NWT success

aeroflot

Newbie
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
6
I have a sheep picture and couple sentences about the hunt in another post. But for those that eat up all stories sheep related and live vicariously through others, like I do, here's the blow by blow. Fair warning, it's long.

Wed 8/25 My dad, brother, and I flew from Boise to LA to Calgary to Edmonton on the first day. Flying with guns is such a pain. We were the first people in line to check in in Boise and it took 45 minutes. WE had to jump through all the covid hoops with our paperwork when we left LA. As long as people had done what they were supposed to (PCR test, covid vaccine proof and self isolation plan through ArriveCAN), it was a breeze. We had heard that Calgary was an easier place to go through customs than Vancouver and it was. We sped through customs. We were finally on the last leg of the day but got a call from a customs agent at about 930pm while eating at Chile’s. He said there was a problem with our bags and we needed to head back down and recheck them in and then go through security again. Our last leg was supposed to leave at 1130. Fortunately, this guy was a hunter and had seen our bags come through customs (they were big yellow totes) and then they had shown up back in international arrivals again. So he walked us and our luggage down to the airline, told them what happened, got the bags checked in, and walked us through the fast lane in security, all while talking to us about hunting. Very fortunate.

Thurs 8/26 Next day we got to Norman Wells via Yellowknife and found out everything was on complete shutdown. 9 whole cases of covid in Norman Wells (a lot more in some neighboring villages), so nobody could go anywhere. We were in our room in the hotel until the next day. The hotel has a restaurant and we could get take-out.

IMG_1128.jpeg

Flew to base camp on Fri 8/27. Our stay there was short and I flew in a helicopter out with my guide, Kevin, to our spike camp. We glassed that evening and woke up to fog the next morning 8/28. It rained on and off. The weather had said rain was forecast from Sat-Mon so we weren’t surprised. The fog started clearing and we packed up camp and started heading up to where we were going to hunt. We had seen a sow and 2 cubs head through a notch right up the canyon where we were heading. Once we were up that drainage a ways and walking through some willows, we heard some rocks rolling and something running through the bushes. We looked up and saw the two cubs running up the bank and they stopped at the top and turned and looked at us to see what the heck was going on. We were wondering where the sow was and that made us nervous. We never saw her. These two cubs were probably over a year old, so maybe she was letting them roam a little more. It was a heavy day of packing and we made it up to camp in the evening and found a good spot to camp.

Sun 8/29 we awoke to fog. It stayed low all day so we walked circles, slept, and talked. It was a good restful day. Saw 2 medium sized caribou that were losing their velvet about a mile from camp.

Mon 8/30 we awoke to fog but luckily it cleared pretty quick. We got our day packs together and made our way up the canyon and back into a side canyon. It was a pretty good slog up the hill but luckily it was mostly just grass and easy walking. Kevin crawled out to the edge and peaked over. There were 5 rams about 1000 yards away down in the bowl below us. He said he didn’t think any of them were shooters for this early in the hunt, but grabbed his spotting scope. After looking them over, one was 10 years old he thought but only 36”, not heavy and very tight curl. He still thought it wasn’t one to shoot, plus we couldn’t get within range. So we backed down and headed up to the next draw to the left that was separated from the ram draw by a long razor back ridge. There wasn’t anything over there but I spotted 7 rams clear on the other side of the drainage about 2-3 miles away. We couldn’t tell what they were and couldn’t get on to the razor back by side hilling in the left draw…it was too steep. So we went back around and side hilled over to the razor back through a boulder field above the rams. They didn’t even care. We went out to the end of the razor back and determined that the 7 rams weren’t shooters. Also saw about 6-8 cows/calf caribou. We headed back and by now the rams in the bowl below us were at 430 yards. Kevin looked again with the spotting scope and asked if I was sure I didn’t want to shoot that ram. He said he still stuck by his initial judgement. So we passed it up. It was a beautiful ram and many times, looking back later in the hunt, I wondered if I had made the right decision. We hiked back in the twilight and got back to camp around midnight.

IMG_1142.jpeg

Tues 8/31 we packed up and headed back down the canyon. We had a 2 day pack to our next hunting area. We made it down past our original camp and saw a grizzly bear walk past us at 100 yards and didn’t know we were there.

Wednesday 9/1 We saw a caribou walk past us at 30 yards. Almost shot it for camp meat but it was really little. They are so curious. He ran off and then came back again. We also saw a giant grizzly about a mile away eating berries. Pretty cool. The main river bed where we were walking was very smooth bottomed and we covered the country quickly. Then we went up a side canyon and it was just smooth boulders and river crossings for a few miles. A lot slower going. Any 20 foot stretch of sand or gravel was a welcome sight. Got to camp and set up in sight of the mountain we were to climb the next day in search of sheep.

