The search is on for an outfitter that will meet my needs for a Caribou hunt in North America. Fortunately, we have the Internet to do our homework, and visiting with fellow hunters, the old days always come up. How did we find places to go and get good information? It was difficult and the opportunity for unscrupulous operators existed. For this trip, I merely typed in, "Caribou outfitters" and several pages of lodges, guide services, and marketing organizations popped up. It took days to get through all the material.
The search started in Alaska. There were some exciting adventures available there, but they were out of my budget. The search was moved in a southerly direction because getting as close to home as possible was a major requirement.
What I found is like anything else that you are doing in the great out doors. It always boils down to what are you willing to pay. My requirements are simple. Results are the first order of business. A hunter can take a trip into fantastic locations, but still not be in the right place to fill the tag. First class operators will brag about their results and they will back it up with references.
Second in importance has to be suitable accommodations. I have done my fair share of sleeping in the four walled tent. When you are in the mountains or a wilderness setting, and when the sun goes down, it always gets really cold. My main sleeping bag is rated for 20 below, and getting out of it at night to take a quick bathroom break from a good night's sleep is a miserable experience. First, you have to unzip the bag and expose yourself to the cold temps that have crept into the tent. Then you have to get your boots and your coat on, grab your flashlight and step outside. It always is a good idea to take your pistol with you as who knows what is creeping around the camp after the fires go out. When you go back into the tent, you have to stoke the fire in the stove with a couple of logs, then stay awake to make sure the smoke is going out the chimney.
I like four walls made out of wood with indoor heat and an indoor bathroom and shower. I am too old now to continue finding a suitable log for the restroom. Additional details are not needed beyond this point. Most important is an indoor shower. Maybe you can go several days without one, but I want to be clean when I go to bed at night. Shower facilities are a must.
At this point, I am beginning to sound like a real pansy, but why not be comfortable. Having said all of the above, I eliminated a lot of camps that would have cost less money than the one I selected.
Guide service and meat preparation is most important. A good guide will put you on the game or at least know where to put you so that you will have a decent shot. A knowledge of meat preparation and field dressing the animal is important. We want all the meat we can get from the animal available to take home and not be tainted in any way. My preference is to go one on one with a guide, but none of the lodges that met my requirements made that a possibility. No one in my circle of friends wanted to take the trip. Visiting with the outfitter, they stated that they always have single hunters come up and they would match us up. I hope this works, but I am an easy person to get along with.
Since the ultimate goal is the meat, this requirement pushed my choices over toward Churchill, Manitoba. To fly up north with weapons, coolers and gear would get really expensive. I found a lodge in northern Manitoba that could be accessed from Fort Thompson. This can be driven from my home in Council Bluffs, IA through Winnipeg, Manitoba and up to Fort Thompson.
After a month of research, Webber's Lodges (http://webberslodges.com/caribou/) was selected.
My next writing will tell you about what it takes to go to Manitoba and a little about my contacts with the outfitter.