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Ken Vardon II Christmas 2009
Dorothy Mary Burke-Vardon & Ken Vardon Sr
Dorothy Mary Burke-Vardon Moose Hunting Trip 1941 (Story below)
Dorothy Mary Burke-Vardon & Ken Vardon Sr
Dorothy Mary Burke-Vardon & Ken Vardon Sr
Dorothy Mary Burke-Vardon & Ken Vardon Sr
Moose Hunting Trip 1941 (Story below)
KEN & DOTíS HUNTING ADVENTURE IN CANADA IN 1941
The trip began on August 24, 1941 as the excited young couple pulled away from the curb in their new 1941 Packard. They decide to keep a journal of the trip. Dot wrote,ĒOur long awaited day was finally here. The day we had planned and talked about for ten years. The day we were to leave on our dream trip to northwest Canada to hunt for game and get treasured trophies.
It was warm and sunny on August 24. We had celebrated our 10th anniversary a few weeks ago. Months of planning and farming out our three children were over and we were in high spirits to be on our way to the Canadian Rockies.
The mountains and prairies of northern Michigan, Minnesota Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Montana were breathtaking in their vastness and quiet dignity. We settled in for the long drive as the miles ticked off on our speedometer.
On August 28 we arrived at Glacier Waterton International Peace Park. We feasted our eyes for a whole day and crossed the border into Canada with accommodating and courteous border guards.
At Waterton we rented riding horses and took a lovely winding trail up the side of a very high and, to me, treacherous looking mountain. On one side the mountain wall rose up to a tremendous height. On the other side, a sheer drop to hundreds of feet below. Iíll confess at first I was terrified having had little to do with either horses or mountains, feeling at any moment my whole world slip over the edge of the narrow rocky path and my body would be hurled to death on the jagged rocks below. I kept wondering if my horse did slip could I get my foot out of the stirrup before he plunged down the mountain side and save myself.
But after the first hour or so my fright was overcome by my husbands calming voice and by opening my eyes to the sheer beauty of the scenery before me. If you looked up you could see the snow capped peaks ascending into the very heavens. If you looked down you could see waterfalls and rapids pouring tons of water thousands of feet over rocks and ravines cut into the mountain by these very waters.
The next day we continued our trip to Banff, then on to the most beautiful and most inspiring scene of all, the glorious Lake Louise. It is hard to find words to adequately express the magnificence of this spot. But I will try to give you my impressions. There are great towering mountains all around as you gaze on Lake Louise. The water is very calm and crystal clear. In the background are two great mountain peaks on each side. Immediately behind is an enormous field of ice, and if you look into the water you can see the whole lake reflected. Add to all of this a very beautiful sunset and you have Lake Louise.
About this time we began to give some serious thought as to where we were going to hunt, so out came all our maps. After scouring over them for hours we decided to try Golden British Columbia, a small village of about 2700 people 64 miles from Lake Louise.
We needed a guide to lead up into the wilderness. We had written to several guides while planning the trip inquiring about the expenses for a two-week trip into this territory. The prices we were quoted made us seriously consider abandoning the trip altogether. They ranged from $30.00 to $55,00 per day, which was way beyond our limited budget.
But we had planned and dreamed about this trip for so long we decided to try to find a guide on our own when we got there. Upon our arrival in Golden we talked to several guides, but exploring them in person was as bad as it had been by mail. As a last resource we asked the Game Warden if he could recommend a guide to us that we could afford. Mr. Cameron, the game warden proved to be a very hospitable and friendly person full of useful information for novices like us. He had information about hunting guides, equipment, packhorses, hunting permits and time allowed to hunt of or different game.
He took us to see Ken Jones, a 28-year-old Canadian born English guide who lived just outside Golden and guided from Lake Louise to Banff. We interviewed him and liked him immediately. His prices were reasonable and affordable and he agreed to guide us.
Feeling grateful and lucky we returned to Golden and got our hunting licenses from Mr. Cameron. He told us that instead of the season opening for everything on the first of September only Sheep, Bear and Goats opened the first. So we made plans to go sheep hunting from the 7th to the 15th. The sheep hunt meant a backpacking mountain climbing trip of about 12 miles. Not being in condition, we decided to remedy this in the week we had to wait, so we set out to explore Golden and the surrounding mountains.
