Hunting Shows on TV. Is what you see, what you get?

Taylor Wright smiling after his successful moose hunt with Webber's Lodges.

Taylor Wright of The Canadian Tradition on a successful moose hunt with Webber’s Lodges.

by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges

As most hunters know, the outdoor television industry has grown immensely over the last couple of decades. Where there used to be a handful of shows scattered throughout local networks, and a few picked up by sports channels, there are now at least three networks currently showing outdoor programming 24/7/365!

Outfitters are using outdoor television more and more frequently, as it provides an opportunity to have your business featured on a show seen by audiences potentially numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Most hosts of these programs try to avoid the hard-sell approach, but in reality, sponsors and outfitters are providing funds and opportunities for the show to produce entertaining (hopefully) and informative programming.

As with any television program, you need to keep the viewer’s interest piqued. In the outdoor industry this means showing animals, opportunity, and whenever possible, a successful harvest of the animal being hunted. Most, but not all, viewers would become pretty disinterested in watching a couple of guys just sitting on a rock, looking through binoculars for hours searching for elk, sheep, caribou etc.

Speaking of time, a normal 30-minute hunting show, after commercials, bumps and intros, has about 18 minutes of air time to show off the best of a five-day, or even week-long hunting excursion. Obviously, they want to fill that time with the best of the best and show very little downtime.

Taylor Wright taking a break from filming a tough caribou hunt!

Taylor Wright taking a break from filming a tough caribou hunt!

For example, I was fortunate enough to film — and be filmed — on a 10-day elk hunt. We filmed portions of the 23-hour drive, crossing the borders of several state lines. Stalks, calling sequences, and camp life were also filmed. We were lucky enough to take a great bull on the first day of that hunt (not by me).

The bull responded to our calls, walked almost a mile in plain view, and my partner made a perfect 35-yard shot. It was then my turn and I still had nine days to fill my tag and close the show! I thought my partner’s hunt would be an indication of how mine would go. Not so.

What followed next were nine of the hardest hunting days of my life. We hiked, glassed and called, with days beginning at 4:30 am and ending after 9:00 pm. We had some great encounters and incredible memories, but at the end of it, we had an unfilled tag.

When we got home, I logged all the footage we had collected and realized that there were 26 hours of tape to go through. Not all of it was Emmy Award winning stuff, but there was a pile of great footage from that adventure.

Well, after the smoke cleared, most of it ended up on the cutting room floor. As great as it was, viewers would get bored very quickly watching some guy walking up and down mountains, listening to elk bugles. The show ended up consisting of our kill, a close encounter I had drawing on a great bull, some quick clips of travel and camp life, and beautiful scenery. Anyone watching that 18 minutes would have thought the hunt was relatively easy.

I’ve also been in camp when things went so well that the hosts were tagged out too soon (if that’s even possible).

When things come together it’s easy to build a great show. Adrian Skok with moose.

When things come together it’s easy to build a great show. Adrian Skok with moose.

We were in moose camp one season and two great bulls were literally dying to be on TV (sorry for the bad pun). After day two, we were all tagged out. The hosts spent the next couple of days re-enacting failed stalks and calling attempts in order to have enough b-roll footage to build the show. Not to try and fool the viewer, but in an attempt to show more normal expectations of what the outfitter offered. Is that false advertising? I don’t think so, not to anyone who knows hunting and can read between the lines. Hunting shows need to portray what viewers want to see if they expect them to keep watching.

Occasionally, a show will include difficult times, or slow hunts, but only if there is an interesting twist that engages the viewer. If a show were to consistently air lackluster hunts, it wouldn’t take long for people to stop watching. This would cause sponsors to lose interest and the show would fade away into the sunset.

Sometimes the hunts that take place in extreme conditions are the most rewarding. Freddy Lagos with musk ox.

Sometimes the hunts that take place in extreme conditions are the most rewarding. Freddy Lagos with musk ox.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of quality hunting shows up at Webber’s Lodges over the last several years, and we’ve always tried to work with them to accurately portray what could be expected on one of our adventures. This can be difficult with the 18 minute time limitation.

Hopefully, this insider look will help the next time you are on a trip similar to one you saw on television and things seem to be going differently than what you expected.

We, like other outfitters, use television shows to get our name out there, but we don’t expect viewers to understand every aspect of the hunt after watching 18-minutes of footage. These shows are meant to be a glimpse into what’s available.

We look forward to hearing from you, sharing more detailed information on the hunts we offer, and helping you plan your next adventure!

Fly fisherman discovers gold in sea run brook trout and polar bears on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast

Brian Irwin with epic brook trout at Nanuk.

Brian Irwin with epic brook trout at Nanuk.

Imagine casting your fly into a pool of water that has never seen a human and having it attacked by a voracious 20-inch brook trout of the same bent.

The winner is the trout that gets there first. And you

“It was incredible,” said Brian Irwin, the New England Field Editor for Fly Fisherman Magazine who was on a Travel Manitoba and Fly Fisherman Magazine-sponsored product development trip this September with Webber’s Lodges. Irwin was searching the wild untouched rivers of the southern Hudson Bay coast in Canada for brook trout.

What he found was nothing short of sensational.

“The fishing was superb,” said Irwin. “We would enter small pools and all three of us would have a fish on at the same time. The fish were so aggressive. And these were five to six pound trout. When you would bring one in, other 24-inch trout would attack it. They would attack your fish. They would attack each other. They were that hungry.”

Irwin was guided by some of the best in the outdoor business including fly-fisherman-guide Ryan Suffron, wilderness and fishing guide Stewart Webber, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge manager Nolan Booth. The group experienced early success in the rivers close to the Lodge and ventured further into the wilderness each day exploring new territory and more rivers.

Nobody really knew what they would find.

The owners of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge had historical information on the area dating back 18 years, and a few of the native guides and their fathers before them had worked in the area for 30 plus years, but no one knew of anyone ever fishing the surrounding rivers and streams. The fishing was actually discovered by a few unassuming birders who decided to cast a spinner into a river within walking distance of the Lodge a few years prior.

“Ryan (Suffron) had been in there a few days earlier,” said Irwin. “He was an excellent guide and he found brook trout everywhere close to the Lodge. We wondered if it was a local phenomenon or whether all the rivers were totally stuffed with brook trout. And were they sea run brook trout? If so, they had the potential to get huge. The only way to ascertain that was to explore all the rivers.”

So the group ventured off on the quads, winching their way through willows and water and mud and sand and up over beaver dams, finding more fish as they went. They had to time their ventures just right, to get out before high tide. Being stranded in the heart of polar bear country at night was not an option.

“We spent our downtime walking within 60 feet of polar bears,” said Irwin. “Guide Andy Macpherson took us out to see them. They were all over the place. That’s stunning and amazing and that’s what a lot of people go up there to do. We didn’t see polar bears while we were fishing, but we could have.

“We saw moose, wolf and bear tracks while we were fishing. You could see the wolf tracks speed up and the moose tracks follow suit, so you knew what was happening. There’s nothing other than pure wilderness and the imprints in the mud tell the story of this wild place. It’s really pretty phenomenal. This is raw, unspoiled wilderness.”

The group didn’t really know if they could get to some of the rivers, and even if they got there, they weren’t sure if there would be any fish.

“Huge fish in great numbers,” said Irwin. “And indiscriminate feeders. They’ll eat anything. You can catch 30 a day. It’s unlike anywhere else in their native territory. The fishing was amazing. We were fishing in waters that no one had ever fished before.”

Brook trout have a native range from the Carolinas north to Manitoba and west as far as Nanuk, but their population has generally been destroyed everywhere. They’re being stalked back into southern rivers, but only six to eight-inch fish.

