Our Midnight Sun Nightmare
My husband, R.E., and I had dreamed about a moose hunt in the Yukon since we got married over three years ago. Our dream turned into a nightmare. This is our story.
It's a long trip to the Yukon from Texas: Austin to Vancouver, Vancouver to Whitehorse and Whitehorse to Dawson City. Then a 126 mile flight northeast of Dawson to base camp. The night before we left to head out to camp we expected to be greeted by Alan Young or a representative from Midnight Sun Outfitters. The front desk said he'd be there between 5 and 6 pm that evening. No Alan. We checked back at 8 pm. Oh, Kevin is here. I tracked him down. He said he'd meet in the bar in 30 minutes with the details, because he couldn't go into the bar right then due to his girlfriend being underage. No Kevin.
September 1st. The next morning we brought our bags downstairs. What else do we do? With relief, Kevin did show up to take us to the airport. We load the plane. After five days of traveling and waiting, we finally get to base camp.
Time to settle up with Mary, Alan's wife, and turn in our liability waivers. "Oh", says Mary, "we don't take personal checks" R.E. apologized profusely. He offered to call our banker or even wire money to their account. "I'll have to talk to Alan," she says.
R.E. meets Alan on his way back to the cabin. "R.E. I don't take personal checks," says Alan. RE replies again with apologies and offers to wire money. "I don't f----- work for free" Alan yells. "I told you a hundred times I don't take personal checks. I don't know what I'm going to do." Alan storms off.
R.E. returns to me in the cabin and recalls the event. He says "I called Mary specifically about this. I asked if I needed to bring a cashiers' check or travelers checks. She said a check is fine for the balance and to bring an additional check for any other animals that we could potentially take."
After dinner we pulled Alan and Mary aside. R.E. said "We have come so far and we just want to have a good hunt. We don't want this hanging over our heads. We can wire money. However you want to handle this"
Mary replies "I guess we'll just take the risk. Our work is so seasonal. We can't afford to get scammed. R.E., you can just go build something when you get home and make up money. And Karen, you can go fill teeth. We have to make our money now. We can't afford to be stolen from. We're trying to run a business. I guess we'll just have to take the risk on you.
"I own a business too Mary and I don't curse my patrons" I interject.
We went back to the cabin feeling horrible. There was nothing we could say to change their minds. They thought we were trying to steal a free hunt from them. I've never felt like such a criminal before in my life. We were trapped.
September 2nd, everything seems ok at breakfast so we head out on horses with Ryan (age 27), Jesse (Alan's 18 year old daughter), and Kelleen (Jesse's 18 year old friend from school). We reach Twin Lakes late afternoon and camp for two nights.
September 3rd. The horses have run off. Jesse and Kelleen spend all day trying to find them. Ryan, R.E. and I go for an afternoon hunt. We see nothing.
September 4th. Ryan, R.E. and I hike up to the top of a nearby mountain to glass a valley while the girls sleep in. We see one small bull. We leave that afternoon for Nash Creek. Jesse and Ryan are unfamiliar with the area. Jesse has a hand drawn map from her 15 year old brother on how to get there. Arrive at Nash Creek and stay in cabins for two nights.
September 5th. Wake up to no horses. Ryan goes after them while the girls sleep. R.E. and I climb a nearby mountain, on our own, to glass the valley. No moose. Afternoon hunt, the girls and Ryan listen to an iPod and talk about movies while R.E. and I glass Big Moose Draw. No moose.
September 6th. Glass Beaver Dam Lake. R.E. goes with Ryan and I hunt with Jesse, who slept while I kept glassing. No moose. Head to base camp that afternoon.
Arrive at base camp after six hour ride. Alan has a plan. He says he's been flying over an area with moose. He'll fly us out in the morning.
September 7th. Alan flies Jesse then me to Elliott Lake in his Super Cab float plane. He showed me the moose from the plane, so we'd know where to go. He says he'll be back that evening, and hunt with us tomorrow. He goes to drop the boys off. (I'll go to R.E.'s story after mine).
