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My hunt with JHA August 2015
Just got back from an amazing week on the tundra with Jack Hume Adventures. I hunted August 22-28th, doing a 1x6 package with my buddy Dave. We arrived in Montreal the afternoon of the 21st and were shuttled to the hotel where we would check in our bags and get weighed for the next day. We were limited to between 65 lbs of gear a person but could pay extra for up to 80 lbs (according to the literature anyway!). Well, due to some unforeseen circumstances, they really wanted to limit our gear to 65 lbs. I asked Dave how much his stuff weighed since I knew I was closer to 80 lbs. He replied, "Something like 55 lbs". Well, when his gear hit the scale it read 92 lbs haha Dave isn't much of a planner and failed to factor in the boxes of ammo, his rifle, the 20 lbs of gear he bought at Cabela's the day before we left, etc. So, the reshuffling of the gear began.
Well, after a bunch of a shuffling and removing items, we both got to our weight. We headed back to the hotel and hung out with the other hunters and made sure we had a classic Canadian/Quebec meal of poutine and smoked meat sandwich.
It was an early wake up call to meet the shuttle for the trip to Mirabel where we would then fly to about 2 hours north to Caniapiscau/Lac Pau to check in, sort our gear, and transfer to the Otters for the flight into camp. The shuttle left the airport about 45 minutes late as two hunters had a little bit too much fun in Montreal the night before. Mirabel was about a 45 minute ride from the airport in Montreal. We had breakfast and then loaded up in the Nolinair planes for the flight into Caniapiscau. Here's Dave boarding the plane.
The base camp logistics in Lac Pau were a model of efficiency. Thirty plus hunters all anxious to get out to six different camps with all the necessary paper work to complete. Amanda handled it like a champ (you can tell she's done this a few times) and once the paperwork was filled out we learned which camps we'd be headed to. Our camp would be hunting out of Coursolles. Coursolles was the farthest south camp that anyone would be hunting that week, being about 150 miles south of the other camps. The main migration was still well to the north (even north of the camps the other hunters were going to be), but apparently a smaller group had moved through and actually more caribou were being seen near Coursolles than anywhere else. This was a good news, bad news situation; it meant that we'd likely have animals when we got there, but they may dry up and the main body of caribou was still hundreds of miles away. In other words, there was no chance that we'd see a major migration and we were better served to punch our tags early!
Base camp was also where we met the other four hunters in our camp. We'd be sharing camp with two father son pairs from Ontario; Dave and Mike were one, and Pete and Joe were the other. Soon Amanda was calling groups out to the shuttle to load up and head over to the Otters. We were the last group to go. When we got there, we found out our Otter had taken on too much fuel and wouldn't be able to fly (I'm also blaming Dave and all his gear!). So, we had to wait for another Otter to get back before we could head out. We hung out in base camp for another hour and a half or so but finally our plane had arrived and we loaded up for the hour flight to Lac Coursolles.
From Left to Right: Mike, Joe, Dave, Pete, me, and Dave.
The Otter ride was smooth, though the gas fumes were making me a little nauseous. We touched down with no incident and deplaned. This is also where we met our camp caretaker and guide, Elvis and his wife Bonnie. They are a husband and wife team from Old Fort Bay, Quebec. Elvis had worked for Safari Nordik for many years. I can't say enough about how great both of them made camp -- I've never met a harder working man than Elvis and Bonnie delivered amazing meal after amazing meal! We were quick to unload and head out behind camp for the evening hunt. It was about 3 PM at this point.
There is a high point about a 10-15 minute walk behind camp that allows you to survey the surrounding ridges. This point has been given the label of the Crow's Nest and would serve as the first stop on pretty much all our hunts. Elvis walked us up to the Crow's Nest and started pointing out caribou. There were groups of animals bedded on just about every ridge you looked. Two here, three there, one there, four there. It wasn't hundreds of animals but it was plenty. We quickly broke off in groups to go after the pockets of caribou. Dave and I focused on a lone bull bedded on the adjacent ridge to the north. Elvis said this was more of an opportunity for a rifle, but I was happy to let Dave have the first crack. Everyone else in camp was hunting with a rifle, and it wasn't long before shots started ringing out across the tundra.
