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Kiwi In The Yukon

Name  Jordan Berry

Age 27

Born where Wanganui NZ

Live where now Currently in Watson Lake Yukon Canada

Married/partner Liz is my beautiful and amazing wife!

Kids Nope, but expecting our first in June 2019

 

Ok how the hell did you end up in the Yukon

Well, she all started when I was back at Massey University Palmerston North, Matt Gibson and Kuran Ireland, Owners of Ultimate OE introduced me to their program. The Ultimate OE is a program, training cadets with skills that will allow them to gain employment in the hunting, equine or agriculture industries in Canada. I signed up for the hunting as I have always had an interest in hunting, ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Matt and Kuran trained us in horse packing, first aid, hunting, skinning, as well as other needed skills to be fully equipped for the hunting season in Canada. Long story short, I was placed, here in Watson Lake Yukon, with the local outfitter and hence began my guiding career. The law in the Yukon requires you to be a Canadian resident to legally guide in the Yukon. As I didn’t have my residency for the first year in the Yukon, I was what they call a Wrangler, a guide’s apprentice, learning the guide life, helping out where needed and fetching the horses every morning. Once I received my residency, I was then able to become a guide and do what I love doing. Being out there, I appreciate listening to the older guides and learning so many tricks of the trade and swapping guiding stories.

We have all seen those ‘living below zero’ programmes on TV – is it as cold as it looks

Haha I wouldn’t believe everything you see on TV that’s for sure. Watching some of those shows makes the Northerners laugh. But yes, it is as cold as it looks and, in most cases, COLDER!!

What’s the coldest

The coldest I experienced, was the winter of 2017/2018 (I’ve only been in Canada 4 years with 3 years in a winter). We experienced minus 40 Celsius regularly but there was a week where we had minus 55C plus wind chill and the warmest for that week was a whooping minus 45C. I haven’t seen a winter yet with a large amount of snow. Most snow I have seen is only waist height (3-4 feet) but, I have heard of the “good ol’ days” where snow would be 10-15 feet.

Have you ever felt threatened by the cold alone

Yes, definitely. In the longed periods of cold everything breaks easier. Vehicles, snow machines, pretty much anything with plastic and if colder than minus 40C metal/steel will easily snap. Diesel will gel, heaters will be slow to work or not work at all, so being in the cold can be a huge risk if you’re not prepared. Also, if you ever get wet or sweat while working or being outdoors, then you can be in serious trouble. The moisture can freeze once cooled down and can be only a matter of minutes before frostbite kicks in or worse hypothermia.

That being said I’ve only had one minor scary experience where I was worried in the cold. It was minus 25C and Liz and I were out hunting caribou on a snow machine. We were after a mature bull caribou, between him and us was a bunch of willows and a small creek. While trying to cross the creek the ice broke and the machine fell into the water. With no big trees to winch us out of the creek, I could see no other way, but to get into the ice-cold water and try to lift the machine out. With the help of jamming sticks and branches underneath the skis and tread, and trying to lift the skis that were getting caught under the ice and the creek bank, which made it almost mission impossible. After spending two hours in the creek, both Liz and I were tired, and were almost going to give up and walk back to the cabin (4-6 hours walk). We gave it one more go, adrenaline kicking in, a few curse words here and there and the 800lb machine got unstuck. My snow pants were wet, boots were full of water and the sun was starting to go down, we needed to get back to a warm cabin. On our way back we spotted another mature caribou, closer to the trail so, Liz placed a perfect shot. We quickly, gutted him and loaded him into the machine and carried on back to a warm fire.

While we are on threats – how have your close encounters with the wild life been and what has been the worst

During my time here in Canada, working for Ceaser Lake Outfitters, I’ve had a few close encounters with the local wildlife. My first year in the Yukon, the guide and I were out on horseback, riding down a valley to catch the other horses that had roamed. On the trail we were approached by a big dominant female wolf. She stopped on the trail in front of us, only 10 meters away, teeth snarled, growling and her hackles were up. With no protection except us on our horses, we continued to yell at the wolf to scare her away. She circled us and disappeared into the willows.

Most of the time wildlife do their own thing and are generally scared of you. Some are curious, as where I go guiding most of the animals have never seen a human before, so they are curious and will come to you and check you out, usually resulting in the animal running away scared.

Bears, well bears are a whole other kettle of fish. They can be unpredictable, intimidating and destructive. Black bears are generally more scared than a grizzly bear. I guided in Alberta for a bear outfitter (Big Tine Adventures) and we were in tree stands waiting for the black bears to walk through. During this time, I had bears climbing up the same tree as I was in just coming up to check me out, or had them come up to the quad and sniffed around the quad to say hello. Grizzly bears on the other hand can be very unpredictable.

My first grizzly encounter was in my first year in the Yukon. Again, the guide and I were riding up a valley on horseback, looking for other game such as Moose, Caribou and Goats. I looked ahead and through the thick scrub I could see a grizzly heading our way and she didn’t stop, neither did we. We carried ahead as she came down the trail and we passed each other like cars on the street. She was that close that I could’ve jumped from my saddle onto the grizzly’s back. Nothing happened, the horses were calm and relaxed, the grizzly just looked at us as we passed and everyone went on their merry way.