“These are 18 to 24-inch fish,” said Irwin. “They’re huge, native, trophy fish. They’ve never seen a fly. They’ve never seen a person. And when they see something that looks like food they eat it. The Manitoba Master Angler Program offers a Brook Trout Specialist Award for catching five brook trout over 20 inches in your lifetime. We probably caught five of those on the first day, not to mention smaller fish.”

The biggest fish of the trip came at high tide, but the native fish kept the group busy. There are very few places in the world where you can catch wild eastern brook trout, let alone trophy-sized fish that have never seen a fly, or a person, in uncharted, never-fished waters.

“We’d spend the low-tide time looking at wildlife and polar bears,” said Irwin. “At high tide it was world-class fishing. There were two strains of brook trout. The native freshwater eastern brook trout and the sea run brook trout. The sea run brook trout go out to sea for three to four months and come back really big to spawn. The best time to fish for them would be during the full moon, which has an effect on the tides, but there are so many native fish it doesn’t matter.

“We had incredible food and the accommodations were divine. The comfort was fantastic. It was almost surreal to go out on the quads, get all muddied up, fish a river that nobody had ever fished before, and return to caribou stuffed green peppers and a glass of wine. It was really something special.”

A new catch-and-release fishing trip limited to a maximum of eight fishermen is currently being developed by Webber’s Lodges for September 2017, and Irwin emphasized that this would be a trip of interest to fly fishermen looking for serious adventure. Watch for his full story in a spring/summer issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine. Trip details will be posted on this site before January 31, 2017. If you would like to be notified when the trip is posted, please send an email to

“You’re staying in an established Lodge with a proven track record of excellence,” said Irwin. “But this is a boots-on-the-ground walk-and-wade fishing trip. This is not riding in a Cadillac. You have to be prepared to ride quads and get dirty. The local guides are invaluable. They know the land, and that’s a must-have. But this is real fishing.”


Final cast at Nanuk.

Final cast at Nanuk


Unless one can enjoy himself fishing with the fly, even when his efforts are unrewarded, he loses much real pleasure. More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.
— Charles F. Orvis, 1886

The Evolution of a Hunter

The Evolution of a Hunter.

The Evolution of a Hunter.

by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges

I’m fortunate enough to be immersed in the hunting lifestyle. Being in the outdoor industry as an outfitter and guide, surrounding myself with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts for friends, as well as being part of a family that loves hunting and fishing, means I get to live my dreams 24/7/365!

As my son and my friends’ children got older, I decided to become a Hunting Education instructor. As anyone who has taken the course will remember, there is a chapter referencing the Evolution of a Hunter.

With the broad scope of hunters I’m so lucky to spend time in camp with — whether it’s in a remote tent camp for caribou, or out on the “Back 40” for an afternoon deer hunt — I get to see all of these stages. Sometimes, I am even around to see a hunter progress from one stage to the next.

Most of my Hunter Education students talk wide-eyed about trips shared with their mentors. Their excitement is a fine example of that first level, sometimes called the “shooter stage.” You know these first-time hunters are going to be ready to sling the lead once given the okay by their hunting adviser. Getting a shot at something legal will be the highlight of their early hunting years.

The Evolution of a Hunter: Shooter Stage.

The Evolution of a Hunter: Shooter Stage.

Once they’ve moved passed the thrill of just pulling the trigger, they find themselves obsessed with filling tags. Taking the shot is no longer the pinnacle of the hunt. Success for these hunters is about notching their tags and filling their limits.

While working alongside these younger hunters I learned that you can accelerate the progress to the next stage in a hunters evolution by having them involved with all aspects of the hunt: the harvest, the ‘dirty work’ of cleaning and processing the animal, and the cleanup of the space and equipment required for this work.

Trophy hunting has taken a terrible beating in the media lately, mainly due to lack of knowledge on the part of the general public. This is the mature stage of a hunter’s evolution and they should be proud of it. This does not mean shooting strictly for sport, size or pleasure. It means a hunter has become more selective, targeting older, more mature specimens of the animal they are hunting. And like all good hunters, they too use all parts of the harvested animal.

A trophy hunter generally puts more into the hunt and realizes similar satisfaction, kill or no kill, because they don’t need to fill their quota. They enjoy matching wits with a specific animal and don’t mind going home empty.

Once a hunter has gone beyond trophy hunting they’ll start looking for new challenges. This could mean going into new areas to pursue different animals, changing equipment preferences (for example going from a rifle to a bow) or changing hunting styles, like trying spot-and-stalk hunting instead of ambush style hunting.

These hunters put in time learning habits and habitats of new creatures, teaching themselves a new method of take, or broadening techniques used to get their game. They pour over maps of new areas, and spend hours practicing their new styles and equipment. They know that they may not succeed at something new right away but they’re okay with it, because it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Finally, my favorite stage in the evolution of a hunter:  the “it’s all about the experience” stage. This is where hunters care more about what they saw, who they spent time with, and what new adventures they experienced, than the actual kill. They realize time spent in the outdoors is the reward.

It's all about the experience.

The Evolution of a Hunter: Experience Stage.

They cherish the friendships created or maintained through these adventures and success is not measured by inches of antler or pounds of meat in the cooler. Now, don’t get me wrong, these hunters can be as successful as they are at any other stage and take home their fair share of game. The difference is that they share memories of the whole experience, rather than just the size of the animal or the difficulty of the hunt.

It’s great that in my line of work I get to spend time with many hunters at different stages of their hunting evolution. Sometimes it’s good to have a youthful, energetic Shooter Stage hunter in camp with a group of fully evolved hunters.

You can see it in their eyes, when they’re looking back to their time at that first stage.

And they’re full of good memories.

Dangerous Game hunting, Tooth and claw have nothing on love!

Here he comes...

Here he comes…

by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges

When most hunters speak of “Dangerous Game”, they are referring to hunting predators such as bears and lions and large antelope with angry dispositions like “Black Death”: the cape buffalo of many African hunting tales.

As dangerous as these hunts may be, when you interfere with the breeding process of an animal that has a very small window each year in which to mate, you may find that even the most docile creatures morph into raging beasts set on your destruction. Moose are one such creature.

For 11 months of the year these docile swamp donkeys lazily hang out, with food as their number one priority. Following their stomachs, they’ll travel from ridges to swamps to shorelines looking to build up their fat stores in order to endure the long winters their habitat generally throws at them.

But when the sun’s angle dips to the point of triggering some ancient, physiological change in their body chemistry — look out! Their bodies start producing hormones to prepare them for the rut and the right to breed to spread their genes.

This change creates excellent opportunities for hunters. We set up our hunting season to take advantage of the peak of the rut, but be warned, these gentle giants turn into obstinate beasts if things don’t go their way at this time of the year. What follows is a tale of discovering just how ornery these northern monarchs can be.

I was guiding a bowhunter in the remote Canadian north several autumns ago. We would travel along the river to moosey spots and call. I was cow calling, trying to lure in one of the lovesick bulls we knew were in the area.

As we travelled from one calling location to the other, we spotted a sickly looking bull standing at the water’s edge. He wasn’t the size of bull we were looking for, but we watched him for a short while, wondering if a wolf attack had left him lame. He slowly moved off and we continued along.

We had hardly moved when suddenly the smell of rutting moose hit us square in the face. For those of you who’ve never encountered the scent of a rutting bull moose, it is a strong, barnyard-type odour produced when a bull makes rutting pits (depressions in the ground he urinates in) he can roll around in to get all “perfumey” for the ladies!  Checking the wind, we knew the smell was not from the lame bull we had just seen. It was coming from the shoreline to our left.