IMG_1149.jpeg

Thurs 9/2 is what I call leg day. We headed for the mountain. It was a gradual climb up through the pines. When we broke out of the pines, we hit some shin-knee high red bushes that were mostly easy to walk through except when we hit the 30-40 degree slopes. I double checked that with my binoculars. Then we hit the boulders. Luckily they didn’t move too much when we walked on them. They were anywhere between 1-8’ in diameter. We hit the top of what we thought was the mountain. It was supposed to be a big plateau across the top but it was actually a gradual slope clear across the top until we could finally look over the other side. It was cliffs on the other side and we worked our way across the top looking in all the draws and canyons. After working our way over to look 2 canyons away, we ran out of time and had to head back to camp. We had seen 3 ewes/lambs 1 mile away and 9 sheep about 5 miles away but couldn’t tell what they were. We headed for the bottom through 100% rocks. It was slow going. We made our way across that and got back to camp at midnight. It was a tough day that saw 3300 feet of up and 3300 back down.

Fri 9/3 Outfitter thought we should move around the mountain we had just climbed and camp in the valley where we had first looked into from the top of that plateau. Then try to approach those 9 sheep we saw from 5 miles away. So we moved camp. On the way up there we found this cool chute in the river where the water came through into a pool that had to have been 6-10 feet deep. There was a giant fish in there taking flies. We were trying to figure out how the fish got up there. The river is pretty small other than this big deep pool. It was a long hike and we camped as high as we could while still having access to water.

IMG_1154.jpeg

Sat 9/4 I woke up at 330 to rain. I was really praying the rain would stop so we could have good visibility to hunt. I was so jacked to go hunt, I never fell back asleep. We got up an hour earlier than normal as we knew it would be a long day and started up the mountain. We got up into the pass but then the fog rolled in. Walking through the fog is so disorienting. Luckily we had gps to reassure ourselves but it’s so easy to get turned around. We sat in the fog for 2 hours praying and hoping for visibility and then it lifted. We skirted a cornice and hiked to the top of this long ridge. It was the easiest hiking of the week. We hiked 3 miles along this ridge and saw 16 sheep. 6 were rams but they were all small. The thought was setting in that maybe I wouldn’t find a ram. IMG_1155.jpeg

Sun 9/5 Outfitter said there were a couple mountains 2 days hike away where someone flying out had seen 5 rams and 2 rams. We made the hike in 1 day as we only had 2 days left on the hunt. The large blueberry patch we hit was a welcome treat. That evening, we hit the main river bottom and crossed in a spot that was over knee deep. Wet boots! We finally made it to camp just before dark and spotted 2 rams on the mountain that was supposed to have 5 rams. They were both small.

Continued...
 

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OP
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aeroflot

Newbie
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
6
Mon 9/6 Last day to hunt. We were supposed to get out to a spot to fly out this day. We could see the same 2 small rams from the night before but no others so we packed up camp and started moving out to the airstrip. Then Kevin spotted 2 rams on the mountain where 2 rams were supposed to be. They were back behind us away from the airstrip but maybe 1 was a full curl? I spotted 2 more on the closer mountain and 1 of them looked pretty good but Kevin wasn’t sure he was a shooter. I was up for going after them and we took off after quickly setting up our tents and emptying our packs. It was 1.5 miles to the base of the mountains and basically the same set up as “leg day” mountain. Red bushes. Steep. A few blueberries on the way up. And then rock. The only difference was it was pouring rain now. So these rocks had become extremely slick. We finally made it to the ridge and topped out. The rams were 650 yards away and there was no way to get much closer to them without going along the top of the ridge and getting above them. Fog was rolling in and out and the wind was blowing decently so I didn’t feel good about trying a shot at that distance. Kevin thought we should use the fog to our advantage and slip out on to the sidehill and work our way through the boulders and cut the distance to the rams. We started to move out on to the boulders and made it 10 feet before the fog lifted and the rams were staring us down. He said “back out this isn’t going to work.” We decided to approach them from the top. So we headed up and began working around the top of the mountain until we hit a cliff and couldn’t go around the top anymore. We were running out of time. It was about 830pm. At this point, we couldn’t see the rams anymore as they had fed into a cut beyond some rocks. We moved carefully out across the rocks on the sidehill. It was noisy and slow but fog was still coming and going. Finally, we made our way to just behind a rise. We knew that we would see them soon so I took my gun off my pack, took off the scope cover, checked my scope for clarity, and put in my ear plugs. We eased over the rise and couldn’t see any sheep. Kevin had me put my gun back on my pack. There was one more little fold in the terrain where they could be but a huge fog bank was rolling in faster than we could cover the distance. I quickly ranged a few spots as I knew my rangefinder wouldn’t work even in light fog and we sat there. All of a sudden, in the fog we could hear something walking in the rocks. The fog started to lift and there the rams were. We couldn’t get a range but I knew they were between 200-300 yards. Kevin told me to shoot the top ram. I leaned over my backpack in a sitting position and put my scope up. It was partially fogged! When I put the wet scope cover back on it, it must have caused condensation to build up. I could see the crosshair and the sheep body. 3 shots later he went down. It was 930pm and we had squeaked out a success. It was a magical feeling. After pictures, a snack, butchering the sheep and packing our packs, we headed off at midnight.

