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Elkhounds VS Wolves Centuries Old

The Grey Ghost Of The Forest Hunts Me

The First Nations people of Alberta call the big Grey's, the Grey Ghost, known to hunt them. The Grey Wolf or Timberwolf as we here in Northern Canada call him is the largest of his kind. There are no bigger wolves in the world than those running in Alberta up from Banff through up Jasper and North.

They are the top of the food chain - there is nothing that hunts them!

Now as you know, I like to hike in my native land, I was raised in a logging family, spent my childhood as a little tiny rascal out in the bush on weekends at the logging site, wandering the forest, a mighty marksman at 10 years old with my trusty 22 single shot rifle. So hiking around has always played a part in my life, I worked the remote regions all my life, I enjoy this part of the world.

As you hike in these regions you always try to take precautions, quite frankly there are a few things you don't actually want to have happen, basically right at the top of that list it should start with: don't get hunted by Wolves, followed by don't get hunted by Grizzlies, or reverse the order if you prefer, but me, I would start with wolves.

Well Crap, wouldn't you guess it, I got hunted, big time. I am talking scared the crap right out of me. Still spooked for sure.

So, let me begin. It all started with a wedding next door, there was going to be lots of people and a big fun time, so I thought, well I best take the two big fellas and head out west, that way, they won't be worried about all the noise and fun.

It was a wet rainy beginning to the day, so I wore my rain boots and hat and packed my slicker - this is going to play a factor.

Both Top Left Images are of Takoda and Jaeager - I took Jaegar and Takoda - it proved to be a great choice to take those two as you'll soon agree.

This is the view from our plateau point where we had a snack and cooled off

When it comes to just peace and quiet, not much compares to sitting way up here on a quiet day, not too much wind right now as you can see, it's pretty calm, this is a pretty cool view I can look for miles from left to right, and then straight out through a range as well, I'll miss coming back up here. As you can see from the photo directly below and to the left Takoda he likes this spot as well.

High Plateau Snack Break and some photos

I decided to go to an area that I like, but take a different section of the logging area, going to a higher region to the North West section, a clear cut area that is fairly rough to cross, but once across you can climb up on some easier going and then once on the plateau you can view wide ranges, really neat. I could walk for miles on this plateau.

After we had been around the area for a while we climbed up to the plateau and there was nothing the dogs were alerted to the entire time. We were just having a good day. It warmed up, sun came out, nice time. I had packed in my tripod today, so I set it up and we got some nice shots with the timer.

I had a snack and we had some water, cooled down and decided to mosey back down and range around through the west side of the clear cut. As we got down from the plateau the west side forest closes in. I am basically going to walk across a large rough clear cut range along side the forest to the skid trail, then travel back east to my main trail.

Almost as we approached the forest the boys I could tell, they caught wind of something. Now the wind was coming up from behind us, so the big fellas, they don't like that much, so lot's of circling and air scenting. Me, I don't fool around too much once they catch wind, I get traveling out to some open spots. So I made my way back out away from the forest a bit.

Eventually they decided to circle back and into the bush. They were pretty worked up by now. So, I was going to put some distance between what they felt was troubling them.

I knew they would most likely catch up pretty fast, this was some rough going for me, lot's of holes and such, you step way down, then up, a log, a stump, this trail was not one of my best selections. About 25 minutes across and then I came to a skid trail I could cruise on pretty good, it circles around on a ridge and I could look down toward my next phase of crossing.

So before I started down I felt the urge to get the boys to come. So I gave a few good calls and whistles, a while back I had heard a few barks, but nothing steady. I waited a bit, 10 to 15 minutes gave a few more calls and whistles, I was a bit uneasy as the wind was carrying my voice the opposite way from them.

First Spotted The Big Grey Wolf Directly in front of me - he was trying to locate me

I was looking south toward where I was heading and something caught my eye, now I had my glasses and I knew immediately, Wolf. Now, let it be known I can cuss and swear like nobody you have heard, and wow did I start cussing. I won't use that same explicit language here but when I say, holy crap, that's not really what I said.

When I say, I am in it deep, it's not the whole truth either. I was in deep ...

