It is August 29th, and I am off on a 1200 mile journey to Thompson Manitoba in northern Canada for the flight to Webbers Lodges on Commonwealth lake. The fly in is scheduled for August 31st and includes the first day of hunting Caribou on the tundra, but first you have to get there.
The trip up I 29 to the border is uneventful as part of that route has been traveled before, but beyond the 207 mile marker in South Dakota, it has been years since I've been up on that route. Nothing has changed. You move from hilly traveling to ground as flat as a pancake in North Dakota.
Fishermen had told me of the trouble in crossing the Canadian border since the attacks of 09-11, so I was prepared for delays and shakedowns to get across. You can bring a firearm into Canada, but you must complete their form for that purpose and not sign it. You sign it in front of the officer at the border. The biggest problem was the long line of cars going north. Most of them were Canadians that had been shopping in the States.
When I finally pulled up to the booth, the officer could not have been more friendly and helpful. I was merely questioned about where I was going and what I had planned to do in Canada, after presenting my passport. When I said, " Hunting," he immediately said "Oh, Caribou." He directed me to pull over to a parking area and take my paperwork into the officer at the desk, which I did. He asked me to sign the declaration of the rifle I was bringing into the country and gave me a receipt to show customs in America when I returned. I was off and running. The whole exercise did not take 15 minutes once I got to the booth. If you have hunters and fishermen tell you of being hassled at the border, I did not find that at all, in fact the Canadians could not have been more helpful and courteous.
After a night in Winnipeg, I drove another nine hours to Thompson, checked in at the hotel Webbers Lodges had arranged for me, and contacted their facilitator. This is a lady that organizes everyone at the airport. She told me she would be at the hotel by 6:30 AM the next morning to get everyone loaded on the plane and off to the tundra. I found out there were five other hunters in our party making a total of six for the trip in.
To my surprise we would be flying the first leg of the journey in a King Air 100 to an airstrip on the Tundra next to a fishing and hunting camp called The Lodge at Little Duck. This would then place us about 150 miles northwest of Churchill, Manitoba on the Hudson Bay.
|The King Air we flew in the first leg. There were six hunters plus all the gear. Look at the runway. It is sand and gravel.|
|Looking down the runway which ran up and down hill. This in itself is exciting. This is the airport at Neganilini.|
Cold misty and gray was the weather upon landing. Our gear was then transferred to a float plane for the 30 minute flight to Webbers Lodge on Commonwealth Lake.
|The float plane is a modified Beaver converted to a Jet Prop.|
We flew low over the Tundra and the first thing I noticed was the amount of water. There were large and small lakes everywhere. In addition, I thought the tundra would be flat, but it was rolling with different shades of plants and ground cover.
|The only trees you see are located right around the lakes and consist of pines.|
Flying low, we had the opportunity to see some Caribou, but we were told the migration had not fully started and the lodge sat in a staging area where they assembled.
Upon landing at the lodge, we were met by the staff and introduced to our guides. Licenses were filled out and the camp manager discussed how the hunts would take place. He also stressed safety in hunting and went over some good tips to make the hunt a good one and most important, a safe one. I really liked his discussion.
|My guide is on the left. The ballistics expert is on the right.|
The next thing we did was sight in our rifles. I thought mine was pretty well tuned, but it turned out it needed some adjustment. One of the guides had excellent knowledge of ballistics and scope adjustment, and with a couple of minor adjustments, my shooting was dead center on the targets.
|Home for the next 5 days. Notice the water tower at the top of the picture. We had running water, plus a propane hot water heater. With a flush toilet we had all the comforts of a five star hotel. More pictures of the inside will follow.|
After getting our gear stowed, we did what we came for. We went hunting.