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Thread: First Caribou

  1. #1
    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Default First Caribou

    I decided this year to try the 40 mile caribou hunt out of Chicken. Met up with ERDucker from the forum here on Friday morning and we figured we would give it a go. Neither one of us had ever been to the area. We planned on going in Thursday to make the road opening, but my work schedule dictated otherwise, so Friday it was. It rained off and on all the way up there and we figured we were in for some wet days ahead. We got to Mosquito Creek and saw lots of trucks and wheelers. We knew the road was closed ahead so that would be the only option. We decided to go into the town of Chicken first though, since we had never been there. Upon pulling in around 6 o'clock, we talked with one of the road maintenance guys who let us in on "a little secret" - they were going to try and let a group of people go through around 8 o'clock. We decided to wait it out. We heard a large group went in Thursday, but there were only about a dozen or so trucks and RV's waiting. Around 8:45, they gave us the go ahead. No caravan, "just be careful" they said.

    We made it to the junction to head to Eagle and decided to stop for the night. We had a couple of trails in mind, but really didn't have one nailed down to try. Some maintenance people told us they saw a few caribou over by Boundary. Of course, other rumors flew all over between the 8 or so vehicles parked in the lot where we were. "There are a thousand in Canada and they'll be here Tuesday," one guy said. "They already came through and fish and game told me they are all 70 miles west of Chicken Ridge," another one said. We figured we'd just go in and see what we saw.

    We got up Saturday morning and got some info from a guy parked nearby about a trail that would take us in a ways. He shot his 'bou there last year. So in we went on atv's. We would ride awhile, stop, glass awhile, ride some more. We saw absolutely zero animals. At some point, the guy that gave us the info rode in behind us with his son. They were headed all the way to the end - about 10-12 miles. We got in about 5, and started discussing whether to stay on this trail, or head into Boundary. We knew we had to decide, because if we were going to set up camp, we were already pushing the time. We decided to pull the plug and head to Boundary.

    When we got to Boundary, there was a road block. A maintenance guy came and said the road was closed. He said he would let us through to turn around. Or, he gave us the option to go in, but said "if I let you in, you can't come back out." It didn't make sense to us, but we decided to go in and then beg him to let us back out if we needed to. We pulled ahead and spoke with another hunter on an atv. He said there was a group that saw some caribou back on some ridges a few days before, but nothing since then. As we were talking with him, the maintenance guy started coming up the road yelling "hey, let's go, time to turn around." We knew it was decision time. The guy we were chatting with said he would stay there if it were up to him. As the maintenance guy continued marching towards our truck yelling "let's go," we made the decision to drive on. We pulled away as he watched.

    We headed up the road about a mile to a pullout and found the trail in. As we pondered where to go, a nice old man in an Argo pulled in. "Just here to get more beer" he said. But we chatted with him. He told us where animals had been seen, and how to get in the area. He was camped way in - about 15 miles - by Liberty Creek, but said he hadn't seen any animals yet. He was a little discouraged - and thus, getting more beer. He said nobody had seen animals in a couple days though. But he did put us on a trail that would send way back in and up on top. So we headed that way.

    Going in was a little rough. It was high brush with just a tiny little trail. Once we were in a few miles though, it opened up. Wide up. Exactly what we had been looking for (minus the animals). We rode in a ways further and started climbing up and up and up. We made it to the top of a plateau that seemed perfect to us. We saw an atv on another ridge about 1/2 mile away. But this spot had a great valley coming up from the northwest, a couple of great saddles just east of us where the atv trail continued to go, and another valley on the south (where we had just come through). Although we knew we could go higher and have a better shot at seeing game, we thought we would probably have to try and chase down anything we saw. This spot, however, gave us a great vantage point to a lot of land, plus it had natural draw areas for the animals to come right through. We set up camp around 6 o'clock.

