Woodland Bison Northern Alberta

A winter woodland bison and wolf hunt. The predator and prey.

Mar 16 2018 - Mar 21 2018

Kevin McNeil

First posted Dec 17 2018 Last updated Dec 20 2018


The snow continued to fall softly, covering the spruce and tamarac trees in a white dusting, adding to the thick snowing blanket on the ground already.

The lead skidoo hummed along as the outfitter wined his way thought the thick maze of boreal forest in the still frozen air. It was -39F out.

The guide posture changed as he entered a small opening, fresh bison and wolf tracks where now evident where the skidoos had just past.

I followed the guides skidoo as he left the first small meadow, around the corner he stop and pointed to his left. There stood a wild black wolf. The guide motioned for me to get my gun out of the skimmer, the guide broke the silence with wolf pup howl. The black wolf seemed right at home in this wild winter nirvana, he stopped and looked right at us. I chambered a 300 grain round in the 375, the guide ranged him at 180 yards, I told my self just breathe and exhale the squeeze the trigger, boom, the wolf bolted to the right I let one more go at it but missed again. Then in a instant all was quite in the winter nirvana, it could not believe I just missed a bucket list animal a big black timer wolf. We skidoo over to where the wolf was and found he was on a recent wolf bison kill, there was lots of wolf tracks so the guide said we will have another crack at a wolf here for sure.

There are very few places left in North America were woodland bison are truly a free range bison, most are inside fences. Alberta Canada is such a place were free ranging woodland bison wild and free to roam were they want to.

There are scattered populations of woodland bison that exist in northern Alberta, they feed mainly on grass habitat along beaver meadows, rivers, sloughs and lakes within the vast northern boreal forest. The only access is by float plane in spring and summer or snow machine in the winter, when creeks, rivers and swamps are frozen.

Contrary to the popular thought of a fenced farmed plains bison hunt, this a free range woodland bison hunt it is one of the toughest hunting experiences you will find on this continent, after a couple days in hunting in minus 39 degree weather this was very apparent. We searched for their fresh tracks and dung. When we did found a fresh trail we followed them up with the skidoo until they went into the bush then we donned our snow shoes for the walk in the 4-5 feet of snow that blanket the forest floor.

These huge bison have been weighed at 3,000 pounds and like their African counterpart the Cape buffalo a wounded bison bull should not be taken lightly at all!

On the morning day 2 of hard cold hunting, we had skidooed countless hours, in the morning looking for fresh bison and wolf sign, we traveled up a frozen creeks, crossing beaver dams and stopping to climb and glass from huge Beaver lodges. Other than climbing trees ( which the guide did) this is the only way to see very far over the jungle of willow between the open meadows were these wooly bully's feed.

That black wolf shot kept me up lots last night going over what had happened with my shot.

We came into a little opening in the bush and there stood that black wolf again, we quickly got off the skidoo, and loaded the gun. The guide Kevin howled like a wolf pup, but this time the wolf did not stop he went disappeared in the bush. Kevin said follow me and he took off running as fast as we could for a Littke opening that the was in front of us. We had just stopped to listen and wait when the wolf quickly ran through the opening about 80 yards from us but to quickly for me to get a bead on him. Again, Kevin said follow me and we were off again for another 100 yards where we stopped and waited maybe 5 minutes, the guide called again with the wolf pup call and just like magic he appeared again but now he was moving fast as he could in the deep snow and at about 150 yards away, no time for a shot.

We left camp 1 hour earlier this morning she was a cool one -41F, beautiful morning sunrise, we toured around looking for fresh sign, did not see any the first 2 hours of hunting. The guide decided to look where we had not looked the day before and the first 3-4 miles no fresh sign at all. Then we came out into a little opening Kevin spotted a lone bull about 800-900 yards away, we could see where 2 other bison had just finished feeding and had left their friend still out feeding. We loaded the gun and ready the shooting sticks, and started our stalk on the bull, he was feeding quarter away from us, we stopped and glassed him when he looked up. All I kept thinking was look at the size of this thing. His warm breath just hung in the frozen air, when he feed his massive head swung side to side to clear out the deep snow so he could find his morning meal. The guide stopped our stalk at about 90 yards and motioned for me to get ready to shoot as we were close enough and did not want to risk him seeing our movements and have him run the 40 yards to the thick bush.

I chambered a round and then I was schooled first hand on how tough they are, when he went down on the 3rd shot from a .375 at less than 90yds, the bullets did not seem to phase him at all, then we quickly moved up to about 40 yards and the bison was getting up so 1 more 300 grain bullet to put him down for good.

Mike was filled with emotion as he approached the still giant; he had fulfilled a long time dream and accomplished what very few modern men have, hunted a wild woodland bison.

Alberta offers one of the very few opportunities to hunt these magnificent animals in a truly fair chase situation, if you're up to the challenge make Bluesky Outfitters Alberta your next destination. How many hunters can say they have hunted wild bison.

I will be back for the black wolf.

Kevin McNeil

Huge woodland bison in the deep snow.

Epic sunrise in the mornings.

Mass and more mass.