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Thread: My nephew's first caribou - Nelchina success!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Smile My nephew's first caribou - Nelchina success!

    For those of you who have been around here a while, you might know that I have been working on getting my nephew on his first big game animal for some time now. The story really starts some years ago - maybe four or five years now? - when I got him his first .22 for a birthday present. To say that he was excited to learn to shoot would be an understatement.



    I won't rehash all of our experiences here, but I've written about many of them over the past four years. We started by chasing hares, and eventually got onto some birds as well.







    With all of that being wonderful, our quest to put him on a big game animal has not met with much success. It started two springs ago with a black bear hunt in Homer. While we had a great time, that spring was an early one following a low snowfall year and the bears were mostly up in the hills by the time we hit the beach. Being our first big game hunt, I was concerned that my nephew would get discouraged at our lack of any real opportunities, but he had a far better attitude than I imagined.





    Later that fall we tried again, but weather kept us from our destination across Kachemak Bay and we struck out on our backup plan in the Kenai Mountains. Last fall we signed him up for the late season Nelchina caribou tag and kept trying, but again, luck was not on our side. Actually...that's not entirely accurate. In two trips up to Paxson we did manage to chase a lot of caribou, but it was never just right. It was on those trips that I realized what a wonderful hunting companion I had in the makings. On every trip we had taken, from the first hare hunt through chasing caribou, we always would spend time talking about the regulations and the responsibilities of the hunter to the law and to the animals that we pursue. More than once last winter caribou were within a range where I would have been OK with him taking a shot, but each time he told me afterwards that things weren't just right and that he didn't want to take a bad shot. He showed a maturity far beyond his years, and though we didn't come home with anything, I couldn't have been more proud.

    When the season ended and the winter application period started, we talked at length about what the next year would hold. He's been itching to get one of the Delta youth moose hunt tags, but after some consideration he decided that the Tier I tag would be an awesome opportunity that just couldn't be passed up.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Fast forward to this past Friday. I had hunted my Tier I tag two weeks ago and did well, so we loaded up after school with great anticipation, laughter, and high hopes for the weekend. Thankfully we were also joined by my father, so around 5pm three generations of my family headed northeast to try to finally put together a successful caribou hunt for a very patient, good-natured young hunter. The drive was longer than we planned due to two bouts of road construction, so we pulled into the Paxson area well after dark. We still managed to stumble out of bed at 6:00 the next morning, and by 6:45 or so we were pulling into our first glassing area. I had intended to take a quick look around and then head down the road to some other areas that we planned to explore, but within two minutes of stepping out of the truck I had spotted a lone caribou about a mile and a half off the road. I scanned the rest of the area within sight and when I didn't see a hint of anything else I decided that I should at least pull out my spotting scope to take a closer look. When I did I was a bit surprised at what I saw. Not only was it a bull in the distance, but he was quite a nice sized one. Two weeks prior we had only seen five or six bulls out of about 300 animals and none of them had much size to them, so this was a pleasant surprise. We talked it over for a few minutes and decided that we simply couldn't pass up this opportunity.

    As we geared up I talked with my nephew about reasonable expectations. I explained to him that it is rare for caribou to stay still for long and that if the bull started moving that it would be nearly impossible to catch him. On top of that, it was pretty flat, exposed country, so he knew that we were in for a low odds stalk at best. Still, it was early and we figured there was nothing to be lost other than a couple of hours in a long day, so we soon set off. About 1/4 mile off the road we dropped out of view of the caribou and didn't see him again until a small crest in a hill at about 1/2 mile away. At that point I was concerned that we would be busted soon due to our exposure, but there was just enough of a roll in the tundra to conceal us from view once again about 75 yards later. I wasn't expecting that, and man, that good fortune went a long ways towards our eventual success.

    10 minutes or so later we found ourselves moving slowly through the willows, scanning left and right every few steps hoping to catch a glimpse of our quarry but unsure of where he might be (if he was indeed around at all). Suddenly we both stopped in our tracks, both seeing the tops of his antlers swaying over the brush at the same time. About 100 yards directly in front of us we saw him rise from feeding, then drop back down only to lurch upright once again, this time pointed directly towards us. Our eyes couldn't see each other, but it was quickly apparent that he was aware that something was amiss. We hit the ground and spent the next five minutes waiting him out. The bull moved back and forth a few feet in each direction, but he never went long without turning straight towards us. He didn't seem overly spooked, though, so we simply waited and tried to collect our nerves. Soon the bull began to walk directly away from us, though only at a leisurely pace as he fed and scanned his surroundings. We took the opportunity to move another 20 yards to the left to get a clear shooting lane where my nephew got set up on one knee. We whispered back and forth about proper shot placement one last time while hoping that he would turn and give us the opportunity we were waiting for. Yard after yard he kept on straight away, though, and we both were starting to get a bit concerned. Thankfully, though, at about 150 yards the bull stopped in his tracks and turned perfectly broadside. I whispered to my nephew that he could take the shot if he was comfortable and I heard the safety click off of his 7mm-08. About four seconds later I heard the shot ring out and the almost immediate sound of the bullet striking its target. A moment later the caribou was on the ground and my nephew's hunt was over.



