I have been fortunate enough to hunt in the North West Territories on several occasions both on the Tundra near D'Stefanie Lake by float plane and the McKenzie mountains by float plane and pack horses.
I think my last trip will always be the most memorable for it is beautiful pristine wilderness and the area of the hunt had not been disturbed by hunters with this outfitter for over 12 years. No sign of man anywhere had ever touched this earth and not so much as a plane passing overhead for 2 weeks to remind us that civilization was out there somewhere.
I had opted for a one on one hunt with only a guide for to bring a full string of horses, wranglers and cooks to this area would have meant that we would run out of grass for the horses in only 4-5 day. Feed was sparse so by me contributing to cooking, helping with the horses and other chores we hoped to locate a monster ram Dall which would dwarf the decent full curl ram already on my wall from the year before.
This was tough hunt for although we glassed what appeared to be a monster ram on only the 3rd day on a distant mountain despite climbing 10 mountains in as many days and often several mountains a day it took the full 10 days to locate him and get close enough for a shot. When we finally caught up to him I noted one horn was broomed so chose the second best ram who had full lamb tips on both sides and was very symmetrical. He measured 41 3/8 inch fresh and a full curl and a quarter on both sidesso can imagine the big one we let go was a good 44 -45 inches on the side which was not broomed (scraped) away.
All the while riding and walking the river valleys we were conscious of the grizzly presence through fresh signs and even the odd sighting but there were no grizzly encounters of the bad kind on this trip. Others have not been so fortunate. Grizzlies in this country are not sure what man is and have no fear or respect in fact often they are curious about this creature who has invaded their territiory as perhaps just a slow moving caribou. Another camp operated by the same outfitter had 9 grizzly encounters in and around their tent fly camp during the same 2 week period we only learned about upon arriving back at the base camp.
We were reminded of how pristine this land is when caribou out of curiosity came out of the brush along the creek beds to follow along behind our pack string.
One morning while still in camp I noticed a slight movement on the other side of the river and called the guide who indicated he believed it was a white wolf traveling toward us on the other bank. Shortly there after that was confirmed as a large white wolf carrying a quarter of a caribou gently loping towards us in a rhythmic steady motion often disappearing in the scrub brush or dips in the land on the far side. The guide encouraged me to shoot for wolves are considered adverse to the outfitters livelihood in these parts since they can lay on the game trails naturally camouflaged in the snow 9-10 months of the year at a substantial cost in lost hunter revenue to the outfitter for each "old trophy" ram they harvest. I declined a shot unless the guide could make him stop even if for only a moment. Despite whistling, yelling, and howling the wolf never broke stride and continued on his way with a 90 pound piece of meat in his mouth as effortlessly as a dog would carry a bone. I thought I did note a look of distain as he looked back once as if to say "this is my territory" prior to him disappearing from our sight.
The guide was teasing stating "you missed an incredible opportunity by not taking a flyer at him" "probably never get a better chance" "we have never shot a white wolf in all the years this camp has operated". My response was simply "he didn't look terribly afraid so I expect I will take him before I leave, we still have 10 days". The guide was willing to bet a bottle of whiskey and a cold beer that this would not happen even though such amenities were only located at base camp a full 6 hour ride by horseback away. A bet I gladly accepted.
To save time in the mornings one of us would chase down the hobbled horses and lead them back to camp from where they drifted to overnight looking for grass while the other cooked up breakfast. This worked very well and was alternated daily. About 5 days after the wolf sighting it was my turn to cook so the guide walked off looking for the horses. I was in the middle of cooking when I noticed something white coming toward me from the opposite direction as the wolf had appeared from days earlier. I confirmed with my binocs that indeed he was headed my way at about 4-500 yards which gave me ample time to set up the rifle on the makeshift horse rail we had prepared in camp. Shortly thereafter with the undulating river landscape he appeared and disappeared several times on the far shore making a shot far too risky. Just as I was thinking perhaps the guide may have been right about missed opportunities the wolf turned away from me and climbed a shallow ridge on the far shore. Appropriately he stopped in front of a large black rock which highlighted his silhouette. At that moment when he was checking out our camp on the far shore I fired from 250 yards. He died instantly from a heart shot.
