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Conne River Caribou Hunt in Newfoundland
I booked a woodland caribou hunt through Bowhunting Safari Consultants awhile back. I wanted to experience "The Rock" for myself and try to get one of their "stags", as they call them. The hunt would be with Conne River Outfitters in the southeastern part of the island province. The dates would be October 11-18 with six days of hunting. Hopefully that would include the caribou rut because I wanted to see the stags decoyed into range responding to the old white shirt trick. They think the white shirt is another stag with "does" or maybe looking for a fight. Sounds like fun. Sign me up!
I flew into Gander at 11 PM after traveling all day from Montana. Because all hotel rooms were booked for a conference in Gander, the outfitter had sent reps to drive me 2.5 hours south. Great service, but I was ready for bed by the time I got settled in at the bed and breakfast in Conne River.
The next morning I met the outfitter and bush pilot David McDonald and some of his guides who are of the Mi'kmaw First Nations. I also was fortunate to meet bowhunter Alan Anglyn.
Alan was headed home after a successful two weeks. As I understand it, he has hunted with them over ten consecutive years taking some very nice moose and caribou. What a source of info on the outfit. And what a source of inspiration because he both moose and caribou antlers to show for this trip.
The caribou really had me pumped up about my hunt. It was a beautifully formed rack with about everything. Far from being an expert at judging woodland antlers, I knew this was an exceptional animal. I was excited to get after them.
Thanks, Alan for letting me use the photos.
It was time to fly out to my hunt, so we drove down to the float plane dock. David owns and flies his own plane which is convenient for logistics.
It was here I meet my guide for the hunt. His name was Gus Stride and he had spent his sixty years logging and trapping. The last thirty years he had guided hunters in the fall. I was told later by the younger guides he was their best. Things were shaping up nicely. Now, if I could only understand what these guys were saying!!
You guys who have been there know it takes a while to tune your ears to the local lingo! Newfies speak rapidly with clipped words they kind of swallow at the end, as it was explained to me. It is all part of the experience.
The short flight showed me what I was in for.
Wow, great bulls for Alan. Great story and pics so far!
Lots of water and lots of rock.
I was staying at the Medogonnix Lake Lodge, one of several camps available to Conne River Outfitters. This one was on the edge of a wilderness reserve limiting access to only float planes and boats. One camp on Dolland Pond should be familiar to bowhunters who peruse the record books, as I understand it is bow hunting only.
The photo above is the guide cabin, meat shed , and storage building. This is the lodge the hunters stay in. I was impressed because I had come prepared for a wall tent in a spike camp, which is available. But this would sure do.
I had my own room. There was hot showers and a big wood stove for drying out clothes. And a big kitchen. We would not starve...
I would be sharing the lodge with two other hunters who were out hunting when I arrived. Too late to go hunting, I relaxed and put my bow together and made use of the target provided. The scenery was great. The leaves were really starting to change. I even heard a cow moose calling down the lake.
Right at dark, I heard voices outside the window. When I walked out on the deck, the sight I saw really got my attention. Walking away towards the meat shed was a guy carrying a moose rack on a pack frame. And what a rack. Turns out somebody had had some success.
It turns out my campmates were filming for a Canadian TV show called Canada in the Rough. Spiros had shot the moose and Brad had gotten it all on film, which, of course, we all got to see that night. Besides the moose, they had seen and filmed a monster caribou. Spiros only had a moose tag, but was so impressed with the stag, he was wishing he could have traded it for a caribou tag about then. Along with their guides Harvey and Dion, we all had a great time and a huge supper that night.
Spiros was rifle hunting, but another part of his group was bowhunting at Dollands Pond. I understand the whole episode will be aired in January. I have got to figure out how to get that channel.
The next morning, after a big breakfast, Gus took me down the lake in a boat to start my hunt. We beached the boat and then climbed a knob to glass for caribou.
We could see some clearings on an adjacent hillside and a part of the lake and shore.
I don't think it was 45 minutes until I saw a stag cruising down towards the lake.
It was not a very old stag and we could not tell which way it would go from our vantage point, so we held tight. In a while Gus saw it at a distance climbing out of the lake after crossing an inlet. It was cool and cloudy with some occasional light sprinkles that morning. So after not seeing anything else, we climbed down, went to the boat where I was introduced to a ritual practiced daily. Gus broke out his "kittle" for tea.
Several times a day, he built a fire, hung the pot with whatever water was around, and we drank tea. We also had fire roasted baloney on a stick. And we are not talking some wimpy sliced baloney. We are talking 1/2 inch thick baloney steaks carefully seared until brown and eaten with homemade bread. That ritual became something I really looked forward to. You may be surprised at how it can lift spirits and improve your outlook.
