Our 2018 season is now just a memory. All in all we had another great year and many clients went home with wonderful memories and some great trophies to remind them of their time spent in the Mackenzie Mountains. As always we began the season with our winter wolf hunts in early April. We had two pairs of hunters come this year but did not have near the good fortune we did last year taking wolves. The weather was the coldest I have seen in April in 8 years of doing the wolf hunts, but we still enjoyed seeing the country and the wildlife. The new log cabin on the Ram River is very snug and we spent quite a few nights there as that seemed to be the area the caribou were using this year. The snow was not deep and with the cold weather the rivers were easy to navigate without hitting too much open water. The game seemed to be wintering very well with the light snowpack. We hunted long and hard but in the end the wolves had more luck than the hunters and we only harvested on big grey male on the second hunt. Hopefully we will have better luck in 2019.
We once again hosted our annual youth camp at Palmer Lake. My wife Laura, my sister in law Melodie, our kids and I, as well as some of the youth camp group flew into camp on June 26th through some rough weather. The pilots made the correct decision to delay the second flight with the rest of the kids and leaders until the next day–hopefully with better weather. Those of us who came in on the first flight got the cabins opened up and found some supper and then got some sleep. The next morning was much nicer weather and the rest of the crew arrived in good spirts and we got to work getting camp set up. We had the hydo system working before noon and the cooks were feeding us all home cooked meals by supper time. This year we hosted 13 younger teenage boys as well as 4 youth leaders. We had a great time and did lots of fishing, hiking all of the things you do in a wilderness camp. We can hardly wait for next year!
Spring seemed to come a bit late in the Mackenzies in 2018. Some of the lakes still had ice on them the last week of June. When we arrived at our base camp on June 26 it was nice and green but I would say things were a bit later than normal, and it was quite dry early in the summer. We had pretty nice weather through the first 2 weeks of July–some timely showers and some nice days. The boys did not have any trouble with high water on the trail in and all arrived at Palmer Lake in good shape. We decided to put a new deck on the old dock this year–I guess it was time after 20 years of service. I found good patch of timber at the end of the 2017 season and had milled enough lumber for a new deck with the chain saw mill. We also replaced the bridge over the creek at camp as it was getting a bit shaky. We also did a facelift on the “moose cabin” with new metal siding and roofing–it sure looks a lot better! It seems that there is always a project or two to keep us busy at the start of the year.
All of our hunters on the first hunt took good rams and had time to enjoy themselves around base camp for a few days before heading home a few days early. We were especially blessed when Israel Hale, who lost both his legs at the knee, was able to take a beautiful ram on opening morning. Israel’s family was able to come and stay at our camp to share in his experience. What an amazing family! By the time we started our second hunt of the season the weather took a turn for the worse with lots of cloud, wind and rain. Despite the rotten weather everyone took nice rams and added caribou–including our archery hunter. The three caribou hunters also took nice bulls–one with traditional archery equipment. The weather just seemed to get worse over the course of the summer but everyone hunted hard when they could and on the third hunt all were successful taking good rams and caribou. One of our backpackers lost so many days he ended having to stay a few extra days to take his ram. The fourth hunt featured more ugly weather but with a bit of snow mixed in. One backpack hunter and one horseback hunter were not unable to harvest a ram but both took wolves and one a nice bull caribou–both are also planning to come back in 2019 or 2020 to try again. The other hunters on the fourth hunts did very well and took some great rams and caribou. Both sheep hunters on backpack hunt #5 took good rams after waiting out a couple of snowstorms and enduring some very cold weather. One was also able to take a nice hard horned caribou with his wife along as a non hunter. We also had a husband and wife pair of caribou hunters that took nice bulls at the bordertown cabin. With the cold and snow they were thankful for a warm cabin to stay in. The cold weather made for some great moose hunting–all of the horseback hunters took good mature bulls as did our backpack moose hunter. We also had a father and son team do a raft moose caribou hunt that produced very well with a 67 in moose and a 400 B&C caribou.
When all was said and done we took 19 rams that averaged 10.75 years of age and 36 inches in length. All 5 of our moose hunters took good bulls that averaged 61.5 inches wide. Clients harvested a total of 22 caribou that averaged 375 B&C. We were also able to send home a total of 7 wolves in total for the season. The 2018 season was undoubtedly the worst weather year I have seen in my 23 year in the NWT but despite all of that we had another great year of hunting and were blessed to host another bunch of wonderful clients. We want to extend a huge thank you to all of them and to all of our amazing crew who toughed it out to make the 2018 season such a success.
We are all back home after another very successful season in the Mackenzie Mountains. Our 2019 season was highlighted with good weather and good hunting and many happy clients taking home great memories and treasured trophies. The one downside to our season is that we had to cancel our spring wolf hunts due to some unseasonalbly warm weather in mid March. It got so warm that most of the snow melted, the ice went out of the rivers and they were wide open running water. Definately not the conditions needed to do a snowmobile hunt. We wiill hope for more of a normal spring next year and try again. On the upside the conditions were great for the game which wintered very well.
