Went on my first caribou hunt this last weekend. Got a 4 day pass and my buddy from work and I went up the Haul road. This was our first caribou adventure. Left Thursday afternoon and camped at 5 mile. Cold and windy. Stopped at Coldfoot next morning for a bite to eat = AWESOME! Saw first herd of bou little north of Toolik Lake. Lesson #1 Ė Caribou can walk faster in the tundra then you can, so donít try to follow rather cut them off. 2.5 miles later gave up and returned to truck. Found three sheds though. Continued north to Last Chance stop before pump station #2. Camped there. And this is where the story gets interesting. Met up with some other guys in our unit. We were talking around the campfire when some dude, ďMikeĒ, drives up and ask us if we had a radio because his buddy wasnít back yet from the tundra retrieving 2 caribou they had shot the day prior about 6 miles out. We gave him a radio and he drove off to try to contact him. Hour or so later (2200) he returns with buddy, ďJim from OhioĒ in tow, who was really bad off. Jim had lost his jacket and was dehydrated and close to hypothermia. Both bous were still in the tundra. Mike said that they were in no physical shape to retrieve the caribou and if we would do it for a price. The deal was for both caribou minus one cape. Lesson #2 Ė Donít negotiate or agree to do anything while half asleep. Next morning we get up and hunt a little before Mike and Jim show up. I got within 60 yards of one close to the road, but a little too far for my skills. Mike arrives and we load up and start out into the tundra at 1100. Mike has the GPS grids but is not the best navigator. My buddy gets mad and takes over, putting the grids in his GPS and we get to spot. Find Jims jacket but no caribou. Wrong grid. Another .8 miles further we get the 1st caribou at about 6 miles out. It is now 1530 and we go to next bou which is about 4.2 from road, the spot where Jim drug the other bou the day prior in his sled and quit. Get to next bou and itís a heated argument. Physically the 3.5 of us (Mike is sucking so I count him as a half a person) canít take both bou back and make it before dark. We make the decision for Mike and are taking at least one full caribou out for us and they can get the rest the next day. Mike says they have to be in ANC by Sunday and canít. Finally tally, one guy drags the head with a lot of gear. Helping him is my buddy with half of one bou meat on his back. I have the other half of one on my back and drag the other out with some assistance from Mike. We arrived at the truck at 2000 exhausted. Lesson # 3 Ė Sleds SUCK, except on frozen lakes. At truck Mike and Jim transfer both caribou to us, capes included and leave for ANC. Half our group signed for one and went to Fairbanks. My buddy and I stayed and got up the next morning and hauled the rest of the meat and cape out, thus keeping them out of jail and probably losing some hunting privileges. Took us about four and a half hours round trip and we packed the truck up and headed home. Saw two small heards of bou around Toolik on way home but our bodies were too tired to go after them. Lesson #4 - Don't agree to bail someone out like this ever again.
So we really never did any serious hunting but we learned a lot from our trip. Our military training in cold weather and land navigation, plus the fact we ruck and PT a lot made it easy for us to do the task. We learned not to get greedy like they did, but if we did do the 5 mile thing in the future that we shoot one bou and get him out before we even attempt to shoot another. We learned that packs are the way to go and what items are needed in the tundra. Finally this is Alaska and you better know what the heck you are getting into up here or you might die like these guys almost did.