Jesse and I head out. She doesn't want to carry her gun because it's too heavy.
We hike, glass, hike, glass, hike. We get to a good vantage point a sit down. Jesse falls asleep (I have a picture of this). I wake her up because I see a huge bull. "This is the one I want, what do we do."
Jesse panics "I don't know what to do!"
I come up with a plan of attack. We get down there and the moose is in the woods. I tell Jesse "do a cow call and see if he shows himself"
Jesse replies "I don't know how to do that" I beg her to at least try. "No, I don't know how and I'm not going to try."
We lose hope and head home around 8:30. It takes every bit of an hour and 45 minutes to get home. A terrifying hike in the dark let me assure you. We were both shaken. Alan was supposed to have flown in. No Alan.
September 8th. Jesse refuses to hunt because she wants to wait for Alan. After a few hours, I get her to go out. No. She wants to wait. I discuss with her the previous night. She agrees that she was afraid as well, and that she wished her Dad had been with us. We continue to wait. No Alan.
September 9th. I finally convince her that I need to get out there as time is running out. We see nothing due to heavy fog, and head back to the cabin around 2pm. Alan is there. He says he won't be staying. I tell Alan about our hike in the dark the day before yesterday. I told him that we were both scared, and that I would prefer to have a man with us hunting if we're to be out late. He turns to Jesse and says "you weren't scared, were you?"
"Of course not Daddy" she lies.
"Oh Karen," Alan ridicules "you have nothing to be scared of our there. It's not like men with guns are going to attack you. This isn't downtown Laredo at night."
Alan then suggested that we go back out after the bull. Jesse tells him "I'm not walking that far again."
"Then just go to the end of the lake and call" Alan suggests.
"No Daddy. I don't know how to call. I don't do that."
We hike above the lake. Again, I see a moose I'd like to shoot. Again, Jesse doesn't know what to do, and won't even attempt a call even after much begging on my part.
September 10th. We head out for a days hunt. We see one moose. Once again, I beg Jesse to call. She refuses.
I go back to R.E.'s hunt from the 7th on:
Alan flew out Ryan, then R.E. to a remote area. He shows Ryan where the moose had been bedding down. Unfortunately, Ryan has never hunted the area and does not have a clue about the terrain. He leaves them with two days of food and tells them to hike home if they get the moose. If not, he'd be back to check on them. They hunt for the rest of the day. No moose.
September 8th. They hunt. No moose. It begins to rain and their tent is leaking water profusely.
September 9th. R.E. and Ryan are out of food. Alan has not come back to check on them or bring supplies. They are forced to walk to base camp, a seven and a half hour hike. R.E. said it was the most grueling physical hike he'd ever taken, not to mention the fact that R.E. was carrying about a fifty pound load, because of having to pack out camp, on a slingshot pack that was designed for a bow and a days worth of supplies. Remember, they were flown into this camp. This was not to be a backpack hunt. It was suppose to be a horseback hunt.
All the while, R.E. assumes that Alan is hunting with me.
September 10th. Day hunt at "The Island. " No moose.
September 11th. Alan picks me up and flies me back to base camp. I go out for a days hunt with R.E., Ryan, and Kelleen. Once again, R.E. and I glass while Ryan flirts with Kelleen.
September 12th. We head home. Thank God we survived!
I kept emotion out of the story above. My husband and I are lucky to have made it out of there safely. What man in his right mind would drop of an inexperienced female hunter off in the woods with an 18 year old girl, or drop off my husband with two days of food and tell him to walk home. Does this man even have a license to carry passengers in his plane? What about the other young hunter out there with a 15 year old kid guiding him?
We will be sending this report to the Yukon Renewable Resources. We will also be turning Alan Young into Transport Canada for flying us in his float plane without a license to fly passengers (according to Alan himself "if anyone asks, you got to this location by horse. I don't have a license to carry passengers")
I will be happy to provide pictures of me in the plane if proof is needed.