We beached the boat and started working into the wind, following our noses. By this time I had pieced the puzzle together. The bull we had seen in the water was the loser of a battle for supremacy with the stinky bull we were now working in on. Nothing beats the thrill of walking in the woods trying to locate a bull still worked up from his latest battle!

Within minutes, I saw a piece of antler move and upon closer inspection we knew we had found the bull. He was bedded down in the dark timber, resting from his most recent triumph.  I decided to approach him as another bull looking for a fight, hoping he was still in a feisty mood.

We walked toward him, my hunter immediately behind me. I grunted softly as I walked and raked the odd tree as we closed the distance. Almost immediately the bull stood and turned to face us. It was then that I noticed the cow moose bedded down a few yards away from him. He started coming in hot, prepared to defend his lady and his territory.

Broadside shot. Bull moose at Webber's Lodges.

Broadside shot

He was displaying as we walked towards each other — tipping his head slowly from side to side — and I was mimicking him as best I could, holding a paddle from the boat over my head. As we neared bow range I started moving to my left, telling my hunter the bull would do the same, offering a broadside shot at close distance. The bull read the script and began turning.

As soon as the bull was in a good position, my hunter shot. This should have been the point in the story where the bull goes crashing into the bush and we pick up the trail to recover our trophy, but he wasn’t ready to give up the fight. Instead of running off, he re-positioned himself for a head-on advance. My hunter asked if she should try and get off another shot. I told her, “If you can make another good shot, take it as soon as you can!”

The bull angled slightly right, and a second arrow was on its way.  Upon impact however, the bull became impatient with this game and decided on a full-on advance. With only yards to cover we needed a plan, fast.

Dangerous Game - Moose at Webber's Lodges

Dangerous Game

Realizing I couldn’t take a thousand pounds of angry ungulate, I grabbed the hunter and jumped behind the nearest tree for cover. The bull caught our movement and tried to cut us off on the other side of the tree.

Something must have convinced him to continue running rather than chase us around the tree, because he continued in a straight line, leaving us unscathed and cowering behind our safety tree. He actually did us a favour by running towards the shore.

A few seconds later we heard a crash and we knew it was over, but we still took a little extra time to make sure before taking up the trail. At the end of the trail was a great bull that left us with incredible moose hunting memories…

of our Dangerous Game.


Diary of a spring goose hunt in Arctic Canada

Goose hunters at Nanuk: L to R John Lillibridge, Linda Besse, Jim Olson, John Pfister, Robert Pardo, Vern Larsen

Goose hunters at Nanuk: L to R John Lillibridge, Linda Besse, Jim Olson, John Pfister, Robert Pardo, Vern Larsen

The Dymond Lake and Nanuk goose camps of the past were nothing like they are today. Roughing it, at least to a point, was a requirement even as late as 2009. Things have changed since then with refurbished lodges that are now considered luxurious by Arctic standards.

Our hunting lodges at Dymond Lake and Nanuk now have all the comforts of home, such as heat, running water and solar power, but it seems that’s not the reason the same hunters have been coming back to hunt with Webber’s for over 30 years.

We’d like to think it’s our experience and reliability, or the great food and guides, but what the hunters really love is the adventure. In a place on this earth that very few ever get to experience, with abundant wild game and unmatched camaraderie.

John Lillibridge has hunted geese for over 30 years from North Dakota to Texas and from Argentina to Canada. He’s probably been to Dymond Lake and/or Nanuk in northern Manitoba hunting geese with us at least 15 times. He goes where the hunting is good.

The former U.S. Army Colonel from Pennsylvania has documented many of his goose hunting trips with Webber’s Lodges in diary format via email, and one of our favourites is the one below from a 2009 spring goose hunt at Nanuk. We did some light editing for clarity, and added a few photos from our Nanuk goose hunting archives, but you’ll get the message, that once again…

it’s about the adventure!

Diary of a Spring Goose Hunt (2009)

Geese take flight at Nanuk.

Taking flight at Nanuk.

May 9 – With lots on my mind, I see Hank (hunting dog) with heavy hearted eyes, watching me depart in the Tacoma, sitting on his mat in the front window. Co-pilot Cody navigates to Gillam YGX, but has to be poked a few times to stop snoring while on payroll.

May 10 – Pick up guide, Nap. Tacoma heavy with co-pilot stuffed in behind seat to Gillam. Get there at 11 p.m. Overnight at Aurora Gardens.

May 11 – Depart for Nanuk with Butch, Gordon, Nap, Cody and Cookie at 11:30 a.m. We see geese as soon as we hit the Hudson Bay coast. Numbers are high. Runway is completely open. Air craft is in and gone in 20 minutes. I notice right away that it’s cold even though I dressed for it, and the sun is shining. Little did we know it would be one of the warmest days.

Snow drifts are only half the size of what they have normally been in the past, so I’m thinking it’s going to be easy-to dig in and open the doors. Guide seems to think we need a jack hammer, as the snow drifts are as solid as glacial ice. Regardless, shutters are off and doorways are opened up and we are calling it home in record time.

We immediately go shooting, because as we planned the weather crapped out and Gillam Air could not make the second flight in with groceries and more importantly, firewater. Ed’s Bush House and Bar is open and serving goose soup for supper with bannock provided by seasoned guide, Nap’s secret recipe.

Goose for supper! And for home!

Goose for supper! And for home!

May 12 – We prep with goose soup for breakfast and plan to bed shooters in the famed Snake Pit, close to big hungry woodstove. Firewood has to be put together and guides strike out to find source with shotguns. I hear them banging away in the distance. Guides return with large pile of nice wood and big bunch of birds to send to family back home.

Aircraft arrives with more grub and tracks for 500 Honda. Co-pilot/mechanic puts the tank-like machine together with nothing more said about it, other than it goes everywhere and is good investment!

Speaking of good investment, how about that Cookie? Excellent job! It takes big shoes and it’s a big kitchen when you walk into it. It might not be the fanciest but it holds a lot of history. And from May 11-24 it was almost certainly the coldest kitchen to work in this side of Saturn.

Rarely did the temp get above freezing. Water drum froze every night. I come in one morning to find Ed, who is bricklayer, on his hands and knees in the kitchen scraping the floors. With a trowel ??????? I’m thinking this guy really misses his job back home. He looks at me and says that he wanted clean floors and he went to mopping. The place smelt amazingly pine fresh, but the problem was the floor became a skating rink. So he’s scraping 2 mm thick ice off the floor.

I knew he would do a good job in the kitchen, and it removed the necessity of me doing it. Not too many people are lining up to be Head Chef at Spring Goose Camp. A lifelong friend, I must say thank you to Ed. I do not rely on him to get the goose down out of the sky, but rather into the pot. I believe he ended up getting his rhythm after lots of practice. Firewater passed around the Snake Pit while a howling north wind closed the evening early.

At times there are so many...

At times there are so many…

May 13 – No shooters arrive. Instead we get ugly weather, cold ugly weather! We freeze, and also note that snow geese behave like penguins and huddle in 5,000 to 15,000 flocks on the ocean front, in the raw 50 mph snow pelting winds.

Firewater gets an early start. I learn to listen to old Cree stories this evening. Butch and I go along, and together with guides hatch plan to trap from November to January on the coast of Hudson Bay. The rich fur source and adventure talk brought out boasting rights with many laughs. I recall someone shouting to their forefathers in Cree to change the wind! And someone falling into the woodpile. And then I was crawling home. And the wind was howling.

May 14 – More high winds and aircraft is delayed until late in the day. Shooters arrive. Report comes that they see lots of birds from airplane, from York Factory to Nanuk. It certainly it looks inviting as the aircraft departs and thousands of birds are disturbed by its departure. Shooters gear up and are out for a three hour shoot. They find the raw-carve frozen terrain they have to call home for the next three days, cold!! Few birds moving, they’re behaving like penguin colonies and huddling most of the day trying to thaw. T-bones for super, and if I remember right, apple pie and Cool Whip.

