Sometimes our hunting adventures don't turn out exactly like we want them to. But that's just how life goes so unfortunately, we have to accept that and move on. Other times our hunts aren't even remotely close to what our booking agent or guide sold to us. We are all excited when booking a hunt, and often we don't exercise caution or pay due diligence to what the booking agent or outfitter is selling to us. All we want to hear is the success rate, the cost, the number of animals in the area and what they score. Sadly, I have also fallen victim to this type of deceitful practice like many other hunters.
My costliest experience to date was a 15 day Bighorn Sheep hunt on horseback in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. This hunt took place between Banff National Park and the Canmore Bow Zone. The dates were August 31st through September 16th. The booking company that sold me this hunt was Bowhunting Safari Consultants and my booking agents were Mark Buehrer and Jay Osting. I had been a client of theirs since the year 2000, more than 17 years! Throughout our exclusive 17 year relationship, I've booked several hunts and spent a lot of money with them. The guide for this particular sheep hunt was the well known Chad Lenz, who personally guided me for most of my hunt. Although my hunt was going very poorly, Chad bailed the last three days and left to go home and attend to new hunters coming to hunt elk and other species.
Many of these hunts are booked well in advance. When I decided to hunt Bighorn Sheep, I called Bowhunting Safari Consultants (BSC) who I believed would help me choose the best outfitting service for this expensive and demanding hunt. After all, a sheep hunt is not the type of hunt that a person can go on several times a year or several times in a lifetime for that matter, due to the sheer cost and time involved. So I called BSC and spoke to Mark Buehrer, who I trusted to guide me to the best outfitter. We talked about availability, price and the overall details including success rate, time of year and the number of animals in this area.
During the conversation, Mark assured me this was an excellent sheep hunt, and I would have a great chance of harvesting a ram. Mark had previously gone on this hunt with Chad but was thrown off a horse, ending his quest for a bighorn sheep. I was personally told by Mark and Chad that on Mark’s hunt they had seen at least 100 sheep from the road, including some legal rams. So I booked the hunt and sent my deposit to BSC.
Several months later while on another hunt I spoke to a few good friends of mine and mentioned this upcoming hunt for Bighorn Sheep with Chad Lenz. My friends immediately expressed their concerns and stated that I was taking a huge risk. They thought I should try and get my deposit back and book this hunt with a different guide service. After returning from hunting with my friends, I called Mark Buehrer at BSC again to ask more questions. Mark assured me once again this was a great hunt and I shouldn't cancel. He also suggested that I call Chad and speak with him. So that's exactly what I did.
During our conversation, Chad went on to tell me that even though nobody had taken a Rocky Mountain Bighorn with him while using a bow and arrow, that everyone had at least one opportunity. He explained each situation and why the client did not harvest a sheep. Then Chad went on to say he had a couple "honey holes" and Chad PERSONALLY GUARANTEED that he would get me within bow range of a legal ram. Once again I was convinced and sent in my second payment. As the months went by I called Chad occasionally to check on things and see how the scouting trips were going in the area, I was supposed to be hunting. The answers I received were always the same. He would say, “I'm currently packing up to go scout,” or “My guides are about to go check out the area.” When the time came to send my final payment, I called once again. Chad was heading out to help a friend guide in British Columbia but stated everything was on track for our September sheep hunt in the Rocky Mountains. As scheduled I sent my last payment to Chad. I was physically fit from training all summer, and I had just finished a successful mountain goat hunt the month before in August. The only thing left now was to wait for my hunting date to arrive.
On August 31st, 2016 I arrived at the airport in Alberta, Canada where Chad picked me up. We drove a couple of hours out of town to his house where I shot my bow to make sure everything was in working order. Then I had dinner, organized my gear and retired for the night. The following morning we gathered horses, loaded the truck and headed for the mountains. After arriving at the trailhead, we packed the horses and began the long ride up the valley to camp. After riding for about an hour and leaving the main trail, Chad began having problems locating and staying on the trail. We kept doubling back trying to locate the trail again after repeatedly losing it. This is where I began having concerns, and the nightmare began. If Chad had been in this area and scouting during the summer, which was only a couple months before my arrival, then how would he have problems finding the trails and staying on them? Not to mention the new trails he cut while we were there hunting.
We rode horses all day and arrived at the Tutishna campsite. There was no tent set up, and with no helper like I was told to expect, we had to unload the horses, cut firewood, then assemble the wall tent and wood stove. Now, I will be the first to help at camp, and anyone who has hunted with me knows this to be true, but I do expect a guide to fulfill his agreement and make good on promises. Although we traveled up the river valley with mountains and valleys on both sides of us, we located no sheep on the long ride to camp, which lasted until early evening.
This was a weather day due to heavy rain and fog. Although we were able to get out late that afternoon and ride to a lookout point to glass for a few hours, no sheep were located.
We cut a new trail to the top of a knoll that we used as a second lookout. Once again this was more work at my expense and another area Chad had never been to. The results were the same. No sheep again.
We packed the horses again and rode another full day to a new hunting area. There were not any sheep on the way to this camp either. Once we arrived, we had to set up ANOTHER campsite and chop more firewood. The last hour of the day was spent glassing from camp. No sheep again.
We hiked up to the rim across from camp then side-hilled over to another valley. Chad thought we could stay up high and skirt around the top, but that wasn't the case. We had to drop back down through the trees, downed timber, and willows which made travel very difficult. During our day we hiked up the valley and checked out a bowl area where we found no rams. On the way back to camp we stayed down low, knowing it was our only option. After walking for most of the day, we found an old trail Chad thought was made several years ago when the previous guide hunted the area. I found it very interesting that Chad didn't know the trail existed until we stumbled across it. After all, this was his guide area, and he supposedly had been there many times before. Again, no rams.
This was a weather day, but we did glass the mountains from camp. No sheep again.
Finally, the weather broke, so we saddled up and headed down the drainage until it met another valley. After crossing the river, we tied the horses and continued on foot up an adjacent valley until reaching the bowl. After glassing for a few hours and only seeing three ewes with lambs, it was time to return to camp. No rams again.
After breakfast and the horses had been saddled, Chad and I set off to scout another new area for rams. This time after spending all day hiking and glassing we spotted five ewes with lambs. Still no rams!
This day had nothing to offer except bad weather, which included snow and colder temperatures. The visibility was poor as conditions made it next to impossible to glass. So this day was spent in the tent and glassing from camp. No sheep again.
This day brought more snow and low clouds. Finally, the clouds lifted in the afternoon and I was able to get in a scouting trip. Two new guides arrived that night as Chad decided to go back home to meet and help take care of other hunters. This left me with one experienced assistant guide and one assistant guide on his first ever sheep hunt. A few ewes and lambs were spotted above camp, but still no rams.
This eleventh day started and ended just like all the rest. I was now hunting the same mountains day after day. Even though I had new assistant guides, the results were the same. There were no rams to be found anywhere.
This day seemed like the movie "Groundhog Day." We were doing the same thing every day and expecting different results. Isn't that the definition of insanity? No sheep again!
We prepared to travel ANOTHER full day by horses back to the Titishner where had I hunted the first day with Chad. This meant another wasted day with six to eight hours in the saddle and, you guessed it, no sheep again.
We hunted to the bitter end as we walked the horses down the mountain hours after dark while marking yet ANOTHER trail so guides could find it at a later date. We hunted all day, and the result was the same as the last time I hunted here. No ewes, no lambs, no rams, no sheep!
This was the conclusion of my Bighorn Sheep hunt as the horses were saddled for the last time and we rode down the valley towards the truck. We occasionally stopped to glass and scour the mountains on the long ride down the drainage which took most of the day. Again we spotted no sheep.
After getting back to Chad’s house/lodge, I mentioned that I had an elk hunt coming up soon in New Mexico, but if he found a ram for me to hunt to please contact me and I would be on a flight the next day. Even though I did not see a ram on this hunt and it was nothing more than a camping trip, I generously tipped Chad in hopes that he would find a ram, call me, and have me back to hunt. This obviously did not happen.
Chad said he had one more place to look for rams and he would keep me posted on the situation. Chad never contacted me, so I thought he didn’t find any rams. A couple of months later Chad told BSC that he found a ram but he didn’t have a guide available, so he never called me. That’s when I asked for a refund of my hunt/scouting trip.
As you can imagine I was not very happy after having a terrible hunt with unfulfilled promises and now this! I have asked many times for a refund, and all I get is one excuse after another as to why I didn’t see any rams. To make matters worse Mark Buehrer said to me at one point, and this is a quote “I am retiring from BSC, and I need to get off the phone because I have trees to plant and my wife needs me.” Really, Mark and BSC? Is this how you treat your clients that just spent $40,000 (hunt costs, airfare, and gratuities) with you? Well, I guess it is.
Not only did this hunt cost a lot of hard earned money, but it also wasted three weeks of my precious hunting season.
THANK YOU BOWHUNTING SAFARI CONSULTANTS AND CHAD LENZ. I will NEVER hunt with you or book a hunt with you again!