My second bear encounter was with my hunting buddies Jack and Bob and our native guides, Baptiste Dester and Scotty Greg. We were hunting deer, moose and rocky mountain goats. We had ridden from Baptiste’s’s ranch in the Tatla Lake region of the Chilcotin to Wheeler’s Bottom. We followed the course of the Klini-Klini River to the base of Pike’s Peak in the Coast Mountain Range. It was a tough ride and we had to swim the horses across the ford before the country opened up into Wheeler’s Bottom. It had been a stump ranch years ago but the swampy meadows along-side the river wouldn’t.
We set our tents close to the river and hobbled our horses in the pasture. As we cooked supper on a campfire, we heard what sounded like another horse galloping down the trail. It was moving fast as it approached us in the twilight. In the shooting flames of our fire we could see it was a large bear with a hump – a grizzly. He ran past in a flash.
The next day we each shot a moose. Bob shot a dry cow, I got a yearling and at twilight Jack shot a bull moose. As the light was fading, Jack decided to gut the animal, prop the abdominal cavity open and retrieve the animal with packhorses the next morning. The moose lay among willows and poplars on a high hummock. Jack blazed the trees close by and marked the spot in the bottomland.
The next morning at dawn Jack left to locate his moose. Bob and I retrieved the three packhorses to pack Jack’s moose out. We had named the nags Knothead One, Knothead Two and Knothead Three because they all tried to rub their loads off their backs. We placed the pack saddles on their backs, tightened the cinches and put bridles on them. Finally we followed the trail to the blazed trees. After about twenty minutes, we heard a shot close by. Knothead Three was really spooked and ran back to the pasture.
The other two horses were in frenzy but we managed to hold them by their bridles and quiet them down as we walked into the willow and poplar forest. Bob and I were entering a willow marsh when we spotted Jack sitting on a dry hummock about 100 yards away holding his bleeding foot in the air. There was no sign of “That big grizzly was after my gutted moose. He came at me like an express train.
I got one shot in, missed and dropped my rifle. Then I climbed this poplar as high as I could go. The bear tried to drag me out of the tree. Tore my laced boot from my right foot and clawed my foot and leg. He must have heard your horses coming and took off, thank I examined the foot. “Looks like you’ve torn out the extensor tendons to your toes and slashed the muscles of your leg. We’ll get a dressing on this and get you back to camp. We’ll use my white T-shirt for a dressing. I just put it on clean this morning.
“Where’s your moose?” asked Bob.
“That sob grizzly dragged that 1000 pound moose carcass about 100 yards and partially covered it with logs. He was feeding on it when I came into the open part here.
He must have been super strong to have dragged it so far.”
“We’ll get Scottie and Baptiste to pack your moose out while we have a good look at your foot in camp. Let’s get you up on this horse.”
It was a slow trip back to camp. I boiled gallons of river water on the Coleman stove and washed out, with soap and water, Jack’s lacerated foot. I gave him a couple of Frosst 292’s and four sulfa tablets from my medicine kit. I ground up some sulfa tablets between two spoons and sprinkled the wound with powdered sulfa. After about two hours of debriding the laceration with a new razor blade, I put on a large dressing of T shirt and an elastic bandage. The other men broke camp and loaded the pack animals for the emergency eight-hour trip back to Baptiste’s ranch.
I rode with Jack and held his foot up when we had to ford the Klini-Klini River on the way back. It was a five hour journey to the truck. With a Chevy pick-up full of moose meatand one stoic patient, we headed for the Lake. We stopped for a change of dressing and a shot of morphine at the Alexis Creek Hospital. We got Jack into the Williams lake War Memorial Hospital at midnight, an eight hour journey.
At the hospital I changed the dressings and gave Jack IV’s and more morphine, penicillin and streptomycin. Margie, the hospital cook came in and made us a huge supper of moose T-bone steaks in the wee hours of the morning.
The next morning Jack was still in pain and the foot and tendons were already infected and swollen. I arranged for Jack to be transferred to the large Royal Columbian hospital in New Westminster under the care of Dr. Billy Graham, a Royal City plastic.
The 1000 pounds of Bull Moose meat proved to be tough. We had it ground up with pork and into over 1000 pounds of moose burgers.