The village of Golden was extraordinarily friendly small town nestled in the valley and tucked between the Selkirk and Van Horn mountain ranges, part of the Canadian Rockies. The gorgeous mountains rise on all sides to amazing heights while the lazy Colombia head waters gather from snow melt winding its endless way through and around the valley floor and rushing to beautiful waterfalls and joining the roaring, tumbling, Kicking Horse River.
Golden was named for the enormous gold mines discovered there many years ago. It is in the Kootnay district of the Columbia valley, and Indian name meaning The Land of Many Waters.
Sunday our first day in Golden, we rented saddle horses and took to the mountains with our lunch tied to our saddles. The trail we choose wound back and forth but always up. After about two hours of riding we came to Hospital Falls. We let our horses rest while we looked at the sheer drop of the falls at least 100 feet below us.
We went on our way and later ate our lunch alongside a cheerful mountain stream while the horses grazed. I was a nervous wreck as we made our way back down that narrow trail. Not knowing horses it was quite a miracle for this city girl to get back without even a broken bone and with a lot more confidence than I had when we started. I later laughed to think of my fears then, for the immediate future held more thrills than I could ever have imagined.
The next day we decided to try mountain climbing. We packed our lunch and off we started. I was hardly able to walk after yesterdays long horseback ride, let alone climb a mountain. But I went and soon we lost our trail and spent the next three hours fighting our way through very dense and tough undergrowth. Gratefully we found our trail again and Ken agreed to turn around and return to our room. The bed was inviting and I needed to rest and give my body a chance to heal.
When we awoke we agreed the mountain wasnít going to lick us, so for the next four days we climbed and climbed some more, a little higher each day until we reached the top of the Van Horn Range. By this time we were hardening and in better shape. The entire time it rained non-stop and our clothes were always damp, but the splendor of the mountains and the purity of the air made the weather of little consequence to us. The natives were bemoaning fears for the ruination of their crops. But we loved every moment.
By now our guide had everything ready for the sheep hunt but the rain day after day delayed our start. He told us that the climb was mostly on shale and it was very steep. It was just too treacherous and dangerous in such wet weather. To relieve our cabin fever one morning we set out to hunt on Mount Willowbonk elevation 7,761, which was behind Ken Jonesí farm and was said to have an abundance of goats and sheep roaming itís slopes. We had moved our things to his farm at the invitation of his kind mother, and parked our car in her barn for safe keeping.
We were up bright and early and started the day at 6:30 hoping to return with a big Billy as a trophy. The brush was still dripping from the last nights rain, but to our joy the sun was finally presenting itself bright and cheerfully.
Jones and Ken carried heavy backpacks with food, cameras and supplies. Jones told us we had a five-hour hard climb ahead. He was very considerate and never pushed us hard but kept up a steady pace to our assent. After the first two hours we rose above the timberline into scrubby growth. We continually searched to terrain with binoculars to find the animals. We spotted them several times but they were never accessible always in canyons or on ledges where it would have been impossible to retrieve them even if we shot one.
Finally we located a large Billy with two nannies and three kids about a mile west and 1500 feet above us. We sat down for a council of war. We sketched out a plan. Ken and Jones would circle and try to stalk them from above while I would work slowly up toward them. Jones said they would lie down in a short while and we would have three or four hours to get within shooting range. I traveled slowly in the direction planned. The goats had disappeared from my view around outcroppings of rugged rocks. At 1:00 I reached the point where it was planned for me to wait there for the men.
The men started their long hike and after 30 minutes or so noted that the goats had laid down as Jones predicted, Ken and Jones had a really rough climb and Ken later told me that he never would have made it if the guide hadnít given him a hand in several bad spots. He said he would have given 20 to 1 odds that a fly couldnít have made some of the obstacles that the guide took him over. Ken was the lucky one that day as I waited patiently for them to return. Here is his story of that exciting day.
