Straight Path on the Water

By Nick B.

My story began in November of 2018. Our family was going through some struggles as we had lost our grandfather, grandmother, cousin, and my uncle, John Boerboon, all within a short time. 

Uncle John had battled with cancer for the second time and was taken by his illness. I received a call from him just days before his passing. He wanted to make sure I knew that life would go on and that I needed to focus on what mattered most: family. He shared with me that he had asked my father, Steve, to look after his son, Mike. My father, was John’s older and only brother and being asked to do that meant a lot to my dad. I knew he would do his best by Mike. Uncle John was now asking the same of me, and it felt strange. Mike and I are six years apart in age, but I soon learned that this young man had just as much to teach me as I him. 

Although he had shown some slight interest while growing up, Mike wasn’t into hunting like I was. Then, during Uncle John’s celebration of life, Mike mentioned that he wanted to hunt but didn’t know where to start. I told him what his father had asked of us and that we would work it out.

A couple months later, Mike’s mom called as she was worried about him. I phoned Mike to check in and at the end of the conversation, reminded him of my oath and bluntly asked, “Do you want to go elk or moose hunting when you graduate?” This story and its images are Mike’s affirmative answer. 

The spring of 2019 saw me working for Krieghoff International. As a company, we were supporting the Guide Outfitters Association of BC (GOABC) and I came to support the event that Scott Ellis and his staff so expertly produced. We had a great time shooting rifles, telling lies, and eating good food. I very quickly saw the support the organization had and wanted to know how we could help more. At the Saturday evening dinner, I found myself seated next to Michael Schneider of Driftwood Valley Outfitters. He happened to be using a Krieghoff Semprio rifle…it may have felt like a set up. As Michael and I talked, I appreciated his honesty, and outlook on how conservation plays such a vital role in our tight-knit community. 

When I returned to Pennsylvania, I phoned my cousin Mike and my father, Steve, to say that I had found our outfitter. A few days later, I phoned Michael to talk hunt dates and our story of coming to British Columbia for the majestic moose began to unfold. 

Fast forward to the fall of 2021 – “The Hunt.” We drove from Minnesota to British Columbia in anticipation of having some meat to bring back. On the second day of the hunt, we found pay dirt. My guide, Scott Ellis and I came out of a bay across from camp and poked the canoe around the point to find a mature bull standing in the shallows. After 25 minutes of anxiously watching and waiting for him to present a shot opportunity, I was able to arrow the bull from the canoe at forty yards. 

That’s right, GOABC’s CEO Scott Ellis, guided his first archery bull moose on October 8, 2021 and I was his hunter. Although he may have been new to that side of guiding, Scott was a professional in every sense of the word. In fact, I later told him that if he decided to guide again, I wanted a heads up. I had enjoyed my time with him that much.

With my moose hanging on the meat pole, the rest of the week was going to be relaxing for me. I hung around camp, went along with my father and cousin when I wanted to, and simply enjoyed my time in beautiful British Columbia. 

Days 3-8 may have been seen as “unsuccessful” as there was no harvest, but we still had action. From Scott calling a bull within 100 yards of a tree stand for my dad and hearing the bull answer back but not show himself, to Scott and I putting Mike within 10 yards of a cow on shore with the canoe, and just seeing a lot of other moose as well, we had a good time, good food, and of course, told some good lies around the fire. 

All too soon it was the last evening of the hunt. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? My father Steve, Scott, and helper David Coombs (one of the Takla Lake apprentices in the Driftwood Outdoor Guide and Business Program) had just settled into the red canoe when someone said, “Bull on the other side of the lake.” Scott turned to Steve and asked, “Bow or rifle?”

“It’s the last night,” Steve replied. “Let’s be sure. Grab the rifle.”

Our entire party watched intensely from the dock, with binoculars trained on the red canoe as it closed distance on the bull. David was in the front of the boat, Steve in the middle, and Scott in the stern. Halfway across the lake, David did his best statue imitation with his paddle resting across the gunnels. We watched as the guys got within 75 yards before the young bull decided that he didn’t like what was approaching.

