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Thread: September to Remember, 2011

  1. #1

    Default September to Remember, 2011

    First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the kind words and congratulations on the Nelchina Caribou that I killed. I am still very much humbled and honored to be a part of taking such a magnificent animal. This hunting season has turned out to be, most likely, the best fall hunting season I've been a part of, and there are many people that I owe a debt of gratitute for that. Due to high demand for the story of my Caribou hunt, I figure I'll just give a synopsis of the entire season, start to finish, as it has been a month and half that I will never forget.
    Unfortunately, my hunting season started on a somewhat sour note. It is a story for another time, and I won't air dirty laundry on the internet, but someone I trusted as a valuable partner, decided to sharpen their knife on my C6 veterbrae. I was very much angered, hurt, and dissappointed, that such a long time friend would betray my trust and loyalty by an inconceivable act. This happened towards the end of July, and it thrust my plans for the upcoming season into a downward spiral. The day following the knife sharpening, my long time best friend, and the best partner I could ever hope to have, followed up with news that the Brooks Range sheep hunt we had planned, wasn't going to happen. As it turns out, the dentist had different plans for my buddy, and surgery was scheduled for the day we were to leave for the Brooks. At this point, 2011 wasn't looking good, with the sheep opener fast approaching.
    Around August the 6th, my luck began to turn. My great Aunt, and former long time Alaskan, was scheduled to arrive in Alaska shortly for an extended visit. You see, Aunt Hazel and Uncle Emil, were long time Alaskans, who still had many friends in the 49th state. Two of those friends, a wonderful couple by the name of Frank and Sue, along with their son Matt, happened to be three of the most esteemed hunting guides in Alaska. One day, while stopping at my folks house for lunch, I overheard a conversation my mom was having with someone on the telephone. I could tell by the tone of conversation, that my mother was chatting with someone she hadn't spoken to in a very long time.
    "Who are you talking too", I inquired.
    "Sue", my mother replied.
    "Ask her if they need a packer", I said.
    Well, sure enough, Sue answered that they were always in the need of good help, and maybe we could work something out, that I could come up and hunt with them. Fantastic, I thought to myself, maybe this hunting season isn't gonna be so bad after all. It's always been a dream of mine to be a guide, but never having known anyone in the business, or knowing of a way to establish myself, it was something I never thought would come to fruition. I proceeded to have a nice chat with Sue, and we made plans for me to head for Tok somewhere around the first of September. Whatever else might happen the rest of the season, I knew it would be a tremendous honor, and an invaluable experience, just to spend a little time in the woods with Frank, Sue, and Matt. Things were looking up, and I knew somewhere up in Heaven, Uncle Emil was smiling, hopefully proud of his nephew.

    Me and Uncle Emil's 68 inch Bull Moose

    At this point, it was time to start getting in shape, and what better way, with the sheep opener right around the corner. August 9th, I found myself riding into a heavy hunted sheep area. I wasn't expecting much, but this was the area I harvested my one and only 37 inch ram, so, you never know, maybe I'd get lucky.

