Ep. 38: Wild Sheep and Mountain AdventuresIn this episode of The Silvercore Podcast, Travis speaks with Kyle Stelter, who is a past president of the Wild Sheep Society of BC and currently acting communications director, and currently on the board of directors with the Wild Sheep Foundation. Kyle and Travis speak to the allure of sheep hunting, having a good hunting partner and how to find that, pushing yourself to the limits, gear, and how you can help support conservation for wild sheep and other mountainous animals.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise of the community. If you’re a new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, www.Silvercore.ca where you can learn more about courses, services, and products we offer. As well as how you can join The Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance, to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:40] So through the magic of modern technology, I’m able to sit down with Kyle Stelter, online, COVID friendly. Kyle is the past president of the Wild Sheep Society of BC, he is currently on the board of directors with the Wild Sheep Foundation and he’s acting in the role of communications director for the Wild Sheep Society of BC. And you guessed it, today, we’re going to be talking about wild sheep. So Kyle, welcome to The Silvercore Podcast.
Kyle Stelter: [00:01:10] Awesome, Travis really appreciate you having me on and just really grateful to be here. You know, Silvercore’s brand and organization I’ve known about for years and you guys are doing fantastic work and hats off to you and your communications work and your outreach and on this podcast, and just super grateful to be here with you today. So thank you for that.
Travis Bader: [00:01:30] Well, thanks so much, Kyle. So when we’re emailing and talking back and forth, we were coming up with a few different ideas and you said, you know, it might be cool to talk about three main things in particular. One would be sheep hunting for the beginner, two would be the allure and draw back country, mountain hunting, and three would be wild sheep conservation in BC and project involvement in BC.
[00:01:52] And I think those are fantastic things to talk about because I have never sheep hunted in my life and I’m learning about it through others and through reading and online. But who better to talk to you than somebody who’s been through the process and throughout this podcast, you can inform us and educate us on the wild sheep conservation and BC Wild Sheep Society.
Kyle Stelter: [00:02:19] Yeah awesome. For sure, Travis. Well, thanks. Yeah, it’s interesting, you know, I grew up white tail and mule deer hunting. I grew up in the prairies out in Alberta and just loved being out there. It was, I grew up on a farm and it was the fabric of my existence. We only had one channel and TV at home when I was a kid, but it didn’t matter cause I was out in the field and all I cared about was being out and being part of the landscape and chasing animals around and that sort of stuff.
[00:02:49] And I never knew anything about sheep hunting, you know, I had buddies of mine that lived in the mountains and the foothills and they always went sheep hunting, I never really understood it. So I moved out to BC here and it actually took me a long time to go on my first sheep hunt, I think it was back in 2011. So, you know, in terms of wild sheep hunting experience, I’m pretty inexperienced. I go every year and I haven’t been overly successful. I always joke that I’m much better at conservation than I am at hunting.
[00:03:15] So, but no, sheep hunting is certainly kind of a unique perspective, you know, not a lot of people have done it. But it’s certainly something that I, it resonates with me and it was kind of what I mentioned that second part of the email there that you mentioned about the mountain hunting experience, right?
Travis Bader: [00:03:35] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:03:36] And that’s what gets me up in the morning. You know, I just can’t say enough when I’m out there. And I still enjoy, you know, whether it’s black bear hunting on the Island or maybe chasing caribou or elk, or, but for me, that mountain experience and seeing the goats and wild sheep in their natural habitat or grizzly bears for me, that’s just, it’s so rewarding so.
Travis Bader: [00:03:59] So, did you have a background in mountain adventures of alpinism, anything like this before deciding to get into sheep hunting?
Kyle Stelter: [00:04:09] No, I hadn’t. In fact, I still find the mountains a little bit intimidating to be completely transparent.
Travis Bader: [00:04:15] Sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:04:15] I grew up in the prairie’s right, we were flat landers. You know, you looked across the way and you could see your neighbours 10 miles away. Really, you know, it was almost that bad. So, you know, when I came to the coast and I started. You know, you kind of got to find your feet and figure out where, find a hunting partner and that sort of stuff. It was all new for me.
[00:04:34] And eventually a buddy of mine that I worked with said, Hey have you ever thought about going to sheep hunt? He was a bit of a diehard sheep hunter. It’s kinda, you get the bug and you get, it sticks with you, right.
Travis Bader: [00:04:45] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:04:46] So he was petitioning me to go and you know, that there’s some special equipment that you need some certain gear and that sort of stuff, which I didn’t have. So it took me a couple of years to kind of get that sorted. And I went in my first sheep hunt and once that happened, it was a game changer for me. It just, and they say with your first sheep hunt, you, Jack O’Connor is a famous quote, I won’t do it service, so I’m not going to even try. But basically, there’s no halfway, you either love it or you hate it.
Travis Bader: [00:05:12] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:05:13] And I can say that that’s absolutely true. You go out and you experience it and it’s either, yeah this is it and I’m going to do this again and again and again. Or you go, Nope, I’ll never do this again.
Travis Bader: [00:05:23] So what do you think that allure is? What is that allure that draws people into the mountains to hike your butt off, to go in a place and sit down and glass for days, at a chance of maybe getting a sheep. What is the allure for you let’s say?
Kyle Stelter: [00:05:42] Well, I think it’s a multifold, but the two that really stand out for me is, and I’ll talk to the lesser one first, is the experience of being in the mountains. Just the grandeur of the mountains, the experience seeing that first lamb or yew, or ram or nanny or whatever the case may be billy, you are a grizzly bear.
[00:06:05] You experienced that and just the experience of being in the mountains and the environment that you’re in. So that just that environment is second to none in my opinion, I just, there’s no experience like that in my personal opinion. But I think for me, and I think for a lot of us that go on these backpack or these back country experiences, it’s kind of Travis, the most thing, important things in your life what do you remember, is this stuff that came really easy? The stuff that was handed to you? You know.
Travis Bader: [00:06:33] Hell no.
