Guided Hunt, Travel through Canada, thoughts

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
Learned a lot on my recent trip to Alaska, prepping for the trip, and during the trip. Figured I'd share some thoughts. Might not be real well organized, but here they are:

1. Some hunters rebel at the thought of a guided hunt, as though that in some way diminishes the hunting experience. I'm not very experienced with guided hunts, but... If a non-resident is going to hunt brown bear/grizzly in Alaska, a guide is required. So, ya get a guide. I found while hunting with my guides, that they really help! They know the area, the travel arrangements via aircraft, and once in the field, they're the resident expert on all sorts of wildlife, weather, etc... During our long hours of glassing for big game, there were wide-ranging conversations, and I learned a lot about Alaska, and about the Arctic. Also, my knife-handling skills on the game animals are nowhere near as good as those guys. You might be, but I wasn't even in the same league with the skinning skills I saw demonstrated.

2. Travel is interesting. Since I drove through Canada, I needed my passport, needed to declare my rifle at the border. Etc... None of it was a problem, because I planned ahead and had my paperwork complete and ready, and the rifle ready for inspection: unloaded, bolt out, locked in a hard case, and ammo separate from the rifle. All the required forms are easily obtained ahead of time, via the internet.

3. Re driving... The farther north I got in British Columbia and into Yukon Territories, the farther apart fuel stations were, and some close as early as 6:00 pm. Pay attention to the range of your vehicle. I carried an extra 5 gallon Jerry can on my Jeep, but never needed it. BTW, a 4wd is not really necessary. Any reliable auto can make the trip these days.

4. Guides & rifles/bullets, shooting distances. These guys know what they're talking about. They're in on dozens of kills every year, of big game, really big game. Giant moose, big scary bears, etc... So, I respected that and listened during the planning phase, and also during the hunt. Some points:

Both the guides in camp were quite knowledgeable about rifles. Both are handloaders. They had each just finished a spring guiding season on Kodiak, and still had their brown bear rifles:

.338 Win mag Sako in a McMillan stock with a 2.5-8x Leupold, Barnes factory 225 gr TTSX
.375 H&H Rem 700 with a 1.75-6x Leupold, handloaded 260 gr Nosler AccuBond

They were fine with the .30-06, and glad that I'd chosen heavy, premium bullets. Also asked me to verify my zero in the field on the first day in camp. Everyone, especially me, was happy to see that the .30-06 was on target and grouping well.

My choice of rifle was influenced by the guide ahead of time. He liked both my .375 and the .30-06 and asked me two questions: Which one is heavier? Which one do you shoot better? I answered both of those questions by bringing the .30-06 rifle. I was told that had the hunt been on Kodiak or on the peninsula where the bears are bigger, they'd have loved to have me bring the .375 H&H.

Train to immediately work the bolt, and be prepared to fire that second shot!

We hunted with full magazines and empty chambers. Safer.

We kept the rifles that way, even in camp. Never know when a bear or a wolf is going to drop in.

The outfitter had advised ahead of time to be prepared to shoot 300 yards, but longer shots would be discouraged. Sounded good to me. Shot my wolf at about 250 yards and the grizzly at about 40 yards.

I brought 40 rounds of loaded ammo, and was glad. Fired a couple of shots to check my zero, had plenty available if I had needed to adjust the scope. Fired a couple of shots at the wolf. Fired a few shots at the grizzly. Missed another wolf. I'd thought about 20 rounds, and that just seemed a little light. Forty worked out well, I never got into the second box. Ammo must be 100% reliable, that's far more important than 600 yard minute-of-prairie dog accuracy.

I brought two gun cases. The rifle was in a hard gun case, locked, going through Canada. When it was time to board the small plane, I shifted the rifle into a soft gun case. Far less bulky. The flying service will not fly hard-cased rifles! Weight and space are both issues on the small planes.

Having a small cleaning kit with me was great! We were hit with rain or sleet almost every day, and my rifle got soaking wet. I was able to wipe it down with some CLP, and keep the rust at bay. The Brooks Range, where I hunted, typically has pretty decent weather, particularly when compared to the very wet coastal regions. If I lived and hunted up there, I'd have a more weather-resistant rifle but my wood stocked & blued Remington was just fine.

5. Other game - there really wasn't anything legal except wolves and bears while I was there. In my area, the grizzly tag also allowed me to take up to 10 wolves I believe. Ten? What am I going to do with ten wolves? So I shot one and missed one. Other times of the year there may be ptarmigan or other shooting opportunities. We saw caribou daily.

6. Fishing. I bought a non-resident fishing license for about $100 and never got to use it. Had my fly rod with me, but the rivers were swollen with run-off all through western Canada and in camp, and many of the lakes & ponds were still frozen. I understand that there is some terrific fishing for arctic grayling available, but not during my trip.

7. Hours of darkness. There were none! It was light all day, every day. We'd focus our hunting on the coolest hours of the day, when the sun was lowest, but we tried to glass a lot. Hunting there was a matter of glassing, glassing, and glassing some more. Not wandering about the countryside spreading scent. Then, when game was sighted, there was an intense stalk! :) Loved that stuff.

8. Be in reasonable shape. Ready to MOVE OUT, with day pack & rifle, when game is located. I felt good about my physical conditioning, and by and large did a decent job of keeping up with the guides who were both in their 30's and very fit. Being slow, or weak, will hamper mobility, and hurt chances of success. Not that it can't be done, but being in good condition helps.