When they reached a goat trail about 50 feet from the summit it was about 1:00 PM and the men rested for an hour and ate lunch. Then they started back to the place they had seen the goats. Suddenly to their amazement they spotted them about 600 feet down below. While watching them for 15 minutes or so they formulated a plan to get a decent shot.
The goats were badly strung with the Billy about 100 years behind the nannies and kids. It was impossible to get down without scaring them off. The decent was either sharp straight drops or loose shale that slides. Jones mapped out a plan. He would place Ken back where he could get a good shot then roll rocks down and hope the goats would go in the right direction. Their instinct is to go up as rapidly as possible when they are frightened or threatened by the scent a human.
So, back over the trail they went and finally found a place that gave a good all around view. Now if the goat would only follow the plan. Jones slowly and carefully worked back to close to the goats and down from Ken. Then he hollered and kicked some rocks down. Ken waited expectantly but not for long suddenly the Billy appeared on the trail just 50 years away. Ken took his time whistled, then shot him once through the heart. He dropped in his tracks and was quite for a moment, then he gave a terrific kick and down the mountain he rolled; bouncing, rolling and twisting until he finally came to a crash landing 500 feet below.
Ken darned near broke his neck getting down to see in the head had been ruined. When they reached the carcass they were pleased to discover that while the skull was badly broken the horns and scalp were intact and it was a fine trophy having 10-inch horns.
I heard the shots but couldnít see a thing. I was in perfect frenzy until they finally got back to me hours later. They had to skin the Billy goat out where it fell. Unfortunately I had the camera and we didnít get any pictures of it. It was close to nine oíclock that night when we when we dragged our tired carcasses through the yard of the Jonesí farm. Mrs. Jones had an appetizing dinner still warm for us.
Fortunately we had moved our belongings there the day before to be ready to leave as soon as the weather permitted. We ate and tumbled into bed thankful, exhausted and happy.
After four more days of waiting for good weather we decided to scrap part of our plans to get a mountain goat and get to camp as moose and elk season opened in a few days. It would take us 3 or 4 days to pack our horses and get back into the valley of the Blaeberry Range in British Columbia, Canada where we planned to camp and hunt. So on the 12th of September the three of us and six horses with equipment all packed started for what turned out to be the best part and most exciting of our trip.
We had three packhorses and three saddle horses. My husband Ken, Ken Jones, our guide and I set out to hunt in virgin territory that was plentiful with grizzly and black bears, elk, and moose. According to local folklore only a few trappers had had been there before. We were the first trophy hunters to invade the brooding stillness of this breathtakingly beautiful country.
We rode for eight hours that first day just stopping long enough to rest and enjoy the lunch Mrs. Jones had prepared for us. When we reached our camp we all pitched in and put up our tents, cooked our evening meal and Ken Jones entertained us will tales of his adventures as a miner, a ski champion and his trip to Alaska and the Yukon. He had done a lot in his 28 years.
We broke camp and after a hardy breakfast we were back on the trail. But this day was filled with difficulties. It was raining and the trail crossed a large burn area, it was steep surrounded by mountains and with a roaring river about 100 feet below us. Both men had axes and saws and we had to stop often while they cut through obstacles of logs tree stumps in our way.
Then tragedy struck one of our packhorses lost his footing and down he went. Over and over he tumbled down the steep slope into the river below. Our eyes were frozen on him as we yelled for our guide who was several feet ahead of us. He rushed back and scrambled down the slope followed closely by Ken. The horse was struggling to get to his feet but the strong river current was carrying him away. Finally the two men got the horse back on land on the river bank while I tied the rest of the horses to a trees.
Then a real deluge started both men were soaking wet and chilled. The horse had a hole gouged out of his head but miraculously had no broken bones and was declared able to continue the journey. The problem was how to get him back up the steep bank and on the trail again. While the men led him below I untied and led the other 5 horses along the trail above.
In time they got a rope around Randomís neck and began to guide him up the bank. He was still shaken and frightened. When they got him about half way up and he slipped and rolled all the way down again. This time smashing his pack all to pieces. After letting him rest and calm down they finally got him up. We put a saddle on him and packed what we could salvage on another horse. Then we had a much welcomed late lunch.
