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Woodland Caribou. On The Bucket List.

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December 24th, 2018

Having never shot anything larger than a deer in all my 66 years I thought at this stage of life

I should try to shoot something larger. Twenty years ago I was kind of into the “bench rest”

sport and had put together a couple of small caliber custom rifles for that purpose, shooting targets

mainly, but I also managed to shoot quite a few Red Fox and Coyotes. So needing a bit larger

caliber rifle I decided to have a custom 308 Winchester put together by Borden Rifles out of

Pennsylvania. My desire was to be able to shoot Moose, Caribou, Black Bear, and Elk. I reload most

everything that I fire out of a rifle or shotgun so I started to prepare some shells which made me

anxious to get this 308 in my hands and put it to some good use! And it sure did, but that is getting

ahead of myself, however part A of my plan was in place. Now for part B!!

I started searching the internet for Caribou hunting, and tried to educate myself a bit about the

various subspecies of Caribou. Of the main five I decided the first I should go after was the

Woodland Caribou. Woodland because of their rarity and beauty, particularly the rack which is

so much darker and in my opinion, somewhat better shaped. I found the only place a

non-resident can hunt a Woodland Caribou in the whole world was Newfoundland!

The first outfitter I called back in January of 2016, was Hinterland Outfitting Ltd., of Bishop’s Falls,

Newfoundland. A guy named Craig Pomeroy answered on the other end. In short time it seemed to me

as if I was talking to an old friend and I had never ever met him! During our conversation he proceeded

to give me all the information I asked for and more. The only hang up was that he informed me he didn’t

have any Caribou tags left for 2016 or 2017. Mentally I said “shit” but he quickly put my mind to ease

when he told me that he had a potential guest who was on the fence and might not be able to make the

hunt for whatever reason, and asked if he could call me back in March or April of 2016 if the hunter

actually declined.

Yeah right, I had my mind made up I was going on a hunt so I decided to check with some of the other

outfitters in that vicinity. Some of them were fly-in, boat in or tent living, or various other

arrangements. It was a great education especially since I had never used an outfitter for any

kind of hunting in my entire life also it was also very enjoyable talking with all of the outfitters, and I

can only say that Newfoundlanders seemed to be a really friendly and informative group of people,

and that was confirmed over and over on my adventure! To my dismay many outfitters were the same

as Craig, booked , others only had moose permits. Several who had caribou permits that I talked to their

asking price was out of my reach. Well I conjured, this trip was not going to happen as easy as I had

anticipated and I sat back to take stock of my situation.

Time passed slowly and I was convinced there would be no Woodland Caribou hunting for me anytime

soon. Then one day in March the phone rang. I recognized the long distance number showing on my

call display and eagerly picked it up. I’ve got a permit if you want it Craig said. Was he nuts, did I want it,

you betcha I did. In short time I had a date set to do my caribou hunt in September, from the 11th

through the 16th, BUT for 2017. Not exactly what I had planned but I was not passing on a chance to get

a date set in stone, even if it was for next year!! Good I thought part B is in place!!

 

Thinking it would be fun and educational for me I decided I would try to take my 37 year old son

Eric with me as a buddy and a photographer on this exciting adventure. Eric was married only

a couple years before and is the proud father of my new little grandson“Christopher” who would be only

fourteen months old at the time of the hunt. I checked with Craig and he said sure Eric could come along

as a non-hunting guest for a nominal fee.

 

The day finally came to start our trip to Gander, Newfoundland. My son and I planned to arrive

one day early in Gander to get acquainted with some Newfoundlanders as well as this new

and beautiful place. We toured the town and the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, something

everyone should really see and do!!

 

The adventure started on Sunday the 10th at 12 noon when Craig picked us up at the hotel. We

picked up another hunter at the airport, then headed to Bishop’s Falls to meet the other hunters. One of

the hunters was a blind guy named Mike. I will not go into the details, but Mike was a story of his own

and was there to shoot a moose WHICH HE ACTUALLY DID!! An excellent guy, and to my amazement in

many cases it was hard to tell he was blind. We jumped into the vehicles and began the travel to camp

which took about two and a half hours, or four beers! Portions of the trip was through alder bushes

which scraped the side of the truck and I believe we crossed two “brooks” which I would easily have

considered rivers. Fortunately they were relatively low at our time of crossing!! It was such a beautiful

and unusual trip for me and I only wished everyone could see and partake in it!

