Had a great hunt today with my dad and daughter. Always love these 3 generation hunts. We've had a couple, and regardless of outcome, you can't beat time in the field with family. I had no tag in hand, but I think I was just as excited to head out today as if I had one.
We left Fairbanks at 7:30am and headed south towards unit 13. 2&1/2 hours later, we were in bou country and it didn't take long to find what we were looking for. I was concerned this area would only have cows and calves as that's all I've seen there in the past. We saw 6 bou headed towards the highway, and we buzzed up to about 100 yards away. We watched for a minute as there were several cars coming, and the bou got skittish and headed down into a valley out of view of the road, but headed our way. After the traffic passed, I did a u-turn, headed up the road half a mile and told them both, "let's go!"
We got to the top of the ridge overlooking the valley and there was no sign of them. My dad stayed up high, and I took my daughter down the hill and we made it about half way before I looked to my left and saw them coming our way at the valley floor. We had some spruce trees to work with to stay out of sight, so we made our way to about 100 yards where they would hopefully cross in front of us. Since we had time, I set up the shooting sticks and got Amber comfortable. She aimed at a tree branch about 100 yards away and said it felt okay. I repositioned her because a slightly different angle would offer a better broadside shot. I set her up, had her hold at the bottom of a tree and she immediately said, "this feels better."
The bou took another minute to get to us, so I thoroughly glassed each one to check for evidence of sex. All 4 were bulls that had shed their antlers, so it was just a matter of one of them offering a good shot. I looked up behind me and my dad was watching from about 50 yards back. As the first bull appeared into our shooting lane, I told Amber to go for it when she was ready. She liked the second one because it had more white on its fur, so I told her to stay on him until he offered a shot. He went behind a tree, and the lead bull was standing broadside, but looking at us. I told Amber, you better just take that first one, we aren't keeping the hide anyway, so she lined up on him. He turned towards us more, with the only shot being straight through the neck. Since he was slightly broadside, she had a big enough kill zone there, so I told her to hold right in the middle of the neck and let him have it. Amber said, "okay dad, you ready?" I chuckled and told her yes. Then I hear, "1....2...." and as soon as I hear 3, the .243 echo's and the bull staggers backwards. He starts walking backwards for about 5 yards. The other bou are looking at him, probably trying to figure out why he is stuck in reverse.
I look back up to my dad, and tell him to shoot one. Trying not to be too loud to spook the bou, he slightly understands me, and as I'm watching the thinning herd of 4, the crack of his 30-06 sent Amber's bull directly into the snow. The other bou start trotting off, and I yell up at my dad, "Hey, why did you shoot Amber's bull, shoot your own bull!" At that time, two other bou step out of the trees that we hadn't even noticed. They join up with the three survivors, and dad hollers down to me, "is that one with antlers a bull?" I told him I was pretty sure, but let me get the bino's on him. The bou were moving back to the left, so Amber and I ended up being in his line of view to the bulls. We walked up the hill as he walked down and we met him half way. By this time the antlered bull was about 250 yards out and walking away. Dad got himself set up on Amber's shooting sticks, and I let out a whistle which stopped the big bull at what we guessed was 300 yards. Dad held high on it's back, and squeezed off a round which sent the bull straight into the snow. The bull tried getting up, and it was apparent immediately that it was a spine shot and we needed to finish him off.
We headed down the hill towards his bull and he dispatched him from about 75 yards. The bull was getting worked up because of us, and we didn't want to get that adrenaline in him flowing too heavy. The bull expired from the second shot, and we headed to him. Without our gear with us, we headed the 1/3 of a mile back up the hill to the truck realizing that we had our work cut out for us with the drag back. We got to the truck, got some fluids in us and headed back down with the deer sled's and pack. We made a path directly to dad's bull, then went over with a sled (no knife) to Amber's bull and planned to pull him over so we could get the ever popular double kill photo. When we reached the bull, we realized he was a monster, so I walked back, got my knife and gloves, and headed over to lighten the load. After pulling out the heart, we realized the size of this bull as it was as big as the cow moose I had shot earlier this year. Upon trying to pull him on my older dead sled, it was obvious of his size as the tow strap tore right through the plastic due to his weight. I wrapped the tow strap around his neck, and powered through to reunite the bulls for their final picture.
After a couple hours of cutting up the bou, we put the 4 hind quarters, loose meat on one sled, and the 4 front quarters and rib cages on the other sled. We had the pack, guns, the dead Dead Sled and antlers to haul back. We started with meat, and figured we would come back for the gear. We hit the bottom of the hill and slowly started up. It was quite a bit more work than we had expected. The first tug on flat land went smooth, but uphill through willows is a whole different story. I told dad to leave his sled and get the gear, and I'd work my way up the hill. I managed my way up, to the top with Amber following behind with the guns. Back on level ground it wasn't so bad, but breaking the trail through the snow was a little rough, especially with as tired as I was from the pull up the hill. Amber and I got to the truck, and dad had gotten the gear, antlers and rest of the meat about half way up the hill. I took the meat, and we finished the pack out. Second round was easier with the trail made from the first sled.
We hit the road north around 4pm, and shortly up the highway were three Chinese kids with a stuck rental car. We stopped to help them, but quickly found that there were no options to hook up the tow strap without damaging their car. We dug them out with the help of another guy, and pushed the car backwards on to the road. We showed them the caribou, and let them try some bou sticks that we had made up. They loved them, thanked us and we headed to home.
What a great experience being able to hunt with three generations. When I got word of some bou in this area on Thursday, I asked my dad, you up for a day hunt on Saturday with me and Amber. He thought for a second and said, "Yea, that sounds like a lot of fun." His words ended up being a severe understatement. Proof is in the smiles on the picture below. I had one mission today, to have fun with my daughter and her grandpa. I accomplished that, and we even got a couple of caribou. What an excellent way to wrap up 2012.