Migration Axiety Distorder (MAD)- affects the central nervous system. Brought on by acute stress due to lack of activity primarily affecting the Rangifer tarandus and related orders. Symptoms include high blood pressue, elevated stress, irritability, loss of sleep and appetite.
It’s September 21st as I write this and the last of the groups are out in the field. More than any other year that I remember, 2007 will go down in caribou hunting history as one of the more painful seasons. Many hunters saved their pennies and dreamed of tundra swarming with migrating bulls. What they found was a barren landscape void of all but black flies. Guys – let me tell you – Been there done that. It always sucks.
But reading through many of the posts on our forums brings one thing front and center to me and I can’t help but write about it…
I think of caribou like I think of the stock market and gambling. Many people assume that because the caribou moved through a particular camp at a particular time last year they will do the same thing the following year. Kind of like missing out on that hot stock that ran up 140% last year or playing the slot machine that just hit it big. Nearly every expert will tell you that it’s a loser move to try and chase last years' results. Be it a tech stock, a one-armed bandit, or a 350” bull in velvet.
When I hunted Tuttulik Outfitters during the last week of September 2005 we did not hit the migration and found very few animals. I came home empty handed with no shot opportunity. Some guys in camp booked earlier weeks since the hunters that year had great success in August. But rather than base my decision to rebook on 2005, I just rebooked for the same week in 2006. The result? I shot one of the largest bulls ever killed by a bowhunter.
Caribou hunts are always a game of chance. It does not matter which outfit you go with. The caribou will go wherever they want to go driven by something not even caribou have figured out.
This is what dreams are made of. It doesn't happy on every hunt but when it's hot it's unbelievable.
If you go up there with the expectations that you will be swimming in caribou you will be disappointed. If you go there with the expectation that you may be lucky enough to hit it right, and you do, then savor it because it may never happen again. I've hunted caribou 9x and nothing about this year surprised me. I've been on 3 trips where I've never seen a caribou and I've been on 2 trips where I never saw a shooter bull in range. Only 3 trips I can honestly say I hit it OK. And for the record, I have never hit the "flood" where you see 20k caribou streaming by you. That vision is largely a myth - despite what outfitter videos portray at sport shows.
The same thing holds true for elk. I just came off a very difficult elk hunt. I never had a shooter bull in range. But since I left, everyone has tagged out. In fact, the guys hunting the week after me killed 3 bulls in 3 days - all monsters. Go figure. For whatever reason people don't get as worked up when they have difficult elk hunts. Not the same for caribou. The only difference is (IMO) people have unrealistic expectations regarding caribou and more sensible expectations regarding elk or deer.
I think media has a role in this. Not so much Internet hunts. What you see here is exactly what we experienced. But TV and Magazines do not portray an accurate picture of caribou hunting and lead many hunters down the path of higher expectations.
You will never see a hunt on TV where guys are pacing in camp mumbling inappropriate words while kicking the floor. You only see the backslapping excitement of getting to pick out a monster bull out of 1000 shooters. It's totally understandable since the TV shows are competing for an audience with virtually no attention span while holding the remote.
Outfitters share a responsibility in the manufacturing of these unrealistic expectations as well. I don’t know how many “show” caribou outfitters I walk past that have signs claiming 98% success on two bulls. Some of them are still playing hunting videos shot in 1988. I walked by one guy at the Harrisburg show where the hunters on the flick were wearing Trebark camo and shooting PSE laserflight bows. That camo, and that bow, was popular in 1987. Of course, a simple call to all of their hunters reveals a more realistic picture that turns out to be more like 98% success on two small bulls during the last two days of the 3rd week of August. Otherwise the entire season looks more like 59% on two bulls with rifles and, “sorry, no stats kept for bowhunters.”
I think with Jack Hume Adventures, and some other reputable outfits you have a better chance of having a good hunt than bad. I also have found these outfits to be very upfront and honest with their results. It is one of the reasons I am proud to have them for sponsors. But the onus is really on you. You need to do your homework, talk to references, read the extensive comments here within our caribou section, check out our outfitter reports, and then sit down with your calculator and figure out what the *opportunity* is worth to you. But above all, go into the hunt with both eyes’ open. If you absolutely must put an animal on the wall then go to Africa where you are all but guaranteed some sort of kill. If you have realistic expectations of hunting a magical land, experiencing the adventure of a bush plane ride, and hunting and fishing in the arctic, then you won’t be disappointed - even if the caribou are hard to find.
I know that reading this article to some of you is like rubbing salt in the wound. My apologies if I am reiterating what many of you have just found out. If I could wave a magic wand I’d like to see every last one of my visitors come home with two PY bulls. But that’s not the way it is on any caribou hunt.
So long as you are understand the fact you are hunting a free-roaming animal that is on its' own timetable you will be fine. Of course you will be disappointed when they are nowhere to be found. I am, and it’s happened a lot to me too. But it's a part of a caribou hunting that every hunter needs to accept before they drop down their deposit. But don't let any of the truth I've shared discourage you. A better hunt you won't find and dollar for dollar - it's your best hunting buy in North America.