Well, I learned a lot on this trip. I just moved here in May and planned this trip and tried to do my best to prepare myself for it. A lot of people told me this would be a fairly easy hunt and caribou are stupid and easy to kill. Boy I have some words for those folks! This was a really tough hunt, physically and mentally.
I left last Wednesday and enjoyed the drive up, it was beautiful. I drove all the way to Deadhorse that evening to explore and to call my wife, as I knew she'd be worried if I didn't call. I saw a few caribou and some nice bulls and was pumped for the morning to come. I woke up and got ready and headed down the road. I spotted some small caribou but nothing I wanted to chase. I'd driven a long way without seeing any caribou and decided to pull over at an overlook and glass across the river. They were everywhere over there, but that did me little good as there was no way accross the river. So lesson one, take some sort of raft or canoe (seems like everyone else did).
I hiked up over the hill on my side of the river and saw a couple caribou a long way out. I didn't pursue them as I thought I'd be unable to get a bull out myself before it spoiled (it was hot). I ended up finally finding a bull I could put a stalk on and it was going good until I ran out of cover.
The next morning I found two bulls on a ridge line and put a stalk on them. I was getting close but got a little hasty and moved too quick and the younger bull spotted me. Lot's of stalks went the same way, I ran out of cover.
The other problem I had was the bugs, they'd irritate the caribou so bad that they would run all over and were completely random in their direction. I had a bull bedded and made a long stalk on him just to have him take off at the last minute cause he couldn't handle the bugs anymore. He ran all over the valley shaking his head.
On Saturday I got close to an awesome bull twice but couldn't close the distance enough. I spent several hours belly crawling across the frozen tundra but could only get 96 yards before one of his cows spotted me.
I was unsure of what to do as I wasn't seeing hardly any caribou. I decided to go get gas in Deadhorse and spend the rest of my time down at Toolik as I hadn't been there yet. I didn't see a single thing all the way out from Pump 2 to Deadhorse and same with on the way back. I was almost to Pump 2 when I glance to my left and see a small bull trotting towards the road. I pull off and jump out and grab my gear, put on my release and run as fast as I can to the only hump of dirt out there. There just happened to be a mound between me and the caribou. I peek around and he's down over a bank and I start moving towards him. I lose sight of him and looking more to my right, since that's the direction he was heading. All the sudded he comes up over the bank on my left. I was caught off guard and was exposed. But he kept coming and walked over to my right and I drew back and settled my 40 yard pin on him. I released and split second later he's on the ground. Distance is deceptive ou there, he was only 35 yards and I spined him.
I was pretty excited to get my first caribou but wished it could have been on a stalk that I worked a lot harder on.
Now for the crappy part of the trip. On the way home, a big rig, who was going way too fast, through rocks all over me as he passed me. One of those rocks put a hole in my radiator. I was stuck! A lot of nice folks stopped to see if there was anything they could do. One guy tried to help me fix it by crimping the tube that had the hole in it. It didn't work and he left, saying that he would call me a tow truck when he got to Fairbanks. Well that was at 5 pm and no one ever came. I spent the night and finally some state highway workers got on their sat phone and called a tow truck. So 20 hours later I get on my way and get to Fairbanks and to a radiator shop. Well, more bad luck, no one had a radiator! So then I had to spend the night in Fairbanks. 3 days later I finally get home!
I can't wait to do it next year!