May 15 – Birds seem to fly tall and were tough to get to. We moved around, crossing the river deep into where we kicked them out of, behind the celery patch. Sure enough there was an open water hole, and tank- like tracks back into the willows produced rewards.

No missing here :)

No missing here :)

May 16, 17 – Tall tales of past shooting were shared. Only those who have seen it can appreciate watching your buddy stand up and take a double set of blues, or miss clean three rounds on a single white snow that has come at you like an arrow shot. Usually it’s me who misses that shot! Nightly gatherings around the comfort of the hot wood-fired stove at the Snake Pit and firewater flowing with tunes. I suffer the next day real bad. Goose soup was a first for most the next day and boy did it taste good. And filling! Mmmm. I also read a few comments about it on the wall in the new portable outhouse we had constructed.

Shooting was not bad, but nothing like I had come to know in the past. Weird kind of, and it seemed different from all other spring experiences.  Birds were in plentiful, but not flighty, almost like they knew they better not get too comfortable. As if Mother Nature was raising her hackles and they could sense the oncoming typhoon blizzard from hell she was creating for us.

Donna’s voice on the satellite phone was stressing. “It’s a huge front,” she said. With 25 cm of snow predicted for Sunday night and Monday and 70 km winds, the wind chill would be minus 25.

Having to say good bye to the guns a day early was the only option as they needed to meet other schedules and did not want to be snowed in for three days, or five, so Sunday afternoon six guns departed. We did a final check around the yard to grab all items and the shooters were not gone an hour when the sky became ominously dark with birds in flight, tons of them.

May 18 – Needless to say, the storm was everything they said it would be. It started with rain and then for the next 14 hours built to wind-shearing peak. At its height you could not walk outside without being completely blasted from all angles with snow. To walk in the open without shelter would mean death. The storm lasted 26 hours. The outhouse was full of snow.

May 19 – New shooters get in after a long wait in Gillam. With them comes report of a lot of birds in the immediate area. Aircraft has to be careful, as we are now hosting three-quarters of a million birds on 20 miles of coastline and facing possibly a peak movement of birds. The storm has sucked huge quantities of snows, some blues and ducks, and now concentrations are building. Snow in the area has remained block hard and we are able to get shooters under the birds. The rest is history!

Crossing the river of ice is tricky, and you want to have each foot placed solid and sure all the time. I was tested many times out there and have a few strained muscles. I know our most respected shooter deserves a lot of credit for enduring a tough Tour of Duty. One for the record books!! I sensed he was getting down on himself, but make no mistake, you should be proud and hope you will forever be able to call the shots. And if your bride will let you, can be sure we will be there! I am not sure what we had for breakfast, supper or lunch on this day, but it was good really good!

Goose migration at Nanuk.

Goose migration at Nanuk.

May 20-23 – Above average but still it seems the birds are not flying. The sheer noise of them is incredible, but still flights are high and shooter is frustrated and wearing down. Shooting could be gauged and monitored differently in the future. One or two of these days we get sunlight and warmer temps. Little weather systems move through and it was easy after a while to tell when the birds were going to move. As the weather changed they got all stirred up. Guide celebrates 55th birthday. Clouds of birds are moving around on the coast and inland. Made for good shooting opportunities and several banded geese and collars were harvested.

May 24 – Shooters are out early with instructions to be ready by 4:00 p.m. flight out. I hear them banging away all morning. We go into shutdown mode and as a group condense down to getting out of Nanuk today. Big blue sky is burning the snow up like crazy and it’s popping like popcorn. Birds fly all day. Shooters depart 4:25 p.m. for Gillam. Sky starts to get dark in the northwest. We are hoping to get out yet today. Was a good hunt and tour, but 16 days in the freezer is tough.

Robins were doing the mating thing those last few days, as were the flickers, who became elusive quarry with master guide. Spring seems to have a slight grip, pussy willows are budding. Seven feet of snow still covered all the willows, but the swamps had all opened up. On our flight out at 6:30 p.m. we saw geese all the way down the coast, in some areas very dense flocks. Most of the rivers had opened up on the coast and flooded areas back in the distance held uncountable masses of white and dark geese.

Hit the road at Gillam at 8:00 p.m. Across to drop Nap off at midnight, then drove until 4:00 a.m. before four-hour snooze. Co-pilot is still snoring but it’s worse now as he stinks like a really bad greasy goose fart! Finally did get home, with sore body parts. Hope to do this again some time, a big thanks to all involved

Hank was sitting in the window waiting for me. Wife said he was looking for me the whole time.

A fine day for a spring goose hunt. And a great spot!

A fine day for a spring goose hunt. And a great spot!

How to pack for an Arctic caribou hunt

by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges

The impossible packing job made possible

Without a doubt, the most common ‘non-hunting’ question we get asked is, “How can I possibly pack for a remote caribou hunt with the weight and size restrictions you have?”

The following is a photo tutorial showing it is possible to stay within our 50 pound luggage allowance, even with room/weight to spare. Hopefully you’ll find some useful tips in the images/descriptions below.

Here is what your packed items should resemble when complete. A day pack, soft weapon case, (we have shown both a bow and rifle just for display purposes), and a soft duffle bag.


Here are four photos showing the weights of the items. As you can see, the total weight using a rifle is 42 pounds, while the total weight using the bow is 40 pounds. Well within the allowable 50 pound maximum.








The following images will show how we did it.

Here is everything on our recommended packing list for our caribou hunts, plus a few extras.  I always pack an ultra light set of rain gear, and an extra pair of ‘camp’ pants. I also allowed for an optional pair of hiking boots.


In the photo below, we removed the clothing you will wear on your flight into camp: a set of camo, insulated rubber boots, and a jacket.


This image below shows the gun/gun case (with ammo) and bow/bow case (with arrows) removed.


Big changes in the next photo!  We took our clothing and medium weight sleeping bag (remember, all camps are heated) and placed them in a regulation sized duffle bag. We will have several of these very same bags available in Thompson when you arrive in case you need to re-pack your gear to meet our requirements.


Remember, space is at a premium. Here we have packed our boots with smaller items such as range finder, binoculars, headlamp, and knife. The items in the photo below, plus my camp footwear will all fit into my day pack.


So, there we have it! Our bags are packed and ready to safely fly into Caribou Camp. As noted earlier, we are well below our 50 pounds, and there is still the option of paired hunters sharing items such as range finders, binoculars, even rifles. That leaves lots of weight for extras such as video cameras or other special personal items.

Happy packing!

Former rocket scientist, philanthropist, continues father/son fishing tradition at North Knife Lake Lodge

Dick Gadomski with Lake Trout at North Knife Lake.

Dick Gadomski with Lake Trout at North Knife Lake.

A fisherman, a philanthropist, an engineer, a company builder and a rocket scientist went fishing together at North Knife Lake Lodge earlier this summer. Guess who caught the most fish?

Dick Gadomski.

Sorry, that was a trick question. The 76-year-old Gadomski is actually all of the above, and he was at North Knife Lake Lodge for the third time this summer to continue a father/son tradition that began 68 years ago with his own father.

“Dad liked to fish for northern pike and bass,” said Gadomski. “I was mostly the oarsman. I would row him around the lake and he would cast. We would catch fish for the cabin, clean and fry them ourselves. We spent a lot of time together on sports and fishing. As I got older I preferred the action of fishing for bluegills and crappie. Now, I’m continuing the family tradition.”