Setting out again we resumed the tedious job of blazing the trail by cutting branches and burned tree stumps to let us pass until night when we finally descended onto a gravel bar where the trapper who was supposed to keep this trail clean had a cabin, and a very dirty cabin it was. But both men were so utterly exhausted from chopping and sawing all day we decided to sleep there for the night anyway instead of pitching our tent. So we settled down in our sleeping bags put on wood slats for a bed under a roof that leaked drenching us all night. At last we dozed off, rain and all, thanking goodness that tomorrow we would arrive at the gravel bar.
Although it was still raining the next morning, with all our sleeping bags and clothing soaked we were still in pretty good humor knowing that by the next morning we would be in our permanent camp that would be our home for the next two weeks and we would be set for hunting. So after catching a couple of horses who didnít want to be caught we were on our way again.
The gravel bar is called Blarberry Valley and extends down the river southwest to the big bend country. The Columbia River at the head of the valley is called Summery glacier, which is a part of the fresh ice field. The valley floor is about 4500 feet above sea level and the mountains tower three to four thousand feet above the valley on both sides with snow half way down in September.
It was quite easy going on the last lap of our journey. Our guide told us that the gravel bar was about 18 miles long and the river continually changed it from year to year. In spring after the snows melt it was completely under water then as the streams paused it resurfaced and was in a different place every year. In the five miles we traveled to our camp site we must have forged the serpentine river at least 150 times sometimes for 100 or more feet and other times just two or three feet.
It was still raining when we reached our campsite mid afternoon. The men set up the tent and chopped wood while I set up a collapsible stove and started a fire. We were about 20 miles from the nearest house and the quietness after the hustle and bustle of the city was very soothing to our nerves. That night we slept very soundly and comfortably on our bed of pine boughs.
Early the next morning after a good breakfast we began hunting up Mummery Creek. About nine miles from camp our guide motioned for us to stop and dismount. Ken and I exchanged glances because we hadnít seen or heard anything but Ken Jones pointed to a spot on the gravel bar and lo and behold there was the first elk we had ever seen. He was magnificent with a big tawny colored body, a jet-black mane and massive antlers. Jones whistled and the elk bugled back. Ken motioned that I was to have the first shot.
Now, I thought I was quite a hunter, having been deer hunting in northern Michigan for the past four years and getting deer every year. But I had a pin stuck in my ego that day in the form of buck fever. I had never stalked before and Jones motioned me to sneak up on him to get as close as possible before shooting. With every step I took I shook more and more. I stalked to about 150 yards from the elk that was standing broadside to me as they do in rutting season. Jones kept whistling and he kept bugeling back. Finally he told me to get down and shoot. I did! I shot four times missed three and the forth nicked him on the back and he ran back into the bush looking at me quite scornfully.
I came in for some fancy ribbing, which lasted for the next four days. Every time either of them looked at me they said Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Being mad at myself was bad enough, but to think that we could have had an elk on our first day if I had only insisted that Ken took the first shot was about all I needed to throw my gun into the river. I didnít however and took the ribbing I so justly deserved. Although the guide consoled me by saying there were other elk I was sure I would never have such a perfect shot again.
The next day when we arrived at Mummery Creek Ken went up one ravine while Jones and I went up another. We had no luck and headed back after a few hours and found a note from Ken saying he going back to camp. A few minutes later we heard shots from Kenís 348 Winchester resounding against the mountains. We spurred out houses and found Ken a few minutes later and learned that he had shot a black bear but it had escaped into the woods. And would have to be trailed. He was excited, as his fondest wish had been to get a bear. He told us he had seen an elk earlier and shot at it several times but missed. After drilling him he admitted to buck fever too. Yes, I took the opportunity to give him back some of the razzing he gave me.
We didnít waste much time as the bear had a 15-minute head start. So Ken and I began trailing him. He must have been shot badly as he was bleeding profusely leaving an easy trail to follow. We trailed him up a mountainside through very thick brush and devilís claws until dark with no results. We finally gave up and fought our way back to the gravel bar where Jones was waiting for us.
