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In Search of Caribou

I have been told by hunters and friends that of all the wild game they have dined on, Caribou was their favorite

Gander Mountain

 

 

I have been told by hunters and friends that of all the wild game they have dined on, Caribou was their favorite.  With this little piece of information, the decision was made to start the research about the animal and where in North America would be a reasonable place for me to go.  Of course, success is what it is all about first, and then comes the dining.

 

The Caribou is also known as the Reindeer and in Europe and Eurasia is known as the Wild Reindeer.  Now this opening sentence stopped me right away.  I am not interested in shooting  Santa's Reindeer.  However, the animal is a member of the Cervidae family which also includes elk, moose, and deer.  That fact just eliminated my first objection.  The range of the animal extends from Alaska through northern Canada, the Northwest Territories, and into Manitoba near the town of Churchill.   This animal is a specialist for cooler climates with hollow hair fur that covers almost all of its body.  This provides protection from the cold weather and gives added buoyancy for swimming rivers and lakes during the migration.  What is really unusual in some of the sub species, both male and female grow antlers.  On an average the animals weigh around 200 to 240 pounds and stands about 5 to 5.5 feet tall at the shoulder.  The largest of the specie in North America is the Alaska Caribou that can weigh in as much as 680 pounds.  Dressed meat would come in at around 40%, similar to that of a deer or elk.

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When it comes to feeding, the Caribou is classified as a ruminant.  That means they have a four chambered stomach.  In the winter they eat mainly lichens and are the only animals that have this ability.  This is due to the bacteria and protozoa in their gut.  Otherwise, they will feed on grasses and other foliage that grows on the tundra. Reading about their dietary habits makes me a little cautious about how they will taste.  My decision to go as of this writing, has not been made, and more research about the cooking and taste will have to be determined.

 

In the fall the Caribou migrate from their summer feeding grounds to their winter grounds.  It is during this time that the mating season takes place.  The large antlered animal loses its velvet and the antlers harden for the fighting that will take place.  After mating has taken place, the antlers will fall off and a larger pair will grow back in the spring.  The cycle will repeat itself.

 

In the fall the migration is in smaller groups as mating is taking place.  But in the spring, they will form herds ranging from 50,000 to 500,000.  Covering 12 to 34 miles per day, nothing will stop them and they will swim any lake or river in their path.  The swimming speed can range up to as much as 4 mph.

 

Besides hunters, their predators are bears and the wolves that will follow the migration.  Other animals will feed off the kills made by the larger predators.

 

Spending several hours on Caribou recipes, I found the majority of them were for stews, casseroles and pies.  Also, there were a lot of really upscale restaurants that advertised Caribou dishes prepared in all sorts of ways.  Where they get their meat was not mentioned, but the recipes looked very good.

 

Since the hunt would involve going out of the country, the research will take place to find an outfitter.

My usual requirements include a reasonable price, good history of success, fully guided with meals, and a warm place to sleep.  We will see how this comes out.

 

 


Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 

 

 

 

 

More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!