When Russell Forbes, of Kitchener, and hunting buddy John Donato, of Cambridge, booked a muskox hunt in Greenland neither man expected to come home with a world record harvest — and of a caribou at that.
When the long-time hunting duo retuned from a moose hunt in Alberta they wasted no time booking their next adventure. Forbes and Donato have both harvested a number of North American big game animals including black bear, mountain goat, mule deer, and mountain and Quebec-Labrador caribou, so they were looking to hunt a species new to them.
After some research, muskox became their new interest and they planned an international hunt with Greenland Outfitters. They booked their September 2016 trip two years in advance, knowing the average size of a bull muskox harvested in Greenland was on par with the largest bulls taken in the Northwest Territories. Tags for Arctic Islands Caribou were also available during the time of their hunt and they saw this as an added bonus.
The two left September 8, 2016 on the long trek to Greenland. They flew direct to Iceland and then boarded another plane to Greenland two days later. Once on the ground in Greenland, they boarded a boat for the five-and-half-hour journey to base camp. By day two at camp, both Forbes and Donato had harvested the bull muskox they came for but still had tags for caribou they could fill.
On day four they set out for their caribou hunt and decided in advance if they had an opportunity, Donato would shoot first and Forbes second. After a gruelling two-and-a-half-hour hike up what Forbes estimates to be a 2,000 foot, almost-vertical climb, the hunters and their guide spotted three promising bulls and a cow another 1,000 feet away.
Now with adrenaline pumping, the group stalked the animals and positioned themselves 150 yards behind and above the small herd. Based on their positions relative to the caribou, “At the last minute we traded who was going to shoot which animal and neither one of us knew really who was getting the bigger one and who was getting the smaller one,” Forbes says.
Both men fired clean shots — Donato with his 300 Winchester Magnum and Forbes with his 300 Weatherby — and harvested magnificent animals, but it was Forbes’ shot that earned him a world record. “In retrospect, I felt pretty badly for my friend,” he says. “He’s been a wonderful sport about it. He’s never even brought it up.”
Forbes’ record was confirmed in mid-January. The official score for his caribou was 502 inches. The previous record was 416 inches, which dates back to 2009. The new record has been entered into the Safari Club International Record Book.
There are only 100 master scorers across the globe who can confirm world records. Fortunately one is located in Denmark. Trophies harvested in Greenland must pass through Denmark prior to being shipped to a hunter’s country of origin.
“I couldn’t believe it. We had dry scored the rack after we shot it and thought it was going to be 466 inches. So we knew we had significantly beaten the world record, but that is where we thought it was going to come in,” Forbes says.
“Normally when you make a mistake, you tend to make it by going overboard,” he laughed. “I was shocked. I must have read that email 20 times before I believed it.”
Forbes has been hunting for 45 years, but says this trip was a, “thrill of a lifetime.” A world record makes for a pretty good secondary prize.
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