My latest experience with bears, was while I was guiding a hunter, we spotted a big, old, mature grizzly bear across the way. We stalked up to the bear and got within range to shoot him. The bear smelt us, gave a little bluff charge and turned to carry on up the valley. Once in position my hunter took the shot, resulting in the bear turning to run into the thick willows. After waiting an hour for the bear to find his resting place we decided to go in and find the bear. I’ve heard a lot of stories from the older guides about going in after a wounded bear, be prepared, have your gun up and ready, and expect the worst. Deep breath and a short prayer, we went in and tracked the bear, stopping every 3-4 steps to listen. The willows and bush were so thick that I was using my gun barrel to part the branches in front of me to see further and in most cases, visibility was limited to 10-12 feet (4-5m). After 800-900m of tracking, heart pounding out of my chest, walking up hill we come across a spot where the bear had laid down, but no bear. Where did he go? This was bad, very, very bad. I got myself on a little rock to see above the willows, standing there for only a few seconds and 20 meters away we hear this screaming growl, and the willows thrashing. The bear was charging us. With no visibility, all I could see was the willows and sticks thrashing around coming towards me and my hunter, with no visible shot I waited. Of course, this all happened in a matter of seconds, but lucky for us, the bear stopped, turned and ran into the trees. I told my hunter that we should wait another hour, we stayed perched up on a rock to see above the willows. On the hour, I turned to my hunter and said we should go in a little further. As that was said, almost the exact same time, we heard that same horrible growl and more willows crashing towards us. Unknown to us, the grizzly had come back to us, stalked us, without us knowing, and as we started to move, that’s when he made his move. With no sight of the bear as the bush was so thick, I fired at the moving willows, only to miss the bear, but luckily causing it to turn and run into the trees. I turned to my hunter and told him, I’m not risking my life for the bear, lets go back to camp and clean our underpants. We returned back the following day with myself, another guide in camp, as well as our two hunters, to track the bear from where we saw him last.

That has been the worse encounter I have experienced. Other encounters include, Moose coming into 10m or closer, or even getting close to caribou as they try and figure out what you are.

Best thing about living in the Yukon

The long days in the summer time, almost 24-hour light. As cold as we get in the winter the Yukon has some amazing summers and Autumns (falls). Temps steady in the mid plus 25Cs. And the vast wilderness. We are miles from the nearest town. And with my job as a guide I can be 200km from the nearest town or up to 60km or so from the nearest road! Being high on a mountain top only to look out and see more and more mountains beyond, each as rugged or more rugged as the last.

Worst thing about living in the Yukon

Being so far away from the beach! Back home it was only an hour drive away from the beach in the summertime. The cold is almost too cold.

What do you miss most form New Zealand

I’m a farmer, from Matamata, so I miss seeing cows and the green grass a lot. The agriculture and of course family. And the winters aren’t so long, cold and drawn out.

How remote is it where you are living

We are a small town of approx. 800-1000 people. A grocery store, couple gas stations, hardware store, churches and even a couple hotels is all we need. The nearest ‘big’ towns/cities are a 5 hour drive away in either direction. The Yukon has a population of approx. 30,000 people with a majority of them living in Whitehorse (Yukon capital), which is 5hour drive away. Where I guide, (Ceaser Lake Outfitters) as said before is generally around 200kms as the bird flies from the nearest town and 60kms from the nearest road.

Advise to anyone who thinks they too would like to try and live like you are

In all honesty, it isn’t all that difficult. If you enjoy being remote and isolated, and have warm clothing for the winters, can think outside the box to keep yourself entertained, then you could live here. The lifestyle is slow paced, no one is in a hurry and everyone enjoys a campfire. The town that we live in as a tight knit community that makes the winter months bearable and the summer months amazing.

Describe your average day

During the winter, I work locally with a contractor, ploughing snow and as a general labourer. On the weekends, or any chance we get, Liz and I head out trapping. Setting snares for wolves, lynx, fox and marten. Trapping the wolves improves moose and caribou populations for the following year. Studies have shown that one wolf can take out 7 moose a year, and that’s not counting any other animal (caribou, goats, sheep and other animals) that it may have taken as well. These animals, have the harsh, cold winters to survive, and reducing the predator population makes it a little easier on them.

Summer time involves, well anything really, with the long daylight hours, it makes up for the darkness in the wintertime. Normally, you will find me cutting trails, getting horses ready for the season, (trimming feet, trailing in, etc) flying to camps to prepare them for the up and coming season, scouting for animals, spending the long summer nights around campfires with my wife and friends. Once the ice has gone off the rivers and lakes then a lot of fishing is conducted in the down time.

I don’t think there is anything “average” here in the Yukon. As one of the logos for the Yukon says “The Yukon, North of Ordinary”.

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