    We spent Saturday night glassing the area as much as possible with the last couple hours of light we had. I hiked up to the next ridge to take a peek over, and although it was nice, there were a lot of trees there as well. A father/daughter came through on their atv's to go to Boundary for more water, saying they had 6 kids with them in camp (all hoping to shoot big bulls). We said we just wanted meat bulls, so he could let the small ones come through. Although we glassed quite a bit, we did not see a single animal come through. Discouraging, but we also knew they could come at any moment.
    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

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    Member jmg's Avatar
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    We figured we would have enough shooting light around 6-6:30 am, so we set the alarm for 5:30. About 5 minutes to 6, ERDucker climbed out of the sack and started to get out of the tent. Just as he poked his head out, I was unzipping my sleeping bag and making my way out. All of a sudden I hear "Oh *&^%." "Caribou," I asked? "Yes." Thinking he was pulling my leg, I casually responded with "seriously"? "Yes, now, get out here." I immediately could tell he was serious. I was out with my boots on in about 4 seconds. I pulled my rifle out of case, which was next to me in the tent and loaded a few rounds in the magazine as quick as possible.

    I popped my head out of the tent and looked towards the face of the hill about 500 yards out. The group of 'bou were coming right down the atv trail. The funny thing is they had grouped up together tightly, so I said - still wiping sleep out of my eyes - "that's an atv, not caribou." ERDucker responded "that's what I thought too, but give them a second. They'll start to separate again."

    Sure enough, the lead bull started to pull away. We watched as these 'bou were headed straight towards us. We were camped on this plateau, but also pretty much on what was the trail on the plateau. Had they stayed on the trail, they would have run right through us. They continued to come at us. I belly-crawled over to my atv and put the scope on them while ERDucker worked his way to the back of the tent to get his rifle out of the case from under the vestibule. I watched and could see a few bulls in the group. When they got 250 yards away, they turned and were now moving from left to right on us. I knew it would set up a perfect broadside shot. We just watched for what seemed like forever. "Take one when you get a shot," I heard ERDucker say.

    I knew the front animal was a bull, so I focused on him. Before squeezing off, I saw movement out of the side of my eye. ERDucker now had his rifle ready. I was afraid he could only see the front bull because he was in behind the tent, so I decided to pass on him and move down the herd. I started at the front of the herd and worked back. There were about 8 or 9 animals there. They were not running, but definitely moving at a pretty good clip. We had some time, but not a lot. Then, the lead bull spotted us. We were busted. He kind of watched, but continued to move very slowly. The back group kept moving though. Not only were they moving left to right, but with the tussocks, they also seemed to be bobbing up and down as they ran along. I found what I knew was a nice bull a few animals back. I wanted to take him, but just before squeezing off, another animal ran up along side him, shadowing him. I didn't want to hit two, so I continued scanning down the herd for something with a wide open window. I knew we were busted and running out of time quickly. A couple more animals back I had a bull in the scope. He gave me a window. I squeezed off and he immediately dropped. At that point, everything stopped - the lead bull looked straight at us, as did the others. Just a second after mine hit the ground, ERDucker squeezed off. I watched the lead bull hit the ground. Two bulls down.

    We got out and checked them out. They had fallen only about 20 yards apart from each other. Ecstatic, it finally hit us. We had just gotten out of bed. Almost simultaneously, we said "we should probably eat some breakfast before we get to work on the animals." So we walked back to camp, cooked up some oatmeal, and just admired the 'bou about 200 yards out. Although we knew other hunters were out there, we had a feeling nobody was quite up yet. About halfway into dressing our animals, we saw someone up on a ridge, a couple ridges over. We didn't hear another gunshot for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and even that shot was the only other one besides our own that we heard all day.

    Some folks have talked this hunt being a combat hunt zone. We wanted to try and avoid that situation, and did a great job of it. Although we were not completely alone, we could not see other hunters from where we were, and certainly did not have bullets whizzing by us either as some have reported from Chicken Ridge. Overall, this was a perfect hunt for the both of us. And although it was literally over before breakfast on opening morning, we also figured that could happen on any caribou hunt at any time. It could have been exactly that way on day 1, or day 10. So for us, it was a great hunt.