 

We arrived at “Quiet Haven” and were shown our rooms and began to unpack. Everything was

much nicer than I expected. Our bedroom was clean, comfortable and was more than you could

ask for in a very, very, very remote setting! The wood burning stove was so perfect in the cool

and wet situations. I cannot imagine how much work it was to move all of the building materials

to this beautiful location. Soon, supper was served and we met “Mo” the cook who would always be

there at any time for all of us. The partridge berry loaf which Mo custom made from the berries in the

yard was good, no it was great!!

 

On Monday, the first day of the hunt at 4:30 AM the generator started, lights came on and

shortly there after breakfast was served. We were all new to this! The hunt began! Outside, all

the 4-wheelers were firing up in the dark, cool, early morning with their lights on ready

to head into the wilderness, after Moose, Caribou, or chance Black Bear.

Craig was my guide, and was kind enough to provide helmets for my son and I as well as a

4-wheeler for my son to follow us with. I jumped on behind Craig on his 4-wheeler and we were

off on the best adventure I have ever been on!

Yes it was wet, the roads bumpy and the “bogs” were an education of their own!!! We walked on

abandoned logging roads and bogs scouring all directions for our prey. We scanned the vast open

bogs with binoculars all morning without seeing anything other than the beautiful countryside, but my

spirits remained high as even I could see that there was a lot of fresh sign of both moose and caribou.

I should of spent more time getting in better shape I though several times as we walked!

 

We went back to the lodge for lunch at noon time because the weather wasn’t favorable for a stay in

the woods. A quick snooze and were up again at 3pm and back to riding and walking the countryside

looking for the elusive caribou until almost dark. Unfortunately we did not see any large animals but did

see some grouse along the road. I had hunted many times in the rain and new everybody would be

needing to dry things when they returned to camp. Fortunately Craig had built a “Drying Room” heated

with wood in which all the hunters wet clothing could be placed and would be dry for the next outing.

 

Day 2 started similar to day one with the exception of more rain, but we did see a twenty plus point

caribou in the company of a few females with their calves. These were first Woodland Caribou I have

ever seen in my life and even though my first glance was in the rain and fog they looked majestic!! My

son took some beautiful video of them. We spotted most of them on the trails but some were in the

bush as well. Craig suggested I not shoot the twenty pointer for it was only day two and he assured me

there was larger caribou to be had and I agreed with some measure of reluctance.

 

Day 3 Wednesday started like the others with more rain but cooler. Despite the rain I was managing to

keep dry so I was becoming somewhat accustomed to it. We searched most of the morning and were

deep into a bog which we had hunted the previous day and were about ready to leave when Craig said,

“Hey, shall we take a trip to the new bog which I just cut a trail into this summer?” Of course, I was all in

for that, so we were headed in that direction. A heavy blanket of fog caressed the entire bog we were

on limiting our viewing distance. Suddenly Craig said to me “shooter just ahead, and there it was. One

quick glance with my binoculars and I nodded to him in agreement. The caribou loomed in and out of

the fog unaware of our presence. I hastily set up my bipod in the spongy bog for a sitting position shot

which I ranged at 175 yards. Waiting for Craig’s signal to shoot I held my crosshairs steadily behind its

front shoulder as it walked along. Suddenly it stopped and Craig said “Now”. I squeezed the trigger and

the sound of the bullet hitting its target was easily heard. However the caribou remained on its feet.

“Shoot again” Craig cried. I did, a couple of more times too before he actually fell to the ground. As long

as they remain on their feet keep shooting is Craig’s motto. The heavier they are the shorter distance

they can run he says. I was elated to say the least for I had just downed my first ever Woodland Caribou!

Fortunately, my son was behind us and was able to record the beautiful animal for about three minutes

prior to my first shot at 32 power magnification. I am sure I have watched that video at least 200 times

lol!! The caribou was far more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Craig even mentioned the

antlers might make the Boone and Crockett record book! We will see. It was very symmetrical and had

no battle scars, exactly what I was hoping for! Also, the “pressure” was now off of me!

 

The entire trip was just extraordinary! All of the other guides were just a tremendous group of

guys and helpful in every possible way with a desire to get every hunter their caribou or

moose. From my daily observation these guys do everything they possibly can to get you your

trophy. I certainly will be doing this again!!

Curt Gustafson,

South Dakota

Craig was correct! My Caribou did make the Boone and Crockett record book. It scored 291 2/8 inches.

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