Kyle Stelter: [00:06:33] Son here’s your first a hundred bucks or here’s your first car or here’s, it’s when you saved and you went out and you bought that first vehicle, or when you got that first job after you worked hard and you set a goal for yourself and you achieved it, right? And I think that, for me personally, I think talking to a lot of other hunters that do these type of back country hunts, is it challenges to the very core.
[00:06:57] There’s times where you just say man I’m done, I am absolutely done and I can’t go any further. And then ironically, I just had that experience. I went on a goat hunting November, this year, a late season goat hunt. Actually it was probably October anyway, it was late season. And at one point I broke down and I fell to my knees, we’re in this blinding snowstorm kind of disoriented and it was to be completely transparent, a bit dodgy.
[00:07:24] We probably shouldn’t have been on that mountain top, but we ended up there. The weather rolled in, we knew it was coming, just didn’t expect it to be as intense. At one point I dropped to my knees and I was sitting there and I’m just like, I’m done, I’m done. And like, and then it’s kind of, I’ve had the opportunity of to have done these back country hunts before and it was like, no, you’re not done. And in fact, if you’re done, you’re dead.
Travis Bader: [00:07:44] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:07:45] So it’s that motivation and pushing through, and it never goes away. You know, every single trip you do back there, you hit a wall and then you push through it. And I think that’s the reward, even if you’re unsuccessful, you don’t come home with anything. It’s just having been there. You’ve gone through the experience and you come home and you’re like, wow. And then there’s things you go, you learn so much about yourself and it happens every single trip. I can’t think of a trip where I didn’t have that.
[00:08:12] And I can’t say that with my other trips again. Every hunting trip I go on is a successful one as far as I’m concerned, just being out there and being in that environment is a success. But my mountain trips stand out because every one of them, there was a point where I was like, Oh man, I’m just done and then you push through it and you have a successful outcome so.
Travis Bader: [00:08:32] I love that, you know, I got into a bit of alpinism back in the day and still like to get out into the hills. And there’s a very famous book called The Freedom of the Hills, it’s a thick book and it’s basically the Bible for current Alpine standards, for navigation, for rope work, for working on glaciers.
[00:08:53] And, but just the title of the book, The Freedom of the Hills has always stuck with me because there is a freedom to being out there. And when we look at the physical conditioning that you have to go through in order to get yourself up to up in the mountains, it’s a fair bit. There’s a fellow by the name of Mark Twight and he wrote a book called Extreme Alpinism, which is a pretty good book, if you want to look through it.
[00:09:23] But now you are taking it to a different level, not only are you getting from point A to point B, you’re going up and down. But you’re very objective oriented in the fact that you’re looking for an animal that you can harvest and there is the whole hunting side of it as well.
[00:09:40] I can definitely see the appeal. In the mental side that you talk about, you know, as fit as you can be and I’m looking at you now, you look like a very fit individual. The mental fitness is something that I think would appeal to a lot of people, particularly in today’s society. People don’t know what they’re made of until they’re pushed. And being up in the mountains will definitely push an individual.
Kyle Stelter: [00:10:04] Yeah, really well said. And it’s interesting, there was a gentleman, Clay Lancaster, he own’s Lancaster Expeditions, a long history of a guide outfitting in the guide opening industry in Canada here. And Clay, I recently spoke to him and he said, that’s the cool thing about hunting is that there’s not a lot of sports where you can go and enjoy it and be relatively good with it and not be, you know, not be in great shape, but hunting, you can do that.
[00:10:30] You can be kinda, you know, there has to be a certain level of fitness, but you can go in and hunt when you’re 70 or you can go and, you might not push yourself like you did when you were younger or, you know, if you put on weight or stuff like that, but it’s all about that challenging yourself and getting out there.
[00:10:48] And you just, the big thing is strapping on the boots and putting on the pack and heading out, and that’s the hard part. And once you get there and then you just push yourself and you say, okay, is it safe and can I do it? And you push through and off you go and so I think that’s pretty cool about, you know, you don’t have to be a big linebacker. You don’t have to be a marathoner. You just have to have the will right?
Travis Bader: [00:11:10] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:11:10] You look at, you know, a 70 pound woman, she can go out and be as successful more than, you know, somebody that’s an ultra marathoner in the best physical condition. That’s a pretty cool thing about hunting. I love it is there’s really no limitations. The only limitation is the ones you set for yourself, right? So.
Travis Bader: [00:11:28] Well, you talked about something earlier, which is a little bit interesting. And you talked about the gear and it took you a while to accumulate the gear you needed to get on your first hunt. I think you said it was a couple years from the inception in your mind of going out in the hunt, to actually getting out there and doing it. What kind of gear are we talking about here?
Kyle Stelter: [00:11:47] Yeah. You know, again, you know, it’s sort of what’s important to you, right? So and what limitations you set for yourself? If you’re going to do a fly in trip and you’re gonna go for two weeks in the back country, you need some pretty decent gear within reason. Typically stuff that’s lightweight, relatively durable. And for me, the biggest thing is just the safety aspect, right. So, you know, am I safe? So do I have the proper safety gear and that sort of stuff.
[00:12:14] So that that’s a big starter, you know, and then having good quality boots and good quality rain gear, and we could go into all that stuff. But there’s certainly a level of, if you’re going to do a two week backpack trip in the Alpine, you probably need some reasonably good gear. And that partner of mine that, he had, he was quite an experienced hunter at the time.
[00:12:35] And he said, this is your list, this is what you need and he was pretty adamant about it. You know, he said going and buying the cheapest gear you can at Walmart is not going to work because you’re going to walk in the Alpine and you’re going to walk through, you know, a stand of trees and you’re gonna rip it in the first day and it’s going to end your hunt.
[00:12:51] So there was certain level of equipment that he basically required for me to have if I was going to go on that trip. So it just took some time to accumulate it, right. And again, you know, everyone says, Oh, you know, yeah, what backpack do I need? Or what pair of boots? I don’t subscribe to that.
