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Thread: Bringing two new hunters into the fold - Nelchina caribou success

  1. #1
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Smile Bringing two new hunters into the fold - Nelchina caribou success

    This past weekend I had the great privilege of taking two friends out to harvest their first Alaskan big game animals. One friend had previously taken an elk while on a hunt with his family in Montana, but hadn't yet been able to pursue Alaskan game. The other was completely new to hunting. He is an excellent chef who places a high premium on growing his own food and using organic ingredients where possible, so the transition to adding wild, self-harvested meat was a natural one.

    We've been talking about this since last November when we made the decision together to apply for the Tier I permits, so it was with great anticipation that we headed into the field. We had planned all along to hunt an area that I am quite familiar with, but as opening day reports started to trickle in (and due to some very helpful advice from a member on here who I am indebted to) we decided to scrap our original plans and instead head towards grounds that I had only hunted once previously. We loaded up after work on Friday afternoon and did the best we could to get to camp by dark. We made it there a bit earlier than we figured, so with the light fading we quickly made our way up an adjacent ridge to take a look around. We had seen a handful of caribou on the drive in, and due to our burgeoning excitement we couldn't bear to simply sit around camp until morning. We didn't make it far and only saw caribou from a distance, but just those fleeting sightings were enough to tide us over as we built a fire to relax around. That night at least one of my friends didn't sleep well at all. As he told me the next day, it was like a child waiting for Christmas morning as he awaited his first hunt.

    When morning came we made quick work of breakfast and coffee (I love my jetboil french press - get one if you're still using instant, it is way better) and headed back up the same ridge we had been on the night prior. Within 15 minutes we were seeing caribou, and not the ones and twos that we had seen on the drive in. Now we were looking at groups of 50 or more. At first we focused in on one group of approximately 50 and began to figure out an approach. I quickly learned, though, that either my hunting skills are seriously lacking or that there were simply too many sets of eyes and too little cover on that alpine ridge. To keep the story reasonably short, we spent the next five hours dancing with caribou and, quite frankly, getting our rears handed to us. Whenever we moved to a new location, the caribou would loop back to where we had just been. Whenever we would sit tight, they'd move towards the area we had considered. Over that time one group became two, then three, and eventually there were at least six different groups of animals that had criss-crossed the area we were in with somewhere between 200-300 animals. 95% or more of them were cows or calves, but we weren't feeling too particularly picky about size - especially given the culinary inclinations of one of my friends who was more interested in the tenderness of the meat as opposed to the volume. When an opportunity came, we pursued regardless of the presence or absence of bulls - but again and again our best plans were foiled. Eventually one friend and I went back to our parked machines to take a quick break and to refuel. While there, we noticed a small group of about 15 animals circling around the hill below us, so we moved into a position where we thought we might intercept them. They came a bit more quickly than we anticipated, but it actually worked out brilliantly as we were able to shuffle a quick 20 yards to a large rock which served as a perfect rest. One shot later and my friend had his first animal on the ground.



    After taking a few pictures we looked into the distance for our other hunting partner and saw that he was pursuing another band of caribou. We quickly got to work butchering, and every 10 minutes or so we'd take another look to see where our friend was and to look for other animals. Each time we looked he'd be in a completely different area, and it looked from a distance as though these animals were giving him the same fits that we had been having all morning. We also had two groups of caribou run by within 100 yards while we were cleaning, but at the time I passed on taking the shots so that we could finish the job at hand. Near the end of the job our friend showed up to join us on the mountaintop, and told us to our great joy that he had taken one as well. I somehow missed the sound of the shot, but when he walked us to his kill site we found that his success came only 300 yards or so downhill from where we were. First caribou number two was down, and the butchering process began anew without delay between.



    With only a few cuts remaining on the second caribou of the day, I looked up to see a group of approximately 30 caribou crest the hill above us. I had already been making plans in my head to hike the next ridge into an only partially-visible valley, but when those caribou presented themselves within shooting range, I didn't feel as though I could pass up the opportunity. My wife had sent me with the instructions to not pass up a cow, but when I saw a few bulls in the middle of the group, I decided to target the first one that would give me a clear shot opportunity. A few moments later, and within 3 hours and 300 yards of the other two harvest sites, our third tag was filled.



    That night was filled with fire, tenderloin, drinks, and laughs as we enjoyed our time at the foothills of the Alaska Range. The time since...well, that has been spent cutting meat when not at work. We're finally done with the task (other than the grinding of the burger) and I couldn't be more satisfied with the result. We've all got many pounds of wild, healthy meat in our freezers and we've got some great memories to go with it. I can't claim an ounce of credit for introducing these men to hunting - they both were already going down that road - but I am certainly thankful for the privilege of being able to join them when they made that first trip.

  2. #2
    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    gotta love caribou, often times dumber than a box of bricks but some of the best at makin' memories!! nice work. were you guys up off the denali?

    scratch the last question, reread your post and saw you went outa your way to NOT say where 'bouts you where...my bad.
    Last edited by BRWNBR; 08-17-2011 at 17:03. Reason: i'm blind
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    Member akjeff's Avatar
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    Very nice and good on you.

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    Brian,

    Good story and nice pics! A nice side bonus of taking new caribou hunters out - you now have two more recruits if you shoot a moose and need some extra packers.

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    Member Chisana's Avatar
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    Nice work Brian. Glad you could assist friends on their first Alaska hunt and help them do it right.

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    congrat nice looking caribou and looks like a great time for all of you...

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    That is awesome!! I can't wait til next season! This is the first season since I was 10 that I haven't been able to hunt!! Thanks for the great story and pics to keep my spirits up!

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    Member tiger15's Avatar
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    What a way to enjoy your first hunt and your first hunt in Alaska! That will be hard to beat for your friends. Great job!

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    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    GREAT post - these will be happy memories for years to come! A trophy is what you make it and by all means of measure you 3 did very well!
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Saved the biggest one for yourself!
    Looks like most everyone that has gone hunting has been successful. Great opportunity for folks down there to enjoy our wildlife.
    Bou move around quite a bit. Is your hunt location really a secret?
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BRWNBR View Post
    scratch the last question, reread your post and saw you went outa your way to NOT say where 'bouts you where...my bad.
    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    Bou move around quite a bit. Is your hunt location really a secret?
    Nope, no secret. We were on the Denali Highway east of the MacLaren. There were certainly hunters around, but there was only one other group of two in our area.

    Thanks for all of the kind comments - we had a great time and it'll be even better eating for some time to come.

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    Member Matt's Avatar
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    Congrats and great pictures. Way to go, Brian!

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    Great hunt report, pictures, and hunt! Thanks for sharing. Dumb system won't let me rep ya again so soon, so I owe ya one.

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    Nice job fella's!! Brian, sounds like you your having a good start this year, better stock up on freezer paper and tape!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailblazersteve View Post
    Nice job fella's!! Brian, sounds like you your having a good start this year, better stock up on freezer paper and tape!
    Ha! Yeah, it's been a nice way to start out the year. I was pretty upset about having to start school on August 10th, but we've made the best of it so far. Last year was rough with a similarly early start and a newborn in the house. I barely got out at all and was pretty angst-ridden all winter. I'm going to be a much happier teacher this year.

    On a side note, if you guys put any more animals on the ground this fall and if you don't generally eat the heart or kidneys, send 'em in with your daughter and we'll make use of them when we dissect fetal pigs. Studying the anatomy of the heart is far easier with a moose than with a fetal pig. If you eat it, though, no worries - I've already got a collection going in my classroom freezer.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    Saved the biggest one for yourself!
    Not by intention - it just worked out that way. I almost felt bad about it, but we're splitting the meat three ways and the skull/antlers are becoming a classroom specimen, so it all evens out....almost.

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Congrats to you all, Brian. Looks like this hunt is turning out real well, great to help others work their way into the fold, show them some butchering skills, meat care etc. And I bet your chef friend turns out some incredible meals with his caribou!

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    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Excellent report, write-up, and pics . . . as always. Very well done.
    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

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    Member thewhop2000's Avatar
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    I'm torn. We now have two more people to compete for draw permits and legal bulls. On the other hand, We also have two more people to pass on the lure of hunting. That is my problem... Competition and/or possible hunting buddy's in the future?
    Ah heck, congratts and pass on my kudo's to both of the newbie's. As of now, they both have a leg up on me this hunting season. LOL
    If a dipnetter dips a fish and there is no one around to see/hear it, Did he really dip?

  20. #20
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thewhop2000 View Post
    I'm torn. We now have two more people to compete for draw permits and legal bulls. On the other hand, We also have two more people to pass on the lure of hunting. That is my problem... Competition and/or possible hunting buddy's in the future?
    Ah heck, congratts and pass on my kudo's to both of the newbie's. As of now, they both have a leg up on me this hunting season. LOL
    Understood, though the same could be said of dipnetting, no? From a personal standpoint, of course I want to share good things with my friends. Whether it be hunting, skiing, or any other passion of mine, I love introducing friends and family to that which gives me such great joy. From the perspective of hunting as a heritage and a legal pursuit, I also like involving others so that they may understand the value of hunting and so educate others. I hate to admit that hunting sometimes becomes a political issue, but when it does it is valuable to have more hunters, not less. Yes, competition is never ideal when in the field trying to fill the freezer, but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. Just like dipnetting, there are those who would like to see hunting curtailed (or even ended outright). By passing it along, we ensure a healthy future of opportunities for ourselves and for others.

    Thanks for the congrats. I imagine they'll be on here to read it themselves.

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