So there we were… Had a buddy from Mississippi surprise me by coming up to go on the hunt with us. His first trip to AK. So we set out on a Wednesday morning, left the family at the RV, and hit the trail. Every online comment and personal report lamented the lack of caribou in the area. I mean, virtually none. And it was indeed mostly barren. Except for one tiny group of three bulls, 5 miles out. Headed straight for us. E weren’t even glassing for 15 minutes at “my spot” and the biggest bou I’ve seen in that area (not a monster, mind you, but big for what I’ve run into) made his way to within 150 yards of us. And I proceeded to flub every opportunity…
He came trotting in with 2 smaller buddies, spooked by something. I didn’t try to get them to stop and I took a poor shooting position. Shot anyway. A little low, and s little forward. Thought maybe I nailed his shoulder, but couldn’t quite tell. I had to stand for the follow up, and maybe got him again. But he and his friends turned away and headed for the hills. Twice we thought he went down, but didn’t. Instead of telling my homie to stay on the high ground and watch, we both have chase as they dissappeared over a small group of hills. We found blood. Twice. Found his buddies. Found what should have been his final lunch all over the tundra and scattered among the willows. But never found the old boy himself. I feel like we did a decent triangulation, but to no avail. Let me tell you what a dark cloud moved in and hung over much of the rest of the trip. In a complete dearth of animals, we were gifted an absolute beauty. And I kicked it right in the teeth
Well, anyways, we went to the same spot the next day, hoping for some direction from ravens or eagles, but sometimes what the Lord gives, the Lord takes away. On Friday, we brought Bregitte along for a two night tent camping excursion. While the weather and views dramatically improved, the animal sitch did not. We did have an awesome time, though. Despite old man Tony being physically unable to go more than two miles, we certainly made every effort to bring home the bacon. In the three camping days, we saw exactly one caribou. And he was a MONSTER. Skylined on the highest ridge about 3/4 mile away. Didn’t even need glass to see the massive Double C shape. Straight out of a magazine. But by the time we got close enough to make a play, he dissolved into the ether…
Monday morning find us waking up in the RV, and pretty much everybody was ready to head out. Except me, and grandpa. But the old man just wasn’t gonna be able to make it far from the truck. I had phone service, and noticed that a message was in voicemail. My great friend and hunting mentor took a week off of work, and was bringing another buddy of his in my very direction to go on his first caribou hunt! And he was calling to see if I wanted to meet up!!! So the family and my Mississippi homeboy took off and, and I joined these two ruffians to see if I could salvage a trip. We hiked about 8 miles out, and set up camp for the next two nights. The new guy had to be at work 6 hours away on Thursday morning, but that was about as long as I wanted to stay anyways. So off we went…
Nothing but howling wind the first night. The next day we saw a large bull moose about 2 miles away, and foolishly contemplated a play. Fortunately we talked ourselves out of it. Saw a couple of bou, but they were across a daunting river, and we really never had a chance. They’re just here one second, and gone the next.
Got up the last morning, glassed for a few hours, and decided it was time to take the now somber trail to civilisation. About 3 miles from the truck, at an unexplainable spot if cell coverage, we stopped for our last glassing session. Had a little lunch, gazed across the vast, barren tundra, and said a little prayer. Texted our wives that we’d be on the road soon, donned our packs, and saddled up.
“Oh my. There’s a dozen caribou” My dude just has an almost unnatural ability to spot animals, and he done it again. The day was getting late, the herd was about a mile away and separated from us by some of the most unforgiving terrain that lowlands in Alaska have to offer. Didn’t matter. We chased those rascals for two miles. Huffing and puffing, feet aching, pouring sweat, but we never stopped until we were within 350 or so yards. The final ridge. After that, they’d be up a shale mountainside with no hope of retrieval. The wind was whipping pretty good, and the shot uphill. My adjustments were a bit off as well, but the 130 grain .270 round left the Kimber Hunter and connected with his spine, and as he fell over the ridge, we had feet in the air
My other homie knocked one down as well. A large cow from the same group. Since he had to be at work the next day, we dressed mine, cached it, and humped his back to the truck. The two of us left would get mine in the morningSep 20, 12:02 PMMade it to the RV. Slept like babies. And woke up to snow blowing sideways..
Fortunately the weather cleared and Tony drove Aaron and I to the trailhead. Told him we’d be back in about 4 hours with the meat. We lied. The bull was about 3 miles down the trail, and almost 2 off of it. 4 hours would have been fairly accurate, but
about a quarter of a mile from my bull, a young cow popped up out of the brush at about 40 yards. Down she went. And down went my two tags. I can’t describe how grueling the hike out was, but it was all obviously worth it
This hunt has some crazy restrictions, including one that requires you to leave the meat on the bone. Everything in this picture was on our backs FOR FIVE MILES
Pretty excellent meat season on both caribou and fish
Now, it’s time to eat!