Hooked on Hunting: Not Just a Trophy

Looking at his dad’s hunting magazines and following him like a shadow is how Jeff Schlachter got hooked on the sport. “I’ve always been interested in hunting,” said Schlachter, not remembering a time when he wasn’t. Now he follows his passion across North America with dreams of going international.

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Jeff Schlachter receives his Super Slam award from Grand Slam Club Ovis board member Dale Martin, while attending the prestigious organization’s annual awards weekend held late January in Reno, Nevada. The plaque was only one of five that Jeff received that weekend. –Photos courtesy Jeff Schlachter

Raised on a farm near Bow Island, Alta., Schlachter grew up hunting with his dad. What initially was a pastime quickly became a way of life. As an outdoors writer, his name can be found in many of North America’s hunting magazines, where he shares his adventures, tips and tricks with readers.

Lately returned from an expedition in Texas, a recent highlight was attending the Grand Slam Club Ovis (GSCO) awards in Reno, Nevada, where he received five prestigious awards. The weekend is a gala affair for some of the top big game hunters in North America. Award winners must follow strict guidelines just to qualify, including that animals “have been taken under fair chase, lawful and ethical hunting practices,” according to the websites wildsheep.org and superslam.org. Also included in the awards is a category for trophies taken by any lawful method including rifle, handgun, muzzleloader or shotgun, bow and arrow or crossbow.

“It’s like the Academy Awards of hunting. (It was) an incredible honour to be at the GSCO in Reno, heading to the stage for my Super Slam awards.” Schlachter may be one of the youngest award winners who has achieved so much in the world of hunting.

Schlachter is pretty proud of the archery award he received for a mule deer; his entry beat out that of Tom Miranda, well-known host of a popular bow-hunting television show, who was also at the awards weekend. In other categories, Schlachter picked up hardware for mule deer, caribou, and three for whitetail deer.

He may hit the stage again next year for a few more awards, one for a more unique shoot, a muskox shot in the Arctic. Schlachter had flown to Edmonton, then made his way up to Ulukhaktok, formerly known as Holman, on Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories. The story of his adventure, “High Arctic Muskox Hunt,” appeared in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of the Western Sportsman magazine. He describes his top-of-the-world adventure in detail.

“As if the winter hadn’t been long enough already, and just when spring had finally sprung in Saskatchewan, I hopped on a plane bound for the Arctic. It was at that point that I really started to question my own sanity.

“All I knew was that I would be heading deep into the bone-chilling cold and this journey would take me into the middle of nowhere, to the furthest northern point I had ever travelled to — an expedition with Adventures Northwest to hunt the magnificent muskox.”

After a 12-hour journey and 150 miles across the frozen tundra via Inuit sleds, or qamutiks, pulled by snowmobiles, they arrived at their destination — a small plain plywood shack with absolutely no amenities, not even heat.

After a successful hunt, Schlachter wrote, “This hunt had been one of the wildest adventures I had ever been on, in the coldest climate I had ever hunted. I was ecstatic and could hardly comprehend what had just taken place.

“I was totally blown away to see just how amazing these unique Arctic animals were up close … With long horns, complete with black ivory tips and heavy, beautiful bosses, I knew I had just taken a giant Boone & Crockett bull. For me, this truly was the muskox of a lifetime.”

Unlike many, Schlachter believes in bringing home as much of the animal as possible. With the muskox, he brought home the horns and life-size cape for mounting and 125 pounds of meat, even though his freezer was already full. The rest was left with the Inuit people, who would gladly use the rest of the animal. When he shot a European mouflon ram in Texas he could not bring any of the meat back, due to customs regulations, but was glad to be able to bring the horns and cape back, as this special ram could potentially rank in the top 10 ever taken in the world.

Aside from being “really behind” on his taxidermy projects, Schlachter has started production and is the host of his new show called Drop-Tine’s Outdoor Addictions. Although “Drop-Tine” has always been his brand, Schlachter says the “Outdoor Addictions” part of the title just seemed to fit. “I don’t know if it’s addiction or on the verge of being completely crazy,” he laughed. “I have two episodes up right now and I will probably do a total of six episodes a year.”

The slate will not be hard for Schlachter to fill, as he is full of stories of his adventures. He has been taking a camera along on his hunts for years and has amassed a vault of material from which to draw.

“Some of the crazy things on these adventures I’ve been on,” said Schlachter, “(included) flyin’ in a Super Cub plane through a crazy snowstorm in the Yukon, landing on a gravel bar on a half-frozen river. Or the time we landed a Cesna on the top of a mountain in the Northwest Territories on a Dall sheep hunt, with no room for error.”

One of the most memorable was when he was hunting with his dad, Lorne. The two came upon two bucks with their antlers locked. One of the bucks had already died and the other was in deep distress. After taking the photo and with his dad running the videocamera, Schlachter freed the live buck by shooting the antler off the dead one. It’s all featured in an episode of his new show.

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Schlachter freed the live animal, and also won an award for this photograph.

“The ravens were sitting on the back of the buck that was still alive and the coyotes weren’t very far away,” he said. “It was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

He gets much of his hunting passion from his dad, and the two have the stories to prove it.

“Dad and I ended up getting stranded on the mountain overnight with no food or water — grizzly bears all around us — one of the craziest nights I’ve ever had hunting. Scared to death, half-frozen and severely dehydrated by the time we reached our horses the next day,” said Schlachter. The story was published as “The Night With A Bighorn” (Canadian Outdoorsman, Fall 2014).

Asked what his dad thinks of his accomplishments, Schlachter says his dad told him he is “living all his dreams.” Schlachter wrote about his trip to the Northwest Territories on the hunt for Dall sheep, and his appreciation for being inspired by his dad and Uncle Lester. “It was you two that fuelled the fire in my quest. I hope I made you proud with my ‘Mythical Dall of the Mackenzies.’ ”

His next trip is to the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, scheduled for January 2016 on a hunt for the Coues white-tailed deer. Looking longer term, his dream hunt is to travel to Kazakhstan to hunt Marco Polo sheep; he’s already looking at options for October 2016 or 2017, where he would be hunting near 18,000 feet above sea level, the same elevation as Mount Everest base camp.

When asked if he would ever go on a safari, Schlachter said he prefers to go “hard core,” which includes backpacking or hiking as part of the trip. When he went hunting for Dall sheep, he hiked over 120 miles in seven days and lost 16 pounds. According to his article recounting the adventure, he trained to get himself “sheep-shape” and lost 50 pounds as part of his preparations to hike the Mackenzie Mountains.

Having already registered 17 of the 29 animals required to qualify for the Super Slam, at least one major hunt per year means he has another 12 or more years’ worth of stories to tell. Let’s hope he doesn’t forget to take the camera.

By Alison Squires

Wadena News

306.338.2133.

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