A Single Hunter Takes the Yukon’s "Big Three" On One Trip


by Tim Sundles

photography by Tim Sundles & Jeff Quinn

October 21st, 2011





Click pictures for a larger version.


A great deal of glassing for all game species was done right from the Argo 8X8 vehicles.



The bull dwarfs Sundles' full size 338 Win. Mag. rifle.



Notice the calcium lines in the antler velvet.



Sundles' Yukon moose fell to one carefully placed spine shot at 210 yards. The new 338 Win. Mag. Buffalo Bore load, featuring a Barnes 210gr. TTSX @ 2900 fps from a 22 inch barrel, killed all three big game species with one shot apiece.



Rustic cabin at the "The Forks" base camp and sheep guide Eldon Hoff. Moose, grizzly, wolf and caribou tracks were all around the cabin.



A single engine Otter was the form of transportation for hunters and supplies in and out of the most remote parts of the Yukon.



Dall Sheep paradise.



Nothing matches the adventure of a true wilderness big game hunt, loaded with many unknowns, filled with anticipation and sprinkled with risk, all in the most remote unpopulated part of North America. This was my mindset as I booked a 14 day sheep hunt followed by an 8 day moose hunt with Jim Shockey’s Rogue River Outfitters. My plan being to showcase Buffalo Bore’s upcoming 338 Win. Mag. ammo and to prove there exists a rifle cartridge, if housed in a light weight packable rifle and if properly designed, is versatile enough to make a 500 yard shot on sheep and powerful enough to authoritatively anchor 1500+ lb moose and dangerous game such as grizzly. Shockey’s Yukon concession has all these game animals and more, as you’ll see. The stunning scenery is a bonus.

Driving from my Montana home to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, I met up with Fred Lackie who serves as the manager of Shockey’s Yukon area and can only be described as Jim’s partner. Also present were my noted sheep guide, Eldon Hoff and moose guide, Mike Pearson. Because I am kind, I won’t mention Eldon’s age, but Mike is only 25 and also guides for Shockey’s Pacific Rim bear outfit on Vancouver Island. From Whitehorse, Eldon, Mike and I drove north 4 hours to Mayo and then flew east 120 miles, on a single engine Otter, to our base camp, aptly called The Forks, where the Rogue and Stewart Rivers meet. At The Forks, we loaded up two Argo 8 wheel drive vehicles and headed for our spike camp. We took enough gear, plus our back packs, for an even more remote bare essentials spike camp for sheep, if necessary. I could not help but notice the abundance of grizzly, moose, caribou and wolf tracks around the rustic old cabins at base camp. If this much game hangs around base camp, how much game will we see where we choose to hunt?

It rained during our 6 hour Argo ride to spike camp, until we were completely soaked. We set up a drenched camp as it continued to pour all night and into the next morning, which was to be the first day of sheep hunting. So, what do you do when it rains on your sheep hunt and limits mountain visibility? If you are in a good moose area, you hunt moose, of course.

Later that morning, through my 10X binoculars, I spotted the single left antler of a bedded moose in heavy brush about a mile away. It looked fully mature, although I could not see both antlers. After a few seconds, it disappeared back into Yukon’s brush. I told both guides, “There’s a bull moose across the valley”. After two hours of looking for this moose, without seeing it, I suspect they figured I was visually impaired and suffering from moose fever. I regretted mentioning the phantom moose, but knew I saw a large antler in the brush. Since the guides had no proof I actually saw a moose and since the clouds were lifting, we drove both Argos another mile up a canyon and started to glass for sheep, which is when Mike announced, “Hey Tim, your moose just stood up”. I looked back and at roughly two miles I could see his huge pans through my Leica 10X42’s. The weather stunk for sheep hunting, so a closer look was in order.

At 200 yards the bull proved to have huge paddles, good bottoms, heavy mass and long tines, but was just under the magic 60 inch spread. However, four out of five positives made him a “shooter” for sure. He bedded again and literally disappeared into the brush. I was beginning to hate Yukon’s valley bottom brush. For two hours we waited….and waited. Out of concern for approaching darkness, I asked Mike to call him and see what followed. Mike called. The bull nervously stood from the dense brush, reappearing like a giant and decided to exit, stage right. This gave me a very sharp quartering away shot at 210 yards. Mike called again and the huge beast stopped, looking back at us. The brush was tall enough to obstruct the bullets path to his lung area so I was left with only a spine shot, which I took. At the rifles blast, the great animal fell straight into his tracks--sure sign of a severed spinal cord.

As we approached the fallen animal, I was struck by his beauty, size and majesty. What an awesome creature! It was then I knew taking a single Yukon moose, would not be enough for one lifetime. I asked Eldon and Mike to leave me alone with the bull while they retrieved the Argos. I needed time by myself to pay respect.

After skinning, butchering and caping, we loaded Bullwinkle into the Argos and headed for spike camp. A satellite phone allowed us to contact Fred for a meat/antler flight out of The Forks the following day. It was two days before the Otter arrived and picked up our moose, allowing us to resume sheep hunting.

It rained the next four days. This was truly frustrating. Morning of the seventh day found us soaking wet, standing around a smoky fire in spike camp, trying to dry out, which was not to be. Eldon, the consummate sheep hunter, was glassing the mountains from camp, when the clouds would allow. Suddenly he said, “That’s not a bad caribou bull”. Again, if it rains on your sheep hunt………….