After tea, we moved across the inlet to climb to another high knob. This one had quite a view. We could see square miles of terrain, but not a lot of caribou. We saw some in the distance, but could not really determine much about them.
Those are some great NFLD bulls and that stag is exceptional....
We spent the rest of the day there, but didn't see any more horns. So we went back to the lodge at dark and had another huge supper.
I woke up the second day of the hunt feeling old. It was my birthday and I was hoping for the proverbial birthday bull, er, stag. If you hadn't picked up on it, they call them stags, does, and fawns in Newfoundland. So, feeling hopeful, we hatched a plan during a massive breakfast. Gus and I would find a new vantage point down the lake and the other guys who were hunting bears, would take up another one within sight, but with even more ground visible. We would signal each other if we saw something. It was another great view.
What an adventure Richard!! Keep it coming!!
It was beautiful weather on the second day. We did see a half a dozen does and fawns. But no stags. The other group saw a good stag but it vanished before they could signal us. So after a long day we started back to the lodge which included a portage around a rocky outlet between the lakes. It had to be negotiated before dark.
After the portage, there was still some daylight left to hunt, so Gus took us to a spot he thought we might see a stag. We hunted until almost dark. Gus was determined to get me a caribou and wasn't going to waste any daylight in the process..
That night we had a special treat for supper. Harv fixed moose nose. Yeah, that's right. The cartilage from the moose's nose. Apparently it is a delicacy and takes some preparation. Part of which I am glad I missed. He first put it in the woodstove to singe the hair off which the guys said smelled pretty bad. Then he boiled it with several changes of water until soft. The last cycle of boiling he added pig tongues for flavor. I guess moose nose is lacking that, which begs the question of why eat it. Anyway, being good sports we all ate some. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad at all. Kind of tasted like ham. We also had moose tongue which was OK too. All part of the experience. I like to try new foods. And it was better than the raw caribou liver dipped in seal oil I tried in Alaska. Way better!
The plan was to move the morning of the third day. David was going to fly me to another location where more caribou were being seen. When we woke up the fog had moved in and the ceiling way too low for flying. It was apparent it could be awhile. The Canada in the Rough crew had a flight from Gander early the next morning and so did the rest of them in the other camp. So Gus and I returned to the lookout from my first day. The visibility was limited, but sitting in the lodge was not going to happen. It rained off and on.
The tea ritual was performed several times that day. Morale needed bolstering.
No caribou seen that day. We heard the plane take off about 3:30 PM.
The morning of the fourth day had low clouds. But the forecast was for clearing, so we stayed in camp to wait for the plane.
I had to go look at the moose rack every now and then.
The plane came when the clouds lifted around noon. We flew back to Conne River base. There we loaded up Gus' truck to drive to the next lodge. The Camp 8 lodge was very nice as well. Same amenities and reachable by road. The hot tip from the locals was there were lots of caribou where we were going in the morning. It was down to just Gus and me. And down to the fifth day of a six day hunt.
Threads like this are why I come to the Bowsite. The thing that shines through the most is your attitude toward the hunt and the goings-on. It would be a pleasure to share a camp with you.
good stuff,,,,look forward to the rest of it,,,,,
The morning of the fifth day was crisp, frosty and crystal clear skies. The weather so far had been pretty good compared to stories I had heard. There had been some rain, but it didn't last. The temperatures were a little warmer than I expected for the middle of October, but this morning was one that just made you feel your luck was about to change.
Our transport method had changed for sure. We were riding a six wheeled cycle over the bogs. I had heard stories of hunters stepping in bogs and going in up to their armpits, so I was sure we were going to get the Big Boss sunk out of sight. It never happened. Gus picked good routes and that thing could go almost any where.
This area was more wide open. There was a light fog which burned off quickly.
It was a beautiful morning, but it was time to get serious and find some stags.
It didn't take very long either. Gus spotted a stag lined out on a mission. He was walking with head down and just going. We tried to catch up and get in front, but the best we could do was to parallel him. We got out enough in front to try the old white shirt trick. He finally saw it and turned our way a little, but then just kept on motoring. He probably either smelled us or the Big Boss which had a distinctive gasoline odor! He was a good stag, too. Disappointing in that we didn't get closer, but, man, we were into stags! Now we are hunting!
