If you ever need a reminder of why we call our sport "hunting" just book yourself a trip for Quebec/Labrador caribou. In recent years, the unpredictable migration patterns of these magnificent creatures have forced outfitters to rethink strategies, move camps and occasionally just give up and admit defeat. Yet the vast majority of hunters who go to Quebec for caribou still come home with meat and antlers, and the lucky few with exceptional trophies. If you listened with only half an ear to the buzz coming out of Quebec at the end of last season, you might have heard dark tales of disrupted migrations, entire areas without any caribou for weeks at a time and hunts canceled at the last moment. You might even have heard dark mutterings that the impending crash of the vast George River Herd - the largest migrating mass of free ranging ungulates outside of Africa - has begun. Bunk. As far as I can tell, it's business as usual in Quebec. The caribou herds are apparently still very healthy, most hunters are still getting the animals they are going for and this coming fall is as good a time as any to book a hunt in this area.
What happened in 1997 was nothing more than the kind of momentary glitch in the migration pattern that has left numbers of camps caribou-less in past years. We've reported on these glitches so many times, they've come to seem like part of the northern landscape, which is precisely what they are. For one thing, an unusually warm start to the season held up the migration, making the early going spotty. Instead of crossing rivers and moving on, most animals appeared to be hanging out on the hilltops in the breeze, away from the swarms of flies in the valleys. It appears that in some camps, the caribou were there, but the hunters didn't want to climb to them. In mid-September of 1997 the outfitters working around Kuujjuaq suddenly found the flow of caribou drying up. For some unknown reason (personally, I chalk it up to the sheer perversity of the caribou),........(continued)