Well we had one helluva trip, success was certainly achieved on every level that can be quantified. Started planning this hunt early spring with Grandpa, Logan (grandpas huntng buddy from texas) and Mariah my wife. We flew out of happy valley east with 70 North to ANWR. After settling in the first day and being told hunting has been very slow every where for the central arctic herd we decided hunting harder than normal was going to be in order, that assumption was far from the truth.
First morning Logan and PopPop head out to where they decide to hunt. About 20 minutes later Mariah and I start strapping on boots and I look up to see a group of 8 bou headed over the hill about 600 yards away and straight up wind from us. I grabbed rifle and sprinted behind a hill to get in position before I missed the opportunity as they where moving fast. I setup where I thought they where going to move and laid out using a tussuk as a shooting rest. 125 yard shot and the only bull in the group was down as soon as bullet hit. After a hug from wife and feeling a little odd to not have to work at all for this harvest I thanked the beast and harvested the protein for my families consumption.
Weather was unexpectedly hot so I started to worry about meat. As soon as processing was done I used crystal clear creek to start cool down. After creek treating I hung all meat on the bone and sprayed down with citric acid. Then covered all to keep in shade.
Second day we hunted all day and see nothing. Dinner is being cooked by Mariah and PopPop when I noticed a group of about 15 bou head over the same hill my group had come over. Logan and PopPop where like “its late and its all cows and calfs” when I see out of the corner of my eye Mariah in full sprint rifle in hand running across the tundra by herself. I immediately looked at my feet which where bear as I was drying out my boots and cursed allowed. I start putting my boots on as she disappears over the hill. I see Logan trying to catch up to her and curse again. So I finally get up to them and they are glassing the heard from about 500yards. First thing I notice is the heard knows something is up and are starting to show signs of a quick retreat at any time. I tell Mariah “If you want a shot we are going to have to move fast and now” So Mariah and I run in a weird hard to move ducking position a couple hundred yards and lay out in the prone position. The heard is looking our way but not moving yet and I start coaching her on breathing which she replies “I love you but shut up your distracting me” I smile and lay out beside her about 20 seconds later she fires and a young cow dropped and seemed to expired immediately. Mariah begins saying “honey are you going to take one? Jason take one…take one. I should have said “Mariah shut up your distracting me” LOL. The heard moved about 30 yards straight back and stopped after her shot so I took the opportunity and harvested my second bull (the only one in the group) which was small but is going to be delicious. My caribou dropped where it stood and my bou hunting was done as we agreed to 2 apiece for flight weight reasons. We shot these 2 caribou in the last shootable light of the evening so by the time we started processing it was dark. Mariah’s shot was 292 yards my shot was 325. This was my wifes first harvest of any kind. She did great all around. When the 2 of us first approached her bou we knelt down beside it and I noticed a tear roll down her check. After a moment we each put a hand on the animal and said a little prayer and thank her for the sacrifice. Mariah was very insistent on using the entire animal so we took our time and did a full skin job. She is planning on using the fur for craft projects. That night we toasted to her joining the club and told hunting stories far into the night.
At this point the goal is getting Logan a bou as his first trip to Alaska was unsuccessful and for him being a nonresident it is harder to get the opportunity’s in the future. Mariah, PopPop and Logan decide they are going to sit on a section they feel is best and I decide to go exploring up the Echooka river. I traveled about 5 miles up river and seen many caribou through out the day. On my return I learn they have seen nothing. I convince Logan and Mariah to join me up the river the get him his caribou the next day. We traveled about three miles up river and of course see nothing for hours. It gets time to head back to camp so we hit the river drainage back to camp. About 2.5 miles from camp a bachelor heard of 5 appears in front of us about 800 plus yards out. The wind was not in our favor and I felt the chances where low. We dropped our packs and started the stalk. When we got about 600 yards out they where looking at us and I stopped and let Logan proceed alone. I watched as the bou started running away and said ”its over”. The bou ran and then stopped at about 800 yards. I started talking to Mariah when to my surprise a gun shot rung out. A moment later Logan says “I got him”. I thought to myself there must be a bou in front of him that I cant see when I look over and see one of the bou 800 yards away fall over and expire. I could not believe it! That distance is well beyond my capabilities and to see that shot was amazing. He shot from the prone position on fireing sticks. A 20 plus year career in special forces and delta force I guess teaches you how to shoot, Also 65 years of hunting probably helps as well. The pack back was exhausting and rewarding, we left it on the bone. It took 2 trips. His bull was massive in body, without question the biggest caribou body I have butchered. The rack was nice as well. It was so nice to see Logan get his bou the hard way and accomplish the task with hard work, its always more rewarding that way.
PopPop at 72 was only going to harvest a bou if it was within his reachable comfort level and he made it very clear that he was there to share the trip with us and enjoy the arctic not bust his 72 year old ass for a harvest (he has had plenty of those). So after our harvests we pretty much called it a trip.
A major highlight for me was watching a lone black wolf stalk and scatter a herd of about 50 bou from about 800-1000 yards out. Its was it an area I knew there was no way of getting to so I sat back and enjoyed the show and what a show it was. He chased caribou groups back and forth for a good ten minutes. I never seen him get one but disappeared several times chasing caribou and very well could have.
Another major highlight was the northern lights. The night of the sept 5th the night lit up like I have never seen in my 29 years. Literally lit the world and moved me in a way that words cant describe. The show lasted for roughly 4 hours. This alone would have made the trip worth it.
Lynx (on southside of brooks)
A falcon I have not had the chance to look up yet but will tonight
Several groups of half color phase ptarmigan
Porcupine (on southside of brooks)
Lots of Moose
Certainly one of the best trips I have ever been on.
Cheers to all of you enjoying nature this season
I will try to get pics up tommorow