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Caribou hunt leads Marshalltown man to Quebec 

November 20, 2010

CARIBOU, Rangifer Tarandus, are nomadic members of the deer family well known for legendary migrations of hundreds of miles. Several herds of caribou occupy the open Quebec tundra-like landscape in numbers that boggle the mind, more than 1,000,000 animals. But before one gets the opinion that all these animals are in one place at one time, the truth is that the Leaf River herd and the George River herd, though distinct, are well spread out upon a beautiful yet harsh open tundra environment. In this land of thousands of lakes, finding caribou is no easy task. Caribou are always moving.

Hunters contemplating a hunt for caribou in Quebec need a guide to get you and provisions to camp.There are many reputable outfitters that have been in the business a long time. They know the land, its people, and how to place hunters in the most likely spot to take caribou. Jack Hume Adventures was the outfitter McGinnis used. Hume has been in business for 39 years so he is no stranger to what it takes to get the job done, to take care of the meat and capes and get hunters out of the wilderness with a big smile on their faces.

McGinnis and hunting buddy Sam Kemp, from their high school days, booked the hunt for 2010. Bowhunting was the preferred method and Hume has guided lots of archers over the years to take some great animals. However, having plan B in mind, taking a rifle along is good insurance because one never knows when and where caribou will be. A saying in the Canadian arctic is 'feast or famine' regarding migrating caribou. You either see them or you don't. And if you do see them, getting into ambush positions may not work. Hunters need to keep flexibility in mind at all times.

Article Photos

One of two bull caribou is shown here with hunter Dan McGinnis. He hunted in the vast open tundra of northeast Quebec, Canada from Sept. 9 to the 15, 2010. In this land of extreme weather and a very short growing season, finding caribou is the first challenge. Outfitter Jack Hume used float planes to get the hunting party to their camp near the Quebec/Labrador border about 120 miles from Schefferville. Schefferville is 750 miles north-northeast from Montreal.

McGinnis and Kemp had talked for years about a big game hunting trip. In January 2010, they made the plunge and booked a hunt. They took their bows and they took rifles, plan B, just in case. As always, the outfitter provides a checklist of things to bring, including clothing suitable for the land and its weather. They were told to expect rain, snow, sun, wind, cold temps all in the same day or several times each day. As luck would have it, the hunters had a week of sunny virtually cloudless days with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s, a most unusual happening.

The hunters eventually did see and find caribou but none in conditions that would allow for a stalk or ambush to use the bow and arrow. The camp they were at was treeless and consisting of open tundra of lichens and mosses, sedges and low growing willows. It became pretty obvious that being in the right place with a bow was going to be very tough. The duo had to revert to plan B, using their rifles, in order to take their animals. It is a good thing that plan B was available.

Caribou are larger than whitetail deer by a good margin. Bulls can weigh from 250 to 600 pounds and have antlers over four feet long and four feet wide. They are the most tenacious of all antlered species of N. America, using the lichen 'pastures' of the arctic for food. They are known to eat at least 62 species of lichens in the winter. Summer foods number 282 species of seed plants with a preference for green vascular plants, sedges, willow shoots, dwarf birch and horsetail (equisetum), and mushrooms.

McGinnis had a great time on the hunt. Fishing was excellent and a few lake trout took his lures for a good fight. At night, cascading curtains of shimmering light entertained them as the impact of solar winds hits earths atmosphere. Also observed in the area were black bear, wolves and ptarmigan.

This scribe went to Quebec on a bowhunt for caribou in 1996. I was at a camp northwest of Schefferville, a long way from McGinnis's camp, where we did have a few conifer trees intermixed with a tundra covered rocky based land of glacial eskers and numerous lakes. In a remote land such as this, true wilderness is what one becomes immersed in. It was an awesome experience.


The voters approved Iowa's Water and Land Legacy amendment by a margin of 63 percent on Nov. 2. In time, this will become a mechanism for continued work on cleaning Iowa water, providing for soil conservation and restoration of wetlands to help prevent future floods. The system is not funded at this time, in fact it could be years before that happens, however eventually a future first share will be dedicated to support Iowa's natural resources. A coalition of over 130 organizations representing over 300,000 members worked on the amendment proposal beginning five year ago and succeeded in getting two legislative sessions to approve it in order for the people to vote on it. The people did vote and a majority said yes.

The legislature also laid out a plan in advance for how the funding for the Water and Land Legacy account will be used. About two-thirds of it will be dedicated to water quality issues. The other one-third will go toward soil, wildlife and related outdoor recreation. None of the future Land and Legacy funding may be used to fund regulations, enforcement actions or litigation. Specifically, the breakdown calls for 23 percent to the natural resources account, 20 percent to soil conservation and water protection, 14 percent to the watershed protection account, 13 percent to REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) account, 13 percent to local conservation partnerships account, 10 percent to trails account and lastly, 7 percent to lake restoration account. No new administration is created to manage the funds.

Iowan's do care about our land, water, soil, wildlife and unique special natural areas within our borders. Our quality of life depends upon good, practical, common sense application of stewardship to the challenges we face for clean air, clean water and conserved soil.


The winter issue of the MCCB's quarterly newsletter "Seasons" is coming out later this month. If you have had an address change in the last couple months please contact the MCCB at 752-5490 to let them know so they can make the correction on their mailing list. If you don't already receive this FREE newsletter and would like to, call to put your name on the mailing list. That's how you know early on what programs and special events the MCCB is hosting during the winter season.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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