When I originally put Jen in for a unit 13 Tier tag I wasnít expecting to get to do a lot of hunting with her this year. I put in for an array of tags while sitting in Afghanistan. I knew that I would be able to roll my tags over as I was expecting not to be home till mid to late Oct. After trying to decide what I could do for Jen I decided about the only tag Jen would be able to hunt was through the Tier tags because it would be one of the easier tags to fill based off of access to where the caribou are located. A couple of months after the draw results were out and only receiving the Tier tag for the house I received the news that I would be going to school in Mid November and would be redeploying at the beginning of August. I was excited that I could take Jen out to get her caribou and get to do some moose hunting while we were looking for her caribou. I planned a 10 day hunt that would include about 40 miles of trail to get back to the area I wanted to look for her caribou and moose.
We planned on leaving after work on the 28th of Aug and spending the night in the truck at the trailhead so we could get a decent start the morning of the 29th. One thing led to another and we didnít depart Anchorage till mid morning of the 29th. We arrived at the trailhead mid afternoon of the 29th, unloaded and rolled down the trail knowing we would have to set up a makeshift camp that night and finish the ride out to camp on the 30th. Everything worked as planned going into camp. We arrived mid afternoon on the 30th, set everything up and Jen started working on getting us something to eat for dinner as that would be the first relaxing meal we would be able to have in the last 3 or 4 days.
While she was cooking I was glassing looking for what animals were in the area. After glassing a few midsized bulls that were in an area we would have to pack out 3 or 4 miles we ate and discussed whether or not she would want to go in for them if they were there in the morning. I could tell she was excited but didnít want to work that hard on the 2nd day of the hunt. I told her we will see what happens in the morning and continued to glass some more. While glassing I couldnít believe what my eyes where seeing. I grabbed the spotter to make sure that I was seeing what I thought it was. Yes it is. Jen grab your stuff we are going after this one tonight! She had to see it before she started getting her gear. She didnít say anything after looking through the spotting scope just grabbed her gear and we headed up to try and take what would be the biggest caribou I have seen in 6 years of adventuring AK and let alone see while having a tag in our hands. After about a 1.5hr stalk we are at 370 yds and Iím drooling. I look at my watch and now am trying to decide whether or not we will run out of light trying to close another 170 yds so I know she has a very comfortable and confident shot on it. After looking at her and the caribou her eyes told me everything I need to know and it was going to be a long night. My saving grace was that I would be able to get the four wheeler within a half mile if not closer to the area we were at on the mountain. We close the distance and are sitting at 205 yds. After a 25yrd dash to get up the last little bit of ridge we are in position, shooting sticks are in place and the bull didnít know we were there. After what seemed like hours of watching the bull through the binos and waiting to hear the crack of her 270 going off the wind swirled, the bull winded us, and spun to run up the hill. I told her to stay on him, he will stop and then drop him. The bull did exactly what we thought he would do except he was smart enough to turn facing us at 300 yds. I told her to hold on him, when he turned hold about midway up on the body and drop him. When he finally turned he turned and got out of dodge. Man what an opportunity that was just lost. I had to ask her why she didnít shoot when he was at 200 yds. She said she couldnít catch her breath and wasnít comfortable. Ok glad you didnít make a bad shot. I didnít realize she was **** near running to keep up with me while closing in the last 170yds. Too focused on keeping my eye on the bull.
After a couple more days of glassing and riding up to a few good glassing knolls, we started to have issues with wheelers. Long story short out of the 3 wheelers we had, 2 went down. One we were able to fix and limp out while the other was a solid flatline. It needed parts as the computer went out on it. Needless to say the 10 day trip turned into a 3 day hunt and a 7 day recovery trip with nothing to show but broke wheelers and a few horror stories. Upon returning from our recovery operations I decided that I hated the wheeler that had lost its 3rd ECM and I was selling it and getting a 6x6 Ranger.
I shopped around and signed a contract with HP Polaris after they beat another dealerís quote. They will have it done by 500pm the following day. Great I will be able to use it this weekend to go get a caribou for Jen. Needless to say I was very happy with their customer service. The next day comes as Mod Elan comes by the house and takes me out to get my 6x6 and tells me he will come by tomorrow so he can do a modification to the fan so I wonít break the blades when going through deep water.
We get to the trailhead I had selected to go on to find Jen a bull late the night of the 14th. We sleep for about 4 or 5 hours in the truck, get up, load camp up and head the 10 miles back to where I wanted to establish camp. We set up camp and start glassing. We spot some decent bulls and decide to wheel over there and see if we canít get on them. At this point they are 3-4 miles away but trail miles around 6-7. We get over there and find the bulls but spooked a wolf that was down in a drainage we didnít notice. The wolf runs towards the bulls spooking them and they come running towards us. I get Jen to a cutoff point to where they would come through and range it at 215 yds. The bulls run down the hill and slow up in front of us. They stop and she picks out a really pretty bull to shoot but it steps behind another and she was dead set on shooting him as he was the nicest one in the heard. She never gets a good shot and they trot off as they were still pretty skittish from the wolf and only stopped for a moment. At this point I figured they were gone as we watch them drop off the hill but they circled around and surprised both of us along with themselves when we appeared over the ridge at 115 yds. They busted up and out of there as quick as we found them. We get to the 6x6 and head up the ridge to be able to glass all of the draws coming up to the ridge and spot 5 cows and a smaller bull. We get in position to cut them off and sure enough it works. The cows pass by and here comes the bull. We can see his horns, then his head as I tell Jen to get ready to shoot him. He is now standing there staring at us broadside. No report of the rifle as the bull winds us and is gone. I ask Jen what happened. She states that she forgot to take the safety off. At this point frustration has mounted and I canít believe we have had such a successful year getting in position and nothing to show for it. I glass 3 more bulls on another ridge and try and figure out how to get across there with the 6x6 to cut some of the distance of the stalk and the bottom portion of the ridge was almost vertical. Needless to say we couldnít figure out a good access point and turn around to head back to camp. While following our tracks that dropped down into the valley I noticed we came down a pretty steep section so I veer off my tracks to the left and find underneath the 2 or 3 inches of snow a floating bog and bury the 6x6. I was completely unprepared to do a self recovery in the middle of nowhere with nothing to hook a winch to. I moved a ton of rocks and worked for about 3 hours to no avail and made a phone call to Mod Elan (rest of this portion refer to his ĎWhat We Didí story) knowing it would be a minimum of 4 hours for help and the weather was perfect for a disastrous ending. All we had on us was a few extras but not enough to be comfortable and not worried. Needless to say our rescuer showed up about 8 hours later and one person in the party was not doing too well.
