Our Second Go Round

Our 2nd season has come and gone and we are all still here. It was not without its highs and lows, but overall it was a great season. One could say our best season yet!

When our sheep hunter injured their knee and had to cancel 3 weeks out we got a little concerned it might be a sign of things to come like last year, but luckily that was not the case. My dad answered the call and we got to spend some quality time in the mountains together, something we don’t get to do much anymore. We found some legal rams, with the oldest being 9 years old. They were all pig fat so they shouldn’t have a problem making it through the winter. With that in mind, we put our money where our mouth is and decided to leave him on the mountain with hopes to revisit him next year.

Our adventures into new country paid off in a big way as we saw a ton of moose, caribou, and bears. Our widest moose was 65” and our average was 56”. People tend to get hung up on width, but this season supported my argument that you should look at more than that. What I would call our 3 biggest moose were between 55” and 59” wide. We got some great old caribou as well, winning the Yukon Outfitters Association Mountain Caribou Award, with one officially scoring 420 7/8. Only 1 bear got taken this year which isn’t quite what we were hoping for but that’s how it goes. It seemed like the hunters that wanted a bear never got an opportunity, and those that weren’t interested were seeing bears every other day.

We were lucky enough to donate about 2700 lbs of meat to the Teslin Tlingit Council and 1100 lbs to the Ta’an Kwachan Council. The rest of the meat was enjoyed by the hunters, crew, a few Whitehorse locals and our family. None was wasted as usual.

Everyone asks about success rate which is always tricky as most outfitters say 90-95% but their definitions vary significantly and can be misleading. This year we took out 14 hunters and got 9 moose, 4 caribou, and 1 grizzly. We had 1 moose wounded with a bow that was never recovered and a miss on each grizzly, wolf and caribou. Everyone saw a lot of game but we did have 2 hunters that did not pull the trigger. Both enjoyed their experience and plan on coming back out with us. Those are the straight numbers for your interpretation and we would be happy to provide references from our hunters this year.

There was an interesting scenario with a very old, wide, collared moose our guys called in. We told the government about it as it is unlawful to hunt collared game but the regulations summary said there were no collared moose in the Yukon right now. Turns out the moose was collared as an adult in 2008, meaning it was probably 13 years old now, extremely old for a moose. Unfortunately, the collar was defective and when the study concluded in 2011, it couldn’t be recovered so he’s been running around with it on for over a decade. The intent of the law is to prevent people from shooting collared animals involved in ongoing research projects, which this clearly was not. It seemed like a no-brainer win-win-win situation as our hunter would get a great old moose that probably wouldn’t make the winter anyways, the biologist would get their collar back, and the Teslin Tlingit Council would get more moose meat. Despite our efforts and the agreement of some government employees, common sense did not prevail and we were forced to let a mid-60” ancient moose with an extremely tight collar walk.

Looking forward to 2019, we will continue on hunting old camps that haven’t been used in years. This means a lot more of the same; great adventures and essentially un-hunted country. To provide the best overall experience, ensure the highest quality game and maintain our sanity we will continue to take around 15 hunters in a season.

2018 finished out with Walter David Cosco being born on December 6th, so we should be set for wranglers in the 2032 season. Now we are busy doing sleigh rides and getting out trapping to help out all the ungulates. If you’re in Reno for the Sheep Show, come say hi at our booth beside our good friends at Wyoming Backcountry Decor.

We would like to thank our crew for everything they have done and continue to do for us, and the hunters that come along for the ride. As always, none of this would be possible without Tara quarterbacking the whole deal.

Our First Year in Review

A Testament to Murphy's Law

Well we made it through our first season. As with most things in life, there were a few growing pains and new experiences going from guide to outfitter, but at the end of the day, we all made it home pretty happy. We had a little bit of everything go wrong, as Murphy’s Law would require, but there were just as many silver linings.

With the season opening August 1st, and our first child due July 17th we were cutting it a little close but thought we would still have a bit of time at home. Of course, little Earl Cody Cosco decided he didn’t want to be born until July 26th, but it’s pretty hard to be upset when you get a happy and healthy baby. We had somewhat expected him to be late so the only hunt that got messed up was my Dad’s, who was just happy to have his first grandchild anyways.

Health issues for our guides and their families complicated things, but reminded us that there are some things more important than work or hunting. One guide even had to fly out on the plane his first hunter flew in on but that’s how it goes. We had it all very neatly planned out and I would only guide 1 sheep hunt and check in on all the moose camps for the rest of the season. By the time it was all done, I had guided 4 more moose hunts. Even 6 week old Earl had to come in to wrangle for a week.

Surprisingly warm weather throughout the Yukon in September added another wrinkle to our first season. This made some moose act a little strange during the rut but nothing we could do about it but keep trying. The harder we worked the luckier we got but Murphy was never too far behind. We had a bunch of good Yukon/Alaska Moose on the line but a few just wouldn’t cooperate enough to get a clean shot, but that’s why they call it hunting. We did manage to connect on a number of moose and caribou, including a few great, old bulls, and got the meat to the Teslin Tlingit and Ta’an Kwachan Councils to distribute to their elders and others in need in the community.

Shockingly there are a few things we will do differently next year.

We will hunt pretty much all new camps next year to give the established areas a bit of a break. This means a little more adventure, a lot more wall tents, and a great opportunity to hunt some country that hasn’t been hunted for years.

Better communication. While there were no major issues, life would have been easier for everyone had a few things been clarified earlier. This is especially true if there is a 3rd party involved. We are partial to actually talking to people, but a follow up email just to have everything in black and white will help minimize any misinterpretation so that will be our new SOP. We try our best to ensure the trip meets or exceeds our hunter's expectations and that starts with being clear on what is expected.

Transportation was pretty good, only having to chopper in 1 new boat, and the horses were fantastic. Alpine Aviation, Tintina Air, and Alkan Air managed to get everyone where they needed to be safely and relatively on time.

Our crew in the bush that stuck it out was the main reason our season was as successful as it was. Dave, Deb, Shad, Mike, Russ, Dusty, Sam, Jess, Gina and Laura all not only put up with me, but made sure the hunters went home happy and well fed with a few stories and a true experience. There are too many other people helping out here and there behind the scenes to name but we can’t thank you all enough.

Overall, it was a great adventure with many lessons learned. We look forward to building on our successes and having people like you enjoy the ride with us.

Neil and Tara Cosco