LUCK IN THE NORTH
by T. E. Shillingburg

[T. E. (Thomas Edward) Shillingburg was the son of Thomas Edward and Evelyn "Lina" (Chisholm) Shillingburg of Gormania, West Virginia, who was the son of John William and Sarah (Moomau) Shillingburg of Gormania, who was the son of Jacob and Mary "Polly" Sollars Shillingburg of Mt. Storm, West Virginia, who was the some of William H. and Maggie (Murphy) Shillingburg who had settled in Mt. Storm by 1794. T.E. married Carrie Juanita "Neta" Duling from Mt. Storm. They spent some time in the early quarter of this century in the South West as Indian traders and settled in Akron, Ohio when their children reached school age. Their daughter Norma Jean died in 1982 in a house fire, and their son John Thomas Shillingburg now lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. His son Jon Shillingburg lives in Georgia. He has two sons Michael Jon and Thomas Casey.]

R. Schultz, ed., A Portrait of Sheep and Sheep Hunting, Foundation for North American Sheep, St. Paul., MN 1980, reprinted from Sports Afield, June 1938.

    If you want to go into a big game country which has had only three hunting parties, other than Indians and trappers and some of it not visited by any sportsmen at all, where you will be cut off from the outside world for two months, where game is plentiful and you donít have to shoot the first animal you see, for there will be others, where mountains are steep, rivers and creeks plentiful, fishing is good, and plenty of birds if you want them, and where you can get good pictures with a movie camera, where timber line is low, and mountains high, good grass for the horses and wild flowers in abundance, if you have dreamed of a place like this and can spare the time, then go away back to the interior of British Columbia. I had wanted to take a trip of this kind for years, and as I needed specimen of the black or Stone sheep, and a grizzly bear, for my collection, I made arrangements to go there in the Fall of 1937.
     I arrived in Dawson Creek on July 30. Made an 85-mile car trip over a dirt road, crossed the Peace River on a Government Ferry and arrived at Bear Flat about 10 p.m. just at dark. Stayed overnight with Mr. Freers and was met by my outfitter, Curley Cochrane, and guide, Frank Golata. Here we left the end of the road and started out with 9 horses, made 20 miles the first day and stayed at a ranch where we met our cook, Edmond Morton, 8 more horses and the rest of our outfit.
     Saw a black bear first day out on the trail, which was the last game we saw for several days. The sheep season did not open before August 15, two weeks off. It took this time to get in where there was a good chance for a sheep.
     We traveled on an average of about 15 to 18 miles a day, about 5 to 8 hours, which was a plenty as far as I was concerned as I got plenty sore riding and I believe I walked over half of the distance. We did not stop at noon but ate our lunch while on the trail. Stops were made only to adjust packs which was usually once or twice a day.
 If there was a good stream handy we would try fishing. Fish were plentiful but sometimes we could not find anything that suited them, though we caught some fine Dolly Varden trout from 8 to 19 inches long. Some rainbows up to 18 inches long. A grayling or two and a trout that none of us knew the name of.
     After being on the trail for over two weeks we saw some sheep on the top of a mountain one evening. Curley said we would try them the next day.
     It was August 16, the second day of the season, when the two guides and I went up the creek a ways, then on up the mountain, first through thick timber then brush and higher just grass and moss and finally nothing but rocks, so steep we had to go up on hands and feet. We finally got to the top of the ridge and on looking over in the first basin we saw 3 rams. We looked them over but they were not good enough, then another climb up the ridge where we could see some in the second rocky basin. There were two rams in it but not large enough so on up the ridge we went where we could see down in the third and highest basin, also a very rocky one.
     There were 2 rams lying down below us, a dark one with a full curl and just to the left of it a lighter one. We looked them over with our glasses, and even with the 20-power scope we could not tell if the one with heaviest horns had good tips or not, so we went around to the other side of the basin where the ram was almost facing us at about 200 yards. We could now see that he had a good head. I used a snow comb for a rest and shot. The ram got up very slowly and moved off to my left. I shot again and again until my rifle was empty when the ram went behind some rocks. We hurried down so steep that I slid down a good part of the way. When the ram showed up below me I shot again this time the bullet went through the heart. He fell off of the ledge about ten feet and rolled about fifty feet more down over the rocks and was dead when we got there. Curley was the first and he said, ìWell, he is no record but a good head.î This was very conservative as when we measured the horns he had a 46-inch base and 25-inch spread which I believe is second to the record for Stone Sheep. The first shot smashed the left hip, two went through his middle and the last just back of shoulder through lungs and heart. To say that I was pleased would be putting it very mildly.
