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,
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
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 www.buffalobore.com.
Buffalo Bore will be offering four new 338 Win. Mag. loads by
For more information on Jim Shockey’s Rogue
River Outfitters, contact Dan Goodenow at firstname.lastname@example.org,
phone: 248-613-7549, and web site: www.jimshockey.com.