WILTZ: World of hunting trips not immune to change
Recent changes in the world of hunting have affected some of the places I've been. Another touches my recently booked British Columbia moose hunt. In 1993, the late Don Kaberna and I made our first out-of-country hunt when we went to Quebec's Kuu...
Recent changes in the world of hunting have affected some of the places I've been. Another touches my recently booked British Columbia moose hunt.
In 1993, the late Don Kaberna and I made our first out-of-country hunt when we went to Quebec's Kuujjuaq in the Nunavut Territory to hunt caribou. Kuujjuaq lies a 1,000 miles north of Montreal. We shared an incredible tundra adventure where no human footprints preceded us. We caught lake trout and Arctic char on most every cast, bagged our first ptarmigan and each took a pair of caribou bulls. Sammy Cantifio's Ungava Adventures was our outfitter.
The year 2002 brought me back to Nunavut again with hunting partners Mike Hall, Curt Kaberna, Ed Kniffen, Doug Koupal, and Greg McCann. We hunted Gordon Lake, the same camp Don and I hunted in 1993. We caught lake trout on every cast where a stream emptied into an unnamed lake, took turns hunting ptarmigan with our only shotgun, and accounted for two mature caribou bulls apiece.
I had feared it wouldn't be as good as the first time. It was every bit as good.
Fall 2016 will bring change to this Nunavut tundra. Late in January, the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks announced that hunters will no longer be able to take two caribou on one license. A license will be good for only one caribou that may be a bull. A second tag may be purchased, but antler length will be restricted to a maximum of 40 centimeters or 15.75 inches. We are talking about a cow tag, as cows carry small antlers.
The change was brought about by a 6.7 percent decrease in herd size between 2014 and 2015. This was attributed to a decline in the survival rate of males. With the revised regulation, outfitters claim that they will see a gradual increase in trophy-sized bull numbers. In the past, most hunters looked to put a respectable bull on the ground and then hunt for a bull with more impressive headgear. Now, a tough decision will have to be made by trophy bull hunters.
Our outfitter, Sammy Cantifio, doesn't look for many hunters to opt for the second cow tag. He says the prohibitive cost of shipping meat by air will dampen that desire, as most hunters fly into Montreal. Unlike most hunters, we drove pickups to Montreal, the point of origin for Kuujjuaq flights. The round-trip flight to Kuujjuaq, meat shipping included, was a part of the hunting package. We brought our meat home in the back of the truck at no additional cost. Although some hunters might be discouraged by the "one bull only" move, this will continue to be a great adventure.
There are more caribou hunt changes. Back in 2001, Springfield-Tyndall area friends Ed Kniffen, Greg McCann, and I flew to the Alaska Peninsula, by way of Anchorage. From Anchorage, we flew to King Salmon, and then hired Branch River Air to drop us in the Lake Iliamna area for some caribou hunting and fishing. During our bush plane flight, I mentioned to the pilot that we wanted him to put us down in a good caribou area. He answered by saying he didn't have enough gas to take us that far and that wolves had decimated the caribou. That was our first indication that problems lie ahead. We saw one caribou at that remote camp site.
Later in the trip, while fishing in King Salmon, we learned of a spring herd of caribou cows and calves on the edge of town that had been slaughtered by wolves. I wondered why Alaska condoned such a thing.
Today, the word "change" on the Alaska Peninsula is an understatement. Non-residents may not hunt caribou on the peninsula, but they can certainly hunt wolves! The daily limit on wolves is a liberal 10. Wolf tags aren't required, and the season runs Aug. 10 through June 30. In looking back, Ed, Greg, and I enjoyed great ptarmigan hunting, as well as salmon fishing. I'd go back for the ptarmigan, salmon, and a crack at a wolf, except for one thing - the gnats, flies, and mosquitoes nearly drove us mad.
Last fall, I booked a British Columbia moose hunt with Cabela's Outdoor Adventures. I went so far as to explain in this column why I booked with Cabela's. I recently learned that Cabela's sold its booking and tag application service. In March, the Cabela's Outdoor Adventures website posted the following:
"Cabela's is pleased to announce Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA) has acquired Cabela's Outdoor Adventures and Trophy Application Guide Service (T.A.G.S.). WTA will retain the current Outdoor Adventures and T.A.G.S. staff of 19 employees, continue to operate an office in Sidney (Nebraska) and maintain a close partnership with Cabela's."
It is my understanding that WTA will honor my contract with Cabela's - even to the extent of my paying for my hunt with Cabela's Club points.
Not too long ago, Sports Afield magazine acquired the Cabela's Trophy Real Estate business. While I'm no businessman, I'm guessing that Cabela's is honing in on those things that are the most profitable. Judging by the way new stores are going up, that would be retail stores.
With respect to the Freeman area TransCanada pipeline break I mentioned three weeks ago, Dave Hoffman, Hutchinson County Emergency Manager, told me he was on site shortly after the break. TransCanada had already shut down the pipeline, and four TransCanada people and two independent contractors plus equipment were already set up when he arrived. Dave said that they were very "up front," and that they supplied him with daily reports afterward. It would appear that TransCanada is very efficient, as well as responsible.
See you next week.