[00:13:07] I think, you know, you could probably buy a decent pair of cheap boots that might work for you. As long as it you’ve broken them in and they feel good on your feet, you don’t have to spend 600 bucks on a pair of fancy boots. You know, if you have the resources. Yeah, sure, go for it. But having that safety equipment and those things that really matter, you know, like a good sleeping bag, you know, decent enough boots, rain gear, you know, on these trips.
[00:13:28] So, and then if you don’t have it, you just dumb it down. You know, you can do a day sheep hunt if you wanted to, you probably, your chances of success are pretty slim. Or maybe a three or four day trip and having good rain gear, you know, that’s a big part of it. But yeah, just having something, you know, safety oriented is the big thing.
[00:13:46] And then the more you accumulate and the better gear you have, obviously, in some ways it increases your chance of success. But I always laugh at it because I see these old sheep hunting pictures or these mountain Alpine pictures guys are in Wranglers and they got plaid shirts on.
Travis Bader: [00:14:02] Yep.
Kyle Stelter: [00:14:02] And running shoes and a cowboy hat and they got a rifle that they paid 150 bucks for at probably, you know, their local department store and they’re out there and they’re killing game right. But the counter argument to that is, game is not as abundant or it’s more challenging, it’s a more challenging environment.
[00:14:22] So I always try and put my best foot forward. I like to go out there and I don’t want, I want the limitation to not be my gear when I’m out there. So, but you don’t need the best gear for sure.
Travis Bader: [00:14:33] Have you ever found that you’ve gone up the mountain only to come back down and there’s pieces of kit that you just never used?
Kyle Stelter: [00:14:39] Oh, every single trip, without question.
Travis Bader: [00:14:42] Is there anything that you can to pack up that in the back of your head, you’re thinking next time, I’m not going to bring this thing back up. Is there something that, from your experience you might be able to share with the listeners that you found just wasn’t as necessary as you thought it was?
Kyle Stelter: [00:14:55] You know, the one thing, I always take too much ammunition. I, you know, every single time. But you’re always planning for that worst case scenario right. You know, like, well what if I go out there, I find an animal and maybe I take a couple of shots and for whatever reason I’m not successful, or I dropped my rifle and I have to take a couple of practice rounds to make sure it’s on and then. Or, you know, what, if there’s a predator or what if, what if, what if.
Travis Bader: [00:15:20] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:15:21] And so that’s, I find that’s a challenge on a two week backpack trip is that, you kind of are planning for all these contingencies and none of them are like, none of them may be happen, right? Like not one single one of them.
[00:15:32] But every trip I always find like, one thing I’m notorious for, is I always seem to have two or three knives with me or. And I’m like I don’t need to do that, but I like, you like to have something for caping, something for deboning, you know, that sort of stuff. So that’s one thing I’ve always just try and okay, we just, I just need to take one knife on this trip.
Travis Bader: [00:15:52] In preparation for this, I was looking at the prices for guided hunts.
Kyle Stelter: [00:15:58] Right, yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:15:59] And it’s not cheap, is it?
Kyle Stelter: [00:16:01] No.
Travis Bader: [00:16:03] It’s a pretty penny. So I can imagine that if somebody wants to get into sheep hunting and go out with a guide. If you’re flying in, it just, the costs go up and up and up.
Kyle Stelter: [00:16:13] Yes.
Travis Bader: [00:16:13] It’s one of these things that you’re in for a penny you’re in for a pound. It seems like if you’re going to be doing it, you might as well go all in. Is that sort of, do you find that as a large barrier for most people to even get into sheep hunting?
Kyle Stelter: [00:16:30] Well, I think that question is twofold Travis. Site, first of all, to be clear like a Stone sheep hunt is it can be north of 50 US, 50,000 US dollars. For a guy like me and your working average individual, that’s not going to happen.
Travis Bader: [00:16:48] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:16:48] You know, you have to have some pretty mean capital. The cool thing is we live in BC. So you wander down, or you go online now and purchase your ticket or your tag. And you can buy general over the counter sheep tag for 60 or 80. I can’t remember the number right now.
Travis Bader: [00:17:08] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:17:08] It’s effectively, it’s cheap right? So and now you’re sheep hunter. You’re sheep hunter, just as much as that guy that dropped, or gal that dropped 50 US. So you know, BC, we’re so privileged and I hope that your listeners and most people don’t take this for granted. We are so opportunistic in BC that we can hunt all of these species, this mountain game.
[00:17:32] I don’t know any other jurisdiction, in North America for sure, maybe Africa, you could argue differently. But in North America, where you have an opportunity like this and to do it on a cost effective budget and be a sheep hunter. And I just feel so privileged when I buy my sheep tag and I’m out there in the mountains and I get this opportunity because there’s so many people that are paying 50,000 US dollars for that opportunity. I just.
Travis Bader: [00:17:57] Wow.
Kyle Stelter: [00:17:57] Pinch myself every time you know, so.
Travis Bader: [00:17:59] Yeah, we’re definitely lucky, very lucky in that regard. So in British Columbia, we’ve got three main types of sheep that we can harvest. We’ve got our Stone sheep and our Dall sheep, which are the Thinhorn sheep variety, and then we’ve got our Bighorn sheep. And from my understanding, if you’re getting into sheep hunting, most people would be looking at a Dall sheep hunt, is that correct?
Kyle Stelter: [00:18:24] So sort of, actually Dall sheep is one of the most challenging ones in British Columbia believe it or not. So you’re correct, in that we have three species, we have Dall’s, Stone’s and, we have Bighorn and then the Bighorn is further broken down into subspecies. We got the Rocky Mountain Bighorn variety, and we also have a California Bighorn variety.
Travis Bader: [00:18:43] That’s right, that’s right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:18:44] So a lot of people will identify BC with four species of sheep, but really Rockies and Kellys are considered bighorn and they’re not considered a different species. Now, so the most easily, to hunt a sheep are the Stone sheep.
Travis Bader: [00:19:04] Okay.
Kyle Stelter: [00:19:05] With Dall sheep, there’s not an abundant amount of Dall sheep in British Columbia. There’s roughly 500 in, like officially as a BC population. And what happens is up in that Northwest corner of British Columbia, there’s a tiny little area where the Dall sheep will actually go back and forth between the Yukon and British Columbia.