We held a war council and Ken and Jones decided to go back up the mountain with flashlights to try again to find the bear. It was raining as usual and by morning the blood would be washed away. So after cutting some wood and getting me settled on the gravel bar with only three horses and a dog named Jeff and two rifles for company they went to find the bear.
This was the worst part of the trip for me. I was really scared. I kept building the fire higher and higher. Iím no coward but a cougar let out a scream like an insane person, and things kept moving in the bush and the dog kept going to sleep on me. After what seemed an eternity the men returned minus a bear. I was never happier to see anyone, as I was to see them that night.
We mounted our horses and three very tired people rode back to camp. We tumbled into bed about midnight too tired to even eat supper. Of course that night we had one of the heaviest downpour yet. When we went back the next morning to track the bear again all the blood trail was washed away. We spent all morning looking but never found him. Too bad Ken said he was much bigger than the one we did get later.
For the next three days we rode up and down the valley and saw lots of game but all were out of shooting range. On the forth day we decide to split up again and try our luck separately. Jones and I went up again to mummery Creek. It was bitterly cold and still raining. I wore my warm wool bright red Hudson Bay jacket with a rain slicker over it. We had just worn brown leather jackets until now. We stopped a few times to make hot tea to thaw us out. When we got to Mummery Creek about 5:00 PM and walked around a little to warm up before starting back to camp when Jones spotted a large bull moose about 300 years away because of the rain and low visibility we werenít sure if he was a good trophy. We werenít interested in killing any game just for the sake of killing our goal was just to take trophies that could be stuffed and displayed.
Jones and I moved slowly forward to a fallen tree to shield us to get a better look at him and to rest our guns if we decided to shoot. He watched us carefully and until now he hadnít moved then slowly he started to move toward us. He was definitely ďon the prod,Ē as the saying goes. The hair on the back of his neck was standing straight up and his head was lowered. ďHeís mad and he will attack,Ē Jones whispered to me. ďTake your time and let him have it.Ē I asked him to shoot too if he thought it was necessary.
I began firing. The first shot hit him hard just missing his heart, but didnít stop him. He only crouched up and kept coming. I fired three or four times, but only inflicted flesh wounds. Jones fired twice at this neck attempting to stop him but his gun was shooting low and the shots went into his front legs. Then I fired again and hit him in the shoulder Badly wounded he turned and started for the bush but fell at the edge of a creek. He kept staring at us all the time. He attempted to get up several times. Very slowly we made our way toward him. Jones tried to shot him in the head while I moved to the left and climbed on a fallen tree.
After a terrific lunge he got to his feet and started toward us again. Now we were within 30 feet and Mr. Moose meant business. He was heading at Jones with express train speed. I placed a final shot with a prayer behind it directly in the nerve center of his neck. The slug knocked him down for the last time on the gravel bar 10 yards from Jones feet.
With a wild yell I jumped off the tree and started to run toward him. Jones yelled at me to stop and reload my rifle and approach with caution. I felt so high and excited. The last shot hit him right in the center of his neck and he didnít move again. As it was nearing dusk Jones said he would just bleed him out and we would come back in the morning to skin him out and dress him. He laughed at me for not wanting to leave him there all night for fear coyotes or bears would eat him. So with reluctance, I mounted my horse and turned him toward camp.
In spite of the dark, cold, rainy night and the long ride ahead of us I felt exalted over my trophy and hoped our bad luck was over. We sat long over supper that night while we relived the whole thrilling episode again for Ken.
Dawn broke the next morning and through fog and mist we started out to find my moose. I couldnít wait to show him to Ken. So after discovering that tow of our horses ran away we saddled up the remaining four and headed up the valley to Mummery canyon. By the time we got there the sky was clearing the sun broke through promising the first good day since we arrived.
I took several snapshots of my moose and then the men set to work skinning him out. Feeling quite certain that Iíd be sick if I watched I took a walk. I wandered around for bit but my curiosity got the best of me and I took a few furtive peeks and then a good look. Nothing happened! I didnít throw up, so I ventured closer to take some more photos of a half dressed and half undressed moose. Before I knew what was happening I had my knife out and was helping too.
