By William L. Shores
Pete and Sharon Jensen operate an outfit approximately 100 miles north of Dawson City in the Yukon. The area is large, beautiful and very rugged. Hunters have a reasonable chance for killing either Dall or Fannin sheep, moose, caribou and grizzly bear. The following provides various comments related to this hunt, as hunters need to understand what they are getting into before they go on this hunt. Although there may be a couple of places where I have negative comments, I do not wish this to be classified as a controversy, because I do not feel that there is any controversy.
As noted earlier, the area is very large and is approximately 100 miles north of Dawson City. They operate this hunting area in somewhat of a unique way in that they do not use airplanes. You are driven from Dawson City to the hunting area. The hunting area is on a major highway known as the Dempster Highway. Although I say this is a major highway, it actually is a dirt road, which is a major highway for the Yukon. This has both positive and negative aspects. The positive side is that you do not have to worry about the weather. You will get to the hunting camp one way or another. The negative side is that there are other people who drive right through the middle of the hunting area. In fact, we saw two local hunters, one of which took a sheep.
The Jensens use horse to get to the hunting camps from the highway. This basically means that there is a very small portion of the hunting area which is actually being hunted. The overall majority of the hunting area is not being hunted whatsoever, and there are huge portions of the concession that no one ever goes into. Further, there are no camps in these unhunted areas. It would literally take days to ride in, and your only shelter would be a tent. Additionally, there would be no firewood in these unhunted areas, as there are virtually no trees here.
I was on this hunt primarily to hunt sheep. I hunted for approximately 10 days, and I saw only one legal ram. I think there are probably several reasons that could have caused this, including extremely bad weather during the weeks before I arrived and while I was there. The rain was unbelievable. We did see many ewes and lambs, and about five or six rams that were not legal. I took a 36-inch Fannin, which was the one legal sheep that I saw. I saw ample evidence that sheep had been in many places, but did not actually see sheep. Another thing that may contribute to this issue is the relatively small area in which they are hunting sheep. I believe that they are hunting the same sheep over and over.
I elected to stop hunting after I killed my sheep. Therefore, I did not shoot any of the other available animals. I passed numerous times on bull moose because I wanted to kill a sheep before I did anything else. I saw, at one point in time, nine moose together, which included three bulls. I saw several shootable bulls that I passed on. I also saw numerous calf and cow caribou. The area that I was in was not the area where they normally to hunt caribou, and I never went to that area. However, there were two other hunters in the camp who took caribou. One of the caribou scored 410. It was the most massive caribou I have ever seen. There appeared to be large numbers of very large caribou, based upon their past record and other information I was able to obtain.
I never saw a grizzly, however, I did see fresh grizzly tracks at one point. Once again, we were not in the area that contained their best population of grizzlies. Grizzlies were taken on the prior hunt, and some of the people who were on the that hunt saw grizzlies but did not have tags. Therefore, they did not shoot grizzlies.
Hunters considering this trip need to understand several things before they go:
They need to be in excellent physical condition. Frankly, I have run for years, and for at least one year before this, I ran six miles a day. Also, one day a week I was on the treadmill at a 25-degree incline for an hour. In spite of this, I found the hunt very difficult physically. One day, we were out for 13 hours with backpacks, climbing in brutal terrain with loose rocks, snow, mud, etc. I found it very difficult in spite of being in excellent physical condition. Many times we climbed to the top of a mountain to look over the other side of the mountain. I found this exhausting. On the day that I killed my sheep, we climbed approximately 2,500 vertical feet and then went up and down over the top of the mountains for over a mile before crawling out on a ledge to shoot the sheep. I would not contemplate this trip without extensive exercise before going. Furthermore, we were not coming in at night until approximately 11 pm. At that point, we had to cook dinner and do whatever else needed to be done. We were staying up very late at night. I personally found this to be exhausting.
I have been on numerous trips on mountains all over the world. However, I have to say that the cabins the Jensens used were the worst I have ever encountered. Generally speaking, they were some sort of aluminum or tin outside with plywood on the inside. They were fairly small. If there were more than two people, it would be very difficult to dry your clothes and get your equipment into the cabin. Additionally, most of the cabins that I personally encountered were not in a good state of repair. Two of the three I saw were in very poor condition. The one that we used in an area called Blue Lake had holes in the floor and some sort of ground squirrels or chipmunks were coming up through the holes. They defecated all over everything during the day while we were gone. They also appeared to have dragged away some gloves and other small items of mine during the day. In fairness to the Jensens, when I told them about this, they were somewhat surprised and indicated that they would get someone in there to repair these things.
