Mountain caribou are a unique breed with behaviour patterns much different from their migratory counterparts. Think of the mountain variety more like and elk or deer that is semi territorial without the genetic drive to migrate long distances. The distribution is primarily in northern British Columbia and the southwestern region of the Northwest Territories. Smaller populations also extend into parts of northern Alberta.
Physical fitness is critical for a mountain caribou hunt. These animals occupy high elevations and steep terrain is a challenge for access. Accessing the high country by horseback and plane is a major advantage when the opportunity exists. Train hard before this hunt so you can cover ground and stay on top of these active animals.
Early season velvet hunts require glassing, tracking and searching in mountainous country with combinations of heavy timber and exposed plateaus. Later season rut hunts expose bulls above timberline as they gather and chase cows. Mountain caribou actively feed and move throughout the day so prepare for a full day hunt as they bed down less frequently than most mountainous big game species. You can hunt throughout the day and stay in the action until you find and harvest a trophy bull.
High elevations mean unpredictable and inclement weather. You may encounter sun, rain and snow within a single day. Dress in layers and pack high quality raingear. Raingear is high priority for busting through wet brush without soaking your clothes. Boots with ankle support help on the steep hills and can prevent ankle rolls and injuries. Expect cold weather during the later season and bring your warmest clothing. Snow and freezing winds will test your best gear above timberline.
Mountain caribou occupy the same territory as numerous other species and combo hunts are possible in BC. Stone sheep, moose, and mountain goat are present and you may leave with more than one trophy. Working with an outfitter to plan a combo hunt and determine your primary and secondary focus is helpful. Advanced planning is required for licensing, weapon choices, exporting your harvest and determining the number of horses, plane weight limits, etc.
Written by Zach Lazzari
Zach Lazzari is a fly fishing guide and freelance writer. When he’s not fishing, Zach is chasing big game, upland birds and waterfowl in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest