As you might have seen in my last post, What to do when there’s a lockout, we have been trying to stay busy, and do things we otherwise couldn’t do during a regular hockey season…
Last weekend, the Jonesy’s and we got the opportunity to go hunting down in Empress, Alberta. Just to give you an idea, Empress is about a 4.5 hour drive almost to the Saskatchewan border.
We were invited by a friend of the Jones’ (now a friend of ours), whose dad owns the Riverhills Lodge in the quaint town of Empress (population ~20). People literally come from all over the world to have Peter McAra as their guide and to have the chance to hunt all sorts of game.
By the way, our friend, Kim (who invited us) owns Cena in Sherwood Park, an awesome bistro and place to pick up already prepared meals! I highly recommend checking out the website and trying it out! Not only is Kim and her family great, but the food is SO yummy and so convenient! Go check out Cena (if I have any Edmonton readers).
Back to the hunting, we arrived to the lodge on Thursday evening just in time for dinner. Now, I really had no idea what to expect when it came to a”hunting lodge”. To me, it sounded fancy because whenever I went hunting with my Dad and brother, it always consisted of staying in a trailer and maybe showering once the whole weekend.
So, when I heard “lodge”, I was picturing an abandoned hotel like the one from the movie “The Shining” or something. (I know, I sound ridiculous, but I was clueless).
It was nothing like that. It was the most warm, welcoming log cabin overlooking both the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan River vally’s. A different kind of breath-taking than I have ever seen before…and the perfect type of lodging if you ask me when it comes to hunting!
The boys got up and hunted everyday, and Jamie and I (along with the other women) got to relax, go on walks, read, make sure everyone didn’t go hungry (impossible), and just enjoy the peacefulness of literally being in the middle of no where!
This was the first time Jeff and Ryan had ever been bird hunting, so they were pretty pumped, to say the least. They also hunted with bird dogs which Jeff loved considering he is basically a dog whisperer!
They shot (sorry all you anti-hunting people) everything from sharpies, pheasants, ducks, to geese, and Jeff even got a mule deer buck too! It was quite the weekend for the hunters. And now, we will definitely never starve during this lockout due to all the meat in our freezer!
The story of how Jeff got the mule deer is actually really exciting, so I’ll try to give you the reader’s digest version: The guys went out super early to track deer, had no luck, came back to the lodge for breakfast where we showed them a couple of deer we had been watching off the back deck all morning. They couldn’t eat their breakfast fast enough before they were making their way around the cooley to stalk the deer….
Then it gets funny, we are all watching these two from the windows of the lodge and I am texting Jeff all the directions from P-Mac (that’s what everyone calls Peter, the owner of the lodge) of where he and Ryan should walk to approach this deer without them scaring it off. Then Jeff’s phone died, so we just sat and waited to see what they were going to do next. By this point, Jamie has their big camera out and is filming the whole thing, Brad (another friend who was their hunting) is out on the balcony trying to signal with hand motions where to go, and the rest of us are just watching it all unfold.
After what seemed to be an eternity, they made a move and shot their bows simultaneously and missed… But, it turns out there was another deer that only they could see and the shots scared them both out into the open…
If you can picture us in the lodge that are watching this entire thing, it is like the point in the movie when the bad guys almost get caught, but not quite, and you are on the edge of your seat waiting for their defeat…
So then Ryan and Jeff draw their bows again, and Jeff nails him! Direct hit. We begin to cheer (now out on the balcony and making as much noise as we want), and Ryan and Jeff embrace in a big man hug and high five after their successful stalk…
Oh and on top of it all, later that evening I went into town with Kim and her sister-in-law to the one stop shop (no, not Walmart), a little store called “Empressive”, to get some ice. As soon as I walk in, I heard the sound of a very familiar accent and can’t help but go up to the complete stranger and ask where he is from. Sure enough, of all places I run into a man from Dripping Springs, Texas who was up there for the week hunting, as well. Small, small world.
Needless to say, the weekend was a blast! The boys were not only successful in the hunting field, but we also made friends and memories that will last forever. The hospitality at the Riverhills Lodge is right up there with the southern hospitality I’m familiar with, and felt more than welcome from the second we walked in the doors!
Yes, to some a weekend getaway to a little town of Empress, AB does not sound ideal or glamorous, but to us it was perfect. It was the perfect getaway to take our minds off of the everyday stress that comes with this lockout, refresh ourselves, and remind us again of a few of the more important things in life: family, friends, and just enjoying yourself in every moment!