About: Joe Liesen - Class of 1958
Jon Wren's purchase of farmland in West Central Illinois five years ago put his pursuit of big game on hold until he replenished his hunting fund and found himself itching for another challenge.
That's when caribou became his quest.
"It was something new," said Wren, who previously harvested black bear in Alberta, mule deer in Colorado, antelope in Wyoming and moose in Alaska. "I hadn't gone for caribou before."
So Wren teamed up with his brother, David, who lives in Georgia, and Quincy's Joe Liesen for a trip to Canada Sept. 12-21 that resulted in the harvest of four quality bulls and an unforgettable adventure just trying to reach the hunting camp.
Flying out of St. Louis, Wren and Liesen knew a full day of travel lied ahead. After landing in Montreal, they had to take a shuttle plane to Sheppardville and then a float plane to the hunting camp.
However, native Indians had formed a blockade on the road from the land base airport to the float base airport and wouldn't let anyone through. The hunting party had to fly to a different transfer point and lost a day and a half of hunting.
"We were allowed two (caribou)," Liesen said. "We feel if we would have had that extra day and a half we would have got both of them."
Nor would they have been as travel weary.
"The travel aspect going in was pretty extensive," Wren said.
That's because the camp was miles from nowhere. Set up on a lake that was 17 miles long, the camp was at least 100 miles from the nearest road network, but Wren and Liesen both said the accomodations were excellent.
So were the hunts.
Taken by boat each morning to points where caribou cross, the hunters climbed rocky ledges and glassed the south shores. The caribou's typical migration pattern is shaped like an arc, starting north, swinging east and heading south.
"What we would do was wait for them to swim the lake, then we would maneuver to intercept," Wren said.
Wren, who was bowhunting, wound up having to maneuver more than he originally planned.
He had positioned himself high on some rocks and watched a bull swim right to the draw, which ran to the water's edge where a rock shelf went out 6 or 8 feet into the water before dropping off.
"I wanted them to come on up the draw and go by me so I could get my shot," Wren said.
No such luck. The caribou worked their way around a point sticking out in the lake, forcing Wren to climb higher and across the draw to keep up. Eventually, he got to a point he could see them and was able to take a shot from above.
"The bull immediately jumped back in the water, but that was as far as he could make it," Wren said.
The guide had instructed Wren to shoot a second arrow immediately to ensure the bull would be brought down, but Wren knew one properly-placed shot was enough.
"I knew instantly when I hit him it was over," Wren said.
Liesen knew the same thing. Hunting with a rifle to give himself a better chance at a harvest, Liesen needed one shot to bring down his bull, which ran about 30 or 40 yards and around the point of the island before falling.
"I knew this was the only time I was going to do this," Liesen said. "Something was going on the ground. ... I would have hated to come back empty-handed, but that's hunting. You don't know what will happen."
That includes the weather. They said they endured snow, sleet and daily rain.
"I invested in a good set of rain gear," Liesen said. "It was the best thing I did."
It was topped only by the hunting experience itself.
"It was definitely a different kind of hunt," Wren said. "That's what I look for, something different, a different experience.
"This just kicks me off again. I'll go every year now."
Contact Sports Writer Matt Schuckman
or (217) 2213366