Destinations North

Fort Chimo

Outfitters try to downplay the notion that caribou hunting in northern Quebec is a virtual slam dunk, but they've been only partially successful. Perhaps there are years of unusual weather patterns when bull caribou big enough to make Boone and Crockett Club rankings aren't as numerous. But for hunters with more modest goals—such as boxfuls of meat of exceptional quality and a decent set of antlers—this is as close to a sure thing as it gets. The lure of quality hunting and the opportunity to film a show with plenty of action took Jay Novacek, the host of Cabela's Sportsman's Quest television series, two videographers and me to Ungava Bay country last August. We met in Montreal and then flew by jet service two hours north to Fort Chimo, or Kuujjuaq, as the Inuit call it. The small town is at the edge of the Arctic Circle a few miles south of Ungava Bay, which lends its name to Sammy Cantafio's Ungava Adventures. Cantafio's outfitting service is linked with the Cabela's Outdoor Adventures network. At daybreak on the morning after we reached Fort Chimo, we left for hunting camp at Lake Minto, about 225 miles to the west near Hudson Bay. As we flew along in the floatplane, I looked out and in the gloaming the sweeping tundra far below appeared to be a gray, drab place. In better light, however, a different scene presented itself. Colors bled down the hillsides into the glacial lakes and roiling streams: muted reds of wild blueberry leaves, greens of junipers, alder and black spruce and Easter-egg pastels of deer moss, rock lichen and cloudberries. It seemed suitable for a transition landscape that separates the verdant Canadian interior from the white wastelands of the Far North. Caribou generally are not difficult to find during the hunting season, which extends from August through October. Much depends on the weather (generally balmy this time of year), the migration timetable of the Quebec Labrador herds and the location of the hunting camp. Cantafio, who has been in business for 30 years, maintains several camps from Lake Minto to southeast of Fort Chimo. In this sweeping land of plenty, a hunter is tempted to place obstacles in his own path to create a greater challenge. During our hunt, Novacek decided he would settle only for bulls whose racks wore double shovels. No problem. I was hunting with a Sharps .45/70 Gov't with open sights and, factoring in my range limitations, reckoned the degree of difficulty that presented was sufficient. I got two bulls—the limit. Maybe I should have held out for a freckle-faced bull that was blind in one eye. In fact, I think I saw one of those, too.