In December of 2016 I began to hear rumblings of the possibility of the closing down of the hunting for non natives on the Leaf River Caribou herd. This is a species that I had not hunted and had hoped I would have an opportunity to hunt in the future. This caribou is classified as a Quebec Labrador and is one of 29 species recognized by the Pope and Young club. There are 5 species of caribou in the list of 29 animals.
I began calling outfitters, booking agents and friends and was unable to find a spot. One booking agent was waiting for a deposit from a hunter and I sent my deposit in to him hoping that I had a chance. Thirty days went by and the agent contacted me and said he was cashing my check because the other hunter had backed out.
I would be hunting with Alain and Louis Tardif who have been operating Leaf River Outfitters since 1989. In 1990, Alain drove a John Deere catipillar into the camp to clear a runway to bring in lumber and supplies. It took 28 days traveling and pulling his fuel by sled and never shutting the engine down.
Fast forward to September 23rd as I stepped out of the Otter plane. It took five different planes to finally get to camp. I would be in the main camp on The Leaf River with 18 hunters and two other groups of hunters would be hunting out of different locations in lakes camps. I would be the lone bowhunter of the 30 total hunters for the week hunt.
I would be hunting with a guide and a rifle hunter on the first day. We traveled down river five miles and back up another river two miles to start our first morning's hunt. After climbing several hills and seeing no animals, we sat to glass miles in the distance. After about 10 minutes, a herd was spotted heading in our direction. Dave, the rifle hunter I was paired with, shot a great bull out of the herd of 45 animals about 2 hours later. I was by his side helping him judge and pick out the best trophy.
The wildlife and fishing was spectacular and took turns between glassing trophy bulls and catching fish.
On day three, after hearing most hunters where tagged out, I started becoming concerned. With a caribou migration you never know if you have a thousand more animals coming or none.
We were returning to camp and noticed the rocks on the shore were wet from caribou crossing the river. It appeared we had just missed a large herd that had just crossed. We parked the boat and started glassing hoping more animals would be coming. Tommy our native guide spotted the first bulls and we knew that we had to travel up river as fast as possible in hopes of intercepting the herd as they crossed. l traveled a miserable half mile up river running, stumbling and falling trying to get to the herd in hopes of a shot. As I came to a clearing in the timbered ravine a saw caribou crossing in front of me. My guide had fallen far behind and was not behind me. I snuck to the edge of the clearing as many caribou ran by. I was at a loss as to how many had run by and how many were yet to come . I tried my best to select a shooter and let an arrow fly at 40 yards. My shot was a little back because of me not judging the speed of the moving target but my caribou was down quickly as about 50 more animals trotted by heading south across the tundra. This was my forth caribou hunt but the first time ever being in the migration path and I truly wish all of you have a chance to experience it. INCREDIBLE!
I really hope that the outfitters and indigenous people can work out a solution so those wanting this experience can make it happen. As of now this looks to be an end of the era .....
Mike Lutt has been bow hunting since 1976 and has been a member of the NBA for 30 years. He has been married for 32 years to Rhonda and they have three children that are out of the nest! Mike spends hours scouting and bow hunting in Nebraska and any other place he can find.