Saddle up for the hunt of a lifetime

The Mackenzie Mountains may be the greatest virgin hunting-grounds left on Earth – an endless oasis of remote, rugged uplands, cut through by glacial streams and patrolled by creatures untouched by the modern age.

The outfitters of the Northwest Territories have nurtured this region for generations, ensuring that the land stays pristine and the wild creatures thrive.

And each summer and fall, lucky sportshunters get to experience it, making the pilgrimage here from the far corners of the world, spending a blissful week or more in pursuit of legendary northern Dall's sheep, caribou, moose and more. 

Hunts start from a scenic alpine basecamp, accessible by floatplane from Norman Wells. Here you’ll find all the comforts of home – cozy cabins, hot showers, hearty meals, limitless coffee, satellite phone and internet – nestled beside a lake alive with Arctic Grayling. (Non-hunting companions often come north just to hang out and relax at the basecamp.) This is your chance to sight in your rifle, collect your tags and rest up for the coming adventure.

Next morning, saddle up and hit the trail. The hunt is on! You, your guide, and your pack horses will tramp into the high-country, riding for much of the day.

What happens next depends on nature itself. You’ll likely bunk down in a tent camp or in hunting cabins. From there, the next week may consist of day-hunts by  horseback, or you may “spike camp” and follow game-trails into the wilderness on foot …

The Mackenzie Mountains are a paradise of ghostly, magnificent Dall's sheep. Full-curl rams abound, dancing on ridge tops never trod by another hunter. The success-rate of Dall's sheep hunts in the region is close to 100 percent. Rams average more than 10 years old, with horns stretching in excess of three feet.  

Sheep aren’t the only coveted species in the region. Alpine caribou range the highlands, while the valley bottoms are wandered by North America’s largest ungulate, the northern moose, whose rack is often sixty inches or more. Sportsmen who come in spring can target wolves, or even wolverines. Hunts in the Mackenzie Mountains are a “mixed bag” in the best way possible.   

Life in the hunting camp is half the fun. The sizzle of bacon, the jingle of horse-bells, the stillness of landscape, the silence of the glorious purple evenings. This is the world like when it was new. It’s a chance to get back in touch – with your son or your dad, with your best buddies, with yourself.

Once you’ve bagged your quarry (or quarries!), you’ll return to basecamp. Pelts will be fully turned, salted, dried, or frozen. Skulls will be cleaned and antlers packaged and prepared for flight. You can take home a sample of the meat, too. When all is ready, you’ll fly out, through Norman Wells and then home, having experienced the hunt of a lifetime.

For more on remarkable Mackenzie Mountain sporting opportunities, explore hunting in the Northwest Territories.

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