Caribou sport hunting offers a special type of adventure. If you are searching for a thrilling hunt, a real wilderness experience, and a big trophy bull with breathtaking antlers, then caribou hunting will deliver on all fronts.
A Caribou hunt is considered by many hunters to be the hunt of a lifetime. From the amazing terrain to the unique animals, it is no wonder that lots of hunters are in pursuit of Caribou year after year.
Lots of experienced hunters consider Caribou some of the easier game to hunt as far as big game goes. That being said, Caribou live in some extreme conditions and terrain, and many times hunting them is not as easy as most think.
The challenge of pursuing those animals is finding a location that holds Caribou and then trying to maintain your sanity and comfort when faced with everything that different environments can throw your way.
In the Caribou Hunting Quebec article, you will learn more about the Caribou, Quebec caribou hunt, where to hunt these animals, and how to improve your odds of a successful hunt.
Quebec is the largest Canadian province. It is located on the eastern side of the country, covering an area nearly 3 times Texas’ size. Its population is primarily French-speaking.
It features widely varied geography, from the vast, uninhabited tundra regions in the north to the scenic mountains along the east coast to the heavily wooded regions in the south.
Caribou Hunting Quebec
Northern Quebec was one of the great areas to hunt caribou, and the Quebec-Labrador Caribou used to be Quebec’s primary big-game hunting draw. The famous Leaf River herd and George River herd migrations of northern Quebec have been the focus of many hunter’s dreams for decades.
The sport of caribou hunting in Quebec was suspended starting in 2018. The 2017 season was the final season for caribou hunting in northern Quebec. This is due to the decreasing number of the caribou herd prompting the season closures while the caribou populations recover.
However, Quebec still has excellent hunting for moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, upland birds, waterfowl, and small game.
Quebec is divided into 29 hunting and fishing zones (zone 25 is fishing-only). The hunter must abide by the rules of the zone he is in.
Where Can You Hunt Caribou in Canada?
Newfoundland and Labrador is home to woodland caribou. There are thousands of them in this area. Although it is mostly known for its quality moose hunting opportunities, it is also the only place where non-residents can hunt woodland caribou.
A woodland caribou is one of the most prized of all the subspecies. It is sought-after for its wide, long-beamed antlers that often have palmated bez points. And their mature bulls weigh between 350 to 500 pounds and sport unique racks that are more compact and heavier than other caribou varieties.
Also, there are non-resident hunting seasons in a number of other Canadian provinces, including Yukon and British Columbia.
The chief predator of caribou is wolves, and the two species can often be found in close proximity. The caribou will also be killed by wolverines and Grizzly bears, particularly the injured or young.
How to Read a Caribou’s Body Language
They walk quite gradually when they are not distressed and expand their head forward and downward. But, they will perform a special behaviour when alarmed in order to warn others that there is a danger. They will do this when a predator is getting too close but is not about to catch them (or after they discover that you are a human sitting on a rock).
The troubled caribou will run with their small, generally floppy tail held up in the air and their head held high and parallel to the land.
Both the male and female caribou have antlers. The cow antlers are spindly and small. It rarely reaches 2 feet long. While the bulls have flaring, palmated antlers that can reach up to 5 feet long, adorned with shovels (large scoop-like brow tines) that often extend out over the nose.
Caribou have very good eyesight and hearing. They also have a great sense of smell. Although the caribou can be numerous during migration, you must consider these senses during hunting, or you will spoil the whole thing.
During migration, the caribou move between summering and wintering grounds. Rutting often takes place toward the end of the fall migration, which is a great time for caribou hunting.
Caribou are faster than a whitetail, as they can run up to 40 mph. They are excellent swimmers as well. Caribou just wade right in the water and go. Neither broad lakes nor swift rivers can slow them down. Seeing caribou swimming in the middle of large lakes is not an uncommon thing, even if it is out of land sight.
Caribou subspecies are designated by the region they inhabit, besides the differences in their physical characteristics. Here is a slate of some different varieties:
Rather than bulls, the male woodland caribou are often referred to as stags. The Woodland caribou diet involves grass, twigs, leaves and other browse. They live amongst forested hills and bogs, rocky ridges in Newfoundland and other forested areas in Eastern Canada.
They live on steep mountain slopes covered with spruce, firs, and other conifers. And they migrate downhill for winter.
Mountain Caribou are the largest subspecies. The bull of these subspecies can weigh somewhere between 400 to 600 pounds, and their antlers are long and wide with long tines. The range includes the mountains of the Northwest Territories, Alberta, British Columbia, and the southern Yukon Territory.
Alaska-Yukon Barren Ground Caribou
The Alaska-Yukon range extends from Alaska to the southern Yukon Territory. They are the northern tundra’s classic caribou, and their main food source is the Tundra lichens. The bull of these subspecies has a weight range of 175 to 300 pounds, and their antlers have very long main beams, wide spreads and impressive palmations.
Central Canada Barren Ground Caribou
The size and appearance of those Caribou are very similar to their Alaska cousins, but they have a slightly smaller size at 150 to 275 pounds. And they have impressive antlers. Their range includes the Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba, and Nunavut.
Arctic Islands Caribou
The Arctic Islands Caribou, previously called Peary caribou, are restricted to the arctic islands of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, in addition to the Boothia Peninsula.
