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Arctic Red

In the Canadian wild, a fair-chase hunt creates a story that’s not focused on the kill.

Film directed by Seacat Creative

Story and photography by Mark Seacat

If you point to any drainage on a map of Arctic Red River Outfitters’ 10,000 square mile concession, Tavis Molnar has undoubtedly been there. In over 25 years at the hunting outfit in Canada’s Northwest Territories, he remembers every hunt he’s been on. In detail. 

He started as a packer, when he was just 17 years old. But that was six years after experiencing sheep hunting for the first time. Tavis grew up in Whitehorse, YT next door to one of the most prolific sheep guides of his generation: Alan Klassen. Tavis idolized Alan, and the two became friends.

“He had sheep on the wall, and was guiding in the Mackenzie Mountains then,” Tavis recalled. “And I remember being over there all the time asking him questions, and listening to his stories. I knew I wanted to do that too.”

Alan invited Tavis on a late season sheep hunt in the southern Yukon when he was just 11. Tavis remembers hustling to keep up with Al’s feet that never seemed to stop moving. He remembers feeling dog tired, and the night they lost their tent in a gale force windstorm. But he also remembers seeing the country open wide and sheep around every corner. He carries an old picture of himself holding up the horns of the ram Alan eventually harvested. In the photo, Tavis is stick-limbed and skinny, smirking beneath the more serious expression he still wears today.

For Tavis, it’s always been about sharing the complete hunting experience with his clients. After working his way through the ranks at Arctic Red, he now runs the entire outfit. The experience of hunting sheep has remained at the forefront of his mind.

“The question becomes how easy do you make the hunt?” Tavis said. “In my mind, the beauty of sheep hunting is in the challenge it presents you. The typical comment I get from most people who’ve done any sheep hunting is that it’s changed them somehow. They didn’t realize what they were capable of, and that’s what’s cool about the pursuit of sheep - it makes you a better person in a lot of ways.”

But it goes deeper than just placing clients in situations that will present a challenge and encourage  them to grow. Tavis and his wife Rebecca literally live this lifestyle. They’ve chosen to raise their family at basecamp during the three month season - getting back to the intrinsic connection they say all humans share with the wilderness. It’s a connection they believe is often forgotten in modern life, and according to Rebecca, it’s the reason they’re so successful as an outfit.

“We genuinely love what we do,” Rebecca said. “We put our entire selves into this outfit and our clients. We have hard days, and extreme challenges. It’s hard on our family at times because of all the stress. But that’s what makes us stronger, that’s why we keep coming back.”

And really, that’s why everyone comes back - the clients, the crew. Arctic Red is a family. From the smallest Molnar to the greenest packer. Their way of life sticks with you once you’ve experienced it, and the call of the Mackenzies is hard to ignore.

When I first visited Arctic Red, I was immediately entranced with the wild country and the Molnar’s lifestyle.

I met Tavis about 10 years ago at the Wild Sheep Foundation Convention, and I liked him immediately. He has this very genuine charisma and charm about him. It wasn’t until a few years later that I was able to experience a hunting adventure within the Arctic Red concession. I went along on a great friends first sheep hunt and we had one hell of an adventure that culminated with a great ram harvested on the last day of the hunt. I was hooked. Before departing basecamp, Tavis put his enormous hand on my shoulder and asked me point blank, ‘What is your plan with all of the footage?’ I told him that I didn’t really know, but that we’d probably put out some sort of hunting piece. Then he said, ‘If you want to tell a story about Arctic Red, you should probably REALLY get to know Arctic Red.’

I took his advice to heart, and more than anything else, I wanted to make something Tavis and Rebecca were proud of. Over the last seven years, Tavis has become a great friend and has graciously invited me and members of the Seacat team up every year to document the Arctic Red experience. People ask me all the time what my dream trip is. It’s Arctic Red and the adventure of being there. If I make it back every single year until I die, that won’t be enough trips.

Now, 7 years later Seacat Creative brings you a film that celebrates the simple, challenging, and idyllic life of the Mackenzie Mountains. The legacy is the place. The legacy is the experience.