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Bowhunting the Serengeti of the North

Russell ThornberryBy Russell Thornberry

-- Those of you who have watched our TV show or read Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine for any length of time will have seen my coverage of hunting the Peace River drainage in eastern British Columbia, Canada. This area is unique because of its high game population and diversity of game species -- all roaming the same area.  

Photo: The author harvested this trophy mule deer while hunting with Horseshoe Creek Outfitters located in eastern British Columbia, Canada.

Beginning Sept. 1, 2008, a bowhunter can hunt five game species and hold over-the-counter tags for each: mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, elk and black bear (2 black bear tags available per hunter).

I have scored on all the species mentioned above by hunting with outfitter Ray Jackson of Horseshoe Creek Outfitters, sometimes tagging as many as four animals in one hunt. The reason for my success is pretty simple. All I do is walk out the bunkhouse door and I'm hunting. The game is so concentrated in Jackson's area that you can expect any of the five species anywhere you go. In one afternoon shift in a treestand overlooking a small pond a mile back into the green timber, I saw all five species come to water. I don't believe there is another western state or province where such a variety of game is available to a hunter on a single hunt.

A few years ago, Dale Larson and I hunted with Jackson, and both of us took 170-inch mule deer with our bows - mine from a treestand and his while stalking. In addition, I shot two black bears and a bull elk. At that time of the year, elk and bear may also be taken with a rifle if the hunter so desires.

During a November hunt with Ray Jackson, I shot the biggest bodied whitetail I have ever taken with a bow. It was a 160-class buck weighing 321 pounds on the hoof. That one made the cover of Buckmasters magazine.

Russell ThornberryI get regular inquiries asking if I can suggest a place to hunt big mule deer. Without hesitation I recommend Jackson's area. I have seen more monster muleys in that area than any other I have hunted. The last time I was there, I spotted a huge mule deer buck that I felt sure would score 200 inches as a clean 4x4 typical. It blew my mind. So I set up a treestand along the edge of an alfalfa field where I had seen the buck feeding. I could only hunt that stand in the afternoon because there was no way to approach the field in the dark of morning without spooking the deer that were most likely feeding there. 

Photo: The author has taken many trophy animals including black bear, elk, moose, white-tailed deer and mule deer while hunting with Horseshoe Creek Outfitters. 

Late one morning as Jackson was bringing another hunter in for lunch, he passed that alfalfa field, and there stood the huge buck, right beneath my empty treestand. I didn't shoot that buck but another hunter did. It scored 198 typical. My guess was pretty close.

Most of my hunts with Ray Jackson have been in early September because I am a bowhunter and that's the perfect time for archers. The game is calm and in regular feeding routines. The black bears invade the oat fields at that time of the year in unbelievable numbers. I have seen in excess of 30 bears in a single field. My friend Guy Hood hunted with Ray last September, and unfortunately, because of a mix-up on his airline ticket he arrived a day late in Fort St. John.  Ray picked him up at the airport that afternoon and while driving back to camp, Ray spotted an oat field full of bears. He stopped and told Guy to grab his bow, and so with bow in hand and still in his street clothes, Guy arrowed a 7-foot trophy black bear before he even got to camp. That is not an unusual scenario.

Ray has private access to actual townships of prime agricultural land on which alfalfa and oats are grown. It is not unusual to see all five species in one field at the same time. I have seen it on many occasions.

In addition to the farmland hunting, Ray's territory encompasses true mountain wilderness for those who prefer wilderness hunting, but I must admit it is very hard for me to drive past alfalfa fields speckled with deer, moose and elk, to get to a mountain to hunt the critters I just drove past. Don't get me wrong, I have spent my fair share of time in the deep wilderness, but now that I am maturing (a kind metaphor for getting old) I am not as mad about the mountains as I used to be. At my age there's something pretty special about sleeping in a soft bed under a real roof.

When I remember all the game I've taken while hunting with Ray Jackson, which includes all five species mentioned, I am certain that I have never been more than a 1 1/2 miles from his house. How's that for a game paradise? Admittedly, since Ray lives only a stone's throw from the Peace River, I am enamored by the rainbow trout that tug at my heart and my fly rod during the middle of the day when I'm not hunting. That rocks my world.

Ray recently dropped by my office on his annual spring tour through the U.S. 

"When can you come?" he asked.

"When can I come?" I replied.

"September 8-13 and bring a cameraman," he said.

So that's my plan - to head to British Columbia to begin bowhunting Sept. 8th. There are four more places open during that hunt, for a total of five hunters - one being me. If you'd like to experience the bowhunt of a lifetime, why don't you join me? 

For full details go to

It is an awesome experience and who knows, you might even wind up on the Buckmasters TV show. But first you must learn to begin the account of your hunting story by cocking your head to one side, raising one eyebrow, and saying: "There I was . . ."

Just kidding!

Check out these video clips of Russell Thornberry harvesting a mule deer and an elk while hunting with Horseshoe Creek Outfitters.

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By buckwild @ Saturday, March 22, 2008 9:20 PM
i thought the video clip of Russell Thornberry was a very good bowhunt but that too much of just walking. with limited time for the clip he could have indicated why he chose that particular tree to put the stand in what he was looking for in the location from a bowhunters perspective

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