He had heard me, he hadn't 100% located me yet...I slowly got my camera out, I took the first photo then I zoomed a little bit, looked in and he was staring right at me, scared the crap out of me, that look did, he located me alright. I looked up over the camera and watched him he was staring me down, then I looked back to the camera and took one more photo. Now I said, where in the sam heck are those two nice dogs of mine? Well, it was a fine predicament for a fact. Again, not the exact same vocabulary.

I have seen wolves on hikes over the years, always from a distance, and for the most part always moving somewhere, not standing right in front of me trying to locate me, this was pretty unnerving, I could see he was looking for me. I had to make a fairly fast decision, not much thought went into it, other than, I need those boys. So, I grabbed my pack and decided I better make a run back toward them, but ease out of here so he doesn't see me retreat as such, ya right. I started to ease out, and sure enough, crap again, he is going to track me. Well, as much as I don't like to retreat, I didn't much have choice, he wasn't the least bit scared of me, not even remotely, so I moved off, found some cover, and then started to cover some ground.

Oh he located me alright, I am staring at him through my camera lens - he is staring right back - a chill went down my spine

Now, that Bolt dude, we all know he is fast, most likely fastest man in recorded history, but friends, on this day, in this terrain, carrying this pack, in mud boots, he wouldn't have held a candle to me. I was cruising for a fact. My fat ass was hustling as they say.

As I was getting close to where I had last heard the boys, keep in mind this is back further from the truck, further to the forest, more remote, I am like, crap where are those sons of bitches. Now you know why they call female dogs what they do, so that you can use that phrase in times of need like this, one of the few times that phrase actually applies. Well, as luck would have it, they have their hands full, those boys are getting circled on the other side, sheeeit. I get to a bit of a high spot and scream like a banshee, hoping they will release and come. Years of come here training paying off big time today - recall genetics another big factor, way to go Takoda.

Sure enough, here they come, wound up like a Swiss watch, hair up the entire back. I need these boys to work with me - they need to work with me close. I can't have them working out at distance or ranging we need to stick close together and work our way back. This is not the time for individual efforts, threats are identified, I know what they are, I need these boys right in close so we can all work together. I will have to get my hands bloody for sure as well. Sheeit I wish I had my gloves.

I tie them together so that I can control both with one hand, yet still release them both fast if it comes to it. Just no sooner get them tied together and right in front of us, this big Grey comes out. Sheeeit! Stops and stares at us head down. Tracked me the whole way, Spooky! Came out right on my trail, Crap. This boy is way past curious, he is hunting, I am lunch today.

He is looking for his pals - I am pretty sure he knows the direction of my big fellas as well.

Now my two boys are some serious fellas, make no mistake they hate this guy. My dogs are of a small select few breeds that don't fear wolves, almost all other breeds do, not the old Swedish Grey's that line up Takoda's Lineage, and Jaegar, he is his dads boy, for a fact, nope, they would love to tie into this ghost of the forest. However this big fella, he don't flinch. I am screaming at him, I am swinging my seasoned thumper, he could give a care. I know for a fact a thumper is useless now, I need a spear for close quarters. This big wolf, he was pretty confident one of the three of us was his next feast.

Takoda he knows we have more company coming, Jaegar he can tell as well, Wolves, they don't like dogs, they are major territorial, you get caught in a pack crosshair, your in it. Deep. Now my two boys, combined, they are going to give this one guy a mighty hard time, but quite frankly, no one is probably going home. My best guess was this guy was about 110 lbs maybe 120lbs he could have been even heavier, it's hard to guage they are so long, so deep in the chest, big boned, huge head, way taller and longer than my boys, he would have some nasty bite strength. This is Canada's most lethal killer. I thought we need to get gone before he gets help, which we all knew was right handy. Wolves rarely travel alone, the odds were extremely high what the boys found were scenting back behind us was his pal or pals.

I have to go right where this guy is standing, I can't stay in the denser bush, it's clear where he is, we have to move forward. I take the two forward, they friggin want to go anyway, so I am not doing anything but trying to hang onto them, good thing I have tons of power in my hands yet, as they would seriously have ripped that rope out if I handn't, then it would have been messy. Make no mistake my boys wanted a piece of this fella, they did not like him one bit. There was a ton of snarling from my side, not a sound from his side, it's like he was suggesting, yeh big talk you two/three.