After awhile we spotted another good stag. It was pretty much the same situation, he was lined out and on a mission. But we had the angle on this one, so we got out in front and Gus waved the flag and grunted using his mouth. This one slowed down, turned 90 degrees and started coming. At about 100 yards, he hung up. There was a pond between us and I had to move around it to get between him and Gus. He didn't seem to like the whole deal, lost interest, and then walked on.
You may notice a relative lack of photos from this point on. I do like to try to get photos and video, but now things were getting down to the wire. My focus on the killing a stag was getting as sharp as the broadheads in my quiver. (Ohh, I like that dramatic phrasing!)
Now we were amongst them and time was getting short. I really wanted one of these white-maned, brown horned stags. They are beautiful in their own right, but put them out on the barrens with the sun shining on those big necked bulky bodies and they are a sight. I really wanted one.
Sightings slowed down, so we found a high point to glass. They seemed to not be moving as much in the middle of the day. We spent that time glassing, drinking tea, and hoping. Lots of standing around.
The day left time for scenery photos. The blueberries were thick this year, but they were mushy from the frost. You can see how NFL grows some big bears.
The colors were incredible.
One of the most beautiful places on earth and great people! This is Dolland Pond another one of their camps!
Bowsite Sponsor! C
We started back towards the end of the day with no more caribou seen. We found another lookout point towards dusk. Then Gus spotted the caribou. Lots of them. There was a scattered group of 20-30 animals at a distance. There had to be several mature stags in that bunch, but it was too late to go after them. We even watched as a big bull moose walked right through them.
Seems we had gone too far in past the caribou, but now we knew where they were. We had another day to get it done and the game located. It would be Saturday, the last day of the six day hunt.
We were kind of cutting it close, but Gus even offered to hunt part of the day on Sunday when I was scheduled to leave for Gander. We were determined to go down fighting, but the logistics of hunting a last half day was daunting, especially if I got one. But these guys are determined to see clients get their game.
Great story Bow! Congrats to Alan on some fine critters!
Great adventure no matter the outcome. You took some great photos too that you can cherish the rest of you life. Thank you for sharing.
This will end well I believe
Excellent story and beautiful pictures so far. Thanks for sharing.
That Caribou Alan shot is an absolute monster for a Woodland. Maybe pictures are deceiving but I would hazard a guess he will make top 10 if measured for Pope and Young.
I have known Spiros for 25 years. Class act all the way. Stoeger Canada is 10 minutes from my home.
Hoping you put your tag on a big white maned Bou on your last day!
The morning of the last day was cool and overcast. We got an early start and were back at the lookout just after good light. But the caribou had moved and were not visible. I was looking in the opposite direction when I spotted a lone stag in the near distance.
It was a good stag, like at this point I would be picky. We took off after it to head it off, parked the six wheeler, and climbed a hill. Just as we topped the hill, so did he at about sixty yards. Gus went into his act, waving the shirt and grunting. Surprisingly, he looked interested even though we were plainly visible with me closer to him than Gus. But not that interested. He turned and walked 90 degrees to me. My experience with caribou is you probably can't chase them down, even at a walk. Especially if they have seen you. And this was wide open ground.
Gus motioned for me to go after it. I remember Alan telling me he had chased his stag down. So off I went, trailing behind the stag in the wide open. Him at a walk, me at a trot. It was pretty comical to me, but what the hell, I was desperate .
He would sometimes slow down to look back at me. I couldn't get closer than about 70 yards. I was thinking this thing is pretty stupid to let me follow him. If caribou can think, he was probably thinking this thing is pretty stupid to think he can shoot me out in the open.
This went on for almost a half mile. Then he turned and walked on the far side of some brush along a small stream. I cut the corner, running along the screening brush. When I came out, he was broadside at about 40 yards. I quickly shot just over his back!
SHIT!! NO !! That was my only shot the whole trip and I blew it. Most of my compound shooting brethren probably would have killed that stag. Talk about depression.
Not over yet by a long shot.
There was nothing for it but to keep looking. Gus was encouraging, but he had to have been wondering if I could really get it done.
Conne River Outfitting really likes to take bow hunters and they have a successful record with them. But it is bow hunting. I hadn't done my part.
We moved to the general area where the caribou had been the night before and started walking and glassing, but couldn't find them.
Then I saw a doe and fawn walk out of some trees not real far away. And then the stag came right behind them with another doe. They were walking across a big clearing, so we stayed still until they got into some scattered trees on a small ridge. The stag was following that first doe like he was on a lead rope.
When they disappeared we made our move crossing the clearing and climbing the ridge. In the scattered dead trees and brush we couldn't see them at first. I walked out in front of Gus just over the rise. I saw a bedded doe right when Gus gave a low whistle. He made a stag sign and pointed. Back down the ridge towards us came the doe, fawn, and the stag right behind her. And was he a good one.