We dropped down into a little bottom and started making our way up the ridge. The terrain is pretty incredible. Despite seeming barren, the tundra is alive! While the ridges are bare of trees, the bottoms are typically wet and there is much more cover. Unlike deer and elk, the caribou actually prefer the open ridges to the cover as it gives them a vantage point and escape options. It was easy to pick out skylined caribou when the animals were there. As we made our way out of the bottom, Dave caught a glimpse of antler tips. The bull was bedded about 100 yards away. We made a quick plan. Dave broke off to the right to gain some elevation and set up for a shot. I wasn't planning on putting a stalk on the bull given that he was in the wide open. But I quickly realized there was enough elevation change that I could drop down and make my way towards him without seeing me. I started crawling in his direction, ranging his antler tops as a I went. 90, 80, 70, 60...now I was within bow range. I got to fifty yards and settled for a possible shot. The problem was Dave couldn't see me and had no clue I had closed the distance to archery range. Dave had taken cover and laid out prone behind a rock. I could see his entire body but his face so there was no getting his attention. At that point the caribou stood up and before I could draw back the rifle shot rang out. The bull was hit hard but Dave put another one in him to make sure. It ended up being a dandy bull. We were about an hour into the hunt, I'd gotten within archery range, and we had a bull down. It was a good start!
We got to work on his bull, and after about an hour's worth of work had it quartered up, caped out, and in game bags ready to load up. Just as I was putting the first quarter into my pack, Dave whispered "Jay, jay, jay...stop." I could tell he was either pulling my leg or there were animals near. I slowly spun around and a herd of about 6 bulls was making there way up a ridge around 100 yards from us. Dave handed me his rifle and said to take one. Had I only had one tag, I would've held off. But I had two and I wanted to get in on the fun. There was no way I was going to shoot one out of this herd with my bow, so I took the rifle and dropped one of the more respectable bulls in the group. We now had six caribou down in about 3 hours! I didn't have to worry about going home empty handed and I had five and a half days worth of hunting to devote to my bow.
Elvis had an ATV in camp and managed to get it over to the ridge and we made quick work of my bull. And let me tell you, it sure beat packing the caribou out on our backs. We didn't have to do that once the entire week thanks to Elvis and his ATV!
As far as I was concerned, day one wasn't even over and this was already a hunt to remember! We closed off the night with a delicious meal from Bonnie and dreams of punching our other tag. Day two started off auspiciously as we had caribou swimming the lake in front of camp and a lone bull that almost walked through camp. Again, it was a scramble to get geared up and up to the Crow's Nest. Once we did, it was a similar situation to the night before...plenty of small groups to go after, and in no time, our four friends from Ontario were tagged out. Dave let me take the lead on putting a few stalks on some bedded bulls but none of them worked out. We didn't have massive amounts of animals and some of the animals weren't in the best spot, but we had some chances. I wasn't too worried as there seemed to be a decent amount of animals and I figured I'd have more chances. Things can change quickly on the tundra though!
A fun read - more please!
Day three started with the obligatory trip to the Crow's Nest. On the way in we intercepted a herd of caribou. Caribou are unlike deer or elk in that they are nowhere near as skittish. In fact, on a number of occasions, we had caribou that could tell something wasn't right but chose to come in and investigate. They were on high alert and I couldn't get a shot, but these animals would move into bow range to see what was going on. They also seemed much more tolerant of the wind than an elk or a deer. It was pretty remarkable. There were three cows from this first group that moved to within 45 yards. The best bull hung up a little past 60 in some cover. It was still a good start to the day.
I had a few more chances that day. While watching Dave punch his second tag a few ridges over, Elvis and I had two bulls sneak in behind us. We spotted them at 100 yards, they spooked a bit, and then circled back to come check us out. These two bulls came into 45 yards as I took position as best as I could. I was stuck in the open and tried to stand up and shoot when the biggest bull was broadside, but the movement spooked them and apparently their curiosity was satisfied. Here's a pic of them as they were circling into our position.
