Some Of The Best Hunts In North America Lie Right At Your Fingertips
The following article appeared in Bowhunter Magazine and was written by Steven Michelucci. Steve set out to book a hunt solely through the Internet. This is how he did it. .COM HUNTING was his first story for Bowhunter.COM
I LIVE IN CALIFORNIA, and I have hunted most of the Western states for big game. But I had always dreamed about hunting in Alaska or Canada, specifically for moose and caribou. When I’m not hunting, I spend a lot of time reading magazines, watching hunting videos, and practicing with my bow. I finally decided it was time for me to travel up North and hunt with the big boys.
Now I needed to find where to go, and whom to hunt with. But how? I started by asking my hunting buddies, archery club members, and local archery pro shop owners for referrals. Almost everyone recommended an outfitter. So, with my list of names in hand, I began making phone calls for the hunt of a lifetime. Grudgingly I left messages with most of the outfitters, because no one was there to take my call. I waited and waited for return messages, but not one outfitter returned a call.
Step two. I wrote inquiries, and after a few weeks I received a brochure from an outfitter in Canada. It was poorly printed and contained very little useful information and a few pictures of rifle hunters with their game.
How did these friends of mine ever book a hunt with the outfitters they had recommended? I should mention that I began this process a full year ahead of the fact. So this was not a problem with procrastination. I always like to have all my arrows in the quiver, so to speak, as early as possible.
Anyway, after several weeks with the same results, I began to feel that my dream hunt was just that — a dream. But wait! What’s on my wife’s desk? A computer? Could this intimidating tool really help me locate an outfitter up North?
“Honey, how do I turn this thing on?” I pleaded.
With a half hour of instruction from my lovely wife, I was ready to “surf the web.” And surf I did, locating an outfitter, booking my hunt to Newfoundland, Canada, and, to top it off, making all of my travel arrangements.
Complicated? No. Simple? YES! Let me explain how I planned the easiest hunt of my life.
After connecting to the Internet — it’s called “logging on” for those of you who know as little as I did –– I clicked my way to a search engine. I used several “search engines,” such as www.excite.com; www.google.com; and www.yahoo.com. Another good one is www.metacrawler.com. Each search page has a blank box into which you type the desired subject. I typed in “moose and caribou hunting,” and clicked on the search button. You could type in “whitetail hunting”, or whatever species that interests you. To my amazement, a list of about 20 outfitters came up. All of those listed had websites that contained photos and full descriptions of each outfitter’s services. They listed available booking dates, costs, and in some cases, maps and testimonials from previous hunters. They all listed e-mail addresses for correspondence.
Immediately, I began determining who could provide my kind of hunt and then e-mailed the appropriate outfitters a descriptive list of my wants and needs. Now get this — they all replied! While I had been keeping myself in the computer dark ages, these outfitters had passed me by.
After some communication via e-mail, I was drawn to Dean and Bonnie Wheeler, of Sou’ Wester Outfitting, in Newfoundland. Sou’ Wester offered a one-on-one guiding from a remote lodge nestled on Loon Lake, some 100 kilometers by floatplane from any road. At the lodge, they provided a cook, private bunkroom, and hot showers. Sign me up! Most importantly, their lodge sat smack dab in the middle of some fantastic moose and caribou country.
Via e-mail, Dean provided me with a list of previous hunters and their phone numbers. After talking to many of these hunters, and getting many glowing reports, I booked a fourteen-day hunt during the archery-only season — without ever speaking to Dean or Bonnie. I sent them my deposit, and shortly after, via snail mail, received my confirmation. It was too easy!
Now I had to arrange travel and lodging. Remember, I live in California and had to cross North America to reach Newfoundland. Should I call a travel agent? Not a chance. Now I live in cyberspace! Through a website called www.cheaptickets.com I booked my air travel. It simply required typing in my departure city and date, and my arrival city and date; selecting round trip; and clicking on the “find fare” button. Within seconds, www.cheaptickets.com located all the airlines traveling to my destination and listed them beginning with the lowest fare. I then purchased the tickets with a major credit card, and the tickets arrived at my front door via overnight delivery. Ah, modern conveniences.
Needing lodging in Montreal for one night each way, I pulled up a website called www.expidite.com. Once again, I typed in my reservation dates and secured them with a credit card. The hotel e-mailed me a confirmation notice, and that was that.
Within a couple of weeks I had booked a hunt to Canada and had arranged air travel and hotel accommodations with only the computer, the Internet and a credit card. The first time I spoke directly with my outfitter was when we met in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Did I have any problems? To the contrary, the whole trip went great with only one small change. Air Canada cancelled their direct flight from Montreal to Deer Lake, Newfoundland, and I had to make a short stopover in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was one of my smoothest trips ever. The only thing I did not arrange directly by computer was my lodging at The Adams House bed and breakfast the night before flying into hunting camp. Dean and Bonnie Wheeler lined that up for me.
To top it off, I took a fine woodland caribou stag. And it was my choice not to arrow a moose. In eight days of moose hunting, I spotted seven moose and stalked two young bulls. The big bulls were holed up in the timber due to unseasonably warm weather prior to the rut, and I decided to hold out. But I’ll go back. Not only, are there an abundance of moose, but every day we spotted 20 or more caribou stags in ideal conditions for stalking with bow and arrow.
If you ever hunt with the Wheelers, don’t forget your fishing gear. Loon Lake is full of brook trout, and the river flowing from the lake has Atlantic salmon swimming up its current during bow season.
Having trouble lining up long-distance bowhunts? Have your wife (or kids) show you how to turn on the computer, and start your research. Some really great trips are only a .com away.