Three-hundred feet below was the Frasier River-frozen in time with its 12 inches of ice covering the moving water as it made it way to the Pacific Ocean. As it flowed through the valleys, it looked like a giant Winter Olympic luge course snaking its way as far as you could see. We climbed back on our snow machines and headed where Steve had seen lynx tracks the day before.
Located in this pristine area of British Columbia, Canada, is a 640 acre ranch (1 square mile) which is just a part of the land owned by Steve Saunders and Roy Pattison, owners of Sentinel Mountain Safaris. With its abundance of wildlife, the lynx can often be seen overtaking a rabbit as it tries to outrun its predator. Off in the distance, covered in the fathoms of snow, the Rocky Mountains looked ethereal as they reached into the heavens above.
I have hunted many times over the years with Steve and Roy. If it’s predators you are after, this is one of the top spots in Canada to hunt. For cats, they offer both bobcat and lynx with a few cougar. For canines, it will be the plentiful coyotes and the overabundance of wolves with red, artic, and silver fox. Other animals will include wolverine, mink, and martin. Then in the fall, it will be elk, deer, and moose. Black bear and grizzlies can be hunted in the spring and fall.
In British Columbia, baiting for predators is allowed. It is one of the best ways of getting the pointed nose critters to come in. But, I also like to use the FoxPro electronic call. The past few years, I have taken more coyotes than I can keep count. This time I was going to try my skill calling in a lynx. Coyotes are rather simple to call in, but I have never tried cats.
We were off, gliding on the white snow that reminded me of clouds as we sailed in perfect harmony. Traveling at speeds of 20 to 25 miles per hour, it didn’t take long to cut lynx tracks. The lynx was making its way through the fields looking for a stray rabbit or vole that might have tunneled its way to the surface. Below us was 4 to 5 feet of snow. The fence posts on the ranch were covered over with snow, cluing us in as to how deep it was. Once stopped and dismounted, you would find yourself up to your waist in the white powder. This painted landscape of white and subtle shades of green, was the natural playground for the lynx. Overhead, on this cold clear day, the sun was sharp as it made shadows from anything that dare rise itself above the snow.
One of the most important things a hunter needs to know about Canada, is that you can hunt those animals we can’t hunt in the lower 48; like lynx, wolf, and wolverine. In January of this year, Steve and Roy had 5 hunters (including me) come up to hunt. Every hunter took home animals. Some took lynx, wolf, and fox. Some took just wolves and others took lynx and fox. Martin, mink, and coyotes were taken as well. Lynx, similar to bobcat, is well populated throughout Canada.
Lynx, with their large paws, can move across the deep snow with ease. Their tails are short with the tip being black in color. The fur is thick compared to the bobcat, with the lynx colors being yellowish brown with spots of brown and black. It will have black fur in places as well. The ears are tipped with tufts of long black fur. The fur on the lynx is thick and very soft to the touch.
Lynx are solitary carnivores and seem to be territorial. The home range of a female will overlap the range of a male. Adults will avoid each other except during the breeding season, which is in February and March. The lynx is mostly nocturnal, but can be enticed to come out during the day with the right varmint call. Steve said the best call to use is the rabbit-in-distress. He has used it on several successful occasions. Their diets consist mainly of rabbits. But they will also eat rodents, birds, and fish; and in the winter, they will feast on deer and other large ungulates left behind by a successful hunter.
As predators, the role of the lynx is important in regulating the populations of rabbits: most commonly the snowshoe hares. When the population of rabbits dwindles, so will the population of the lynx. It will usually take around nine years for the cycle to reverse to where there will be more rabbits, resulting in an increase in the lynx population. The greatest pressure on populations of lynx remains the size of hare populations, not hunters and trappers.
After taking a lynx in Canada, you will need to complete a CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit before transporting it into the United States.
