By Mike Deming
Traveling out of the country to hunt can be an intimidating experience for many, but the thoughts of huge Quebec-Labrador Caribou are enough to get most people over their fears. When you have been fortunate enough to win a hunt of this caliber like Rick Hudon of Yakima, Washington did in the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes, it’s really easy.
When I called to notify him of his good fortune, he was sitting at elk camp and was elated with this opportunity.
Traveling abroad to hunt was something that he had never done, but embraced the opportunity to do so. It would be nearly nine months before he would depart on this hunt with me and a group of other Pro Members. This would allow him to get a passport and prepare for any sort of vacations that needed to be arranged.
In late September, we all met in Montreal, Canada in preparation for our trip north to the Leaf River. This is where Alan Tardiff, owner of Leaf River Lodge spends most of his summer and fall. This is also the main lodge for the operation, although there are several other outpost camps as well.
When I booked this hunt for the winner, I chose to hunt the Leaf River camp so I could spend some time with Alan during the week, as well as have our hunt winner get to meet the owner of one of our Platinum Approved operations.
Being this far north this time of year provides a tremendous light show of the Auroa Borealis at night.
We departed Montreal in what seemed like the middle of the night and according to my western clock, it definitely was. In the air at 4:30am, mountain time was pretty early to me, but what it would take to get us through the required stops and plane changes to get us into camp. Rick was already enjoying the experience and had both eyes wide open while I was trying to keep one partially open.
After a two-hour flight on a prop plane, we landed in Loc Pau where we would stage our gear for the smaller twin otter plane, which would take us to camp. We drew the first float plane ride out, which would be another two hour ride to the “Leaf”. After weigh-in and loading, we settled onto the plane for the scenic ride. We put Rick up into the co-pilot seat to get the most out of the experience. Only an hour into the flight, I opened my eyes to see us dropping in altitude and preparing to land. As we motored to the dock, I recognized the camp as the lower camp Loc Desbergeres. I had hunted here back in 2009 with great success. The pilot said the weather at the Leaf had deteriorated so bad that they wanted us to turn back. However, he felt that leaving us here and moving last week’s residents back to fly out was a better plan. We could at least hunt from this camp and by the looks of the departing hunters’ racks, this was a good play.
The plan would be to wait the weather out here for the day and hopefully get to the main camp the next day, but by the next morning, the plan was still the same. So, after breakfast, we sat around and waited for word on the plane situation. With on and off snow flurries, the flights were called off for the day just after lunch. So, we decided to hunt the rest of the day at our current location.
Trevor Marques and Gabe Mackey were the first ones dressed and ready to go and before they even got out of the camp, they saw two good bulls swimming the lake in front of camp and heading right towards us. Gabe confirmed through the spotting scope that one of them was a bull he would gladly shoot. It took nearly thirty minutes for the two bulls to get across the lake and our group was watching as they climbed out. Gabe was watching through his scope, as the biggest of the two shook off the excess water when he hit the shoreline. With one well-placed shot, he piles up on the shore and one tag was filled.
Next, I loaded in the boat with Rick for a few hours of afternoon hunting. We hadn’t been on the water for even an hour when we saw a bull stand up from his afternoon nap. The boat had disturbed his sleep and he quickly got up and out of sight without letting us get an opportunity to judge him. Rick asked my thoughts and I let him know that this decision was one hundred percent up to him. If it was a bull he would be willing to shoot on the last day, it should be a bull he shoots now was my only advice.
We motored around the water’s edge to a place where we could get out and hopefully get a better look at this bull. We climbed to the top of the hill and our guide, Michel, immediately got his eyes on the bull. I put the bull in my spotting scope and told Rick to take a look and see what he thought. He gave us the thumbs up on the bull and we started developing a plan as he walked towards us. He was about 600 yards out and slowly feeding along. As if on que, he dropped down into the trees and turned right towards us. He was out of sight for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Due to the roll in the hill, I figured that he would be within 100 yards when he was visible again or he would turn east in the trees and we would never see him again.
