Hunting with the Kings

I have been enjoying a nice visit with Johnny and he is interested in recording some of the old hunting and fishing stories. I’m not very good at narrating things. I should record some of them. So, we’ll try one.

This one is about a bighorn sheep hunt; a hunt for a trophy ram up in the Vaseux Lake area. It was about 1972. It started out when I was involved with the Fairview Mountain Golf Club. We needed a groundskeeper there, or somebody to keep an eye on things. Conditions at the club were quite primitive in those days. We had sand greens and $1.00 green fees and the honour system. An old gentleman came along by the name of Fred King from Victoria. He enjoyed golf. He and his wife had a Volkswagen van they were living in. They quite enjoyed the Okanagan, so they came up and camped and he said he would stay a while and collect green fees and putt around the greens and that sort of thing. So I got to know him quite well.

He befriended, a character who was living up in the hills. A fellow by the name of Lepine. He was starting trouble down in the orchards. He’d stolen a truck and was living up in the hills on Tin Horn Creek. He came down to the golf course occasionally and Fred didn’t know about the trouble. He felt sorry for him, and gave him clothes and a little grub once in a while. Fred was good to him. However he began to get a little leery. One day Lepine came into the clubhouse said, “what are the bars on the windows for?” and he asked if Fred had a phone. Fred began to get a little suspicious. I was president of the Club at that time and kept in close touch with Fred. One day Fred phoned my wife Margie and led her to believe that he wanted me to come up there right away. This fellow was there with him. I went up and I could see Fred was nervous and I didn’t know what to make of it. I said, well the best thing to do is, “we’ll go and see if we can find this man a job. We’ll go downtown and see the employment office”. So Fred took him down and I followed him in the car. Fred figured I saved his life that day.

We were living up on the foothills orchard at that time.Lepine was seen around our orchard a couple of times. One night I was out to a lodge meeting and Margie had the door locked and this fellow came to the door…she heard him outside and the dog growled and barked and sounded very ferocious and he fell over some boxes outside and took off. Margie went and got into bed of all things. I told her for goodness sakes why didn’t you phone someone for help.

A couple of days later Lepine went over to a neighbouring orchard. It was the orchard of Harold Potter. Harold’s son and another man were out changing sprinklers. He took them at gunpoint with a gun he’d stolen. He made them drive over to the Kettle River country, where he shot the Potter boy and his helper and went up the Kettle Valley. Then he shot two or three other people who were picking wild berries. It was quite a manhunt. Eventually they got him and he’s still in jail. He applied for parole a couple of times, but Bob Potter, the father, watches the case pretty closely.

Anyway, as I say, I got to know Fred and the next thing I knew his two sons, Dennis and Donald, came up to visit him. They were golfers and enjoyed playing golf on the old Fairview course. I got to know them well. They were both from the Sooke area and they asked me to go down. I was interested in fishing and they both had nice boats, so I’d go down there to fish and stay with them and we became good friends. They were great hunters too and had hunted a lot in the North Country and they wanted to go sheep hunting. So I said let’s go and I’ll be your unofficial guide. They made plans and brought up a big truck. They also brought two horses and a donkey, plus hay and a big grub box. They let me know when they were coming and I got ready and so away we went, way back into the mountains, up past the lake on the north fork of McIntyre Creek. It was the opening of the season, and we put our tents up beside the creek. It was cold, but we used hay for a mattress and I built a big fire and heated rocks on the campfire and popped them into the tent and so we slept quite comfortably net result of it was that the boys each got a nice legal ram. We butchered the rams, barbecued a bunch of ribs and were sitting there when some big shot hunters came along with their tongues hanging out. There were several guides around, with American clients, and we really showed them how. When we came out with the truck and the horses I got a picture of the horse’s heads showing over the truck rack and of the rams’ trophy horns on each corner of the truck, and other hunters all had their mouths open looking at us. The boys had the heads mounted and took them back to Victoria and so that was our bighorn sheep expedition.

We had a little difficulty finding one of the sheep. We went back to get it the next day. There were a lot of slides and pretty steep rough country. While we were standing around deciding where the sheep was we could see a bird coming toward us through an opening in the trees. It was a vulture with a chunk of meat in its mouth and coming straight towards us. So we found the sheep. I think it was the first time I’d seen a vulture in this country. I’ve seen them from time to time since.

We’ve had several nice salmon fishing trips since then… down at the coast.  We went on a trip to Nitinat Lake, up the west coast. And we’ve had several good trips around Sooke.

Dennis King quite liked this country. He discovered a remote trapper’s cabin and liked it so much that he made inquiries and found out who owned it and bought the cabin. When he bought the cabin he found he had to buy the trap line to go with it. So he fixed the cabin up. He has given me a key to his cabin in the mountains. So that’s the end of the bighorn sheep story.

I forgot to mention that Vaseux Lake area is noted for its unique brand of California bighorn sheep and you can see them from the road there quite often. I lived at Vaseux for 14 years, and became the official exterminator for sheep run over on Highway 97. In bad winters, sometimes 3or 4 were run over and I’d have to finish them off if they were hit and critically hurt.

It’s one thing to see sheep here, but when you want to hunt a bighorn sheep, a ram, it’s a different story. There are about 1 in 25 hunters that actually get a trophy ram. The ramSheep heads range far back in the mountains, known as bighorn heaven. The rams get together and leave the ewes after the breeding season. It is nature’s way of cutting down the stress. The rams head for the high country. They don’t normally stay with the ewes until rutting season in the fall.

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