Moose can be found throughout the area from slightly above timberline to the valley bottoms. In the fall they prefer river valleys and some of the higher willow plateaus. The core of our best moose habitat takes in the drainages of the Bonnet Plume River, Stewart river, Nadaleen river, Rackla River and the headwaters of the Snake River. The southern half of the area receives more annual precipitation and contains the best habitat for moose hunting. Moose feed extensively on alpine willow and also on aquatic plants in the muskeg swamps. Our typical moose hunting terrain is mountainous, with wide, sparsely treed valleys, muskeg and small ponds. There is a lot of brush, arctic birch, several types of willow and small spruce trees for moose to hide. There are very few large lakes in this area.
A large percentage of the moose population in our area never gets hunted as some areas are difficult to access by horse. On an average nine day moose hunt, hunters can expect to see about 20 moose, four or five of which might be considered trophy bulls. Our success rate for moose has been about 95% over the years. The average antler width of all bulls harvested is 59”to 60”, with some trophies measuring into the low 70” range. Regardless of antler width, most trophies taken by our hunters have excellent antler palmation and point development. The Boone and Crocket record book has more than a few listings for moose harvested in our area since 1986.
As our area is not far from the Arctic Circle, bulls clean their antlers of velvet in late August. On a normal fall bulls & cows can be seen together in early September. The rut is well under way by the middle of the month and bulls are very receptive to calling. Snow and cold weather can be expected any time in September, especially toward the end of the month. A mature Alaska-Yukon bull moose can weigh over 1500 pounds. Hunters should expect that their guides will spend a full day or more taking proper care of the meat once a bull is down.
A moose-caribou combination hunt is very popular in our area. Both species can be found within riding distance of our September spike camps, although caribou begin to move out in late in the month. We offer a classic horseback hunt for moose. The actual hunt is not too physically demanding as we use horses every day. The best method for hunting moose is hours of patient glassing from an elevated vantage point near suitable habitat. Even though moose are huge animals, they can be difficult to spot in thick willow and spruce cover. A horseback hunt for Alaska-Yukon moose can be one of the most challenging and rewarding hunts in the north.
Portions of two major Mountain Caribou herds can be found in our area. The Redstone herd roams in the southeastern corner of the area near Bonnet Plume Lake. The Bonnet Plume herd can be found throughout the northern portion of our area starting near our Goz Lake base camp. Both caribou herds have been studied by biologists and are known to spend some time in the Northwest Territories. The overall population of caribou in our outfitting area is in the thousands, although this number can fluctuate with seasonal movements.
The Boone and Crocket Club has mistakenly categorized all the caribou in our area as Barren Ground. In reality, they are Mountain caribou belonging to the same herds that are found just to the east in the Northwest Territories. Their antler structure, body size, seasonal movements and DNA provide concrete evidence that they are Mountain caribou.
During August, caribou bulls form small bachelor groups at high elevation in the mountains (to escape the flies). Some of our largest bulls are harvested at this time. They feed on alpine grasses, plants, and lichen. Always on the move, their patterns can be difficult to predict.
In September, the bulls move lower and mix with cows & calves. Caribou antlers are normally clean of velvet by late August and bulls begin to develop their beautiful white mane. The rut begins in early September. On average each caribou herd in September will contain about a dozen cows and three or four bulls. Occasionally rutting herds of seventy five or more caribou are seen.
The majority of caribou harvested by our hunters will score over 360 B & C. Each season several trophies score well enough to make the record book. Some of our past hunters have won awards for harvesting the # 1, # 2, and # 3 caribou in the Yukon.
We offer caribou hunting in combination with dall sheep in August and moose in September. Caribou are never the primary focus on a hunt in our area, but are usually pursued after a sheep or moose is taken. Horses are used extensively when caribou hunting, but some climbing might be required for bulls found at high elevation. Caribou are very curious animals, which can lead many to believe they are not overly intelligent. They are unpredictable and this often leads to interesting stalks. Average shot on caribou is 150 yards but some shots may require 300 yards. In velvet or out, a large trophy bull caribou is truly a magnificent animal!
Our Dall Sheep hunting is concentrated in the Wernecke and Mackenzie Mountain ranges of the northeastern Yukon. Rams are found in moderately rugged terrain at elevations between five and nine thousand feet. Limestone mountains predominate, with very few trees on the lower slopes. Some of the higher peaks have medium size hanging glaciers. In general, the area is dry and receives below average annual precipitation. There are very few lakes, airstrips or other access points in the sheep ranges.
