The Hunt for the Caribou is On

New Arrivals at Hammacher Schlemmer

Right after all the business was taken care of, we donned our clothing and started the hunting process.  The animals we would be hunting are part of the Qamanirjuaq Caribou herd with over 400,000 migrating animals. Hunting them consists of exploring the hills and areas around Commonwealth Lake by boat.  Moving slowly and using high powered binoculars, we studied the terrain.  If Caribou were spotted, we would  bypass their position and move downwind if possible and put the boat ashore.  Then the work started.  
The tundra is spongy and there are small puddles of water everywhere in the lower levels of the gradual sloping hills.  The object was to move to the top of the ridges and check on the Caribou that were just spotted.  Besides the spongy walking, we encountered small boulder fields that had to be circumvented.  Walking across was a good way to have a fall.  The question was asked, “Who put those there?”  The answer was, God.  At times we walked across areas that looked as if they had been plowed up by a mold board plow.  The question was, “Who plowed this ground?”  The answer was, God.  The ground had probably been that way for centuries or longer and had been formed by the glaciers.  The sky remained gray and a light mist would come and go constantly.  Having waterproof clothing is a must. If you hunt in the north without it, you will be wet.
As we approached the top of the ridge the ground turned from spongy to very firm.   We walked on the surface that was gravel and hard rock mixed into the surface.  This was great and was more like walking on a sidewalk at home. 
Behind the lodge was a high hill that was a very prominent feature of the area.  Initially, we climbed up the hill and then studied the tundra for any movement.  You must use a very good pair of binoculars that will provide viewing from a distance.  The man sitting there is my guide.
Another view of the tundra from the high hill behind the lodge.  Caribou would be routinely seen from this vantage point.
We saw nothing and moved to the boat to work along the shoreline.  
Moving slowly out about 50 to 100 yards,  the bank was studied to locate Caribou.  We finally spotted a small group on the top of one of the ridges.  They appeared to be grazing and moving very slowly along the top of the ridge.
Putting the boat ashore,  the stalk began as we got  their location.  Carrying the gun, the pack, all the clothing, and wearing the knee high boots was a lot of work going up the hill.  We reached a point where we could spot the animals, but they did not see us.  I shed my pack, and if it had not been so cold and wet, I would have shed all my clothes.  Then we began crawling up to a good shooting position that would be about 150 yards. I have not crawled since I was a baby, and it was a lot of work.  The guide moved ahead of me. Then he got on his knees to take a better look and stopped.  After setting up the shooting sticks, I got on my knees and laid the rifle into the V.  
This is the ridge I walked to and crawled almost to the top.  The Caribou were off to our right and we had to angle to that direction.  This view is right after getting out of the boat and getting up on the bank. The photo is very deceiving. What looks like an easy stroll is a lot of heavy walking across the spongy ground and other obstacles lying low on the surface of the tundra.
 The guide took another look and off to our left came 2 hunters from our group with their guide.  They obviously had not seen us initially until my guide rose to his knees,  but they were studying the same  animals we were stalking.   My guide said they were closer but we would take a shot if the animals moved at least 30 degrees to our right and started down the hill where we were set up.  They did not and the other group missed on their shots.  We did not fire and did not move from our position until the action was over.  It was all about safety first and courtesy to the other group. 
We walked to some more areas but did not spot any Caribou.  The rules were to be off the lake by 6 PM,  so we headed back to the lodge.  The mist and the fog had picked up, and even though I was dry, it was chilly.   I was really hungry from all the walking and the long day. 
The kitchen.  The camp manager was the cook and he did an outstanding job.  The meals were all heavy, hearty and very good.  After being out in the cold, damp and wet all day, I built up an appetite. 
My bunk where I slept 5 nights.  Doesn’t look like much, but when you are worn out anything will do. There are two bedrooms each holding two bunk beds, so you could have up to 4 hunters in a room.
 No one had success that first day, but it was an opportunity to get our legs and lungs ready for what was to be the next day. 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


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