Our 2016 season is all wrapped up, the crew are all home and the old ponies are out to pasture for the winter. All in all we had another great season at Gana River with many happy cliets heading home with good trophies and wonderful memories. The season started, as always, with our winter wolf hunts. We had some very warm weather with lots of melting and open water in the rivers on the first hunt, which made getting around a bit tricky. Despite that, our first wolf hunter of the season had a great trip and wound up going home with a pair of nice grey wolves. We saw tons of country, put lots of miles on the snow machines and also managed to skid in a set of building logs for a new cabin at the Ramshead. By the way, we did managed to get the new cabin finished during the summer so we will be able to spend more time hunting the Ram River area on next year’s hunts. The second pair of hunters came all the way from Latvia to hunt wolves in the NWT. They thoroughly enjoyed their time with us and we did manage to send them home with one large grey female. We saw lots of fresh sign and came very close on several other occasions during the hunt but could not manage to get a shot at another wolf. We have always had pretty good luck on our spring wolf hunts but everyone that has been there has just left in awe of the whole winter experience.
We were once again blessed to be able to host a youth camp for Northern Youth Leadership Society at our Palmer Lake Base Camp. My wife Larura, sister in law Melodie, our kids and I all flew up to Norman Wells and then on into camp the last week of June to open up for the camp. This year we hosted 13 young teenage boys along with 2 elders and 3 youth camp leaders. The boys came from communties all over the NWT and Nunavut–most had never been to the mountains, some had never even seen a mountain, all were impressed with the whole experience. The boys helped with camp chores and had a blast hiking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, camping and just having fun being boys. We also were able to teach them some basic wilderness survival skills, tradional skills of making dry fish and dry meat, as well as teaching them a bit about the outfitting industry. Some of the boys were so impressed that I am sure we are going to have some of them back working in the mountains in a few years. The youth camp has been a great outreach for us and I would like to thank all of those who help to make it possible: First Air, North Wright Airways, the Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters and of course the Northern Youth Leadership Society. We are already in the planning stages for next year’s youth camp.
The weather was beautiful in early July with a few nice showers and lots of sun. I am not sure I have ever seen the mountains as lush and green as they were this year. About the time our first hunt started, things changed and it cooled off and we started to get more rain and cloudy weather with lots of high water in the rivers–a pattern that lasted till near the end of August. We saw some really great old rams while pre season scouting and also lots of ewes with a good crop of big healthy lambs. The caribou seemed to be lost this year and most of them spent the entire summer out on the front ranges so we just did not have the numbers of bulls around that we normally do. The first hunt went exceptionally well despite some bad weather. We took 5 great rams for 6 hunters. One of the rams was 39.5, one was 38.5 and 2 of the rams were heavily broomed. The horseback crew at the ram river also took a pair of wolves on the first hunt. On the second hunt neither of our archery sheep hunters was able to take a ram with his bow even though both had chances. One of them did decide to go ahead and take a nice 38 inch ram with a rifle. Our archery caribou hunter also used a rife to take a bull that grossed 390. The other sheep hunter on the second backpack hunt arrived with no luggage–thankfully he was wearing his hunting boots and had his optics in his carry on. Despite the shaky start he went on to take a great 11.5 year old ram and a good vevet caribou using a borrowed rifle and gear. On the second horseback hunt we had a father and son team hunting up at the Ram River. The father took a great 11.5 year old ram that was still 38 inches despite being brooomed, and the son was pleased with his 380 velvet caribou. The Fritz River crew also took a great 11.5 year old broomed ram and a pair of velvet caribou. On the third backpack hunt both sheep hunters took nice rams while all 3 caribou hunters took nice bulls–the best one grossed 410 B&C. Two of the caribou hunters were also able to harvest wolves. We had a father and son from Europe hunting with traditional archery equipment on the third horseback hunt. They were both able to take nice caribou with their bows but the father just could not close the distance for a shot at a classy 11.5 year old ram and so chose to take him with a rifle. The other horseback sheep hunter worked hard and covered lots of tough country before taking his last day ram.
All 3 sheep hunters on the fourth backpack hunt took nice rams and one of them was also able to harvest a velvet caribou. We had a pair of repeat sheep hunters with us on the fourth horseback sheep hunt. One took an exceptional 12 year old ram in the First Valley early in the hunt. The other started off with a good hard horned caribou and finished strong with a classy 10.5 year old ram. The father and son team on the fourth horseback caribou hunt were both able to take good hard horned bulls well as a pair of nice wolves. On the fifth backack hunt all 3 clients were able to take good old rams and 380-390 class caribou even though one of them had some really tough luck early and had to spend a few extra days to fill his tags. Our horseback moose hunts are very popular and produced well again this year. Up at Willow Camp one of the hunters took a good 61.5 inch bull the first day and then decided to head home early. The other hunter waited until near the end of his hunt to decide which one of the many bulls he saw he should take–he settled on long panned bull with lots of good points that was 56 inches wide. Down at the Beaverdams the boys took an old bull with one deformed horn that still makde 56 inches and had a big gob of horn material hanging down beside his face like a drop tine on the deformed side. The final hunt of the year is our backpack moose hunt. Three of the four moose hunters took home good bulls–one a 61 incher that grossed 228, and one a 64 incher that grossed 222 B&C. One of our hunters hunted at Foothills Lake where we had great luck last year taking a 68 inch bull. This year the weather was terrible and they lost several days to fog and snowy weather and were not able to take a bull. Hopefully he will make it back in a couple of years for one of the big bulls the area is known for.
All in all another great season at Gana River. We took a total of 21 rams for 24 hunters that averaged 11 years old and 36 inches in length–six of the rams were heavily broomed. Clients took a total of 17 caribou bulls that averaged 380 B&C gross–all 9 of our caribou hunters were successful as well as several sheep hunters who chose to try for a caribou. The average width of the 6 moose taken this year was 58.5 inches. We took a total of 4 wolves on the spring wolf hunt and 6 wolves during the summer/fall hunts.
A huge thank you to all of the clients and crew who made our season such a great success!
Harold, Laura and family