You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
A Canadian caribou hunting adventure
Special to the Wilson County NewsMarch 19, 2014 3,979 views Post a comment
The barren ground caribou herd is concentrated in the province of Manitoba. Manitoba is due north of Texas, and on several occasions, I had flown to Winnipeg and fished lakes in the province. Consequently, I developed a familiarity with Manitoba and began to research outfitters, who offered caribou hunts.
In 2012, I made a down payment, and began to plan a hunt in September of 2013. Should I fly or drive? Well, I decided to drive over 2,000 miles to Thompson, Manitoba, where I would make contact with the outfitter and fly into caribou country. Obviously, flying would save me days of driving, but frankly, flying horns and meat back to Texas is a big hassle and expense.
The drive took two and a half days each way, and the road from Winnipeg to Thompson is a good, two-lane road. All of the highways in the United States were four-lane, except where construction was occurring.
In the end, the border crossings into Canada and back into the States were hassle-free. At the Canadian border, American hunters have to produce a passport and a firearms declaration form. I paid a $25 fee when I turned in the firearms form, but my rifle and shotgun were not inspected. On the return trip, the American officials required that I complete a certificate listing the caribou meat and horns, but again, my cargo was not inspected.
At Thompson, the outfitter provided a turbo-prop aircraft that transported about 20 hunters to the outfitters’ lodge on Eigenhof Lake. The next day we were flown by Beaver and Otter float planes to a camp on No Name Lake. This camp is about 800 miles north of Winnipeg on the tundra near the tree line. It is west of Churchill, which is the polar bear center of Canada. And, no, we did not see any black or polar bears. As the plane landed on the water, I observed that the conditions were windy and the waves were choppy. Consequently, the pilot tied one of the plane’s pontoons to an anchored block of wood, which was approximately an 8-foot-by-8-foot square. I was leery about attempting to walk on the bouncing wood, but with the assistance of the pilot and a guide in a boat, I quickly plopped down in the boat.
The camp consisted of a series of shacks covered with ratty tarps. Small wood-burning stoves heated the shacks, but in order to keep wood burning, the stoves had to be stoked every two hours.
Yes, it was cold in the morning! We slept on wooden pallets covered with a roll of foam and our sleeping bags. The wind blew constantly, and made a racket as the tarps and door banged with every gust. At night the temperature dropped into the 20s and 30s. Electricity from generators powered lights and freezers.
The cook shack was more of a building, because it was framed, insulated, and had a composition roof. The cook turned out all of the eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, soup, and caribou roasts that we could eat. He used propane to fire his kitchen. One day he baked two turkeys, and we feasted on turkey with all of the trimmings. But, my favorite meals consisted of caribou tenderloin sautéed with onions and mushrooms. Delicious!
The barren ground caribou herd numbers approximately 450,000 animals. The tribes of the Canadian “First Nation” regulate the harvesting of caribou. In total, outfitters are permitted to harvest only a few thousand caribou. Most of the camp’s guides were members of these tribes, although my guide, Tom, was a Canadian from southern Manitoba. Tom was a retired school superintendent who loved to guide at caribou and moose camps.
On day two at the camp, the hunting part of my adventure started. Tom cranked up the outboard motor, and our small aluminum boat started across 10 miles of water to the north side of the lake. The wind coming off the water was cold, because the air temperature was in the 30s and the water temperature was in the low 40s. Several times we beached the boat and walked in the direction of caribou seen from the boat. It is difficult to walk on the tundra, because it has a highly irregular surface -- sometimes rock; sometimes water-filled holes; and sometimes a squishy soil that is compressed when you walk on it.
Then, we saw some bulls, and Tom raced in their direction. He was carrying a boat paddle for a rifle rest; my rifle was not loaded. We stalked through small trees and tall grass on the edge of the lake. Finally, after several hundred yards of constant effort, we got within range of several bulls. He indicated that I should shoot my Browning A-Bolt in 7mm Remington magnum. I cranked in a round and since I had four additional rounds, I prepared to shoot.
I downed the running caribou on the second shot at a range of less than 200 yards. We took a few photos, and then with minimal assistance from me, Tom deboned the animal, and salvaged the head and antlers. He had brought special bags for the meat, and he wasted very little of it. All in all, I brought back to Texas close to 60 pounds of some of the best organic meat that can be found on the planet.
