We travelled to Norway for a week backpacking in search of Caribou.
The first step on our trip to Norway was passing the shooting test to get our hunters license. It’s mandatory to go through this test every year and with every weapon you want to hunt with. The test consists in shooting 5 shots straight to a target of 30cm/12” at 100m/110yds shooting free handed, only using the knees as a rest. Awesome example of hunting ethics where hunters need to prove that they are able to take an ethical shot if opportunity presents.👏👏 I was more relaxed when I passed the test. 😅 For this hunt I used a @sauer_rifles 404 XTC in 270 Win, with a @swarovskioptik_hunting Z8i 1,7-13,3×42 and @hornadymfg 140gr SST.
For this trip I have partnered with a couple of guys that I have met through social media #kuiunation and that I was really excited to spend some time in the field with. Our local guy in Norway is Fredrik Gammelsrud, excellent hunter that has traveled and hiked mountains all around the world in pursue of all types of game. Behind the camera is the talented Lewis Thomas from the UK and part of the Slots Media team, which will be taking stills and video of the trip. For sure a team of predators! The good time is assured with such a nice crew, we just need the caribou to cooperate.
We sleep on a cabin some hours north from Oslo, and the first thing we do in the morning is organizing all the gear that we had. The plan is to pack in and spend 6 days in the mountains. We are bringing a lot of camera equipment so we try to go as light as posible on other things, and pack light on food hoping to get some fresh meat in the first few days. The average weight each of us is carrying around is 30 kg and we should be good to stay the whole week on tops.
Reindeer season opens tomorrow in Norway, and we are hiking in one day earlier to try to set up camp and do a little bit of pre-scouting in hopes to have a good plan for the opening morning. I am amazed by the country and mountains where the caribous lived in, reminds me a lot to sheep country in NWT. We hiked most of the day and set up camp pretty high in the mountains.
We even have some extra time to go and glass for a few hours, but despite the country looks amazing we don’t locate a single bull. Without a plan or objetive for the opening day, we have dinner and get inside our tents to get some rest before an early wake up call. We expect a bunch of hunters for the opening day and making the most out of the first hours is our plan.
It is opening day and we head out with the first light to try to locate animals as soon as posible. As expected, we see two different hunters in the valley we were hunting, and no caribou, so we decide to move and check another valley. Norway has a huge tradition in hunting, and they are passionate hunters that really hunt hard many times by themselves deep in the mountains. Huge respect to them and for how they understand what hunting is all about. Wish we could hunt in Spain more remote places where you can really get lost for a few days.
We located a group of bucks in the other valley, but they are outside of our hunting area. Surprisingly, here the male caribous are called bucks, and not bulls. Without many options we decide to wait and see what the group does. We are controlling a lot of area at the same time so we may see other animals. As Fredrik´s grandfather used to say, “Gå lite, se mye.”, which means walk little, see much.
In mountain hunting some days you have to walk for hours, and other you just need to wait for hours. For me, the second type of days are way more tiring, but can be way more productive.
We wait for hours and hours, under constant rain, wind or snow, but the group of bulls decided to stay at the other side of the area. With not much we could do, at last light we decide to head back to camp hoping that they would change valleys overnight.
The day starts with snow, wind and a coffee.
The closest we have been so far is this caribou shed we have found. It is not that easy to find a shed in such a good shape, animals love to eat them during the winter since it’s a great source of calcium and phosphorus. Sheds has always make me think of that animal and wonder where it will be now…
The main food source of caribou though is Linchen, and are the only large mammal able to metabolize it thanks to a special bacteria and protozoa that they have in their gut. Their favorite is the “reindeer moss”.
We try to relocate the bulls without any luck. Maybe they have cross to our side so we decide to go around and cover as much country as we could…
The weather gets better and we even see the sun! We decide to keep climbing up thinking that maybe the caribou has move to higher ground towards the glaciers in search of a cooler place to avoid insect bothering them. The terrain on the top is savage, and makes you wonder what type of animals can live in such a hostile terrain.
We would have never imagine that we would have struggle to find water in Norway, but when we decided to have lunch at the summit we were not carrying any water with us. Little achievements like finding water under the rocks are really appreciated when you have the feeling that you suck as a hunter.
We climb as high as posible but animals aren’t here either and we barely see sign at the tops. We can glass half of Norway but no caribou’s on sight. A bit disappointed but with a big smile for being able to be in such an amazing place with a couple of friends, talking about very insignificant topics. Tomorrow will be another day.
We arrive to camp with the last light and Fredrik gets a message that a pretty bad storm is coming tonight, with super high winds expected. We should be really careful up here. After such alarming message we get ready for the worst, rotate the tents straight to the expected wind and locate rocks all around so wind cant get under the tent. We fall a sleep quick, way too tired to be worried.
