Hunt of a Lifetime? Boy, was it ever!!!! When Cabela's and Under Armour collaborated last year to put together a chance for some lucky hunter to win the "Hunt of a Lifetime" sweepstakes, I gotta be honest, I was just happy to be involved. Hunting Canada for migrating caribou on the artic tundra is a surreal bowhunting experience and an opportunity I will never, ever take for granted. The deal was...one lucky hunter would sign up on-line at www.cabelas.com, submit a contest entry saying why they were in essence "Under Armour" tough and should be selected to accompany me and Senior VP at Under Armour, Kip Fulks, on a caribou hunt booked through Cabela's with one of their best caribou outfitters, Artic Adventures. There is more...the entire experience would be filmed by Cabela's talented and hard-working cameraman, Jereme Thaxton, and ultimately showcased on Cabela's Outfitter Journal which airs on Outdoor Channel. With the entry each candidate wrote an essay, attached photos and in some cases video, pleading their case.
Man, it was awesome to read the submittals...it was evident early on whoever won would fit the UA catchphrase of Passion, Preparation and Performance to a T. When it was all said and done the lucky hunter was one Jonathan Gabrio from Auburn, Washington. A young man whom seemingly lives to hunt. Just my style!!!
It was a roll of the dice picking a winner like this, not quite at random but not too far off. Now, on the heels of the hunt I can tell you we couldn't have made any better of choice. Jon worked hard, was gracious, an awesome partner and a talented hunter. Look for a detailed write up of our adventure in the pages of EHJ and or EBJ soon. I gotta thank UA's Matt Kurowski for pushing this idea along in the early stages. The entire trip went pretty much like a script, which with international travel is saying something. After meeting up with Jon, Kip and Jereme and sharing a dinner in Montreal, we then flew to Kuujjuaq, Quebec and from there hopped on a single prop Otter to one of Artic Adventure's hot spots, "Bobby's Lake" camp, which sits on the shore of a beautiful, remote lake hundreds of miles from nowhere - "Far North" is an understatement. Wild country to be sure.
We unloaded our gear and cast eager glances over the tundra...this would be home for the next week. Pretty much before the Otter again was airborne, Kip, Jon and I were shooting our bows, making sure they were still in one piece after a day and a half of airline travel - from big jets to buses to bush planes - all the abuse makes me really appreciate my SKB and Badlands bow cases (I pack a bow and arrows in each, just in case). As we practiced, making sure we were still dialed in, Jereme filmed away. You can be rest assured we were chomping at the bit to get in the field, which we did first thing the next morning after a hearty breakfast.
Hitting the highlights, our camp went 100% on bulls. There were the 3 of us and four other rifle hunters in camp, and over the course of the week we all became fast friends, which so often happens on long backcountry hunts. Kip having never killed a caribou before this hunt arrowed two bulls, including one real trophy, I arrowed two and Jon arrowed one good bull and then to top of his Hunt of a Lifetime in style, anchored one monster with his rifle on the very last day of the hunt. Jereme did an amazing job of capturing both of Jon's kills on film and me and Kip traded off hunting and filming each other during the week of tough, tundra ground and pound action, getting two of our bow kills on film. What a blast. I was pumped to learn first hand, Kip is hardcore...you really learn about a guy during a week of hard hunting and I can tell you, Jon, Kip and Jereme are all the real deal. It was one of the funniest hunts I have ever had and like I mentioned above, while Jon was the winner of the Hunt of Lifetime contest, truthfully, I felt like the winner myself. It wasn't easy...like all bowhunts, and some days simply finding caribou was tough, some days easy, big bulls (with tops) were tough to come by but at the end of the day, I simply love spot and stalk bowhunting and love hanging out with guys as passionate for a challenge as I am. There was plenty of both this past week. Gotta give a shout out to Derrek, Jon's guide and to me and Kip's guide Johnny. Both these guys know the ways of the artic caribou...their effort paved the way for our success.
Lastly, thank you Cabela's and thank you Under Armour for the opportunity and for all you do to help us hunters!
To top off the trip, on the way out we got the chance to meet up in Montreal for a post hunt celebration dinner with great friends and partners, Guy Eastman and Nate Simmons, who were coming home from a successful caribou hunt of their own. They again hunted with Safari Nordic, the outfit where Guy, Mike and I did so well in 2006 - who could forget Mike's 430+ inch monarch of the tundra, my 380" beast and Guy's two P&Y caliber trophies!
And, while this year the tundra bulls of Quebec weren't near the caliber they were on that hunt in 2006, the overall experience was still amazing. Safari put together a great hunt as Guy anchored a big bull with his rifle while Nate captured the entire sequence for Eastmans' Hunting TV. Look for it to air on an upcoming episode of EHJ TV on Outdoor Channel.
Note: One thing is still clear....my bow and arrow rig is sick! I've never shot so well or have had so much confidence...bring on the rugged Alaska mountains and the regal Dall sheep!!!
Keep hunting hard guys...there are September memories to be made!!!! Cam