When the guide arrived a half an hour later I walked out to him as was the custom to help him to remove the hobbles from the horses. As I was leaning to reach the first mare a thought occurred to me and I asked the guide if these horse were afraid of wolf scent, not wishing to be pounded into the ground by an irate horse. His response was they probably smell bears and wolves in their travels all day long so unless very close they were probably accustomed to the scent. I told him I wasn't inquiring about their reaction to scent in the bush but rather on my hands as I bent down to the hobbles. He just looked at me with a question in his face and on his lips "how would you get wolf scent on your,...." as he spotted the white male near the tent. My reply was "guess we had better saddle up one of these horses for you to go back to base camp right after breakfast for you have about a 12 hour round trip ahead of you today to pick up my beer and whiskey in base camp" to which he only nodded. Thirteen hours later he returned with my beer rubbing it in claiming he was delayed by a quick shower and a great meal in base camp.
It wasn't until my return flight from Norman Wells to Whitehorse that I realized the significance of my "trophy" through speaking to an aboriginal Dene passenger who sat beside me and after we had fallen into a casual conversation about our similarities and differences for my Objibway roots paralleled the hunting gatherers of the Dene tribe although they occupied territories that were almost 3000 miles away. He was an elder for his tribe and was visibly taken back when I said my hunt had been a success with taking a great ram, good bull caribou as well as a large white wolf. He explained his shock in that the Dene believe the white wolf has magical powers and cannot be hunted. He even claimed to have seen one from hunt camp once and immediately jumping on his snowmobile with his rifle traveled to the spot and found not even a track in the snow. He said that the only way a white wolf can be killed is if it chooses to present itself to a "worthy" hunter as a gift of honor. He further explained that through this "gift" I had been entrusted to treat him with the respect and majesty he had enjoyed in life.
The full consequence of this possibility did not strike me until I arrived home in Calgary and delivered him to my favorite taxidermist who upon careful examination asked how many times I had shot. When I said only once he seemed doubtful showing me a bullet hole through the left ear left by an errant hunter or trapper years before. An examination of his teeth was even more surprising for he aged at 4 years when the known average life span of a wolf in the N.W.T is expected to be less than 3 years for the climate and pursuit of game as large as sheep, caribou and moose often result in debilitating injuries such as broken limbs, ribs or jaws from being kicked repeatedly by large ungulates. His teeth in fact while 2 canines were completely missing the others had been broken and the incisors were pushed back into his mouth on an angle from a kick. The taxidermist felt it was unlikely he would have survived another winter having lost the ability to hold prey or feed properly. We estimated his live weight at over 150 pounds and he was very thin without any body fat.
I had already decided after speaking to the Dene elder that a wolf rug was not sufficient to display this majestic animal but upon speaking to the taxidermist about his injuries it confirmed the possibility of the "honor gift" of the white wolf if he in fact knew his time was near. A life size mount in the natural habitat was created and the diorama simulating his environment with shell ice, the running water of the creek bed , random rocks and the shallow rocky ridge with wolf tracks in the dusting of snow and lichens took me 6 weeks to build not counting the 200 pound glass dust cover on oak base with casters.
He is presented not as a symbol of my prowess as a hunter but rather as a sign of respect to a majestic animal that many will never see in the wild. I believe he would have liked to have his image preserved as the "king of the arctic".
I had bought the ranch prior to leaving on this trip so assumed with the papers signed prior to leaving all had progressed on schedule. My first day back the real estate lawyer called early in the morning stating he could not close until I supplied a "commercial" name for the operation.
Only one possibility came to mind "White Wolf Ranch"
All rights reserved by Rob Schwartz & Whitewolf Ranching
If you are sending gold, precious metals, diamonds or even cash money orders or checks they should be directed to :
R. R. 7 Site 4 Box 22
Calgary Alberta Canada T2P 2G7