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Thread: Making the Most of it (Salvaged Sheep/Caribou Hunt)

  1. #1

    Default Making the Most of it (Salvaged Sheep/Caribou Hunt)

    Finally the day Becca and I had been waiting for had come. August 7th was the day we were slated to fly out with an air taxi for 8 days of fun filled adventure chasing caribou and, if lucky enough, sheep. We awoke that morning to low ceilings and a call late in the afternoon to the air taxi as the weather cleared threw us for a loop as we were informed that they would not be able to fly us out to where we were wanting to go. Not really expecting this to happen I spent very (ok ZERO) time working up a “Plan B.” (note to self ALWAYS have a backup plan).

    A quick scan of the topos I had, looking at the options on the table left for us to try to still chase rams and harvest a caribou at the same time led me to choose a drainage that is slightly less than a 10 mile hike off the road to get into sheep country. My brother and I had backpacked through more than 10 years ago while we were in high school so I was “semi familiar” with the area. That distance isn’t usually that big of a deal to most sheep hunters, but being as Becca was still not totally 100% after having broke her leg 10 months prior to this trip I was apprehensive about the undertaking.

    However, given the hand dealt it was that or stay at home, and that was definitely NOT an option for either of us as we’d rather just go backpacking without rifles and not even hunt than sit at home. So we repacked our gear slightly in a hurry and left the truck around 4:30 PM heading for the sheep mountains.



    About 7:30 PM we got to where we had now planned to spend the first night 3 miles in and 2300’ higher than where we started. We setup the tent and enjoyed the evening glassing a couple dozen caribou scattered over the countryside and even a lone wolf trotting along a ridge top a couple miles away as the new snow was still lingering on the mountains surrounding us.




  2. #2

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    The morning of August 8th we decided to do a walkabout of the area we were in to look into some adjacent drainages for rams prior to committing to the original drainage. We soon ran into several groups of caribou ranging from 6 to a dozen animals in each group all cows/calves/and small meat bulls. After a bit we climbed to the top of a 5,000’ peak and managed to sneak up on a large group of ewes and lambs that caught our wind just as I was getting the camera out, well atleast we now knew that sheep were in the area.



    The rest of the 8th we continued to find more groups of ewes and lambs and groups of caribou, I’m always amazed just how curious (or dumb) caribou can be.



    We made it to a small pass that was kind of a shortcut into our intended drainage and from there I could make out several equal sized sheep that I thought I could put horns on but wasn’t 100% sure as they were about 3+ miles away and the wind was whipping and my HD spotter wasn’t equipped to look through that much moisture in the air without some distortion

  3. #3

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    The morning of August 9th we set a new plan to pack up camp and move it down the new shortcut pass into the drainage we saw the “maybe” rams yesterday. The weather had the ceiling lower than we were for much of the trip so it made the dropping the elevation from the pass down to the drainage less painful, but still I hate giving up elevation especially knowing you gotta pack an animal out that way if successful.

    Here we were at the pass, just look at the beautiful country



    Below the clouds now heading down into the drainage we saw the sheep in the previous day



    Setup camp that evening quickly and began to head up the drainage hoping the rams would emerge from the bowl we had seen them in previously. Sure enough they came out around 6 PM and we found ourselves about a mile away from them. Not wishing to spook them the day before season we decided not to move any closer and just look them over with the spotter.

  4. #4

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    One by one the rams emerged onto the grassy lip on the edge of the bowl until there were 6 total. I called them out to Becca as they came in to view bananna horn, ¾ curl, 7/8 curl, bananna horn, ¾ curl, and the last to show up was this guy:


    We looked him over for the better part of 2 hours and decided that while we knew he was “close” to legal, close didn’t cut it but a better look tomorrow at a closer range or the chance his big bro could come out of the bowl as well had us deciding that we were going to race back o the bowl in the morning before the rams came out to feed to be in position to better assess the rams.

    And with that we were back to camp for the night with dinner and a quick game of gin rummy (I taught Becca how to play the night before and it became the nightly ritual to play a game to 500 prior to bed every night) and we were off to bed. The morning of the opener we once again awoke to a drizzle and low ceilings down to 3500’ or so that slowly lifted to 4000-4500’ by mid morning.