The Tundra lichen is nearly the exclusive feed source of these Caribou. The maximum weight of their bulls is 250 pounds. They have smaller, less developed antlers, instead of in the usual C shape, they are spindly and rather straight.
This is the open-ground Caribou of eastern Canada, in the namesake provinces. The average weight of their bulls is from 200 to 400 pounds, and their antlers are impressive as they spread wider than any other subspecies.
Quebec-Labrador Caribou migrate south to forested areas for winter. Though like all Caribou their populations are cyclical, at peak migration herds are massive.
Caribou Hunting Methods
Spot and stalk is the best method to hunt for caribou. Caribou are fast-moving and far-ranging animals, and you will have to pursue them on vast tracks of land. For that reason maintaining a level of mobility is key.
Most caribou hunters will be using services such as a jet boat or bush plane that will help them to reach their hunting grounds. These services will usually do a pretty good job at putting you in the general area of the animals.
After you are there, if you can not see any caribou, then try to spend your time travelling from ridge to ridge and valley to valley in search of the animals. You should cover as much ground as possible.
It is quite possible that there are no caribou in your area while dozens and dozens are passing through just a couple of miles away. Caribou love to travel in larger herds, so locating the herd should not be too difficult if you are in the right area.
Bring the Right Optics
Unless you are a bush pilot, finding the herd will be the hardest part of caribou hunting. Bring high-power binoculars (at least 10 × 42) and carry a spotting scope. To avoid losing the ability to hunt during the evening and morning hours, make sure to use top-quality glass.
Locating a Herd
Caribou do not like hot weather. So when hunting in warm conditions, especially in the mountains, checking for Caribou around glaciers and snow patches during the warmest part of the day could be a wise decision. They will lie directly on the ice or snow and remain there for hours.
Caribou do not like biting insects as well. When bugs are bad, you can often find Caribou at the feet of glaciers and in the vicinity of large lakes, presumably to take advantage of the breezes generated by these features.
Once a breeze kicks up, which is stiff enough to keep the insects down altogether, the animal will often stop to feed along the fringes of tundra ponds and in lower pockets of land.
The hunter might suddenly not see any movement at all if he was watching travelling animals at a distance. If this happens, wait until the breeze dies. After that, since the animals will begin trotting along in a mad dash to try to escape from the insects’ attacks, you might see the land suddenly boil over with Caribou.
If you see a caribou herd travelling in the distance, take notes of which route they take. There are usually more other herds that will come, and they will tend to travel through the exact same route.
Sometimes, after hunting for a couple of days, you may find out that all the animals are coming into view at the same point along the skyline.
But if they take more general routes to travel, and are not confined to a specific valley bottom or trail, then position yourself close to natural funnels. River crossing locations work well, as do isthmuses between lakes and saddles along high ridges.
Caribou have certainly learned how to travel smart. Their ways of moving across the landscape are both efficient and predictable. After identifying the land features that direct the travel of the Caribou, you may move your Caribou camp near to those features if you want to glass right from home. When bugs are bad, you can remove the rain fly from your tent and glass from inside the mosquito netting.
Despite their wandering ways, feeding Caribou will sometimes stay put for days on end. If you notice a bull is eating in one spot for one hour or so, heading in his direction is worthwhile, even if you will have to walk two or three miles.
While walking in his direction, you might run into more Caribou, or when you arrive at the location, it is quite possible that he will still be there.
When it comes to the animals that are moving, do not waste your time trying to hunt a Caribou that is walking away from you. Thinking that you can catch it is a mistake. But instead, it is better to concentrate on animals that are moving toward you. Caribou can move ridiculously fast on the tundra, and a human travelling across tussocks is no match for them.
You do not need to take too many precautions when you get out in front of a herd. Just hunker down into the vegetation and hold still. As often as not, to know what is that strange shape on the tundra and satisfy their curiosity about it, Caribou will swerve from their course.
Caribou are generally easier to stalk than deer or elk but do not be lazy or stupid when you are stalking them. While one caribou might let you walk right up to it, the other might decide to run and never be seen once more.
But do not be afraid of making a quick approach because of your worries about concealment. If the bull you are after is feeding and you notice that it looks a little restless due to bugs or any other thing, then do not be worried if you expose yourself from a few hundred yards out.
And if that happens and the bull starts getting nervous from your presence, try to stay on your hands and knees. The caribou might come closer to check you out in order to satisfy its curiosity, closing that distance for you.
When it comes to shooting, bringing down caribou is not that hard. Whether it is bow hunting or rifle hunting, the caribou will be down on the ground in a hurry as long as you make a great shot in its lung. In order to avoid ruining any meat, you should aim five or six inches back from the front shoulder.
Since hunting caribou successfully is all about hitting the migration right, a good outfitter is essential. A caribou outfitter can get you there, knows where caribou migrate through and when to hunt, and when you need to find the animals, he can move you to a new spot.
Rare is the non-native hunter who has conducted a totally do-it-yourself caribou hunt. Caribou Outfitters can provide the camps, transportation, and hunting rights you need.
With some outfitters, your hunt will be with native guides, which add the cultural experience element to your overall adventure.
Always make sure to check out the references for any outfitter. Ask them about their accommodations and camp, and if the herds are not there yet, what are their plans for getting you onto the caribou?