Have you ever flipped through the pages of Field & Stream or watched an exciting big-game hunt on the Outdoor Channel and said to yourself, “Someday, I would like to do that?”
I guess all hunters have a specific species they dream of pursuing, and mine has always been moose. In terms of my “bucket list” for animals I want to hunt, moose has always been No. 1. For years, I’ve sent my checks to Vermont and Maine in hopes of getting drawn in their moose hunting lottery, but no luck.
Last fall, however, I received an e-mail from hunters Dick Andrews and Marshall Knapik of Amsterdam, and Rich Kraus of Ballston Spa, detailing their Newfoundland moose hunt, and it finally lit a fire under me. The result is that in three weeks, my dream hunt will finally become a reality, but instead of the U.S., it will take place in Canada.
The word “moose” is derived from the Algonquin name meaning “eater of twigs,” and the animal is not native to Newfoundland. Two bulls and two cows were imported there from New Brunswick in 1904 and today, it’s estimated that there is a population of between 120,000 and 150,000 in the province. Moose are the largest member of the deer family and have poor eyesight. Their most acute sense is hearing. Their habitat includes swampy areas as well as forested higher ground around lakes.
The destination, which I chose mainly because of Dick’s recommendation and the fact that he has hunted there successfully five times already and will be returning in 2010, is Sam’s Hunting and Fishing Camps, Portland Creek, Newfoundland. These are owned and operated by Sam and Hebbert Caines, who have over 30 years of experience guiding and outfitting hunters.
Sam’s has three hunting camps located in Area No. 3 on the Northern Peninsula: St. Paul’s Big Pond, where I will be hunting, is a half- mile from Gros Morne National Park and 35 miles from Deer Lake, the jump-off point to reach most outfitters’ outposts; and Long Range Mountains at Trophy Lake and High Pond.
Although we’ll be hunting from remote fly-in sites (which I am looking forward to), it’s comforting to know that there’s two-way radio and cellphone contact with these camps.
There are two ways to get to Deer Lake; driving and flying. If you drive, there’s a five- to eight-hour ferry crossing, depending on the weather. By air, my choice, you drive to Montreal and fly into Deer Lake, where I’ll spend the night and be picked up early the next morning and be flown in to camp by
helicopter. And the helicopter ride is something I’m anticipating. All the camps are built to Newfoundland Tourism specifications, and include indoor toilets, showers, two bedrooms with two single beds in each, a large dining room and a kitchen. And each camp has a full-time cook. Each hunter has his/her own guide. The actual hunting is done by spot and stalk, which is walking and glassing a variety of terrains, and/or sometimes glassing from elevated blinds.
Now, when choosing a guide/outfitter, success rate should always be a major consideration. Sam’s Hunting and Fishing Camps has a 90 percent success rate for moose and 100 percent for caribou. Unfortunately, I applied for a Woodland caribou hunting tag, but didn’t receive one. I did get a black bear permit, which I will hopefully be able to fill during this hunt. As for the caribou, I’ll try again next year.
To hunt in Canada, there are a number of forms and documents that are required when crossing the border. The easiest way to travel to and from Canada is with a passport. Most of the paperwork for your firearm is fairly simple, and can be competed before leaving.
You cannot bring a fully automatic weapon, handgun or pepper spray into Canada.
A regular hunting rifle/shotgun isn’t a problem, as long as you complete a Nonresident Firearms Declaration (CAFC909EF) form.
Sam sent this form to me when I confirmed my hunt with him in February. The form is very simple to complete, and on it you can register up to three firearms. The cost is $25 (Canadian), which you pay at the time of crossing. The regis-tration is good for 60 days.
Do not sign and date the form until you are at customs.
In all the times I’ve traveled to Canada with firearms to hunt, it has been a very simple process which usually takes no more than 30 minutes. To download this form, Google “Canadian firearms declaration form.”
With regard to transporting firearms to Canada, which they may or may not inspect at the border, they should be in a protective and lockable case, and obviously, unloaded.
If your gun is a bolt-action, it’s wise to remove the bolt, and if it has a clip, remove it.
During September, it’s usually very pleasant and in the mid-40s — good hunting weather. But Dick and other hunters who have been to Newfoundland in September all agree that things can change quickly. “You’ll hunt in the rain,” they tell me, and therefore, layering clothing is the best method. The absolute must for this trip is quality rain gear which should include rubber boots that are 16 or 17 inches high and have an aggressive tread.
Those of you who know me are probably saying: “First moose hunt; he will surely have to buy a new gun.” That’s what my wife thought, also.
Well, believe it or not, the gun that I’ll be using is one already in my gun cabinet. In fact, I’ve had it for at least seven years, and have never really shot anything with it. It’s a ported Remington Model 700 BDL in the .300 Win Mag caliber. I told you I knew that one day I would be making this hunt, and actually bought the gun solely for the purpose of hunting moose. The only action it has seen has been a complete cleaning and oiling twice a year. But now that my dream hunt is going to be a reality, I’ve added a quality optic and spent some range time getting acquainted with this gun, and I’m very impressed with its performance and power. It’s just what’s needed to bring down a large bull moose that stands higher than a large saddle horse and can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds.
When I asked Sam and Hebbert what to expect, in terms of the range of shooting distance, they said that it could be anywhere from 50 yards to 400 yards — which was another reason I chose the .300 Win Mag cartridge.
With the number of quality scopes offered today, my selection of the right one for this rifle and especially this hunt was difficult. At the Shot Show in January, I spent a day visiting optic manufacturers booths and reviewed what they were offering in scopes. One in particular impressed me; Hawke Optics. And when Brad Bonar, their sales manager, let me look through their Endurance 30 series 3-12×50 L3 Dot IR reticle scope, all I could think about was placing that red dot on the shoulder of my Newfoundland bull moose. Other important features include a 30mm, matt-black, mono tube, fog-, water- and shockproofing and an 11-setting rheostat to adjust the dot’s intensity to any light condition.
After mounting and bore-sighting the scope, I headed for the range, where I tested three brands of ammunition, shooting from a Caldwell Lead Sled shooting rest. It’s the only way to sight in a firearm for two reasons: one is the best accuracy and two, it absorbs almost all of the felt recoil. My three-shot grouping with the Endurance was quite impressive (one-half inch), and the best results were with the Winchester Supreme Elite XP3, 180-grain, two-stage expansion bullet with delayed controlled expansion, deep penetration and high weight retention.
One other service I found helpful when dealing with Hawke Optics was their Ballistic Reticle Calculator (BRC), a free software package that will help to choose the right ammunition for a gun and print a copy of the results. This program covers calibers from a 177 air rifle, up to a 300 Weatherby magnum, and even will calculate the best crossbow bolt for your crossbow. To get the BRC, go to their Web site at hawkeoptics, click on “Hawke BRC” and they will e-mail it to you. And while you are there, click on “NEW Reticle Information” and see how my L3 DOT IR looks when sighting in a bull elk in the field.
I will have a full report of this hunt when I return. If you would like to see a photo of Dick Andrews’ Newfoundland moose antlers, go to my blog at fishguydblog.blogspot.com and click on Ed’s Photos.
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