Gadomski first came to North Knife Lake in the late 1980s with his father Chester, son Greg and his son-in-law Jay. He returned in 1995, and rekindled the fire again this year with stepsons Chris, Mark and Rusty Gilbreath, and Rusty’s son Ty.


The Fishermen: L to R – Mark Gilbreath, Dick Gadomski, Chris Gilbreath, Rusty Gilbreath and Ty Gilbreath.

The group engaged in a family-friendly poker game in the evenings after heavy days of fishing, and Ty won the game on every night but one. On the family’s final evening at North Knife Lake, grandfather Gadomski defeated grandson Ty in a classic showdown.

Ty can take solace in the fact that he lost to a former rocket scientist and current philanthropist who has lived an amazing life loaded with unique experiences, accomplishments and a connection to the first man on the moon.

Poker champ Ty lost only once.

Poker champ Ty lost only once.

Early in his career Gadomski was a research and project engineer on the teams at North American Aviation and Brown Engineering that analyzed and designed Propellant Management Systems for the Saturn rocket.

It seems only appropriate that we’re posting this on the 47th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969. Armstrong flew to the moon with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on Apollo 11, which, was powered by a Saturn V rocket.

A self-admitted “below average” student at St. Patrick High School in Chicago, Gadomski went on to complete a BS in Engineering Chemistry at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and an MS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles before his graduate studies at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Then the real work began.

After his work on propulsion systems, Gadomski took a position as a project engineer/manager at Kraft Foods Humko Products Division in Memphis, implementing capital projects for various edible oil products including oils used in margarine, shortening, baking, frying and coating applications. Projects included new boiler facilities, plant automation, storage and loadout facilities, and process improvements to almost every area of vegetable oil processing.

Gadomski then worked as a project engineer/manager at BASF Corporation in Ludwigshafen, Germany and Parsippany, NJ on various major projects for the production of plastics, dyestuffs, pigments, and intermediate chemicals including additions to existing facilities and large grass roots plants.

In 1974, using every ounce of his practical experience, Gadomski founded and became CEO of the PSI Group of Companies in Memphis, Tennessee.

Deeply involved in engineering, fabricating, construction management, and general contracting from 1974 to 2001, the PSI Group established a worldwide reputation in the processing of grains, oilseeds and sugars, into higher value added products such as corn starches, corn sweeteners, edible oils, cane and beet sugars, ethanol and biodiesel.

The PSI Group of companies executed a large variety of projects for the brewing, food, chemical and package handling industries and new product introductions included high fructose corn syrup, fuel ethanol, Michelob Classic, Splenda, White Mountain Cooler, and Zima,

In 1998 Gadomski sold his highly-awarded company, which was the largest engineering and construction company in Memphis, to Lurgi, the second largest General Contractor in Europe. He retired in 2001 after doing leadership transition and having company annual sales in excess of $100 Million.

“I’m just an inner city kid from Chicago,” said Gadomski. “I was brought up in a loving and caring environment by blue collar parents, Chester and Adeline, who were first generation children of Polish and Italian immigrants who were devoutly Catholic. Every day they showed me and my brother that they valued hard work, integrity, unconditional love, family, and a good education for their children. My brother and I have followed in the tradition they set for us.”

Gadomski has never forgotten his early influences, and has always given back to the communities and the people who have helped him achieve success. Among his numerous charitable endeavors, he spent more than 20 years as board member and former chairman of Christian Brothers University and five years as their Alumni Fund Chairman while also supporting the Memphis and Shelby County United Way and coaching youth soccer.

Currently co-chairing Faith in Progress: The Campaign for Advancing Education, a $70 Million Capital and Endowment Campaign for Christian Brothers University and the Memphis community, Gadomski also has variety of philanthropic involvements supported by the Gadomski Family Foundation donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, and he is a Society of Entrepreneurs Mentor for their Insights Program, helping local entrepreneurs develop their businesses.

Gadomski’s incredible business accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors were sadly balanced by personal tragedy. Only six weeks after selling his company he found out that Dolores, his wife of 37 years, had breast cancer. Dolores passed away in 2000. Gadomski also lost his son Greg to cancer in 2003.

“Christian Brothers University and my first wife changed my life forever,” said Gadomski. “They educated me and she made me get serious about life. I was blessed with a loving wife and two great kids.”

“I had been married for 37 years, and Dolores was the leader of our family,” said Gadomski in the spring 2009 edition of the Christian Brothers Magazine belltower, in an article entitle entitled It’s Not Rocket Science (pages 31-39). “I took care of PSI, and she took care of everything else. I was lost.”

Devastated, Gadomski kept himself busy with his philanthropic work, until a chance meeting and a blind date that almost didn’t happen brought him together with Florence “Flo” Smith, the favourite aunt of his longtime executive assistant Vickie Hall.

Flo planned to cancel the date, but Vickie wouldn’t let her, and even had her mother follow her aunt into town to make sure she kept her brunch date with Gadomski.

“When I looked down the long corridor, I saw this lady dressed in a black dress and a string of pearls, as she said she’d be dressed,” said Gadomski in the aforementioned article. “She had this beautiful smile, and I said to myself, ‘Boy, I sure hope that’s her.’ And it was Flo.”

They were married two years later.

“God provides,” said Gadomski. “I met my current wife Flo after she had been single for almost 20 years, and inherited her three boys, whom you have met, and they have become my sons. We have blended our families together and it consists of 19 when everyone shows up.”

Flo’s three sons, Chris (54), Mark (53) and Rusty (50) Gilbreath, shared Gadomski’s love of fishing, and the group was soon on the water together in Florida, Alaska and Canada.

“We grew up with Mom,” said Rusty. “Dad wasn’t around much. Dick’s secretary knew our Mom, suggested a date, and it was on from there. You could not ask for a better person. He helped Mark and Chris and I go into business. And he has this ability to talk to people and make everything alright, especially with children. He’ll sit down and discuss problems with them and the next thing you know they’ll get up and everything’s all fixed. He’s a remarkable man.”

Shore lunch!

Shore lunch!

Gadomski had already been fly fishing in Alaska, Florida and Costa Rica, and had fished at Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan, as well God’s Lake, Big Sand Lake and North Knife Lake in Manitoba with his father and son, before meeting his new stepsons. He’d also been involved in a partnership that owned Snowbird Lake Lodge in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

“Ten of us owned it for about five years,” said Gadomski. “Cisco was the natural feed in the lake and there would be feeding frenzies after the ice broke up. The seagulls and Arctic terns would be flying above and the trout would come to the surface. We were catching them on surface lures.

“My responsibility was to interface with the guides and help them focus on the customer experience, to help the guides learn more about the lake so they could create the best fishing trip possible for the guests. We could only have up to 25 people at a time at the lodge, as we were limited by the facilities we had.”

Chris Gilbreath with Lake Trout.

Chris Gilbreath with Lake Trout.

The fact that Gadomski decided to return to North Knife Lake for a third time spoke volumes for the North Knife Lake fishery and the Lodge, considering that he had once owned a fishing lodge and that he had fished in some of the world’s most spectacular places.

“The last time I was at North Knife with my son he caught six Master Angler Lake Trout on a nine-inch Canadian Wiggler,” said Gadomski. “And this time the boys thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the camaraderie, and the food. No matter what the chef prepared it was delicious. It was great experience. Everything was terrific.”

Gadomski and sons have now fished at a few of Manitoba’s finest fishing lodges as well as in the Florida Keys for tarpon and shark and in Alaska for salmon, among other places.

Mark with Northern Pike.

Mark Gilbreath with Northern Pike.

“We caught six different species of salmon in Alaska,” said Gadomski. “And the grizzly bears were fishing in the river next to us.”