    My one and only Talkeetna Ram

    Opening day, I found myself stalking a band of nine rams, with one being potentially legal. This area receives heavy pressure, and one day soon, I foresee it becoming a draw area. I've personally witnessed a sublegal ram being shot, after I deducted he wasn't legal, and wasn't worth the risk in banking on age. It is shame, and sad, that an area with so much potential to produce great sheep, is neglected to the point of ruin by unscrupulous hunters, and somewhat in part, by the failure of the state to properly manage sheep. Anyway, happy thoughts, going back to my happy place.
    I soon found myself 100 yards above 9 unaware rams, peacefully grazing in the narrow canyon drainage. After looking over the largest ram, I was 100 percent certain he would not make full curl, although, he was only a very painful, inch and a half short. Yeah, I know, thats what she said. Anyway, it was a no go that night, he wasn't full curl, and that was that. Although, he was close enough, that I thought he may make it on age. Unfortunately, the opportunity to count rings to certainty, did not present itself, but, would provide me with a mission for the morrow.
    The next day, I woke up, and expediously located the rams, all but the "big" one. He was a little shy, I take it, and figured while the night previous, I had em all dead in the crik bottom, today might be a day for climbing. I took off, picked my way up the creek bottoms, and found a nice ravine that would provide cover most of the way up the mountain. I started up, taking my time. Later rather than sooner, I found myself on the high ridge, parralleling the rams location. Long story short, fixed some lunch, found the largest ram bedded, and proceeded to practice ring counting from 75 yards, for about 3 hours. Not legal, no way, no how. I could get him to 7, at best, but once again, not worth shooting a young ram for personal ambitions, and risking, in my eyes, everything.
    I chalked this hunt up to training, satisfied with learning some more sheep behavior, and getting a little ring counting practice. By the way, anybody with a cheap set of Swaro's for sale? My ancient Bausch and Lomb's just don't cut the mustard anymore.
    Anyway, spent one more night, spilled some Chili Mac Mountain house on the Hilleberg, and rode out the next day. It was a good trip, much gained, and much learned, despite the Chili Mac mishap.
    Found myself back in town, and preparation for the impending opening day of Moose and Caribou season. By the way, did I mention I had a Nelchina Caribou tag burning a hole in my pocket? You'll hear more about that in a bit.
    Moose was the priority, filling the freezer is first thing first. Unfortunately, mother nature had different ideas. The days prior, hell, the weeks prior, provided nothing much more than rain, and rain, and some more rain. Change of plans, can't get across the river to the Moose spot. One underestimated skill of a hunter, is the ability to adapt, and adapt we did, right up to the Denali highway, and finally the chance to fullfill a longtime dream of hunting the Nelchina Caribou herd.
    Unfortunately, as with mother nature, the Caribou didn't want to cooperate. While much was said of the Tier 1 opener and the abundant amount of Caribou along the Denali Highway during this time, August 20th, the opener for the permit winners, found us in completely different conditions. The Caribou scarce. A cow, here, a cow there, and maybe a dinker two here and there. It was not good. Covered much of the road, and much of the trail system on wheelers. It was simple, the Caribou just weren't there.
    Ok, I see myself getting a little long winded here, too many celebratory soda pops, I'll try for brevity, here on out.
    Got back to town, Bro-In-Law calls. He wants to take a day off and check out the opener for unit 14. "Sure, what the hell," I said. Off we went, 3 am on the 25th. Around 3pm, hunting season got a whole helluva lot better. Long story short, we split up, went for a little walk, I rounded a bend, and came across this guy at about 20 yards...

    First and foremost, I am a meat hunter, and this little spork, was about the greatest thing that could happen to a guy like me. I was tickled, despite what happened from here on out, hunting season just became a resounding success, meat was in the freezer.
    After a many days of hanging, butchering, and grinding, primarily a solo operation, I was spent. No rest for the wicked, though, I had work to do, and work turned out to be one of the greatest honors I've had in my life.
    The next part of the story doesn't quite belong to me, but to a couple fine fella's from the state of Minnesota, so I'll refrain from sharing that awesome adventure, but if you've never done a "Backpack Moose Hunt", I highly suggest it!!! I was honored, and humbled for the opportunity to hunt with such great people, and only hope I lived up to my end of the bargain. Them Minnesota boys sure earned their Bull, and they got a helluva nice Moose, I was happy to be a part of it.

    The results from 8 days of hard work...

    Well, the Moose hunt was wrapped up, and time to figure out what was to come next. With some slight encouragement from Mr. Frank, it was decided that taking advantage of that hot burning Nelchina Caribou tag would probably be in my best priority. I called up my best friend, and hunting partner, and let him know I'd be back in town soon, and that we had some hunting to do. Fortuntately, he hadn't quite executed plans to head into the field solo, and I essentially caught him at the last minute.
    Plans changing, once again. Adaptability, learn it, love it, embrace it, don't get set in your ways, complacency kills. Well, it just so happened that my buddy still had a moose tag, and filling his freezer was top priority, Caribou would have to wait, once again. The plan was to head down to the "Super top secret" honeyhole, and see what we could pull off. Well, once again, long story short, here's what we came up with...

    Awesome, one day moose hunts, now thats what I am talking about. Fifty three by the way, 4 x 4, wide palms, he's a pig, looks 60". Anyway, we got my buddy a nice bull, and had him out of there the night of the 16th. Well, we decided it was most prudent to run the meat back to the Valley and get it hanging. Didn't really thing it was a good idea to leave a bunch of moose meat and horns in the back of a truck while hunting Caribou, so we made the drive home, and took care of meat, always first priority.
    Meat hanging done, and back on the road. Caswell Creek brought upon an interesting surprise. Come to find out, taken by Kenworth...

