Elk hunting and engine fires don’t mix.

The afternoon was wearing on and we were getting discouraged. We hadn’t seen any animals, let alone the ones we were hunting.
The afternoon sun was bright and getting warmer by the minute. The ungulates of the forest probably already had bedded down; we probably wouldn’t see anything until the evening hunt which was 2 hours away.

My hunting partner and I were on an all day hunt, hunting and scouting new area. However, I didn’t like what I was seeing for the most part. Most likely due to the fact we hadn’t seen anything all day.

We kept along the main logging road hoping to come across an area where we could go for a hunt walk. We came upon a road that lead up into some hills. Sure, why the heck not?  A few kilometers down the dirt road, we started to climb; a nice gradual climb, but a climb none-the-less. More Fir trees appeared and there was less underbrush.

I liked what I saw. I could see and feel animals being here. The road however, was more gravel then dirt and it made it real hard to tell if there were tracks of Moose, Deer or Elk crossing the road. I wanted to see tracks so fresh that an animal is standing in them.         I gave up looking for tracks; after all, you can’t eat tracks. I scanned the distance before me; nothing. Remembering not to forget the bush line, I told my hunting partner to pay closer attention to the immediate right of him. Do you know how many Moose and Deer I spotted not in front of me, but in the bush line, looking back at me? Too many to count.

“You have to be a rubber neck when you are with me” I said to my hunting partner. “Don’t have tunnel vision. Most animals are in the bush and not on the road”.

There was a nod of agreement from him and we started to discuss finding a place to do one last walk before we head for home. As we talked, I noticed a smell. It hit my nose with a faint tang; I recognized the smell, but I couldn’t place it. Burning wires? Burning rubber? Brakes? Wait, we are climbing…I’m not hitting the brakes.

Silence filled the cab as we both knew something was off. Then we saw it…tendrils of smoke coming from the hood of the truck. I slammed on the brakes and threw the truck in park and turned off the engine, all the while my partner was yelling “FIRE”!

I yelled back “Yes! I know!”

We jumped out of the vehicle and threw the hood of the truck open. Flames were shooting up from the engine. My mind shouted at me, Holy F*@#! I gotta do something! I darted to the cab of the truck, grabbed my water bottle from the middle console and raced back to the open flames and doused the flames. The fire went out.


My hunting partner and I waited a few minutes for the smoke to clear and then assessed the damage. It didn’t appear to be any! Just a bit of melted plastic casing around some wires, but the wires seemed untouched. I spotted the object that caught on fire: a rag used to check the oil. It must have come loose from it’s ‘tucked away spot’ when my husband pressure washed and cleaned the engine a few days before. Oops!

My hunting partner is not mechanically inclined. Neither am I. I called my husband to report our situation and perhaps send a picture of the engine.  Miraculously, I had cell reception, but it was sketchy. I didn’t get an answer, so I left a message on his phone.

I didn’t want to turn on the engine. I was afraid that if I did, something would happen. I just wanted that confirmation from my husband whether or not things looked alright.

As my hunting partner and I waited for a phone call back, we viewed our situation: three kilometres walk back to the main logging road, twelve kilometres back to a hunting camp we saw. It was 3:30pm already. If one of us went now, perhaps we could come back with someone before dark? That would be the tentative plan if my husband didn’t call back.

We decided to wait for 30 minutes as my husband would be off of work around 4:00 and he would most likely check his messages.

I looked around us. We were on level ground, sitting in the middle of a 1 kilometre stretch of dirt road. On either side of us, a young clear cut sprawled out for 800 meters each way. The edges of the clear cut went up into the hills; basically, we were in a small valley.

I pulled out my elk mouth reed. What the hell…got nothing better to do. I started doing a ‘calf distress call’. My logic was that it was after the rut. No Bull Elk was going o come out for a cow call most likely. But, if I can get the cows to come out, perhaps a Bull Elk would follow them? Well, that is what I been taught by other people. I just never put it into practice. I was relatively new to Elk hunting.

I blew my reed for a good solid minute and let my squeals die down. I got an answer back a second later. Behind, and up to the right of me, where the clear cut met the forest, a whole bunch of Cow Elk called back to me. EeeeeOoooo! EeeeeOoooo!

What!? Really!? Cool!

My hunting partner and I froze. I wasn’t expecting that; neither was he. I quickly made my way to him and discussed our plan. We had to get them into the open. But a few things were going against us: 1) The red truck was sitting there in the open (but it wasn’t moving, so that might be ok). 2) The light breeze was NOT in our favour; it was going the direction of where the calls were. 3) There was still a strong burnt rubber smell coming from the truck.  Damn! We were going to try anyways. We had nothing to lose.

The calls were getting closer. We needed to get away from that truck. We moved further down the road closer to the noise and hunkered down behind some young spruce trees. I was on one side of the road, my hunting partner was on the other side.

I made another distress call. The cows call-backs got more frenzied and louder.  I expected any second they were going to break through the bush line and head into the clear cut.  My heart raced. I glanced over to my hunting partner and saw he gripped his rifle tighter.

Then. Dead. Silence.

I tried another call. I even called out for 5 minutes…No! I’m hurt! I’m really hurt! Come help me! Help!

But it didn’t work. The smell of the burnt rubber went straight to them. How could it not? We were in a valley and the scent blew and funnelled straight to them as the made their way down the treed hill before it opened into the clear cut.  They didn’t like what they were smelling, so they stayed away.  That is what we believe anyways.  Perhaps it was the red truck? We will never know.

Ah, defeat.

It was a great experience though!

We shrugged our shoulders and went back the truck. My husband called then. I told him the whole story; the fire, the elk, the defeat. He was quite amused. The truck he said, was most likely fine and to give the engine a try. It started. Yay! We gave him our route back home, just incase the truck did die along the way and he had to come find us.

There was no evening walk. We decide to road hunt on the way home. If the truck did die somewhere along the way, it would be easier to deal with while there was still some day-light left.

We made it back to town that night without any further occurrences, and without any harvest. Can’t win them all.

Well…we have a story to tell now, don’t we?

Keep Calm and Hunt On