Our 2017 season has all wrapped up and everyone is back home and doing their best to become “civilized” again. The old ponies are out to pasture, the tack is all dried and put away for the winter and all of the trophies have been crated and shipped. We had another good year at Gana with many clients heading home with amazing memories and some great trophies. As normal we began our season with our spring wolf hunt. This year we had repeat clients Steve & Jack Mulvihill hunt with us. Ryan Faehmel and I had a great time hunting with Steve and Jack–we put on many miles on the snow machines, saw some amazing sights and managed to tag out with 8 wolves. We started out with some good luck, waking up on the very first morning to see wolves sleeping in the middle of the lake. We had some excitement on the chase with a couple of upside down sleds but still managed to get most of that bunch. We went on to hunt the Mountain, Fritz and Ram River drainages over the next 8 days and eventually filled all our tags. The weather was very mild and we had to cross quite a bit of open water but still managed to get around. We enjoyed spending several nights in the new log cabin at “Ramshead”, and were also able to deliver a single solar panel to each of the remote cabins using a crate in our big toboggan. Now each cabin is equipped with a solar panel, a 12 volt battery, 12 volt LED lights and a charging station for phones, cameras etc. Things sure are getting modern in the wilderness.
During the last week of June sister in law Mel Schwieger, Laura, the kids and I flew up to Norman Wells and then on into camp to host our 4th annual Northern Youth Leadership Society Camp. This year we hosted 13 young teenage girls from accross the NWT, 3 youth workers and one elder from Tulita. The kids have lots of fun at camp–they fish in the lake, hike and also learn to dry meat and fish in the traditional way. I get to teach them a bit about wilderness survival and also have a chance to talk to them about the outfitting industry and what we do. We look forward to hosting the camp again next year.
Spring came very early in the NWT in 2017 and the weather was quite hot and dry for most of the summer. We did get some timeley showers in the mountains so things eventually greened up and we had a fair berry crop. The early warm spring resulted in the best crop of big healthy lambs that I have seen in a long time. There were lots of caribou and moose calves, and the moose and caribou also seemed to have good horn growth. The riveres were low for trail in and the boys did not have any serious problems getting the old ponies into camp. Hunting was tough on the first hunt, maybe due to the really hot weather, the crews and clients had to work hard to find the old rams. We eventually took 5 good old rams for 6 clients on the first hunt. On the second backpack hunt one of our 2 archery hunters was successful taking a 38 inch beauty. We also had one archery caribou hunter take a velvet bull. On the the second horseback hunt two of three sheep hunters took good old rams and one of them also added a nice bull caribou. There were also a couple of tag along caribou hunters on the second hunt that took good velvet bulls.
On the third backpack hunt our rifle hunter took a nice 11 year old ram and a velvet caribou. Our archery sheep hunter was not able to take a ram but did end up with a good velvet caribou. We had a pair of archery caribou hunters who had trouble with the airlines losing their bows. We eventually got them out hunting and one was able to take a nice velvet bull and a wolf. The traditional archery hunter had several opportunities at huge bulls but no luck so plans to come back in 2019. On the third horseback hunt a husband and wife pair of caribou hunters both took excellent bulls. One of the sheep hunters also took a good bull early but had tough luck on sheep and despite spending a few extra days went home empty handed after missing a good ram. He is rebooked for 2019. Up on the ram crew they started off with a huge 441 gross velvet bull and finished strong with a 37 inch ram. Two of our fourth backpack sheep hunters scored early with 38 and 39.5 inch rams respectively. One of them also added a wolf and the other, along with his son, tagged a pair of nice caribou bulls. The third sheep hunter was quite sick for most of his hunt and despite giving it his best could not catch up to a band of great looking rams. On the fourth horseback hunt both clients on the Fritz took nice old rams early in the hunt. One of them was also able to add a 400 inch caribou and came close to connecting on big moose. At the Ya Ha Cabin a pair of horseback caribou hunters had a blast and both took home good bulls. A father and son team backpacked for a classy 38 inch ram and a big hard horned bull caribou on the fifth hunt. Our mixed bag hunter took a nice caribou, a 38 inch ram and a 60 inch moose. A husband and wife team of caribou hunters both took good hard horned bulls and the husband added a heavy horned 58 inch velvet moose. The horseback moose hunts are always a favourite and this year produced well again despite the warm weather. Willow Camp hunters both took 60 inch bulls one added a big black wolf. Our Beaverdam hunter took a nice hard horned caribou a good bull moose. On the final hunt of the year our backpack moose hunter had a blast rafting the Mountain River for a 63 inch bull. We had two father and son teams of caribou hunters who hunted hard for 3 nice hard horned bulls and a big grey wolf. The team at Bordertown came very close to adding a big moose that gave them the slip right on the airstrip and had to pass on another huge bull that was just too far away from a strip for backpacking. They are planning to come back for moose in 2019.
All in all we had another great year at Gana River. Clients took home 16 rams that averaged 10.75 year of age and 36.5 inches in length. We took a total of 25 caribou that averaged about 375 gross. The 6 bull moose harvested averaged 58.5 inches in length. We took 8 wolves on the spring hunt and another 5 during the fall hunts.
Thanks to all of the clients and crew who worked hard to make our season a success!
Harold, Laura and family