View attachment 330152

Tues 9/6 It started to pour again. It rained all night and it was miserable. I had wet boots from the day before. I was soaked in sweat and all the rocks seemed to move. I was just trying to stay upright and not blow out a knee or something. Very slow going. We kept creeping forward. Then we hit the willows. Willows up north are no joke. The branches are 2-3” thick and grow in a wall across the bottom of the draw. Your raingear hood hangs down and blocks your headlamp. Then you move that but the close branches and leaves from the willows block your view of the ground which is still the boulders that you’re slipping sliding around on. The ram horn keeps getting stuck on willow branches. Kevin asks, “just let me know if you need to stop. We can spend the night here and finish in the am.” I figure that it will get awful cold that way given I’m soaked. As long as I keep moving I'll be fine. We finally break out and start working across a boulder field. It seems like the fog is lifting but then I realize it’s just getting light. Finally at 730am, we make it back to camp. A feeling of euphoria overwhelms me after overcoming such a tough night. We took a 3 hour nap and outfitter said the helicopter would be there at 330. We were relieved that we didn’t have to make it to a landing strip to get picked up by a super cub because that would have been another several hour hike. We cooked sheep steak over a fire on a willow stick and it was delicious, especially after 11 days of dehydrated. The helicopter picked us up and we flew back to basecamp where Kevin had to hurry and get ready to go out with the next hunter a few hours later. I hobbled around, had swollen feet and a swollen left knee but I felt great. View attachment 330153 View attachment 330155

Wed 9/7 Even though I had pulled an all-nighter, I climbed out of bed when the outfitter told us the northern lights were out. That was a treat. Next morning, we ate a huge breakfast and compared stories. There’s a map in the lodge and after calculating all the miles I had walked, we figured it was about 60 miles. I also looked at my gps of our last camp and where the sheep was taken and we did 3700 feet up and then down. It was the toughest but one of the most rewarding hunts I have ever been on.

View attachment 330157 View attachment 330158

Flight home was uneventful. There is a hotel now in the Edmonton airport that has a walk in freezer we used for the meat. We were able to get an export permit for the meat but not the horns/cape because the Fish and Game office was closed due to covid. Don't ask me why they would come over and check our meat but not horns/cape. So the outfitter will have to ship them once they're open again. Before we left, we bought the covid rapid tests that can be self-administered under supervision via app. We did these in Edmonton and it was easy to do and got back across the border fine. Fun trip and hopefully going back in 2024 or 2025.
 

adamkolesar

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2019
Messages
136
Location
Adirondacks
Love the long form story telling! Clearly your level of fitness made the difference in your 11th hour harvest. Thanks for posting and congrats on a well earned ram.
 

ReddingArcher

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
845
Fantastic story and ram!! Congratulations! Which outfitter did you hunt with? I am planning to book a hunt this year at the Sheep Show and would like to hear more about your overall experience with the outfitter. Thanks
 

Aeroflot81

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 23, 2021
Messages
11
Fantastic story and ram!! Congratulations! Which outfitter did you hunt with? I am planning to book a hunt this year at the Sheep Show and would like to hear more about your overall experience with the outfitter. Thanks
I hunted with Arctic Red. I’ve been there once before for a moose/caribou hunt in 2016. My dad and brother have both been there in the past as well. We love it up there and only have positive things to say about the outfit. I don’t know anything about the other outfitters on NWT.

ARRO tends to not use helicopters in the past but I’ve heard that they’ve been using them the last couple years especially for moose. I don’t know if that will become a permanent thing for sheep/caribou hunts.

The outfitter has some sort of biologist background and takes that into account. He seems to manage the game populations well. He also feels as highly about the overall experience as he does about the trophy. It truly is a total package experience/adventure up there.

I don’t know if you have any other specific questions but I have only positive things to say about ARRO.
 

