I’ve discovered a place where Giant Moose lose their way. A place where Canadian moose are of Yukon proportions and there’s no one at the border to turn them away.
The Wolf Pack is back. There’s nothing like an annual hunting trip with your closest buddies. Our Pack consists of myself, aka Raker; Dave Wolfe, aka Wolf; and Steve Mehok, aka Hawk…pretty creative, I know, seeing how it’s basically our last names. We’re all friends from our early years. We played ball on the same teams, chased the same girls and stood in each other’s weddings. We’re now all happily settled and in our fifties, but our wives would tell you we’re still in our teens when we get together.
We’ve long held our friendship dear, but life can sometimes get in the way and getting together can become more and more rare. This can be especially easy when you live in different parts of the county. We made a pact that we’d not allow this any longer and at least get together for one epic hunting adventure annually. It started in the Artic, then Newfoundland, next year is New Zealand, but this year was the most Northern part of British Columbia for Mack Daddy Moose.
Our friend, outfitter and fellow Wolf Pack member Bob Milligan of Milligan Outfitting set us up with a moose hunt in a newly acquired area, just south of the Yukon border. It’s an area where these behemoths have lost their GPS and don’t know they’re categorized as Canadian Moose.
Bob and I have been best of friends for years. We’ve chased everything from mountain goats to grizzlies together, and hunts have ranged from what seemed like catastrophic to euphoric. The guy can see and navigate terrain like no one I’ve ever met. While he’s indeed a pro’s pro, when we get together and the laughs begin, it can sometimes lead to him to not being as meticulous as he is with his normal clients.
On Day 1 we met in Whitehorse, Yukon and loaded-up on beverages, groceries, beverages, supplies and beverages. We drove south into BC a bit and connected with our float plane pilot for our transport to where we’d be dropped off.
Bob and another guide, KO, arranged a different departure point and pilot and were to meet us at the rendezvous point. This was for a few reasons, but also so we could arrive at about the same time. Ok, “what?!” After some quick banter, I’ve learned to trust Bob when it comes to the field.
Wolf, Hawk and I beat them to the lake and decided to put together the pack rods and have a little fun while waiting. One grayling leads immediately to the next, and we checked our watches from time to time. It wasn’t too long until dusk sneaked upon us.
We decided we needed to prepare for a night under the stars, except the clouds kept getting in the way. Bob’s Argo and trailer were at the beach, but the keys were conveniently with him. We disconnected the trailer and maneuvered it to the semi-flattest spot we could find. We then tiped it to its side for a nice wind break.
We used our rifle cases as lean posts and luckily located a tarp in Bob’s Argo to engineer ourselves a lean-to. There wasn’t a tree within 400 yards of the lake, so we needed to hike out to gather wood for a fire before it got too dark. The Hawk had packed one of those folding handsaws about the size of a fist. I think we cut a cord of wood with that thing! Dragging full size aspens through a bramble of tag alders is the toughest tug-of-war we ever experienced.
Ok, so by the end of this Fall, I hope to have secured #26 of my North American 29. I like to consider myself an experienced hunter and Wolf, Hawk and I have hunted since we were young. But, do you think within all that extra weight of fancy gear we all got charged for by the airlines, that any of us packed any matches? In fact, the only match we had was the look on our faces when we realized no one had a freaking lighter!
Wolf discovered he had one of those parachute cord bracelets that you see at every checkout stand at every sporting goods store. It had a want-to-be flint where it connects. We combined a little TP with some gas from the Argo’s tank and somehow managed a spark from this toy. We had that fire roaring right up until the rain began to pour.
It was somewhat of a long night, between the sideways rain, wind shifts of smoke blowing under our tarp (Hawk kept yelling and reminding us to Stay Low!… and we kept reminding him that we were laying on the freaking ground man!). Then there was the synchronized snoring of my two compadres, and with my being the last one under the tarp that got me the most tilted piece of ground. Now, we’ve always been tight, but something ain’t right when your sleeping bags are touching….and Wolf likes to roll around a lot. I think this broke code!
Bob’s scheduled flight had been delayed and ultimately pushed back a day….it is the bush after all and not LAX, so things do happen. Truthfully, the night wasn’t bad at all. We all had good gear and we now had something to give Bob crap about….but thank God for that tarp! Bob flew in right at dawn and as he passed over us, we all gave him the one finger salute.
Hawk had shot a monster bull a couple of days earlier, and Wolf had been a hiking fool and decided early this day he wanted a fun easy night of glassing and fishing. So when Bob spotted two giant white paddles literally three miles away. I was the fortunate one in line. It was a long way to go, but he looked giant from afar and well worth the trek.
