1,000 kilometres, in blizzard conditions, for 1 caribou

Brett Boughen and a friend drove 1,000 km to the Arctic Circle, in blizzard conditions, for just one caribou. They can't wait to do it again.

How far would you go for wild meat?

Brett Boughen and Gunnar Tirschmann field butchering a caribou on a windy day on the tundra. (Submitted by Brett Boughen)

How far would you go for caribou?

Brett Boughen drove 1,000 km to the Arctic Circle, in blizzard conditions, and says it was worth every second. 

"It's a trip I'll never forget."

Boughen lives off grid in the mountains, about 50 km outside of Whitehorse. He has a lot of experience as a hunter. Normally he hunts moose in the fall, but sometimes he gets tags and an opportunity to hunt caribou, and when he does, there's not much stopping him. 

"We are allowed up to two bulls each and that was ideally our goal, however we were interested in going for the adventure," he said.

Brett Boughen snaps a shot of the snow covered highway in northern Yukon. (Submitted by Brett Boughen)

And what an adventure it was. 

In mid-November, Boughen and his friend Gunnar Tirschmann decided to brave the Dempster Highway for caribou, even though they were told the weather was bad, there were snowdrifts on the road, and they'd be dealing with whiteout conditions. They were headed for the porcupine caribou herd. Word had it, the caribou were way up north, near the highway. 

"We were plowing through drifts. We were in four-wheel drive the entire time and just extremely cautious to stay on the road. It was quite icy under the snow drifts and [there were] few place to turn around," Boughen said.

Gunnar Tirschmann sees a caribou on the tundra. He tried to get within range on foot, but the terrain was too challenging and the caribou got away. (Submitted by Brett Boughen)

It was -30 C outside, winds were gusting up to 120 km an hour, and they didn't bring snow machines because they knew it would be impossible to turn around with a trailer. That meant they'd have to walk into the wild — off the highway — for their caribou. And that's exactly what they did when that one bull appeared.

"We spotted it quite a ways off of the Dempster, on the horizon, on the tundra," he said. 

They bundled up, got out of the truck, and approached to make sure it was a bull, and took aim.

"He dropped on the spot."

Brett Boughen successfully hunts a caribou bull in northern Yukon. (Gunnar Tirschmann)

Then the work really began. They needed to skin it and take it apart right away.

"We dragged him quite a ways nearer, back to the Dempster, where we kind of found a low spot on the tundra and managed to put the winds to our back," Boughen said. 

"My friend definitely developed a pretty good white spot on his nose, which was indicative of frostbite," he said. "It didn't take long for the mitts to get saturated from field dressing this caribou, and then of course … they actually freeze into a claw-like shape."

Boughen said they were exposed on the tundra in dangerous conditions for two hours as they worked on the caribou. The closest help was a lodge 50 km away.

Brett Boughen and his friend Gunnar Tirschmann drove to the Arctic Cirle to experience getting a bull caribou on the stormy tundra. (Submitted by Brett Boughen)

"Highway maintenance actually closed and barricaded the section of Dempster we were on while we were hunting," said Boughen.

He said they were prepared for an emergency, but they didn't want to mess around, so they worked as fast as they could and got out of there. 

Now he's home safe and sound, and has an adventure he'll talk about for years. Even though they only managed to get one caribou, Boughen has no regrets. 

"We had caribou spaghetti and it was just fantastic. We butchered it up ourselves and it doesn't get any better."

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