Hunting > Big Game

Caribou Will Do

The author harbors dreams of a “grand slam,” though not for sheep.

I suppose I am dating myself here, but I remember reading True magazine. My mother wouldn't let me have it because she thought it was too racy, but I would sneak my grandfather's copies and spend hours hiding in some forgotten room of his sprawling house reading about being a man. Described by Newsweek as "a man's magazine with a class all its own," True existed in a time when men were still allowed to act like men. To a pre-adolescent male it was the textbook to the world I would soon enter.

It featured exciting stories about hunting adventures and other important "man" topics like the search for the perfect beer. But an article that ran well before I was born was significant. The April 1948 edition ran a story by Grancel Fitz titled "Grand Slam in Rams," a tale about a Dall sheep hunt in the Yukon. It's a classic hunting story from that era-long, written in first-person and full of adventure-but the significance was in the title, as it's thought that this was the first time the term "grand slam" was used in print to define taking all four species of North American sheep.

Today the "grand slam of sheep" is considered the pinnacle of North American hunting. That may be true, but only if hunting is the sport of kings. A sheep-hunting grand slam is so financially out of reach for the average, or even above-average, hunter today that most of us might as well wish to rule the world. Which leads a lot of hunters to say, "If I can't have a grand slam, I'll try for a ham slam," loosely defined as all the world's wild pigs. But that's a joke, not a goal. My own personal goal, one that will be difficult, but not impossible, is a grand slam of caribou.

Traditionally, a grand slam of anything is four. But the caribou slam adds a bonus because it consists of five sub-species: the Quebec/Labrador, mountain, woodland, barren ground and central barren ground caribou. I suppose that some would include a sixth and even a seventh-the isolated Peary (which isn't hunted) and the Arctic island (a hybrid of the Peary and barren ground). Perhaps I'll hunt them one day, but for now I am concentrating on the five primary sub-species of caribou in North America.

It's also personal, as caribou hunting has been significant in my life. My first hunting trip out of the country and the first ever for anything other than New England whitetails was for caribou. It was that trip to Quebec's Ungava Peninsula that made me believe it was possible to break out of the small-town, Yankee-work-ethic, factory-bound mold that defined my world. Since then the path has been long and crooked, but it has led me through a couple of decades of making a living in the hunting business. For that I owe the caribou a debt of reverence.....

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