Ray Collingwood was born in Ft. McLeod, Alberta, and raised in the Vancouver area where he attended the University of British Columbia. His father was an avid hunter and fisherman who took him and his brothers up the caribou country of British Columbia on deer, elk and moose hunts. During the summer, Collingwood learned to fly fish and, after completing his education, took a government job and moved to Smithers, BC, population then 2,500.
Having seen the incredible country around Smithers, Collingwood flew 200 miles farther north into the wild, untamed land. He was awestruck when he saw the vast virgin wilderness of the headwaters of the Stikine, Finlay and Skeena in the Cassiar Mountains.
“I have an absolute love and respect for the wilderness areas that surrounds us,” he says. At age 23 Collingwood was determined to start a first-class outfitting business. He is a self-taught guide and skinner. Brother and partner, Reg, who has expertise in Stone sheep hunting, introduced horses into the operation. Over the years, Collingwood has logged 15,000 hours as a bush pilot. Flying was in his genes since his father was a Canadian Air Force flight instructor.
The Collingwood Bros. guide for Stone sheep, moose, mountain caribou, black bear, wolf and wolverine. Their area, Spatsizi Park in Northwestern British Columbia, is an isolated game-rich wilderness with restricted allowable harvests. The camps are 400 to 440 air miles from their access point in Smithers where a host service for hunters is provided.
Licenses and tags are prearranged. Collingwood operates within a park with limited entry draw system for residents that is remote so there is little outside pressure. Between the river drainages, premium moose habitat and a strong caribou population are accessible on the Spatsizi and Blueberry Plateau.
Eaglenest Range has one of the largest concentrations of Stone sheep and mountain goats. Collingwood’s float plane provides access to a number of lakes that lie within the park. Genetics of moose and caribou are recorded in the books, together with a stellar track record on Stone sheep and mountain goat.
“We have a selection of back up guns from .30-’06, 7mm and .338 all various models,” explains Collingwood of his choice of firearms on hunts. “We do take bowhunters and a backup rifle is essential in case it is needed. Grizzlies can be an issue. Generally, a spare rifle comes in handy as the Boy Scout motto – ‘Be prepared.’”
After 50 years of outfitting, Collingwood says there are many memorable experiences. “Gigantic Canadian moose taken off the Spatsizi Plateau each season and seeing the satisfaction of our clients is always memorable,” he recalls as he describes several other memories. “Brasher Caribou back in 1989, scoring three points short of No. 1, but no caribou is as unique as this one. Grizzly charge where a client from Washington saved my life dropping a bear five feet from my feet. Similar situation on Spatsizi River. Grizzly charged while they were glassing for goats, A client from Denver dropped the bear as the beast was about to pull [Reg] down from behind.”
Collingwood Bros. offers some of the finest rainbow trout dry fly fishing in the world and also offers wilderness trips to small groups. Their fly-out lodge is located within Spatsizi Wilderness Park, 200 air miles north of Smithers, BC. As the only licensed outfitter in the Park, they have exclusive access to 2.5 million acres of some of the most beautiful, prolific and unspoiled trout fishing in the world.
Their memberships include Safari Club International, BC Guides and Outfitters, Northwest Guides Association, Wild Sheep Foundation and many other related organizations. Each year, trips are offered to Smithers Child Care Society. Wild Game donations are made to the Iskut Village Elders. Training and employment are offered for young locals who show promise and a passion for the outfitting business. Annually, two trips are donated to Safari Club International.
Collingwood Bros. have received prestigious awards from the Safari Club International, Wild Sheep Foundation, Northern Tourism of British Columbia and Guides and Outfitters Assn. of British Columbia. All awards are in recognition of professionalism in their field and dedication to the environment. A winter wolf predation wolf management plan is carried on during the winter months.