Winter hunting around Bear Lake in British Columbia is a unique experience with its own challenging appeal. While hunting during the winters, it is not unusual for the temp to drop down to 40 below. My feet would always get cold hunting in this cold brutal weather over the years, sometimes to the point where I would need to get in out of the weather and warm up. I have tried different types, styles and makes of cold weather boots with no good results. This year, before heading to my favorite hunting winter wonderland, I made a trip to LaCrosse/Danner boots in Portland, Oregon. After speaking with the director of marketing, Bryan Finke, I decided I would try the LaCrosse Alpha insulated boot with a removable 9mm wool felt liner.
With the winter weather getting cold in British Columbia, hunting attire will be the most important thing hunters need to take with them. Not only a good pair of boots, but insulated clothing as well. It is also good idea to take along clothing that is white, or has a lot of white mixed in so you will blend in with your surroundings. Dressing in layers is important; as you warm up, you will have the availability to remove layers as required.
After cutting the lynx tracks, we looked for a good place to set-up. The fields were covered in snow with patches of trees running through at different locations. I set up next to a large round hay bail. Steve took the snow-machine about 300 yards to my right, helping to keep his scent out of the area. A light breeze was blowing downwind from where the lynx had entered the bush. As Steve made his way up hill to where several round hay bails were located, I placed the FoxPro call upwind of my location at about 25 yards. This would hopefully put any predators coming in to the call on a collision course with me.
I was hoping if a lynx came in, it would do as the pointed nose coyote does and circle downwind trying to pick up a scent from the rabbit in distress. Patience and persistence would be the command of the day.
Before doing any calling, I took out my Leupold binoculars and scanned the area, slowly doing a 360. If a cat was to come in, I knew it would be clandestine. I found Steve through my binoculars, and he gave me the signal that he was ready. I turned on the FoxPro call and let it run for 90 seconds using a jackrabbit-in-distress. When calling for coyotes, you should turn the call on for 8 to 10 seconds and wait for 10 minutes before calling again. This way, you can let the coyote hunt you.
I waited: slowly I would bring up my binoculars and scan the area from side to side. Moving slowly would be the key to not startling a cat if it was to come in. To my left was a rise in the snow, so I paid close attention to it; if a predator was to use that route; it would be on top of me before I saw it. The spot where the lynx entered to bush was to my front at around 75 yards.
After the third time calling, I was beginning to think we should move to another location. However, like hunting coyotes, you will need to wait for at least 10 minutes before moving after the last calling session.
I looked down at my watch and saw we had been at this location for close to 40 minutes. I was thinking that after waiting the 10 minutes, we would move further upwind about ½ mile and try calling again.
Slowly, I began to do a 360 turn. I immediately froze as I could see a lynx’s head rising above the snow less than 15 yards downwind of me. It had come in just beyond the rise in the snow that blocked its movements. Its eyes were locked on me. I couldn’t move or even blink, but I knew I would need to move before the cat bounded off. Slowly, I lifted my Remington 22-250 mounted with a Leupold VX-L scope. Placing the crosshairs on target, I slowly squeezed the trigger sending a Black Hills 50-grain slug on its way. The snow muffled the shot as the cat jumped nearly six feet into the air. The hunt was over, as the cat lay motionless on the deep snow. I thought this was easy, but I knew better; we just get lucky sometimes.
Again, I had the insatiable desire for more. I was immortalized from this winter experience that will be forever etched in my memory bank of hunting adventures. These were some of the wonderful examples of the rich culture of British Columbia in the bionetwork between man and predators.
I smiled as I looked into the crepuscular sky, thanking the Lord for putting me on earth in this time of history. For the first time hunting in British Columbia during the cold brutal winter, I had warm feet. In the five-day hunt, I took two lynx and three coyotes. This is a typical hunt, hunting with Sentinel Mountain Safari’s.
If you would like to take a predator or two during a winter trap-line adventure, call Steve or Roy at 250-965-7788 or check them out on line at www.sentinelmountainsafaris.com