Editor’s note: On Friday we sift through the Safari Magazine archives and re-run a classic story. This week we learn how a young man’s first hunt in British Columbia helped break a Junior Olympics 100 yard free-style record. This story originally ran in the July/August 1991 issue of Safari Magazine.
My 11-year old grandson Vincent Allegra represented Westmont Swim Club in the Short Course Junior Olympic Championship swim meet. Being one of his staunchest supporters I was in the stands during his qualification rounds for the 100 yard free-style event, to be held later that evening. After he qualified, we went back to Grandpa’s so he could rest for the evening event.
Going through the days mail, I found a videotape from Scoop Lake Outfitters in British Columbia. I said to Vincent, “What a great way to spend the afternoon. We’ll watch the video and see what is going on in the other part of the world.”
After the tape ended, Vincent turned to me and said, “Grandpa, boy, I would really like to go there.” That’s when I made a deal with him: I told him if he broke the state record in the 100 yard free-style event that night, I would take him to Scoop Lake – all expenses paid.
Vincent looked at me and said, “Grandpa, that record has been around for years, and I don’t think anyone could beat it.”
I told Vincent he wasn’t just anyone, he was my grandson. So there was the deal. He had to break the state record in order to go to Scoop Lake.
Later that day we returned to the swim meet. Vincent seemed to be deep in thought. I watched him warm up, then take his position on the starting block to begin his event. Just before the race was to begin I heard him holler, “Grandpa, book it!”
Vincent held nothing back. He swam with more strength and determination than I had ever seen in him before. He not only won the event, but he broke a long-standing state record.
The next day “Grandpa, booked it.”
Opening day of hunting season found Vincent and his grandparents in the base camp of Scoop lake outfitters. Grandpa was keeping his promise and taking his grandson hunting for moose, mountain goat and conditions permitting Stone sheep. Now we’ll let Vincent tell the rest of this tale through his journal entries.
We started out in Watson Lake, and from there we flew on to Scoop Lake in a float plane over some beautiful country. We had come a day early so we’d be on hand for season opening. We fished a little, had a delicious fried chicken dinner and went to bed. Once, I woke up because I thought I heard something. (It was Grandma, snoring so loud I thought it was a moose!)
Next day the weather was so bad we couldn’t fly out of base camp, so we did some more fishing and took a jet boat down river in hopes of finding a black bear.
Our pilot Neil was able to fly us out and to the hunting camp on Crooked Lake, where our guide, Bob – also known as Timber – was waiting for us. We quickly got our hunting gear ready and went off by boat to look for that monster bull moose.
We found three cows but no bull and returned to camp at dark. Timber cooked us a fine meal and we were all happy to go to bed quite early.
In the morning, it was so foggy that we couldn’t see a thing. We told stories until the sun burned off the thick haze and we started up the lake to hunt moose and I sang the “Star Spangled Banner” all the way. Earlier, Timber had seen a big bull moose on the other side of an island, so as we rounded the corner we got quiet – hoping to spot the moose. I said my prayers and it worked! We silently pulled the boat on shore and started to stalk. It was difficult to walk quietly through the thick brush.
We reached a place where we could see the moose and I found a fallen tree to give me a good rest. I put the crosshairs on its massive shoulder and remembered how Grandpa had told me to let out my breath, then squeeze it off. And that’s what I did. The huge bull wobbled a little and fell in the water. We had to stand in the water to take pictures and to skin the moose. (The water only came up to Timber’s knees, but it was over my waist.) I was really happy with my trophy bull, the largest animal I had ever taken.
By the next day, I was so tired I could hardly get out of bed; but, a SuperCub was warming up to move us into the area we would hunt for our goat. It took six trips to get all of us and our gear transferred.
They put me on a horse called “Spider” and we rode into the nearby mountains to glass for game. We didn’t see anything that day. Early the next morning I was back on Spider, going down an easy trail along the lake. We glassed a lot, but never saw a living thing. Timber decided we should go over a mountain into another valley, where sheep and goats might be found. We rode straight up for four hours on slippery rocks. It was real scary. Grandpa was having a hard time as the climb grew harder and harder. We were all relieved to be off the mountains and down into another valley. We found some goats but no trophies.
All I could think of was getting to camp; our horses ran the last two hours towards home. I was so sore I could hardly move after riding for 13 hours.
Still yawning and stiff, we started out early the following morning. Spider got the day off, so now I was riding a horse named Sunny. When we stopped for lunch, Sunny rolled on the ground – and all over my lunch and rifle! I felt sure my rifle would be broken, but it survived. We checked it and the sights were still on. Back in camp that night I had a terrible nightmare: I dreamed about going back to school.
We were all pooped. We decided to go up a mountain near camp and just glass from there. However, the climb was so hard, we had to get off and lead our horses. I was walking close behind the horse in front of me, and the horse foofed right in my face! (It smelled horrible!) That day I learned not to walk too close to a horse’s rear end!
We went a long way the next day. On the way back, Grandpa’s horse got spooked and went crazy, then Bob’s, then Gary’s. I knew I was next! By now, all the horses were running fast on slippery wet ground. I held on to the saddle horn as hard as I could and prayed as we crashed through the trees. It seemed my horse was trying to rub me off. I stayed on, but lost my hat. I sure was glad to reach camp still in one piece. WE had a good rest the next day when the fog rolled in again; we could only see for a short distance.
Today, my horse was Buddy. We rode out and saw a ram at 500 yards. I had to make a decision. What I wanted most was a mountain goat, but it was getting late in the hunt. Pretty soon, I’d have to go back to school (yuk).
Grandpa and I talked it over and decided to give up on the idea of getting sheep; instead we’d concentrate on a goat.
Time was running out as we left camp on a planned 15-hour day. I was riding Spider again. We found some nanny goats with kids. One nanny had real long horns, but Grandpa had told me “real hunters don’t shoot females.” We passed them up and headed for the next mountain.
We spotted a huge billy goat and decided to go after it, up a 3,500 foot climb in loose rocks. We rode as far as we could and then started walking. (It seemed for every step I took up, I slid back five!)
I was dripping with sweat. As I grabbed a scrub bush to help pull myself up, it came out of the ground and I started sliding down the mountain. Luckily, Grandpa grabbed me by my shirt and stopped my fall.
We finally got into shooting range of the big billy goat and I found a dead tree as a rest. Again, I reminded myself to squeeze off slow and easy. The bullet hit the goat in the center of its shoulder and the scope hit me in the nose.
I had been told goats are very strong and hard to put down. After firing two more shots into the billy, I believed it. Then, the goat slid way down the mountain and I prayed its horns would not be broken. (This big billy had 9-inch horns with thick bases)
I was very proud of my two trophies. I had scaled some of the tallest mountains in the Cassair Range and had shot a moose and a goat, all by myself.
I learned a lot from this trip, and Grandpa tells me – as I go on in life – these lessons will help to guide me. I am thankful to have a grandfather like him, who is a trophy hunter. I love hunting, and one day hope to follow in his footsteps and hunt many places in the world.–Sam Pancotto & Vincent Allegra