By Klaas Deemter
For many, the world of hunting is shrouded in a veil of camouflaged mystery. Where do you go? When is the best time to go? How do you prepare for a hunt? What do you do after the shot? How much camo gear do you need? These questions are intimidating and can discourage many people who have an interest in hunting from pursuing it further.
Just as in any other sport, it is important to get a good coach and practice. AHIEA, and other hunting organizations, recognize this and does a fantastic job of introducing people to the exciting world of hunting. I participated in an AHIEA novice event with my boys at AHEIA’s Alford Lake Conservation Centre as part of Alberta’s Provincial Hunting Day activities and, after several other events, my 13-year-old son, Jayden, and I decided to enroll in AHEIA’s Hunter Education program. After successfully completing the program, we took up our instructor’s offer of participating in a mentored hunt, which took place on the 8th of November.
In the lead up to that date, Jim Gratrix, of the Calgary AHIEA office, met with us to inform us what we could expect on the day and he also provided us with several hours of firearms coaching at AHEIA’s range. Brett Ackerman, our mentor, also provided additional guidance through texts and phone calls, an, between these two gentlemen, we were well prepared.
On the day of the hunt we drove to Hill Spring, a small town in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains near Waterton Lakes National Park. After a quick introduction with Brett, we were on our way to our hunting spot. After a brief safety discussion, we crossed the fence and walked into the trees. A professional hunting guide in the Yukon, Brett showed us what to look for as we made our way to the spot he had chosen, telling us how to use the trees to provide cover, what to look for in the fresh prints in the snow, and why deer habituate certain areas.
Reaching our spot, we set up our tripod and made ourselves comfortable. The sun was warm, the winds were light, and we were comfortably settling into our fourth hour when Brett saw movement in the shallow valley below. Quickly and quietly, my son Jayden brought his gun onto the tripod, sighted the beautiful mature doe, and after steadying his breathing, pulled the trigger. It was a perfect shot and the doe fell instantly.
Making our way to the animal, Brett cautioned us to be prepared that it may not be dead. After confirming that it was, Brett gave me the knife and guided us through the delicate process of field dressing the animal. He showed how and where to make the cuts, what to be careful of, and how to do it safely. After we finished, we loaded the animal onto a game cart, and we walked back to our trucks.
We finished the day at Brett’s home, filling our bellies with a delicious bowl of chili and downloading as much information as we could from Brett before we had to leave. Brett’s deep knowledge, and willingness to share it, was invaluable to us, and we were very appreciative to him for so generously volunteering his time to help us get our first deer!
On our return to Calgary, we hung the deer for several days and then hired a mobile wild game butcher to further process the animal. We now have a freezer full of sausage, grind, steaks, and roasts, and I’m pleased to say the whole family has enjoyed some of it already!
This has been a very special experience for my son and I, and we are very thankful to Brett, Jim and AHEIA for making it happen. We are eagerly looking forward to learning as much as we can before the next hunting season begins!