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Night Hawk Stories... Entry 33

The Caribou Mystique
by John E. Phillips
Page 3


click to enlargeOn the third morning of our 5-1/2-day hunt, I took my CVA St. Louis Hawken loaded with a conical ball to hunt caribou. Because I believed in eliminating all the possibilities that caused black-powder hunters to fail, I cleaned the nipple of my rifle to ensure I had a clear passage for the spark to travel to the powder. Then just before I screwed the nipple back in, I poured black powder under the nipple. This procedure would help the powder to ignite and eliminate misfires.

I also used a couple of accessories for my gun including...

* a cap guard, a round piece of plastic that fit over the cap and the nipple to hold the cap securely to the nipple and prevent the cap from falling off and

click to enlarge* a hard plastic nipple protector. Even if the hammer of my gun fell, the gun wouldn't go off and spook the animals. This nipple guard also allowed me to cock the hammer and prepare for the shot before the animal came in close. Then just before I shot, I could remove the nipple protector slowly and quietly and be ready for the shot.

As we rode out of camp in our large canoe on our third morning, we saw a small band of caribou with one very nice bull and several smaller bulls crossing the lake. Napartuk suggested we go to the far shore where I could get out on the bank and look for a stand near the spot where the caribou should exit the water. When we landed on the shore, I noticed a small bush about 50 yards in front of me, which would provide some cover to hide on the tundra.

click to enlargeZappia and Napartuk pulled the boat away from the bank and moved out into the lake to keep from spooking the caribou. As I waited patiently for the animals to approach the shore, I cocked the hammer on my Hawken, estimated the distance of the shot and began to mentally prepare to take the animal when it came out of the lake. I checked my nipple to make sure the cap guard was still holding the cap. When I thought of all the things that could go wrong to prevent me from bagging my black-powder caribou, I remembered the times my dependable gun always had fired. I felt confident that if the caribou came within 100 yards, I could down him.

As the caribou neared the shore, I noticed a smaller bull close to the big bull leading the herd. I thought surely the large caribou would climb out of the water first. As the caribou moved to the beach, I aimed just behind the front shoulder of the trophy bull. But as I squeezed the trigger, the younger bull sprinted and jumped in front of the trophy bull. When the rifle reported, the younger bull went down. Although a nice-sized caribou, he didn't fit the description of the huge trophy I had intended to take. But everyone in camp evaluated my caribou as, "a black-powder trophy," particularly since no one else had taken one.

click to enlargeShooting a black-powder gun and hunting in this land of the Far North for caribou made this trip an event of a lifetime for me.



Night Hawk Stories