Hunting caribou and elk in Newfoundland
Hello, dear fellow hunters and fans of wildlife adventures. In the past year on several occasions it was a pleasure being invited to take part in hunting in Canada. Some of you probably remember about the incredible black bear hunt I was telling you about several months ago. As you may guess, this story of mine would be about such hunting session. Nevertheless what is the unusual is that the two of us with Archie we invited to hunt in Newfoundland. The newly found land, just like the literal translation of its name, is the largest Canadian island along the Eastern Atlantic coastline. Its area is 109 thousand km2, being less than the Bulgarian territory. We were about to hunt at 10-15 kilometres inwards a territory no one had hunted for 8 years. The previous concessionary of this hunting territory had suspended his activity but all local hunting guides were still available. Obviously the new concessionary was someone with a dash and lots of money because the chalet where we got accommodated by our hosts looked more like a 5-star villa in two storeys, with rooms sufficient for four hunters.
Next to our villa, at the shore of the crystal clear lake there were another 2 buildings. We arrived in the camp be helicopter but saw one delta plane at the quay in front of the chalet. Obviously our hosts got security against weather’s whims and we were soon to find out it was quite capricious and changeable. Another two hunters arrived by the helicopter with the two of us with Archie. One of them was about to hunt with bow, and the other – with carbine. They had arrived to stock up on game meat in the winter. Both of them wanted to take down a handsome and fat elk. It seemed we were about to face fierce competition. In the camp two passionate hunters had gathered and two of them were about to hunt with a bow. We were slightly worried because of the fact we were about to compete for the animals near the lake on whose shore the camp was constructed. Taking advantage of our experience, we knew elks could travel great distances during the mating period. That was the time we were hunting, the seasonal peak.
Nevertheless, the next day early in the morning we boarded the boat by which we were about to move to the hunting area assigned to us, and all our worries about competition between hunters vanished in thin air, since the fog floating above the water disappeared with the first sunrays. As soon as we set off by the motor boat, on several occasions we noticed at the lake shore the large dark silhouettes of female elks. We had been travelling for more than half an hour by the boat, but the lake kept offering us its convenient and attractive waterway inwards the uninhabited marshes and uphill. The hills overgrown mainly with coniferous plants and shrubs were already hiding the surrounding landscape while approaching from both lake sides. Obviously we were approaching its end or at least we thought so, until making a wide turn by the shore and happened to be in the bed of large slow flowing river. Weather was deteriorating and literally in half an hour the sky that was blue some minutes ago got full of dark rainy clouds. The two of us with Archie were with another two hunters in the boat. We were moving up the flow of the wide river, and we were all looking at the shores for animals. We were looking for caribou or elk. Half an hour of low and careful observation of the overgrown shores yielded results. One of the professional hunters showed us where to look and soon we distinguished the large spades of the elk hidden amidst the shrubs of a small hill. We approached the shore unnoticed thanks to the high slope. The shore overgrown with shrubs and scarce trees didn’t provide us with much of a shelter but Archie decided to stalk the elk. The two of us and one of the hunting guides climbed the slope near the river bed and got on top of a small plateau. The meadow thickly covered by half a meter low shrubs ended in ravine. It was already raining heavily. The wind got stronger and thunderstorms broke the sky. The noise was outrageous and we didn’t stand the chance of hearing the moving animal, even if weighing half a tonne. I couldn’t see anything because of the rain, but Archie showed me the glares of the wet elk’s spades at several meters from the other side of the ravine facing the ridge. It seemed the elk didn’t see us. Its whole attention was attracted by a female that was slowly passing along the slope below it. We could not make it to it in time. The locality was too open and even if he didn’t see us, blind with the magic of love, the female would surely unveil us. We were in one-way street, for short. Our hunting guide signalled us to hide as much as possible behind the shrubs of the only poor pine in the middle of our meadow and prepared to imitate the love calling of the elk. I have to admit he was quite successful. The sound that very much resembled a furious male made the elk we were observing crazy. It abandoned the female one