This is not one of my favourite things to do, however, I guess, you deal with hunters such as this, if you are going to remain in the industry and it sometimes goes with the Outfitting business.
Regarding the complaint from R.E. and Karen Hopkins: To answer her letter:
From her arrival in Dawson City, we knew she would be a difficult client. I will try and address her specific concerns. She boasted about being a hunter who the local newspaper wanted to do an article on as she was "Texas business woman goes on hunt in the Yukon". She tried to portray the image of an experienced bush person.
Our clients get a very detailed, written documentation of all information they require in order to feel comfortable with all the arrangements in May before the hunting season. It includes meeting arrangements, licence and seals, balance owing, what to bring etc.
Mary usually does our expediting but she was just returning from her mother's funeral.
Our expeditor and one of our guides, Kevin, left her messages in Whitehorse, that he would meet her at the Midnight Sun Hotel, when she arrived, which he did.
On the evening Karen & her husband were in the Midnight Sun Hotel, in the bar, Kevin was in the restaurant with another one of our other hunters (75 feet away from her) discussing plans for the next day. Karen was well aware where he was and could easily have come and talked to him if she wished to talk to him a 2nd time.
Jessie's young friend, Keleen, was also with Kevin (not Kevin's girlfriend) as Karen accused. It would take a warped mind to even think such a thing. In the morning, Kevin, showed up, just as he had said he would, and loaded their bags and flew with the charter Co. which they paid for, to camp. They arrived at base camp on Sept. 1st which is the day that their hunt actually commenced and when they were supposed to.
The confrontation about the funds owing for the balance of their hunt, came after they gave a personal cheque for the hunting trip. They had been told this or sent correspondence about this fact at least 5 times where it clearly states we do not accept personal cheques under any circumstance and accept bank drafts or certified cheques only.
They had been told: 1) Alan told them over the phone when talked to R.E. Hopkins at least once. 2) An email dated July 15/07 stated such (which I have attached) 3) A final balance sheet which we send to our clients in May which gives them all the information that they require has a full page of the breakdown of their final balance which is to be paid on their arrival. (I also have copy of that - which I will be happy to send you).
I apologized, at the time, for the slight profanity, however, when Karen told me that R.E. does "not pay attention to details", and that was why they did not bring a certified cheque, I felt my language was warranted. I did not trust either one of them and had never met them before. I felt a good old Texas scam coming on.
On Sept. 1st, they also diverted my original plans for their trip. They said they were not going to hunt with an Indian and one of my best moose guides is Native. This was initially where I was going to have them go. He has guided for us for 8 years and I have never had a complaint from a hunter about him. Then R.E. said she was also not going to hunt with white guys either if it meant her staying out alone with them. There must be a lot of trust there!!
That left Ryan (who has moose guided for several years), Jessie, who has her first guides license, with Keleen wrangling. I sent them off to an area where they would have a good opportunity at a moose. Patience is not a virtue of Karen Hopkins. The first day, I asked Karen if she wanted to come with me and hunt a good moose that I knew where one was. Her first question was - how big is it?? - When I responded that it was 55-60" - she said no and said she wanted a really big one and wanted to go with R.E. On Day 7, they still had had no luck so I offered to fly them to separate camps for a few days to try Plan B. This was done to assist them to have a successful hunt. They did not pay for this service, as their flying fees goes to the Charter Co. out of Dawson City.
I have had a pilot's license since 1977 and to date possess our own Aviation Co.; I have a commercial license, and also have a chief pilot's status. I have had multiple meetings with Transport Canada.
