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Thread: Return From The North - A Caribou Expedition

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Default Return From The North - A Caribou Expedition

    After an unsuccessful trip up to the north slope in September to bowhunt for caribou, my wife and I weren't even home yet and were planning on going back up as soon as we could get away from work. That meant late October and we both new it would be freezing cold.

    We both really wanted to go and my wife, who's just starting out hunting, really wanted to get her first caribou. We planned and got the cold weather gear we'd need and eagerly waited for the time to come to hit the road.

    We got off work Wednesday night on the 26th and loaded up and left Anchorage by 8pm. We took turns driving and 18 hours later we arrived near Toolik lake. We drove looking for caribou and decided on a camp spot near Kuparuk.



    Over the next two days, we made lots of stalks and got close a few times but couldn't quite make it happen. By Saturday we were feeling like things might not work out and we'd be going home empty handed again. Well, as luck would have it, we found a nice bull caribou all by his lonesome on a steep hill side near the top. I said to my wife, he's in a good spot and I think we can get him. We hurriedly gathered our gear and climbed around the back side of the hill and eased over the top to see antlers just below. I ranged him at 30 yards and he was just feeding. I wanted my wife to shoot him but she felt so anxious about screwing up and us not getting something she wanted me to shoot.

    I nocked an arrow and drew back, then eased up to the edge and split my 20 and 40 yard pins and released. The bull reacted immediately and ran out about 80 yards and stopped. He started getting wobbling and then laid down. My wife was going nuts, it was the first time she'd seen something like that in real life. She was so excited and just as thrilled as I was.









    We went back to the truck and got packs and hiked back around to find the bull had expired. What a great bull, he was 48" wide and his fronts were just giant palms, really cool bull. We took some photos and began butchering. She thought it was an interesting process and was interested to see the anatomy and why it was important to aim for certain places.

    Rose took a load out to the truck while I finished up cause she was getting cold and then we loaded up the rest when she got back and hauled it all out. We were happy that we finally had some success and I was happy that she could finally see what I did and what the end result is like. Now she wanted her own caribou even more!

    So now we had to find another one at close range for her. We tried and we tried but getting close enough for her to get a shot was proving really difficult. I was really regretting not pushing her a little harder to try for the caribou that I just took. But on the other hand I knew she didn't feel comfortable at the time either. She felt that the success of our trip rested on here and she was too nervous. After that though she felt better and that the pressure was off.

    We found another bull the next afternoon that was out from the pipeline feeding on a snow covered flat. He was a great bull with lots of character. As we stood next to the pipeline I ranged him at 200 yards and thought there was no way to close the distance. It was flat with no cover. He was however feeding straight away with his head in the snow. I didn't think we had a chance in the world, but Rose was ambitious and thought we should try. I said OK, so we walked single file right at the bull, but from behind. We moved quickly as he fed and stopped when he turned at all or looked up. Unbeleivably we closed the distance to 70 yards but he kept moving and we kept exchanging ground.

    I said, we probably can't get much closer, not to 30-40 yards. She said to me, do you think you can get him? I said, I can try. So by now he's at 80 yards and we close on him again. I range him and he's at 61 yards. I wait till he's broadside and I draw and settle, anchor, get everything perfect. I take a breath and let it out and gently squeeze. The arrow hits him and runs out a ways and lays down. We were both pretty excited cause this bull looked pretty amazing. Not to mention the stalk actually worked out, I couldn't believe it.











    So now we had another fantastic bull down. We went from thinking we may be headed back home empty handed to having two awesome bulls on the ground. It was dark before we got him back to the truck and although a pretty grueling pack out, it was welcomed cause it warmed us up.

    The next day we tried again real hard to get my wife a caribou and although we came really close, it just didn't happen. Our last day of hunting got cut short as I got a flat tire and it was a real pain to change when it was zero degrees and snow blowing sideways. I was ticked that most of our last afternoon was blown due to a flat.

    We saw thousands of caribou and had a really fun time. Despite the cold weather it was time well spent with eachother and quite the expedition.

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    Good job. Thanks for the report.

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    On a sidenote, many folks were concerned about meat quality at this time of year. Probably 95% of all the bulls we saw were either in bachelor groups or by themselves. We saw zero rut activity as well. Both bulls that I took ended up having zero fat on their bodies and did not smell pungent like many described. They smelled like a caribou normally would. The meat looked and smelled just fine. We ate some backstrap last night and it tasted great but was a little on the tough side.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Wow...way to get it done! That snow makes for some spectacular pictures.

    You are a fortunate man to have a wife that is excited about camping in the winter and tromping around snow for days on end. I imagine you already know that, though...

