For Newfoundland hunter Jeff Samson, what started out as an ordinary blueberry pick with his wife quickly became much more than that — a bowhunt for an extraordinary 376 3/8-inch caribou.
The Pope and Young Club announced on Thursday that if the initial record book measurements are verified, Samson's bull from Sept. 5, 2013, will shatter the current world record score of 345 2/8 inches, a 31 point difference.
The standing record for woodland caribou, also killed in Newfoundland, is held by Dempsey Cape, who took his bull near the Victoria River in 1966.
After spotting the exceptional caribou — Samson had spotted and hunted the massive caribou multiple times but never came within range — the lifelong hunter abandoned the blueberries for his compound bow and set out on a stalk for a close shot.
"I was taking a few steps at a time and just waiting more or less. It takes a bit of patience really," Samson told The Gander Beacon.
Samson was able to get within 15 yards for the shot. After hitting the caribou, it wasn't long before he was the new contender for a world record. Waiting about a half hour before tracking, Samson didn't have to go far before he found his trophy.
"I knew it was big when I killed it, but I didn't think it was world-record material," Samson said.
Though many people approached Samson about the size of the caribou, he didn't originally intend to measure the rack. However, curiosity got the best of him. He accessed Boone & Crockett's online measuring tool and after inputting in the measurements, he found that he had a potential world record on his hands.
That's when Samson decided to have the rack measured by local B&C officials in Deer Lake. They informed him that his caribou was going to be the new world record.
Story told, it wasn't the rack that caught Samson's eye, it was the meat.
"It feels kind of hard to believe, 'cause I'm not a trophy hunter. When I hunt, I hunt for meat — whether it be moose, caribou, other big game ... or even small game like ducks or rabbit," Samson told CBC.
Samson's one of the lucky ones: he gets to have his trophy cake and eat it too.
With a historic range stretching from the Northwest Territories and British Columbia, all the way east to the Atlantic and even south into the northern United States, a significant portion of North America's woodland caribou population currently resides in Newfoundland. As the benefactor of this population, Newfoundland is one of the only places in the world offering non-residents a chance at hunting the woodland caribou.
However, despite populations numbering 90,000 in the 1990s, woodland caribou populations in Newfoundland have significantly declined. Last estimates from the Newfoundland Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation place the population around 32,000 woodland caribou currently on the island. The most likely cause of the substantial decline is heavy predation by black bears, lynx and coyotes.