Her comments about Jessie have quite taken me back. Jessie has a legal guide's license. Jessie was in the mountains at 2 weeks old. She has lived in our hunting areas and on our ranch her whole life. She has walked trails alone at night and has checked cattle and horses at 3 a.m. with a flashlight since she was 7 years old. She also guided for the 4th largest Dall Sheep in the Yukon Territory last year and her hunter was from the Outdoor Life Network. He photographed his trip and is now coming back to feature Jessica Young on a T.V. show on woman guiding in the Yukon. He thought she was unbelievably experienced for an 18 year old girl and thought she was an excellent guide. Jessie is one of Canada's top ski racers right now on the National Circuit and does heavy dryland daily and can bench press 180 lbs. I don't think her rifle was too heavy at 9 ½ lbs and walking and climbing for her a few hours is nothing. The days she did not go out hunting, it was fogged to the ground. This is also why I did not fly in. She did not cow call moose because she did not feel it was good timing and the rut was not even close to happening. Concession #4 has an excellent population of moose and at any camp there is an opportunity at one. When Karen told me Jessie was scared of the dark and lazy, I then knew she was not telling the truth. Jessie used a headlamp and has one for times of getting back late at night or wrangling early in the a.m. I did not return to pick them up as soon as I could have - as I asked R. E. at the dinner table, if I should go and pick her up as she was completely out of her element -- and he said to "leave her there" as things are nice around here now. That suited me fine.
He reminded me that she was not hunting with an Indian at all or a white guy overnight. R.E. hunted with Ryan and seemed to be liked by everyone. I also dropped Ryan and him off at another camp to try Plan B. as well. They were also in a very good Moose spot and it did entail hiking 6-7 hours which he agreed to do, back to camp. They had light packs and it was a well travelled horse trail. R.E. went to the spike camp on the 7th and they hiked back on the 9th. Ryan had an 80-90 lb. large pack with adequate groceries for 2 days. I would question how R.E could have 50 lbs of weight in a day pack. Ryan told me he cached groceries there as there was too much to pack back. They had no success. I have hiked this trail numerous times and I did not think he was physically incapable. They had some heavy rainfall which did not make it pleasant.
She was never left alone except one time while the crew was making supper; her and R.E. supposedly wanted private time and hiked up on the side hill by camp. This was told to me by all 3 of my crew at separate times.
She has also confabulated about our son, Logan, but he does not guide, because he is not of age yet. He has been going on hunts since he was 6 with myself, my guides and wranglers and helps out. He won the Youth award for FNAWS when he was 8 years old and received a $600.00 Sheep belt buckle in front of 1800 people. He was awarded this as being the most promising youth in the hunting community in North America. Today he is 6'1" and 16 years old and he is a great asset to any hunting trip. She has tried to cause trouble for Logan as well by trying to contact all the other hunters that we had in camp at that time looking for support of her story. They have told her to leave them alone as they do not believe what she is saying, and they had a good trip of their own.
In conclusion, Karen has neglected to mention, that at the end of the trip, I verbally offered R.E. to return, before he left base camp. Before this falsified letter from Karen, we also emailed them on Dec. 21st and offered a trip in our 2008 or 2009 season, to compensate for their unsuccessful trip, of which we heard no response. The first we heard of their complaint was the email on Feb. 23rd. from Terry Wilkinson (YOA Ethics Committee) but the letter from Karen is dated Sept. 17th.
This offer no longer stands as we have no one that will guide her. None of our guides or our wranglers cared for her. These points are from our side and are only the tip of the iceberg. Jessie's opinion about her inadequacy as a hunter, and person, are very lengthy and would require another long letter.
We feel we have done everything we can, to try and resolve this situation with this very difficult client. There has been no contravention to the Wildlife Act or has there been any issues in regard to safety. In 26 years of outfitting, and 3 different areas, we have never had as much as one charge, let alone a conviction.
I am sure there will not be very many people that read the rebuttal as you have it as such that they have to pay to read the rebuttal but the outfitter criticism they can read at N/C. Pretty one sided and undemocratic!
Sorry, that you have had to deal with such poor sportsperson's that are clients of yours, as this, but thank you for letting us express our opinion.
Alan & Mary Ellen Young