The skinning job completed we packed it on the extra horse we had brought along and started back to camp. There is something interesting watching a pack house being packed. There are so many ropes and different knots. I watched the procedure innumerable times and it still remains a mystery to me how much can be packed onto horses back and held with ropes without it falling off or at least loosening up some.
We saw an elk on our way back to camp and spent a couple of hours waiting and stalking him but he must have got our scent and wandered back into the brush.
Saturdayís sunrise gave us assurances of a gorgeous day. We realized that we had only packed enough food for one week; some of our supplies were getting low. We made up our minds to stay until we got an elk and bear. So Jones volunteered to hike back to Golden to replenish our food supply. He preferred to hike rather than ride a horse. Ken and I hunted near camp that day and cleaned our guns, but didnít see anything.
We woke Sunday morning to a heavy frost that made the trees seem alive when the sun glistened on them. Even the sun Ďs occasional peeking out didnít melt it. Around noon Ken saddled up the horses and we rode toward the mountains covered with snow to get some pictures.
About a mile from camp Ken rode ahead to get a better view of the valley through the field glasses. I was riding closer to the bush and just started crossing the river when I glanced up and saw on ugly sight. A very angry moose stating and confronting me about 100 yards away. For an instant the blood in my veins froze. My encounter with the moose a few days ago was enough for me. But here it was again and much too close for comfort. It was plain to see that he was about to attack.
I was crossing the river in water. I dared not shoot from horseback and needed to dismount to get a shot off. I shouted for Ken as I tried to edge my horse over to the other bank where I could get off. But no go! Every time Iíd move away he moved closer.
Ken had seen at a glace what the problem was he shouted for me to stay still as he rode broadside of the moose and jumping from his horse he fired a shot and sent a 348 slug deep into the mooseís stomach. But instead of stopping olí man moose it just made him angrier and he came toward me in great leaps and bounds.
Our dog Jeff came to the rescue. At the sound of the shot he Jeff went toward the moose putting himself between the moose and me. Ken shot again and hit his shoulder. With perspiration dripping down my face I reached the other bank and dismounted and fired a shot after the fleeing moose and he headed for the bush. Jeff still hot on his trail turned him back toward the gravel bar again. And as he attempted to jump across the creek I landed a shot in his hip and Ken placed a fatal shot into his neck and he crumpled in a heap into the water.
He was very dead and I too crumpled on to the gravel murmuring a prayer of thanks. But for the courage of a little dog and the excellent marksmanship of my husband I could be dead right now. After a moment Ken looked deeply into my eyes and I saw that he had been terribly afraid for me.
Relieved and grateful to be alive we took a closer look to inspect the moose and to our surprise we discovered we had a real trophy to be proud of. In the tenseness neither of us even looked at his rack. Now we found he had three separate racks two on one side and one on the other. Nineteen points in all. This moose was a freak of nature and a real treasure for a trophy. As Ken plunged his knife into his throat to bleed him I could see by the viciousness of his knife thrusts that he wanted to tear it from limb to limb.
As we were trying to figure out why the moose would want to pick on me to attack. My eyes fell on my bright red jacket lying on the gravel where I had put it after I took it off. But no! That was a foolish ideaÖbulls were angered by the color red, but moose also? I discarded the idea as too silly to contemplate. But then maybe it was more than a coincidence.
Catching our horses, we rode back down the valley stopping off at camp to grab a quick sandwich and a cup of tea before we rode to the place where we were to meet Jones. We rode a few miles down the valley to meet him but he still wasnít there by dusk so we returned to the camp to cook a warm meal awaiting his return. We knew he would be tired from his 40-mile hike. About 8:00 PM. He staggered into camp carrying a 70-pound pack loaded with the supplies we needed.
While he was eating and resting we told him about the moose we had to kill, and the freak rack on him. He wanted to see it so about 10:00 we got flashlights and wandered around the gravel bar for two hours but it was so dark we didnít find him that night. Early the next morning we did found the place easily. The men hitched a rope to the biggest horse and the moose and with some effort we finally pulled the dead moose out of the water.