It only took two more days for all of hunters to fill their caribou tags. Then, we waited three more days for the floatplanes that would take us back to the main lodge. Fortunately, none of the hunters became ill or were in need of medical treatment. At a minimum it would take hours for an emergency floatplane to arrive, or under extreme conditions, a helicopter could have been sent. The camp did have a satellite phone for important messages, but the cost ran $8 per minute.
All in all, the caribou adventure was a great trip for me. As a senior citizen, I did not have the physical capabilities of younger men, who were physically fit. Also, from our southern climes we are not accustomed to moving about with bulky clothes, boots, and carrying an 8-pound rifle. However, my guide and everyone at the camp were friendly, courteous, and helpful. It was fascinating to hear the hunting stories of a diverse group of men from Maine, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Indiana, Iowa, the Dakotas, and the Canadian provinces.
Now, in the months ahead, I will relish every bite of caribou that I eat. And, as I gaze at the mounted head, I will be reminded of my caribou adventure on the tundra of sub-Arctic Canada.
Gary Carman is a resident of Floresville.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Baseball, softball scores (April 27, 2016)
Bear track heads to Regionals (April 27, 2016)
Brock Nelson signs with Bethany College (April 27, 2016)
Jags are going to the playoffs! (April 27, 2016)
Pirates squeak past Goliad (April 27, 2016)
Pirettes limp into playoffs (April 27, 2016)
Stockdale athletes qualify for Regionals (April 27, 2016)
Stockdale track advances to Regionals (April 27, 2016)
Tigers receive All-District honors (April 27, 2016)
Varsity game watch — Baseball (April 27, 2016)
Baseball, softball scores (April 20, 2016)
Bears receive All-District soccer honors (April 20, 2016)
Brahma track takes over district meet (April 20, 2016)
Falls City track teams win big at district (April 20, 2016)
FHS tennis ends season at district tournament (April 20, 2016)
Floresville track competes at district (April 20, 2016)
Lady Mustangs receive All-District honors (April 20, 2016)
Light selected for basketball honors (April 20, 2016)
Rattlers strike first, Tigers bite last (April 20, 2016)
Stockdale tennis goes to Shiner (April 20, 2016)
Varsity Game Watch: Baseball & softball (April 20, 2016)
Baseball, softball scores (April 13, 2016)
Beaverettes face off twice with Kenedy (April 13, 2016)
Brahma All-District honors (April 13, 2016)
East Central FFA plans golf tournament April 30 (April 13, 2016)
Falls City golfers are district champs (April 13, 2016)
Floresville track competes at Central Catholic (April 13, 2016)
La Vernia golf on to Regionals (April 13, 2016)
Leger, Hosek receive basketball honors (April 13, 2016)
Medina lifts big for Nixon-Smiley (April 13, 2016)
Mustangs receive more honors (April 13, 2016)
Pirettes receive honors (April 13, 2016)
Pirettes take series from Lady Brahmas (April 13, 2016)
Poth JV team is making softball future look bright (April 13, 2016)
Poth’s Little League opening day a hit (April 13, 2016)
Varsity Game Watch: Baseball & softball (April 13, 2016)
Varsity Game Watch: Track and field (April 13, 2016)
Baseball, softball scores (April 6, 2016)
Bears track heads to UT (April 6, 2016)
Beaverette chosen for All-Star game (April 6, 2016)
Falls City Beavers District 30-2A basketball (April 6, 2016)
FHS tennis ready for district (April 6, 2016)
Floresville Tiger track team wins at Badger Relays (April 6, 2016)
Floresville Tigers District 27-5A basketball (April 6, 2016)
La Vernia Bears are Area champs! (April 6, 2016)
La Vernia Bears District 26-4A basketball (April 6, 2016)
La Vernia Lady Bears District 26-4A basketball (April 6, 2016)
Mustangs come out ahead of Pirates (April 6, 2016)
Pirettes battle Bloomington, shut out Nixon-Smiley (April 6, 2016)
Stockdale tennis results (April 6, 2016)
Varsity Game Watch: Baseball & softball (April 6, 2016)
Varsity Game Watch: Track & field, tennis (April 6, 2016)