“Alaska was beautiful and we caught a lot of fish,” added Rusty. “But the bugs were really bad and it got to the point we’re I’d be hoping for rain just to keep the bugs down.”

And it was never just about the fishing. The family also shares a common love for the beauty of nature according to Rusty, the comedian of the family who also took the brunt of the jokes while showing off his Master Angler hat at the dinner table at North Knife. Rusty loved the fishing action at North Knife Lake, but also said he once spent a few amazing but fishless days fly-fishing an area in Colorado that reminded him of the movie A River Runs Through It.

“I never caught a fish,” said Rusty. “But it was beautiful. And I do kind of look like Brad Pitt. That’s what you were thinking right?”

Rusty "Brad Pitt" Gilbreath with Lake Trout.

Rusty “Brad Pitt” Gilbreath with Lake Trout.

All kidding aside, the boys from Memphis were already researching their next family fishing trip. There was talk of fishing in the Amazon and of going after the world’s hardest hitting fish, the Golden Dorado in Patagonia in South America. Going back to Florida to fish for Tarpon was also mentioned, but action-filled northern pike fishing in Canada would always be on the list.

“You can only catch so many Tarpon,” said Rusty. “They’re great fighters, but it takes you forever to get them close to the boat. And then they take off again and run out another 100 yards. After catching a couple you’re done. Northern pike are just fun. Ty loved it and I loved it, especially the shore lunches.”

“The boys and I have decided to take our next trip to Alaska,” said Gadomski, who appeared chipper and ready for action while at North Knife Lake, but who has also had his share of sports injuries over the years. “I’m pretty healthy right now. I exercise daily. The Lord has blessed me. We had a fabulous experience with everyone at the Lodge and out on North Knife Lake.

“Absolutely great memories!”

The fun of operating in bear country

Bear boards were not a deterrent.

Bear boards were not a deterrent.

by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges

Webber’s Lodges is well known for offering comfortable, yet remote, hunting adventures. Our caribou, moose and goose hunting camps are well off the beaten path and you’ll never see another hunter (outside of you own group) while sharing camp with us.

Or, I should say, another two legged hunter.

No matter what camp you are in, or what game you are after, you have to pay attention to the “other hunters” in the area at the time. I am referring mainly to bears: polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears.

During the hunting season, these bear encounters may add to the excitement of the hunt. In the case of polar and grizzly bears, cameras may be used to capture these special moments. Now, if a black bear crosses your path, and you have the appropriate license, an added hunting opportunity is created!

The downside of sharing the landscape with these burly beasts is the fact that for most of the year, they are left unsupervised. As you can imagine, our hunting camps emit many desirable aromas by the end of hunting season. The more successful the season, the better the camps smell to the bears.

Once the season ends, the camps are closed up for 11 months. Our managers and guides do their best to “bear proof” camp as part of the shutdown process. One thing that cannot be measured is a bear’s instinct to be ruled by its stomach, especially when he’s focussed on adding body weight to ensure survival through a long, cold winter.  This trait, along with a bear’s intensity, strength and voracious attitude, can sometimes mean destructive visits to our outcamps.

During the fishing season at North Knife Lake Lodge we take the opportunity to visit our nearby moose hunting outcamps. The summer of 2016 proved to be record breaking in a less than desirable way. We had varying degrees of bear damage at three of our outcamp locations.

One of our goose camps was hit hard by a grizzly at least three times over the course of a week, each time doing a little more damage to an otherwise pristine location. After noticing the initial damage, a quick visit to repair the door and some decking was scheduled. Shortly after completion of the work, a fly-by showed the bear had been back and did not appreciate the renovations. He re-asserted his opinion of how the lodge should look and moved on.

The goose camp had a visitor.

The goose camp had a visitor.

A second visit for repairs was followed by yet another visit by said bear. Again, some damage was done, some groceries were eaten and a content grizzly walked off with a full belly and a sense of accomplishment. On our third visit into camp, we were smart and left a guard on standby to thwart any attempt by visitors wishing to redecorate. Of course, the bear was smarter than we were and refused to show up while the welcoming committee was there.

At one of the moose camps there was another visitor, this time of the black bear variety. Black bears tend to be more polite when they visit one of our camps. A bit of clean up and quick carpentry had that camp as good as new in no time and, so far, the bear has respected our request to leave things as they are at that location.

The third site hit was one of our caribou camps. The suspect? Another grizzly bear. We knew it would be bad when we arrived and saw the bear boards pulled off the door and picture window. Walking up to the cabin, we could see the door frame damage and knew the bear must have made himself at home for a while.

"Beary" messy.

“Beary” messy.

Very little structural damage, but oh, what a mess!

He started in the kitchen (where else would a hungry bear start?), clearing the shelves of all dishes and breaking most of them in the process. He then headed for the pantry, where he struck gold. After tossing the freezer around and realizing it was empty, he proceeded to clear every shelf of its bounty. In doing so, he created a trail of partially eaten containers of canned foods, snacks, cereals and powdered soups.

The good news is that the bear found what he wanted in the kitchen and left all bedrooms and bathrooms unscathed.

It’s all part of the adventure and a few days of elbow grease should be enough to get all three camps cleaned up for the start of our fall hunting season.

Ahh… life in the wilderness of northern Manitoba!

Three-generation musk ox hunt much more than that for Yuel family

Jim Yuel

Jim Yuel

There are some common threads running through the families that hunt and fish with Webber’s Lodges.

Not only do they cherish the outdoors and understand the true value of nature when it comes to raising a family, they’re also strong supporters of conservation organizations. And many of the patriarchs who bring their families on trips with us are also self-made men with strong traditional family values similar to those of our own.

Jim Yuel was recently up with us for a musk ox hunt in Nunavut, and he brought along his son Greg and grandson Yuri. The trip was organized by his hunting buddies Joe Moore and Gord Banda, who were also on the hunt.

“Joe and Gordie and I have fished together for years,” said Jim. “We’ve been to Alaska and a lot of different places. Joe had arranged a caribou hunt with Webber’s Lodges about four years ago. The three of us went up and I took my grandson with me on that hunt as well. He was 18 or 19. We each got our caribou.”

Now 74 and soon to be 75, Jim Yuel has been on quite a few hunting and fishing adventures over the years, but he’s certainly earned his opportunities.

He grew up on a farm in Manitoba, quit a good job and started his own business selling water treatment chemicals to small towns on the prairies. That was 40 years ago. What was then known as Prairie Industrial Chemicals is now known as the multi-million dollar PIC Investment Group Inc.

Has he retired yet?

“I guess so,” he laughed. “But I spent all day today in a strategy meeting with one of our companies. Ten years ago I turned the presidency of the company over to my son.”

Jim plays more of an advisory role in the company these days. Greg is now the CEO of PIC Investment Group, but despite the hectic lifestyle of running a large company, he still makes time for hunting and fishing with his father and son.

“Greg loves to go along on the hunt,” said Jim. “He loves the camaraderie. He’s a little more compassionate than I am, although as I get older I find I also have more compassion for the animals. Yuri is 23 and he absolutely loves hunting, bird hunting, big game hunting, fishing and all of the outdoor activities.”

Greg Yuel

Greg Yuel

The group flew directly from Saskatoon to Baker Lake with their own aircraft. The hunt was supposed to last until Saturday but everyone had tagged out by Thursday, so they used the Friday to do their registering with conservation officers, look after the hides and the meat, and left a day early.

“It is absolutely excellent meat,” said Jim. “It’s obviously a little chewy just because it’s fresh and quickly frozen, not given the opportunity to hang or properly cure like you would normally do, but the taste is phenomenal.”

“Russ (Mehling, Webber’s Lodges General Manager) was great,” said Jim. “He really looked after us. We had a couple of Inuit guides. They were really good. Really knew their stuff.”

