“I cannot believe how beautiful this place is; it is like stepping into a dream!” said my 17-year-old grandson Parker Swan. We had just landed at Jim Shockey’s Rogue River Outfitters for a 10-day mountain caribou, wolf and grizzly bear hunt in August, 2015. Bribed by promises of tee-shirts from Whitehorse, Yukon, Parker was able to sweet talk his teachers to be out of classes for two weeks.
This hunt began three years prior when my wife Vicki spoke with Jim after the SCIF Veteran’s breakfast where Jim was the guest speaker. Both have a love for Native American baskets, and both are avid collectors. They had a lot in common which led to a friendship with Jim and me. Jim is a first class guy and one of the most avid hunters I know.
Upon arrival in Whitehorse, we were met by Wojo, Brian Wojokowski, and his charming wife Kathy. If anyone has ever watched Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, the name Wojo will be very familiar. Because of the weather, we were unable to fly into camp for two days. Needless to say, Kathy and Wojo took very good care of us and showed some of the Yukon sights. Parker calls me GP, and everyone in the Yukon began calling me that. It is an acronym for Grandpa, which I never wanted to be called. By the time we left camp, I doubt if anyone in the North knew me by any name other than GP.
When we finally stepped off the Cessna Caravan at Rogue River Outfitters, we were met by guide Matt Epp, our guide Will Schenn and cameraman Cody Ahizer. Cody later took some of the most spectacular Northern Lights still shots I have ever seen. They were simply amazing.
Rogue River Outfitters is a prime hunting territory near the Northwest Territories border in Canada. Staffed with two of the most professional guides I have ever encountered in my 50-plus years of hunting, this promised to be an unbelievably memorable adventure for Parker and me.
The next morning saw us stalking a pack of eight wolves, with Parker missing a 200-yard running shot. He would score the next morning on a beautiful gray colored wolf. Anyone reading this, anyone who has kids or grandkids will know the excitement of being with one of them during a harvest. Parker’s hunt was off to a great start. The next morning we encountered a beautiful grizzly at 100 yards; however, we were unable to determine if the bear was a boar and had to pass on the shot.
The next few days were spent glassing beautiful antlered animals until Parker spotted three bulls walking together several hundred yards below us. Will and Parker formulated a plan an off we went through the alders and willows. After about an hour, we came upon the caribou bulls, and Parker was ready while I had the video running.
Unfortunately, Will told Parker if he shot one of the three, it would be like taking a 120-inch whitetail. So, to a dejected grandson, he passed. We climbed back up the mountain to our glassing point. While Will was moving farther up to his spot, Parker started hollering, “Will look!” Next thing I knew, Parker was running to Will, showing him the bull he spotted. Even before the stalk, Parker began shaking Will’s hand and thanking him for not letting him shoot one of the three bulls. It was decided I would stay on the mountain and give hand signals to assist Parker and Will in locating this magnificent bull after their trip down the mountain.
After about an hour stalk, they spotted the cows and froze. Parker spotted the big bull and was able to anchor the SCI Silver Medal bull with two 200-yard shots as it tried to escape. For me, I could not run down the mountain fast enough. After many hugs, high fives and many photos, the real work began of skinning of the animal and boning of the meat. I later asked Will if he had many clients who ran while on the mountain like Parker did; he thought a minute, looked at me and said “no.”
Harvesting a wolf and mountain caribou was only the icing on the cake. The evenings were spent eating moose and caribou and watching the Northern Lights. It just does not get any better than that!
I doubt there will ever be a more memorable trip. It is difficult to put into words the experiences we shared during that adventure. Below is what Parker posted to his Facebook page when we arrived back into Whitehorse; his words are much more descriptive and express it much better than I ever could:
The past 2 weeks have been the best weeks of my life. I spent it with one of the greatest influences in my life! I froze and sweated my butt off with this man, surrounded by wolves, watched herds of the rare mountain caribou, watched the northern lights, ate caribou and moose back straps, crawled through snow, and hugged it out after the most memorable kills of my young life. Thank you for the best trip I will ever have! This trip is not only a motivational point for success, but it lights the path for what I should do in my future. The outdoors is where I belong and this trip helped me appreciate the outdoors even more than I already did. Thank you G.P. Best grandpa out there by far!–Bill Swan