Cspraggins

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2019
Messages
63
Location
Tx
great writeup and photos. That is an excellent ram and it sounds like the experience to the trip was equal to the trophy itself.

I was close to booking with either Ravensthroat or ARRO, but with COVID decided to change course and book in Alaska (Wrangell's) for 2023. At some point i will get to the NWT to experience the McKenzie's....they look amazing.
 

ReddingArcher

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
845
I hunted with Arctic Red. I’ve been there once before for a moose/caribou hunt in 2016. My dad and brother have both been there in the past as well. We love it up there and only have positive things to say about the outfit. I don’t know anything about the other outfitters on NWT.

ARRO tends to not use helicopters in the past but I’ve heard that they’ve been using them the last couple years especially for moose. I don’t know if that will become a permanent thing for sheep/caribou hunts.

The outfitter has some sort of biologist background and takes that into account. He seems to manage the game populations well. He also feels as highly about the overall experience as he does about the trophy. It truly is a total package experience/adventure up there.

I don’t know if you have any other specific questions but I have only positive things to say about ARRO.
Thanks for the reply I appreciate it. ARRO seems like a great outfit and I hear nothing but positive things about them.
 

cuervosail

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
23
I have a sheep picture and couple sentences about the hunt in another post. But for those that eat up all stories sheep related and live vicariously through others, like I do, here's the blow by blow. Fair warning, it's long.

Wed 8/25 My dad, brother, and I flew from Boise to LA to Calgary to Edmonton on the first day. Flying with guns is such a pain. We were the first people in line to check in in Boise and it took 45 minutes. WE had to jump through all the covid hoops with our paperwork when we left LA. As long as people had done what they were supposed to (PCR test, covid vaccine proof and self isolation plan through ArriveCAN), it was a breeze. We had heard that Calgary was an easier place to go through customs than Vancouver and it was. We sped through customs. We were finally on the last leg of the day but got a call from a customs agent at about 930pm while eating at Chile’s. He said there was a problem with our bags and we needed to head back down and recheck them in and then go through security again. Our last leg was supposed to leave at 1130. Fortunately, this guy was a hunter and had seen our bags come through customs (they were big yellow totes) and then they had shown up back in international arrivals again. So he walked us and our luggage down to the airline, told them what happened, got the bags checked in, and walked us through the fast lane in security, all while talking to us about hunting. Very fortunate.

Thurs 8/26 Next day we got to Norman Wells via Yellowknife and found out everything was on complete shutdown. 9 whole cases of covid in Norman Wells (a lot more in some neighboring villages), so nobody could go anywhere. We were in our room in the hotel until the next day. The hotel has a restaurant and we could get take-out.

View attachment 330133

Flew to base camp on Fri 8/27. Our stay there was short and I flew in a helicopter out with my guide, Kevin, to our spike camp. We glassed that evening and woke up to fog the next morning 8/28. It rained on and off. The weather had said rain was forecast from Sat-Mon so we weren’t surprised. The fog started clearing and we packed up camp and started heading up to where we were going to hunt. We had seen a sow and 2 cubs head through a notch right up the canyon where we were heading. Once we were up that drainage a ways and walking through some willows, we heard some rocks rolling and something running through the bushes. We looked up and saw the two cubs running up the bank and they stopped at the top and turned and looked at us to see what the heck was going on. We were wondering where the sow was and that made us nervous. We never saw her. These two cubs were probably over a year old, so maybe she was letting them roam a little more. It was a heavy day of packing and we made it up to camp in the evening and found a good spot to camp.

Sun 8/29 we awoke to fog. It stayed low all day so we walked circles, slept, and talked. It was a good restful day. Saw 2 medium sized caribou that were losing their velvet about a mile from camp.

Mon 8/30 we awoke to fog but luckily it cleared pretty quick. We got our day packs together and made our way up the canyon and back into a side canyon. It was a pretty good slog up the hill but luckily it was mostly just grass and easy walking. Kevin crawled out to the edge and peaked over. There were 5 rams about 1000 yards away down in the bowl below us. He said he didn’t think any of them were shooters for this early in the hunt, but grabbed his spotting scope. After looking them over, one was 10 years old he thought but only 36”, not heavy and very tight curl. He still thought it wasn’t one to shoot, plus we couldn’t get within range. So we backed down and headed up to the next draw to the left that was separated from the ram draw by a long razor back ridge. There wasn’t anything over there but I spotted 7 rams clear on the other side of the drainage about 2-3 miles away. We couldn’t tell what they were and couldn’t get on to the razor back by side hilling in the left draw…it was too steep. So we went back around and side hilled over to the razor back through a boulder field above the rams. They didn’t even care. We went out to the end of the razor back and determined that the 7 rams weren’t shooters. Also saw about 6-8 cows/calf caribou. We headed back and by now the rams in the bowl below us were at 430 yards. Kevin looked again with the spotting scope and asked if I was sure I didn’t want to shoot that ram. He said he still stuck by his initial judgement. So we passed it up. It was a beautiful ram and many times, looking back later in the hunt, I wondered if I had made the right decision. We hiked back in the twilight and got back to camp around midnight.

