In November 1979, there was snow on the ground. I decided to take an afternoon hunt in the Black Creek and Miller Creek areas of the power line west of the farms in Black Creek, anticipating putting some venison in the freezer. The only access was down the power line off the back end of Merville. There was no highway through and there were good stands of second growth timber, nice alder bottoms, plus some nice-sized swamps.
When I hooked up to the trail that ran along the hydro right of way, I encountered 10 to 12 inches of snow. I was in a 4×4 and my destination was two miles off the end of Railway Avenue where a trail hooked up to the power line. I parked just off the hydro right of way and walked in.
I had to walk for 15 to 20 minutes to reach the area I wanted to hunt. As I slowly walked down the snow covered trail I noticed deer tracks everywhere so I made my way noiselessly, walking into the wind.
I reached my destination and was still-hunting, moving very slowly and looking for any movement. Things began to happen. First I saw a doe, and then saw other does and a nice sized buck. They were moving slowly and feeding at the same time. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. I watched the deer and kept tabs on the buck when off to my left, at most 100 yards away, wolves started to howl. It was like a Jack London story. The deer just kept feeding as the wolf pack kept howling and they didn’t seem to be moving. This lasted for about five minutes. Suddenly the wolves quit howling and, as if on cue, the deer disappeared.
I stood wondering whether I should pull out and head back to the truck, when I saw ferns moving in front of me. Suddenly there was a wolf, at most eight feet away. It had no idea I was there because it stopped and stood, looking back where it had come from. I stood with my mouth hanging open and possibly a little bug-eyed looking at this wolf and taking in its size – about German shepherd size, its colouring – a salt and pepper grey, and the knowledge that I was easily inside this animal’s flight zone. The thought never entered my mind to shoot it, as I was so fascinated. Do you know what I did? I spoke to it and said, “Hello there, what are you up to?” It spun its head around and we locked eyes. This contact lasted about five seconds then the wolf whirled around and was gone.
Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to work my way down through the timber to check things out. I poked along looking when about 200 yards from where I had the wolf encounter I could see a huckleberry bush moving back and forth in a very energetic fashion. I crept up to it slowly to get a better look and here was a young buck beating up the bush, totally oblivious to everything around it. I was amazed and dumbfounded at the same time.
Glancing at my watch, I knew it was time to leave as the light was falling, and then I had another Jack London experience. The wolf pack started to howl again and they couldn’t have been any more than 40 to 50 yards from me. They kept pace with me all the way out, howling all the way right up to when I got into the truck.
That experience has stayed with me and, no doubt, led to more Vancouver Island adventures.
Jim Swift is an artist, and an outdoor enthusiast since childhood who has enjoyed many adventures in the wilderness.