“Really good outfitter and local guides,” added Greg. “That was really nice and certainly required in that hunt. Local guides are important and I understand why. They were very professional guides first and local guides secondarily. They took a huge amount of pride in their guiding ability and they were extremely respectful of the wildlife. I was quite impressed with that.

“And it was a tricky hunt, as you would know. The identification of a musk ox from 200 yards away is pretty near impossible. We had lots of sights on individual animals and excellent communication with the guides. ‘Second from the right? Is it a good shot?’ Looking through the binoculars, the guide would say nope or yep. It’s impossible to tell a bull from a cow but they knew. I never would have guessed it would be that hard.

“They would look at the distance between the horn, the amount of material between the horn, and the fullness of the horn. Is the horn bushy or is it flat? Talk about hard. Females have an inch wide gap between the horns, while the male’s come almost together. And the female’s horns are broader and flatter. The male’s horns are stouter and bushier, so that they can bash each other. How do you tell that through a set of binoculars 200 yards away, when their head has been used to scratch the snow and dirt back from the lichen, which is a foot deep. Every animal has dirt and rocks and snow all over their foreheads.

“And you’re supposed to tell that there is a one inch difference between the horns from this one to that one? Are you looking at a cow? Are you looking at a bull? Are you looking at a calf? If you’ve got 20 animals, a lot of variety, then you can look at the big ones. That’s a female. That’s a male. But when you’ve got group of four animals? Good luck. They’re all the same size and look exactly the same. But the guides picked 100 percent accurate every time. And even though they said ‘Yes, take that one,’ when they approached the dead animal the first thing they’d do was pull the leg back and double check and make sure that was a good animal. Local guides, professional guides that are musk ox guides, are imperative.”

The weather was extremely cold for the second of two musk ox hunts according to Jim, but the group had anticipated well and dressed for it.

“We had the clothing for it,” said Jim. “There’s no question that if you had any bare skin exposed for a minute or two it was going to be frozen, but we were appropriately dressed. And the snow machines  they provided were excellent, top of the line as far as I’m concerned, which was good because we covered up to 200 km in a day. There is only a few inches of snow there and it’s packed as hard as cement in ridges. So you need very, very good machines with great suspension to be able to take the pounding.”

All part of the adventure that Jim, Greg and Yuri thoroughly enjoyed. Greg is a lifelong hunter who started hunting with his Dad as a kid, but mostly went fishing. He’s now hunted caribou, moose, deer, elk, buffalo, musk ox and bears, the latter also with Dad, just to watch him.

“Dad is an expert bear hunter,” said Greg.

Jim has hunted Alaskan Brown Bear three times and has been going archery hunting for bear every spring for 40 years.

“I’ve seen thousands of bears,” said Jim. “But have actually shot only two with the bow. Not for lack of opportunity, it’s more about the hunt, about seeing the animals, viewing them, taking pictures, videoing, watching the personalities and reactions of different animals.”

Both Jim and Greg are supporters of multiple conservation charities including Ducks Unlimited, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Foundation and more, and PIC Investment Group gives back to the community in five major areas that include disease research, youth development, municipal/provincial economic development, nature, and community quality of life, with multi-year contributions towards the Rick Hansen Institute, the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, the Ducks Unlimited Chappell Marsh project and the Meewasin River Landing,

“The reality is the only people who really put any serious money towards conservation are hunters and fisherman,” said Jim. “Those people that run around protesting, they put almost no money towards true conservation.”

Joe Moore

Joe Moore

“The musk ox hunt wasn’t about just going out and killing an animal. It was about the adventure, about the challenge, about the elements, to see a different part of the world, a different part of the country. To get up there to Nunavut at the end of April, when people are out golfing in Saskatoon, and have to put on gear that’s going to protect you against -40 temperatures and go on a skidoo for a couple 100 km to find a few musk ox. Over country that no matter which way you turn it all looks the same, and you’re riding with guys who are going through there like they were on city streets with signs. It’s a pretty amazing experience.”

While Greg and Yuri also loved the adventure, Greg was looking forward to this particular hunt for another reason.

“I traveled to Europe 4-6 times a year for a number of years to a business we own and we were flying over the Nunavut area specifically, and over the Hudson Bay through the Arctic, and Greenland. I always enjoyed seeing Canada from above, looking down, and wondering what the heck was down there, and how anything could live there. So I was really looking forward to being on the ground there. And it was super cool! An extremely fulfilling experience, I now understood what was down there and how something could live there. It was very gratifying in that regard and it was a really beautiful, a beautiful place to be. I loved the community and where we were at, and I definitely loved the animals. It was awesome.”

The hunting tradition will obviously continue in the Yuel family based on great memories of adventures past and present, but it’s even more likely that a fishing tradition has been passed on to Jim’s seven grandchildren, four in Calgary and three in Saskatoon.

“He takes all seven of them fishing every year,” said Greg. “At first he took them in groups of two or three, so for several years it was three trips per season. Then, when they got old enough, he started taking them all together on one trip. He’s been doing that forever. So really, my kids’ relationships with their cousins are due solely to my Dad taking them fishing each year. And they are great friends. My sister and I, we just don’t get together otherwise. And really, that’s thanks to Dad.”

“To me, it was important to do that,” said Jim. “It was important for me to spend time with my grand kids. Fishing and hunting and camping are something I’ve done since I was a child and I’ve taken a huge amount of joy in it. I realize that there are a lot of people who simply don’t have the ability to do that with their grand kids, but there are also a lot of them that do have the ability and just don’t do it.”

Gord Banda

Gord Banda

Being outdoors together as a family has amazingly positive effects on relationships, and is highly valued by the Yuel family. The lost art of personally connecting with people has been ingrained in the Yuel youngsters. Beyond the obvious benefits, how important will the ability to actually connect with people be in the future — for jobs, for family, for future successes, and just good old-fashioned happiness?

“You know, people are different when they’re out together around the campfire or they’re sitting in a boat together,” said Jim. “They’re open and they’re honest and they’re up front and they talk. They share things. That doesn’t happen in almost any other venue. When they were young, preteens and early teens, yes they were excited about going and I thought it would wear off, but it’s not true. They’re just as excited looking forward to that trip now as they were when they were 10 years old. Now, when you get them all together they get laughing and joking with each other and they start sharing memories of previous trips. It’s just amazing to watch.

“Despite all the technology, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, they’re not really connecting there. They’re anonymous. They’re throwing things out there. They’re reacting to responses. There’s no personal connection. In this case they’re really connecting. They’re remembering past experiences and relating to one another.

“It’s been great because I’ve got three grandchildren in Saskatoon and four in Calgary. I know numerous families where they have that kind of split and those grandchildren wouldn’t recognize each other if they met on the street. These ones, they’ve had that interaction every year for 10, 12, 15 years now. And it’s huge. It’s been tremendous as far as tying the family together, keeping them connected and keeping them informed on each other. And now, with email, these kids are emailing back and forth all the time, because they know each other. There’s no comparison via email if you’ve actually met the person you’re emailing.”

“In the outdoor environment everyone gets to learn how to do things for themselves,” said Greg. “They learn how simple things really are. You think of the outposts that the kids go on for fishing trips. They get dropped off at one of the Canadian adventure destinations, where there’s just the cabin, and the boats and the gas, frying pans and dishes, and that’s kind of it. You’re making all the fires, you’re cooking all the food, you’re killing the fish and skinning it and cooking it. Everything is really basic and it’s really simple. And that’s a good thing.”

As for the future? Jim Yuel goes to the gym three times a week and spends an hour with a personal trainer. He’s also got an understanding wife, Lisa, who says he should do what he wants, because he earned it. And you know he’s planning to do just that, especially with his grandkids.

