I just returned from one of my best Dall's Sheep hunts ever, with Chris and Sharon McKinnon of Bonnet Plume Outfitters. Located on the northeast Yukon-NWT border, their area is known for holding some of the largest Dall's Sheep, and it did not disappoint. In the planning stages of the hunt, Chris immediately offered up Avery Sheppard, his keen bowhunting guide. After meeting Avery on a makeshift creek bed airstrip, we split up our food stash and set out for a distant valley.
Avery and I got on a monster ram, and had stalks on him on six out of eight days. Fickle winds, and the fact that the big ram recruited no less than ten other scouts to keep him safe, were the only reasons we didn't connect. Still, we hiked and laughed and hunted hard. Never on any sheep hunt has a guide worked harder towards getting a ram. We were up at 5:00 a.m. every day, and didn't often get back to our tents before midnight.
Avery's seven-year-old pack dog, Junior, was an absolute delight. He made the hunt even more special, as he reminded of my dog, Kenzie, back home. Same beautiful and sweet disposition. He could carry 30-40 lbs. in his backpack and never slowed down the whole trip.
Junior even set out in hot pursuit when we found that pesky rats had eaten some of our delicious Mountain House – though, I think they may have done us a favor. I said to Avery, "Look at him go, at the end of the day and with a heavy load"
He chased gophers when hiking back to camp, but was at Avery's heel whenever we were on sheep. Avery could lay him down when we were glassing and he wouldn't move a muscle. Sometimes, following his gaze we found sheep on the hillside he was looking at. He'd also detect caribou well before we could see them pushing their way through the willows.
No doubt Avery was the hardest working guide I have ever had the pleasure to hunt with, and Junior worked just as hard.
A man and his dog. No doubt about who is man's best friend. I was honored to have shared my hunt with Junior. In Alberta using a pack dog to hunt is illegal. A friend of mine is working to change that, and I hope he has success. What a great way to spend more time with your best friend.
After the trip, I was pleased to receive an email from Sharon McKinnon telling me that Avery got his next client a great ram. She was a little sad to share they shot it with a rifle at no less than 60 steps. But that's hunting: being in the right place at the right time.
We left a huge ram on the mountain, but I know where he is. We have nine days into that ram, and he will be even bigger when we return.