This trip was the 2nd of 3 (so far) with JHA. Shortly after we arrived in Shefferville, some terrible weather had moved in leaving 6 to 8 inches of snow north and west of Shefferville. Winds were strong, temps turned cold, and conditions were whiteout at times. Floatplanes could fly only short trips intermittently. Consequently, Richard was backed up with getting his groups of hunters in and out to the camps. We were flown into Yankee Lake about a day and 1/2 later than scheduled. Upon arrival, the group leaving the camp all had huge trophy antlers making our spirits high. However, the guys said they took their animals the first couple days of their hunt and hadn't seen anything since. We went out hunting that afternoon and didn't see any fresh tracks in the snow. The third day, I had a cow walk by me at 20 yards. After that, the weather warmed a little and it rained (poured) on and off the rest of the week. We abandoned our bows since the only caribou we would see was the occasional cow high on a mountaintop 1000 yards away. One guy did get a cow on the last day at 400 yards. One guy in our group didn’t see a single animal. I got a shot at a bear at 475 yards from a mountaintop. It was ½ hour before dark, so the guide didn’t want to look for a blood trail. I can’t say I blame him so I agreed that it would probably be best to look in the morning. Unfortunately, it rained over an inch that night and no sign of the bear was found. We could hear shooting west of us, and even talked to other hunters on our radios that were having success 12 miles away. Our guide for this trip did not work anywhere near as hard as Lionel did on my first trip 4 years earlier. One reason being that no animals were down, so he didn't have to help with animal care. He told us if we hiked to where we heard the shooting, not to expect any help from him packing an animal out. To this day I’m still not sure if he was serious, or realized we were serious about hiking that far. We asked the guide and the cook (also his wife) to put in a request to Richard to move us on the 3rd morning. It seemed as though they worked on their own time and said they would talk to him later that night. Knowing the logistics involved with a move, that would keep us another day at Yankee Lake. They were in contact with Richard in Shefferville daily, but didn’t seem to provide us with specific information on when and if we would be moved to a productive camp. All she would tell us is “the plane is out of commission”. We did not get moved during our hunt. She did a great job with the camp kitchen, including providing good meals. She even baked a cake for one of the guys on his birthday which was a nice touch. However, we were disappointed when we came back to camp each day and having to split our own firewood, which was soaking wet. Given the miserable weather conditions, the guide should have kept our cabin fires going to dry out our gear without us requesting he do so. There were other things that could have been improved on by the guide, but as I mentioned, perhaps the weather was getting him down or he was just having a bad week. He’s a good person, and has worked for JHA for a number of years with good reports. We just felt given the weather conditions and the fact we weren’t seeing caribou, the guide would have worked a little harder to make the client’s stay more comfortable. I wouldn’t be afraid to have the same guide again, now knowing what the expectation with him should be. When we returned to Shefferville, we met with Richard and discussed what went right and what went wrong with our trip. He truly felt bad that we didn’t get into caribou. We understood his position of a being in business and trying to juggle all those hunters backed up due to the weather. Apparently the power was out in Shefferville for 2 days and hunters had been held in Montreal also. I can only imagine it is an outfitters worst nightmare to get hit by a storm lasting so many days in the middle of your busiest season. He was able to put other groups before and after us into productive camps, we were just the “odd group” left out. It happens sometimes, and we understand that. Richard stated that it had been a number of years since a group had as poor of a trip. True to the JHA business ethic, Richard promised us a better time if we booked another trip. We agreed that certain things are within the outfitter’s control and some aren’t (such as the weather). We agreed to book with JHA again for 2005. There isn’t an outfitter based out of Shefferville I would trust more than JHA. The 3rd review to follow soon.
Thanks for the report Dan. Steve has certainly improved since that hunt. Last year he was at Coursolles and he looked after more bow hunters than any of our other guides. Most of them thought that he went out of his way for them. It is never easy for the guide when the hunting is that poor. Unfortunately I was at the mercy of the weather and with the snow storms that we had during that week many of our hunters that were already tagged out didn't bother going out, nor was I able to scout our spare camps or move our scouts around with the Cessna therefore we were somewhat handicapped as we no longer had any information on the whereabouts of the caribou. To make matters worst caribou don't move much when the weather is that bad so the caribou that were only 12 miles from camp moved much slower than anticipated and eventually turned back in the direction they were coming from before ever hitting Yankee Lake. Being that your group flew into camp later than planned due to the weather and due to the fact that the floatplanes could hardly catch up once the weather cleared I was unable to move your group into one of our productive camps to finish your hunt.
Snow, Wind, Whiteout conditions, Heavy Rain