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Hard-Earned Caribou Success! by Dennis Howell

I was in the middle of nowhere - 125 miles from the nearest village - catching my first glimpse of caribou as they zig-zagged across the wide-open tundra. My first-ever caribou hunt had begun, and my Hoyt and I were ready!

On the first day of our hunt, we boated across the lake that our camp was on. After a short boat ride we hiked in a bit and decided to sit down and start glassing. We had not glassed very long when we saw some caribou coming down into a small canyon. There was a small bull and several cows in the herd. We could shoot two caribou each and, if possible, we both wanted a good bull to put in our trophy rooms. We continued to just see small bulls and a lot of cows. Each day we hunted all day long and then headed back to camp – just to hear the gun hunters tell us we could use one of their rifles. One of the gun hunters had shot a good bull on the first day and he also offered us his gun. Doug and I agreed we would rather go home empty-handed then to use a gun. Each day the bulls where just too small, and each day we hunted hard. The camp host said that, unfortunately, the migration was very slow this year. He said that the main herd was 40 miles north, but headed our way. They hoped the herd would show up before the week was up. 

The third day dawned with one heck of a wind- and rainstorm. It quickly turned to snow and before long, there were a few inches of snow on the ground. We stayed in camp that day and just played cards with our new friends from Wisconsin. The next day was not much better and we couldn’t take the boat out because the lake was too rough. Doug and I went out on a hike behind camp and set up under some trees and started glassing. When we left, the camp host said we should go to a certain mountain so we would not see any gun hunters. We had been sitting and glassing in some very cold winds for a couple of hours and then we saw a decent bull top the hill.  Doug said, “Caribou! Get ready.” I saw the bull and cows coming and they were about 80 yards and coming right to us. Then, out of nowhere, we heard a gunshot and the bull went down – and so did we. Then another gunshot roared and a cow went down. Doug and I stared yelling and in a few minutes the hunters came over the hill. They came over to us and apologized for shooting that close to us, but we knew they couldn’t see us over the hill. We congratulated them on their kill and then we headed off to find some new country. Most of the hunters in camp had tagged out with cows and small bulls. They still thought that the “crazy bowhunters” should put down the bows and borrow their guns. Well, that same day Doug decided to shoot the next cow that came by, and not long after, we had finally broken the ice. He made a perfect 60-yard shot and we caped and quartered the cow and went back to camp.

The next day Doug said it was my time to get one down. I had some good chances to fill my tag, but I missed a bull and a cow. I had a hard time shooting at a moving animal. Caribou will not stop for very long. I was OK with going home empty-handed. I wanted a good bull or nothing. Back at camp, we were the only guys that had not tagged two caribou yet. The other hunters had no clue of how many caribou we could’ve shot at 30 yards or closer. We wanted to wait for a good bull. We got the news that the bad weather had delayed our pick up time for the floatplanes. So Doug and I got to hunt that morning with the camp radios and we had to check in every 30 minutes to see if the camp had heard anything about our pick up time. After the midday check in, they told the planes wouldn’t pick us up for another day. I decided to focus on a cow and get some meat.

The migration had gotten really good and we were seeing a lot of cows and small bulls. Doug said told me to shoot the next one we saw. We saw some cows coming and I got ready. They were coming right to us. We set up in some trees and Doug got behind me and said he would give me a range. They came in on a string to 35 yards. I drew back, shot and pin-wheeled a good mature cow. She went down quickly.  My Hoyt AlphaMax zipped my Easton Axis arrow right through her. We high-fived for a bit and decided to leave her lay and pack her out before dark. We sat for about 30 minutes when another group of caribou came down the same trail. We got behind the same trees I had shot my first caribou from. They walked behind us. I then turned around and made another perfect shot at 50 yards. I had just tagged out in less than two hours that afternoon! I looked at my watch when we started to process my cows. We had two cows in our packs and started down the mountain in 55 minutes! It was a heavy load, but since I was just coming out of the elk-packing season, it was a piece of cake.

We returned to camp and our friendly gun hunters were very happy I had tagged out. The card playing began after supper. The next day, Doug and I were ready to fly out. We were packed and waiting. Around noon, we heard the roar of the planes and the whole camp had been notified that we were all going. Everyone scrambled to pack their gear. The pilot said two more planes were on their way. We flew back to the plane base camp and as we unloaded our gear, we found out that we had to spend the night at the base camp. The next plane that came in had Michael Waddell on it. I got to visit with him for a short time. It was neat to meet a fellow Hoyt pro-staffer in the middle of nowhere! Michael showed me his bulls and he said his camp also had a tough hunt.

It was obvious from the caribou that came off the planes that this year was not a prime year to hunt caribou in Canada. I hope to hunt a big bull someday, but I’m still very proud of my cows. You can’t kill the big ones every time. I’m always very happy with any trophy I’m fortunate to take. Besides, the cow meat is some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten. We are all in this sport for one reason: to enjoy the great sport of archery and to hunt the animals we all love. I’m very proud to have killed a caribou with my Hoyt AlphaMax. And as much as I love my AlphaMax, I was very excited to hunt with my new Maxxis. Not long after my caribou hunt, I got my Maxxis and took a great Pope & Young Coues deer on my first hunt with it. I put my equipment to the ultimate test on every hunt, and my Hoyt and FUSE gear always delivers. It’s simply the best you can get!




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