The big Grey decides to move to the side, not from fear, his head was locked on us, he wasn't worried one bit, but, Wolves prefer to attack when you are running away, they don't like head on. Not that he was scared of us at all, but it's just the instinctive behaviour of wolves, you can bet more money on moving them off by head on than trying to circle around them. Always remember that if possible to remember anything at that time.

I took this photo about 10 days before at the same range - about a mile East

So we are now going by where he stepped out of sight, the dogs know exactly where he is, I can't see him, but I know full well where he is by Takoda and Jaegar. They also know something is coming up the right side now. I can't see it. Sheeit. It's a great thing I have raunchy big boys - lesser dogs he wouldn't have moved off, guaranteed.

We keep fairly brisk movement, it's tough going as they are pretty much trying to go around and around me, hard not to get tangled, pack is heavy, I am stumbling in and out of the holes, good gracious - not exactly the language I used, but you know what I mean. I am pretty much twisting my head 360 degrees - not the day to have a tripod, my heavy pack, mud boots, go figure who said to wear those?

Finally we get to the skid trail again, back where I first saw him. The boys haven't stopped growling now for like 20 minutes. I am completely soaked with sweat! Tons of adrenaline yet though. Now we can hustle, I pick up the pace as best I can, the boys quit circling me now, and run beside me, temperature is coming back down. I can see the truck, basically we keep motoring right to it. No problem. Big fun time!!!

Ashten was out with me 10 days before to the same location - probably wouldn't have been such a fun time for her to meet the Big Grey - considering we just watched that movie "The Grey" not too long ago!

Lessons Learned

No matter how much you scout an area - and I scout all the time I am out, I look for sign of bear, or wolf or cougar, if I find it in abundance I leave. I don't want to run into them, or have my dogs run into them. It's impossible not to come across wolf tracks as they pass through, but there is a difference in a whole bunch of tracks versus one set one time in many miles of hiking. I try to hike where I don't believe they are. Still, be prepared, I was and yet I wasn't. The reason I liked this area is it's still east enough not to have the Bighorn Sheep, it's high enough not to have Moose, it's not quite open enough for Elk, there are deer, but they pretty much are everywhere, it has quite a bit of high ground where I can sit and watch for movement. I am able to see tracks readily, there is enough trail to spot the track. This was in my opinion a pretty good area, I believe it was more or less just an extension of the range these wolves had now, I don't believe they normally had been cruising through here. However once you find they are there, it's simple. Leave, let them be, find a new place to go. It's thier home, they belong there, I was just visiting, I wore out my welcome.I pack out what I pack in, I travel with little trail, no sign of crossing, I don't like to disturb. I am there for enjoyment, quiet, solitude. Not to make trouble for the wild life.I have great respect for the wolf, I like wolves, I sure don't agree with hunting wolves, or snaring, poison, crap like that, make no mistake I am dead set against any of that behaviour. I don't hike off the icefields parkway for great reason, it's major wolf country.I don't want to disturb them, or meet them. I am not a thrill seeker looking to film wolves, or bear or cougar.

Now we all know that the risk for having a wolf come into your yard depending on where you live is still possible, my nephew as most of you know, a well known guide and outdoorsmen, they run an adventure camp, I can't remember if I told that story, but no matter a few years back the wolves came down and well, one dead dog, one escaped, a big old Miramar named Polar made it through. So it's not just out west, we have wolves in all parts of Canada. Last couple winters I have had a big fella cruise up behind our place as well, for the most part we need to co-exist, not just eradicate the wolf.

I still plan on hiking the west country, we just need to move a bit, no problem.

Gear - well my gear was a nightmare - a pack is just a pack when you can stop when you like, take your time, plan your course, see your steps. Once you have to hoof it, well then a pack is a major issue. No wonder they handicap fast horses. I need a much lighter pack to start with.