We once again hosted our annual youth camp before the crew arrived at camp. Jasmine Bailes, Laura the kids and I opened up our camp to host 13 young teenage girls, 4 youth workers and 1 Elder from Ft. Good Hope. We all arrived in camp safe and sound on June 26th but when the North Wright Airways Twin Otter went to take off to go back to Norman Wells he had some mechanical problems and was forced to spend the night. We found the pilots some supper, a toothbrush and a bunk and all was good. The North Wright mechancis were there early the next morning and had the Otter going in good time. I was thankful that the pilots were there to help me go and get the hydro up and running while the mechanics worked on the plane. Youth camp is always lot of fun: making new friends, fishing, canoeing, hiking, swimming and learning some survival skills. Of course there are chores to do each day and lots of time for just having fun. We look forward to doing the camp again next year.
The weather was dryer than normal in our area in 2019. We had record low water levels at times but were blessed with very timely showers that kept things green and growing throughout the summer. We did have a big dump of snow up on the Gana in mid August but we did not have anyone up there at the time so no harm done. Most of the area only had a dusting of snow. We had another tremendous crop of big healthy lambs and anlter growth on the caribou and moose was great. The bears had a bit of a tough summer as there were not many berries due to the dry conditions and some early frosts. The cowboys had a good trail in with nice weather and low water. Projects around camp this summer included: getting metal siding and roofing on the “Wolf Den”, finising the rebuild of our dock, moving the “Ram Cabin” to make room for a new hunter cabin to be constructed next year, adding a much need addition onto our cabin, and setting up a new fire pit complete with log benches.
The hunts all went very well in 2019. We had several ladies that enjoyed successful hunts with us in 2019. Once again we also had quite a few non hunting wives and famijly members that tagged along on hunts or just hung out at base camp. We took some tremendous rams and had pretty good luck with archery hunters. One archery ram was taken and five archery caribou. We did have one archery hunter that went home without a ram, even though he saw lots of rams, and a couple that opted to use a rifle to take their rams. The early season caribou hunting was as good as I have ever seen it–late season a bit tougher as the bulls seemed to move out of the area early in 2019. We saw lots of great moose and took a several really good bulls but September was just too warm for good moose hunting. One of our repeat moose hunters held out trying for a giant bull that they tried calling across the river and ended up going home empty handed. He even stayed a few extra days to try for a big bull that was hanging out just below base camp on the Mountain River. When all was said and done we took 21 rams that averaged 10.75 years of age and 36.5 inches in length. We harvested 25 mountain caribou with an average gross B&C score of 390–the best average that I can remember. The 5 bull moose that were taken averaged 60 inches in width, and we were able to harvest 5 wolves. All in all just another great year hunting at Gana River. Thanks to all of the clients and crew who made it all possible!
Our 2020 season ended up being nothing like we expected but I am sure that is true for almost everyone. We did all we possibly could to find a way to bring our clients into camp but in the end none of those effort worked out. We were eventually allowed to go into camp to do some routine maintenance and construct a new hunter cabin at base camp. Several of our crew who came along to help out with the construction had bonus tags that needed to be filled and were allowed to hunt while we were there. We flew into camp from Mile 222 on the Canol Road on August 10th to find things in good shape at Palmer Lake Base Camp. We could tell that it had been a dry spring and early summer–there was not as much grass on August 10 as we usually see on June 26. There must have been lots of rain in the week or two before our arrival as the lake and rivers were high and it was lush and green. The weather was typical for August–a mix of sun and cloud with lots of showers but all in all not bad. The weather cooperated during the cabin construction and we managed to get the roof on without things getting too wet. The new cabin was designed to serve as the main hunter cabin during the regular season and also to accommodate our winter wof hunts. It has extra insualtion for winter, bunks for 5 people and a small kitchen area in one corner with room for us to cook and sit around a table at meal time. We also set it up with its own solar system so that we will have lights and charging stations without running a generator during the wolf hunts. I am eager to test it out next April! Here is a photo of the new cabin at Palmer Lake.
I am happy to report that we saw lots of game around base camp while we were there–lots of ewes and big healthy lambs again this year. The caribou were also coming by camp in decent numbers the whole time we were there. Two of the boys took nice velvet bulls from base camp while we were working on the cabin–it always pays to glass the hill when you stop for coffee! One bull was grossed 406 and the other 435 B&C. Two of the boys also filled their sheep tags with nice old rams and one was able to take a great 400 net B&C hard horned caribou late in August. We all had a great time; enjoying the clean fresh air, working hard, hunted hard and enjoyed relaxing and getting away from the craziness in our world today. I only wish we could have stayed longer.
I want to close by thanking all of our amazing clients who have been so supportive and understanding with the cancellation of our 2020 season. We have rescheduled our 2020 clients to the same hunt dates in 2021, the 2021 clients to the same dates in 2022 and so on. Of course we are working to accomodate any that just cannot postpone their hunts a year. The understanding and support that we have received from our clients as we go through this rescheduling process is truly wonderful. Hunters truly are some of the most wonderful people in the world!