As the discussion raged on with my father-in-law Dennis, brother-in-law John and good friend George and me, we could not agree on what direction our next hunt should take. Caribou had been one animal that had eluded my walls but has been in the forefront of my mind. My involvement with SCI throughout the years has put me in touch with many experienced hunters and outfitters. As we should all know, doing your homework and finding the right outfitter is vitally important to a successful and enjoyable hunt. Having a good booking agent or two you can rely on can be equally beneficial. That’s where my friend Matt Gindorff with The Sporting Traveler, Inc. comes in. One short conversation with Matt reconfirmed it was time to head north to caribou camp. Now all I had to do was to convince my hunting partners to do the same. But with the economical cost, extremely high success rate, and the opportunity for two animals, redirecting their thinking from elk to caribou was easy.
We arrived in Churchill, Manitoba in mid-September for the highly anticipated hunt. Although Churchill is known more for its polar bears, it is only an hour floatplane ride from some of the best caribou hunting anywhere. With a large population of animals and low hunting pressure, Manitoba gives you an excellent chance at a Boone or Crocket animal. The lodge has done their homework: with cabins strategically located near two major rivers and a natural migration staging area, it gives the outfitter a clear advantage over other Northern Manitoba outfitters. First-rate food and accommodations all but guarantee you will not be disappointed.
As our hunt began, I was impressed to see how the outfitter accommodated each hunter’s individual needs. I’m a dedicated bow hunter, so preparation by the outfitter is critical. The guides understand bow hunting and know how to get you close. Our guide for this hunt was Ryan and I can’t say enough about his dedication and enthusiasm. He was willing to do what ever it took to get us within bow range of giant caribou.
My brother-in-law John was up first. After a short time, Ryan found us a great group of bulls 100 yards away; a careful stalk put us at 30. As the animals filed by John, a beautiful Pope and Young bull stepped into his shooting lane and an arrow took flight. Unfortunately, the arrow flew harmlessly low. The caribou ran a short distance and began feeding in the open tundra. Another careful stalk moved us to within 80 yards. Now all of the animals were in the open and we were able to see and judge all of them. Ryan quickly pointed out a beautiful tall, wide, long-tined, double-shoveled bull. With no way to get closer, it was an easy choice to lay down the bow and pick up the gun. John’s first Boone and Crocket animal was now on the ground. After the cleaning, caping and packing we hiked back to the boat and headed back to camp. A good guide is always on the lookout and before we could reach camp Ryan spotted 3 nice bulls feeding not far from shore. We headed about a quarter mile downwind, beached the boat and carefully began our stalk. Within 20 minutes, I was standing at full draw 15 yards away from a great caribou. My arrow found its mark and a big Pope and Young Caribou lay 30 yard away. When we arrived back at camp, Dennis and George greeted us. Having already tagged out with two great bulls, they were planning on fishing for the next few days. After a few hugs and high fives, John and I started to focus on our second bulls: our sights were set even higher.
As we set out the next day I was able to relax and really take in the beauty and diversity of Manitoba’s wildlife and all it has to offer. Snow geese by the millions, ducks, and ptarmigan, grouse, polar bears, Grizzly bears, whitetails, wolves and incredible fishing: it’s a sportsman’s paradise. This is a place I will visit routinely for the rest of my life.
John and I both tagged out the second-to-last day as weather started to turn for the worst. Although neither of them was as big as our first, they were both very respectable and will be envied by many of our friends as our bulls hang side-by-side on our walls. And the memories and stories will linger forever.