Editor's Note: As part of our research, we asked all the caribou outfitters remaining in Quebec about the closure of caribou sport hunting and their future. Richard Hume sent us a lengthy and detailed email, far too long to include in our print edition. Still, Hume's email echoed what we heard from other outfitters and we are including it here.
"During the initial conference call [about the status of the Leaf River herd (LHR)], none of us were prepared for what the biologist had to say and we were taken by surprise. I was pretty much in shock to hear what he was saying and was lost for words afterward.
"I might add that I flew 200 hours across northern Quebec in search of caribou from late July until October and had guides scattered throughout northern Quebec living among the caribou in camps 70, 100, 130, 150, 200 and 225 miles from our base in Lac Pau. I questioned all these guides about the cow/calf ratio, and only one guide who was located at Willy Lake camp witnessed anything lower than a 60% cow-to-calf ratio. The one guide at Willy Lake said he noticed groups of cows having many calves and then others with groups with absolutely none. But even he said that the calf-to-cow ratio on average would have been at least 25%. Other camps reported as high as 80%. The biologist reported 18%!
"From what I witnessed during my scouting missions with my Cessna 185, the caribou were scattered, with caribou extending from just a few miles west of the Caniapiscau River all the way out to Lac Minto (headwaters of the Leaf River). We also had camps open only 70 miles from Lac Pau that were just as successful as those 225 miles north of Lac Pau. Looking over the grid that the biologist flew to take pictures of the caribou in order to then count them, I would think that he would have been lucky to have counted two thirds of the herd. Bear in mind that he spent a few days doing an inventory of hundreds of thousands of caribou that may have not all been located in the exact location of the collared caribou where he did his grid and, more importantly, however many that were between the grids just a few miles to either side that were never counted. Nonetheless, with the caribou so scattered during our season, it is hard for me as an outfitter to estimate if the herd was up or down. It would have seemed as if we should have seen fewer caribou but we were seeing them everywhere....