Big Game Backcountry Guides (BGBG) is a family business operated by an actively working guide/outfitter, hunter and outdoor enthusiast. The business is supported by my wife who wears many hats behind the scenes and four amazing daughters who help whenever possible. The goal of BGBG is to run a first class operation and be a leader in the industry. We focus on safely maximizing your experience of the wilderness. We use high quality gear and build a positive camp environment using world class guides. Big Game Backcountry Guides surrounds its organization with honest, hard working, enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals that bring expertise, along with love for the backcountry wilderness to the milieu.
We specialize in hunting for trophy Dall Sheep, Barren Ground Caribou and Arctic Grizzly. Our hunts are one-on-one fully guided, fair chase backpack hunts. Our focus will be on traveling by foot to remote drainages within the guide use area (GUA), targeting older rams (9-10yr average). This will assure the refuge with low impact, BGBG with high success rates and the client with a world class experience in a remote wilderness unaltered by humans. Most other sheep hunts known as backpack hunts are merely just a hike out of a set spike camp. We pride ourselves on running long-range no trace, true backpack sheep camps, almost never sleeping in the same spot for more than one night. For example in 2006, my wife and I traveled 130 gps miles by foot without air support to take trophy rams in Game Management Unit (GMU) 25 and 26. Hunting while covering this much ground is only possible if one is truly backpack hunting.
Big Game Backcountry Guides operates its Arctic hunts on the north slopes of the famous Brooks Range, the northern most mountain range in the world. The Brooks stretches approx 100,000 square miles from western Alaska to Canada. We conduct our hunts on our exclusive guide use area within Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) along the scenic Marsh Fork and Canning River. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge website is http://arctic.fws.gov. This area of the Brooks has the highest population of Dall Sheep in the Arctic and, debatable, the highest in Alaska. We have great genetics and grow many trophy rams. Two of the largest rams killed on record came out of the Marsh Fork drainage both scoring 178 & 179 B&C.
In August of 2013, a packer and I conducted a ground survey by foot in the Marsh Fork and Canning River watershed. We backpacked 25 days and traveled approximately 250 gps miles carrying Alpaca pack-rafts. We hiked up a large tributary of the Canning River and paralleled the continental divide to the east over to the Marsh Fork. We floated out the lower Marsh Fork to the Canning River, down the Canning with a two day portage over to the Kavik River and down to the Kavik Airstrip. We looked for overall sheep numbers, lamb to ewe ratios, recruitment of upcoming rams and trophy rams to be harvested. What we saw was outstanding! Our overall population of sheep was strong with great lamb counts and survivability. There were large nursery herds of lambs and ewes. We observed many rams, of all ages, from small groups to groups of over 40. From the ground, I saw 12 trophy rams and 3 of them were over 40”.
In the mountains and foothills of the Marsh Fork and Canning is home to two large herds of Barren Ground Caribou that we hunt, the Central Arctic and the Porcupine Heard. We have high success on caribou and shoot many trophy bulls. We harvest on average bulls scoring above 375 B&C.
Our exclusive area is home to numerous Barren Ground Grizzlies. The average bear harvested will square 6 ½ to 7′. They are smaller than their cousins the Brown Bear and other fish fed grizzlies in other parts of the state but occasionally there are a couple of large 8′ bears harvested in our area. All the bears have great hair and many light color phases. These bears are a true Arctic Grizzly and are the most furious of all bears. I, personally, consider them the biggest trophy of North America. There are great possibilities for harvesting wolf on an incidental harvest while being in the field and wolverine after September 1 because that is when the season opens.
From Kavik you will fly in a bush plane, supercub one passenger airplane, into spike camp with a high time Alaskan pilot. You and your professional guide will be strategically placed in an area that gives you the best chance for obtaining your primary species hunted. Your guide is primarily responsible for legality and safety. He will be a true woodsman helping with all facets of the hunt from glassing, knowledge of species hunted and area, judging trophies, strategies of stalking, butchering and preparation of your trophy. Your guide is your hunting partner. I call it an active evenly participating camp where you get out what you put in. Sleeping tents will be high quality Hilliberg Soulos, one for each individual. Food will be freeze dried meals with precooked meats vacuum sealed. There will be a combination of most foods expected on a remote hunt, jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, with some full meals cooked in camp. You may need to use a boat in some camps.