We had just about given up on this bull when I stood up and caught antler tips coming up the hill. Rick was settled in on my pack as if taking a five hundred yard shot, so this hundred yard shot was going to be fairly simple. Within minutes, he was broadside at 98 yards and Rick put a fatal shot on him to put an exclamation point on his big win. As we walked up to the animal, it was obvious to me that Rick was a true sportsman who enjoys the experience. He gave the animal a moment of silence and thanked the Lord for his success, as well as the opportunity to harvest this majestic animal. It was a true trophy and experience of a lifetime for this lucky winner.
With our hunt winner tagged out in one day and before we even made it to our regular camp, the pressure was off to get a show. Good friend, Trevor Marques of Bull Ridge Guide Service from Ely Nevada, was along on the hunt. He was going to attempt to harvest a bull with his bow, which would add to the show and if everyone else tagged out, I would be the last one to hunt.
We were excited to get to our main camp and start hunting all day, so the next morning we were more than a little bummed when we got word that the weather was still bad and we would have to be on hold. We spent the majority of the day around camp waiting for word on the planes. However, we never got the go ahead from the weather. I talked with Alan on the phone that night about us just staying at the current location so that we could focus on hunting and he said that was fine. So, the next morning, we would start hunting and planned on being at the Desbergeres camp throughout our hunt.
The next morning, we heard from the other groups that they were all in caribou and bulls were hitting the dirt and it didn’t take long for us to find our first pair of bulls ourselves. One of them had everything Trevor was looking for in a bull. He had good top points, double shovels, big bez points and long beams. The stalk was on, but those two bulls didn’t like what we had planned and they took off on a dead run back towards the lake and out of sight. It took about thirty minutes for us to find them again and they hadn’t made it into the water. They had settled down and were feeding in a great place for an archery stalk. I settled in behind the spotting scope on a good vantage point. This would allow me to guide Trevor in on the bull if needed and film from a distance.
Jelindo Tiberti kills his 30th of 31 North American Slam animals at Leaf River Lodge.
An hour later, Trevor was sitting just inside a hundred yards from the smaller of the two bulls and about 120 yards from his desired target. He patiently waited for two hours before the smaller bull got out of his bed for good and walked back towards his buddy. Trevor capitalized on the opportunity to get closer. At seventy yards, he set up his tripod and video camera to self-film the shot. Once rolling, he moved to fifty-five yards and waited for the bull to rise from his bed. As if on que, the bull rose to his feet. I hit the record button from 800 yards away through my PhoneSkope and Trevor came to full draw. As the bull lunged, I knew Trevor had made a great shot and the bull raced nearly two hundred yards before piling up. Another successful Leaf River Outfitters hunter was in the books for 2016.
Day four of our trip only had one other hunter and myself without punched bull tags and before lunch, we were down to just myself. By late afternoon, we spotted three big mature bulls nearly two miles away. We hoped they would come our direction, but they disappeared out of sight and we didn’t see them materialize the rest of the afternoon. With only a couple of hours before sunset, we decided that we needed to make a move on them or at least their last known location. They could have likely slipped out without us seeing them, but at least it was back towards the boat.
With an hour of daylight left, we were at their last known location and we slowly peeked over the hill every twenty or thirty yards. I picked up antler movement below and I knew they were there. Looking at them at nearly two miles was way too far to judge their trophy quality, but at two hundred yards, I was getting a full frame. They were mature, but appeared to all only have one shovel – not quite what I was looking for. I’ve always wanted to harvest a caribou with big double shovels and big bez points.
Sportsman's News publisher Mike Deming finally connects on a double shovel bull.
I had just gone into “pass mode”, when the biggest of the bulls looked up the hill at me and exposed a matched set of double shovels. We immediately went into kill mode and I jacked a shell into the chamber. At the same time, the group of three decided to get out of dodge. In the excitement of it all, I blew my first shot over his back. The biggest bull hit a higher gear and started running through the trees and I connected with the second shot. Wow, that was fast and furious action and a great end to a world class trip.
In four days, we had harvested seven great bulls, eaten like kings and had extremely comfortable accommodations which included hot showers, beds and Wi-Fi service. Leaf River Lodge Desbergeres has been one of our Platinum Approved Outfitters for ten years now and I’m sure another ten are in order. We will be giving this same trophy hunt away again in 2017 for a hunt in 2018 with the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes. So, don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy this same hunt and if you just want to book a spot to come with us, please let me know. We have a Sportsman’s News group reserved already and room for a few special guests.