Gambling on Rams

By Kiviok Hight
NWT, Guided, Public Land

Gambling On Rams - Kiviok HightJuly/August 2013 EBJ (Issue 78) - In just a few talks with my friend and fellow Sitka Athlete Mark Seacat, I got sucked into hunting horseback in areas that had never been hunted by humans in Arctic Red River Outfitters’ history. Arctic Red runs a 10,000-square-mile concession near the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The area we hunted took two weeks and 170 trailless miles just to get the horses in. Since we were going that far, we decided we’d do it right: a mixed bag of seven tags for moose, Dalls, and Mountain caribou.

We landed in Norman Wells, population 700, frothing with anticipation, only to get socked in for two days in the last outpost of civilization, still several hundred miles from where we’d be hunting. It was August, and when the weather broke, the Mackenzie Range had gotten its first snow of the year. Mark, Bobby Warner, and me, as well as Seacat Creative allaround hand Steven Drake, flew to the Arctic Red base camp, dumped excess gear, and crowded into a Turbo Otter floatplane for the final 170-mile journey into the impossibly remote Mackenzies.

The plane hovered between jutting folds of bedrock soaring to meet caps of snow, and we splashed down on a high mountain lake. The ridge above our lake held a band of rams.

Spirits were high despite the loss of time as we made introductions with our companions for the next three weeks: head wrangler Dave Coleman (founder of McMillan River Outfitters, and pioneer to outfitted moose hunting in the Yukon), guide Isaac "Ike” Dueling (my incredibly competent 27-year-old hunting and heli-ski guide), Dallas-rae Gaven (head cook, master wrangler, and Ike’s better half), and Andrew Walker (long-time guide for Arctic Red, B.C. wildlife biologist, and longtime friend of Mark’s). We could tell the crew was going to be fantastic and just couldn’t wait to experience and document everything that would take place.

After dinner, Bobby and I played a quick round of five-card stud to decide who’d get to stalk the beautiful ram that headed the band somewhere above us in the dark. I won.

At first light, we spotted the head ram making fast tracks for new ground. Mark, Ike, and I hurried to intercept them. With luck and speed, we cut the band off just in time for the sentinel ram to make his way to us. I was trigger-happy to shoot anything legal that came my way and this ram was calmly feeding broadside at 40 yards. But thankfully, Ike handcuffed me on the seven-year-old 39-incher, telling me we were in the land of plenty. There’s no need to rush things when you can pick a mature, prime example of the species.

Gambling On Rams - Kiviok Hight

For a full account of Kiviok's adventure, go to page 52 in the July/August 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.