You will need to fly commercially into Fairbanks, Alaska. Below are a few of the hotels available in Fairbanks…
- Pikes Landing – (877) 482-4057
- Best Western – (907) 328-3500
- Golden North – (907) 479-6201
From Fairbanks there are two basic options to camp fly or fly. First option is to fly on a chartered flight from Fairbanks into a staging strip or Kavik with Wrights Air Service. Second option is to fly from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska (also referred to as Prudhoe Bay). There are commercial flights each day into Deadhorse with Alaska Airlines on an average cost of $650.
In Deadhorse, there is a hotel and restaurant and we have a small camp approximately an hour south of town, where you can stay if needed due to weather. If you are booking a flight into Deadhorse book it for a morning flight on the way in to allow for maximum amount of time to get into Kavik and into spike camp minimizing your chance to have to stay in Deadhorse at $250 per night. On the way out, book the flight as late as possible to allow enough time to get out of the field to Deadhorse. Below are a few of the hotels in Deadhorse…
- Aurora Hotel – (907) 670-0600
- Prudhoe Bay Hotel – (907) 659-2449
BGBG will organize flights from Fairbanks or Deadhorse in to Kavik or camp which will be with a chartered Air taxi or a BGBG airplane. If you fill your tag early in your hunt and want to come out of the field early you will be responsible for your own charter back to Deadhorse, cost is approximately $1,800 depending on the number of passengers.
We recommend flying into Fairbanks a day early to acclimatize and schedule a couple of extra days at the end of your trip. These extra days before and after compensate for poor weather days that so often limit our flights in the field. Always book a changeable (full-flex) ticket. If all of the travel seems exhausting, it really isn’t for traveling almost 500 miles north of Fairbanks to the Beaufort Sea with some of the highest population of Polar bears in the world. It really is worth it!
There is an option for a packer, if requested. BGBG will have packers if needed to help recover meat. If you think you want a full time packer to aid in your hunt with carrying gear, glassing, filming and extra support you will need to request it well ahead of time. Cost of a packer is an additional $3000. Which will cover their wage, food and flights necessary to assist your hunt.
BGBG would like to offer the opportunity to hunters who have had poor luck with weather and other circumstances beyond the hunters control that led up to a failed chance at their priority species to return to Kavik at the end of their hunt, at their own expense while in Kavik, and then return back into the field when a guide becomes available for a second opportunity. The second chance hunt will be no extra cost to you and BGBG will cover extra spike camp flights needed to continue your hunt. This keeps our success rates up and gives everyone the best chance as possible to harvest their animal.
* All Sheep hunts are 1x1 fully guided hunts. Generally speaking, hunts later on in the season are dramatically colder than the first hunts.
8/10 – 8/17
8 Day Hardcore Backpack Dall Sheep Hunt
8/19 – 8/28
10 Day Dall Sheep/Caribou Hunt
- A chance for two hunters to come in early in case a camp opens up. Recommended early arrival of 8/15 but be prepared to hang out until 8/18. The end of the hunt would still be 8/26.
8/20 – 8/27
8 Day Two Caribou/Grizzly, 2×1 Guided Hunt
8/29 – 9/11
14 Day Backpack Sheep Hunt
8/28 – 9/6
10 Day Grizzly/Caribou Hunt
Trophy Fees for additional species harvested
All prices include charter from Deadhorse to Kavik and back unless you miss travel dates or need a special flight for yourself, like leaving before scheduled pickup.
Hunting License and tags not included in above prices. BGBG sells tags but you can also purchase at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov.
We plan to run three sessions of hunts cutting down on the number of clients in the field at one given time. Hunt dates will be from August 10th-17th /19th-26th /28th-Sept 6th, allowing for a transition day between hunts. The last session is a ten day hunt allowing two more days due to a higher probability of poor weather.