    We packed up and headed out, strapping everything down as best we could and made it out in one trip. We were told by a guy we met on the main trail that there was a caravan that left Chicken at 2. It was now about 2:45, so we figured we had to hurry. We got to Boundary around 3, only to find out the carvan would be at 6. We met with the F&G officials there in Boundary who were great. Very professional, and said we were the first 'bou they had seen. We saw another 8 or 10 on our way out as we passed the Eagle turn off, as well as Mosquito Creek, but overall, we felt very fortunate to have ours.

    Great hunting ERDucker!!!
    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

  3. #3
    Member jmg's Avatar
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    Both of our 'bou down.






    One of the 'bou with our camp in the background.








    Mine.







    ERDucker's.

    Never count your days, but rather, make all of your days count.

  4. #4
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Nice J... about time you finally killed something,, that bodes well for the rest of Alaska hunters for sure
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    I can't believe you passed up the opportunity to get more beer!! I also can't believe your driving hondas!! And just as well, I can't believe how jealous I am!!!!!!! Haha.
    Raise your bottle of beer to bigger bou next year! Good story.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

  6. #6
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Well done, sir. You've certainly earned it.

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    Great story, thanks for posting and grats!

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    Caribou are awsome.

    Looks like a great neck/base of the skull hit, the shot I try my best to make.

    Looks like great skins as well.

    If your gonna leave a Caribou for awhile, what ever the reason, maby smoke up , coffee brake, other Caribou to dissassemble first, ect. just be sure to roll 'em on their backs. They will stiffen up with their legs apart and the bellys will expand with teh blood ,if any draining into the back of the body cvity.
    This is especcially handy if you have gut shot one, even lung shot, so the clot that forms removed debreis when you slide it out.
    Anyhood the legs apart will be easier to work with than closed.

    Man , you did good for a 'First'
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    great job man...congrats...sounds like a great hunt.....hondas are good wheelers...always get you there and back!
    They say its unsafe to own a gun, I say its unsafe to have only one!!!

  10. #10
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    In future stories replace the term "tent" with "blind". Then... "You peered out of the carefully placed blind into the crisp early morning air rubbing your hands briskly together in a vain attempt to stave off the cramping chill. You look around squinting as you struggle to see through shroud of wispy fog. Suddenly the pop of tendons pierces the cold air. Immediately you forget the stinging sensation in your fingers as your eyes strain to find the source of the unmistakable sound. Eerily through the mist the form of your unwary prey takes shape. One by one the animals composition takes the form of 8 caribou slowly working their way along the well used game trail into your carefully set trap. The glint of the dew on velvet laced antlers sparkles in the predawn light as they float across the tundra. Only the increasing amplitude of their hocks clicking in chorus lends credence to the visage before you. You carefully bring your rifle to bear as your heart beat strains to match the metronome that is the approaching herd. All the hard work and planning is on the cusp of paying off....."

    Spin baby spin!!

    Just kidding of course, CONGRATS on breaking the cherry!!

  11. #11
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    In future stories replace the term "tent" with "blind". Then... "You peered out of the carefully placed blind into the crisp early morning air rubbing your hands briskly together in a vain attempt to stave off the cramping chill. You look around squinting as you struggle to see through shroud of wispy fog. Suddenly the pop of tendons pierces the cold air. Immediately you forget the stinging sensation in your fingers as your eyes strain to find the source of the unmistakable sound. Eerily through the mist the form of your unwary prey takes shape. One by one the animals composition takes the form of 8 caribou slowly working their way along the well used game trail into your carefully set trap. The glint of the dew on velvet laced antlers sparkles in the predawn light as they float across the tundra. Only the increasing amplitude of their hocks clicking in chorus lends credence to the visage before you. You carefully bring your rifle to bear as your heart beat strains to match the metronome that is the approaching herd. All the hard work and planning is on the cusp of paying off....."

