Imagine hunting elk in a place where they have never been hunted. Think of the big bulls that could turn up! Well, just such an opportunity will be available this September in northern British Columbia. The entire wildlife unit known as Zone 7-52, west of Fort Nelson, is being opened to elk hunting this year for the first time ever. The 10-day season is slated to start on September 1.
You might be wondering how a hunt area could have gone un-hunted for this species. Well, about 20 years ago, there was a push to create habitat for elk and a number of them were transplanted to northern British Colombia. Since then, elk populations have burgeoned and pushed into areas where they were not previously found. Nowadays, elk are showing up everywhere in BC, opening up new opportunities to hunt them. Ironically, the good news on elk has a twist to it that has sheep hunters crying the blues. Elk, it seems, are competing with Stone sheep for winter range, and the exploding elk population increased the populations of wolves and bears. As predators increased and spread with the elk, they found sheep easier prey than elk. Elk populations have managed to continue growing while sheep populations are crashing. Bottom line: Getting a Stone sheep ram is growing more and more difficult in BC, while the chances of getting a big bull elk are improving.
The regulations to hunt this new area had not been printed as this was written, but should be available as you read this. When I learned of the new opportunity, I checked in with a number of outfitters in Zone 7-52 and found several are prepared right now to take hunters into this area. Frank Simpson of Simpson Stone Sheep Outfitters, Ltd. hunts the Turnagain River area and has two hunters booked at $7,000 for the impending 10-day elk season this September. He is cautiously optimistic about the hunts, having found what he says are some good bull drop antlers in his area. Apparently Simpson's got enough confidence that the hunt will go well that he is already taking bookings for next year too.
Tom Vince of Turnagain Adventure says he has room for one hunter this year at $8,000. Vince is son of legendary outfitter Gary Vince, although he certainly has been outfitting long enough to earn his own reputa- tion. Vince also hunts the Turnagain River drainage, bringing hunters into camp by jet-boat. That alone should be worth the price of admission, as it's an amazing way to see the country. Vince says he can also offer a secondary animal, such as a mountain goat, for an additional $3,000 trophy fee.
I could not speak to Darwin Cary of Scoop Lake Outfitters at press time, but I did reach him by e-mail at. Cary has satellite hook-up in his base camp, and he was already up in the mountains in late June. He did not want to commit to hunters before he sees the printed regulations (due out in early July), but it is safe to say he probably has some elk hunters on a string already since he outfits for elk on the east side of the Turnagain River. Elk hunting was opened in that zone about 15 years ago, and there were some tremendous bulls taken. I hunted the area myself one year shortly after the season was opened and saw lots of elk.
These are all top outfitters, and it is a sure bet that they will get some good elk this year and next. Although residents take jet boats into these areas, they have to walk and pack their kills down to the river. That will keep them from going far into the area. Zone 7-52 is vast, and the outfitters here use horses to get well back from any crowds that may rush to this new elk opportunity this season. My bet is there will be fewer resident hunters in this area than usual due to the price of gas and the fact that good elk country is at least 60 miles from the boat launch. This could be your chance to get in on a fantastic new opportunity for wild elk in the wildest country you can imagine.
(Postscript: At press time, Nowicki called to tell us about a last-minute opportunity for bighorn sheep in Alberta, west of Nordegg. Allan Douglas of Allan Douglas Outfitting has an opening for 15 days of hunting at $28,500, plus the usual extras. Nowicki says that although Douglas just received his first nonresident sheep allocation this season, he is an experienced and successful sheep guide who worked for years with other companies and has guided a number of hunters to some great rams, including Hunting Report subscriber Keith Brown. Nowicki says he has personally shared a campfire or two with Douglas, and he's an extremely accomplished horseman and hunter.