“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.” P.G. Wodehouse
Maple-roasted rack of venison, grilled rainbow trout, pan-seared duck breast with blueberry sauce and a fine bottle of pinot noir; the hunter’s choice cuisine. But first you have to kill it, although, as clever hunters know, the wine is generally killed differently than the meat.
Sometimes, in fact, you have to catch your prey after you kill it, as E.J. Peltier and Charles Armstrong discovered in September, 1902, when they travelled in the company of a borrowed bird dog to a lake on the St. Mary Prairie to do a little duck hunting. They shot well, the ducks dropped in the lake and the dog refused to budge. Not to be snookered by a canine, Mr. Peltier shrugged off his clothes, climbed into the saddle of his trusty steed and headed for the middle of the lake. Hanging on by the mane he and the horse swam from duck to duck and gathered them all; a perfect poster boy for Super Natural British Columbia.
Much to his chagrin Lester Clapp, in an oft-repeated tale, met with misfortune while hunting ducks near Twin Lakes. Taking a break he sat down to rest against a tree for a smoke when he spotted a lone mallard coming towards him in full flight. He raised his shotgun and fired at a distance of some 30 yards. His aim was true but the duck did not falter. It flew directly into Mr. Clapp’s head, crushing both his cigar (Mr. Clapp’s, not the duck’s) and his pride, before falling dead to the ground (the duck, not Mr. Clapp).
Thomas Caven, a conductor for the CPR, did away with the whole rifle thing completely in 1916, when his train, No. 514, heading east, struck and killed an elk. On the return journey Mr. Caven stopped the train to investigate and found that the elk’s head had been cut off close to the shoulders, leaving it in perfect shape for subsequent mounting.
Fred Ryckman failed in the capture of a big game trophy in October, 1915, when he organized party of hunters to bring down a bear that Mr. Ryckman claimed was relentlessly raiding his pigsty and making off with the bacon. The men stationed themselves nearby in the dark of night and, hearing the squealing of the pigs, advanced forward to let loose a terrific volley. Upon close inspection they discovered the bullet-ridden body of Mr. Ryckman’s bulldog. Mission accomplished, more or less.
Tragically, it is sometimes the hunter who becomes the target. Not as often as might be thought but, needless to say, there are more than a few graves in the Old General cemetery occupied by those who, with a loaded gun in their hands, made one mistake. Perhaps Charles Campbell had it right when he opened his shooting gallery on Baker Street in 1903; after all, he was the local undertaker.
Those on record as having died by a single misplaced bullet include Joseph Tacier, a CPR worker, who was among the first in the city to suffer death by misadventure with a gun; in fact he was one of the first in the city to suffer death, period. He was working in the Cranbrook rail yard when he slid his rifle backwards onto a handcar, caught the trigger in some tools, shot himself in the stomach and died soon after.
In 1913, Edgar Rawles brought down a grouse with a .22 caliber pistol. When the bird showed continued signs of life he picked it up with one hand and shot himself in the stomach with the other. He walked two miles to his camp and died the next day.
In April, 1905, W.C. Cook, the CPR station agent at Fort Steele Junction, went out with his rifle and didn’t return. An ensuing search revealed his rifle and clothes on the shore of a small lake. His body was discovered in the water not far from the dead duck he was apparently trying to swim to retrieve when he was overcome by cramps.
Edward Trowse shot himself in the chest with a 30-30 rifle in 1913, when he struck the hammer of the weapon on a rock upon which he was seated while hunting up Gold Creek. He died instantly and, ironically, was carried down the mountain in a deer hide.
Robby Boyter somehow shot himself through the lung with his father’s shotgun in April, 1919, while leading a team of horses. He managed to walk home but died the next day.
In a bizarre accident, Alban Michel shot his friend, 11-year-old Gabriel Ignacz, on Christmas Eve, at St. Eugene Mission. The two boys were playfully arguing over possession of a gun when it went off, blowing away Gabriel’s hand and sending a piece of bone into his stomach which killed him almost immediately.
On the other hand, there is the tale, first heard in 1912, of local game warden Jim Bates encountering a hunter with his gun in the mountains during the closed season. “Good country for hunting,” said the warden. “It certainly is,” replied the hunter, adding, “I killed one of the finest bucks yesterday I ever saw. He must have weighed over two hundred pounds.” “I see,” said the warden, “and do you know who you are talking to?” “No, I’m afraid I don’t,” answered the hunter. “Well, sir,” said Bates, “I am the chief game warden of this district.” “And do you know who you are talking to,” asked the hunter? “No, I do not,” said Bates. “Well, sir,” said the hunter, “you are talking to the biggest liar in British Columbia.”