View attachment 330136

Tues 8/31 we packed up and headed back down the canyon. We had a 2 day pack to our next hunting area. We made it down past our original camp and saw a grizzly bear walk past us at 100 yards and didn’t know we were there.

Wednesday 9/1 We saw a caribou walk past us at 30 yards. Almost shot it for camp meat but it was really little. They are so curious. He ran off and then came back again. We also saw a giant grizzly about a mile away eating berries. Pretty cool. The main river bed where we were walking was very smooth bottomed and we covered the country quickly. Then we went up a side canyon and it was just smooth boulders and river crossings for a few miles. A lot slower going. Any 20 foot stretch of sand or gravel was a welcome sight. Got to camp and set up in sight of the mountain we were to climb the next day in search of sheep.

View attachment 330138

Thurs 9/2 is what I call leg day. We headed for the mountain. It was a gradual climb up through the pines. When we broke out of the pines, we hit some shin-knee high red bushes that were mostly easy to walk through except when we hit the 30-40 degree slopes. I double checked that with my binoculars. Then we hit the boulders. Luckily they didn’t move too much when we walked on them. They were anywhere between 1-8’ in diameter. We hit the top of what we thought was the mountain. It was supposed to be a big plateau across the top but it was actually a gradual slope clear across the top until we could finally look over the other side. It was cliffs on the other side and we worked our way across the top looking in all the draws and canyons. After working our way over to look 2 canyons away, we ran out of time and had to head back to camp. We had seen 3 ewes/lambs 1 mile away and 9 sheep about 5 miles away but couldn’t tell what they were. We headed for the bottom through 100% rocks. It was slow going. We made our way across that and got back to camp at midnight. It was a tough day that saw 3300 feet of up and 3300 back down.

Fri 9/3 Outfitter thought we should move around the mountain we had just climbed and camp in the valley where we had first looked into from the top of that plateau. Then try to approach those 9 sheep we saw from 5 miles away. So we moved camp. On the way up there we found this cool chute in the river where the water came through into a pool that had to have been 6-10 feet deep. There was a giant fish in there taking flies. We were trying to figure out how the fish got up there. The river is pretty small other than this big deep pool. It was a long hike and we camped as high as we could while still having access to water.

View attachment 330142

Sat 9/4 I woke up at 330 to rain. I was really praying the rain would stop so we could have good visibility to hunt. I was so jacked to go hunt, I never fell back asleep. We got up an hour earlier than normal as we knew it would be a long day and started up the mountain. We got up into the pass but then the fog rolled in. Walking through the fog is so disorienting. Luckily we had gps to reassure ourselves but it’s so easy to get turned around. We sat in the fog for 2 hours praying and hoping for visibility and then it lifted. We skirted a cornice and hiked to the top of this long ridge. It was the easiest hiking of the week. We hiked 3 miles along this ridge and saw 16 sheep. 6 were rams but they were all small. The thought was setting in that maybe I wouldn’t find a ram. View attachment 330143

Sun 9/5 Outfitter said there were a couple mountains 2 days hike away where someone flying out had seen 5 rams and 2 rams. We made the hike in 1 day as we only had 2 days left on the hunt. The large blueberry patch we hit was a welcome treat. That evening, we hit the main river bottom and crossed in a spot that was over knee deep. Wet boots! We finally made it to camp just before dark and spotted 2 rams on the mountain that was supposed to have 5 rams. They were both small.

Continued...
Congratulations on a beautiful ram.
 

HornPorn

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2020
Messages
24
Fantastic story and ram!! Congratulations! Which outfitter did you hunt with? I am planning to book a hunt this year at the Sheep Show and would like to hear more about your overall experience with the outfitter. Thanks

Ask the outfitter what they use to get their hunters & guides to and from the field. If they are using a single 1 passenger subercub, they can only fly 1 person out at a time. Some other outfitters use larger planes that can take you and your guide together.

When you and 3-4 other hunters get to base camp on the same day excited for your hunt, and everyone needs to get flown out along with their guide, it can be the difference in getting to start your hunt tomorrow, or possibly getting stuck at base camp and losing several days of hunting due to the weather.
 

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