There were a few more chances that morning. Basically, I'd go left, they'd go right. I'd guess one way, they'd go another. With a rifle I would've have EASILY tagged out. But I was committed to the bow from here on in. That evening, however, it was clear things were going to get a whole lot harder. The caribou that were there had gone, and it didn't seem like many were coming behind them. Just a lone straggler here or there. I was going to have to work for it even harder. It makes you start second guessing some of those blown opportunities even more. We closed the night out on a high note back at camp. We had an appetizer of Kraft Dinner (Mac and Cheese for the Americans like me!), caribou tongue (it was actually good!), and fresh caught pike followed by some roasted caribou backstrap that Bonnie cooked...amazing!! We closed the night out with a spectacular show from the Northern Lights with a pack of wolves howling behind camp.
Day four only confirmed my concerns about the caribou. Again, what was groups to choose from became a lone bull here or there. Much smaller groups seen MUCH less frequently. It was here I learned about Elvis' code system. He said Code 1 was 0-50 animals per day; Code 2 was 50-100 animals per day; Code 3 was 100-1,000 animals/day; and Code 4 was the migration, basically thousands of animals per day. You can guess what a Code 0 is! Elvis informed me that we now in a Code 1 situation. The last few days had been a Code 2. The other thing is that it got HOT. The previous days were hot, but it got HOT today. I keep a small thermometer on my pack and it was reading over 100 degrees. That may not have been the air temperature, but I would say it was easily 90 degrees or more at points. Elvis said I should probably shift to the gun if I wanted to punch my second tag for sure. I told him I'm sticking with the bow. He told me I can get it done.
The warm clear weather did treat us to some incredible evenings and some amazing sunsets.
Congrats! Brings back some good memories!
Day five dawned and I made my way to the Crow's Nest I spotted a lone bull feeding on a ridge to the south about a half mile away. Even though we weren't seeing many animals, we were seeing the majority of them on this ridge to the south. This lone bull decided to drop down and swim across the lake, but he was replaced by another lone bull. I decided to make a play. I didn't know if he was coming from the lake or going to the lake but he was staying kind of low on this ridge for the few minutes I watched him. I decided to try and get in between him and the lake and if he happened to stay up high, Dave (who still had a bear tag) could let me know via the radio. I was the only one with a caribou tag and the entire camp wanted me to get it done with the bow...I was feeling the pressure! I made my way over to the bull and Dave let me know he lost sight of him so I figured him to be lower near the water. Sure enough, as I popped out of the trees one point over from where I guessed the bull to be I saw him (about 200 yards away). I had cover between him and I and started to close the gap. As I made my way to the last group of trees between me and his last location I peaked out but didn't see anything. I ranged the trees I last saw him and they were about 40 yards from where I was.
I still didn't see him so I decided to press forward. At this time I looked up the ridge and saw antlers looking my way about 60 yards away. I froze. I had a feeling he may move to my right to try to better make out what I was given the experience I had with the other curious caribou. He seemed to know something wasn't right as he kept looking my way, but I stayed motionless fighting off the black flies and mosquitoes hoping he'd move into bow range. He started to move closer and I ranged his antler tops at 53 yards. Given some elevation change and the willows between me and him all I could see were the top of his head and antlers. I needed him to move to my right to clear the willows and present me with a shot. It's just what he did. He moved down and I quickly drew back and held waiting for a shot. His body started to come into view over the willows but he wasn't entirely in the open. I guessed him to be around 55 yards and as the upper half of the body appeared I settled my 50 yard pin a little high to account for the distance and the willows. The arrow left and connected with a thwack, but I could tell the shot was a little high and a little back.
I didn't find blood right away but found the trail the caribou took and started finding blood. It was a red -- not dark, not pink, just a solid red. My guess was muscular and possibly a little bit of lung. The blood trail wasn't too hard to follow as the trail was lined with waist high willows that the bull was constantly brushing against. I followed it for about a half a mile, where I ran into another group of caribou in a marshy opening. I tried to sneak around to see if I could see the bull with them, maybe bedded up somewhere, but as I moved in the caribou spooked. I followed the blood up to a pond and then lost it. Elvis joined me and did a search around the pond and we figured he met up with those other caribou and ran off. I searched another hour for more blood but it was pretty clear this caribou was gone.