[00:19:22] And some of them live winter range, summer range, they go across and there’s only the two, region 6-28 and 6-29, where they’re on LEH only and you have to apply and get drawn for them. So it’s very, very difficult. I think they only give out 28 authorizations or roughly 30 authorizations in each area, 28 and 29. So you got 60 chances to get a tag in British Columbia for Dall sheep.
Travis Bader: [00:19:50] Okay.
Kyle Stelter: [00:19:50] Stone sheep, typically are over the counter, you can go and buy a general open tag for Stone sheep. Although there are LEH regions for Stone sheep in British Columbia so you have to be drawn for those. And then for the Bighorn variety there are general open seasons, but your success are very low.
[00:20:07] I’ve never actually hunted for Bighorns in BC. Your best bet is on an LEH and there’s certainly areas where your odds are better than other, but I’ve put in for a sheep drive every single year and of course, not been drawn yet.
[00:20:20] So for kind of a lot of people, Stone sheep is the most appealing because there’s a lot of different regions that you can hunt them and it’s a general open tag. You just buy over the counter and it’s a bit more accessible, I would say.
Travis Bader: [00:20:36] So how much time do you typically put aside for a sheep hunt? Let’s say you’re going out for a Stone sheep, and want to be successful, I know you mentioned you can day hunt, put a couple days and if you want, but your odds are going to be low. What should you be looking at allotting?
Kyle Stelter: [00:20:52] Yeah. You know, and that’s a tough one, for the average person that has two weeks holidays, time is of the essence, right? So the challenge, I personally set aside two weeks for my sheep hunt and that’s excessive for sure. But the challenge here is that if you’re going to hunt.
[00:21:12] As an example, Stone sheep, like I mentioned, it’s a day to get there, minimum. If I leave, I’m in Victoria, if I leave the Island, from the day I leave my, the time I leave my house, to where I’m putting on my boots to go in the Alpine, or to get on the trail to go to the Alpine, I’m 20 plus hours.
[00:21:29] So, you’re driving North of, there’s no Stone sheep in British Columbia South of Williston Lake, so that gives you an idea of how far North. Once you get to Prince George, another eight hours and you’re gonna start to being in the Stone sheep country so.
Travis Bader: [00:21:43] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:21:44] That’s the challenge. So you’re a day and a half, probably two days getting there and then realistically, if you’re going to do a hike in, you’re probably a day to where you’re going to get the sheep, because they’re not going to be standing on the side of the road. So now you’re two days and you haven’t even had a chance to pull the trigger yet and then of course, go in reverse, your two days out.
[00:22:04] So if you just give yourself a week, you really have three days of hunting. Now you can cut a little time off, do a fly in trip, and that’s going to give you a little extra time, but of course you land, get at a lake. You got your six hours. Plus, you’re probably hunting, they’re not going to be hanging out at the lake watering likely.
[00:22:21] So you’re probably going to have to hike from there. So 10 days is a great number. Guide outfitters, I think quite often they’ll do 10 day trips, that’s what they offer their clients. That’s a great number. I think that, realistically, you could have a high level of success on a 10 day trip.
[00:22:34] You could do it in seven, if you’re lucky. And for me, I just allocate two weeks every year when I have the ability to do so and I’ve found that’s my, the sweet spot. But I know guys that go out for a month or whatever that maybe are retired or they, I don’t, I’m not sure if they’re independently wealthy, but I certainly don’t have the resources to do that. I’m already in the bad books with two weeks with the family, right?
Travis Bader: [00:22:56] Yeah. It’s a time commitment. It’s a money commitment for sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:22:59] Absolutely.
Travis Bader: [00:22:59] So when you’re doing these two week hunts, are you doing this on foot, you’re hiking in or are you doing many fly-ins? Are you using pack animals?
Kyle Stelter: [00:23:08] So I’ve never had the experience of doing a pack animal and that’s, I’m sure that would be a fantastic experience, I’ve just never had the resources to do it I guess really. I’ve done a mix of, hike into the back country, off the highway. You find a spot and you hike in off the highway and I’ve done a number of fly-ins over the years and both are so rewarding.
[00:23:29] One thing I like to do is, I don’t go to the same place all the time. I like to diversify. For me it’s, again, it’s about the experience, right? I don’t want a canned hunting experience for me. It’s different experiences, different places, new challenges. I have gone back to the same place occasionally, but I don’t, it’s not like, well you know, I was lucky to get a ram on this hill here and I’m just going to go back there every year knowing that my success rate.
[00:23:54] And as such, I’ve only had the opportunity to kill two rams in the last 10 years, but I have been, my hunting partners been successful. I think between the two of us, we’ve got five rams over that 10 year period. So in terms of sheep hunting, that’s a reasonably successful number in terms of a do it yourself.
[00:24:12] For guide outfitter, I’m sure they, well no, I know they have a much higher success rate. So for me, it’s a bit of a mix. Hike-in or a fly in, and there’s tons of operative jet boat, horseback, and they’re all services you can incorporate here in BC. There’s tons of services provided for that.
Travis Bader: [00:24:31] So with this hunt that you’re on, that you felt like giving up, like you felt overwhelmed on. Can you tell me a little bit about that hunt? Like, can you paint the picture of like, what brought you to that point of just feeling that mentally exhausted?
Kyle Stelter: [00:24:49] Sure, but I know your listeners are going to judge me, but that’s fine. I’ve had to eat crow a lot of times, but so this was one of these trips, Travis, where I got a goat draw. And you know, when I put in for a draw, I always try and I find that, again, you’re given this great opportunity and I don’t want to waste it. And I don’t judge people when they get a draw, and then they don’t go.
[00:25:11] Unfortunately, I’m not too keen on people that just throw out there with no intention of going anyway and never, you know, I’m not judging, but personally, I don’t want to miss that opportunity. Somebody lost that opportunity so I could go, so I got this goat draw and I had this tiny little window and I was trying to balance life and work and all these other things.
