I had been in contact with Nimrod most of the summer on a trip I had planned with another friend, Rudy, to go up the haul road. We kind of planned on heading up the road together on August 20th...Nimrod did not make it that day. This was my first, and hopefully not last, hunting trip I have made with Rudy. When you plan an adventure like this you never know what the other guy will be like in the field. My first test was on our first morning...he said he would pick me up at 0710 hours and HE WAS RIGHT ON TIME!!! I knew we were going to have fun! Rudy had his airboat ready to go and I tried to bring things I thought we would need...he first asked my why in the world I was bringing hip boots...and I ended up taking way to much crap, but oh well.
We drove from Palmer to Talketna and decided to fuel up. I decided to get a cup of coffee (I usually stay away from the stuff) and off to Fairbanks. Topped off in Faribanks, had lunch and headed north. When we got to Coldfoot that evening Rudy insisted on getting a room for the night I felt guilty just hearing that. At 0200 I was wakened in severe pain...it felt like my left testicle was being squeezed by a pair of vice grips. I realized the mistake I made earlier in the day when I got that coffee...I had a Kidney Stone flaring up. I paced the halls for an hours, took a small pain pill and got 2 more hours of sleep. At 0600 we were up and I decided to try and continue with the trip. I have been fighting that **** stone ever since, but I got lucky in Motrin calming the pain down enough to enjoy the hunt.
We made it to the launch in the early afternoon. We saw lots of cariblou, mostly bulls, from Toolik to Pump 2 which was a good omen. Rudy said on his previous trips he had never seen more than 3 caribou the whole time! The boat off loaded easily, we loaded up, and off up the Sag we went intending an archery hunt only. Made camp, had dinner and got a little evening hunt in.
That first evening I got up on a small bluff and spooked up a small bull who proceeded to head down the bluff to a spot where Rudy was. Rudy has been shooting a bow for just under two years and this was his first hunt. I watched him play cat and mouse with this bull for 15 minutes. He got off a couple of arrows, but under shot. I think I was more excited than Rudy was! It was a great show. Back in camp we found he was shooting quite low and figure it was his string...he was not happy, but we did some adjustments. He also had fits with his Range finder...never did get it to work worth a darn.
The next morning Rudy was outside of the tent and said he saw a flash of two animals, one dark and the other light. I got up and started to look in the brush and about 100 yards from the tent a blond grizzley bear pops up and runs away from us like he was on fire. We never did see what happened with the other one. Over the next hour Rudy worked on setting up the electric bear fence he had brought with him. They never came back.
I headed up hill about a 10 minute walk from camp. When I got to the top I looked down the ridge line and saw a great bull about 1500 yards away. The wind was at my back blowing straight towards this bull at about 30 knots with gusts over 40. I start his direction anyway...when my scent made it to him he literally jumped straight in the air and turned 180 degrees and started to run at full speed and disappeared over the edge from my view. When he did not pop out where I thought he should I moved to look down in this small draw and saw he was running a mach speed right towards me. He got there so fast I never had time to drop my day pack or get to my range finder. I guessed 50 yards and let an arrow fly watching the backwind cause it to fly right over his back. Off at a run towards our camp did he go. I moved, and sure enought he stopped again, this time 90 degrees to the wind. I had time to range him, settle my pin for the *perfect* shot, let it fly, perfect form, as I watched the arrow settling in on a perfect double lung shot, at the last second gust of wind *smacked* my shaft and I had missed. I watched this boy for the next hour, about 80 to 300 yards the whole time. Awesome.
Over the next number of days I had lots of opportunities. I found that groups of cows with calves would run away from me when they smelled me. Bulls on the other hand would come close to check me out. Twice I had small family units of 8 and 10 caribou almost step on me as they had not seen or winded me which is an awesome feeling. I had at least 6 opportunities to fill a tag at under 30 yards with young bulls...I was greedy and only wanted one of the big boys.
At one stage I had 4 bulls come within 40 yards of me, and I got two arrows off...both over shot because of heavy winds. I had been practicing at 55-60 yards all year and all my shots were easily in my range. Oh well, it was still great. After I missed the second shot these four bulls ran down to the water, just across from where Rudy was. They kept looking back at me, so I stayed where I was at, hoping to give Rudy a chance. After two hours, one of the bulls gets up, crosses the water and heads straight to Rudy. There is a lot of brush and I don't know if Rudy can see him or not. My heart is pounding, then I see Rudy make a shot...the bull jumps and takes a few steps...off goes another arrow and the bull is headed back up hill towards me. I can see him through my binos and it appeared that he was not hit. I never got close enough for a shot and watched him feed and walk for the next hour until he disappeared over a hill.
My last *opportunity* was one I did not take. Another nice bull came walking up towards me. At 30 yards he stopped, facing me, and trying to figure out what I was. I was playing the part of another caribou and he watched me for about 30 seconds before spinning around and leaving. He only presented with a straight on shot and I chose not to take it because that is a shot I am not comfortable with. I know I could have hit him square on where I aimed, just not something I think is a good idea.
The only other hunter we saw in the field was Nimrod. He came to our camp a few times, and we stopped to help him when he was broke down. All in all a great hunt, a great time, and very successful even without meat in the freezer! Both of us should have come home with two bulls apiece, but mother nature had other plans. I will have great dreams on this for years to come! Thanks Rudy for being a great hunting partner!