The plan is to have five working guides on each session with one of them being myself. With five guides and four clients hunting simultaneously this will allow for one extra guide on hand at all times. This guide will be versatile and used as needed. I have found throughout my experience that the extra hand of a “guide status” is well worth having when needed. Capes and meat are always in need of being properly managed and/or shuttled. In addition to the extra guide, I would like to have a minimum of one packer to help out in the field. This packer will be a guide in-training. For an additional fee of $3000 you can request your own packer to aid with your entire hunt. A strong team of people working together is needed to make an arctic hunt safe, enjoyable and successful.
Registered or assistant guides will come in on August 5th or 6th. We will start each season off with a pre-season guide meeting. In this meeting we discuss safety, first-aid, expectations of the Refuge, needs and abilities of the clients and any other pertinent information to the hunt.
Our base of operation, called “Kavik Camp”, at the Kavik Airstrip and it will be kept simple and efficient. There will be no permanent structures or caches on the refuge as it is not allowed. Everything used on the Refuge by BGBG will be copasetic with camping in a designated wilderness. Kavik Camp is to provide BGBG with a base for logistics, shelter to weather out and regroup after arctic storms, central location of communication between spike camp and air-taxi and a place to be comfortable and dry before and after hunts.
Kavik is located at the base of the foothills of the Brooks Range between the Kavik River and the Canning River just a few miles outside of ANWR. Kavik coordinates are N69 40.69 W146 55.1. BGBG will utilize facilities at the Kavik Camp. The Kavik Airport and Camp make these tough logistics much easier. Infrastructure needed to support BGBG Base Camp are already available in Kavik including gravel runway, buildings, coolers for meat, fuel, lodging, meals, showers, power, water, internet, freezers and incinerator for trash. These facilities will be the BGBG base of operation and used to support guides and hunters. Also, in Kavik there is a live weather cam and power supplied by generators. BGBG will store supplies needed for spike camps (tents, food, salt and other camp supplies) at Kavik Camp.
On the Kavik Airport, BGBG will have two Super Cub flown by a commercial pilot/guide to transport guides and clients onto the refuge. We also may use two air-taxis, Wrights Air Service and Seventy Degree North
For communication and safety in Kavik Camp, BGBG will have a satellite phone with an external antenna that will be left on all the time. This phone will be monitored by the camp manager of BGBG. There will be good communications between spike camp and the Kavik Camp. In Kavik BGBG will also store a professional high quality first aid kit. The kit will be a Wilderness Medical Systems Kilimanjaro (www.wildernessmedical.com). The Kit includes OTC medications, medical equipment, and supplies. In addition to the Kilimanjaro System, Kavik Camp will have a MedCallOufitter Kit made by MedCallAssist in Fairbanks (www.MedCallAssist.com). The MedCallOutfitter Kit contains prescription-level medication used to combat pain, serious infections, gastro-intestinal disorders, allergic reactions, dental emergencies, and numerous other illnesses commonly experienced in remote environments. Emergency contact information for guides and clients will be available in a journal from the camp manager.
Spike camps will be mobile and will be considered absolutely no trace camping. Everything packed in, will be packed out. Spike camps will be located in different drainages to support each hunt. Spike camps will be light-weight, backpack camps leaving as little impact as possible. They will not be in the same place year to year. Most spike camps will be transient (not set up for more than one night in the same place). The habitats these camps are located on are gravelly, well drained alpine benches located up out of the valley floor. The option to float down to an alternate strip with Alpacka rafts (one man pack raft approx. 5lbs) will be available to hunter and guide. This will be the guide’s judgment call depending on circumstances (location, water levels, physical ability, time frames and access points). Personally, I use the rafts at some point on most through hunts. They are great for crossing high water or if water levels are suitable they can be used as an extraction tool. Alpacka Rafts have a 300 lb useful load. In low water the rafts help by assisting in carrying the load while wading down the creek. Also, rafts reduce dependence on an airplane therefore reducing the cost of the hunt and impact on the refuge. I have found that hunters enjoy using the river as a means of travel through the wilderness and it becomes a highlight of their experience.