    We made it up to Cantwell pretty late, and only had about two hours of useable light as we made the drive in. The plan was to ride into a certain drainage near the big sue, the following day. Well, the drive in found quickly deteriorating weather. Overcast brought slight drizzle, soon followed by heavy rain. It was socked in, and things were looking dicey. Soon we had to decide what to do for the night, and were pretty much afforded only two options. Use a little of the remaining light, pitch camp, set up the cots, get a nice, cozy, good night sleep, or, sleep in the truck. I think we both preferred the cots, but we both had another consideration in mind. Pitch the tent, sleep on the cots, warm bag,etc, and we'd probably sleep in, missing first light and the prime hunting time. Or, sleep in the truck, be miserable, get the living crap beat out of me in cribbage, but, we'd be up and at em at first light.
    First light it was, and we were up, although I was still feeling the psychological effects of being double skunked for the first time in a long time. But, to our pleasant surprise, it was a cold, with emphasis on cold, blue bird morning. Perfect, coffee, and get to hunting. The mountains were laced with a fresh cover of white, and if there was ever a time for prime hunting, it was this morning.


  2. #2

    Default continued....

    Picture from the morning...

    We had made it not quite to the Sue bridge, the previous night, without sighting a single Caribou. Spirits were conflicted. I thought maybe we'd have the same luck when we hunted the opener, great weather, with no Caribou. Five or so miles past the Sue bridge, we got our first glance of white mane. To the North of the road at the base of the mountains, we saw a small group of Caribou, maybe 20 animals. My buddy looked up, and thought what he saw was a nice Mature bull. Nothing spectacular, but a nice representitive Bull Caribou, with what was which I had expectations for. I didn't want to shoot a dink, and I wasn't expecting a monster, but just a nice representitive. As a life long Alaskan, it was something that most would take for granted, but an animal that I had yet to harvest, and something I most admired as one of the most beautiful animals this world has to offer. There is just something about a spectacular Caribou that cannot quite be explained, they are amazing critters.
    Anyhow, getting off track once again. We got up into the hills, and looked over all of the 'bou moving through. Cows, calves, a few bulls here and there, nothing great. At their closest point, they fed within 20 yards. With the caribou being on the move, we played them right, just didn't quite have the bull we were looking for. Back to the rig.
    We hopped back in the truck, and decided to drive a little further down the road before we hit the trail, and left on wheelers. Ten or so minutes later, we caught what we thought was a white rump moving over a ridge quite a ways off. Further investigation was most definitely required.
    We grabbed our rifles, took off, and found a high spot to adequately glass the area. Sure enough, about a mile away, was a group of 50 or so Caribou, give or take. They were feeding along, always on the move, as they tend to do. Adam was the first to get a good look at the bou, and after about two seconds of having his glass in the air, I hear "HOLY ****, there he is Josh, thats the one we want!" I looked up, and saw the bull. I was instantly mesmerized, he dwarfed every bull with him, and some of them were no slouches. We didn't waste any time. As we watched them work their way in one direction, we took off toward the ridge, hoping to cut them off. At this point, we probably had 1000 or more yards between us and the bou, but we figured we were headed in the right direction. Not exactly. They turned, and started feeding back to the West. Ok, easy enough, cut back down, get out of sight, and work our way over to the adjacent ridge. Well, we executed that plan to perfection, but once again, the Caribou had different ideas. When we got to where we expected to find them, there wasn't nary a 'bou to be found.
    At the last second, I looked up through the binoc's, and saw the very last caribou cresting a ridge, up and over, out of sight. I signaled back to my buddy where they went, and continued up. It was at this point, I realized my mistake in wearing too many clothes at the start of the stalk. My wind was good, my legs were good, but I was overheating bad. I kept going, no time for minor inconvieniences, I had to get to that ridge. Soon enough, I found myself about 15 yards from the crest of the ridge, and forced to belly crawl the rest of the way. I slowly made my way up, but not before sliding a 168 tsx into the chamber. Clicking my safety on, I slowly started the belly crawl up to the ridge. As I got to the top, I slowly raised my head and peaked up and over the ridge. To my surprise, I first saw the back of a 'bou at not more than 30 yards.
    "Oh ****", I thought to myself, as I lowered my head, and made sure I was throughoughly out of sight. I looked back down to my buddy, and attempted to signal what I saw, although I am sure my version of sign language was quite frantic at that point. I hadn't seen the bull, and I hadn't determined which Caribou where in front of me, although I saw that at least one was a decent bull.
    Adam made his way up to me, and I whispered what I had seen. There were six or seven, thirty yards, directly in front of us, and we had to stay low. To the left, about 100 yards away, were another 30 or so. To the right, another group, maybe 20 or so. I still hadn't seen the big bull, and let Adam know. There were so many Caribou, I felt a little overwhelmed. There were a few good bulls, one with exceptionally good tops, but rather weak in the bottoms. We knew there was only one that had everything, and we had to find him.
