Where it all started
World Record Big Horn

Quest for the Longtail

Back in the 50’s when Bing Crosby and other celebrities were hunting pheasants in Alberta my dad was busy etching a living in the Drumheller Valley. Occasionally though, he would slip away to Brooks in quest of the longtail, leaving me behind to attend to my schooling. Those days in school were punishing. My thoughts were totally on dad’s return with the bounty for the day. Birds were plentiful in those days and dad seldom returned empty handed. More than excited I would retrieve the birds from the truck and lay them out on the table to be analyzed. My job was to count the rings on the tail feathers and dad would measure the length of the bird. It was not uncommon for me to count 38 or more rings on a few big roosters from time to time. And I remember a few big guys breaking that 40 inch mark, my dream was to collect one of these monsters for myself someday.

But nothing is forever and so it was for the Alberta pheasant. As farming practices became more efficient over the years pheasant habitat declined. The privatization of the Brooks pheasant hatchery put the final nail in the coffin. Pheasants that were once numerous south of Calgary all but disappeared. Small pockets still remained where casual releases existed but the glory years were over.

So with this history behind me the odds of ever seeing a 40” rooster in the wilds would be remote. But one fateful day while my son Cary and I were stalking whitetails along the river a huge rooster exploded from the thick willows. Looking at each other in amazement we both realized that this bird could very well be a provincial record maker. Holding a rifle rather than a shotgun at that moment produced a bit of frustration for us. However, minutes later Cary was able to harvest a nice whitetail and we would soon be on our way home.

The long journey home would give us time to reflect on the days successes. The next step would be to plan for another trip to the whitetail patch but this time with our shotguns and dog. After an eternity we finally arrived at our favourite spot to see whitetails splashing across the river as we unloaded an anxious chocolate lab, vibrating with that pheasant fever so many are born with. 

The first hour beating the willows was harsh and uneventful but fresh pheasant tracks in the snow raised our spirits. Our dog “Ruger” would quickly respond to the fresh scent and within minutes a rooster burst from the thicket. My son was on it as it banked toward the river anticipating a clever escape, but to no avail. Ruger was on the retrieve when suddenly another crowing rooster exploded into sight. My son was busy reloading as I swung to the left with a determined shot. Down went the bird in the tall grass. I could see it doing the “floppy chicken” so I called Ruger over knowing only to well what these road runners can do. Luckily the dog was on it as it stood upright, very alert and ready for the sprint. Cary immediately recognized the potential of this trophy bird and assured me that it was very much alive in Ruger’s mouth. I begged Ruger to “hold” as he approached me with a proud look on his face. As I gently removed the pheasant from his strong grip I could see the long tail. Convinced this might be my dream pheasant of a lifetime, we hurried back to the truck where my son had a measuring tape in the tool box. Stretching the rooster out on the tailgate brought renewed faith to me after so many years of disappointment in the pheasant patch. I would hold one end of the tape to the tip of the beak while Cary stretched the tape to the end of the tail feather. To our amazement and delight Cary would announce the measurement that far exceeded our expectations. With a total length of 42 inches it would become the provincial winner for 2011.

To put more icing on the cake, Cary would also capture the winning title in 2011 for the largest Rainbow Trout caught on a fly rod with his own hand-tied fly. A nice way for a father and son to end a great year.


 From 2010

The one that didn't get away...

 The Story of the Provincial Record Brown Trout

I decided, early one July morning, to head out fishing. In years past I would already have logged several days afield on the water, but this was to be my first outing since the birth of our son, Adam, four months prior. Usually my wife, Sandy, is supportive of my outdoor pursuits, however, following many sleepless nights she was not pleased by my early morning departure. I grabbed my gear, dashed out the door, and made the 20 minute drive to Waterton Reservoir from our home in Pincher Creek.

Upon arrival, I tied on a heavy monofilament leader and attached a Rapala twitch bait. Pike for the frying pan were my target. The morning was unusually slow. No hits, not even any follow ups. I opted for a few more casts in hopes of a hook up, but also to delay the wrath I was certain I would return home to.

Finally a strike! I set the hook hard and the battle ensued. When the fish first broke water I was surprised by the size. It was big, really big! Although the fish appeared to have black spots I still assumed it to be a large pike. What else could be that big? Once the fish was at shore I saw it was a brown trout unlike any I had seen before. When lifted out of the water it seemed even larger and I suspected it may be close to the Alberta record. I considered releasing the fish, but with blood running from the gills and the prospect of a potential record trout I elected to have it weighed and mounted.

I jumped in the truck and headed for town. The local abattoir was just opening when I arrived. I rushed in and asked to have it weighed. I was in shock when the bright green digits of the scale read 21.9lbs. Twice more the scale was zeroed and twice more it read 21.9lbs.

Once back home I informed Sandy of my catch. She clearly didn’t comprehend the magnitude of my luck, but did take photographs in the yard. I found it somewhat ironic as I happen to be the fish chairman of my local AFGA Club and my good friend Kelsey Kure who is president of the Dickson Fish and Game Club that sponsored the brown trout trophy. 

Provincial Record Brown Trout Willow Valley Trophy Club President Lindsey Paterson

Note: Lindsey is still allowed to go out hunting and fishing..most days


Alberta Provincial Brown Trout Willow Valley Trophy Club

  From 1956.....

A-7 Ranch Hunting Adventure

Earl Johnson and Percy Hamilton, seen in the picture on the right, along with a Dodge Power Wagon which didn't fare well. 



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