Unlike moose, caribou are sharp eyed and the bulls are wary as they are hunted 24/7 by grizzlies and wolves. As we approached, he spotted us at 600 yards and became alert. We ducked behind cover and carefully picked our path. At 300 yards, we ran out of cover and at 286 yards (according to the Leicas) he decided to vacate. Mike mouthed a whitetail bleat and stopped him quartering toward us. This time, there was no brush blocking a perfect double lung shot and as the 338 roared, the 450 lb bull fell without taking a step. I was impressed with the massive terminal damage delivered by the Barnes TTSX bullet. We again skinned and quartered in the rain and headed to The Forks to await the Otter. It took four days for the plane to arrive, which was agonizing as three of those four days were good enough weather to sheep hunt. Bummer!

Eldon only had 11 days to guide, so he flew out with the caribou, which left me and my moose guide to fend for ourselves. Neither of us had much sheep hunting experience. However, Mike is smart, young and willing and I am…….uh, willing.

With weather clearing, we were now seeing scads of ewes and lambs, but no rams. We backpacked into what could only be described as a mountain valley sheep paradise and lived on dehydrated food and froze every night, but still no rams. We decided to break our remote mini spike camp and return to our main spike camp and hunt from there. On our way, I spotted what looked like an animal obscured by that darn Yukon brush. I touched Mikes arm and said, “What the heck is that”? He instantly replied, “BEAR”!

I was not surprised at this grizzly as we were constantly seeing big bear tracks and lots of droppings. Having no intention of killing a grizzly on this trip, unless the bear had great color, this boars beautiful color phase was about to get him killed. Needing to demonstrate how well my new 338 loads worked, I wanted to shoot the bear at 500 yards, which was his distance. Mike, being an experienced bear guide was not having it. Shooting grizzlies is serious business and anything that can go wrong, often will, leaving hunter, guide and bear with a messy situation.

We closed the distance. My Leicas said 260 yards and Mike still wanted to get closer, which is wise when shooting grizzlies, but I knew my rifle/ammo combination and wanted a longer shot to illustrate the ammunition’s capability. Resting the 338 on my Kifaru Ultralite pack, I waited for the bear to offer a broadside shot. As we watched him dig a marmot out the mountain side, Mike asked, “If he runs after your shot, is it OK if I shoot him”? I responded, “No”! I’ll take care of it. He will run because I am going to double lung him, but he won’t get far”. Smart bear guides are careful and Mike was being careful as 260 yards is more than double the normal distance most grizzlies are killed, but I never want my guide to finish something I start and double lung shots are certain death, except the bear normally runs 30 to 50 yards before learning of his own demise.

At the shot, my 210gr. bullet left the 22 inch barrel @ 2900 fps. The bear spun and Mike hollered, “You hit him! Hit him again”! I chambered another round and as the crosshairs settled on my running target, I could see enormous amounts of blood gushing from both sides of the bear’s rib cage and I knew he was done. He piled up within 40 yards. The Barnes Tipped Triple Shock bullet did extreme damage on entry and exit, just as they had done on the caribou and moose. Upon impact, the tip is shoved into the bullet nose and greatly accelerates expansion of the normally slow-to-expand Triple Shock bullet, just as the Barnes engineers designed it. Three fabulous big game animals had now fallen to three shots. Better ammo performance could not be asked!

I always experience mixed feelings about killing grizzlies. It pains me to see such a majestic predator, turned into something dead, at my hands. However, the beauty of this bear will adorn my home for decades and humans will admire him for generations, which they could never do if he lived out his life in the Yukon. The tradeoff is worth it to me, although I doubt the bear would concur.

After waiting for another flight to haul my bear out, we did not have enough remaining time to pursue sheep. The only ram I was going home with, was my Dodge Ram and it would be filled with coolers of frozen moose and caribou, which Fred had been kind enough to haul to a local butcher so it was already cut, wrapped and frozen before I ever flew out of the bush.

The hunt was a tremendous success and the new 338 ammo, even more so. I had made several new Canadian friends. Jim Shockey and Fred Lackie have a great game filled Yukon area, excellent staff and equipment. I have never dealt with more friendly, helpful and professional folks in the hunting industry. If it was not for the delays caused by meat flights, I’m certain I could have killed a good ram as well. I spent 18 days in the bush and 8 of those, waiting on meat/antler flights. Three trophies in only ten days afield is good hunting, especially considering it rained us out on many of those days. If Fred can figure a way to get the flight delays reduced, perhaps I can return to make that 500 yard Ram shot and share the experience with you here.


Tim Sundles is the owner of Buffalo Bore Ammunition and can be reached at Buffalo Bore will be offering four new 338 Win. Mag. loads by early 2012.

For more information on Jim Shockey’s Rogue River Outfitters, contact Dan Goodenow at, phone: 248-613-7549, and web site:

Tim Sundles

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Click pictures for a larger version.


This photo of the McKenzie Mt. range in the North West Territories was taken from the Fault Mt. range in the Yukon where Sundles was hunting sheep. This is probably the most remote stretch of wilderness in North America.



The valley in which Sundles killed his grizzly and caribou.



Guide Mike Pearson and Tim Sundles with Sundles' caribou.



Ultra minimal back pack sheep camp.



Sundles' beautiful color phase interior grizzly boar.



Buffalo Bore's 338 Win. Mag. load featuring the Barnes 210-grain TTSX bullet.