We quickly loaded our packs and got to it. The Argo is a leg saver and it took us as far as we deemed safe. We had our waders in our packs, crossed the river a couple of times, then raced and hurdled through tag alders, frost mounds and the sloughs in between.
Bob maneuvered us to a point where we knew we were close and we spotted the tops of the antlers over a ridge, but still nearly a mile away. KO let out his nastiest big sexy cow call to see if the bull could hear us….and he came on a rope! This rutted-up goliath was on a mission. KO had him fired-up and ready for some love. I had set up and ranged some key points we thought he’d come through — one around 300 yards and another at 200. KO was confident he’d get him to the 200 marker.
As this behemoth struted and swaggered right to my 300-yard marker, he started to circle around a ridge to my left. I could still see his antlers from time to time, but no body at all. I’m told these big guys get big for a reason and he was circling to get our wind….but the wind was perfect this time. I had to leave my perfect set-up, run down the crease and ease around the edge of the bowl as he was coming fast, but I couldn’t see anything but his rack. He just kept coming and getting closer and closer….50 yards, then 30 yards, but I still couldn’t see any hair…just the top of his giant head gear! Bob was filming away up-top and KO was getting this guy so horned-up, I figured that if I didn’t shoot him that KO would need to brace himself!
By then it was raining. My heart was pumping and my own heavy breathing made my scope clarity far from perfect. He finally had to start climbing out of the back side of this hole to get to his lover and I could then see his head and neck. He was at 15 yards! Yes, 15 yards….I swear. My scope was turned down to its lowest magnification and all I could see then was hair. I had to peak above my scope to get a sight picture and then follow it down his neck, to figure out where I was at. I was confident I had a scope full of neck hair, so I squeezed. He literally dropped in his tracks and KO didn’t even have to buy him dinner.
I heard Bob give me a yell from up on the knob. He’d been videoing this whole thing. I raised my arms and let out some kind of whoop or holler. They both raced over and we couldn’t believe what had just happened. We missed a high five, gave a hug and a body shake and all stood in awe over this beast. It was a Yukon mammoth lost in BC.
It seems one finds extra energy and more lift in our steps when hiking back after a successful stalk. We kept some Crown for when the moose was down and it flowed easy that night. We’re a group that genuinely hopes the next guy’s animal is bigger than the previous one taken. It’s honestly challenging to write so one can feel the joy experienced and bonding that occurs.
Most hunters know that the photos capture only a hint of the actual moments we experience and the beauty we’re able to behold. Our boots go places where no others have. Hunting is a truly magical, ethical, organic ceremony that creates bonds of friendship that no other event can. I’ll relive and tell this story for years to come.
We got to experience the grandeur of the Northern Lights every night it was clear and our bladders forced us outside. The fishing was absolutely world class for the biggest grayling and lake trout any of us had ever seen. Every night was filled with laughs, cards, tales of our past hunts and that current day’s encounters. An episode I’ll not soon forget was the night we had our personal cow calling contest….let’s just say we didn’t see any moose the whole next day. Although the Wolf became quite the caller. Before we were done he actually called one in from across the valley floor. The look on his face when it started and kept coming was unforgettable. Who knew a Wolf could call in a moose!?
We helped Bob break camp and he was excited for what he now knew next year would bring. We trekked to the lake and had some laughs, reminiscing about our first night alone on the beach. The clouds rolled in and we all seemed to take turns looking at our watches. The clouds got lower and the rain started to pound.
We glanced at each other from beneath our dripping hoodies as we all had the same thought…Deja vu all over again. We all headed to the timber, cut some wood and started a fire….we had all stolen a lighter from camp! A couple hours later our pilot arrived to great cheers and relief.
We spent our last day in Whitehorse and toured the local Yukon Brewery and a couple local watering holes. We’d spent two weeks in the bush without injury, but when we returned to our local hotel, we felt it a great idea to have luggage cart races down their hallway. After the crash, Wolf had blood running down his face and I’m still walking with a limp.
Our wives roll their eyes at us, but guys know these moments and even giving each other crap is a sign of love. These annual trips strengthen the bond of our brotherhood. We laugh the whole time we’re together and hold great expectations for our adventures to come.
In closing, I want to say that we’re a pack it in, pack it out, crew. But on a side note, I’m submitting for a change to Wolfe’s handle. We’ve all agreed to knight him Sir-Drops-a-Lot. If anyone reading this decides to wisely book a hunt with Milligan Outfitting, please keep your eyes open for a tripod, a walking stick, a water bottle, a scope cover and a glove. Wolf Pack for life!–Steve Rakes