Outfitter Report – Babine Guide Outfitters
In our family we have a “tradition” of sorts. That is if two occurrences qualify as a tradition. To clarify, there have only been two occurrences because I only have two sons and this “tradition” was a father/son graduation trip of the son’s choosing. If only my wife and I had mustered up the nerve to have a few more offspring, this tradition could still be rolling along with me as the beneficiary of more wife approved bonding trips. Oh well, it is truly a little late for that but maybe someday I can talk my way into a similar arrangement with my Grandkids.
Rollback to December 2012. When I first approached my youngest son Sam and mentioned the graduation trip, I fully expected the family fisherman to choose a fishing trip to Islamorada or somewhere similar. His response was not at all what I expected, not even close. At that moment, my mission was defined and I was suddenly, unexpectedly in the market for a Black Bear hunt. Secretly elated, off I went to begin the research on spot and stalk Black Bear opportunities for Spring of 2013.
I looked at outfitters on Vancouver Island, in Alaska and Idaho and every single one looked promising but I just couldn’t settle in on one.
Then I found Jack and Lloyd Hooper’s operation in Northern BC. They are second generation outfitters operating under the name of Babine Guide Outfitters. I was immediately comfortable speaking with Jack and after a little more research, a few phone calls and a bit of reference checking, our trip was booked for the first week of June, 2013.
The next few months were spent in preparation and anticipation as time flew by and then suddenly, with diploma in hand, we were off to the beautiful mountains of Northern British Columbia and away from cell phones and technology for few days of quality time.
It is quite a long trip from Chattanooga, TN to Babine Lake, BC but we survived and thrived with the excitement building steadily. After an overnight in Vancouver, we caught an early AM flight to Smithers where we were met by Jack Hooper and driven 90 minutes to the lodge through breathtakingly beautiful country that is also the hunting area. Babine Guide Outfitters controls a hunting area that is a staggering 6500 square miles of provincial land and is absolutely loaded with Black Bears, Moose, Mountain Goats, Wolves and very substantial population of Grizzly Bears just to keep you on your toes.
I will take this opportunity to mention that we did actually get one stalk on a very big bear during the drive to camp. I spotted him in a roadside clear-cut and we quickly unpacked my bow and made a move even though my plan was for Sam to get the first opportunity. As luck would have it, his rifle was already in camp and my bow was the only alternative. To cut to the chase, when we worked our way up to the clear-cut, Mr. big bear was gone so my plan for Sam to go first was still in tact. Needless to say, our excitement level was just ramped up a notch or two. I even accused Jack of staging the whole thing just to get us into the game more quickly.
The next 30 minutes of the drive flew by as we discussed the game plan and visualized the possibilities. We were really ready to roll as we arrived at our home away from home for the next 8 days.Their base of operations is a spectacular place called Tukii Lodge and sits on the shores of largely undeveloped, 115 mile long, Babine Lake.
We took some time to get settled in, all the while looking forward to getting out for the evening hunt. This time of the year in the far North, the days are long and we would have hunting light until almost 11:00PM. We intended to use every minute of it if necessary. Black Bear hunting here is spot and stalk only and is accomplished by driving logging roads, glassing mountainside clear-cuts and even cruising and glassing the shorelines of the enormous Babine Lake and there was seemingly unlimited territory to explore.
The first evening we were to hunt with Jack’s brother, Lloyd and this time produced several sightings of Moose and Black Bears. One of the bears appeared to be a shooter and we made a long stalk in an attempt to confirm but ultimately he gave us the slip and we headed back to the truck feeling none the worse for wear. As the sun finally set, we reflected on what an amazing day we had enjoyed even though we had not even fired a shot.
The next morning, I made my way down to the main lodge from our cabin as day two dawned over the lake. It was a spectacular morning already and it got even better as I was greeted along the lakeshore by the enormous Beaver that frequents the lodge lawn. He seemed unconcerned by my approach and I almost believe I could have touched him but then I remembered the Russian fisherman that had recently been killed by a Beaver bite during an ill-fated attempt at a close up photo. At least that incident could be blamed on the fact that the fisherman was intoxicated. I had no such excuse so I kept my distance.
At breakfast, Sam and I were introduced to our guide for the balance of the week, twenty-four year old Rick Ewald. Now I would not be telling the whole truth if I didn’t admit that his youth concerned me initially. Now, in hindsight, I wouldn’t hunt with anyone else on a return trip to Babine. This is not meant to be an indictment of any of the other guides, rather a resounding endorsement for Rick.