  5. #5

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    As a side note thank goodness I, for once, showed a little restraint as these bulls were 600 yards from our tent opening morning.



    But something about focusing on sheep and the fact that we were 8 miles back with a 1500’ climb to the top of the pass right out of the gate to pack it out forced my attention back to Becca’s sheep hunt.

    We packed up our rifles and gear and quickly hiked to 2+ miles to the head of the drainage to wait for the clouds to lift or the rams to come down…..neither of which happened. In fact after that evening on August 9th we never saw this group of rams again. While we were waiting for the clouds to lift it begin sleeting pretty hard so we threw up the bivy shelter to hangout in and avoid some weather. Now I like to keep pack weight down on a hunt but this 1.5 pounds of oasis out of the wind and sleet is worth its weight in gold in a daypack away from camp.



    We spent the rest of the day exploring and glassing the remaining nooks and bowls of the drainage we could see which only turned up ewes and lambs and more caribou so we headed back to camp.

    The next morning we packed up to head over to an adjacent drainage 6 miles away to try to find a legal ram for Becca to take. On the way over there just after climbing the steep bank of a good sized creek I yell to Becca “Sow with cubs!” as a sow grizzly was bluff charging us with two little fur balls in tow. Soon she realized we were not a threat and lumbered off with her cubs trying feverishly to keep up. Well that raised the excitement level for a bit to say the least. The rest of the hike into the drainage showed 4 more rams the largest of which was 7/8 curl and more ewes/lambs and caribou.

    With the ceilings still low it made it hard to be certain we were seeing all the sheep in the area as we had a commanding view of a LOT of country from this vantage point if the clouds would ever lift. So we decided (ok I convinced Becca) to just bivy out under our little shelter and share our 1.2 pound quilt and wear all our clothes and it shouldn’t be too bad right?? I mean how cold could it get as its been cloudy and warm at night with lows in the high 30s. Well as luck would have it, the weather cleared over night and we snuggled up close that night and tried to make a quilt made for one person 5’ tall work for 2 people. We made it through the night ok and even got a good bit of sleep be we were not at all surprised to find a hard frost that morning and bluebird skies for the first time on the trip.



  6. #6

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    We took advantage of the warm weather and hiked further up this new drainage, which revealed a couple more rams that were sub legal as well as some more ewes and lambs.



    However seeing nothing in the way of a legal ram we hiked our way back to the main camp that day as the weather again closed in behind us but not before giving us a rainbow as we arrived at camp.



    That evening at camp Becca was feeling the effects of the 10+ mile day on her leg and turned in early while I turned on caveman TV and watched ewes and lamb and caribou roam the drainage through the spotter. Around 9 PM I spotted a “fattie” large boar grizzly about ¾ of a mile a way. Over the next 2 hours I watched him mow down the berries working his way ever so slightly our direction until by 11 PM he was just 400 yards from our tent. As it was getting dark and I was ready to turn in myself I felt it probably was best to disrupt Mr. Bear’s dinner time path and grabbed the rifle and met him half way and let my presence be known at 200 yards. He jump up on his hind legs straining to make out what I was in the failing light and finally he got a whiff of what Alaska_Lanche smells like on day 6 of no shower and took off for berry patches elsewhere.

    Here is a look of the toad of a bear:


    Becca and I had agreed before we dropped down out of the pass 5 days prior that because we had to leave no later than the 15th due to work constraints that if we had not spotted a legal sheep by the morning of the 13th we’d head back toward the highway and use the remaining time to try to find a decent meat bull for us to pack out and fill the freezer with.

    The morning of the 13th found us with over a dozen ewes and lambs 400 yards above our tent with clouds just above them with yet again more rain coming down. So obviously with no rams to be seen we packed up camp and headed up the pass and made our way through the fog back to the campsite we camped at 7 days prior. The fog was thick into the afternoon but we attempted to locate some caribou anyways to no avail as visibility was usually less than 100 yards though at times up could see out to 300 yards, so we headed back to the tent early that evening for some hot drinks and a couple nice games of gin rummy before turning in.

