My dad finally filled his DI403 tag on Friday night. We got a late start on Friday and missed Diana Schultz and decided to try a few other places out. We offloaded the snowmachines and went through a family friends farm, and saw lots of sign but nothing with hooves still attached. We decided to try the Gerstle fields and as soon as we pulled in there was sign everywhere, and what looked like a day old gut pile on the side of the entry road. The further we got in there, the more sign we saw, but no bison. We saw another truck in there, so we left the area to him and went to where we could get cell phone signal and tried calling Diana again. It went to the machine, so off to the panoramics we went. You can't get in there with a truck, so we offloaded the machines and headed in on the west side. After entering, we noticed there weren't any fresh tracks of bison or people, but since nobody had been in there for a few days, we pressed on. Finally on the far east side of the field, we came up to a small rise and saw bison, and lots of them.
They were about a mile out, and just entering the field from the very south eastern end. I remembered how much everybody warned against snowmachine noise, so I told my dad and brother we should just walk from there. Well, it ended up being over a mile, and we hugged the tree line which had drifts from 1-3 feet deep, so it ended up being some difficult walking at times. We worked our way into about 500 yards and realized it was getting pretty late, and we need to get things moving here, but we were running out of cover. We decided to go into the trees and work through them, which was easier than fighting the drifts.
We got into 230 yards, which unless we belly crawled in on them, would be the closest we could get a decent shot. There were no older bulls in the entire herd, and the two lead animals which were the closest were both young bulls, so we picked the one on the far end furtherst from the other animals. My dad touched off a shot with my brother standing by as backup, and the bison bucked pretty good. Since it turned and started for the woods, my dad told my brother to take a shot and he reloaded and shot as well. After those two rounds, the bull went down. We headed out to him, and the herd stayed right there, about 150 yards out.
My brother and I headed back to get the machines, and dad stayed with the bull. Since the packs were back at the machines, all dad could do was hang out and wait. We drove by the herd about 200 yards, and they just stood there watching us. Kinda made me think that mile long stalk could have been shortened quite a bit, but I like the fact that my old man had to work for it. We finally got back and it was going to get dark soon, so we took a couple of quick pictures, did our congrats and dad and my brother headed back to the truck on the two machines to get the sled. I stayed back and butchered the bison. By the time they got back, I had it gutted and the rear half of the hide off. We finished skinning out the front half for a shoulder mount, and loaded the whole carcass up on the sled and towed him to the truck which was a little over 7 miles away. By the time we got back it was 9pm. We set up the Arctic Oven, had some dinner and tipped a beer to Glenn who passed away on new years night. He was my godfather and my dads hunting partner for nearly 30 years.
Saturday morning we took the bison into Delta Meats. They let us use a power saw to quarter the bison, and we pulled out of there around 10:30am. It sure is nice to go into a business where the people know what they are doing. Sometimes some companies just stand out in that regard and Delta Meats is one of them. I told her that I'd expect them to be real busy in 2010 after the Tanana Valley Meats issues, but she said they won't accept more than they can handle, so be prepared if you plan to send them your game for processing.
We didn't get too many pictures because it was getting dark. Other cool things we saw were tons of wolf and coyote tracks all over the panoramics, and a moose that had pure white legs from bottom to the belly.
One other note that Diana Schultz mentioned to us is that when the herd groups up like this around the Panoramics, it usually means they are getting ready to head across the river to the calving grounds. If folks haven't filled their tags yet, it might be time to get out there and get it done or the pickings will be a lot slimmer.