    This is when things got dicey. The next thing we know, the six or seven in front of us took off on a dead run. Well, I imagine its pretty common that when a few of them run, all of them run. Thats exactly what happened. We had Caribou going everywhere, and I surely felt that my chance at a nice representitive Caribou was slipping away.
    "Where's he at, where's he at?" I called out.
    "There he his, on the right, in the lead" Adam replied.
    I looked throught my scope, and found the big bull running. He had cows, calves, bulls, and every variety of Caribou all around him. I thought for sure they were gone, and would never stop. Suddenly, the big bull stopped, turned his head back to the left, and stood there.
    I settled the crosshairs, just behind his snow white mane. I made a quick judgement on distance. The had ran a long way, and I knew at minimum, I was looking at 350 yards, give or take. I calmed my breathing, and slowly began to squeeze the tigger.
    I applied more pressure, expecting the instand reply of recoil, when much to my chagrin, "Uh oh", I said, and nothing happened. Safety on, what a fool I am. Fortunately, I realized this what happened quickly, and flipped the safety forward. Cross hairs still steady, apply pressure, Boooooommmmmmm!!!! A good amount of time later, I hear the unmistakable "thump" of a solid hit.
    The next thing you know, we've got Caribou going everywhere. A good sized group fled to the right. "Do you see him, do you see him", I called out?
    We watched the group to the right, not seeing the big bull as numerous Caribou crested the hill and dissappeared into yonder.
    "Where's he at", I called out once again?
    "I don't see him", my partner replied.
    We turned our attention to the left, as many big bulls and numerous other varieties crested the hill and dissappeared. We both agreed that we didn't see him, and maybe by chance we got lucky. All of the Caribou dissappeared, and we took a few seconds to gather our wits. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but we were both pretty confident that we didn't see the big one amongst the groups that fled.
    I worked my way up the mountain, and finally got to the last ridge where I expected to find the bull. As I cleared the ridge and saw the plateau where he should have been, my heart sunk, as I saw nothing.
    "Do you see him?" Adam called out from below.
    I somberly replied that I hadn't, and figured there was maybe one more place he could possibly be. I started walking to the left, and saw a little depression in the ground. Sure enough, rising out of the ground, was a group of tines of the like that I had never seen before. Actually, these first tines I saw, where the Bez, and I somehow mistaked them for the tops. I thought to myself, "Well, he's nice, but nothing special." I was soon mistaken. As I got closer, I saw in fact, that I was looking at his Bez, and not his tops.
    I yelled out to Adam that I found him, and well, the rest is history. I don't think we quite realized at the time, what we had on our hands. We knew he was a great Bou, but it hadn't quite set in. Adam had brought his camera, so we took a few pictures, and decided on the game plan. Get back down to the rig, grab packs, knives, game bags, etc, and head back up the mountain.
    Upon reaching the truck, we realized we were just down the road from Claude and the Alpine Creek Lodge. We thought it would be prudent to stop in, say hello, and let them know what we were up to. We shot him on the north side of the road, Clearwater Controlled Use Area, so we knew the wheelers were gonna have to stay on the trailer for this pack out. I asked Claude about any trails that may have led up the ridge, and he sure pointed us in the right direction. It saved valuable time and much brush bucking. Thanks a ton Claude, we really appreciated the help.
    I seem to have gotten long winded, so I'll try and finish this up. We got up to the bull, took a few more pictures, and began the work. I couldnt ask for a better buddy and hunting partner than Adam. He does some very nice Taxidermy work, and whipped out a flawless cape in no time. We got him taken apart about an hour or so later, and began to fill the packs. Originally, we had planned on making two trips, but realizing the hike would be solely downhill, and not too long, at about a mile, we decided to toughen up and attempt to get him all in one load. To say it was painfull, is an understatement. I later weighted both out packs at approximately 145 lbs, give, and not so much take. A little sore the next day, to say the least.
    We got back down to the lodge, and while walking by, Claude and everyone came out to get a look at the bou. It was a pretty cool moment.
    Anyway, it's late, and that pretty much sums up my fall of hunting. Actually, I am spent just reliving it all while typing this. I am still pretty speechless, and still don't know what quite to think. I am pretty sure he's gonna make the book. Sarah at Mountain View Sports gave me a hand today, and helped me get a rough green score. 424 2/8 is what we came up with. It will be interesting to see what happens after 60 days, but at this point, I've accepted that he will probably make the book, and to me, well, its still pretty unfathomable that I took part in the taking of such a magnificent animal. I am honored, humbled, and well, still in shock I guess. I'll throw up a few more pictures, and hell, maybe a few after that, because I know most of you would enjoy them, for the right reasons. I don't post here often, I am a pretty private guy, but after realizing what I had, I thought you all would like to see.
    Somebody pinch me....
    Josh Ellis

    Adam, thanks my brother, you are the one that got me into this ****, couldn't have done it without you, OHHHHHH PLEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZ!!!