[00:25:33] So I got a goat draw in the interior and, in region three. And I only had that short window and I called my buddy up and I said, are we cray- and he didn’t have a draw. He was just coming to support me, which, you know, that’s amazing, right?
Travis Bader: [00:25:48] Good on him.
Kyle Stelter: [00:25:49] Yeah. What a great guy, right?
Travis Bader: [00:25:50] No kidding.
Kyle Stelter: [00:25:52] That’s fantastic. So I said, am I crazy? Like we got five days to make this happen is that like, we got a day there and a day back, so we got three days of hunting and we also know we got to get on the animal and I said, are we crazy? And he goes, ah, he goes, we can do it. And he goes, you know, how many goats are you going to kill sitting in your house in Victoria? I’m like, Oh yeah okay. We’re going.
Travis Bader: [00:26:12] Yep.
Kyle Stelter: [00:26:12] So yeah, it was well pointed out.
Travis Bader: [00:26:15] Yes.
Kyle Stelter: [00:26:16] So anyway, we did the drive up, we got into our spot, hiked in and it was, day hike and we were kind of watching the weather and there was a kind of a Pacific system moving through. And we knew there were some weather coming and we looked at the local town and we seen the forecast there and they were calling for snow and wind, but it didn’t look outrageous.
[00:26:36] We knew it was going to be uncomfortable. So get up first thing in the morning, packs on, hike in about six hours and we’re kind of now in, we’re in the zone, there’s goats. We know that there’s goats around, we hadn’t seen any yet. And then we have a grizzly bear run in. So there was a sow with, I think there’s just the one cub was that one.
[00:26:57] And we see her and we push her, where, there actually is a trail there. So we’re on this trail and it’s actually a hiking trail and hunters use it and it’s well used by like the hiking community as well. Which is a great resource for hunting, by the way, for any of your listeners, like don’t look just on the hunting forums.
[00:27:17] Look on the backpacking forums, especially in Southern BC, there’s so many opportunities where people have pictures of wild game that you’re interested in harvesting and there they talk about it on their forums, right?
Travis Bader: [00:27:29] Good point.
Kyle Stelter: [00:27:30] So never, when you’re data mining, don’t limit yourself to the hunting community cause there’s a lot of non hunters out there that are, have great resources as well. So anyway, we’re on this trail, bump this sow and she’s not very happy. And so we have our rifles out. I typically, when I’m packing, I like to use poles, especially if I’ve got a bit of a heavy pack.
[00:27:51] So my rifle was in my pack, but right away, we’re down, we get our rifles out. So she goes away, but she’s not happy. So we keep hiking and then sure enough, we run into her again and now she’s really unhappy. So, to the point where we’re worried that like you could see, we bumped her at 80 yards, she was in and out of the trees.
[00:28:10] We didn’t realize she was there and hair’s standing up on end. And we’re like, Oh okay, so we’re like let’s get off the trail. So we started heading up over, and we’re not too far from where we need to go and we’ve got to peek up over this valley and down the backside. So anyway, now I’m carrying my rifle. I got my poles put away and because we’re worried about this, this grizzly.
Travis Bader: [00:28:32] Sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:28:32] So an hour passes and we get to this peak. Now this system’s moving in and the wind just keeps escalating and it keeps getting stronger and literally raining sideways, just completely. And as you know, when you’re out in the bush and if you’re moving, even if you’re wet or you’re whatever, you’re fine. It’s when you stop. That’s when the hypothermia is really becomes a risk, right?
Travis Bader: [00:28:52] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:28:52] So we keep moving, we get up to the peak and at this point, the wind is absolutely just, it’s tornado like, hurricane like, it’s so strong. There’s times where I have to stop and plant my feet cause you’re, and we’re going over the pass, I think it’s about 7,700 feet was the elevation.
[00:29:11] We’re going to go down into this valley and that’s where we were going to be hunting from in there, was that valley obviously the goats were up high. So we come over the top and this wind gust comes, so I have to stop and I’ve got my rifle in my hands and I’ve got my feet firmly planted and this is the first time that’s ever happened to me.
[00:29:28] And in a second, all I know is, I’m flat on my face, my expensive mountain hunting rifle jammed in the ground, and I don’t know what happened. And I’m like, so, you know the wind sometimes will blow you when you’re out hunting and you lose your step and you maybe fall over or you get blown over.
Travis Bader: [00:29:48] Sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:29:49] This literally picked me up and dropped me down, like.
Travis Bader: [00:29:51] Whoa.
Kyle Stelter: [00:29:51] It lifted me off my feet. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And I look over at my hunting buddy, and he’s laying on his face in the ground, same deal, that, this is.
Travis Bader: [00:30:00] Wow.
Kyle Stelter: [00:30:01] And we’re trying to guess how strong this gust had to be, but I’m a 200 pound plus guy, I got an 80 pound, or 70 pound pack, my rifle and it just picked me up and planted me down on the ground. So that was the first like, Oh, this isn’t very good. So we were like, let’s get the heck off here.
] Travis Bader: [00:30:17] Yeah.
Kyle Stelter: [00:30:17] So down over the top into the backside of the Canyon and we find a bit of a reprieve from the wind. It’s still raining, like crazy sideways, literally. And get in the tent, get it set up, which that was an experience in itself, where literally one guy could just, he just had to hold the tent while the other guy pegged it cause it was, the wind, it was just. Anyway, in the tent and then it started snowing about an hour later. We couldn’t hunt.
[00:30:45] There was no opportunity, even if we knew there was what we did, literally, we get into that valley and we see mountain goats. We’re like, okay, well perfect. But we, there’s this window, it’s dangerous. It’s not even a safety, it’s a safety concern at this point, right.
Travis Bader: [00:30:59] It doesn’t sound like a hunting trip. This sounds like a survival exercise.
Kyle Stelter: [00:31:02] Exactly. Right. So, you know, but we’re like, okay well, we’re pretty, we’ve been in the back country enough and we’re pretty confident and we’re both relatively capable. Not highly, my partner is highly experienced, I would say more so than me. But you know, we know there’s limitations in smart and dangerous things you can do.
