So, to me, It felt like seeing a football for the first time and deciding to go straight to the Super Bowl. Yeah right-
This last weekend was a first for me in many ways. First time Bow hunting, caribou hunting, first time on the Dalton, First time above the Arctic Circle, first time meeting some really good friends.
We set the hunt up on this website, DakotaBoy, his buddy and co-worker Travis and myself. I first posted that I wanted to try Caribou hunting before I retired out of the military. I am a combat medic, 8 years in the Army. Was injured in 2009 that lead me to needing brain surgery, long story short I felt I have rehabilitated enough to keep pushing the envelope. A little brain surgery was not going to stop me.
DakotBoy first contacted me to set the hunt up, we swapped contacts and traded plans for logistics and overall it seemed to work out pretty well. If it was not for Dakota's experience. I probably would have been... well you know.
I originally planned to rifle hunt off the Dalton, didn't have an IBEP cert. so I was going to deal with it expecting skis or snowshoes would do just fine.... THANK GOD I DIDNT. I somehow managed to squeeze into the last IBEP course offered at ADFG 3 weeks ago and qualified on a bow I had only shot for 2 days prior.
Once we figured that I didn't have to go 5 miles off, I practiced shooting everyday for 3 weeks. Almost to the point of muscle failure....EVERYDAY.
I spent about $200 on some new cold gear, buddy heater, gasoline, gloves, socks and some other things specifically for the hunt. Dakota planned to use his buddy Travis's truck since he had the chains and studs on the tires.
They picked me up early morning Saturday, took us about 10 hours to get north of Atigun (in the dark) during the Winter advisory storm that just blew in and is still coming through. Needless to say, driving through Atigun pass at night during 40-50 mph winds and white out conditions was huh, lets say I could almost taste the leather my ass was sitting on. Super pucker factor 5.
We made it through and it was unbelievable how gorgeous the weather was on the other side. There was hardly any snow since the wind had blown it all away. Pretty much what I was expecting.
We set up camp near the airfield just by Gailbrath Lake, was really happy we had an Arctic Tent and stove to keep us warm.
Somehow we all forgot to bring coffee, so we were slow to wake up, but we got out on the Dalton somewhere around 0930.
I believe we were incredibly lucky to spot caribou within the 1st 15 minutes of the hunt. We spotted about 20+ caribou on the East side of the road about 100 yards past the pipeline. We made a stalk using all 3 of us, but they were clearly shy of us. We learned quickly that the stalking method was going to take some skill that we needed to hone REAL fast.
Throughout the day we saw probably 15 more small herds between 10-30 caribou. One herd was particularly big but they always seemed to be grazing in a spot nearly impossible to stock.
One stalk, I got within 40 yards low crawling for almost 2 hours, It was a cow all by herself. Some how she got spooked and it took off away from me. Im positive she never seen me.
About an hour later on a separate stalk, Dakot and myself found a small herd with some decent size caribou. They were briskly moving in one solid direction so Travis dropped us off about 500 yards down from the direction of travel. We got into position and I kid you not 3 massive trophy worthy bull walked right by us at about 30-40 yards. Now here is where my inexperience comes in. 40 mph winds, on my first time ever hunting. Was the first time I ever drew on a living being, I felt pretty **** calm and tried to tune out the massive size of rack on this beast head. I shot and my arrow just spiraled away coming no-where near. The bull saw me, actually stopped and started walking to me. Had to wait for it to turn back to broadside. Shot another one. same thing. Mind you my arrow is traveling directly in the crosswind. Missed again. The small herd picked the pace up by this time and I managed to get another shot off on a separate moving bull that walked in the same path yet again, missed. Only had one arrow left in my quiver. and by that time the herd had moved on far beyond my capabilities. Lets just say the walk back to the truck was a long hard walk.
I got one more chance at another herd, a small bull but I decided not to shoot and just film it, while Dakota shot. He was SO CLOSE to connecting but that wind was ruthless.
At the end of the weekend, we had a super fun time. I learned allot and most importantly made 2 very good friends. We swapped military stories and somehow figured out all 3 of our wives were quite similar to our hunting hobbies. For the fact they hated us leaving all the time to pursue wild game. Unless, we returned to fill the freezer. Well, we didn't. all we have is memories a few pics and a friendship that will last longer than any of the caribou which to me at the end of the day is what is most important.
DakotaBoy- Thank you for everything. You and Travis were a great pair to go out on a first time hunt. I look forward to maybe doing the Minto cow/moose hunt.
Also Stid- Offered me a lot of education and opened his doors to have me swing by to get some info and fill me in on the stuff to expect. I never followed through, due to the busy life but his caring did not go un-noticed.
Everyone else. thank you for the information. I got tons of help where the Caribou were and things to bring. The overall atmosphere this forum provides was warm and helpful to our hunt. Thanks Again to all.