Yukon’s Gun Store: Hunters Mean Business Is ‘Really Good’

If you want to talk with Tammy Gabriel, the manager of Yukon’s main gun store, you’d better make an appointment outside of business hours. During my visit to Hougen’s Sportslodge in Whitehorse on the Friday before Labour Day weekend, she kindly agreed to my last-minute request for an interview, but was so busy serving customers that I mainly just watched her in action.

Gabriel couldn’t say more than a few words to me before having to zip to the cash register to handle someone’s checkout, leap to the gun counter to show a rifle, race to the back room to fetch someone’s shipment and fly back to the counter to sell a hunting licence or sign for a delivery.

This was a warm, sunny afternoon in late summer at Yukon’s only store dedicated to shooters and hunters, and the two salesmen on duty were just as busy during more than an hour that I was there. How has business been this year in general?

‘Really Good’

“It’s been really good,” Gabriel, who has managed the shop for four years, said from behind the gun counter. She roughly doubled the store’s floor space from last year, she said. Clothes and footwear are doing well, and including guns, “numbers are up overall.”

“It’s probably the ease of hunting,” Gabriel said, from big game such as moose, caribou, bison and elk to smaller animals like grouse, rabbits, ptarmigan and squirrels. Yukon’s hunting regulations mean that “some people are moving up just for that.”

The rifles and shotguns on display in the long gun rack were mainly the kind the government labels as “Non-restricted,” acceptable for hunting and shooting in the bush.

No AR-15s?

Among the most popular products lately are the Norinco JW2000, a short, double-barrelled shotgun, and the short-barrelled Churchill 12-gauge shotgun for $259.99, Gabriel said.

I didn’t see anyone looking at AR-15s, and only a few looking at handguns, which are among the main sellers at my local gun store in Toronto. Canadian gun laws label such guns as “Restricted,” and prohibit their use for hunting or for shooting outside of government-approved target ranges. Around Toronto, just about the only place shooting is legal is at ranges outside the city.

Yukon is different.

Popular Hunting Cartridges

“Not a lot of people are into AR-15s because there’s not a lot of places you can shoot them,” said Jesse Michaudville, a salesman.

I ask him what the most popular calibres are among the store’s clients. In first place is .30-06 Springfield, followed by .300 Winchester Magnum, he said. Third place is a toss-up between .270 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester, and .338 Winchester Magnum.

Very different from the .22 Long Rifle and .223 Remington I see people buy in southern Ontario.

Delivery Timelines, Alliant

Gabriel’s biggest challenge? “Timeline for delivery,” she said, because of Whitehorse’s distance from distribution centres. She still does her best to get clients what they want, including special powder, bullets and primers for hunters who load their own ammunition.

While I’m there, a delivery man pushes in his dolly with a stack of Alliant powder, and Gabriel’s eyes open wide.

“I’ve been here for four years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen Alliant gunpowder,” she said.

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