By Seth Craft
I booked this hunt back in May of 2018 with McMillan River Adventures, and the owner, Don Lind, clued me in on what to expect. August 13th found me on a plane to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. On August 15th, I loaded my gear on a Beaver and headed back into the hunting area. When I landed in camp, I was greeted by the guide, Owen Nicholls, and the two wranglers, Scott Hale and Trayton Thomas. They were all fired up and ready to go pound the hills for that Yukon monarch.
The five-mile horseback ride up into the nearby mountain range that we would call home for the next four days was so amazing. With a moose, grizzly, and caribou tag also in my pocket, my head was on a swivel. We made it up to camp and set up the wall tent. As alarms started going off at 4:30, we raced up the mountain and found a couple caribou feeding by the horses. Within an hour of spotting, I had found a caribou about three miles away that had so much mass it was hard to believe, but we had sheep on the brain.
As we broke over the south side, that monster caribou was about two miles away now and he was irresistible to my temptation. We worked the rest of the range down with no sheep in sight and closed the distance on this caribou. I ranged him at 546 yards and sent one downrange to hit the mark with my Jeremiah Greenfield special .300 RUM and threw another in him for good measure. He hit the deck like a ton of bricks. Nightfall surely found us as we gathered our gear and made it back to camp at around midnight.
Over the next three days, we packed out the monster caribou and picked apart every piece of the mountains in search of that full curl trophy. On day five, we felt that we needed to move over to a new range. During the 10-mile ride, we stopped and glassed the mountains. About four miles away, we could see a dozen animals about halfway up the far mountainside. We rushed into our hunting gear and crawled the next three miles to get within distance to get a better look. As I looked through the spotter, I could see three legal rams with no real distinguish as they fed out on the mountainside. As we picked them apart, out jumped a flared out 1 1/4 curl ram that left me in pure amazement. All I could get out was, “That’s the one.” The stalk was on as we crawled into position. With only about 100 yards to go, we would have the opportunity with the animal of my dreams. The wind turned, so we bugged out, trying not to blow our chance at the flared out ram. That night was rough with no sleep as my wheels spun in anticipation for the morning stalk.
At 3:30, we were off to advance and ambush the rams in their bedroom. We slowly made our way into the big rock canyon as eight rams were advancing up the mountain, quartering away. As we looked them over, the flared out ram was nowhere to be seen. Hours later, we spotted what turned out to be the spookiest 6-year-old ram that has ever existed in the Yukon, and there was that flared out old ram lying right beside him. I crawled through the rocks, scratching up my belly as I gained distance on the bedded rams. 800 yards became 600, which became 550 as the spooky 6-year-old stood up and had a flight look about him. Settling into my rifle as I didn’t want to miss my opportunity at the giant, he stood up and I squeezed the easy 550-yard shot off. I knew he was dead to rights, but I reviewed the video footage in disbelief of the epic failure of the missed shot. How could this happen?
The days started cranking out as another guide, Gary Sokwaypnace, helped us in the search for our big ram. From dawn until dusk, we covered every rock and tirelessly searched for that monarch. As we crested the mountain, Gary flagged me down as he spotted something in the big bowl. It was a beautiful ram, and I was ready to throw in the towel on that flared out ram that I had my heart set upon. The guides studied the ram, and he was about 1/4" too short. Some days when you give up on yourself, God says, “I’ve got something better for you.” Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God, and that are called according to his purpose.”
The daily grind of the search for my ram led to day 10 where we packed up and headed for the main camp in the thick fog. I looked up, and the fog split for roughly a minute as I hopped off my horse and threw up my binos. There they were, the four rams with my big flared out ram covering himself in the cleft of the rock three miles away. We were off and made our way within an hour to the mountain across from the rams, waiting for the fog to break. It was so hard to leave that dream up there on the mountains one more day, but we had to. The ride back to camp was speechless, and we arrived before nightfall. As soon as we arrived, we checked my gun. I set a target out at 200 yards and couldn’t come anywhere close to hitting it. Through my travels, my scope screws had rattled loose. After taking everything apart and putting it back together, we were back on paper at 500 yards.
As the sun rose, we started the search again for my ram and climbed slowly through every nook and cranny of that mountainside with no ram in sight. Owen and I were glassing, and he yelled, “I’ve got them!” I could see them on the opposite mountain range. We ran through the canyon as they were feeding away from us. We crested the side of the hill, and as I looked down, the rams were heading our way now. We spent hours sitting there cautiously, not moving as the rams were dangerously close. At around three hours, the spooky 6-year-old ram jumped up and ran for the timber with no inclination of what he was so spooked over. I told myself this was my only shot as I crawled down the 30% grade on my rear and repeated Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I crested the hill, and there he stood at 424 yards. I was in disbelief that it was going to happen. I sent the 215 grain bullet right into that pumper station and watched him hit the deck. Owen and I jumped up and screamed at each other like a couple of schoolgirls. We said a prayer and thanked our Lord and made our way down to punch that tag. As I held my childhood dream in my hands, I was so thankful for the opportunity.
The seven-mile pack out got us in camp at 1 a.m. One of the wranglers said that he had spotted a grizzly on my caribou carcass. As tired as I was, I’d be ready in the morning to climb up and smoke that big grizz. The next day was textbook as we stalked into that grizzly and put the smack down at 500 yards with the one-shot kill.
The trip was winding down to the last day as I still had one tag left in my pocket. We made a plan to pack up after the morning moose hunt and head back to the main camp. As I scanned across the hillside, I saw a big animal with nice paddles walking the ridgeline. We made the three-mile trek in no time and crested as the moose spotted us right away. He was off and running like he was guilty of something and knew his days were measured. Boom! As that .300 rang through my ears, he turned and was down in no time. The Yukon Slam was complete, and the childhood dream was made a reality. Never be afraid of following your dreams. I have the privilege of having a beautiful wife who lets me do that daily. Thanks, babe!