We book no more than twelve sheep hunters per season. Because of extremely remote location there have been no resident sheep hunters in this area since 1986. We closely monitor the Dall sheep population through pre season scouting with our aircraft and through post hunt reports from guides. We are fully committed to preserving trophy quality for all hunters and plan each hunt accordingly.
Rams harvested by our hunters have shown a good rate of horn growth, with many rams over 38” taken over the years. The two largest rams that we have harvested in terms of horn length both measured 43 ½”. The largest ram taken by Boone & Crocket score was 170 points and had 15” bases. The yearly average age of all rams harvested is about nine years. The average horn length of rams is about 37”, with bases averaging 13 ½”.
There is an excellent chance of taking a Caribou on our Dall sheep hunts. Caribou bulls are often found at the same elevation and in similar terrain, during August. Grizzly, wolf, and wolverine are also options on the sheep hunts. Hunters are encouraged to concentrate on getting a quality ram before harvesting other game.
Horses are used to travel from our base camps to the sheep ranges and some long rides should be expected. Food and all equipment for the ten day hunt are carried on pack horses. Spike camps are made in valleys with adequate horse feed and good trophy ram possibilities. We use small mountain tents for our alpine spike camps, with each hunter having his own accommodation. As per Yukon law, each hunter has a guide and I will only put two hunters in a spike camp if they book the trip together.
Dall sheep are best hunted from above, by walking the high ridges and glassing a vast amount of territory. Good optics are essential for a successful hunt. The hunter’s physical condition is also an important factor. Hunters should try and get in “sheep shape” for the start of their trip. Every stalk for rams in our area requires a climb of some sort. The average shot for sheep is 175 yards and hunters need to be comfortable shooting up to 300 yards. The intelligence of Dall sheep and the sheer beauty of the mountains are a powerful attraction to hunters. We have many repeat sheep hunters and it seems to be highly addictive!
Grizzly can be found throughout the area in almost all types of terrain. These bear are interior, mountain grizzly, and are slightly smaller than their salmon eating cousins to the south. They come out of hibernation in May and travel the valleys extensively in search of food. During the fall season they can be found along the gravel bars of major rivers or on the higher alpine habitat above. Their food consists of berries, roots, ground squirrels, marmots, moose & caribou calves, insects, carrion, camp garbage, and just about anything that is edible.
Grizzly are predators at the very top of the food chain. They have a low reproductive rate compared to other species such as moose, caribou or sheep. Each individual bear requires a large territory to survive. The quest for each grizzly is finding enough food in the summer/fall to put on a thick layer of fat. This enables the bears to successfully survive about seven months of hibernation.
Given the relatively low population, all of the Yukon is on a limited quota for grizzly hunting. The Yukon Department of Environment has had an excellent record of grizzly bear management over the years. Our outfitting concession is allotted a quota of thirteen grizzly over three years. We focus on trying to harvest only older, mature male bears. This has contributed to a stable population and a bright future for limited grizzly hunting. It should be understood though, that the overall success rate for grizzly hunting is much less than for the other three main game animals in this area.
Grizzlies are sighted on almost all hunts in August and September. It is not uncommon to see six or more bear on one hunt. Many are sows with cubs or younger grizzly. Only mature, male grizzly are of decent size for a trophy. The average size of a mature male grizzly hide will square seven feet, with the occasional bear going eight feet. Skull size is not exceptional, although we have taken several bears measuring between 23 & 24”. There is a tremendous variation in color among our grizzly population, from coal black, to silvertip, to straw blond. We have never taken an unprimed grizzly pelt (probably due to the fact we are in the northern Yukon not far from the Arctic Circle).
We offer one fall grizzly horseback hunt each season. This hunt is in high demand and usually booked two to three years in advance. We also offer limited grizzly tags on our dall sheep hunts in August and the moose hunts in September. This is on a kill fee basis and a bear can be harvested if the opportunity presents itself. All of our guides carry back up rifles when in grizzly country. A proper stalk and shot placement are critical for bringing down an animal of this size and power. Few hunting experiences leave a more lasting impression than viewing a grizzly in close quarters!