     It was my secret hope that I would get a 45- inch head but I knew I would be very lucky if I did. After taking pictures Frank and Curley dragged the sheep down over the rocks onto some ice, where after eating lunch he was skinned out and the steep climb out of the basin began. This was our first day of real mountain climbing so it was the hardest. Before we got to the top a couple of rams came over in our basin and I got some good movies. We got back in camp at 8 p.m., twelve hours out and we were all tired. We saw 7 rams, 4 caribou and two moose the first dayís hunting. Curley thought we should move to another camp site so we did the next day and went up along another creek through a pass down to the head of another creek, over another pass and back down on another creek. It snowed quite a lot on us but it did not lie. We saw two wolverines running along on top of a high ridge and some nice rams, one with a full curl and sharp points and another with heavy horns, a full curl, but the ends of both were rubbed off.
     We moved camp again, just a fly camp this time, we left the cook and all horses but two went up the creek over two summits and made camp at timber line.
     The first day hunting out of this camp we went up over a low pass and up on top of a wide rocky mountain that was almost fiat on the first bench.
     We saw three rams traveling ahead of us and as the wind was wrong we circled around to the right to get ahead ox them, but when we got there and right on top our three rams had disappeared.
     The mountains dropped off almost straight here to the Musqua River. We circled again and finally one appeared as if out of the ground. We had a full curl but we did not bother him. We continued our search for the other two, one of which had a heavy curl. On looking over the break we heard rocks rolling below us and saw a small ram just going around a point below. Then as I looked over another place the big ram was looking up at me not over 20 feet away. I donít know which of us was the most surprised. I was, I guess, as the sheep got in action first. He got out the only way he could which was right by us, ran about 50 yards and stopped. Head heavy, wide horns, but one of them was broken off.
     The other ram came up over the rim on the run and stopped for a picture at about 40 yards. These were all the sheep we could find, so did not get a shot, though we saw a bunch of caribou on a snow bank and got some good pictures. On the way down the ridge we saw a goat. Got some pictures of him at close range.
     Next day was moving day again. Ted was to bring a horse to take our camp equipment back so Curley packed it up and loaded it on his back and started to meet him. Frank and I went up the highest mountain we could find. Saw no sheep but did see two caribou. We got down out of those rocks and started to look for three rams. Frank had located them at this point with his glasses about two miles from camp on getting to the top of a small knoll. Two dark ones and one almost white. The white one was the best by far and had a full curl but instead of shooting it I got some very good pictures both with still camera and movie. Frank thought I should have shot him, but in a way Iím glad I did not as I think more of those pictures than I would have of the head, although it was a nice one.
 He is still roaming the high mountains of British Columbia some place, the leader of a small band of rams, and he was looked on as a leader then as the two small rams got up while I was taking pictures getting closer all the time. They would look at the big fellow and seeing he was not afraid and in no hurry to get out they law down again and I donít think they were over 100 feet away. They waited for me while I sat down and changed the film in my camera. There are some pictures in my mind I like and value where the rifle was not used.
     After this we went up another creek on another side trip in a fly camp, saw six moose in a swampy place at one time, all in the open and two bulls at other places. A fine place to hunt moose if one wanted to shoot one. This place did not produce any sheep worth going after, so Curley thought it moving day again, up over a high pass. Cold up there and snowed on us, but on the other side we dropped down fast to our camp site, higher here than our last camp along a creek, high mountains on both sides. Saw two moose and three rams on the way over. Curley thought we should try the country up the creek first, and just about a mile above camp we saw three rams up next to the bluffs. One of these looked like a good one, so we spent an hour or two getting to a point about 300 yards below, then with the glasses we could now see that the big one had one long horn on one side, but the other horn was broken off so another old ram would not make a good trophy. From this point we could see eight rams up in a high basin, so up there we climbed only to find that they were all small ones, none with a full curl. From here we crossed over the top and down in another basin. There was a small lake in it with ice and red snow in it, the first I had ever seen. The red is caused, I think, by lichens. We thought we could get down along the creek but it was almost straight down and that meant a hard climb up to the top of the mountain, and around. Then it rained and fog settled down so that we could hardly see, then down through a half mile or so to timber line, balsam and buck bush. We were so wet when we got to the creek we waded across. A warm tent and a change to dry clothes were very welcome. After this we stayed in camp for two days on account of snow. On third day at noon Frank and I went up the trail but the leather top rubbers I put on, on account of the wet, rubbed the skin off of my heels and that was the last time I wore them.
     In the evening we could see 18 goats feeding next to the top of a very steep mountain. Some of these goats were seen every day, but a harder place to get one I have never seen. One day we saw a billie out on a point alone. We thought we could get up under him and get a shot, but when within about 300 yards of him he got our scent when the wind eddied and was out and almost to the top when we saw him, too far for a certain shot. We climbed to the top thinking we might see him on other side, but there was so much snow there that we did not see him but did see one big billie in his favorite place right on top of a high narrow ridge where he could see anyone no matter in what direction we would try to get a shot from. As it would have to be a long one chances of getting him in his bed were slim, otherwise he would roll a thousand feet and break the horns.