The straps and all were good, no issues that way, just too friggin heavy. The gear I had inside was too heavy. The camera bag has to go. From now on, just camera. No other items. Most likely last time for the tripod, I'll use a stump or rock. Rain gear, that became quite the issue, much too hot and heavy. I need new rain gear, breathable rain gear, that's light.

This is a trip 10 days before Ashten and I took with Jaegar and Takoda

I have a whole plan for my walking stick design, no longer will it be just a stick, it will have a removable end cap that covers a spear. I'll design some kind of screw on end cap for all day hiking yet can spin off and uncover a spear, or have a spear that folds down or something. Swing a stick is useless in close quarters, I should have known that, I have been in many dog fights.

In dog fights you can step right in, you can be among them but if you were to bat a dog with a stick the odds are extremely high you hit the wrong dog as they are spinning around and moving around so much, I should have known this. I will get a spear. Besides a spear would have been way better for me on my own, if I hadn't made it back to the dogs, much better than a club.

That leads me to gloves - I didn't have mine. I know for years I can step in on fights with gloves and have little to no damage if I am fast enough, and watch what I am doing. I can grab a scruff and lift the front feet, I pretty much have it my way from then on. I can pretty much control anything up to 120 lbs of snarling madness if the front feet are off the ground. As long as I don't get bit in the hands first. That really hurts and pretty much ends the attack and advantage for me.

I need to pack my gloves all the time. I knew I was going to have to wade into the mix here if Takoda and Jaegar were going to administer a death grip to this guy, I would have to help.

I knew he was much taller than them, he would be coming down from the top, almost all wolf attacks on dogs, the dogs neck at the top of his head is ripped out, not from the bottom.

I could seriously help them, he would get a grip, I could then take the scruff and lift up, whichever dog was free would take a death grip for a fact, I could choke him out if it came to it, but, I needed my gloves, the odds of me getting my hands bit before I could catch him would be extremely high. I would have been much happier having my gloves. A bite in the arm, the leg, these are still absolutely a problem, but at all costs you need to be sure you don't get bit in the hands. As long as you can grip the scruff you can control, and my boys will do the rest, they will immediately go for a death grip, instantly, it's not a question, they won't spend time ripping his butt out, they will come right into his throat, you just need to have him held for a second. Takoda he don't let go once he has a death grip, he can kill, he is precise, he can come within millimeters of my hands. Jaegar I knew, he would be just as accurate. My boys can scrap.

So gloves in the pack.

Wind Direction - I got complacent, I know from years of hunting I should have paid attention to the wind, that big Grey circled down wind from me, I was blowing right toward him. I have to sort that out a bit, but I think for the time being if I am going to be working with the wind, basically if the wind is at my back, I will leash the boys. Wind, Back, Leash. At least for now that's the plan.

Exit plans - I have to study my exit plans a bit more in detail - this particular situation left me with no exit plan, the big Grey wanted to be on the downwind side, control my movements basically, and for the most part forced me back toward his pals. I sure did not want him between me and the dogs, so I had to keep him on the outer circle, I had no choice but to backtrack. I have to think about that a bit. Wind, Back, Leash would have helped, we would have met him same place as I did but we would have had a much better chance there, than back where I ended up getting tracked back to.

Stamina - it's a great thing I am still pretty good shape, but, we all know from the photos, I need to drop some extra condition. It's okay if it's liesure hiking, but extreme sprints in those conditions, I have to drop 15 maybe 20 lbs. Good thing I juice, eat healthy, take vitamins, etc. but still that's a lot of wieght I was cruising across the old clear cut with, must have been 260lbs in total, gear and me, mud boots and all, maybe more. I need to cut that back into the 220 range.

Dogs - well, all I can say is I had the right dogs, there was not one thing I would have improved upon there. These boys are stellar. Let's face it, they saved my life this time round, no doubt about it. They were ready to do what was required, there is no flight or fight with these boys, it's all fight. They had a handful in the back, they knew a real threat was there, the sheer fact that there was multiple big Grey's, well, nothing they did wrong.

They backed me up and through that big Grey, the old warriors from centuries past would be looking down on these boys with pride, lot's of great things flowing to them for sure.