Hunt is a cultural experience

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 21/97) - It was a long stalk for Shawn Johnston and Dene guide Ed Landry. But they were now within striking distance of harvesting a wood bison.

Wolves in the area had made the beasts doubly skittish.

"We got to within 150 yards before it spotted us," Johnston said of a wary bull.

There were 20 in the group, but not one clear shot. Then they fled, with most bunching together and running as a herd, Johnston said. Three or four were strung out behind.

Johnston zeroed in on the last with his .340 Weatherby magnum rifle. He was the lucky holder of one of 17 wood bison tags drawn last November in a public lottery.

His father, Dale, accompanied him on this January hunt in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, along with Shawn's uncle, Kevin Johnston, who had been drawn as a standby alternate on another tag. All live in Yellowknife.

Dale wrote a letter following the hunt to the Renewable Resources wood bison management board.

In it, he said "Over the course of the hunt we had the opportunity to discuss many topics (with Ed Landry) such as wood bison hunting, land clearing, business ventures, snowmobiles and some history of Fort Providence Dene.

"This was not only a hunt, but also a cultural experience."

Shawn wrote that "Ed demonstrated he had great knowledge and respect of the bison herd and he made me realize that there were other aspects to the hunt than just getting the animal.

"He is truly a professional guide and guardian of the bison herd."

Shawn's first shot from the super-powerful magnum was right on the mark. "It (the bison) was so massive it didn't feel it. It was like swatting a fly ... after the shot hit it went another 600 yards."

Shawn and Landry ran after the creature and Shawn finished it off.

"I was looking at it in awe," Shawn said. "All of a sudden it got up on its front hooves and did a howl. It sounded like a lion. Then it turned its head and looked at me.

"I backed away pretty fast to the first clump of willows I could find. It fell over dead after that."

The yield from this medium-sized 740-kilogram carcass was 360 kilograms of roasts, steaks and stew meat, a liver that would fill most of a bushel basket and a heart larger than a human head.