Season reopener had me in Kodiak deer hunting with decent success. I had already planned Kodiak not worrying about having to find caribou in October as I was expecting to have a caribou down during the initial 10 day hunt. I get back from Kodiak Oct 25th and repack to take Jen back out for her caribou. I think I have a solid plan based off of previous hunts in late Oct early Nov for caribou.
The first trail that I was trying to go into ended up being impassible due to ice which I havenít seen on this portion of the trail before. Hmm what to do now? We ride back to the highway and head back towards Paxson and decide to try another trail. Needless to say tons of tracks but only see 4 caribou on the only mountain in the area. It was around 3pm and I knew there was no way we could stalk them before dark. Hopefully they would decide to come off the hill and head towards us before dark. No such luck. So we decide we would go back up in there on Sunday and see if we could catch them moving. We scour the area and we canít find them at all. On our way back to the truck a small bull jumps in the trail and vanishes as quickly as he appeared.
We came up last Friday and stop to see Mod Elan in Glennallen and he said he would like to go out with us for the weekend. I am more than happy for him to come as he has a lot to offer for a hunt. We decide that we would head back up the same trail as the previous weekend set up a small camp for the weekend across a river hoping to get away from the rat race of road hunters. Upon arrival at the first nice looking campsite that we find we download the 6x6ís and get ran off by Mod Elan to go find caribou. Needless to say there was no helping him set up the tent and cots as he wouldnít let us even touch anything. We head up the trail to what we think will be a great glassing spot. Sure enough great place to glass as we spend the rest of the day looking over miles of terrain only to see no movement.
We wake up on Sunday with the plan of just taking the trail out as far east as we could and hopefully find a caribou. At this point Jen has stated next caribou I can get a shot on its going down. Cow or Bull. We havenít even made it a mile from the camp and Mod Elan spots a group of caribou a ways out. We glass them and notice 8 cows and a bull. We make a game plan and head in after them. After about an hour of walking we are on the final approach and Mod Elan stays below to keep an eye on them. Jen and I head the last 200 yds up the hill and out of sight. We get to the top and sit down expecting the caribou to come walking by us. I look down at Mod Elan and he is balled up on the ground letting us know that they decided to bed down. We sit there for about 5 to 10 minutes ensuring that Jen had her wits and wind about her so we could find them and drop one as we were expecting them to be in range. I peak my head up over the brush only to see the bull laying there in a horrible position for us to close the distance as we were at 600 yds still. I figure we could close the distance by traversing to the back side of the ridge then come back over them from the side. We start up to the ridge and notice 2 cows lying right on top. Guess we are pinned down letís sit and see what happens. An hour later and a lot of chatter back and forth of a way to get within range and the cows stand up and start feeding away from us. I tell Jen this is our chance lets go. We move at a fast pace to 250 yds and again sit for a few letting Jen catch her breath. Now that we are in range we can take our time in case he decides to stand up. We slowly move closer and close the distance down to 180yds. The bull is laying chest towards us with his head curled up behind his shoulder. Time to sit and wait and wait and wait. Seemed like hours went by when it was probably only an hour to hour and a half. Jen is starting to get cold. She says we have to make something happen before Iím so cold Iím shivering and donít have a steady shot. Ok here is what we are going to do. We will crawl up the hill to get you a good angle to take it in its bed broadside. Stay right behind me and if you see me put the shooting sticks in the ground get situated as your shot opportunity is happening. We move about 10ft when the bull picks his head up and notices us moving and stands up and starts to walk off. I slam the sticks in the ground and Jen gets situated. Iím watching through the binos and tell her it will stop be ready. It stops and turns broadside and I tell her there is your shot. Boom followed by the distinct sound of a hit followed by a ricochet. I do not see the bullet hit the bull or the bull flinch like it was hit. I tell her to load another I think she missed. She loads another round pulls the rifle up and the bull falls before she gets another round off. Nice shooting! Upon arrival on the bull we couldnít really find a clear spot where she had shot it so we roll it over and can tell that she got it in the heart as there was the exit hole right behind the shoulder a couple of inches up. She is stoked as this is her first caribou and I'm just stoked that she got it and I can finally relax before I go to school. All in all a lot of learned lessons this year between self recovery tools needed, survival equipment that needs to stay in the 6x6 and how to stalk and walk slower than normal when Jen is the shooter as she will stay right behind me but will not be in any condition to shoot.
The first pic is of the big bull that got away.