    The next morning was more of the same, rain and fog. We got up late and began the “hunt in the fog” we called it hoping to randomly waltz our way onto some caribou. Luckily around 11 AM I spotted the silhouette of a group of caribou about 300 yards away in the fog as it cleared out for a minute or so before closing back up. Soon we were in position laying down above the caribou just 140 yards away waiting for the little bull in the group to stand up. We waited roughly 15 minutes, all the time the fog rolling in and out preventing us from seeing anything at all to seeing all 10 caribou in the group. Finally the bull got up and presented us with a shot the fog rolled in and he disappeared once again for an agonizing minute or better before reappearing still giving a full broadside shot, one shot later the bull was down.

    We had our little bull(not huge, but much more travel size when packing camp and a caribou off the hill 5 miles back to the truck in one trip)


  7. #7

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    We made quick work of the caribou and had the bull back in camp in the early afternoon. Becca cooked up some hot lunch of mashed potatoes and hot cocoa and we broke camp and headed down the hill towards home with heavy packs.




    All in all it was a great trip and we both certainly feel we made the most out of what could have been a real let down. We saw over a hundred ewes and lambs, 13 different rams, 4 grizzly bears, hundred or better caribou and even a wolf. We also did not see another person the entire trip.



    Becca’s leg is really doing well, as she came off the hill with nearly 55 pounds in her pack and we logged roughly 65 miles over the 8 days we were out. It was a great trip and a great way to spend 8 days with the love of my life. We both certainly look forward to doing it all over again here in two days for another 10 day sheep/caribou hunt combo with my wife in another part of the state.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for writing up your excellent trip with a bonus of some meat. I'm sure this is a confidence builder for Becca and prove to be a jumping off point for many more adventures. While she didn't get a ram, you were close and who knows what the next 10 day trip will yield. Thanks and I look forward to reading about your next expedition.

  9. #9
    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default great story

    As usual you shared a great story and I can't thank you enough for taking the time to share your adventure with the rest of us. Glad to see that Becca is doing so well after her injury. Great pictures!

    Just one question..... Who was the air service that let you down and what was their excuse?
    Semper Fi and God Bless

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    GREAT story and great pictures.

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    Thanks for sharing a great time with us ! Your "plan "B" turned out rather well I say.

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    Super story, thanks for sharing. The photos were great! You're a lucky guy to have a wife that will head out with you. BTW, that looks like a Barney's pack......which model? I just got the Hunter, and will be trying it out this year to see how it competes with my crop. All you Alaska guys can't be wrong!
    Don

  13. #13

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    Luke and Becca,

    Thanks for the story and the pics, and glad you were able to turn an unanticipated circumstance into a positive through will power and flexibility.

    65 miles in 8 days - nice going Becca, a lot of people would like to be in shape to hike that far with a packload on their back.
    Glad that your leg is healing well.

    One question - what system are you guys using to attach your rifles to the packs? Did they come with the packs, or is that an accessory you got separately?

    Michael

  14. #14

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    Very nice write up! Sounds like you made the best out of the cards dealt to you and your wife. Thanks for sharing!

  15. #15
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    What a great write up and the pics were amazing!! Great job. After reading your post I am so excited at my first attempt at sheep next season!! Workout routine started last week!!

  16. #16
    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    Fantastic write up and pics - well done u 2!
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    I envy your ability to stop and take pictures of moments that alot of us observe but are too lazy to document.

    I also envy your perserverance and your restraint when it comes to making realistic choices about what and when to harvest.

    Thanks again for the great post and look forward to your next adventure!

  18. #18
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    Excellent story and pictures. Thank you for sharing and glad to see her doing so well. Enjoy your next trip out together.

  19. #19
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    As always quite the couple in the field and its great
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

  20. #20
    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    For all the bulletin board naysayers out there, get to know fellow members, contribute, and be respectful. Through this board I get the privilege of hunting sheep and caribou with AKlanch in a few days. After enjoying this post I'm 100 percent sure good times await us in DCUA. Thanks Luke and I'll be honored to haul a heavy load of sheep meat for ya.

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