[00:31:21] So anyway, we get in our tent and we’re just sitting there all day and we check outside and now it’s starting to snow. So at one point we wake up, or why I wake up, I hear, Kyle, Kyle. And I’m like thinking, is there a bear, like the sense of urgency? And he goes, I think the tent’s collapsed. And we’ve got a good quality tent, it’s a Hilleberg, it’s designed.
Travis Bader: [00:31:42] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:31:42] For the mountain, four season, it’s a durable tent and, I’m laying there and I turned my head because I’d been laying on my side I guess, I turned my head and the tent is literally in my face and I’m like.
Travis Bader: [00:31:54] Whoa.
Kyle Stelter: [00:31:55] So, we push it up and the snow falls off and I look outside and there’s six inches of wet, wet, wet snow. So we kind of talk about, and we’re like, you know this we’ve only got five days and the problem is I had to go back to work. So I had some limitations there. So we’re talking about, we’re like, and we really only have two days left.
[00:32:15] Like that was day one, we got the next two days and we’re like, well, if we get up in the morning and it’s still doing this, we could be in a position where we’re stuck here. Like we, if it snows hard enough, we might not be able to get the truck out at the trail head, we might not be able to hike out and.
[00:32:29] Like, you’re going to get out, right. Like you just might have to wait for some warm weather or, you can always wait the weather out. That’s always an option. But you might not be able to wait it out for, you might have to wait it out for a week or two weeks right. So, we get up in the morning and it’s escalated, it’s even, there’s even more snow.
[00:32:47] Like the tent’s completely surrounded and there’s snow everywhere. You can’t see the trail, there’s no, we’ve lost the trail now. And we’re just like, and so we also have an inReach. I’m not sure if you’ve used that before Travis.
Travis Bader: [00:33:01] Oh they’re great.
Kyle Stelter: [00:33:02] Fantastic, right.
Travis Bader: [00:33:03] Yes.
Kyle Stelter: [00:33:03] So, you know, we started pulling forecasts at that point and they’re like heavy snow, heavy snow, heavy snow for the next, like three days. And we’re like, aghh. And my buddy said, you know, I don’t think we can stay here. Like we’re not gonna, we can’t hunt, there’s no way. You can’t see more than a hundred, couple hundred yards.
[00:33:20] So we wake up in the morning, throw everything in the bag, back on the pack, up over the pass, and this wind has not subsided and I’ve never seen the wind and snow like that. So anyway, up this pass, you know, we’re completely soaked before we get, we’re going over the pass where we were knocked down the first time.
[00:33:38] And we come over the top and we’re going through this past and now the visibility zero, zero. And my buddy’s in much better shape than me, he’s a hardcore back country guy and I’m falling behind him. Well, I’m like five minutes, 10 minutes behind him and I can’t even see his tracks in the snow.
[00:33:55] So now I’m starting to getting really uncomfortable because I’m like, what if I lose him and what if we get separated, right. So finally he waits up, catches up with me and there’s a point where we’re crawling in the snow, because the snow is too deep.
[00:34:11] Like I’ve never seen it like that. It was clear, there was no snow the previous day, like really, 18 hours earlier. And now we’re up to our waist at times in snow and we’re having.
Travis Bader: [00:34:21] Wow.
Kyle Stelter: [00:34:22] To crawl on top to, but there was one point where I was just exhausted and that’s where I fell down on my knees. I tripped, and, but it’s just, there’s snow everywhere. It’s not treacherous in that sense. And I’m on my knees and I’m like, I’m soaked, I’m tired and I’m a little nervous about where my partner is, where he’s gone to. And we don’t really know how to get off this mountain either because we’ve, we don’t have the trail anymore, we’ve lost that aspect of it.
[00:34:47] And I was just sitting there and I was on my knees and I was just like, I’m done, and that was that kinda where I hit my wall physically and mentally exhausted and nervous, like I was nervous. And then it was kind of like, having been there and hit that wall several times throughout my hunting career and went, okay, get your sorry butt up and get going and then, you know, you regain the energy and we got off the mountain so.
Travis Bader: [00:35:12] Wow. That’s a hell of a story.
Kyle Stelter: [00:35:15] It’s fun, you know, and that’s the thing I love about these back country experiences. That’s the ones that, where I feel like I’m being pushed to my limit and I don’t, I very rarely experienced that at work.
[00:35:26] And when I, in my personal life, that’s the one time where you’re just like, you just feel like shutting down and then you find a way to get through it and you come out the other side. And just the whole experience and just having done it and having pushed yourself and gone through it, it’s so rewarding.
Travis Bader: [00:35:43] A good friend of mine, he’s quite a successful businessman and he says, that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. And he sort of like his mantra, he keeps saying that. And when things get really tough, whether it be work or whatever, right, I always think about that. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
[00:36:04] That and, while it really sucks right now. The mind has a funny way of varnishing it over afterwards, and it becomes one of these experiences that, that you hold onto and cherish for a very long time. So you just don’t get those little gems without going through the suck.
Kyle Stelter: [00:36:23] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, for me, that’s what it is with this, experience with. And that’s what I mentioned at the start of the show there where Jack O’Connor says it’s, there’s no halfway. It’s not like, yeah, that was okay, I might do it again and. It’s either no, it’s one or the other, it really, truly is people, most people do it and they love it, you know. Cause they they’ve been drawn to it for some reason.
[00:36:45] And, but you get the odd person and I’ve had friends I’ve taken in the mountains and they said, I will never do that again. And you know, you find out really early, it was a bad decision to bring them even on the trip and kind of ruin the trip.
[00:36:57] But you know, you get through it, you work through it and you hope they maybe come to that epiphany that you’ve came to at some point where we go, yeah, this is worth it, let’s push on. But there’s people that just say, no, I’ll never do this again. I will never set foot in the mountain.