    Man, what an animal! I knew it was a nice bull from a distance, but it wasn't until we were watching those antler tops from 100 yards that I saw how nice he really was. A large, fat body coupled with really wide antlers made for quite the celebration. Honestly, I know without a doubt that he would have been absolutely as happy with a cow or small bull, but after all of the work he put in and patience that he showed over the years, I was thrilled to see it pay off like this.

    After gutting the caribou to cool it down, we began the mile and a half trek back to the truck to get some more gear and to get my father. Upon our return we had some pretty sweet moments as three generations of family shared the success of the youngest among us.





    Though we had planned to be gone all weekend, our success by 8:30am allowed us to spend some time picking berries for the family back home and to make it home late that night. As such, we were able to have a meat cutting party yesterday and to get the whole thing in the freezer only 36 hours after the shot was fired. As great as the harvest itself was, it was made even better by the process of taking care of the meat as a family. My nephew had a wonderful time telling the story to his mother, siblings, and other family members as he learned to trim and grind the meat that will feed his family this winter.





    What an absolute pleasure it has been to share in this experience. Next up: nephew #2 and then my niece a year or two later before introducing my own two sons. The younger nephew is seven years old now and we'll be hitting the woods chasing hares this winter, so soon it will begin all anew. Good stuff.

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Good job uncle. Good job nephew. Good bou.
    Do I see a left handed kid using a right handed gun?
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    Good job uncle. Good job nephew. Good bou.
    Do I see a left handed kid using a right handed gun?
    Thanks for the kind words.

    Interesting question on the hand preference. I know that when he was younger that he would switch back and forth - maybe a bit ambidextrous? - but I'm fairly certain he's right handed. Heck...maybe I got him the wrong rifle and have never paid close enough attention? It worked, but I guess I'll need to ask!

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    Member The Kid's Avatar
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    Way to go Uncle. Tell that young man congratulations for me. Without Uncles and Dads like you many of us probably wouldn't have the passion we do for the outdoors. Thank you for passing it on.

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    great story, I can still remember the first big game animal I took, those memories will last a lifetime for your nephew
    Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Very enjoyable to read Brian, and great pictures... I recognized a few from previous threads, right?
    Hope my boy gets to connect this coming week (and the quota hasn't been filled yet!).
    Looking pretty fallish up there already, isn't it?

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    Congrats!!! Please tell me your going to get a shoulder mount wow beautiful bull!!! Next up you and him sheep hunting!

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    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

    Maybe I missed it somewhere in there, how old is he?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    sayak - I don't expect that the quota is going to be filled anytime soon. As of last Thursday they were standing at about 650 harvested (roughly equal numbers cows and bulls), so that leaves almost 1,800 yet to be taken. From what I understand, things were pretty slow this past weekend, so you should certainly be able to get out. And yes, a number of those pictures were from previous threads, but I felt they were part of the story.

    323 - It'll be a european (skull) mount. I should've saved the cape (actually told a friend I would get it for him, but totally forgot in the moment), but I don't think my sister would be too thrilled about the shoulder mount for the next six years. I think we can pull off a prominent place to display the skull and antlers, though. And he's already itching to chase sheep. Someday, for sure.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hre814 View Post
    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

    Maybe I missed it somewhere in there, how old is he?
    Whoops! Missed that detail. He is 12 years old.

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    great work Brian and nephew!!! Be sure to tell him congrats for being such a trooper! thanks for sharing a truly great story

  13. #13

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    That was so cool to see this young hunter going through the paces of becoming a big game hunter and outdoorsman - thanks for the story! A big congratulations to your nephew and his first BIG big game animal! No doubt your the uncle of the year, nice work man

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    Rightious!

    I do the same with nephews who have interests in Guns and Hunting.

    For Old time Eskimo , they say the best Hunters were raised by their Uncles;

    your dad would probly put you in the sled when you got very tired, a little something to eat when hungry, maby bundle you up when you were cold....

    However,

    An Uncle would let you walk all the way out hunting and back to home, only give you food to eat when the day was done, and mock your coldness for not dressing properly, but that next time you surly would!!!! ~~LOL!!~~
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Thumbs up gr8 hunt report

    Brian, you just now won the best-hunt-report-of-the-year award. Don't let that go to your head though, because that and 25 cents put together will only buy you a cup of coffee at Eureka Cafe.....

    Seriously though, great job you, great hunt, Great report, quite a fine bull, great young hunter.

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Have to spread the rep around before I can pay you Brian, However what a great post. It is awesome to see the young man grow before our eyes in the pictures you posted both into a young man and a hunter as well. You have shared many lessons with that lucky young man and I'm quite share he will also pass on this knowledge. Loved the processing photos as well.

    Congrats to all...

    Steve
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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    Excellent job Brian! What a fortunate young man to have an uncle like you.

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    Great story. thanks for sharing... all young ones should have someone like you in their lives. thank you,

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    Too cool Brian, congrats to your nephew! We just finished processing last night as well. It's always been a 4 generation event at our house with the girls great grandma helping out. I spoke to an old timer (93 years old) that used to be a guide yesterday and he said that our parents generation seemed to be so selfish not getting the kids out young enough to start hunting. He would guide people out who would bring their kids along for the experience, but when opportunities were around to shoot something, the dad would jump at the chance and seem to forget about their kids. He said he barked at a few of them over the years.

    Keep putting him in for that Delta Youth Hunt. It's hard to draw, but what a spectacular opportunity for a kid to hunt in there.

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