River Fog in December

River Fog in December
River fog in the Yukon River Valley in Whitehorse

jeudi 9 décembre 2010

Perspectives of a Yukon hunter on the Yukon landscape

Paul Deuling hunting with his dog Molly.

Interview of Paul Deuling, December 2010

Long time Yukon resident Paul Deuling has been hunting and guiding in the Yukon for nearly thirty years. Paul is an ethical hunter who has strong views about how the land and the wildlife should be respected. He has recently been awarded the Sagamore Hill Award, the Boone and Crockett Club’s highest honor, for having killed, 20 years ago, the world’s largest mountain caribou.

In the following interview he gives us his views about the past and present Yukon landscape.

Damien Tremblay: What do you like about hunting in the Yukon? What makes it so special for you? I remember you talking about solitary experiences…

Paul Deuling: The beauty of the land, the freedom to roam it without being near human infrastructure (highways, roads, trails, towns, cities), the abundant wildlife and yes, not seeing anyone else while in the mountains.

DT: We have already read about your memorable solo expedition which led you to kill the world’s largest mountain caribou: http://www.yukon-news.com/sports/19580/
Can you share with us another of your favorite adventure?

PD: Probably finding two great Dall sheep on the same mountain with my son, Jarrett. They were both 42 inchers and we had worked very hard for them. We were lucky, too… It is a thrill to hunt with a family member and share the experience of taking two fine animals.

DT: You have been a backcountry user for several decades, what has changed in the Yukon landscape?

PD: The land has become more accessible. More and more trails are cut through the land and ATVs usage is increasing exponentially in many places. I recall first seeing three-wheelers in the late 1980s… We see more people on the rivers and on the mountains.

The vegetation and climate has changed. We now see small spruce trees on previous grass slopes. Freezing and wetter conditions are making it harder for sheep and caribou to dig for their food in winter. In the Yukon, I believe we have fewer sheep now.

DT: The Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse are currently thinking about regulating the use of off-road vehicles. You are strongly opposed in seeing ATVs going off trails; for what reasons?

PD: They leave permanents marks wherever they go. Alpine areas are very fragile and damage caused by ATVs stay for a very long time (for years). I am not opposed to ATVs, but I think their usage should be restricted to using the trails and not leave those. Also, some mountains ranges or areas could be left for off-road usage of ATVs, the trade-off being that other areas would be left undisturbed.

ATVs users should respect the land and the right that other people have to see the land in a pristine condition.

DT: You are also opposed to the use of ATVs for hunting. Why should a “modern” hunter avoid using them?

PD: It’s a just a personal thing. I don’t own an ATV and doubt I ever will. I’ve got two legs and feet which work fairly well. At some point I will have to put down my sheep hunting rifle and go chase ducks with a shotgun. We all face that prospect. I have no desire to drive a machine out in the bush.

DT: In your hunting expeditions you have been able to see the impact of mining on the landscape. What can you tell about the mining operations sites you have seen? How have they modified the land and the wildlife? Are mining operations reconcilable with hunting activities?

PD: There is less (or none) sheep around the mining operations sites. The wildlife is disturbed. Mining companies don’t always have the courtesy to tell the outfitters or the hunters where they will work. The results being not so great for hunting guides with their clients…

This incident stems from mining exploration where helicopters are used to move drills and equipment around mountains. They formerly used horses like some of us do today, which had much less impact as wildlife doesn’t tolerate that sort of activity for very long.

DT: Any other aspect of the land and the way we use it you would like to talk about?

PD: Many “home grown” Yukoners don’t realize what they have in this territory. They haven’t lived anywhere else to see how “some” development has altered the land. We still need mining, and logging, but we have got to be more careful on how we go about carrying on those activities. This place is very special and I hope we learn to take better care of it than other people have in other places.