CANADA: Central Barren Ground Caribou With Canada North

JES Adventures

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Mar 7, 2015
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Nunavut 2023 – Central Barren Ground Caribou

My quest to complete the North American 29 continues and I am off today in pursuit of number 28. I am off today for Baker Lake, Nunavut which is the Arctic home of Caribou, Musk Ox and Polar Bear.

This is my second attempt to collect the Central Barren Ground Caribou after my failed attempt in Manitoba last season. Less than a week after the unsuccessful hunt in 2022, I contacted booking agent Keith Atcheson and asked who he knew that had the highest success rate on CBG Caribou. He booked me with Canada North (Shane Black), and I sent my deposit. Shane’s office was very efficient with all of the pre-hunt planning which made this very easy for me. All I had to do was get to Winnipeg, they take care of everything from there including hotels, flights and transfers.

I left my house for the three-hour drive to Dallas to catch my early evening flight to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The flight out of DFW to Minneapolis on Delta was delayed but I had just enough time to catch the connecting flight as they were boarding when I walked up.

It was about 11:30 when I got to Winnipeg and baggage came out fairly quick, so I was the first in line to get my firearm cleared. The customs official was very cordial, he ran the gun case through the x-ray then led me down to a counter to do the paperwork. I had prepared the RCMP firearm form in duplicate before leaving and I handed him the papers. Much to my surprise, he questioned me “are you sure this serial number is correct” pointing to the paper and I said yessir. He signed off on it, never opened the gun case and led me over to the cashier to pay the $25 fee.

From there it was a 5-minute walk to the hotel where the outfitter had arranged a room and I was in bed a little past midnight. Wake up was 5 as we are set to meet in the lobby at 5:45.

Day 1

I was a bit foggy after a mostly sleepless night but made a cup of coffee and hit the shower. Shane texted me just as I was headed downstairs to meet up with him. As I got off the elevator, I saw three men with hunting gear and Shane came over and shook my hand. He then introduced me to the other two hunters, one of which is from the San Antonio area, and as it turned out we have many mutual friends.

Shane walked us over to the airport and got us checked in with Calm Air for the flight up to Baker Lake. Everything went smooth checking in and going through security, so I had plenty of time to relax in the lounge and have some breakfast.
Looking forward to this hunt report! I Googled Baker Lake to see where it is located, looks to be about 1000 miles due north of Winnipeg. Probably a lot of history with the old Hudson Bay Company. Keep a look out for them polar bears.
Canadian Moose, headed to Newfoundland on the 29th. The good LORD willing I’ll wrap it up this season. But have to get this caribou first.
Here we go, I know this is going to be good like all your other reports. Anxiously waiting for me. Good luck to you sir.
Great memories I'm sure....enjoy and be safe out there!
I'm waiting to hear it all as well.
Best of luck on your caribou hunt. That’s some pretty country in that part of the world. Hopefully you will catch the migration. When l hunted up there in 2013, the migration didn’t show up till the last day of the hunt. One day you can’t find a caribou anywhere and the next morning there are 1,000s around. Good luck and thanks for taking us along.
Day 1 (Continued)

We were airborne at 8:30, The flight to Rankin Inlet took about two hours.

Due to the remoteness of the area, we had a nearly five hour wait for our connecting flight to Baker Lake and we were in the air a little after four. The flight to Baker Lake was a quick 45 minutes and uneventful. As we descended, the incredible amount of water amazed me. Besides the river and Baker Lake, there were thousands of streams, small lakes and ponds.

We were picked up and taken to a small hotel in town and we will be collected by our guides in the morning and head to camp. After an early dinner in the hotel restaurant, the local outfitter Joeffrey came and gave us the plan for tomorrow. He will pick us up around 8 and we have a three hour boat trip to the camp. He said they’ve need seeing a lot of game and even the bow hunters in last week were successful taking Caribou.

