Every time you pick up a magazine you can read how this guy did this and that guy shot that, but it takes a bit of humility to talk about the times you didn’t get anything.
Is there ever such a time to call it quits?
Our inner desire to provide for our families outweighs the cold nights, rainy days and scorching heat climbing no-sheep mountain.
It took four years of living in the Yukon before I could come up with the knowledge and equipment to get out hunting.
I spent 20 years living in Churchill, Manitoba hunting. Starting with a pellet gun when I was four, then a .22 at five, and when I was nine, a savage over-under 22/20 gauge.
Alone at a young age, I would patrol the willows for well-hidden ptarmigan, sharpening my senses and moving silently through the sometimes-polar-bear-inhabited area.
Wearing snowshoes and a modified steel frame pack to pull my sleigh, I could regularly bring home dinner while we were at the cabin. There is no TV show or computer that can teach lessons like these.
I got a Remington model 870, 20-gauge for my 12th birthday, and I consider that fall the start of my true passion. From a young age I knew that limiting-out on ducks and geese was the desired outcome for many people. But I was – and still am – there for the hunt.
Over the past five years I have spent endless hours in the pursuit of moose, caribou, bison, sheep and geese. We have managed to sit in blinds for hours waiting for geese to come by with no avail; spent weeks on mountaintops and valley bottoms in search of caribou; crossed lakes and rivers from one side of the territory and back to find moose.
We have looked high and low to find these animals I once took for granted.
In 2009, our oldest daughter Hayley and I headed up-river on our first Yukon moose hunt. Hayley was a seasoned hunter; even at the age of 12 she had been bird hunting with me since for nine years. Four hours in, we saw a young bull with two cows; we tracked them till dusk then remembered we still had to set up camp. Early the next morning while the bacon was sizzling on the grill for breakfast, Hayley could hear an unfamiliar noise over the rushing current of the river. A bull was watching us through the trees on the other side of the river. Unable to get a shot, we ate breakfast and proceeded in the opposite direction in search of more adventures.
We returned to camp for dinner early. Seeing another three bulls and hearing a cow bellow through the valley and then appear out of the thicket was amazing enough for one day.
After dinner, we took the boat out to explore, and stumbled across the bull from earlier. Sealing our tag, we worked till every flashlight and headlight died. The trip back to camp in the moonless night, with only the aid of the boat’s navigation light, was interesting.
In 2010, we decided to see if there were moose in the mountains. Hearing lots of stories about how they come down for the rut, we figured we would meet them on their travels.
The grown-in willows hid the old mining trail up the mountain. There we were able to spot a set of antlers from a distance and get closer. A cow, young bull, and large mature male inhabited the valley.
Hayley carried the binos on our stalk. They became too cumbersome for her and putting them on a “special tree” for safe keeping turned out to be a mistake. Turns out we got a 64″ moose and that special tree looked like every other tree on the way back.
So here I am, three years since the last successful moose hunt — planning for my moose, caribou and sheep hunts of 2014.
Will I fill any of those seals? I sure hope so; but like all the trips before, the likelihood of travelling thousands of kilometres is a guarantee.
The thrill of the chase and the desire to succeed overpowers nearly ever ambition we have. Some of us move from job to job, or town to town, but we still find a way to hunt. Often we find ourselves at work thinking of where to go and all the scenarios that may play out on the way.
So, if, like me, you have a few unlucky years, remember that it is not called shopping. We are hunters.
Be safe, hunt smart, and don’t forget: when you can, hunt with your kids — not for them.