Jim Shockey’s Hand Of Man Museum Is A Perfect Start For A Vancouver Bear Hunt
By Bill Swan
Two words — sensory overload — describe our reaction when we entered Jim and Louise Shockey’s Hand of Man Museum in British Columbia. What Jim and Louise have collected over the years is simply amazing! The museum houses everything from dinosaur skeletons to guitars.
My wife Vicki and I were driving to the northern tip of Vancouver Island for one of Jim’s famous coastal black bear hunts. The museum was a must-see event for us while on route.
We had flown from Minneapolis, where we had just attended the spring SCI Board Meeting. When we arrived in the city of Vancouver, which is on the mainland in British Columbia, we picked up our rental car and boarded a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
The next day we met Jim on the island in Duncan, B.C., and spent the afternoon gazing in wonder at all the amazing artifacts he has accumulated over the years. The museum is in an old schoolhouse, and each classroom houses a specific group of exhibits that complement each other. While in a room, the viewer receives a subliminal message of why we hunt and why it is so much more than pulling a trigger. The video in the final room showcases all the trials, tribulations, disappointments and excitements a hunter must endure to seek his quarry. The main theme showcases the thrill and the adventure of experiencing other cultures and the exploration of new lands.
Many of the collectibles in the museum were acquired on hunting trips abroad. There are video screens in the rooms showing what happens on a safari, whether it is climbing a mountain, trudging through waist-deep snow or taking part in and with the local culture. When entering the museum, viewers are handed an iPad which explains objects in each area and describes their relation to the exhibits.
Jim told us that it was at the age of 10 when he began wanting to create a museum, and that his dream became a reality with the schoolhouse purchase. Since he had been collecting all his life, the next step was sorting everything out and deciding where it should be placed. For Jim and Louise, it was a labor of love. Although the lifetime of collectible items represents their life, they are going to donate the museum with its contents to a trust with a board of directors to manage and run it for years to come.
Housed in Duncan, B.C., this is a must-see destination for any hunter or non-hunter while on Vancouver Island. Admission is free with only a donation box near the exit. A museum, such as Hand of Man, is one of the most important institutions available to the public. It preserves, shares and combines some of the most important exhibits, objects and artifacts known to human history. The Hand of Man Museum not only aims to educate, but it also to enrich our lives. There is no question it hits dead center on the bullseye in achieving that goal.
We stayed at the Shockey’s Vrbo that night and made a final journey back to Hand of Man for one last visit before heading north for the hunt. While we were there that morning, a school bus pulled in with a group of elementary school children. It was very interesting to see them interact with Jim and the exhibits. School buses filled with kids are a regular occurrence at the museum.
Four hours later, after leaving the museum, we pulled into the parking lot of Bear Cove Cottages, which would be our home for the hunt. Vancouver Island is home to large numbers of big coastal black bears.
We were greeted by Dave Lawless and Ryan Leaf who introduced us to Ryne Johnson aka RJ. The title of RJ had been given to our guide since there were three Ryan’s in camp. My wife Vicki and I quickly changed clothes and were on our way for the first evening’s hunt.
We spotted one very large bruin right beside the main highway and another with rubbed legs in a gravel pit. Being the first night and having several more days to hunt, a quick decision was made to wait for another opportunity. Besides, we were not interested in shooting near the highway or harvesting one that had been rubbed.
Ryne explained that it was not uncommon to see 10 or more bears daily. He added that they come out on the shoulders of the logging roads to eat grass and clover in the spring. Later in the season, the boars will be following the sows and that anytime you would see a sow, there would be a boar in tow.
Because there are thousands of miles of logging roads in the thick rainforest, hunting is done from 4×4 trucks that trek hundreds of miles in a day. One never knows what might be over the next hill or around the bend.
The first full day saw us viewing seven boars with two being possible shooters. However, they were heading for parts unknown when we first glimpsed them. One we saw had a good chance to break the elusive 7-foot mark Vancouver Island hunters long for.
Vicki and I felt the best part of being there was seeing all the beautiful scenery and snowcapped peaks. The vistas were second to none and everywhere we turned, we were provided with another outstanding view provided by mother nature.
After arriving back at our private cabins that were furnished with TV (we never turned on during the trip), refrigerator and two double beds, we quickly changed and were treated to homestyle fried chicken. Breakfast and dinner were served at the main lodge by the camp cook who made enough for twice the number of hunters.
Each day we headed back to where we first saw the monster 7-footer. But we never did see that bruin again.
One of my favorite hunting spots was on a beach where we could watch bears come down and turn rocks over and eat crabs and seaweed. We would wait for low tide and make our way through the slippery impenetrable tangle of the rainforest to the ocean shore. The bears must have an internal clock saying, “Low tide! Let’s go!”
Our best day of hunting was seeing 14 boars. One ran in front of the truck and was almost run over. Ryan said he was a “taker” and we headed back again in search of a better look. After several days of checking his spot, we topped a rise and there he was feeding on the roadside grass. It seemed like an eternity waiting for him to turn and offer the correct angle for a shot. He finally turned and one shot anchored him where he stood.
There were a lot of laughs when we got to him as he had no ear on one side and only a piece of an ear on the other. Apparently, they were the victims of a fight with another bear. Vicki and Ryne joked that I was able to harvest the bruin since he could not hear us sneaking up on him. Best part was that there was enough daylight left for us to skin and quarter him for transport back to camp in time for dinner.
With the bear down, we decided to head out early and make our way back to Victoria. We stopped at Campbell River and stayed overnight. The hotel balcony overlooked the ocean and had a very good restaurant and bar.
This island is the perfect getaway for hunters who want to bring their wives along. Not only are there plenty of shops and bars in Victoria, Campbell River and Duncan, but the guide’s trucks have four doors. That allows room for a backseat commentator during the hunt, which may not always a good thing! The Hand of Man Museum is a treasure to be enjoyed by anyone.
You can fly to “The Island” from Vancouver, but renting a car, taking the ferry and driving the island is much more enjoyable. As for me, I was hesitant about going on this hunt, but Vicki had it on her bucket list. Best part is we have booked to return in 2023, and I cannot wait to see the museum and scenery again. Oh yes, that 7-footer is out there calling my name!