My grandfather George Dalziel was a very tough “old school” outfitter. He walked into the north by himself, on foot from Telegraph Creek, around the time of the Great Depression. He certainly had an interesting life; one of the original bush pilots in the Yukon, a successful trapper in the Nahanni region, owned BC-Yukon Air Service, started one of the first B.C. Outfitting Concessions in the Cassiar mountains, and was a famous sheep hunter in his own right (taking a Stone sheep measuring 50″, as well as being one of the first North Americans to hunt Marco Polo sheep). No doubt his personality was shaped by years of solitary life in the bush. Dalziel was not the world’s greatest communicator, but when he spoke, I listened. He was always telling me to “make do”…..meaning be flexible, use what you have on hand, and do not whine about what you cannot control. This was valuable advice for my future guiding and outfitting career.
Dalziel’s favorite saying was “all you really need in the bush is a 30-06 and salt”. Spike camp food staples in the 1970’s were; sheep meat (if we had success), pilot biscuits (hardtack), King Oscar sardines, flour & sugar for bannock, Nabob loose black tea and coffee, canned milk, Tang orange juice, Tulip Canned bacon and canned butter, Nabob jam, Kraft peanut butter, Dad’s oatmeal cookies, and an occasional egg. Guiding for sheep is similar to mountain climbing in that you require about 6000 calories per day just to maintain body weight. Looking at the old pictures I have posted on this blog series, I can’t help but notice how lean I was. Even today I lose about twenty pounds per season guiding for rams and the food is much more calorie rich.
The first real trophy ram that I guided for was in 1976, a 39″ flaring beauty that is pictured the first blog. The hunter owned a chain of Pizza Huts and was in excellent shape. We hiked in about four hours from Grave Lake and spent the afternoon watching a group of seven rams, waiting for them to get into better position. We eventually retreated and spent a long, frosty night on the backside of the mountain. The morning sun was just coming up when we tried a desperation 450 yard shot. The bullet went right through the curl of the horn , dropping him instantly. Lucky shot….happy hunter….good guide! He gave me his rifle as a tip, an original Ruger 270, that I still use to this day.
The next season I finally guided for the “holy grail” of sheep hunting, a 40″ ram. This was a long exhausting hunt on the rugged eastern slope of the Horseranch Range, not far from the Yukon border. Our horses were of little use, as we had to climb almost 4000 feet every day in granite rock looking for the only band of rams in the area. Scouting on my own one morning I spotted two rams in an accessible basin. After days of the mountains running us ragged, the stalk provided a relatively easy forty yard shot from above. A heavy horned, dark caped, 40″ x 13/1/2″ ram was soon ours. The fat sheep ribs cooked on a willow stick over an open fire that evening were delicious, but they did little to fill out my young frame. Sheep hunting really is a natural weight loss clinic!