  3. #3


    Oh yeah, one more thing. Sarah at Mountain View Sports helped me green score him today. We came up with 424 2/8 net. Thanks a ton Sarah, I really appreciate it!!!

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by J in AK View Post
    Oh yeah, one more thing. Sarah at Mountain View Sports helped me green score him today. We came up with 424 2/8 net. Thanks a ton Sarah, I really appreciate it!!!
    Oops, forgot I already posted that in the story. I am tired, gonna try and sleep, if I can.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    NorthWest Alaska



    Great meats, and alotta that fun kinda work..........but Man, looks like you aint smiled for the camera sice yer Uncle shot that Bull
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

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

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by strangerinastrangeland View Post

    Great meats, and alotta that fun kinda work..........but Man, looks like you aint smiled for the camera sice yer Uncle shot that Bull
    LOL....stranger, I break camera's when I try to smile...figured I'd keep it simple, smiling on the inside, for sure!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Thumbs up great hunt report - thank you

    I love it.

    Thanks for the detailed report. I especially liked the part about:
    " I calmed my breathing, and slowly began to squeeze the tigger.
    I applied more pressure, expecting the instand reply of recoil, when much to my chagrin, "Uh oh", I said, and nothing happened. Safety on, what a fool I am. Fortunately, I realized this what happened quickly, and flipped the safety forward. Cross hairs still steady, apply pressure, Boooooommmmmmm!!!! A good amount of time later, I hear the unmistakable "thump" of a solid hit. "

    Anyone who hasn't done that, hasn't hunted much. The only thing you left out though, is that as you pressed the trigger harder (with safety on), you saw your barrel move, and knew things were going bad. Right?

    Again, congrats, and thanks.

  8. #8


    Here ya go Stranger, I tried my best, but couldn't help but smile while holding these things...picture taker needs a new camera!

  9. #9


    Thanks for the props FamilyMan. You are probably right, thats likely what happened, but at this point, it feels like a blur. Still in shock over the whole thing...

  10. #10
    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Ketchikan, AK



  11. #11
    New member
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Eagle River


    Long winded ? Not a chance ! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the account of your season and appreciate you taking the time to write and post it for us .

    Congratulations on your B&C caribou !

  12. #12
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Eagle River, AK


    Quote Originally Posted by J in AK View Post
    LOL....stranger, I break camera's when I try to smile...figured I'd keep it simple, smiling on the inside, for sure!!!
    Ha! Yeah, I was thinking the same thing as stranger. What a great hunt report! A smile in the pictures wouldn't hurt, but it's pretty clear from your writing that you have been smiling the entire fall except for those moments when a camera was on you. Good stuff, and thanks for sharing!

  13. #13
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Anchorage, Alaska


    Man talk about one great hunting season thanks for sharing it with all of us! What happened to the packer job out of Tok?

  14. #14


    What an amazing hunting season! That bou is one-of-a-kind! Thanks for the write-up and sharing with us - good job.

  15. #15
    Member Smokey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Central Illinois


    Peachy just plum PEACHY! Thanks for the "short" version!
    Def a season to remember!

  16. #16
    Member frozen okie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


    Well Adam told me this was on here and I need to see it,was gonna give you crap about shooting such a small bou and the knife sharping but I cant........but I can say RIGHT ON!!!! couldnt happen to a better guy that loves to hunt as hard and as much as you do.

    P.S. looks like you found another super secert moose hunting spot and if you go guiding am gonna steal Adam..once again congrats man

  17. #17
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Fairbanks, Ak.


    Get into guiding while your still young and strong.
    Great story................."Sure enough, rising out of the ground, was a group of tines of the like that I had never seen before."
    I was right there with you when I read that. Did you really write this story? If so................also consider journalism. Your is one of the top hunt stories I've ever read on this forum!!
    What a great sept. Congrats!
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

  18. #18
    Member jnalaska's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006


    Fanfreakingtastic! What a September indeed!

  19. #19
    Member Bighorse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Ketchikan, Alaska


    Good read man. Good hunt too. Congrats on your B&C Caribou!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Wasilla, Ak


    By far one of the best write ups done on the forums this yr! great story and what a awesome September you had!

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