I was dejected, on a number of levels. First off, I rushed the shot and wounded an animal which is the last thing I ever want to do. I had a handful of chances that were blown over the last few days and when I had an opportunity I didn't get it done. Plus, it was clear that the opportunities were going to be fewer and far between. My spirits were briefly lifted as we saw two bulls swimming across the lake to the point where I shot the last bull. We (Elvis and I) sprinted over to the point and got above the bulls on the ridge. I set up in what I thought was the perfect ambush spot. Elvis motioned me over to another area which I slowly worked over to. But one of the bulls already had him pegged and they both tore off as I tried to sneak over. I left having one day to hunt and questioning my skills as a bowhunter!
I woke up early (5:30AM) and was out the door by 5:45AM. I didn't hesitate as I picked up the bow. Despite the blown chances and eroded confidence that came from wounding the bull, I reassured myself that this is what I came here to do and that if I got another chance I needed to take my time and have confidence in the practice I'd put in. My first stop was at the Crow's Nest where I didn't see any caribou on the surrounding ridges. It started to sprinkle and was considerably cooler than the days before. I decided to take a walk over to the ridge I shot the bull the day before -- this is where we were seeing more animals plus it provided a better view of the lake to spot crossing caribou. They seemed to like to cross the lake at that ridge and I felt that was my best bet.
I got over to the ridge and sat there replaying the events from the previous days in my head. The weather matched my mood. I looked up after having my head down for a few minutes and holy crap there's a lone bull swimming across the lake looking to come out one point over about 600 yards away!! I got off my ass and sprinted over to that point.
It was the perfect cover. Enough trees that I could shield my movement, yet it was broken up enough that I could still see the bull regularly as I made my way to where I thought he would exit the lake. He was about half way across when I started my way over and as I approached it looked like I'd time my arrival perfectly with his.
As I made my way around the point where he was exiting, my suspicions were correct. The bull was working his way out of the water over the rocks and had no clue I was there. He was about 100 yards from me at this point and I had the perfect cover to cut the distance, which is what I did.
I moved to about 70 yards and there was a tree in front of me that would put me about 20 yards closer. I decided to stay put and see which way the bull went. If he went east up the ridge I'd have to reposition myself. If he moved south to me there was a good chance I was going to have a perfect shot.
At first he looked like he was going to move up the ridge and I started to move out to reposition myself. But he turned my way so I slowly backed up and retook my position. He moved in to 35 yards and I decided now was the time. He still had no clue I was there. I drew back, stepped out from behind my cover, and buried my pin behind his shoulder. I knew I had time and made sure to pick a spot and squeeze the release.
The arrow entered behind the shoulder with a thwack and completely disappeared. The bull had no clue what hit him, ran ten yards up onto a rock, and turned 180 degrees towards the direction he came. I could see the exit hole and knew this was a perfect shot. I knocked an arrow but he started to wobble and was one the ground in less than 10 seconds. He never went more than 10 yards. I radioed back to camp and gave them the news "Bull down!!!"
I was only about a quarter mile from camp, so I walked back, had breakfast, and then Elvis, Dave, and I went back out in the boat for more pictures and to load up the caribou. We got it caped, quartered, and loaded...giving us the rest of the day to enjoy some beverages and celebrate! I finally got to see what everyone else was going the last four days!
Congrats , sounds like an awesome hunt
I couldn't have asked for a better hunt or a better group of people to share it with. Even without the main migration, we punched all twelve of our tags. The only thing that beat the hunting were the folks in camp and the way we were treated by Elvis and Bonnie!
Great job, thanks for sharing!
Can't say enough good things about how Jack Hume Adventures ran their outfit. Caribou hunts are an impressive logistical feat, and to run it as efficiently as they did speaks volumes about the operation. You can't control the animals, but even without seeing the main migration, we punched all of our tags and had one of the most memorable hunts we ever had to a person. Already looking forward to my next trip to the tundra...
Way to go. Looks like fun!!
Excellent adventure! Congrats on the bou!
That was sweet man. Thanks for the write up, and awesome pictures!! Well done congrats.
Very nice. Great report....and congrats on your success.
Great account. Can't wait to get up there in a couple of weeks.
Congrats on a great hunt and thanks for posting all the pics.
How did the other camps do the first week?
Congrats on a great hunt!
Great story! 2 more days and I'm, arctic bound myself.