and with slow and swaying walk headed towards the source of the battle sound. I had hidden as much as possible behind Archie and I could hear the hunting guide that kept gasping and puffing. We lost the elk out of sight when it got down in the gully at some hundred meters ahead of us. For some time we decided it had given up, but soon it appeared in its full magnificence. Facing us directly, bathing under the pouring rain, the elk started approaching us with the typical sailor’s walk. His intimidating behaviour went even further. It had lowered its powerful antlers and with sharp head movements seemed to be sharpening its lethal crown of 20 spikes in the nearby bushes. For a moment it remained still and gazed right at us. I could see the pupils of its eyes, so close it was. After a short, but frightening pause, during which it seemed to be trying to strike us with its look, the animal kept observing us. Until then Archie didn’t have the opportunity to make a secure shot at the large animal. Elk was moving slowly, yet it approached us inevitably and soon it was about to attack us, if we didn’t do something. Archie had stretched his bow long ago, but the arrow was not flying off. The animal was already at less than 5 meters from us and the giant was hanging above our small group with its intimidating dimensions. There was nowhere to hide or run. At that time I was sure the animal would attack us. Back then Archie did something that perplexed me but later on I understood and was quite thankful for his coolness and fearless reaction. At the time when the elk was inclining its powerful spades to get in attacking position, Archie released the arrow off the bow. He didn’t shoot, but carefully returned the stretched strings and took the arrow in his right hand grasping it in the middle like a knife. Facing the huge elk overhanging him, the hunter seemed not to be equal competitor of this colossal muscular animal. Even though he clearly realized the danger, Archie made a step towards the elk, accompanied by the frightening movement of his hand, in which the steel spike was glaring amidst the large raindrops. The elk was surprised by this movement made almost beneath its nose and instinctively jumped and withdrew. Archie got encouraged by his luck and made another movement with his hand. The elk didn’t try messing with the two-legged creature in front of it. Obviously it didn’t trusted the animal he hadn’t seen before. The animal started running in slight trot through the bushes while following the female that had been prudently observing the stage from afar. We didn’t get to see this elk no more. To my question why he didn’t get to shoot, when the elk was so close, the hunter answered me in blood-freezing and apparent manner. While the elk was approaching us, there was no chance of producing a secure shot and Archie didn’t want to shoot on the first hunting day without being sure he would kill the animal on the spot. But once the elk approached us at less than 20 meters, Archie decided that even if he hit it lethally in the heart, the elk would have the time in the premortal adrenaline inflow to reach and attack us. That is why the hunter preferred not hurting the animal in such proximity. Honestly speaking, I was slightly disappointed because I would have taken probably the best pictures of close shot on elk, with 4K quality. Yet we made it over the abyss and nobody got hurt, plus I had shot an incredible scene which everyone can witness in the show “Safari season”. After the thrill we experienced and soaking wet, we decided to continue our hunting session. We got back to the boat just when the rain stopped. Our movement along the picturesque shore got us to a sandy beach in whose end, female caribous and one male were moving in a row. We were approaching them by the boat without getting noticed. Once again the high slope of the shore strip helped us hide when getting off board. We sneaked amidst the shrubs and on our way we had some cranberries from them. We were fast to find the animals in one meadow. The male was still not trophy animal good enough so we made several camera shots. Just when we were thinking of getting back to the boat I got the idea of trying to approach the animals hidden behind the elk silhouette. It was quite a successful method for stalking all kinds of animals in close distances. Archie didn’t mind and took the plastic frame from his backpack on which the printed body silhouette was stretched, full-size female elk full. He and our hunting guide trying approaching the small herd but their way was passing through the thick cranberry bushes. This made their movements quite unnatural and the animals were fast to unveil them and vanish in thin air. We decided to see in which direction they had escaped, so we climbed the nearby hill and started observing the horizon. While Archie and our hunting guide were looking at the marshes stretching in front of us, I managed to shoot an exceptionally beautiful rainbow appearing after the pouring rain.