I hunkered right down in the brush and dead trees. I couldn't believe it. The doe walked right back down the ridge to us. She passed through an opening in the brush just to my right up hill. Close, real close. She walked down the ridge back towards Gus out of my peripheral vision. I was expecting her to blow out at any moment though since she was heading towards our wind and had to be extremely close to Gus.
But I was focused on the stag. He stopped 20 yards away with brush blocking his vitals. And just stood there. He didn't like something. He took a few steps stopping again with no clear shot from my kneeling position. I thought about slowly standing to get a clear shot. He was so close! That doe is going to blow out of here any time. I have got to get an arrow in this stag.
But I knew he could not help himself, he had to follow that doe. And with a loud grunt, here he came into the opening at ten yards. I focused on the spot and the bright fletching just appeared in his chest. He took a death run down the hill and I knew I had taken my woodland stag. What a feeling.
He died about 120 yards away across an opening on the far hillside. This photo looks across at the ridge we were on. I shot him at the top of the ridge.
What a beautiful animal. White cape and brown horns.
It took the whole six days, but we got it done. I couldn't have been more pleased. With the hunt, with the shot, and with such a stag.
Monster stag. Well done at the wire.
Wow, great job. Looks like an awesome trip!
So, there was plenty of time to organize things for the trip home. We got the meat in their cooler and the cape frozen for my return home.
The flights worked out smoothly and after 24 hours of traveling on four airplanes and too many airports, I arrived home with horns, meat, and cape accounted for.
I have to echo Charlie's comment about NFL. Everyone I met from the guides to the locals to the hotel people and the Air Canada counter person in Gander were all helpful and friendly. Maybe I was just lucky. I know I was lucky with the stag, but how lucky can a guy be. A great trip all the way around.
What a stag!!! Beautiful caribou! Way to stick with it. So much of the challenge of these bowhunts is having the mental fortitude to stick with it when things are looking down. Such a great feeling when you can overcome that and get it done!! Congrats!!
Thank you for that great story and congratulations on the stag!
Beautiful bull and great story. If you get the chance, try to check out the play/musical. "Come from Away." It's a wonderful and heartwarming story about the roll the town of Gander played during 9/11.
Wow, great stag and story....thanks and congrats!
Monster stag. Well done at the wire.
That is a great bull and how beautiful with that white mane and dark chocolate antlers. Thank you for sharing.
Congratulations and thanks for sharing.
Great stag and well written story. Thanks for sharing.
Loved reading about your hunt. Beautiful Stag! Well done!
YESssssssssss! Way to go. A beautiful big Bull. Was wondering all day if you put one down as I was getting dragged around with the wife shopping.
Thanks again for sharing.
Congrat's That is a hell of a Caribou.
Super adventure and a great recording of it. You truly took us along to feel the ups and downs. You prevailed and congrats on a beautiful Woodie.
What an awesome bull! Absolutely beautiful animal. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure!
Great bull! Congrats for sure!
Congrats on a monster for sure!!! Great story and pics!
Congrats on the beautiful bull. Great pics and story.
That is a beautiful bull...great story and pics, love how it came right down to the wire!
Best of Luck, Jeff
BEAST. Congratulations on beautiful bou.
Alan AND you both took exceptional stags. Impressive.....congratulations!!!!
Great photos, story and a heck of a last minute bull! Even better than the phone account of the hunt!
Awesome bull and story. Congrats!
Holy crap Rich, didn't even recognize you! Our beards have both "turned", lol!
Congrats on the nice bull! Gotta like that rich brown coloured rack on him all polished up. Great story and thanks for sharing.
That was an awesome story! Way to stick with it until the end.
What a bull!! Congrats!!!
WOW! What a giant! Congratulations.
Great stag!! I rode back to town with Alan, and he said you'd come in. I was in Dolland, and saw alot of really good stags. Too bad they can't hunt them there! The rut was on, and we were able to snort several in to under 30 yds. It's a neat thing to witness! Well done.
Great Stag, congrats Rich! Loved the story, thanks for taking us along.
It is that time of year on Bowsite and glad I tuned in. Another great bowhunting adventure!
My bucket list is overflowing!
Thanks for sharing.
What a stag! Congrats on a great hunt and thanks for taking us along with your hunt with a great write up.
Congrats! Awesome hunt, pics, and story! You earned it!
Beautiful animal. Congrats!!!
When you get that back from the taxidermy can you post a photo(s) of it - with that coloring I bet that will make an absolutely beautiful mount!
