Sorry this is so long--you can skip to the pictures at the bottom. Just saw a ton, got my butt kicked a lot, so its a long-winded thread.
I already reported the issue we ran into with Rifle Jimmy busting my ambush and others, so will not re-hash it here. All in all, it was a very educational and fun trip, saw tons of stuff and had my ***** handed to me on several instances by caribou with obviously higher thought processes than myself.
My buddy that went with me did not have his archery cert, so he went along for the trip and hung around and worked on his gun leather he is making for his cowboy action shooting. He's my best friend and was my best man last year at my wedding, so a guy trip is always a blast. We started off great--except he is officially fired when it comes to filling the food list.
On the trip up we pulled over about an hour south of Cantwell for a pit stop and I mentioned how cool it would be to really see the northern lights on our trip--and not 20 min later they came out and we watched as we drove for over an hour. Super cool start.
Rolled into Galbraith on Friday morning, saw a bull right off up on a ridge across from Toolik lake and was quite pleased how close I got on my first stalk, but was ultimately busted and never able to get a broadside shot at a reasonable distance. Had him to 65-70 yrds a couple times but he was facing strait in my direction--waiting to see if I would pop up out of the low spot I was in. Spent the next several hours walking out to the pipeline by slope mountain and walkind down it to the intersection with the road back towards Toolik--very nice long walk, but no luck. Got within 15 yrds of a couple cows and one very small bull.
Next day (Saturday) was full of more sights and lessons as we drove up to Deadhorse. Saw several groups of musk ox. Couple other close stalks that I ended up screwing up. Finally had the right set up later in the evening, but had jumped out of the truck without my range finder and learned I am terrible at judging distances on the tundra. Thought I was pretty dialed in on my judgment, but was off enough to send an arrow completely over a bulls back. We messed around up north too long, and ended up driving back very late. Ended up seeing a group of musk ox on the road, all scattered except two which continued to butt heads an fight by our headlights--very cool to see. Tried to get pictures, but all that came out was how filthy our windshield looked with the flash.
Sunday we went back up the road a bit. Saw a lot more animals around slope mtn, but felt the fat kid could stalk a bit better if I could find a bull a little further north with some cover. Found a nice bull (way out) up above happy valley. Hiked out a pretty good ways and set up on the back side of a knoll he looked like he would come around/over. He did, but the wrong side, and then headed an entirely different route towards the road--so another long tundra walk without an encounter. Funny enough though, when I get back to the road, the same bull had crossed the road, but stayed close following a high line leading back towards the road. So we go up a ways and I walk out only a hundred yards and set up in a little bush. Bull keeps coming in nicely. Everything goes as planned and release an arrow--had the yardage and elevation dialed in, but with the extreme cross wind, my arrow flys about 3 inches in front of his brisket. At this point I am just getting deflated and simply pissed--I am feeling like I am messing up stalks and then duffing opportunites when they come. This is my first year back to bowhunting after a few years off, but have practiced a ton, and am not used to missing animals--so I am actually just getting mad.
So, next morning (Monday), I start off just shooting for a while and try to shake off my bad mood. Drilling the centers and grouping well even out to 100 yrds. I was shooting into a head wind and though about trying to shoot some in the cross wind, but with the way I was going through arrows decided no shots longer than I would actually consider taking on an animal in the cross winds--which were bruatl at times. We got beautiful sun, still calm, high winds, mist, fog, drizzle and a little rain--even snow in the pass on the way out--as for as weather goes, the week had it all.
So we decide today may be our last full day and depending on how things go, we might hunt some Tuesday morning before heading south. We also decide to stay between camp at Galbraith and Slope Mtn. We are seeing more animals--and bulls--each day in this area. I see a couple bulls milling around where it looks like I could use a low area to sneak in so I give it a try but again busted around 100 yrds which seems to be a common threshold for these guys. We decide to head back towards Toolik and I am going to hike in and see if I can find something in an area where I have a chance to get close. On the way, we see the group of nice bulls milling around and I go out and hide behind a bush, for an hour--which is starting to look more promising by the minute before the guy with the rifle puts an end to that gig. By now I am deciding I am just not having fun anymore and am trying to keep my ego and anger in check. With that, we decided to take a break and head back to camp, refuel and have lunch. As we got to the toolik area, where I had wanted to hike in, I see four bulls working their way closer to the road. So I decide to give it one more go and sneak out to a little bush--which I am sure looks funny to most seeing this giant guy hiding in a tiny bush, but its all I had. I literally climbed into the darn thing. And again, it looks more promising by the minute--and at this point I am still fuming a bit from the rifle issue a little while before and just waiting for something to fall apart--but it doesn't. They keep coming and end up trying to climb into my lap. My little bush ended up causing some difficulties, but got a shot (little further back than I would want) on the nicest bull in the group. He went a long, long way before bedding down on a ridge. His bed worked well for me, because by the time I got 200 yrds out, he couldn't see me as I came around the side and shot him again in the bed. Which, he again ran, this time towards a little lake at the bottom of the ridge he was bedded on. He stopped about 60-70 yrds from the lake and just stood there, but did not go down. After watching another hunters caribou go forever with a higher than ideal shot, I decided to shoot again and get him down. Third shot good, but he still didn't go down, but ran head long into the little lake and started swimming for the other side. He didn't make it far, but in the end had the last lesson to teach me.
All in all, very humbling and educational trip. First caribou, finally after a rifle hunts 6.5 miles in off the Haul in 2007 and Kotz last year--both wonderfully fun trips without success. So, finally had my Alaskan unicorn as I had come to call it. I am amazed at how durable these animals are and just simply seem to keep going. Seem very, very different from whitetail I grew up bowhunting. I had an absolutely great time with true frustrations thrown in and lessons that kept seeming to smap me upside the head. Beautiful country, cool animals, wierd research gizmos--just an interesting, wonderful place that seems to swallow arrows. Was not able to find a single one I shot--and believe me, I looked for each one.