If the 2008 season was the first time you have ever paid close attention to Quebec caribou hunting, you are likely in shock right now. The mid-season meltdown of Tuttulik Outfitters, which left 168 hunters with paid hunts that weren’t delivered, is sending a shock wave through the entire hunting community. The idea that an outfitter could, without warning, cease operation in the middle of a successful season is profoundly disturbing. Not surprisingly, the hunters who paid more than $5,000 for those hunts are angry and vocal. The situation, along with last season’s cancellations in Schefferville and the bankruptcy of Nunami Outfitters in 2005 (both of which we reported on) has shaken some hunters’ confidence in hunting Quebec.
Is it warranted? Hunters are asking why the Quebec and Canadian government don’t have more protections in place for tourist hunters. How is it an outfitter can take a client’s money and walk away from his obligation? Why can’t the wildlife department or outfitters’ association take any action? Tuttulik’s clients aren’t getting any answers and their frustration is understandable. Information has not been forthcoming, although there have been some developments on the Tuttulik front. But before I get into that, I think it’s important that we look at the overall picture in Quebec and get a better understanding of the hunting situation there.
Perhaps as many as 5,000 hunters booked caribou hunts in Quebec this season. One outfitter alone, Safari Nordic (www.safarinordik.com) accommodated over 1,000 hunters, and between 35 to 40 other outfitters operated throughout Quebec this season. The truth is that for most of the hunters who booked 2008 caribou hunts, their trips came off without a hitch.
When you look at the overall picture of Quebec caribou hunting, as I have for 19 years now, you discover that, year in and year out, most caribou hunters have a great hunt. Some don’t. And complaints about Quebec caribou hunting generally come in one of two forms. Either the outfitter did not deliver the services promised, or the hunters did not see the game they expected to see. These are really separate issues and need to be considered independently.
Let’s look at what’s behind the “lack of game” complaints first, as there were some cancellations this season due to this problem. Caribou are migratory animals, move in vast herds, and are here one day and somewhere else the next. I have on two separate occasions literally seen 10,000 animals or more in the first two or three days of a hunt, and not a single animal on the last two or three days because the migration had moved past.....