First of all, thanks to all those on this forum who provided information on the area that we hunted. It helped to narrow down the places to put my scouting efforts to.
This hunt actually began last year, at the time that the permits were submitted. I'd told my daughter that we'd apply for a tier 1 permit, and if drawn (or when as it turned out), she would get the tag to try and fill. So, as time went on, a rifle was bought, time was spent on the range, we played with different handloads to try and get the set up all dialed right in there, and we also did the "where would you aim on this" game using pictures of caribou in various positions from my hunting magazines. So, by the time the hunt date rolled around, I was pretty comfortable that she was ready to do this. I gave her a choice on the mode of travel, horses or 4 wheelers, and being a horse nut, she chose to use the horses to get back into the hunting area. So, we drove up onto the Denali highway and parked at our gravel pit "camp" site and got camp set up, electric fencing and high lines up for the horses, and got ready to go early the next morning.
Next morning came fast and early, with all the chores required when using horses, and soon enough, we were all mounted up and ready to go. The trip in was nice, very little sign of anything for about the first 6-8 miles, and was more of a horse ride with guns than a hunt. I was still pretty confident that we would run into caribou further in the valley, and as we neared the end, we ran into a couple of guys on bikes who had both shot caribou and were working on getting the last load out. They told us that they'd seen few caribou, but there were some around and they were at the end of the valley. So we continued on, and began seeing more and more sign, then started seeing animals. We initially went after about 5 small bulls and cows, but were unable to sneak up on them with the wind the way it was. Went back to the horses and rode on to the very end of the valley, and stopped on a small ridge in the fork of the valley to have lunch. It was beginning to get late, and we decided to get moving, and start back to camp. I was just about to saddle up when my daughter says "dad, moose, I mean caribou.....bull!" I said where? She points and says, behind the bush....of course I have to ask her which of the 10,000 bushes she was referring to. She keeps pointing and eventually I see the bulls antlers moving behind some brush. He was coming down the hillside toward us, but veering slightly up the valley. So I tell her to get off the horse, grab her stuff and handed the lead ropes to our horses to my wife, who stayed with the horses as we moved to get into position. I moved her to a place that I thought would give us the best vantage point, and got her set up and behind the rifle. We waited, the bull kept coming. He got to about 400 yards, and stopped in a small stream. I told her, if he turns left now, he's going to go up the valley, if he crosses, he'll come right to us. Well, he crosses, and walks to a spot just below us on the valley floor. I ranged him at about 250 yards, which is longer than I wanted her to shoot so I told her to wait. As he moves slowly toward us, I asked her how he looked in the scope, and if she was steady. She said, yeah. when he hit the 213 yard mark, he stopped to itch. I asked her if she thought she could make the shot....very calmly she replied "yeah, I think so". So I tell her, shoot when your ready, the safety is off, wait till he turns broadside. Not two seconds later BOOM, the rifle goes off. I initially thought she touched the trigger by accident, but watched the bull go straight down. I gave a big whoohooo and told her that she made one heck of a shot, hugged her, and just really enjoyed the moment. I told her lets go back to get the horses, and she runs back to my wife to tell her about the terrific shot she had just made.
As I was walking back behind her, I couldnt decide which of us was more excited about her first caribou. In all my hunting, and with all the animals I've killed, I have to say, this was probably the most memorable animal, and has to be, at this point in my life, the pinnacle of my hunting experience.
So we gather up the horses and head down to get her bull. I walked up to make sure he wasn't going anywhere...
Not a bad way to start a hunting career