Night Hawk Stories... Entry 33
The Caribou Mystique
THE WORK BEGINS
Caribou, big animals weighing well over 200-pounds each, usually would require several men to carry out the head and cape, two hindquarters, two front shoulders and the backstraps off one animal. But we had to transport two heads and the meat from two animals. However, when Napartuk rolled Zappia's caribou over, he found that wolves apparently had attacked the caribou and made a big, slashing gash in its shoulder. Because some of the meat had yellowed, Napartuk didn't think we should eat it.
"We'll put this meat in a cache here by the lake," Napartuk decided. "I'll check with the other guides to see if they think we should come back for it. But I'm afraid to eat this animal."
We loaded up the head and cape of Zappia's caribou and began to cape and quarter the other bull. We had left the canoe in such a hurry to catch up to the large caribou Zappia took that we forgot our packs. We only had two slings from our guns to carry the animals out. We hooked each sling through the hindquarters, head and cape of the caribou. Two of us each had a hindquarter, a head and a cape, while Napartuk carried two front shoulders and the two backstraps out on his shoulders.
After 50 yards, we had to rest. Going another 100 yards, we knew we couldn't carry 80 pounds apiece with only gun slings as carrying straps.
We put the meat under rocks at the edge of the shore, built a rock fortress around the meat and covered it completely with rocks so no predators could reach it. Then we started the 4-mile hike back to the boat. We all had on hip waders. Each time we crossed small streams and shallow lakes the water nearly came over the tops of our hip waders.
The weight of the two heads on our backs caused the gun slings to cut into our necks and shoulders. Our long, exhausting and painful hike seemed to last for an eternity. As night began to fall, I wondered whether or not we'd have to sleep on the rocky terrain and possibly find our canoe in the morning. But with an internal compass bred into his navigation system from hundreds of generations of ancestors living in this treeless land, Napartuk navigated straight to our boat where we arrived exhausted before dark.
Our friends, Steve and Bruce Anderson, also had had success. Both men had filled their tags with two caribou each. As night fell, we piled the big, wooden canoe high with caribou, meat, heads and weary hunters. However, I'd failed to take a black-powder caribou.
THE NEW CAMP
The Lake Ballantyne area only had opened in 1990 to outsiders for caribou hunting and fishing the multitude of fertile lakes. We had hit the peak of the caribou migration with the timing of our hunt. On the third morning of our hunt, we could even see caribou from our hut.
The Silak Adventure Camp on Lake Ballantyne, one of the most well-organized and comfortable spike camps I'd ever seen, had plenty of expert help. Johnny Adams, an Inuit native, and Jacques Derry, the Silak Adventure outfitter, had gone in immediately after the snow had left the area, brought in building supplies by float plane and snowmobile and set up toasty-warm plywood huts for living quarters. They also had built cook tents and brought in generators and hot showers.
The Silak Adventure Camp not only featured outstanding caribou hunting but also some of the finest fishing for lake trout and arctic char in northern Quebec. Although we intended to sample the fishing, I still had as my goal to take a caribou with my black-powder rifle.
Derry told me another black-powder hunter had visited the camp the year before but had not connected with a caribou. No other muzzleloading hunter had bagged an animal from this camp with a black-powder rifle.