With today’s backpacking gear and communications we can travel comfortably and safely through the arctic environment for extended periods of time all the while being self-sufficient with no need to rely on air drops or resupply. This cuts down tremendously on the use of airplanes which are a huge liability, expense and disturbance.
The first session of sheep hunts will be booked and conducted as a hard core traveling backpack hunt. Spike camp as described in the previous paragraphs will be carried by the client and guide, usually on a through-hike (not coming out the same way they went in). The clients will need to be in top physical and mental shape. During these first hunts the weather generally is more forgiving and we are allowed to put ourselves further out. Rams are generally at higher elevations around 5,000 feet this time of year. The weather during the first two weeks of August is usually nice with temperatures ranging between light frost at night and 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. However, I have seen two feet of snow the second week of August at the higher elevations threatening any travel through the mountains but this is not the norm. Also in early August there is generally higher traffic of people in the main valleys and it helps to get further in out of the main valley (less conflict). Our packs will be approximately 60lbs each. This will allow the guide to carry additional 100lbs of game meat out and the hunter with 50lbs of cape and horns. If needed loads can be shuttled by foot or carried in one big push depending on distance. Air support will be utilized for pick up on a braided gravel bar of at least 500 ft. with a good approach.
There are a lot of benefits of carrying a full camp. Once you have climbed up in elevation you can try to hold elevation and travel deep through the mountains. This allows access to animals traveling in high elevations and into areas not able to be penetrated by a day hike from an airstrip. This is a tough hunt but by far the most rewarding.
The second half of the hunts will be booked as a medium difficulty backpack hunt. We will plan on being in areas of less exposure to weather. In the Arctic, one guarantee is by mid-September the mountain creeks have begun to freeze (if not already), storms have became more violent and higher elevation air strips are threatened by snow. Temperatures are generally in the 20 to 45 degree range. Along with the storms comes poor visibility, high river crossings and delayed travel. These times are mentally challenging for most hunters. Good Kavik Camp communication and high quality gear while in Spike Camp allows us to be patient and comfortable while waiting for better weather. During the later hunts, there are definitely fewer people out and about resulting in less traffic in the main valleys. Also animals seem to start moving out of high elevation areas that they have been in most of the summer and travel into transition areas lower down in elevation.
Below is a short synopsis of an average sheep hunt and what a client should expect to experience on the trip while hunting with Big Game Backcountry Guides...
After arriving at Kavik and meeting the crew, a hunter will be teamed up with a guide and together they will come up with a plan, go through gear, maps and discuss what is expected (some things considered while making the plan are weather, physical ability, water crossings, animal movements and extraction). When we are out in the field weather is always in the forefront of our mind and is our wild card. It is a great time of year to travel through the Brooks Range but we have to be prepared for anything. Weather is always unpredictable therefore our hunts will be flexible. Acts of nature are logistically made easier with patient people. Hunters should expect weather delays at least on one end of their trip and two or three days of poor visibility in the course of an 8 day hunt. With that being said, hunters should allow extra time before and after hunts for flight delays. The entire hunt is a team effort that actively involves the hunter. While at Kavik guides and clients will enjoy a sit down full-course meal with meat, potatoes, vegetable and bread. Wild game meat from the field will be the staple of most meals. After eating good food, a solid plan is formed, and all paperwork done (hunt records), the hunt begins.