    Spin baby spin!!

    Just kidding of course, CONGRATS on breaking the cherry!!
    lol so says the George Washington, hunter, that by the time he gets around to shooting somthing again, will have an entire tree to chop down.....
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Great writeup, J! Really enjoyed it. Congrats to you both for pulling it off, you made some great decisions along the way to be able to get past Boundary <grin>. Loved the pics too.

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    Excellent account of the action! It was a great time and we were fortunate to have been blessed with the opportunity to harvest a couple if meat bulls. J, it was a pleasure being able to assist you in taking your first Alaskan Big Game animal, many more to come. Next one can be the wall hanger!

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    Supporting Member AlaskanSD's Avatar
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    Nicely done JMG!! Can't beat having them come to you! But that's not always the case...

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    I get it.....like this Lujon???


    ""In future stories replace the term "tent" with "blind".
    Then...

    "You peered out of the carefully placed blind into the crisp early morning air rubbing your hands briskly together in a vain attempt to stave off the cramping chill.

    You look around squinting as you struggle to see through shroud of wispy fog. Suddenly the pop of tendons pierces the cold air. Immediately you forget the stinging sensation in your fingers as your eyes strain to find the source of the unmistakable sound. Eerily through the mist the form of your unwary prey takes shape.

    One by one the animals composition takes the form of 8 caribou slowly working their way along the well used game trail into your carefully set trap.

    The glint of the dew on velvet laced antlers sparkles in the predawn light as they float across the tundra. Only the increasing amplitude of their hocks clicking in chorus lends credence to the visage before you. You carefully bring your rifle to bear as your heart beat strains to match the metronome that is the approaching herd. All the hard work and planning is on the cusp of paying off.....""

    Holding my rifle stedy with my right hand, and my pants up in the other hand, because I was doing the morning water job just outside the blind, I glanced at my Blind company(~LOL!~) to avoid any accidents, but these, being women, were on a different wavelength........I then noticed the wifes tone of voice lower, and the girls all froze. Then the nose twitching spred faster than burnig gasoline, and heads turned, eyes searched, brows took on deep furrows, and yet I was completely ignored as I turned and low waddled in real slow like with the impending news.......

    When the wife suddenly leaps up,hissing "Carrrrraaaaabooooooo""" , dumping , with the flick of her wrist, all her coffe down my neck, eyes firmly locked on the comming meats, to which my 5 daughers silently rise from their coffe to lock and load as one, then coached by mom, they rise above the open wall and each has mentally picked their fire lane, and with mom giving a firm "Kay!", they shoot as one, with a breif mele of shooting and reloading, dropping all but two.....seems there were really ten....


    Which mom picked up with her .22.....



    Having sat back to avoid hot brass , still dripping hot coffee, I then snorted my creamer, lick'd my suger and shot my coffee down, spilled my grounds , replaced my shirt with a sweater , buttoned my pants up and picked up my knife with a depareting "my eggs, over easy , sandwiche'd on the garlic toast....and can I get a reload on the cup??!....I got work to do.....""


    LOL, we should start a thread like such..I donn wanna hijack this one...
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

  16. #16
    Member COtoAK's Avatar
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    Congrats on your 'bou, jmg! Very nice!! Great trip report, too! Glad you posted it!!!!
    Lurker.

  17. #17

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    Way to go Jason! Congrats on breaking that Tikka in right, and congrats to ERDucker as well. Nothing like a first animal of any species, something to remember for a lifetime.

  18. #18
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    Great story and congrats on your bou

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    Congrat's on getting your first bou! Great story, look forward to reading more huntin stories from you in the future.

  20. #20
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    Was starting to think that you were on PETA's legal team, J. :P
    Great write-up. Congrats to you both.
    Proud to be an American!

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