All but one tag went unfilled. The guy who didn't punch his second tag said he blew a chance at a B&C bull as well. I believe he was trying to complete his Super 10 with a bow as well. I think all in all, the quantity of caribou around was still pretty low. One camp (I believe Willie's Lake) had the migration move through and saw 1,000+ animals a day for a few days but other than that most camps were seeing far less. One guy told me he saw 33 caribou all week -- but he was rifle hunting and punched both tags. Goes to show how caribou hunting is a bit of a different game -- many of my hunts 33 animals a week would be absolutely fantastic!!! That was slow for caribou hunting but even when it's slow you can still get it done!
Thought I'd post a few more pics...
Was this hunt considered early in the migration? I have no idea so I am asking out of curiousity.
Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your adventure!
It's definitely earlier in the season, which would likely mean it's earlier in the migration, although I think they've been moving south and east for a few weeks now. As we learned, they can change direction and head back up north as well (I'd guess driven by weather, predators, etc).
Caribou heart and onions from my last day bull. It went quick!
Thanks!!! Looks like a blast.
What kind of fishing was in the lake besides pike or was it just pike.
One other thing you folks might find interesting. I shot my bull with an Ulmer Edge broadhead. I've had good luck with this mechanical in the past and I can't complain too much about how it performed this time because the bull was literally down within 15 seconds and went 10 yards after completely passing through both lungs. However, when I recovered my arrow, I noticed one of the blades of the broadhead broke off. This allows the other blade to retract if it encounters only a little bit of resistance, essentially rendering the broadhead a field point. Again, I can't complain about the results but I have no clue at what point the blade broke off. If it was on entry you could see how this might cause issues. I didn't study the exit and entry holes enough to diagnose what happened, but I may be stitching back to fixed blade broadheads. You can see what I mean in the pictures below...
The lake in front of the cabin was basically taken over by pike, so we didn't have any other fish to go after. Most other lakes have brook and lake trout, but we didn't. Because of that we didn't do that much fishing (I didn't even break out my rod and reel...I also had another caribou tag to fill most days!).
Congrats on a Great Trip! Thanks for the write up.Leaving next Thursday, 8 am....not that i'm counting the minutes. And I to have already repacked gear 3 times!
Man, what a trip! Great job on the pics and story telling! Thanks for taking us along!
What a great time, I'm heading to Montreal In two days!
Congrats on a great trip!
Fantastic! Richard runs a top notch outfit. Hope to get back there someday.
Is this Elvis? Back in 2009. The boat rides with him was wide open. One morning there was white caps and he was hitting them full speed. I put my life jacket on. So did he and my hunting partner. I shot a cow with my longbow. Elvis Was great.
That's Elvis!!! He was amazing and so was his wife Bonnie! The man never stopped! I've also never met a faster eater in my life haha he would inhale food like a Great White or something like that!
Caribou hunts are fun. Wish I had the time and money to go back. My cow in the water. I was on a small island maybe 20 yards by 30 yards. Elvis came by in the boat got my cow took it to shore and quarter it up while I hunted.
That looks great. I bet it was an awesome time.
Hey bigeasy,--Thanks for the story & good writing:-)
Man I love it up there. Sounds like you went through a lot of the same stuff I have. Are Caribou made for the bow hunter or what!
Cool write up! Congrats and Thanks!
Looks like a great hunt! Congrats.
Man, that's the truth! With the number of animals, the country the inhabit, their behavior and tendencies, and their tolerance and curiosity I think caribou are indeed made for bowhunting!
Looks good! The folks at the check in station will love you! They didn't love me and my buddy so much haha
Fantastic story. Thanks for taking the time to share it!
bigeasy, I hunted Coursolles last year. Did you have any bears in camp? We had them almost every night. Unfortunately no one bought a bear tag because they told us there weren't many around. We landed at camp and the first thing Doug (our guide) asked was 'who has bear tags?'.
That's crazy. When we were loading up in Lac Pau they told us Coursolles is usually thick with bears. My buddy who was rifle hunting bought a tag. We saw two bear during the week. One was a ways off across the river. The other was on the opening morning of bear season (the 25th). The bear caught wind of one of the caribou carcasses and went to work on it! My buddy got to 150 yards but ended up rushing the shot and missed. It was a good looking bear too!