The guide will fly out of Kavik in the back seat of a Super Cub. He will have his pack and everything needed to support the hunt. They will head for a gravel bar that has a good approach. After dropping the guide, the Cub will return to Kavik to shuttle the client and his personal gear up to the strip were the guide is waiting. From the strip they will head on foot for a drainage running perpendicular with the main valley and make a climb with full packs. We usually need to get to above 5,000 feet in elevation at the first of the season to find bands of older rams. These older rams favor rock outcroppings that allow good visibility with what I call “salad bowls” close by for feeding. We travel slow and steady, stopping at most small creeks to take packs off, glass for animals and drink water. Usually we pick a route where we can gain elevation and hold it traversing our way through high passes and looking into upper bowls. We should cover approximately 5 air miles a day depending on the terrain. We should see at least one grizzly in our course of travel and time will be spent observing the bear. Caribou can be abundant but are unpredictable. There will be signs of wolves, wolverine, fox and other smaller animals. We will occasionally see muskox. At the lower elevations where green food is abundant, we should see huge nursery herds of sheep, consisting mostly of lambs and ewes. In adjacent rivers I have been surrounded by 200+ lambs and ewes, observing wolves on their circumference. This is a great way to travel and experience this wilderness unchanged and an ecosystem unaltered over thousands of years. We will take time to enjoy where we are and for the client to acclimate. We will utilize maps to set goals for overnights, looking for places that are good glassing points with a good water source. We look for small level and hard surface benches that are dry and that drain surface water well (gravelly). These benches are great to set camp up on. They usually provide shelter from wind and are out of direct view from animals.
We set camp in the evening while light is still good for glassing. We will boil water, that has been stored in platypus bladders collected from springs throughout the climb, for Mountain House Meals and have something hot to drink. We will spend a lot of time behind binoculars and a spotting scope glassing from camp. While glassing we will be talking about situations (bear safety, sheep stalks, and shot placement) that we will be expecting to encounter so that we are prepared for what lies ahead. All the while teaching animal traits and sharing old stories, mentally readying the hunter for the quest they have began. We will be surveying everything; I call it “taking inventory”, a mental note of our surroundings. Camping high has a lot of advantages. The dew settles lower in the drainages and air movement up high keeps gear dry. We have great visibility for spotting animals and a lookout for traveling bears. At higher elevations, the morning sun hits earlier, warming and drying things out. Morning light is generally best for glassing far distances because dust particles have settled overnight and the sun is low on the horizon giving an alpenglow, illuminating animals. Being high also allows glassing at first and last light while animals are up and moving. On fowl weather days with poor visibility we might spend time looking for grizzlies and caribou to hunt at lower elevations.
In the morning after glassing, eating and drinking something warm, we’ll gather all of our gear and head out for the day with no reason to return to that spot. We will continue hunting like this until we find the ram we are looking for. We average 3 days of hunting in this way and look at dozens of rams before finding the one we are after. The key to hunting large, old rams is to pass on the 8 year old sheep, travel further and hunt harder. With this attitude, it is just a matter of time before we will break into a new drainage holding the ram we have been looking for. In the mean while we will be experiencing everything the arctic has to offer and throw at us. After locating a mature ram to harvest we will plan a stock. With patience and a carefully planned and executed stalk we shall be within 200 yards of the ram for the shot. After the harvest of the ram, time is then spent taking photos, field dressing the animal, prepping the cape and putting meat in game bags. This is an integral part of the hunt. We will come up with our best extraction plan and then descend down from the kill. This plan is always being formed in the guides mind.
Most commonly we will pack down valley back to the drop off point for pick up. Another option includes calling in a pick-up by air taxi if there is a land-able gravel bar in the vicinity. If there is no safe strip we can have the extra hand at Kavik meet us to help pack meat if needed. Communication will be through Iridium satellite phones between guide and Kavik Camp. Once at airstrip or Kavik we will work on capes and meat. We will keep the meat in the field in game bags stored out of the sun on big flat rocks. The rocks stay cold and are clean. If the temperatures are very warm, we will sink the meat during the day in dry bags under cold water. Meat can be kept a long time this way as long as it is kept dry. The meat will be taken out at night and aired out. Capes will be fleshed and readied for tanning. Once back at Kavik Camp we will enjoy backstraps or ribs while sharing the memories of the hunt.
We are looking forward to our future hunts. We have an excellent team of Professional guides, Airsupport, new gear and 1200 sqmi of some of the best sheep hunting in the world.