The men set about skinning it. Jones said he had never seen a rack like that before. We packed the head and hide back to our camp. Jones said he would stay at camp preparing them to be transported to the taxidermists Ken and I wanted to hunt so we rode slowly down the valley always hoping to see an elk or bear.
We had only traveled a short way when we halted upon hearing an elk bugle. It sounded quite close and Ken whistled back again. But we couldnít see him, he was still in the bush. We expected him to come out onto the gravel bar soon since another elk answered him. Ken was good at whistling he had been practicing for some time now and he actually sounded like a male elk.
We made a hurried plan. I would ride back up the valley toward camp and station myself in the middle of the gravel bar while Ken rode down the valley a short way and when the elk came out one of us would be able to shoot. I had just tied my horse to a tree and was on foot when I saw a big bull elk on the edge of the gravel bar he looked directly at me the quickly turned and fled back into the bush. He must of got my scent as he was downwind of me.
I waited with my gun ready for a few minutes hoping he would come out again. Just as I was ready to give up three cows and a big bull elk came tearing out of the bush with Jeff at their heels. By the time I got close enough to shoot Jeff chased them back into the bush again. I saw Ken go into the bush. Jeff was barking his head off, and just as I was walking back to get on my horse to investigate I heard a few shots and then a wild cheer, ďYippee! I got him Dot!Ē
I called back ďGood for you. Iíll get your horse and be right there. I glanced toward camp and saw Jones who had also heard the shots and was riding his horse at breakneck speed toward me. I shouted to him where Ken was and got my pinto and Kenís horse. Jones and I arrived at the scene of Kenís triumph at the same time and the smile on Kenís face lit up the whole valley.
He told us that when Jeff came back across the gravel bar after chasing the cows and bull he thought it was funny so he decided to see what Jeff was up to and just as he stepped into the bush he saw another bull elk bugle close by he whistled back and the elk answered him this time much closer so with his gun ready he waited a few seconds and then saw him about 75 yards away. Fortunately he was downwind of the elk and he hadnít been spotted or scented by the elk. He took careful aim, no buck fever this time, and fired two quick shots then two more and the magnificent animal went down. One shot hit his heart.
Ken had done what he said he would do if it took all winter got a trophy to be proud of. And this was it. It was called a full head six points on each side and a 40-inch span. While skinning him we found that all four shots hit him. That night was had our first taste of elk steaks for supper with much laughing and happy talk around the campfire we retired feeling great.
Except for bear and big horn sheep we now had nearly a complete group for trophies. Of course the big horn sheep season was over and would have to be on another trip, but we could still get a bear. As we knew we must soon leave this beautiful place we decided to spend the next few days hunting for bear. So Tuesday morning we packed a lunch and headed once again for Mummery Creek to see if any bears had been near the moose carcass we left there. We didnít stop to examine the one close to camp planning to do that on our way back.
When we arrived about noon we saw several bear tracks all around the carcass but the hadnít eaten on it yet. It was near the water and in the shade and didnít spoil as fast. Bears like it good and rotten before they touch it. We had a leisurely lunch and rested for an hour before heading back to camp.
When we got close to the second carcass the sun was disappearing behind a mountain. Jones motioned us to stop. He was staring intently through the field glasses and saw an enormous bear around the carcass of the second moose. He handed the glasses to Ken and when Ken handed them to me and I lifted them the bear was gone. He must have got our scent and scurried back in the bush.
We tied out horses to a log and very quietly made out way to the carcass and found that this one had spoiled quicker because it was in the sun, and for the past two days the sun had been quite hot. We had left the intestines inside to make a nice snack for bears and other animals to feast on.
Holding our handkerchiefs to our noses we approached the carcass and saw that the bear had already been nibbling on this one. We walked a few hundred yards upwind and settled down to wait for old grandfather bear to reappear. Lying on our stomachs with our guns propped on a log ready to shoot, we kept our eyes glued to the carcass until it was past dark and we couldnít see any more. So we retrieved our houses and rode back to camp full of plans for the morrow with a committee of three who would await Mr. Or Mrs. bear to breakfast on the delicious carcass.
