One of the most stunning sites you can see in Manitoba is the Qamanirjuaq Caribou migration. Every year, this herd of Barren-ground Caribou—numbering in the hundreds of thousands—migrates from their calving grounds in Nunavut down to the far northern reaches of Manitoba.
Caribou hunting is permitted in Manitoba for a few short weeks each year—usually from the 2nd week of September to early October. We’ll bring you up from our camp near Munroe Lake to Farnie Lake, where you’ll be able to witness their incredible migration when you venture out from our Caribou camp—you may even be able to bag a majestic Qamanirjuaq Caribou bull.
Understanding the Qamanirjuaq Caribou Herd
The Qamanirjuaq herd is one of the largest Caribou herds in Canada, with an estimated population of 288,000 in 2017. The herd migrates thousands of kilometres each year—most of its range is contained within Nunavut and Manitoba, with portions straddling northern Saskatchewan and the southern region of the Northwest Territories.
Caribou have the longest land migrations of any animal—Caribou herds travel to their calving grounds in the summer, where they give birth and care for their young in the early days of their lives.
The Qamanirjuaq Caribou herd migrates for many reasons. They congregate at their calving grounds in the summer to overwhelm predators like wolves and to avoid the biting insects that are prominent in southern regions during the summer. Once the weather cools and biting insects start to die, they migrate back south to Manitoba, where there’s more plentiful food in the fall and winter.
From Baker Lake—the tip of the herd’s caving range in Nunavut—to our Caribou camp in Farnie Lake is a distance of about 500 kilometres—in a straight line. Realistically, the Qamanirjuaq herd travels quite a bit further as they move around the many lakes and rivers in Nunavut and Northern Manitoba to reach their fall and winter habitats. These Caribou don’t stay in one place for too long, as they search for the lichen that makes up most of their fall and winter diet.
Farnie Lake: A Vital Stopover for the Caribou Herd
Farnie Lake is an important stop on the Qamanirjuaq herd’s migration route and a key Caribou habitat. Located near the border between Manitoba and Nunavut, it’s an important part of their winter range as they move west and south from the Hudson’s Bay. Thousands of Caribou will congregate around the lake as they migrate—some of them stay in the area for a relatively short period of time, while others dwell for longer.
The Caribou pass Farnie Lake during their fall and spring migration—in Manitoba, you can only hunt Barren-ground Caribou (including the Qamanirjuaq herd) in the fall. Here, barren land begins to give way to boreal forest—there is ample lichen for the Caribou to feed on, plenty of water to drink, and forests they can use for shelter and to avoid predation.
This stop gives hunters a beautiful opportunity for some spot and stalk hunting as you follow the herd as they move in and around Farnie Lake. The sight of hundreds of Barren-ground Caribou congregated together at the lake is one you won’t soon forget. Couple that with the splendid Northern Lights we can often see in the area, and you’re in for an incredible trip.
Preparations for the Fall Migration
The fall migration is long and arduous. During the migration, the herd moves south from its traditional calving grounds, dispersing across northern Manitoba, northeastern Saskatchewan, and the southeastern Northwest Territories. The Caribou follow migration routes that have been established and taught over generations.
Before the fall migration, the Caribou feast on the abundant resources found in the tundra during its short summer. Their large numbers deter predators, so the young members of the herd are kept relatively safe. The young grow large and strong enough to migrate south.
When the temperature begins to drop in the north, the migration starts—the Caribou know that food resources in the area can dwindle rapidly once the harsh winter sets in. The Caribou move south—during peak migration periods, they may move anywhere from 20 to 50 kilometres each day, stopping occasionally to forage. While migrating, Caribou primarily rely on stores of fat accumulated over the summer.
The migration paths of Caribou can vary slightly depending on the availability of food and the weather—for the most part, however, their paths are fairly predictable. At Munroe Lake Lodge, we use our knowledge of the Qamanirjuaq herd’s traditional migration paths, coupled with scouting techniques, to find the best places to hunt for Caribou before our visitors arrive.
The Herd's Arrival at Farnie Lake
The herd typically arrives at Farnie Lake anywhere from mid-to-late September. Weather, the availability of food, and predation have an important effect on the migration schedule of the herd—that’s one of the reasons that Manitoba’s Caribou hunting season is flexible.
When the herd arrives at the lake, it’s a sight to behold—you can see hundreds or even thousands of Caribou all congregating together near the lake. They may dwell beside the lake for days at a time, but some may start moving relatively quickly—that’s why our scouts are such an important part of the work we do here at Munroe Lake Lodge.
You’ll be able to hunt for migrating Caribou using spot and stalk techniques once the herd arrives near our Caribou camp at Farnie Lake. They also tend to pass through the area during their spring migration back to their calving grounds, but they cannot be hunted at that time of year—the females are pregnant, and both males and females are needed to keep the herd’s population healthy.
The Qamanirjuaq herd is one of the healthiest in Canada. Caribou numbers are dropping, and though the herd’s decline has been notable, its population is still stable enough for hunting. This may not always be the case—though hunting is not a significant cause of the decline in Caribou numbers, it can be risky when populations dwindle enough.
That’s why Manitoba has a Caribou management plan that limits the number of recreational Caribou hunters each year. Interested in Caribou hunting in Canada with Munroe Lake Lodge? We encourage you to book with us today—because of the limited number of hunting passes available, our Caribou hunting slots go quickly. Come see the majestic Qamanirjuaq herd for yourself—it’s an experience you’ll never forget.