Yukon teens on fat bikes hunt a bison

This wasn't just any school trip. A group of students from Whitehorse went out on the land and came home with a 680-kilogram bison.

School trip this spring saw students harvest 680-kilogram bison on their first day out

Students and teachers from Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse took part in the school's first-ever hunt earlier this spring. They harvested a 680-kilogram bison on day 1 of the trip. (Porter Creek Secondary School)

On the first day of their school's first-ever hunting trip, six Whitehorse teenagers were able to harvest a 680-kilogram bison.

The students all attend Porter Creek Secondary School and are in grades 8 and 10. 

"To be honest, it's a once-in-a-lifetime sort of hunt," said Terry Milne, a teacher at the school. "There was so much that happened."

The hunt earlier this spring was made possible thanks to the efforts of Milne and organizers Alexandra Morrison and Brad Gustafson, who are teachers at the school.

While other Yukon schools have offered hunting trips before, this was the first for Porter Creek.

Terry Milne is one of the teachers responsible for getting the students out of the classroom and out on the land. Another teacher, Alexandra Morrison, got the ball rolling 2 years ago and organized the hunt. (CBC/George Maratos)

The trip wasn't without a few challenges.

"Weather really threw us the first curve ball," said Milne.

Record-breaking warm temperatures a few weeks before the hunt meant organizers had to make several last-minute adjustments.

First, the location of the hunt was moved because of the melting snow.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime sort of hunt- Terry Milne, teacher

The lack of snow also meant snowmobiles were no longer an option.

Instead, the students and teachers turned to a unique mode of transportation, not typically used when hunting.

They rode fat bikes.

Warm weather forced organizers to turn to a new mode of transportation. Instead of the standard snowmobiles they rode fat bikes. (Porter Creek Secondary School)

"Fortunately we were able to make it all work out and we were able to harvest a bison on our first day of hunting," said Milne. "It all ended up being perfect."

Learning out on the land

For the four Grade 8 girls and two Grade 10 boys, the four-day hunt provided a lifetime of learning.

The students were taught all the fundamentals of hunting, from proper gear to how to track the animal effectively.

They also got to ice fish and even found a lynx carcass.

Organizers hope to see more hunts offered by the school, after the success of this year's bison hunt. (Porter Creek Secondary School)

"I loved everything about it," said Grade 8 student, Erin King. "It was fun, it wasn't really freaky or anything."

Milne says the unique elements of the trip meant the students weren't the only ones learning.

"I learned so much out there, we all learned so much," said Milne. "Just getting out on the land, every time you get out on the land and you have that good attitude, you are going to learn something."

Students were taught all the fundamentals to hunting, including how to properly track an animal. ( Porter Creek Secondary School)

Jim Welsh, a hunter education coordinator with the Yukon government, also went on the hunt.

He was there to guide the students firsthand when it came time to skin the bison and harvest it.

"It was such a great experience," said Grade 8 student Gabby Turner. "Just learning all the things about the animal and how to respect it."

The students were part of every aspect of the hunt, including skinning the animal once it was killed. (Porter Creek Secondary School)

Like Milne, Welsh says the trip taught him a lot too.

Following the hunt, he recounted the trip on a Facebook post.

"When the group reached the peak, I saw a different kind of student-teacher interaction. The students transitioned to teammates and peers," Welsh wrote. "Emotions and experiences can amplify in the wilderness and this effect seemed to bolster the group dynamic."

This 680-kilogram Yukon wood bison was hunted by teachers and students at Porter Creek Secondary School. Yukon is home to one of the last healthy and free-ranging herds of wood bison in Canada. ( Porter Creek Secondary School)

A month after the hunt, the students held a feast at the school.

It was a chance for family and friends to share in the success of the school's first-ever hunt.

The menu included bison heart and tongue.

"It's nice to eat what we killed," said King. "Instead of store-bought stuff."

The hope is that hunting will now be a regular part of Porter Creek Secondary School's curriculum in the years to come.



George Maratos

Associate Producer

George Maratos is a reporter and associate producer at CBC Yukon with more than a decade of experience covering the North.