they would scare any respectable deer to the next mountain range! After several anxious minutes waiting and listening to Karl squeal, he said the deer were moving down the slope. I still couldn’t see any deer!

All of a sudden, like out of an outdoors’ magazine, a big, dark British Columbia mule deer buck appeared in a small clearing straight ahead and only about 70 yards away! He looked good to me, so I found him in my scope and squeezed the trigger on my Ruger No. 1, .270. He hunched up and bolted off. We couldn’t find any blood at the spot, so Karl asked me, "are you sure you hit him?" What kind of a question is that — 70 yards, standing still, with a scope! I was sure I hit him!

Hits The Mark
The 5×5 muley buck was stone dead just 40 yards down the hill from where he stood when I shot. After field dressing him, it was too late in the day to get him back to the lodge, so we let him lay. After some early morning "spotting" for Danielson’s turn to shoot, we returned to the kill site with an ATV. After cutting a few deadfalls out of the way, we brought the buck to the big crew cab. We hung him in the taxidermist’s backyard to skin and quarter. The head and cape were left there to be mounted and the meat was given to one of the other guides.

The author and his 5×5 British Columbia Mule Deer.

I had bragging rights for the next couple of days. There were a couple missed shots, a few missed opportunities, but no other bucks were taken by any of the other seven hunters during the five-day hunt. Danielson never had a glimpse of a Williams Lake mule deer buck, other than the two we saw the first morning and the one I shot. He had bought a timber wolf tag along with his deer tag and we got in the middle of a pack of timber wolves some hunters had scattered. About five or six wolves were howling, trying to get back together in the heavy timber. It just wasn’t Danielson’s day — I saw the wolves, but he only heard them howling!

Different Kind Of Hunt
Not everything about all hunts is positive. Killing a deer is not even necessary to have a successful hunt. We ended up going 1-for-8 — but I was the one! The accommodations, food, scouting vehicles, and personnel were great. I would not recommend against anyone going on this hunt, but I would clue them in on some of the details so they were informed consumers. If spotting from a pickup seat isn’t your idea of hunting, this isn’t the place to go. Always ask for and check out references before laying out too much cash for a guided hunt.

With eight hunters in camp, it is easy for the conversation to come around to "how much did you pay?" — a question that raised some concern. It turns out that no two hunters paid the same fee, not even Danielson and I. Another rule is to always know the price and what is included. The range was from about $1,500 to $2,500. My hunt was near the high end, but with a big buck on the meat pole, I wasn’t complaining. As I look at that buck on my wall today, I only remember the best parts of the trip to Williams Lake.

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