     I did not particularly want a goat anyhow.
    Not bad enough to take another day to get one but thought we might come across one some day without losing any time, as I wanted all the time we had to hunt another good ram and a grizzly.
     Next day we moved back to the main camp and hunted a mountain and basin on the way but without results. We had passed up a number of good rams but as I wanted a grizzly more than another sheep I thought we could hunt the two at the same time. We had seen many tracks and diggings but so far no grizzly. While we were out to the last fly camp, Ted, the cook, said he had seen five rams just back of the main camp and one looked good. We thought we would have a look at them which we did the next day. My shoe was hurting my foot this day so that I could hardly walk and I had visions of my hunt being cut short. Curley came to the rescue, letting me have his shoes as they did not have any toe cap on them. After about an hour my foot bothered me very little. The rams proved to be small ones.
     As this district did not produce any bear or good sheep, we moved the main camp again back over the trail where we had gone in. The trip was pleasant but we saw no game except two caribou. It was now the 7th of September and the leaves were all red and yellow. Many of them falling, nearly all the flowers gone, just a few forget-me-nots left. Another day on the mountain we saw moose, caribou and sheep, but nothing that we wanted. Then we went out on our fourth side trip to hunt some basins we had not been in before. Climbed to a high basin for bear but no fresh signs there. We did see two big goats, and as it did not look promising for anything else we went after them. It was not hard to get within range as one was lying down and the other standing with his head the mother way. It was a good 200 yards and the one lying down looked yellow. I thought the other one best, so shot but over shot, and when he went up over the rocks I shot again and hit him. He went behind a big rock out of sight but was dead when we got up there. He was a big billie. We thought he would weigh at least 300 pounds, horns 9~/s inches long and was in very good fur. I did not want two goats so did not take the other one.
     The one I got was hit in the right ham, the bullet going forward through the body, through stomach, liver, and I picked it out of his lungs mushroomed perfectly.
    After another day looking for bear we moved back to the main camp and tried it there a day, but it was a cold day on the mountains with the wind blowing so hard we could hardly walk and nearly froze our faces.
     Moved on out again after this. Spent a couple hours at a big spring hoping to get a shot at a wolf as we had heard them howl around here and game tracks to the spring were plentiful. A regular gametrap for the wolves but we did not see any, although the next day when we went up on a mountain back of camp, Ted saw one. We had a long hard day and saw four rams about a mile away. As they were on an open hillside and the wind blowing towards them, we had to go down to timber line and up a couple of deep gulches. After about three hours we got in behind them but the best was not good enough, so back down the mountain we went and tried it again the next day. Got a fine picture with the movie camera of a ram, then later of six ewes and lambs. We could see a mountain from this camp that Curley and Frank thought would produce some sheep or bear, but there were none. There were just old tracks and diggings made by a bear. One day at this camp was enough so the outfit moved again while Frank and I climbed a mountain and hunted back to camp. We saw a big bull moose but I was not after moose on this trip, although I saw 31 of them, so we did not try for a shot, although I think we could have killed him easily.
     Frank, Curley and I left camp the next morning early. Went down the creek about five miles then up the ridge. It was high and steep but all these mountains could be climbed and I was now in far better shape than when I started. On reaching the top we saw old bear diggings, then we saw two rams but too small. At the top of the mountain along a sheep trail we saw nine more rams. Then down in a ravine in the big basin, we saw three more. A very light one and two dark ones, one almost black. We looked them all over and decided that the black one down in the ravine had the best horns. Up to now getting a grizzly looked hopeless. I thought I might as well get this ram and perhaps we might get a grizzly on our way out. This ram got on the steep side of a shale bank and lay down in plain sight. We were in the same basin and the other rams were lying down along the top, some right on the sky line. We would have to make our stalk mostly in the open. Frankís plans for the stalk worked out fine and we got to a point about 200 yards away. We stopped along a stream to eat our lunch and found that the ram had gone down in the bottom of the ravine again. I crawled forward a couple yards but on account of the mountain sloping to my right I could not get a prone shot so sat down and waited until he turned broadside. I put the sight just back of the shoulder and fired. The ram dropped as though shot in the head and rolled down about 25 yards and was dead. The bullet hit him in the lungs and passed on through mushrooming perfectly. We took some pictures and skinned him out, then climbed up that steep mountain and started back along the sheep trail, resting once in a while as Curley and Frank had heavy loads and we had an unusual lot of climbing this day. The measurements of the ramís horns were base 15 inches, length 39 inches, spread 22 inches. While resting at one of our stops, talking about our ram, I saw a grizzly coming on the run about five hundred yards below us. He was above timber line running across a ridge. A quick look through the glasses showed it to be a silver tip with plenty of silver. As soon as he disappeared in a ravine below us Frank and I ran down the mountain, he on my right to watch the ravine the bear went in and I down along a bigger ravine that reached nearly to the top of the mountain. I had not gone so far when he appeared in sight, coming up the ravine to my left he stopped and turned as though to go up the other side. Changed his mind and came up the way he had started. He was about 150 yards away at a very steep angle below me. I sat down and aimed for his ribs and fired. He dropped at once, rolled down the ravine like a big furry ball for about 50 yards, then got up. I shot again and he repeated the performance, then got up again, and ran up over the point of the ridge.