We were so excited the next morning we shipped breakfast and very early rode the houses to our place on the gravel bar to keep vigil for the bear to return to feed. We were there for several hours and no bear put in an appearance. Either they were too smart for us or they werenít hungry. But whatever it was we were darned hungry. So we left our post and went back to camp for a late breakfast. Jones told us that bears usually feed in the early morning or late afternoon. At 3:00 we went back to our post, took our positions and patiently waited. Jones kept the field glasses vigilantly trained on the carcass
After about an hours wait Jones nudged us and told us to get ready, but not to shoot until he told us to. Ken was to shoot first as his gun was heaviest. I watched the bear as he slowly moved toward the carcass. After looking around very carefully he cautiously circled it and when he came broadside of us Jones gave the ďgoĒ signal to shoot. Kenís first shot hit his spine and broke his back, and then I began shooting too. The bear was dragging himself toward the bush and I jumped up and down yelling that he was getting away. Lord, the excitement of it! Ken was still shouting,Ē I got him,Ē and I calmed down enough to send a few more shots across the river at the bear too. He was mortally wounded and the men knew he couldnít crawl far, but I was convinced that he would get away as the other one had.
Jones was the only one wearing his hip boots, he said he would go across the river and see if the bear was done for yet. He told us to wait and he would come back for us and pack us piggyback across the river. But I couldnít stand the suspense and followed him wading across way above my boot tops.
When we got to the bear he was breathing his last, and Jones put a bullet in his neck to end his suffering. I was so excited you would have thought I shot him all by myself. The truth was that I wasnít sure if I hit him at all. Jones went back for Ken and after we took several pictures the men got to skinning him. He wasnít the mammoth bear that got away or that we had seen before but he weighed about 350 pounds, and nevertheless it was a bear and that was all that mattered. For now we had all the game we come for.
I was pretty wet from crossing the river impulsively so I kept walking up and down to keep warm. Thatís when I saw two moose approaching us from the gravel bar. I told the men and we all grabbed our guns. Jones kept cursing them and yelling for them to go away. We didnít want to kill any more of them. Shoot above their head to scare them away Jones shouted.
Foolish or not I asked the men if it could be my red jacket that attracted them. ďSomething is surely attracting them. Iíve never seen so many ugly creatures in my life as weíve seen now. Take it off and hide it in the bushes,Ē Jones said. So off it came and I rolled it up and covered it with a fallen branch out of sight. And so help me, as soon as it was out of sight both moose stopped in their tracks, looked around took a few more steps forward suddenly turned and went off into the woods.
While the men worked on skinning the bear I stood shivering in my shirtsleeves. When we were ready to go back to camp I retrieved my warm wool jacket and gratefully put it back on in spite of Jonesís admonition to carry it. About half way back to camp Jones paused to scan the gravel bar with field glasses and we saw a huge bull moose about 300 or 400 yards away and running toward us at full speed. The men grabbed their guns and Jones yelled for me to take off my jacket. In a split second I had it off and balled it up in front of me and turned my back to the moose. The men dismounted and were ready to shoot, but this animal just as his brothers had done earlier, stopped in his tracks.
He looked all around him took a few more steps forward hesitated appeared confused looking for the thing that attracted him, then finally crossed the river over to the other side and vanished into the trees. Believe me I didnít wear that jacket ever again. Even on the long cold, rainy trip back to Golden I wore my leather jacket with a rain slicker over it.
Our last day was spent in getting hides and heads ready to go to the taxidermists. Jones would supervise the transportation and for the finish products to be shipped to us back in Detroit. We broke camp and packed what we could and hung the rest high in the trees until Jones could return to retrieve it. Minus two horses meant that we had to leave most of Jonesís equipment including his tent and clothes behind temporarily. He even packed his saddle horse and planned to walk out.
On September 23 we followed the trail back to Golden, spent the night at The Jonesís house and Mrs. Jones fixed us a great breakfast as we loaded the Packard and headed home ending one amazing month, one that changed us forever.
(Postscript. This is the journal of a trip taken by my parents from August 24 to September 24, 1941. Dorothy Burke-Vardon was 26 and Ken Vardon was 29. Copied by Nancy OíConnor May, 2010)
Who Is Ken Vardon?