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    Member Kotton's Avatar
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    Way to get it done and great pics!!You sure did get some nice bulls!!10 more days to go before you arrow your first Sitka blacktail,I can't wait!!

  6. #6

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    Nice job! Congrats on your hunt. I imagine that your wife's enthusiasm will only grow. I know that my wife really enjoyed hunting until she got her first animal. Now, she's almost as bad as I am about gear and planning hunts.

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    Very nice read, thanks for taking the time to write it down and add the photos. Happy days to you both, what a great team you make. What did you use for a tent and heat? I wonder how many guys are carrying wood up there, or propane, or fuel oil for stoves?
    Thanks again,
    ARR

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    Member skybust's Avatar
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    Congrat to the both of you enjoyed reading the post thanks Chris

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    We had a Cabela's Alaska Guide Model 6-man tent and we used a Mr. Heater Big Buddy with propane for heat. It did very well and had to be turned down off of high after a few minutes. We set it on low at night and did fine. It really ran through the propane though. It ate up two bottles of propane in 5 hours on the mid-setting. Low wasn't enough to maintain any kind of temperature.

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    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    Mossy, Congrats to you and your wife on two fine bulls !!! Thanks for the story and great pics too...looks like you had an awesome hunt.
    What Mathews are you shooting?

    Chuck

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone....I'm shooting a Drenalin there Chuck.

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    Member Kotton's Avatar
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    Man I just noticed wait rose was saying on the second look of your pics I noticed you were wearing some war paint!!!LOL!!! should have put that in your write up that was a close one,Just makes those pics that much better!!!

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Ok, now that you pointed that out Kotton, LOL! It's a bit embarrasing but definitely a sobering experience. I was waiting for someone to point out the streaming blood on my face. I had walked up to the bull, which was lying on a hillside and his antlers were difficult to lift up cause the way he was laying. As I lifted, I slipped on the snowy hillside and the antlers flipped back and one of the tines hit me in the face, just an inch below my eye. I thought I'd sliced my face open as I couldn't see it. Anyway, I'm pretty lucky that I didn't lose an eye and that it ended up just being a bit of a scratch.

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    Congrats on your hunt. I'm glad your wife enjoyed the trip giving the conditions. I'm sure Karma will play nice and she'll be rewarded in the future with a nice bull.

    I read your post last night which pumped me up since I drove up to Prudhoe today. I had a great drive, better then the two 18 wheelers that were wrecked on the road. One flew off a 30-40 foot cliff around 25 mile on the Dalton. The other was crumbled up about a 1/3 of the way up on the north side of Atigun.

    The caribou were moving through just on the north side of Atigun. I put the sneak on a herd of 40 bulls, and ended up shooting the second largest in the group. The largest bull had shed one of his antlers. My bull fell as soon as he was hit and tumbled about 50-60 yards down the cliff to the bottom of the gully. Both of his antlers popped off as soon as he hit the ground. I had a heck of a time packing him back up the cliffs to the truck, but it was worth it. He was a dandy bull with 30 points, and his cape was pure white, even the face. I think I'll shoulder mount this one since he looks so cool and is such a big bull. I'd say about a 1/3 of the bulls had at least one antler shed. No stink to the meat, but he sure is lean.

    Saw a bunch of sheep on the top of Atigun as well. One was just at a full curl or maybe just a tad shy. I was looking up at him from a lower angle, so it might have appeared that way from where I was. I got some neat video of 4 juvie rams hanging out about 20 yards off the road. A small ram was nudging a larger ram and finally ticked him of enough that he kicked the smaller guy 4 or 5 times.

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    Member Steve Springer's Avatar
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    Hey Jerod....post some vids and pics will ya! jeez....;o)

    Congrats moosyhorn, two very fine Bulls.

    Steve

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    Great story, thanks for sharing! Congrats as well.

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    Beautiful animals. Great write up, thanks for posting!

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    Congrats!! Very nice writeup and hunt. Great pics too. Hunting with the wife is a blast. She will get her's soon. My wife stuck an arrow in her first caribou (first big game animal) this last August. Very very exciting.

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    Hey Mossyhorn. I've been out of the state for the past two weeks and was wondering the whole time how you made out. Congrats on the hunt and thanks for the great report! Nice to know that the Big Buddy heater will keep the 6-man toasty during the cold of winter. I haven't tried that yet, but maybe one of these years. The early hunt didn't worked out for me this year but I'll be trying again next year--late August or early September. Hope you and Rose have a good winter. Joe

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    Thanks for sharing your great hunt report - good job to both of you.

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