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Gypsy Skies

by meghan simpson

Lift Right

Why lift with your back when there is a helicopter option?? Am I right?! Lets face it, doing 10 trips of moose meat on your back to the closest airstrip or lake is no joy. Unless you have horses on call, with a guide who knows how to throw a diamond hitch.

For some weird reason, it’s the biggest thrill to hook something on to the bottom of the helicopter and fly it around. I don’t care if it’s plywood, drums, boat motors, or moose - I’m in! The Robinson R44 that we use for our summer hunting operation in the Mackenzie Mountains can lift approximately 500 lbs from the hook on the bottom of the belly of the helicopter. The guides have the moose de-boned, and the cape and head off before they call in with a clear opening for me to land. I show up with a net or an oversized nylon bag and I put one moose paddle down inside the net or bag with the other paddle straight up. This acts like a rudder when going through the air and prevents the load from spinning. Once all the meat and cape are in the bag, I cinch it up with 4 loops and secure it with a nylon strap and lanyard line. It is anywhere from 30-80 feet long. Once I secure the load, I take the door off of the helicopter and slowly lift the helicopter up, making adjustments to bring the rope straight up on top of the bag. You don’t want to catch the skid, so the slower the better! Once the bag is off the ground it’s go time! Start the forward airspeed and continue climbing until you have a good clearance off the ground. It’s always fun to see how well the object slings, and how fast you can comfortably fly the load.

This is definitely one of those things that can only get better with practice, and not drinking 2 cups of coffee before you have a job to do! We are fortunate in the North West Territories that we can use the helicopter for jobs like these. Saving one guides back at a time!

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