Alright, I had something happen while on my last caribou trip which frustrated me. After it was over my partner and I contemplated what the correct thing to do actually would have been. Read the story and let me know what YOU would have done if in this situation.
Location: Haul Rd near Franklin bluffs
Sunday evening: Pull off the road to glass after having stalked a fox (unsuccessfully) and spot a single bull grazing about 1 to 1 1/2 miles from the road. Watch for about 30 minutes then see 2 hunters walking the pipeline right-of-way about 1/2 mile from road. Figure they've seen him and it's too late in the day to go after him. Return to camp, clean Ptarmigan and discuss plans for next day.
Monday AM: Head out at day-break looking for Bou. Stop and check the same spot after about an hour and see a single bull walking in the same area, but no hunters to be found....
Decide to go after him, or at least get a closer look since we weren't seeing many bulls. Hike (wade) out to the pipeling road to sit in some trees and glass. Notice a herd of Muskox coming my way about 100yds down the trail....plans change, crawl about 50 yds out into a small creekbed while the Muskox pass by. 30 minutes later (they stopped there to graze) back to scoping out the Bou. Follow several low areas/weed patches out about 1/2 way to would-be Bou, glass again. Notice another bull bedded down near the one I had seen, much much larger. The smaller one continued to roam around the area and graze. Slowly begin to crawl closer and closer while the small one is grazing away from me. At about 400 yds I run out of cover, so I have to wait for him to bed down which took about 45 minutes. Also notice I've run out of solid ground and am in a very soggy area. I took about 2 hours crawling on all fours to get the next 250 yds unoticed, having to pause while both bulls get up graze and bed down again several times. I notice a small red patch on the bottom of the larger one, just behind his front leg.
This is where it starts to get tricky. I spend several minutes looking him over and watching him walk around. No noticeable damage other than a slight limp, so I figure a bull this size....someone took a long shot and nicked him. No blood dripping or spread on him, if he was hit it had healed/coagulated. I continue, belly-crawling from this point on in through weeds/water. I'm coming in from an angle upwind (not best, but only option I had), so both bulls bedded down looking away. At just over 100yds out, I see a hunters head pop up from out of the river bank about 300 yds the opposite side of the Bou. I stop and watch him to try to figure out if he had just seen them or had been on them before me. He makes no moves and doesn't signal for about 15 minutes.....so I continue in. I move about 5-10 yds at a time, stopping at every head turn or move of both Bou. I range him at 42 yds and I consider myself good to 60. He's still laying down, and I have a good broadside view of his body. I contemplate raising up to shoot or crawling closer.....he begins to move so I get ready to draw so I can shoot when he stands. Just as I raise up to draw.....another hunter pops up from behind a small knoll and begins to signal me off of him!
My stomach knots up as I realize someone else is also on him, then I realize the guy is signalling he had hit him. I back off about 30-40 yds and he's still signalling, so I try to signal back asking if they're after both or just the one that had been hit. Signalling didn't work. About that time the smaller one got up, so I layed still not wanting to spook them. He walked straight towards me, grazed for a minute and then bedded down about 75yds out. I notice a third hunter farther back also in the river bed. Go for him or not? I decided the best thing is to just head back to the truck as to not mess up him retrieving his wounded Bou. I crawl back a little further, then get up and walk straight away from them. Both Bou notice me and stand up when I'm about 250 out, so I keep walking straight away and they bed back down.
When I get back to the truck, very frustrated, my partner tells me 2 guys had stopped by around noon and let him know they had a "mortally wounded" animal they were waiting on it from the night before. He let them know I was out there and told them to waive me off of it, which they didn't do for over an hour after they got out there. He also told me they were all shooting longbows and needed to get within 30yds to get a finishing shot.
That evening we return and talked to the actual guy who had shot it, he said it was hit right behind the liver and he would wait it out and get it. He stated that gutshot's have a 100% recovery wait if you wait long enough. I figured I had done the right thing by backing off.
Tuesday: We talk to the guy again, checking to see if he had finally got it. He had put a stalk on it, they both spooked and mananged to run about a mile, swim the Sag and get away. At this point, my frustration was even greater! One of the largest (very heavy antlers, tall with palmed tops and long tines, palmed bezs, just beautiful although a bit on the narrow side) Bou I had ever seen had gotten away and would likely end up dying unclaimed.
Should I have finished it off when I was @ 42 yds?
Would I have been wrong to shoot the smaller (still very nice) bull? Possibly spooking the larger one?
What constitutes "mortally wounded"?
This is no slight to the longbow hunters or the other hunters involved in this situation, but it seems to me that if you (any hunter) had someone with the means and in the position to finish the kill, that you should have identified you were there and allowed the shot. Hairs could be split over whose shot mortally wounded it later, but someone would have bagged a likely record book bull.
I know this has been a long post, but this was one of the best stalks I've ever put on. Nearly 6 hours, crawling through soggy tundra, only to end with great frustration and not knowing what the correct thing to do was..... This was definitely the hardest shot I've ever had to not take.
Give me your thoughts on what you think you think would have been the right thing to do in this case or what you would have done.