Suddenly, we heard thunder echo across the lake. My father’s moose was down! Although Michael had butchered my moose where it fell in the bullrushes and hummocks of the lakeshore, Scott had a different idea. Was it possible? Working together, the three guys tied the moose antlers to the back of the canoe and towed the bull back to the dock. Moose float!

As exciting as it was seeing and celebrating this feat, I noticed the look of ambivalence on cousin Mike’s face. Michael Schneider asked him whether he wanted to stay behind and help cut up Steve’s moose or go to the eastern bay with Tamara for one last hunt. Within minutes, Mike and Tamara had loaded into a canoe and were headed out. I felt a strange presence as I saw them leaving, one I hadn’t felt since hunting with Uncle John. It was almost as if he was standing right next to me. The clock was ticking and I watched the canoe disappear behind a rocky peninsula. Since nobody else besides Mike and Tamara saw what happened next, I’ll hand off the story telling to Mike to share from his perspective.

Mike: As Tammy and I were canoeing over to the eastern bay, I took a moment to appreciate all that was around us. The sun was setting, painting the lake and the sky a vivid pink, orange, and red. The beavers and muskrats along the shore were swimming and tending to their young. A light breeze passed across the valley, and small ripples surrounded us on the lake. The forest was thick, untouched for miles. It had been a phenomenal 10 days of living in God’s country, and even if I wasn’t going to get a moose, I was still thankful. This was the trip Dad and I had always talked about before he passed away. I thought of him taking me deer hunting for the first time at nine years old when I had shot a doe with a bow and arrow. The smiles on our faces while celebrating that accomplishment had said it all. As I remembered our fishing adventures in Ontario and northern Minnesota, the images of catching a 41-inch pike came rushing back. And of learning how to draw a bow, shoot a gun, and make a fire…Dad had taught me everything I knew about the outdoors. I knew we would not have been in this incredible place if it wasn’t for him. I looked down at the bow he’d bequeathed to me. It was a special time as Tammy and I sat in the canoe looking across the water. A cow moose was tending to her calf along the shoreline. Another cow was standing in the water feeding on aquatic vegetation. It was a peaceful evening. 

Suddenly we heard branches breaking, and the trees on top of the hill across the bay shook. Ruh, ruh, ruh, ruh. Our jaws dropped as we witnessed a mature bull moose emerge from the tree line. I heard a voice in the back of my head – it sounded like Dad. “There’s your moose.” Transfixed, I hadn’t even realized Tammy was slowly paddling toward the bull. He paused on the hilltop looking over his domain, then began making his way toward the cow and calf at the bottom. Tammy whispered, “Mike! Gun or bow?” There was only one answer to that question. 

“Bow.” 

“Good, I’ll slowly get us in close”. 

I nocked an arrow and brought the rangefinder to my eye. 300 yards. The moose continued walking down the hill. We continued our silent approach. 250 yards. The bull flirted with the cow accompanied by the calf. She had no interest though. 200 yards. The bull noticed the second cow on the shore, eating lakeside vegetation. He walked toward her. 150 yards. At this point the bull was behind several large pine trees, walking to his new girlfriend. She remained in the water. We couldn’t see the bull but we knew where he was going. 100 yards. We entered what I call a “moose ambush.” We couldn’t go back as the cow was several yards behind us. The other cow and calf were along the shoreline 50 yards to our left. The opening of the shoreline where the bull was heading was 40 yards in front of us. All four moose went about their business. We were invisible. 

The bull emerged from the pines and paused in the opening. My arrow was drawn, and my heart racing. He took a few steps toward the cow in the water. We were at the perfect broadside angle, and I aligned the 40-yard pin with a point behind the bull’s right shoulder. He looked to his right and for a moment the king of the forest and I locked eyes. 

THUD! The arrow had raced from my bow and penetrated the bull moose. He simply turned around and walked behind the brush. Tammy and I sat motionless, taking it all in, mindful that we were still in the “moose ambush” and needed to be completely quiet. It was now too late to attempt pursuit, so Tammy slowly moved us away from the shore. 