Travis Bader: [00:37:10] And I guess you raise a good point too, when you’re looking for hunting partners. And I guess with your experience of bringing other people out, are you able to kind of get a sense at who’s going to make a good partner in the hills, in the mountains? And who you might, they might show curiosity or interest, but you’d never want to bring out there? Are there any sort of things that kind of twig in the back of your mind that you could share?
Kyle Stelter: [00:37:34] Well, you know, I have to be careful in case, one of my ex hunting partners listens to this and I won’t throw him under the bus too bad, but there were some early signs where a guy maybe wasn’t predisposed for it.
[00:37:47] Look in people’s personal lives and just, how do they handle stress? How do they handle adversity? And if somebody’s struggling with that in your personal life, and then you put them in that physical environment, you know, that’s maybe a telltale sign.
[00:38:00] And it was funny, so there was four of us that went. Me and my regular hunting partner, we took two guys with us that were good friends of ours. And that first trip is always just, that’s the epiphany where it’s like, it’s immediately obvious where, I shouldn’t be here or I should be here, I want to be here and I’m going to work it.
[00:38:19] Or, and both of them were struggling and we were too, don’t get me wrong, but we’d been through that. We’d been through the epiphany on previous trips.
Travis Bader: [00:38:26] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:38:27] These two guys hadn’t and both of them said, okay we’re done. And we talked them through and they pushed and we got to where they wanted to. And ironically, the one guy, he, it wasn’t a pleasant trip for him. But afterwards he said, okay, I am doing this again. And he has, and he’s come on several trips with us and he’s a very, he does a great job. He’s and then the other guy was like, I’ll never do this again and he’s never been back.
Travis Bader: [00:38:53] Yeah. Well, I guess you do raise a good point. How somebody manages stress in their own life or manages themselves personally. It’s not going to just magically get better when you’re out in the mountains, it’s just going to amplify any little deficiency that might be there and.
Kyle Stelter: [00:39:11] Absolutely.
Travis Bader: [00:39:12] The other thing I’ve found is when your head’s in the right place and things are happy happy, you can tackle the hills no problem. And when you’re personally, have a lot on your mind, a lot of things you’re working with, I find that physically it’s draining and it really amplifies itself out on the hills.
Kyle Stelter: [00:39:31] That’s a good point. Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:39:32] I don’t know if you’ve noticed that as well.
Kyle Stelter: [00:39:34] You know, I can’t say that I have, but now that you mentioned it, it makes a lot of sense, for sure. Like if you’re in that good place and you want to yeah, there’s no question it does translate for sure. That’s a good point. I just never really looked at it that close.
Travis Bader: [00:39:46] So you sit on the board of directors for the Wild Sheep Foundation and past president of the Wild Sheep Society. What can you tell us about these organizations?
Kyle Stelter: [00:39:55] These two organizations are very close to my heart, which would make sense, cause I’ve served on both as directors and continued to do so. I’m a director on both boards as well still. You know, we refer to the wild sheep community as a family, it’s our wild sheep family.
[00:40:13] You know, I’ve been members of, different rod and gun clubs or, over the years. All great organizations and you’re in this fraternity of like-minded people that care about the same type of stuff. Care about opportunity and wildlife and conservation and do such great work. And there’s hundreds and thousands of clubs across Canada.
Travis Bader: [00:40:36] Sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:40:36] That are like that. And I’ve been lucky to be a member of a number of them. And they’re all great. I don’t have anything to say negative towards any of them. When I came, what happened was I, the first year I went sheep hunting, my buddy bought me a membership to the Wild Sheep Society of BC.
[00:40:53] And we went to their Kamloops convention. It’s a fundraiser that they have every year, we have every year. And I came in this room and you know, it was these hunters that, you shared this bond with, but then it was focused on mountain game and wild sheep and something that.
[00:41:11] And this experience that we talked about, about being in the mountains and the allure of the rocky peaks and the ram on the mountain and seeing a grizzly bear at first light or last light across the landscape. All these shared experiences and we refer to it, as I said, our wild sheep family.
[00:41:32] And I really feel like that these people are just, they’re like brothers and sisters to me. And the Wild Sheep Society of BC ia a regional organization, we’re a BC based organization. Our mandate is to look after wild sheep and their habitat in BC. It’s our mandate, we’re mandated by it, so that’s what we focus on.
[00:41:53] The Wild Sheep Foundation is a national organization worldwide really. And they look after the wild sheep resource and their habitat around the world. So it’s kind of a larger scale. But you think, you get to a big organization with close to 10,000 members and you kind of lose that personalization, but it’s not, you go to sheep show this year, it’s the experience, that they’re calling it. We’ve had to retool for, with the cancellation of all the events going on.
Travis Bader: [00:42:23] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:42:23] Yeah. And you just, it’s just, you’re in a fraternity of like-minded individuals and you’re just, you have all these hunters, but then it’s, hyper-focused on this one animal and these experiences and it’s so rewarding. And I’ve just got nothing bad to say about the great work that both these, the foundation and the society do for conservation and wildlife and on the landscape.
Travis Bader: [00:42:49] So what are some of the projects you’re involved with? I think in BC, you guys have a few projects on the go don’t you?
Kyle Stelter: [00:42:54] Yeah, for sure. So, I’ll just talk to the foundation and.
Travis Bader: [00:42:58] Sure.
Kyle Stelter: [00:42:58] People go, well why would I, and because I want to hype, I want to focus in on BC, but people say, well why would you support the foundation? You know, they’re a national organization, they’re a big, you know, 10,000 people. One thing that people don’t understand is the Wild Sheep Foundation has put over $5 million into BC over the last 20 years for wild sheep conservation.
Travis Bader: [00:43:20] Wow.
Kyle Stelter: [00:43:20] And I challenge anyone out there and to tell me any other organization, any other conservation organization, that’s done something similar. And there isn’t, there just isn’t. On top of it, the foundation for every dollar, I think they put, for every member’s dollar that comes in and they put $4 on the ground. So you buy a membership, it’s a 4:1 ratio is what they’re doing in terms of conservation. And they do that through fundraising, through.