As for equipment, I would recommend:
Take a minimum of three pairs of boots. Two of these should be normal hiking boots which are waterproof to the maximum extent possible. The other pair should be a pair of ankle fit rubber boots with cleats on the bottom. As I mentioned earlier, the conditions were exceedingly wet. I had boots that I have taken on numerous hunting trips that have never once leaked. I waterproofed these again before I left. All of my boots leaked and my feet were very wet. I may have been better off with the rubber boots had I brought them. Once again, I would bring a minimum of three pairs of boots. I would alternate days for the leather boots, letting them dry, and reapply some sort of waterproofing every day.
Take a minimum of two pairs of rain gear. I personally found that my rain gear was not drying out by the next day. I had to carry the rain gear, and it was very wet and heavy. This is not a lot of fun. Therefore, I would recommend bringing two pairs of the lightest, toughest rain gear suits that you can find.
Bring multiple sets of gloves for various weather conditions. These will get wet and will need to be dried out, which is not always to do.
I found the bugs to be very bad. I would bring a face net similar to those used for turkey hunting. There were no mosquitoes, but there was some sort of fly that was incredibly annoying. They were around constantly when it was not raining.
I would also bring some powdered Gatorade to mix with water every night when you return to the camp. I was completely drenched with sweat every single day when we returned. I could have wrung the sweat out of my pants. Without a doubt, I was losing a lot of electrolytes and the Gatorade would have helped replace these. This may have made the trip easier physically.
Various problems were encountered during this trip. These include the following:
The weather, as noted earlier, was abysmal. It rained for weeks before we arrived. It rained every single day while we were there, although there were days which had sun for at least part of the day. One day, on top of the mountain, a storm blew through, and I estimated the winds to be at 90 miles per hour or greater. I was unable to stand up and walk back to the horses in this wind. This made quality rain gear and footgear essential. It was very difficult to walk in these conditions, as everything was wet and muddy. Although I have no problem here at home covering 20-plus miles in a day on foot, I had extreme difficulty covering even a couple of miles on foot in this terrain, as wet as it was.
We had massive problems with the horses from the start of the hunt. We weren’t even out of sight of the main camp when a pack horse panicked and dumped its pack of boxes twice. On approximately the third day of the hunt, the pack horses, in spite of being picketed and hobbled, took off. We were riding saddle horses the next day back to the main camp to get more pack horses when we found the pack horses that had run off approximately halfway back to the main camp. This meant that they had to be caught, taken back to our original camp, packed up, and then brought to another camp where we spent the night, This basically killed an entire day. The next day, we had nothing but trouble from the horses. The horse that the guide was riding continually tried to buck him off and was generally acting crazy. We had massive problems with two of the pack horses. They dumped their packs several times after galloping off. We were within 100 yards of the main camp when one of the pack horses panicked, galloped off, and dumped its packs into a river. One of the items in the pack boxes was my satellite phone. It was totally ruined.
We saw resident hunters at least once, perhaps twice. There were people with guns who said they were not hunting. Nevertheless, they had guns, so who knows. One of the people was definitely hunting, as he killed a sheep. I found it a little disappointing to see resident hunters when I was paying big money for this trip.
Various other comments should be made as follows:
My guide was a young man named Eric Rae. He is a sheep fanatic. He is incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly hard working. Anyone who gets him as a guide is lucky.
Care must be taken to determine the best route to get to Dawson City. Frankly, there was a monumental difference in airfares between the various routes. I found it to be approximately half of the maximum airfare to go from Orlando to Salt Lake City; Salt Lake City to Anchorage; Anchorage to Fairbanks; and Fairbanks to Dawson City. Other routes were over twice as much. Check all of the available routes before booking this trip.
As most people probably know, there are new permits that have to be obtained to take guns into Canada. Depending upon where you are entering Canada, you may be able to get these permits approved in advance. If you are entering Canada at Dawson City, you cannot obtain the permit in advance. However, if you call 800-731-4000, or go to the Canadian Firearms Centre web site (www.cfc.gc.ca), you can obtain the declaration forms in advance. You can then have these forms completed prior to your arrival in Canada; however, if you do not get the permit in advance, do not sign these forms prior to arrival at the Canadian customs checkpoint. It is a minor detail to get this taken care of. The web site for the Canadian Firearms Centre describes this permit in detail, as well as the Canadian entry points where pre-registration is available. The “Visitors to Canada” section has all the information regarding bringing firearms into Canada.
My apologies for rambling on regarding this matter. However, I really think anyone considering this trip should know what they are getting into before they go. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has on this matter. - William L. Shores, C.P.A. (Tel. 407-872-0744, ext. 214. E-mail: email@example.com).
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