Once we were out of sight of the moose, we had a little canoe celebration. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been using lighted nocks, so hadn’t had a 100-percent view of where the arrow had hit. However, Tammy and I agreed it was an 8 in 10 chance that it had hit the vitals. We felt confident.

As our canoe drew close to camp, an idea came to me. “Hey Tammy, why don’t we tell them that all we saw were beavers and muskrats, no moose, and when I hand over my bow, it’ll be quiver side up, so they’ll see I shot something.” 

She laughed and replied, “That depends on how good your poker face is!” 

“It’s as good as it needs to be.” 

We paddled the rest of the way to the dock where I could see that Michael and the rest of our crew had made good work of cutting up Uncle Steve’s moose. 

“How was it!?” they asked, excited and hopeful. 

“Oh, not too bad,” I said casually. “We saw Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the muskrats, and a beautiful sunset, but no moose.” My cousin Nick took my bow, arrow side up, but didn’t notice the missing arrow. Tammy and I gave each other a look. Nick then handed the bow to Scott, also arrow side up, but he didn’t notice either. Tammy and I gave each other a silent grin. 

“So, Mike,” Scott asked me as I was unpacking the canoe, “was this a good trip?” 

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” I replied. “It was the trip my father always wanted to bring me on.” Scott smiled and I couldn’t take it anymore. 

“Hey Scott,” I asked, “can you do me a favor and count my arrows?” 

“Okay, well, you have one, two, three-…wait there’s only three arrows here!” 

Immediately the whole camp swarmed me, asking what happened. Did we shoot a bull? How big was it? Did I miss? 

“If my aim was true, the king of the forest is dead,” I declared. Then added with a grin, “And it’s bigger than Nick’s.” The whole camp went into an uproar, and everyone shook my hand.

That night at dinner, Tammy and I gave everyone the intel required to plan our mission to collect the moose the next day. Together we came up with a game plan, ate like kings, and tried to fall asleep. By then I was feeling like a five-year-old trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve!

Cousin Nick takes over the rest of this story.

Nick: The following morning, we ventured into the woods. The weather was calm – Uncle John had instilled a calmness on the lake like I had never seen. The moose were out and about. From watching my father harvest his Boone and Crockett bull across from camp, to sending Mike to the east end of the lake with Tamara just before dark, we’d made memories that would be with us forever. The icing on the cake was that Mike had successfully arrowed his first North American big game animal and it was a dandy. Seeing the joy spread across Mike’s face as we approached the bull summarized the trip in about ten seconds. I could see a transformation take place in my little cousin, and he was experiencing the cycle of hunting on a very large scale. 

With the help of the young men from the Takla First Nation, we spent the next six-to-seven hours handling Mike’s moose and getting him down the hill to the canoes. I had felt myself grow closer to these boys as the week had progressed, as I think we all had. They were young men trying to find their way in life and I applaud Michael for doing his part to help where he was able through his innovative guide apprenticeship program. I encourage other outfitters to do the same. We know the situations young men face daily, and we all need to remember that somewhere along the line, someone reached back and helped us all. Paying it forward isn’t done enough today. I hope that Jeremiah, Desmond, and David are in camp the next time I come to British Columbia. It just wouldn’t be the same without Slap, Tickle and Desmond. 

Ten days in camp, six days on the road, and a lifetime of memories gained. Three moose cleanly taken, two with a bow, and one with a rifle. It had been quite the trip! Words cannot fully describe the experience as Driftwood Valley Outfitters outdid itself. 

Successful hunts can often be misconstrued by others. To me, to my Uncle John…he taught me that “victory” isn’t the kill… it’s the making of memories and spending time with the ones close to you. He used to tell me, before going on an evening sit, that if you happen to be lucky enough to get close with a bow, then “don’t miss, kid.” I always laughed and said, “I have a lot of LOFT; if anyone can, I can, John.” (If you don’t know the meaning, call me!!) It is lessons like this that I hope I can pass onto Mike. I have been blessed to chase wild game in several countries and can freely admit that I remember more of the travel, and the fantastic scenery during the hunt than I do of the hunt itself. 

Michael, again, thank you and the team that made it possible. We are looking forward to coming back to hunt with your organization. 

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