Travis Bader: [00:43:52] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:43:52] The sale of tags for these hunts and that sort of stuff. So they do such a good job of putting the conservation dollars on the ground and they do it all around the world. But they do it, they’ve put more money into British Columbia than any other jurisdiction in the world. So that’s something I think British Colombians need to understand the Wild Sheep Foundation puts more money here than anywhere else in the world.
[00:44:16] So that’s why I support that organization. They do great work for all habitat and all wildlife and all wild sheep, but specifically wild sheep and BC, you just can’t, you can not fault them for their support there. Now, Wild Sheep Society of BC, obviously we focus all our resources on British Columbia. We’ve got a ton of different projects and the list could go on Travis, but you know, one of the challenges while sheep face in British Columbia is a disease issue and it’s related to domestic sheep and wild sheep.
[00:44:47] And they, wild sheep can contract disease from domestic sheep and the big key to success there is keeping them separated. And if we keep wild sheep and, but we’ve had these massive die-offs in different jurisdictions that are caused by these diseases. So one of the big projects, and one of the biggest expenditures has been trying to manage this disease issue on the Fraser River. The Fraser river ecosystem has seen a drop of a significant number in the 1990s, 40- 50% die off and it’s never recovered at the hands.
Travis Bader: [00:45:19] Wow.
Kyle Stelter: [00:45:19] Of the disease. So we’ve invested a lot of money. I think, this Fraser River project we put hundreds of thousands of dollars into that. Our first year we put $57,000 in, and I think last year we came to 110,000 and we just approved another 24,000 on top of that. So we’re into it over a hundred and almost 150 grand, and that’s just the Wild Sheep Society of BC.
[00:45:42] There’s a number of other organizations that have put money into it, the government’s put money into it. So it’s an issue and if we crack that code on the disease and we can sort that out and either find, a cure, which we haven’t, so that’s the issue. Or find some way to mitigate these interactions between domestic and wild sheep, that would be a win for wildlife and a win for wild sheep for sure, because we could see them return.
[00:46:06] These ecosystems have the ability to carry way more in terms of wild sheep, but the disease issues prevented that. And that’s probably our biggest issue in British Columbia, but that’s number one. But then there’s habitat restoration issues and that’s a big one as well. So we’ve been doing a ton of work with trying to put burns forward and habitat enhancement projects as well. Kind of the core of what we used to do was transplants.
Travis Bader: [00:46:31] Okay.
Kyle Stelter: [00:46:31] And since I’ve been on the board of directors, we’ve never had that opportunity because we’ve got this disease issue. You don’t want to take an unhealthy animal and just transplant them.
[00:46:39] You need a healthy ecosystem and a healthy habitat and a healthy set of, healthy environment and then you need healthy sheep to move them too. But if you got any disease issues, You’re just moving one problem to a new area.
Travis Bader: [00:46:53] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:46:53] So we haven’t done any transplants since I’ve been involved, which is a little disappointing, that’s the fun stuff.
Travis Bader: [00:47:00] Right.
Kyle Stelter: [00:47:00] You know, doing transplants or burns and stuff like that. But that the transplant issue has been, it has been on hold for a number of years because of this disease issue so.
Travis Bader: [00:47:11] Well Kyle, is there anything else that we should be talking about before we wrap things up here? Is there anything that we missed?
Kyle Stelter: [00:47:19] No, I think we hit a lot of things. I think for your listeners is, take a look at the conservation work that’s being done by the society, the Wild Sheep Society of BC and in our province. And I, we put over $250,000 of our own money on the ground last year. And then we had at least that in matching funds from other partners, whether it be other wild sheep organizations or just fish and game clubs.
[00:47:47] A lot of partners have partnered with us on these projects. So if conservation matters, I think take a look at the work we’re doing. I think that the society is, in terms of our conservation footprint, I feel like our board and our members have made us one of the leaders in the province.
[00:48:06] And I hate to brag a bit, but I’m really proud of the group and the support we’ve got from our membership to do that. Cause it’s not, not easy, right? We there’s a lot of time, money and effort, on everybody’s part and certainly the membership’s part to make it happen. So we got a cool membership drive, hate to do this, selfless plug.
Travis Bader: [00:48:23] Ahh, here we go.
Kyle Stelter: [00:48:24] But uh.
Travis Bader: [00:48:25] No, do it, do it.
Kyle Stelter: [00:48:25] We do have a, we have a membership drive going on right now and you know, we’re just trying to grow our base of conservationist’s so we can do our mission and put more work into the ground to make sure wild sheep and other mountain animals are thriving across the landscape in British Columbia. So love to see people check it out and come join us and help to support the cause.
Travis Bader: [00:48:48] So that’d be WildSheepSociety.com ?
Kyle Stelter: [00:48:50] Precisely. Yeah, for sure. And a membership page, there’s a membership drive, we’re giving a thousand bucks away from Sitka, Stone Glacier or Yeti. So anyone that wants to go mountain hunting, they can.
Travis Bader: [00:48:59] Wow!
Kyle Stelter: [00:48:59] Get a Sitka suit or they can get, and we’ve got fantastic support. We’ve got so many great corporate sponsors. Anyway, I just said three of them there, just great support from them. They’re always supporting our mission and what we’re doing. So yeah, we’re giving a thousand bucks away, we’re going to draw that to one of those three different corporate entities. You can buy their gear and we’re drawing that on March 13th so.
Travis Bader: [00:49:24] Okay, well I’ll throw some links up in the, in the podcast here, so if people want to click on it on their phone or on YouTube, they can see that there.
Kyle Stelter: [00:49:32] Cool.
Travis Bader: [00:49:32] Kyle, absolutely fantastic talking with you. Thank you very much for taking the time to come on The Silvercore Podcast.
Kyle Stelter: [00:49:39] I appreciate it Travis. And thank you, you guys are doing a great work in the industry and just an honour to be here with you. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with Tiffany and speak with her and just keep up the great work. Super thankful for what you guys do to support our industry and just training those new hunters out there right. Keeping them safe and making them successful and then on top of it, the communication work you’re doing here on the podcast. Great job, thank you.
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