May 2018 Issue – By Barbara Crown, Editor in Chief
Subscriber Scott Swasey says he took a dandy lynx in British Columbia this past January with Ken Watson of Opatcho Lake Guide Outfitters (250-960-8970; www.opatcholakeoutfitters.com). The cat final scores 8 9/16 SCI, putting it in the Top 20 lynx trophies.
Watson’s concession lies just south of Prince George, near the town of Hixon and encompasses 41,000 square kilometers of north central British Columbia. The topography ranges from river bottom farmlands to mountain caribou range at just under 4,500-foot elevations. There are plenty of timber areas, replanted forest and ranches as well as wilderness. While Watson has a camp on the shores of Opatcho Lake, it is typically inaccessible in January when he runs cat hunts, so he accommodates his cat hunters in his family home. Swasey says he and hunting companion Kirt Fredericks were treated more like house guests than “clients,” giving the hunt a very relaxed and personal feel.
Each day Swasey says they drove out with Watson looking for fresh tracks in the snow on the many logging and ranch access roads throughout his hunt area. When good tracks appeared, they would put out Watson’s pack of “mountain cur” dogs and have some coffee while the dogs sorted out the scent. If a “race” (or chase) ensued with a lynx, the hunters would follow on foot or by snow mobile, sometimes driving backroads to intercept the dogs, depending on the terrain and circumstances. Swasey says Watson knew the areas and travel ways intimately, anticipating where the dogs and cat might cross.
Hunting 2 x 1, Swasey says the first hunt of the day (his) was a bust but that Fredericks killed a very good lynx on the afternoon hunt. A couple of days of moist conditions and no snow followed. But the next hunting day produced two races with a cat treed on the afternoon hunt. Swasey says he walked through a section of thick deadfall to reach the treed cat.
In addition to lynx, Swasey says he saw wolf, coyote, mountain lion, elk, deer and snow hare sign nearly every day. On one occasion he says they found lots of lynx tracks but that they did not put out the dogs due to the amount of wolf sign in the same area. After each took a lynx, Swasey and Fredericks had a day left of their hunt and decided to try for wolf. Watson set up a bait using a dead cow in a field and a popup blind on a bluff overlooking the set. Swasey says they sat for four hours in 18-degrees Fahrenheit but nothing came in. He has since heard from Watson that some other hunters sat the same spot for six days at -20 degrees and took three wolves.
“Ken and Crystal Watson are great hosts, guides and outfitters,” says Swasey. “Ken’s gear is top notch and his dogs are remarkable. The winter hunt for lynx is quite exciting — watching the dogs on a ‘race’ and having them tree a cat is really something to be a part of. Ken’s outfitting area is quite large and there are multiple opportunities for a good cat.”
As for the wolf hunting, Swasey says it takes several days of dedicated effort, but it can be done. “There was wolf sign everywhere, but we were not lucky. As it was, we both got our cat, as well as coyote and snow hare.”
Swasey and Fredericks enjoyed hunting with Watson so much that they have booked spring bear hunts with him for themselves and their adult children for 2019.
The post-hunt handling of skins and skulls was efficiently done by RugitCanada and everything arrived at Swasey’s US taxidermist without any problems. “An added bonus after I got home was learning that the SCI Record Book submission I had made qualified as a Top-20 entry!!”
Watson charges $4,200 for a six-day 2×1 hunt, plus $560 for a lynx and wolf tag. A 1×1 hunt goes for $5,500. He offers lynx hunts from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. To access the area, hunters fly into Vancouver and then to Prince George where Watson will pick them up at the airport.