     When I got down to about 50 yards of him I saw him lying down just below us. He then raised up on his front feet and I put the third shot through his back and he went down for good, rolled another 50 yards, but unlike the other two times he had his head straight while rolling, instead of between his front legs. He was quite dead when we got down there, a beautiful silver tip, silver nearly all over, an old bear but medium size. His skin squared 7 feet unstretched. I had wanted a grizzly very badly but had thought it was not for me on this trip so I was more than pleased.
     It was too late for pictures or to skin the bear now and as we were about eight miles from camp Curley and Frank thought it better to go back to camp and return the next day. We did this getting in camp at 10 p.m. by moonlight, 141/2 hours out, tired but happy.
     The next day we went back and took pictures and skinned the bear. The first shot hit him just back of shoulder about half way between top of back and bottom of ribs but on account of the steep angle of fire the bullet ranged down through lower part of lungs and out just back of brisket letting part of the liver and intestines out. The second shot hit him a little lower all three shots came out underneath very close.
     I used 180-grain Remington bronze point bullets on this trip as I always do and I find they give very satisfactory results as I have shot over 30 head of big game with this cartridge, using a model 54, .30-06 Winchester, restocked, with 20-inch barrel and 48W rear sight, gold bead front sight.
     Curley and Frank had never hunted this mountain before, but it proved to be a lucky one for me. A nice ram and a grizzly in one day. It was now September 21 and Curley was afraid if we did not get back across the Caribou Range we were liable to get snowed in, so we got out on our way home. I had shot what I went for and was well satisfied. We traveled a few days one just about like another until we got to a big lake. Curley said we would stop over for a day and try for a black bear. We did see four moose and a bunch of caribou, got caught in a hail and snowstorm, and got in camp long after dark, soaked and tired. A few more days on the trail until we got back to Horse Shoe Creek. It snowed all night and a day so we stayed in camp. Curley thought we had better move on out even though the ground was covered with wet snow and the trail muddy and this proved to be a lucky decision in my favor. That afternoon while going down the trail along the Halfway River, Curley as always leading the train with Frank, Ted and me in the rear. We saw some ravens flying around and Ted said there must be a wolf kill close. We did not stop until the trail came out near the river on a high cut bank. Ted said ìwhat is that swimming the river?î I could see nothing from where I was. ìItís wolves,î he said. ìGet your gun.î I grabbed it out of the scabbard, ran to the edge of the bank and sat down. They were out of the water then, the smaller one got on top of a six-foot cut bank and ran, the other one turned up along the river and while looking for a place out on top, I shot the distance being a good 200 yards. He dropped in his tracks, lay for a few seconds then raised his head a few times, rolled in the river and was floating down. The cut bank we were on was about 25 feet high and too steep to get down with the horses. Finally, with Frank leading, we got the horses to jump about 3 feet and go down the rest of the way on their haunches. There was a wide gravel bar between us and the river and on this we rode over to the waterís edge. I went straight to where I could see where the wolf fell. Nothing but blood there. Frank went down below to see if it had floated on down, but neither of us saw it. We then forded the river and started up the other side thinking perhaps it had lodged against a sweeper. We found it close to shore in shallow water with the fur barely showing. It had floated about 200 yards. I was afraid we had lost it as it was some time from the time I shot until we got it. When I got the grizzly I thought my trip was about perfect. I always wanted a wolf and with the only shot I ever got at one, I now had one. He was a fine big black one, weighted 125 pounds or more. It was all the two of us could do to put it on the horse. It was well furred, with a lot of silver in it and proved to be an exceptionally big one. Skull 11í/2 inches long, 61/2 inches wide. Wet skin unstretched or pegged 86 inches long and 75 inches across front legs. I think as much of this trophy as any I got on the trip. The bullet hit him just back of the shoulder through the top of his lungs. Broke his back, cut two ribs and made a hole about 21/2 inches long where it came out, leaving the bronze point just under the skin where the bullet came out.
    In the book of Records of North America Big Game, wolves have no place. I donít know why, as they are plenty big enough and to most hunters are as desirable as a mountain lion and the lion is listed as big game.
     We only had three days more to get out, this we did without further incident to end of auto road. We were out 67 days. Pitched camp 37 times, and a more enjoyable trip I donít think I could have had.

Reprinted by permission from Sports Afield. June 1938.