The forecast is for clear to partly cloudy weather with temperatures ranging from 30-50 degrees through Saturday. There is a chance of rain starting early Sunday morning. So, we are in hopes to capitalize on the good weather the next three days. Confidence is high and we are all anxious to get out and get started hunting.
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Day 2

After the rough night before, I was down at 9 and slept solid until about 6. The restaurant starts serving breakfast at 7 so I had a cup of coffee in my room, said my prayers and hit the shower. I feel great today, looking forward to getting out on the tundra and start hunting.

Joeffrey the outfitter showed up with all the guides just after 8 and they sat down for breakfast while the rest of us got our gear ready. We loaded all of our gear into the back of a pickup and drove about a quarter mile to the dock, where three boats were waiting for us. My guide Randy introduced himself, a young man that grew up hunting, fishing and trapping so he is very knowledgeable of the animals, terrain, habitat and most of all safety in this harsh environment.
Nunuvat 1.jpg

The other two hunters are on caribou/musk ox combo hunts so they will cruise the shorelines glassing for musk ox herds while on the way, but Randy and I carry on to camp. It was about a three hour boat ride and we reached camp a little after noon. Randy offloaded some gear and I had a quick sandwich then we took off downriver to a spot he hunted last week where his four wheel atv was parked.
Nunuvat 2.jpg

We got to the place about 1:30 and took off up the hill to gain some altitude for glassing. This place is made of up vast open space, gently rolling hills being mostly, medium to large rocks that litter the landscape. Needless to say, it is slow going on the ATV but certainly much faster than one could walk.

Nunuvat 3.jpg

It took the better part of an hour to reach the top and after we got off and started glassing, Randy said “well, the Caribou are gone”. Just days ago when he was there, he said there were lots of Caribou in the area so they have obviously moved on. We glassed for a half hour or so then moved on. When we crested the lower hill and the boat was in sight, Randy said “she’s high and dry, the tide has gone out so lets carry on to the next hill and kill a couple of hours”.

Once on the next hilltop, we glassed for better than a half hour with nothing in sight. Visibilty was long, farther than I could see clearly with 10X Swaros. Randy was talking like we should head back to the boat when I said, “there’s a group of 8 Caribou moving down a hill behind us”. We could see some antlers so closed the distance to get a better look. It was cows, calves and two young bulls.

So, we carried on to the boat and by the time we reached it, the tide had come back in and the boat was floating. Randy tightened the two anchor ropes, then set up the ramps to drive the ATV into the front of the boat. He managed it with ease and we were off for camp.

Nunuvat 4.jpg

Back at camp, one of the other hunters was successful taking a Musk Ox and everyone enjoyed a nice bowl of hot stew. After dinner, we all called it an early night.
Looking forward to this hunt report! I Googled Baker Lake to see where it is located, looks to be about 1000 miles due north of Winnipeg. Probably a lot of history with the old Hudson Bay Company. Keep a look out for them polar bears.
Baker Lake is the geographic Center of Canada I have fun with that fact when people tell me they live in northern Canada. I lived in the Yukon and it still was southern Canada, but not my many miles.
Baker Lake is the geographic Center of Canada I have fun with that fact when people tell me they live in northern Canada. I lived in the Yukon and it still was southern Canada, but not my many miles.

Years ago, I worked with a Canadian guy who told me that Canada was bigger north-south than east-west. I don’t think many people realize that, I know I didn’t.
Day 3

It was cold last night, well below freezing and a hard frost was on the ground when I got out of the tent. Joeffrey’s wife had the coffee ready and was cooking a full breakfast of fried eggs, bacon and pancakes. There was no rush to get out and the boats started leaving just before nine.

Randy headed down river to search for Caribou and we stopped periodically to glass the distant hillsides. There is no wind this morning and the water as smooth as glass. It warmed up nicely and we spotted several groups of Caribou, mostly cows with calves and young bulls.

