Sheep And Moose Hunt 2009
The trip started much the same as previous years, with a ferry ride off the island so we can begin the long trek north. We took an afternoon ferry and spent the night in Kamloops. Up bright and early the next morning to head to Grande Prairie, Alberta. I realize this is a bit out of the way from our destination along the Alaska Highway but my Dad is working Grande Prairie right now and considering that he had a utility trailer, quad, quad trailer along with a 12.5 foot zodiac clone and a brand new 9.9hp yamaha motor. Needless to say, this was an essential stop along the way!
After packing up the trailer, quads, boat, motor and all our other hunting gear, we went to the pub to watch the UFC fights over some burgers and beer. The next day we’d have another long drive ahead of us.
We awoke bright and early and departed Grand Prairie en route to Fort Nelson and beyond. After a long day we finally pulled into some familiar territory, The “Rock Cut” as my family has called it for decades is the tight and twisty patch of the Alaska highway just passed Summit lake. As you come out on the “Rock Cut” you can overlook the Macdonald Creek drainage winding it’s way up into the Wokkpash. For a sheep hunter, this is the moment when you “know” you’ve just stumbled into Stone Sheep country.
After a quick glassing session along the highway turned up several young rams in the very late afternoon we jumped back in the truck and drove to the Poplars, where we had a cabin reserved for the evening.
Finally… After 20+ hours of driving, we were about to embark on our long hike into the mountains.
An exciting new addition for this years hunt came in the form of a non-hunter friend who decided he wanted to come along for the journey. After outfitting him with some of my extra gear, and forcing him to buy a good set of boots he was good to go and ready for the adventure. A 3rd body was a welcome addition, and we were able to split up some of our essential gear to lighten the load.
5:00am comes pretty quickly when you go to bed at midnight, and we were packed up and ready to hit the hills… A short drive up the highway and we were standing at the trail head.
The hike up the creek was pretty much non-eventful, aside from a wolf that our friend Ben spotted out of the corner of his eye… My friend (non-hunter) as an almost uncanny ability to spot game with his naked eye and the wolf was no exception. It had to have been a mile or more away, running across an open basin, a lone grey wolf.
It was in the afternoon when we decided we’d hiked enough for the day and we setup camp in a high mountain pass at about 5500′ in elevation. It was an uncomfortable place to sleep as the ground was not soft, but rather shale and rock. We spent several hours glassing the surrounding basins turning up a couple caribou and several ewes and lambs. The rain came in that evening and if you’ve even spent one really rainy night in sheep country you’d swear it was 1000! Bring a set of earplugs, (I always forget mine). The sound of the rain slapping against the tent, along with the never-ending wind was intense, I don’t remember sleeping that night, just laying there listening to the sounds of the mountains.
When daybreak came on the 2nd day, it was still raining. The wind had subsided into a steady mountain breeze and the fog had settled in so thick, we could barely see each others tents. It looked like it was going to continue raining and we dreaded having to stay another night in that rocky little pass so we quickly got out of bed, made our breakfasts and then packed up camp.
A short hike later and we were up in another high pass, this time though it was a nice grassy basin. We set the tents up, and not even an hour later we were hunkered down again, as the rain was coming back for another appearance. This time it was back with a vengeance and slammed us hard for the rest of the day. The highlight of the day was collecting the rainwater running off the vestibule of my tent, and we managed to collect a few liters. The camp we had set was pretty high, and it was a considerable drop in elevation to find any running water. Instead, while we had a break in the rain we climbed up 50 feet or so to where a small snow patch was melting on the mountain. We dug some holes below the base of the snowpack, and they slowly filled with a murky, muddy water. After letting it settle for a few hours we were filtering out more then 6 liters per day with my Katadyne Vario filter.
When the rain had finally sub-sided on the the 3rd day, we were able to get out of bed early and climb to the top of the ridge to do some glassing. Our first glassing session in the early morning turned up much game, we found several groups of ewes and lambs, some moose, some goats and several more caribou. The rams eluded us until the into the evening when my partner spotted 2 rams pretty much where we’d camped in the rocky pass. After careful inspection through our spotters (Leupold 20×45 and Zeiss 20×60) the ram was in fact legal on the one side, but he was a squeeker and at only 7 years old he just wasn’t old enough either. If he lives another 3 years he’ll definitely be a good ram to pursue. We watched him for over an hour, and would spot him and his much smaller buddy in several locations around the mountain over the coming days.