Congrats on a great hunt. I've been up five times seen the 0=10 and 100=1000 a day Caribou I like the 100=200 per day best I think its more fun. Going next September with JHA can't wait. I like Coursoulles to when we were there every gut pile was hit by bears at night but we never seen one during daylight.Great pics and story bon appetite.
hi ,halley wood i remember that hunt .that black bear is still running around the tundra with some bird shot in him.enjoyed your company.
Congratulations. Brings back good memories of the tundra. A very special place. Love to do it again.
Thanks Jared...and everyone else that took the time to read and comment!
Congratulations. Looks like a trip will need to go on my bucket list.
Bear Track's Link
Great thread, gator...I hunted Coursolles twice, and your narrative and every one of your pictures brought back fond memories..
Now that's how to tell a story. Lots of entries and lots of pictures, well done! A trip of a life time.
Looks and sounds loke y'all had a helluva time. Congrats !
I read this thread just before I left.... I hunted in the same camp with Bonnie and Elvis. We had a hell of a time. Team "hikes-a lot" won't soon be forgotten. I think we walked further, cursed more in public, and got rowdier than pretty much every group up there. Any of the five men I shared camp with is welcome in my camp anytime, anywhere. The "bow only" crowd of "Thad", "Barl", and "AARP" were all able to fill their tags with sharp sticks. The "Hurtin' Albertan" got one with rifle and one with bow, while Peter and I were successful with our "LONG bows"....
JHA has this trip really dialed in. The logistics are mastered to every last detail. They are the ONLY outfit I would choose for a Q/L caribou hunt.
Special thanks to Richard for flying in a couple more cases of beer after we ran low mid-trip. That's certainly a first for me!
It must be a common occurrence in Coursolles!! We had Richard fly us in a case of beer, a bottle of rum, and a bottle of whiskey mid week! Must be something in the water...or Bonnie's cooking!!
Because everyone likes taxidermy! Kudos to Pierre Gevry for some amazing mounts!
Great story Jason!! Thanks for sharing. Just a thought on your broadhead - also could have bent going through ribs or what not, then broken when it hits rocks on the other side I think you said it was a pass-through. Without knowing, who cares, just may have had 0 failure we don't know.
Happy you had an awesome trip. Great pics!
Great point. Like you said, there's no way to tell when it broke (at least now, anyway). One thing is for sure...you can't argue with the results. The 'bou was off his feet in about 10 seconds and had no clue what hit him. He went a total of 10 yards. It happened so quick it was almost unbelievable. The incident does make me think a bit more about the cons of mechanicals, but they have a tremendous amount of pros as well.
Great story and animals! Congratulations to all!
Bigeasygator, Or others that have been there, can you explain some of the post hunt logistics such as getting meat, capes and racks back to Montreal, costs of doing so, and any other detail that plays into a hunt like this. On my bucket list, but sometimes the logistics concern me. I'm used to driving out west and bringing meat home myself. I can drive to Montreal but wonder about parking there etc. Great write up and story. Thanks
logistics are a breeze.
meat flys out with you.
you arrive at hotel at night with meat and hides/racks.
butcher waiting there for it
he will have it ready in the AM for flights or driver who are departing then
taxidermist there as well if you want to leave hide and rack or you can take it and store in hotel freezer until you fly out of drive out the next day.
parking is secure lot at hotel.
Bou' nailed it. It was a breeze. When you think about the amount of hunters and the amount of animals down it's actually pretty impressive.
After you land, everything is loaded in trucks and buses and brought back to the hotel where the butcher and taxidermist are waiting for you and you basically hand everything to them. Transport of your caribou are included in the pricing.
The butcher works overnight and will have your meat processed and loaded in JHA crates that you can load on an airplane if you're flying or transfer to a cooler if driving.
The taxidermist took about 9 months to get everything back. Shipping and handling is all included in his pricing.
The lot is secure -- it is behind a locked gate and usually staffed by the folks handling the logistics (they have a trailer set up in the lot that they stay in).
Thanks guys. Montreal is a doable drive from SE PA and it sounds like they have a good handle on everything. Maybe this will happen for me in the future.
Like Grant and Jason have said, Richard and Amanda take care of you from start to finish. PM me if you'd like more information.....Dave...