Newfoundland Slam: A Canadian Trifecta with Deep Country Lodge
You’ve covered vast stretches of land and made numerous stalks, each one laborious, yet breathtaking. Then it happens. The high-powered binoculars find the sunlight reflecting off an object. All at once, you recognize the glimmering object as the majestic antlers of a caribou. You feel a surge of adrenaline – it is stunning.
Such is a day of hunting in the backcountry of Newfoundland. On bright sunny days in this Canadian province, it’s extra spectacular. It’s the kind of heart-pounding experience that Louis Baum has come to expect in this remote big game hunting paradise. On this particular day, locating and harvesting a trophy-class caribou was the objective, specifically the woodland caribou, the largest Canadian subspecies and the variety this easternmost province is known for.
If you are seeking to chase and harvest these monstrous monarchs of the reindeer family, Newfoundland is the place. It’s currently the only legal place to hunt them. The fact isn’t lost on Baum as he now has two woodland caribou under his belt.
Two other game animals roam this popular hunting destination – black bear and moose. Together, these three make up the coveted Newfoundland Slam. After Baum’s initial trip to Newfoundland in 2015, it was quickly evident that this wouldn’t be his last. Along with thoughts of the Slam, the grand countryside and diverse terrain tugged at his soul. He’s returned every year since.
“The backcountry of Newfoundland features a unique and varied ecosystem made up of mountainous areas, spruce timber, and tundra. To hunt these animals, you’ve got to go deep into the backcountry. As a big game hunter, that’s very appealing to me,” said Baum.
Arrow Meets Newfoundland Moose
The Newfoundland moose are known to dwell within the confines of spruce forests. Like with other big game in the region, this means extensive long-range glassing ending with a final stalk. It’s exciting, arduous, and rewarding all in one. Baum’s archery moose was no different. It began with electronic calling and glassing the animal thousands of yards away. In this case, the weapon of choice was a bow during the moose rut no less.
“You can’t imagine the excitement and action associated with calling in a moose from such a far distance. It’s absolutely amazing. It was the heat of the rut, and the moose had one thing on his mind,” Baum said.
The encounter would wind down with the moose drawing increasingly closer, ears pinned back. The long exchange ended with an effective stalk and 55-yard bow shot on a large, mature bull moose—no small task.
“I’ll never forget it. As the moose got closer, my guide, Darryl Stringer (of Deep Country Lodge), switched to a manual cow call, which was more realistic at the shorter distance. It’s just incredible, after so much glassing and calling, to find yourself that close to such a mammoth animal. I’m so fortunate to have put a good shot on him.” Baum said.
It’s always gratifying to take an animal with a bow. While rifles remain the primary weapon of choice, Bowhunting is on the rise with Deep Country Lodge clientele.
“Bowhunting is a great choice in Newfoundland. For one, hunting the rut for woodland caribou and moose happens during a nice time of year weather-wise. Also, caribou aren’t particularly skittish, and you can get a quality shot if you properly play the wind,” Baum said.
Next Up – Black Bear
Baum would return to Deep Country Lodge in 2019 for the final piece to the Slam, a mature black bear. Home to more than 10,000 black bears, Newfoundland and nearby Labrador boast one of the highest concentrations in North America. They boast big ones, too, featuring some of the largest bear skulls found anywhere. Growing as large as 700-pounds, the bears’ size is credited largely to the large amounts of meat they eat. Ironically, this entails feeding on the other two counterparts of the Slam – caribou and moose calves.
While baiting is a common form of hunting, the pre-hibernation period is an outstanding time to pursue black bear. In September and October, they can be found on the barrens gorging on blueberries. This is quite a remarkable sight and opportunity devise a stalk plan.
“You just cannot imagine how impressive of a sight it is to see black bears feeding on the barrens,” Baum said.
Far and Deep
Chasing the big-three game animals of Newfoundland is a unique hunting experience on many fronts. First off, there is the demanding task of reaching them. This entails traversing the depths of the Newfoundland backcountry – a real challenge as the distance and terrain are as worthy an adversary as the animals you’re hunting.
