Well, another season rolls around and it appears we are beginning it with luck on our side. We went back to the Denali Hwy this year, but wanted to check out a new area rather than go back to the spot where Mal had ended her last two caribou seasons. Why mess with success? I have no clue. Curiosity I guess, and the fact that I know the “new” spot probably holds a few good moose to be hunted later. So, we arrive at this new secret spot on Friday around noon. The little pull out I wanted to camp in had about a half dozen big motorhomes in it with about twice that many wheelers parked around. Wasn’t much room for us and 3 horses. So, after some pondering, we decided to pull out of there and go back to our “old” area. We got there soon after, but decided it was a bit too late in the day to pack back in, so we set up our base camp in the parking area and reorganized gear for a pack in hunt. Next morning, opening morning, we get all loaded up and begin our pack in. Just as we were leaving, I felt a rain drop hit. Wow, did it rain. And then it blew and rained, and then it rained some more……by the time we got back in, it was raining. Did I mention it rained. Our tack was pretty wet, we were dry due to good Helly Hanson rain gear, but I’d really rather it just stayed dry. We set up camp, which consists of tent, electric fencing for the horses, high line for the horses, and a dry area to store tack and feed. Mal was a bit chilled so I had her go in the tent to wrap up in a sleeping back and just hang out.
So I sat there watching the wet horses eat through hay that I had to give them to keep the heaters going, but thought to myself that they were going through hay at a much faster pace than I wanted, just to keep them from getting too cold. I thought to myself, at this pace, we are in for a short hunt unless I do something. Some more pondering, and then a bright idea, and there you have it. Red neck horse ponchos.
They appeared to be doing the trick, but I still thought this weather needs to give up a little to make things more enjoyable. I mentioned to Mal, that if this doesn’t get better, we were probably going to have to go to plan B. Not sure what that was, but it involved change. Not 20 minutes after I said that, I seen a break at the entrance of the valley, some miles away. It began growing and before we knew, it was sunny. Funny what that does to a persons mental state. Anyways, we tack up and go for a ride up the valley. Didn’t see anything but it was nice just to get things dried out and get moving. Went back to camp and had a little dinner then went to bed. I woke up early the next morning to the appreciated sound of no rain hitting the tent. Went out and got morning coffee going and just looked around. Figured it was time to begin getting that girl out of the sack, so I woke her and told her to begin to wake up. For those of you with teenage girls, or probably boys, the “getting up” process can take some time and …..uh….encouragement. So I sit there drinking my required coffee and notice the horses all staring in the same direction, with ears parked forward. So, I do what anyone else would do, I looked too. Seen a couple moose on the hillside about a mile and a half away, but thought to myself, “they cant be seeing those”. I redirected my aim, and seen just the tops of antlers moving about 800 yards from camp. I run to the tent and say “Mal, get up, bull just below camp, quick!!” That girl was out of the tent in about 2 seconds boots on, long johns and hat. Funny how a little incentive works. I told her get some cloths on, and then got her rifle out and ready. We begin moving toward the spot I seen the bull moving and were making our way along a little finger that gave a real nice vantage point over the area, when Mal says, “there he is!”. So we get down on one of the little knolls, and set up. I ranged him at 208 yards, and just told her shoot when he stops. He stopped, she shot , and he dropped right on the spot. No twitching. Fantastic shot. Again.
We go over and check him out, take pictures and laugh about the “wake up call”. Then go back get our stuff and begin taking him apart. Just at the point I was putting the saw together to take the ribs off, I look up at the hillside beyond our camp and see this blonde thing, with two black things hauling butt up the hill about a mile away. I realize its our horses, they made a jail break. Now, I told myself before we went to go quarter the bou, “I should put them on the highline just in case….nah, they’ll be fine…..” As I watched them run up the hill, and said a few less than flattering words about the situation, we dropped everything and hauled butt up that hill to catch the fugitives. As luck would have it (along with some serious praying), we found them on the back side of the hill, then in the nicest voice possible, began calling the ringleaders name and walked slowly toward him. Luckily, we were able to gather the escapees and walked them back to camp, giving thanks for the outcome. From here, it got pretty routine. Finish caribou, take down camp, pack horses and then went and put the meat and antlers on for the pack out.
We got back to the base camp, got everything laid out to dry, and just enjoyed hanging around the rest of the day. Got up the next day and headed home. And there you have it, another caribou for Mal, some good meat, some good lessons, and a safe trip. Next up for Mal…..Wyoming antelope……