I'm going, that's all there is to it, I'm going.
well done my friend, well done!! Thanks for the great story!!
What a great story and great bull. I just went on a moose hunting trip with Conne River to their bow only camp at Dolland's Pond during the early bow season. I ended up getting a small bull on the 4th day and couldn't have been happier. I really cannot say enough good things about Conne River, I can't wait to go back. Too bad Dolland's Pond doesn't have any Caribou tags because I got within bow range of giant stags almost every day.
Great story and even better stag. Hunt
Great woodland caribou...congrats.
Hey Astrovan2487 those are some good photos. Got anymore of NFL?
Hers a 2007 photo from Dolland Pond Camp. It was a great place for Stags then. Maybe it will come back again as the herd numbers improve!
Charlie, I am sure you have some more photos. Post 'em up. I have a suspicion you are probably sitting in a trees stand somewhere right now. Good hunting.
I'll be at Jims in two hours:)
Sunrise on the "Rock"!
Congrats and awesome story, thanks for sharing with us!
Did they have any other caribou bow hunters this year? That's pretty darn impressive to get one with a traditional bow like you did.
That was truly exciting. Got to love the stick and and string.
my best, Paul
Here's a few Dolland pond stags from last month. Too bad there's no season. Saw some dandies
Another. They were rutting pretty good.
This one is burned into my memory! Saw another even BIGGER! Booked again for another moose hunt in '17. Hopefully they have caribou tags by then!!!
From 2001 to 2007 the majority of the P&Y Woody entries were coming from this Dolland Pond Camp. This is one of the best uses of the P&Y Club Record Book.
When tags open up here again being the first will be beyond amazing! C
Awesome pics, Steff! Thanks for posting!
Great story and pictures. Newfy has been our second home for the last 35 years. Great people and some of the best fishing in the world. I loved the part about jogging after the caribou. They can really motor with no effort over those bogs. I had one hide from me with his head behind a big rock, his whole body exposed. I guess he figured that if he couldn't see me, I couldn't see him. Gorgeous animals. Congratulations on a great hunt.
Congrats & thanks for sharing!
I'll share another photo from Area 63 that I took last year while moose hunting.
astrovan2487, you asked about other hunters this year, early in this thread, Bowonly has a picture of the stag I took this year in Area 64 also with Conne River Outfitting. In addition to bowonly and my caribou, there was a French bowhunter in camp and he took a dandy, too. Mine and the Frenchman's were taken with compound bows. Congrats to bowonly for such a fine animal taken with a traditional bow.
Rich you are surely the man, i lookforward to hunting with you again
Justsitting here i pa and reading your wonderful adventure adventure, it just does not get old. We need to plan an adventure
Easy now longsprings. People are gonna talk !
Rich, have you been after carp at Clark yet?
Congratulations!! Very enjoyable post, well done!
Just got back from Conne River Outfitters and had a great time. Was there about 10 years ago when it was run by an American and it was the worse trip of my life. David McDonald now runs the camp and does a outstanding job. Him and his crew wants you to be successful as much as you want to. I would highly recommend him if you are looking to chase Woodland caribou or Moose.
Sure enjoyed the story- way to keep the positive juices flowing. And, a nice trophy too.
Loved it - you couldn't script it better than how it played out! Thanks for sharing
Thanks so much for sharing your adventure and congrats on a great stag!!
I always enjoy your hunt write-ups. Congratulations on the caribou and thanks for the detailed write up with lot of pictures.
Congrats on a great trophy ! great story to.
Great bull and awesome story!
wow, what a great story and hunt. Congrats on a super stag!
Congrats, Enjoyed reading and seeing the pics.
Stag enjoying an afternoon nap before I woke him up
Stag enjoying an afternoon nap before I woke him up
Sharing this photo from my hunt with Conne River Outfitters this year. I'd taken a moose and was hoping to fill a bear tag. The bears were scarce. I did get one try and it didn't work out. One afternoon when we arrived at the lookout, we noticed a stag bedded down nearby. Conditions were ripe for a stalk with my camera. I got within ten feet and had to wake him up to get photos.
Look at the whites of his eyes
Look at the whites of his eyes
After I woke up the stag by grunting, he rose, then turned and started walking straight at me. I waved my arms and resumed taking photos.
Woodland bou are the most impressive of all. Great pic.
Simply outstanding....incredible photos....
Stalking Stags on the Newfoundland Tundra was made for Bow Hunting! I am so thankful I hunted them 4 times in early 2000's when tags were plentiful and cheap. The upside to hunting them now with the reduced tags is the Stags are huge!!!!!!