We woke up by the clarity of the day. A part from a partner snoring, I always bring ear plugs for the windy nights. It is hard to sleep when the tent and wind are fighting each other, or with heavy rain constantly hitting the tent. It allows you also to don’t over think how the weather would be the following day, which its an often nightmare we have as hunters. I get out to start getting things ready after some coffee and weather slaps me in the face. Another windy rainy day looks like, the good thing is that it looks like we survived the hurricane without any problems last night!
With not having the luxury of much time left of the hunt, we dress on our rain gear and head out to discover new country. We badly need to locate some animals, so we push it hard to try to glass a new area across the river.
Always have in mind that river flow increases in the afternoon because of all the ice that melts during the day, so never forget that a river that you cross early in the morning without much problems, cant be imposible to cross back in the last minute of the day.
Despite shooting light is until 7pm, we spend almost until darkness in the mountains to try to make the most out of each day. We have covered and glassed a lot of country and still we cant locate any caribous. Tomorrow if we don’t locate anything on the morning we will relocate camp in another valley to try our luck there.
With the first lights we are in a peak controlling a really big valley. The glassing spot is gorgeous but we don’t get to locate any animals. Frustration is getting on us, and we decide that it is time for a change. Caribous cover large areas of terrain in big herds, and for some reason the animals had not move to this area yet. We needed to go to lower elevation to try better luck. Mentally we also needed a change.
We do realize that just a few meters below us, there are a couple of ancient rock built hunting blinds. Maybe more than a thousand years old, they used this blinds to hide with their bow while waiting for the caribous to pass through a winter crossing path. It is nice to imagine those hunters back then, I am pretty sure that we could hunt together and understand each other, too bad bowhunting is not legal here.
The beauty of backpacking is the freedom it provides. We go back to camp and in a few minutes pack everything, and get on the move to change to a different area. We have a long day ahead but we are full of energy just dreaming of new terrain with new possibilities.
We get to the spot we wanted in the darkness and set up camp. We have really high hopes for tomorrow and it is hard to sleep. Only one more day to make it happen!!
It is our last day, we need to get back to civilization tonight, so the plan is to cover as much ground as it is required to find a big bulll. No excuses, time to hunt as hard as we can and dream for a miracle to happen.
We wake up to fog first light of the day, and as soon as visibility improves we start covering as much country as posible. Finally we located a group of bulls, but from nowhere another hunter appears and takes down one of them. The whole group starts running away so we have a good idea. The plan is to go after them and try to outrun them, something that has been proven by many hunters before to be imposible. FACT: You can never outrun a caribou.
We chase those caribou for an hour until they finally vanish on the horizon. We sat down to try to recover our breath and and eat something, and is it was an illusion, we start seeing the silhouette of some caribou appearing far in the distance. We were speechless for a minute, until we realize they were coming our way!!!
We quickly relocate and position ourselves and start glassing for any shooters. Fredrik and I both say at the same moment, “thats a monster!”. There is a bull in the group that is like nothing that we have seen before. Thats the bull we came dreaming with and we may had an opportunity.
We lay down flat and wait for the group to come in. 600m, 520m, 440m, 370m, 290m, 250m… Fredrik calls the distance. Ready? The gun fires and we all can see that the shot is right behind the shoulder, the bull walks a few meters before stopping again and I put a second shot to make things quicker.
It is hard to explain the feeling after a full week grinding in those mountains, without seeing animals and under really bad weather. To have finally connect on the last day of the hunt on a giant bull is a dream come true and I cant thank the whole team effort. Fredrik for hosting us and guiding us these days, as well as Lewis Thomas for coming along documenting the hunt. The caribou was from all of us.
We hike down and lay our hands on it. What a gorgeous animal. Now its when you realize the work that we have ahead of us… We take all the meat and put it on hour packs. GPS says that we are 12km from the car! With the load we are going to average 2km/hour, so we have 6/7 hours in front of us. We dont have time to do two trips, so it was going to be all in one trip.
The pack out is brutal, but is part of the hunt, and we get to enjoy it somehow. There is nothing more special than hiking in the dark full in pain but with a smile from ear to ear. We get to the fly camp and put it on our packs, and keep hiking out to the car. We arrive to the car at midnight completly exhausted. I had the luggage weighing scale at the car and measure the pack load to try to measure the pain of the pack out and it marks 62,8kg/138 pounds. 17 hour day with 22km/13,7miles covered. Lovely unreal day that we will never forget!!!
Thanks everyone for coming along somehow, looking forward to the next adventure, hunting with friend is awesome!!!!