Soon I realized Archie and the hunting guide had not been wasting their time in contemplating the natural beauties, but had localized several back dots in the horizon. These could be only the elks, but from a distance of 5-6 miles it was impossible to decide on their trophy qualities. The day was already approaching its end and was about to be finalized in 2-hours’ time, so without wasting any time we headed in the direction in which the animals were supposed to be. Half an hour of fast walking and we were already very close to the place. Then we continued more carefully. There was a scarce forest of coniferous trees yet combined with the cranberry shrubs made our sneaking task almost impossible. Hence we took on a roundabout route by the forest. The surprise that was expecting us in the very forest end was more than good. On the shore of a small lake amidst the trees a very old male with massive shovels was lounging. Because the animal was quite elderly, most of its spikes were worn-out or missing, but it was a real trophy animal wrought in battles that had spent its life without seeing a human. It was impossible to approach it unnoticed not only because two females were moving by it. The river flowing from the lake separated us from the lying animal. It was quite improbable to cross the small river without it seeing us. Our action plan was simple and it included the female silhouette, as well as the masterful shouts made by our hunting guide. After sensing the elk would head directly towards the silhouette, Archie sneaked at some 30 meters in front of us, in animal’s direction. Once the hunter was ready, he faced and signalled us. Everything was perfectly positioned. The elk in the distance was in line with the shouter holding the tease in the shape of female elk and it was me and the cam in the end. Everything was planned and it was up to the elk to do its part of the plan and attack the silhouette making the battle calling of a male elk. It almost worked out, but almost. The elk stood up, just like we expected, and headed in the direction of the silhouette and the hidden hunter. Thus it kept on moving for some time but at some hundred meters it decided not to cross the river and approach us from the wind direction. It went along the bank going by the hunter and approaching us from the side opposite Archie. Our plan was good, but it didn’t work out and I proved closest to the elk with my cam. The animal stopped for a while in 20 meters from us and with the already well-known swaying walk started approaching me. I was standing still, squatting in the shrubs, but felt the elk saw me. Initially the animal was heading towards the silhouette, but once it got very close, it decided to try out the smallest competitor and that was me. My situation was not pinkish at all. I had nothing handy to protect myself from the elk. I had nowhere to run, because I had a hundred meters of short bushes to the forest. Everything I could do was holding the cam and trying to take my last shots to be remembered. The moments in which all this happened seemed endless to me. I was shooting the moss from very close perspective and had no idea where Archie and our hunting guide were. I knew they were somewhere around me but I didn’t dare more not to provoke the elk and make it attack me. I could still hear hunter’s words resounding in my head after our morning close meeting with the elk. I knew it was no different than then and if Archie didn’t kill the huge animal by chance, any moment, even if wounded, it would pass through me and crush me. Just when the animal was several meters from me and I could hear its noisy and frightful breathing out before the attack, I heard arrow’s whistling by me. I was ready to jump off my place should the elk attack me, but Archie’s shot was so precise that it hit animal’s spine. The hit immobilized the giant and it fell on the ground, as if thunderstruck. Archie went to the animal and put its sorrows to an end with an arrow right in the heart. It took several minutes for it to come to an end. At the time I was thankful to the hunter for not being in victim’s place. After that hunting session and my experience with these animals I could state for sure that elk is the second most dangerous animal after the grizzly bear there, in the North American continent.
After the unique experience and the adrenaline I had stocked up, it seemed quite easy to move the cut elk to the boat at some 5-6 miles from there. My euphoria was gone as soon as I tried lifting one of the backpacks in which our guides had distributed the meat. Even if skinned and cleaned, the animal weighed at least 350 kilograms. Thanks God our hosts were kind enough to provide one polaris on that side of the lake.
When we got back to the camp it was already dark, but our joy was great. Around the table we found the other bow hunter who was successful that day in shooting down a great trophy elk with 24 spikes. Among the hunters in the camp, contrary to my expectations, only the hunter with the carbine was not successful in killing his trophy animal on the first hunting day. The two bow hunters had outstripped him. It was his turn literally several hours later. The next morning, even before sunrise, he saw from the quay that one elk was at less than a kilometre from the right lake shore. His spontaneous decision to stalk it by the boat got him the desired trophy. Thus, within 20 hours all hunters got their trophy animals they had come for. It was only Archie who was supposed to shoot his caribou down and we could call for the airplane or the helicopter to pick us up ahead of terms. I don’t know whether we were lucky or there were too many animals in this hunting territory, but Archie managed to get his trophy caribou several hours later. During the long march to the location where in the morning we localized with our binoculars a caribou herd, we managed to see a total of 18 elks. 7 of them were females. That territory remained without any human foot stepping in it for more than 8 years, and we were the first and last hunters for the season. There was nobody left in the chalet after us and our hosts carefully prepared the brand new chalet for the heavy winter ahead after nailing the shutters and draining the water off the installation. That place was about to welcome the next hunters in more than 9 months’ time, in 2017. Our hunting adventure there was like taking a brisk look in the keyhole of the limitless wilderness of the large areas surrounding the lake. Locations overpopulated with elks and caribous, which didn’t get frightened even by the delta planer landing some hundred meters away of them in the lake. I hope I conveyed for you the thrill I experienced back then in that unforgettable adventure. I know I am not capable of describing for you the beauty of this extraordinary corner of the globe, but if you have adventurous spirit and would like to experience something new, go there. We could even come together for the continuation of the incredible hunting episodes, shot in Newfoundland. Do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org