“I want to be 76,” he laughed. “I’m just trying to take care of myself. There’s not a lot of fun in being old if you’re not healthy.”

More adventures to come.

Yuri Yuel. The next generation.

Yuri Yuel. The next generation.

Knaebel fly-out fishing trips to Small Lake result in big fish, stronger family connections

Jeff Knaebel with 47-inch Norther Pike caught on Small Lake.

Jeff Knaebel with 47-inch Norther Pike caught on Small Lake.

Jeff Knaebel won’t soon forget hooking into a monster 47-inch northern pike while fishing with Webber’s Lodges last year, nor will his brothers, uncles and cousins, who were on the fly-out trip to Small Lake with him.

The core group of brothers Rich, Joe, and Al, has been fishing with Webber’s Lodges for 15 years, but nephew Jeff edged them in the fish department this time.

“Everybody else caught some good fish too,” said Jeff. “They weren’t far behind that one. But that was the best one of the trip for sure. It was our first day fishing. Probably mid-afternoon, I was fishing with my cousin Michael, and the water was pretty calm.

“I remember casting out about 15-20 feet from shore in about 8-10 feet of water, feeling the bite, setting the hook, and it just kind of felt like a log or a rock or something. It didn’t move. Then it took off swimming and jumped out of the water and splashed several times. I have no idea how long it took to land it. It seemed like quite a while.”

Jeff caught the 35-pound northern pike on a red and white #5 Mepps with a small bucktail, something he’s used quite a bit over the years on both family and corporate fishing trips to North Knife Lake Lodge and on fly-out trips to Small Lake.

“I could tell when I got him close he was for sure one of the bigger ones that I caught,” said Jeff. “Then when we put the tape measure on him, clearly he was three or four inches longer than anything I had caught up there before. He was out of the water for less than 30 seconds and swam away aggressively. It was a great experience!”

It was Jeff’s second time on the Small Lake fly-out trip. His first trip came years earlier, and it was to North Knife Lake Lodge with his grandfather, uncles and several cousins. Brothers Rich, Joe and Al have been on every trip, with Rich being the main organizer.

“Jim Hanson was the pilot who recommended Webber’s Lodges,” said Rich. “He flew us up on a trip to one of our business vendors and we told him we were looking for a fly-in place to take our Dad Northern fishing. ‘I’ve got just the place for you,’ he said. And he introduced us to Webber’s. That was over 15 years ago and it’s been great.

“When my Dad was alive we always took him to the main lodge at North Knife Lake. But after he passed away we started flying out to Small Lake. We took Dad to North Knife until he was about 85. He was in real good shape. He died at 87. He had some good blood in his veins.”

The early trips to North Knife Lake Lodge for the Knaebels were family oriented, a way to reconnect with each other. They started out with Rich, Joe and Al and their father Joe Sr. More family became involved over the years and corporate fishing trips followed as a way of appreciating clients and staff.

“We’ve each brought sons and son-in-laws on a couple of occasions,” said Joe. “It’s good fishing and we like Doug and the family. We know them. It’s predictable. They’ve always treated us right. It’s just a great experience. We used to do the guided routine over at the main lodge. When my Dad was alive that was fine, but that’s eight-to-five type fishing and we really fish harder than that. Most of us are good enough and we know the lake. We know where the best fishing spots are. We don’t mind roughing it a little more and doing our own cooking to have more hours of fishing.”

“They’ve learned the lake enough to fish themselves, which everybody likes doing,” said Jeff. “They fish on their own schedule and everybody kind of likes the experience of being able to cook, stay in the lodge and do our own independent thing. The food is a lot better at the main lodge and it’s nice to be served, but it’s also nice to be on your own schedule and do your own thing. Being out there and staying at the only lodge on the lake is pretty nice. And knowing you’re the only one to fish those spots that year is a pretty cool experience.

“We’ve had more than one fish on several times. We had a picture from a few years ago that showed Dad and I with two Master Angler pike we landed at the same time at North Knife Lake. It was at the far north end of the lake. And it was nice to catch some lake trout in there along with the Northerns. The food, the fishing, everything about the experiences has been great.”

While the North Knife Lake adventures have always been good for the Knaebels, the Small Lake experience has brought the family even closer together.

“It’s nice to spend time with everybody,” said Jeff. “We don’t get that group together very often. It’s a special experience just to get out with everyone for a full week. In the city everybody stays in contact, but not the close contact you get a Small Lake.”

“Small Lake is a little rougher than the main lodge at North Knife,” said Joe. “But the fishing and the experience is good in both places. You’re more remote at Small Lake but you’re on own and that appealed to us.”

Both Al and his wife Pam and Rich and his wife Barb have been on 4-5 day couples’ fishing trips into Small Lake and have stayed at North Knife Lake Lodge before flying back to Thompson. The next generation has also become involved.

“We’ve taken some of our kids into Small Lake,” said Rich. “My daughter Megan has been up with us. She graduated high school and is married now with three kids, but a couple of years ago I took my son-in-law Brad up there and she got mad at me because I took him instead of her.

“And the business people we’ve taken have been thrilled. We really look to find people who appreciate what an adventure it is. It’s a once in a lifetime adventure. There’s been a time or two when we’ve had clients want to try something different. One of our clients, who had been to North Knife Lake Lodge and on our fly-outs, wanted to go to Great Slave Lake, but when he got back he said, ‘You know, it just wasn’t the same as when you took me to Webber’s.'”

Clients that have joined Rich, Joe and Al over the years have arrived courtesy of their business, Mid-Am Building Supply, Inc. which their late father Joe Sr. started in 1967. Joe Jr. is now retired, Rich says he is “mostly retired” and Al is President.

Mid-Am Building Supply distributes building materials to lumber dealers, offering products including but not limited to interior and exterior doors, windows, siding, roofing, insulation, fasteners, cabinets, moldings, locks and many other items. They currently have over 335 people on their Mid-Am team and serve customers in 12 states from their service centers located in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.

“All the materials you need, other than lumber, to build a house,” said Joe.


“I’ll tell you a compliment,” said Rich. “One of the gentlemen that used to come with us up there passed away and at his funeral visitation they had a lot of family pictures. Included in those pictures were all the trips he took to North Knife Lake Lodge with us. Those trips meant a lot to him. There’s nothing like it.

“Doug and Helen and Mike and their families want to make it personal. And they want you to have a good time. They really sit down and talk to you there, genuinely really nice people. They treat us well. It’s hard to explain until you’ve tried a few other lodges. Webber’s sets a pretty high mark. They’re the kind of people you want to come home for supper with you.”

Rich is a both a hunter and a fisherman. He’s harvested Boone and Crockett elk in Colorado and Mexico and also moose with Doug Webber in Manitoba at North Knife Lake, but he says he’s enjoying the fishing more now, especially at Small Lake.

“I really love Small Lake,” he said “I’ve probably fished it a dozen times or more and I know it like the back of my hand. Last year I was there with my son-in-law and he got six Masters (Master Angler Northern Pike). I think we took 12-15 Masters out that week. Plus you’ve got walleye in there. They’re nice to eat.”

Joe Knaebel Sr. took his children fishing when they were growing up, and they reciprocated later in life, further deepening family connections that will result in strong family relationships for generations to come. The tradition now continues at Small Lake, where roughing it a little only serves to enhance the experience, and that includes the culinary creations.

“I cook fish pretty good,” smiled Rich. “But I can’t cook like Helen.”

Webber's Lodges' cookbook authors Helen Webber and Marie Woolsey.

Webber’s Lodges’ cookbook authors Helen Webber and Marie Woolsey.