Over the next three days, we spent 16 hours a day in pursuit of an opportunity at a shooter bear for Sam all the while enjoying the beautiful scenery with abundant Moose and Black Bear sightings. We even got the privilege of seeing a momma Grizzly and two cubs crossing a clear-cut. It was tough and long hunting. No chip shots here, at least for us to this point.
On the morning of day four, we changed our game plan and took the boat 45 minutes across the lake to a new hunting area.
After completing the lake crossing, we set out in the truck that is kept on that side. Fresh bear sign was everywhere and we covered countless miles in the truck and on foot. Still no luck. But as is the case many times, it only takes a second for your luck to turn. At 3:45 in the afternoon, we spotted a shooter in a pasture feeding on the sweet spring grass and made a move. Sam was in shooting position in short order and one well placed round from his .300 Win Mag left us with a short and easy recovery of his very first Black Bear.
Feeling renewed and refreshed by our good fortune, we loaded the bear in the truck and eventually on the boat and headed back to the lodge arriving there at 8:45PM where Jack met us with congratulations and a strong suggestion that we go back out as we still had a couple of hours of shooting light left. When I booked this hunt, I arranged for Sam to have two bears tags and a wolf tag and I purchased one bear tag for myself so naturally I encouraged Sam to go back out as Jack had suggestion. I quickly realized he was ready for a break after five long days of travel and hunting so I didn’t push the issue when he decided he would rather stay in and watch some basketball in the lodge and catch up on his world back home on the WiFi network. However, with that decision made, I quickly grabbed my Mathews Chill and climbed back in the truck with Rick. We were burning daylight.
We decided to go glass an enormous clear-cut that was only about a 15 minute drive from the lodge. It is actually a wolf hotspot in the Winter but historically has not been the best for bears even though I thought it looked promising every time we had driven past on previous days. I guess we would see if my hunch was right.
As the sun set and we worked our glass into the far corners of the cut, Rick spotted what appeared to be a shooter we checked the wind and bailed out of the truck quickly to make the stalk. The bear was headed for a narrow logging road cut between two swamps connecting two different clear-cuts and we hustled to get there and get set up ahead of his arrival. As we settled in, we lost sight of the bear for a brief period of time as he crossed a low-lying spot in the cut. Mental checklist time, wind direction = good, rangefinder = present, arrow nocked = check. No worries so far. As the bear emerged from the bottom back up onto the road bed, much to our surprise, a bigger bear was closely following the first one. This just got even more interesting. It was now evident that the from bear was a large sow and her larger companion was the shooter boar we were looking to find.
At this point, my impatience was beginning to get the best of me as they were taking their time working up the roadbed. Rick was the picture of competence and confidence, encouraging me to wait and let it play out. Had he not been there, I likely would have pushed forward and potentially blown the deal. With his patient direction, I waited and was eventually presented with a perfect 22 yard broadside shot on the battle-scarred old boar after the sow had passed by at only 18 yards. The perfect setup produced the perfect opportunity and fortunately, the shot was a slam dunk.
To see the video of the stalk, shot and recovery click HERE.
By this time it was 10:40 PM and darkness was falling quickly. After a brief (but probably too quick) blood trailing effort into the swamp and a close encounter with my wounded but not completely expired bear, judgement became the better part of valor and the decision was made to back out and return at daylight. Also, I don’t know if Rick considered the fact that this was Grizzly country when we discussed calling it off until morning but I certainly did and made no effort to convince myself or him otherwise.
After a long sleepless night, along with Sam and Jack, we returned to pick up the trail and found my bear within 30 yards of where we had left off the previous night. A perfect ending to a perfect stalk. Congratulations were shared and many pictures taken as we fought the mosquitos that were attempting to eat us alive.
After a physically challenging recovery and a few more pictures, the balance of day 5 was spent fishing and relaxing. All the pressure was off but we did still have one more bear tag for Sam.
Our day 6 hunt started early and ended quickly with Sam taking a beautiful boar with a unique, white, bow-tie on his chest in the very first clear-cut we glassed. Sometimes things are just easier when the pressure is off.
He also picked up another souvenir in the process of taking this bear.
The hunt was done. 100% successful on the bears. 1,000,000% successful as father and son quality time.
In the end, it turned into a fishing trip after all as we spent the remainder of our time relaxing and catching Rainbow Trout in small, secluded lake.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I would highly recommend Babine Guide Outfitters. Jack, Lloyd and the crew know what they are doing in every aspect. Great lodging, big, beautiful country and LOTS of bears, moose and goats. They also run a trapping operation in the winter and if a wolf is on your hit list, there is likely no better place than here to check that off.
To explore the possibilities, you can reach Jack Hooper at http://www.babineguides.com
Tell them Eddie and Sam from Guide Boss sent you. Who knows, maybe we will see you up there.