“The Newfoundland backcountry is a true wilderness,” Baum said. “You have to go deep to have a chance at these animals, and it’s not easy. Luckily, Dean Crocker is a native to the area, and nobody knows it like him and his guides.”
Crocker is the owner and head guide of Deep Country Lodge, which offers unmatched hunting expertise and familiarity with the area. They own, utilize, and maintain Argo all-terrain vehicles allowing hunters to more effectively penetrate the vast rough country. While it’s still no piece of cake, these amphibious ATVs are game-changers for any hunter chasing big game in the Newfoundland wilds.
“I’ve traversed this territory with and without an Argo, and I can tell you it’s like night and day,” Baum said.
The process of initially spotting the game in the area can be tedious. The native bear, moose, and caribou are often first spotted thousands of yards away. This circumstance will test even the most seasoned big game hunter, requiring the keen eyes of an experienced guide.
“These hunts all start with extreme glassing. I’m not talking about the usual couple of hundred yards most hunters are accustomed to. Here, it’s often more a matter of miles than yards. It’s quite a learning curve,” Baum said.
For the outdoorsman, there is so much to like about the immense Newfoundland territory In the neighborhood of the beautiful Terra Nova National Park; it is raw and scenic. However, it presents quite a test with unpredictable weather and taxing topography. Though there are always best-laid plans, setbacks can happen in an instant.
“You’re really in the middle of nowhere, and it’s very unlikely you’ll see another human. If something goes wrong, you fix it. The guides are there to take care of everything, but there can be situations where it’s all-hands-on-deck. On one hunt, the chain popped on the Argo, and we all rallied. We had to,” Baum said
Additionally, there are winds, wide temperature swings, and rain, which can develop seemingly out of nowhere. Combine that with the aforementioned intense glassing sessions, and you’ve got quite the challenge. It’s all worth it, though, if you come prepared with good layering clothing and excellent optics.
“It didn’t take me long to learn that good, if not great, optics are not just niceties, but necessities when hunting in Newfoundland,” Baum said. “I relied heavily on Dean and his guides for glassing. Still, quality optics really enhanced my personal hunting experience.”
Finally, Baum described the importance of having a good guide:
“The guys at Deep Country Lodge know the land and are hunters themselves. They have a ton of skills and love passing them on to their hunters. One of the best parts is you get to take those new skills with you and apply them to other places you hunt.”
Achieving the Slam is an honor for any hunter. When asked if he had a favorite of the three, Baum paused and finally said, “It’s hard because we worked extremely hard for all of them and they were all trophy-class animals. They were all special hunts, but the bear hunt was the most fun.”
“It was such an awesome sight,” he continued. “Any successful hunt is enjoyable, but taking a Newfoundland backcountry black bear in that setting was simply incredible.”
The Newfoundland territory offers off-the-charts hunting opportunities. You can aim high for the Newfoundland Slam or simply for any of the big three. If you like wildlife, this diverse area also features excellent fishing and bird hunting opportunities. In fact, it’s an outstanding destination for world-class ptarmigan and grouse hunting. And if you simply like viewing wildlife, you can add gold and bald eagles to the list.
Still, it’s the big three that will attract most hunters, and pursuing them is far different from heading out to the average back forty of an American farm, ranch, or even public area. For this journey, you want to make it count. For that, Baum offered some final advice:
“First off, using the best guide possible is paramount. You want guys who know the territory and hotspots, have exceptional backcountry hunting skills, and want to teach you. Dean Crocker and the crew at Deep Country Lodge are second to none.”
Regarding the ancillary features of going with Deep Country Lodge, Baum had this to share:
“They offer great food, lodging, and other amenities. These hunts are hard – it’s nice to be able to retreat to a first-class hunting camp at the end of each day. It’s a great experience, and I’ve made friends for life.”
Lastly, to maximize your chances of success, book a longer hunt if possible. It may sound obvious, but it couldn’t be truer than when considering a Newfoundland hunting adventure.
“If you can swing it, I recommend booking a ten-day hunt. It gives you more time to get to know your guides, learn, and hopefully take a mature animal. A five-day hunt goes awful fast.”
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.