Sadly… That’s about the highlight of our Sheep hunting trip, we spent several nights on the mountain, 2.5 days of which were spent inside the tent, in driving rain (and sometimes snow) with a thick fog that just seemed to swallow up entire valleys as it slowly rolled along through the trench.
While the sheep portion of our trip was over, we still had Moose tags and the any bull season was now upon us. It took us a day to get out of the mountains, and we spent the evening getting all our stuff together for the next morning.
Up at 5am again the next morning and we packed up the quads and all our gear and off we went, headed to a small swampy area commonly populated with a few moose. Our objective was 2 good meat bulls. We had borrowed a quad from my dad and I had my own Polaris 800 EFI with me as well. In addition to that we had a quad trailer, loaded down with tents, sleeping bags, chainsaw, axe, lantern, stove, food, and a 12.5 west marine inflatable w/aluminum floor and a brand new Yamaha 9.9hp.
Having just got the boat and never having set one up for, it took us a little while to get everything going. The tubes and floor of the boat are numbered, so you know which order to inflate and install everything which makes it easy. With the provided dual action hand air pump it took about 30 minutes to get the boat inflated. These boats have a solid aluminum floor and are rated to carry up to 1600 lbs!
It was in the evening of our first day looking for Moose we spotted a nice young 2 point bull feeding all by his lonesome, in the middle of the swamp. My partners dropped me off on shore, and went around in the boat with the hopes of driving the Moose back towards me on land… Let’s just say it didn’t go off as planned. The Moose ran in the wrong direction and regrettably I let one, two, three go until the Moose was stopped. It then took 2 more shots to bring the Moose down, without a range finder I’d estimated the distance at about 300 yards… In reality the distance was more like 450-500. We got him, and there was actually minimal meat damage on the one front shoulder and that was it! He fell in about a foot of water and weeds, so we dragged him about 50 yards or so onto the sandbar and got to work.
It took us about an hour to deal with Mr. Moose and then we took off on the quads to go and hang the quarters a small distance from camp, on our way back to camp as we rounded the corner coming into a big wash, I spotted a Grizz on a dead run away from us. (he didn’t like the quads too much) so I quickly sped after in his direction, and verified by the tracks that yes it was in fact a Grizz. The way the wind was blowing there is no doubt he smelled my Moose carcass/gutpile and was on his way for an easy meal!
We stayed awake into the early morning, having a few rums around the campfire while cooking the rib meat my friend carefully carved out as well as the heart of the Moose over the fire on one of those telescopic hot dog forks. A little garlic salt sprinkled in for good measure. Slowly we headed to bed hoping we could duplicate our success in the morning. My partner still had his Moose tag to fill.
5 o’clock in the morning comes pretty quick when you go to bed past midnight, but we all managed to roll out of bed and head up the lake in search of another bull. Our non-hunting friend was a little uneasy about the bear being around that night and said he slept pretty light with one eye open. Both my hunting partner and I agreed we’d had the best sleep of the trip so far!
It only took us about a 1/2 hour or so to spot our 2nd bull, another spike/fork and he was probably 600 or 700 yards up the lake, and paying no attention to us. We slowly putted our way into a little cove, that was between us and the bull and proceeded to hike along the game trail so we could get in closer for a shot. We closed the distance to around 200-250 yards and my partner lined up on the bull. We had spooked a cow and calf, and had to wait for them to get out the scene. Our bull paid no attention to the cow and calf running across the pond and kept on eating. One shot with my partners .270 in the neck and the bull was down.
The bull dropped in about 2 feet of water, and I jumped in to try and pull him on shore, I grabbed his mane and gave a yank and to my amazement, I move the entire moose with my one arm, man was I strong… The reality was the moose was floating, so we just tied a rope around his head and towed him down river. After a few hundred yards, we decided it might be prudent if our Moose had a little more floatation so we pulled him up alongside the boat and wrapped a life jacket around his head. We towed him a little over a mile, dragged him up on shore and make short work of butchering him up.
By 9:30 am we had camp broke, and everything loaded up on the quads… Yet, another northern trip coming to an end. And a tasty one at that!