9. Quality Glass - I treated myself to a set of 10x42 Zeiss binoculars before the trip. Wonderful! I spent so many hours glassing... I think I memorized the terrain features and every bush within two miles of camp... :) I didn't need to bring a spotting scope. Mine isn't real good anyway, and each guide had a good scope.

10. Warm, comfortable clothing. The doggone weather can be brutal. Sitting pretty much still for hours, in the wind, rain, sleet and cool temps is difficult. Good clothing helps. Staying dry is vital. I've never had hip-boots. Bought some for the trip. They were very important. It's mighty damp up there, with a lot of small streams to cross. The hip boots aren't as nice to hike in as our comfy hiking boots, but they work great!

11. A warm, comfortable sleeping bag. We couldn't have campfires, so any warmth was generated by the individual. Having a snug bag & tent at the end of the day was terrific.

12. Skeeters... Yes, as soon as the weather warmed a bit, mosquitoes became a problem. I learned to prefer the colder temps.

13. Expense. Wow - this is not an inexpensive undertaking. I'm just a retired small town cop with a small business. It was a significant expense for me. But, what an experience! I'd saved for years for this trip. You may recall me saying things on this forum about preferring to spend money on experiences, rather than on stuff? Particularly when looking at cool rifles... Ya, I spent a lot on the trip, but it was worth every penny! There are ways to save money. Fly, don't drive. My fuel bill alone was big with a 4,500 mile trip and a Jeep that gets 19 mpg at best. I camped a lot. Canada has some of the nicest campgrounds, and they're inexpensive. Made most of my own meals. Conned a couple of Canadians into letting me crash at their homes for a couple of nights. Canadians will feed you right BTW! :grin:

I'd rather be down to two or three rifles, and have this hunt, than to have twenty rifles.

So - there ya go, some random thoughts. Now, off to the gym, then back on task, trying to catch up on three weeks worth of e-mails, phone calls, etc...

Very nice write up Guy. An Epic Adventure for sure!

When I worked at Harley a few of my riding buddies rode from Seattle up to Alaska on their bikes. Then took the ferry back. They loved it.
Guy, very good common sense points you've made. Other than it being 2017, it sounds like trips my Grandad made 50 years ago. Camping along the way and making sure he had enough fuel!!!
Pretty good summation. Anyone thinking of such a trip would do well to review your notes.
Guy that is very sound advice and I would recommend that if someone is was planning a trip in the future and had more questions that they could give you a call or at least a email (y).
Thank you for the post.

Great tips Guy. Can't wait to pick your brain further one of these days. That is a hunt of a lifetime.
Great points Guy, thanks for sharing!

I've been so busy that I had overlooked your planned hunt! I knew you have been tossing around the idea of a special hunt 'somewhere", from Africa to Bumfuzzle , Texas, ha. glad to see you got it all figured out and done w/o injury or sickness too. I "knew" you wouldn't have a problem with that 200 PT at 2600! It just takes the old '06 up into a different my own experience at least. Reminds me of how the old Whelen and the like kill, especially on big animals. I drove a Jeep CJ-5 for about 8yrs , and mine only got "16" MPH, plus was rough as a buckboard..."bless your heart and hurting heinie". lol. Great trophies!
Great story, Guy. While reading it, I too was wondering about cost. If you feel like giving somewhat of a breakdown then please do, but if not I understand.

Just wondering how many years to save. :grin:

Also, what guide service did you use?

Guys guide was my nearest neighbor in Alaska, guess I’ve known him 20 years. He’s a pretty dang good fisherman too. Joey was born in the business, his dad was still active two years ago and owns one of the lowest registered guide numbers extant. The kid is a spooky good hunter. The other side of the story is, every time I see Joey he wants to know if I’ve talked to my friend (Guy) and if he’s going to come up moose hunting. Guy made a positive impression on a very experienced guide, that is pretty hard to do.
Guys guide was my nearest neighbor in Alaska, guess I’ve known him 20 years. He’s a pretty dang good fisherman too. Joey was born in the business, his dad was still active two years ago and owns one of the lowest registered guide numbers extant. The kid is a spooky good hunter. The other side of the story is, every time I see Joey he wants to know if I’ve talked to my friend (Guy) and if he’s going to come up moose hunting. Guy made a positive impression on a very experienced guide, that is pretty hard to do.
It's called the Miner Effect. Guy has done that to me over the years too. 😎

"I'd rather be down to two or three rifles, and have this hunt, than to have twenty rifles."

Been downsizing the rifle collection to help with hunt expenses...only a couple of weeks til we (wife and I) head out for Africa! And then the Father/Daughter hunt in Colorado for archery antelope and elk late August/early September!
It's working so far!

Although, there have been some quality firearms acquisitions recently...that will allow me to let some others go to add to future hunt funds...
Argentina, Hawaii, Scotland...the wife has been coming up with some interesting ideas as we watch various hunting shows...she has decided that she wants to do more sheep hunting...Black faced Hawaiian Rams, 4 horned ram, mouflon, and others that do not reside in rough steep country where her limited mobility will allow her to complete stalks in terrain her ankle will handle. All good if I can get axis deer, blackbuck, sika deer or rusa deer, and other species on the same hunt!
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