We took a break for lunch then got back at it moving and glassing. Randy spotted some Caribou way off in the distance, so he offloaded the ATV and we cut the distance to make a better assessment. The terrain was rough which made for slow going but we managed to cut the distance considerably in about an hour. No big bulls in this bunch either so we continued on to the next vantage point to glass.

The day was ticking away, and Randy wanted to load up and go to another spot. We got back to the boat about 4:45 and he started to get things ready to load the ATV. I started glassing the opposite side of the river and saw a large group of Caribou in a saddle, right on top more than a mile away. I pointed them out to Randy, and he agreed there appeared to be several bulls there.

So, we loaded up and crossed the river to get a look at this herd. By the time we got the ATV unloaded it was well after five and the Caribou no longer in view. We made our way up and got to within 700 yards of the herd just after six. We spotted a few nice bulls so made a plan to stalk them. There is nothing to hide behind so we did the best we could using terrain as cover. The group noticed us when we were about 400 yards and before we could close the gap, they trotted off.

We stayed with them, a cat and mouse game for the next half hour before they finally settled down and fed in front of us. I ranged them at about 350 yards so dropped the bipod, put my pack under the back and we started studying the group. I spotted my bull, a beautiful white mane, big shovel and webbed tops. I said to Randy, “he’s 378, lets give it a go”. The bull was quartering so I slipped off the safety and waited for him to turn broadside. Within seconds he did, and I settled in for the shot then started the trigger squeeze. The 300 RUM barked, and I could see tundra flying up in front of me when I heard the solid report of the hit. Randy yelled out “you dropped him”, as he laughed and congratulated me.

I said, “thank the LORD” and we made our way to the bull. I dropped him where he stood, and we had about an hour before sunset, so we had to get to work. After trophy photos, the chore of getting him skinned and quartered ensued and just as the sun hit the horizon, we were loaded up and headed for the boat. It took another hour to reach the boat and we loaded everything up in the dark then made way to camp.
Central Barren Ground Caribou.jpg

It was an exhausting day trying to stay on the back of that ATV, I now know what it feels like to ride a bull!
CBG Caribou atv.jpg

Another nice meal and I called it a night. I am feeling Blessed and exhausted, number 28 is in the salt, I continue to pray I can wrap up the North American 29 this year.

Nunuvat sunset.jpg
Day 4

I slept solid and got out of the tent when I heard camp coming to life. Coffee was hot and breakfast in the makings. Gina, the hunt coordinator for Canada North is incredibly efficient and she had made my flight changes back to Winnipeg so Randy will take me back to Baker Lake today.

The skies were clear, no wind so the boat ride was very smooth headed back. So smooth, he shaved an hour off of the normal 3 hours it takes to get to camp.

Randy dropped me back at the hotel and we said our goodbyes. I took a shower, then had some lunch and retired to my room to catch up on emails.

Late in the day, one of the other hunters in the camp had made it back to town so we had dinner and talked hunting most of the evening. I was beat so went to bed before ten to be up for the long journey back South tomorrow. My flight takes me from Baker Lake to Rankin Inlet with a 7-hour layover then on to Winnipeg for an overnight. The final leg from Winnipeg to Minneapolis to Dallas, so barring anything unusual, I will be home in two days.

The weather started to deteriorate just as we left, and I was thankful for the two good days we had to hunt and be successful. The winds were gusting to 34 mph and a light rain started to fall as we took off from Baker Lake.

This is the last sub species of Caribou on my list so I doubt I will ever return to this harsh but beautiful place. Its been a real Blessing to experience so many different habitats while on the quest for the North American 29. I am counting the days until I leave for Newfoundland in pursuit of my final specie.
Congrats for your Caribou, a very nice trophy, wish you the best for your Canadian Moose, you´ll get him, I´m sure :D Cheers:
Congrats for your Caribou, a very nice trophy, wish you the best for your Canadian Moose, you´ll get him, I´m sure :D Cheers:
Thank you Sir, I appreciate that.

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