We began this trip by leaving a day later than intended due to processing a moose we had taken a couple days prior. This threw a hitch in our giddy-up as far as plans but we were glad to accommodate. It just meant that the trip was going to be a bit of a whirl wind with the limited time we would have to hunt this hunt compared to previous years.
The alarm went off at 2:45 AM and both Becca and I crawled out of bed, had breakfast, and threw the remaining odds and ends needed for the hunt into the truck. 3:30 AM we were on the road heading north. With only one stop for gas along the way, we were closing in on our destination where we would begin hiking in for our hunt around 8:45 AM. This is when disaster hit. The trailer we were towing decided it was an excellent time to lose its right rear tire (hub and all) while driving down the highway.
A bit of a fish tailing stop and we had to unload a wheeler and I had to complete the remaining 6 miles to our destination by driving a wheeler along the highway while Becca limped the truck and trailer to the pull out. So now our already delayed schedule was going to be pushed back even further. We unloaded the wheelers in a fury and 3 wheeled our 4 wheel trailer to the nearest town to be repaired while we were out hunting.
So now its noon and we are beginning our 12 mile hike into the caribou hunting grounds. We get to where we normally camp back there in less than half the time it took us to hike there 2 years ago, mainly thanks to only taking one sit down break in the whole hike in-- being in shape has its perks I guess. We continue on another 3 miles to a high point overlooking the area and quickly setup the tent.
Its now 7:30 PM and after the 12 mile hike in and the 2:45 wake up call we are both feeling a bit tired. The 27 hour turn around time between the last moose hunt and this caribou hunt in different parts of the state as well as processing the moose somewhere in the timeframe was showing its effects on us.
However the weather is great and the evening is beautiful so we hike up the couple hundred feet and ¼ mile to the top of our overlook above our tent and begin glassing. Not too long later we are scoping out quite a few bull moose (including one that must have been a distant cousin to the moose I harvested just 4 days prior) just for practice to get Becca further acquainted with what makes bulls legal vs. not legal even though the season was not open. A few minutes later we spotted a group of caribou including one nice size bull about 3 miles off but being as its about 8 PM now hiking over to them for a stalk was not an option.
We continued to glass until I spotted a nice little bull with a cow companion just over a mile off. “We can get that guy tonight if you are up for it” I stated knowing that we were already pretty wiped and not wanting to ruin a good trip by over doing it. “Lets go!!” she stated. And soon we were beating feet with packs on down to the caribou. 30-45 minutes later we were within 300 yards of the caribou and closing but they were in a hole in a creek bottom and we could not see them. We looked and looked and I knew they couldn’t have left as their only exits would have allowed us to see them leave. All of a sudden I saw the tiny cow rack coming up the hill right in front of us at less than 50 yards. I sat down in a hurry and froze and Becca not seeing the animal initially knew to do the same anyways. The cow looked our way confused but began to feed cautiously at this close range.
Soon we saw the slightly larger rack of the bull beginning to appear. He was a little more nervous about the two weird blobs sitting there looking at him at a distance of only 45 yards. After a 30 second stare down he relaxed a bit and begin to feed and slowly work his way broadside. That was all it took, and I let him have a feel of a .308 180 Nosler behind the front shoulder. Turns out he wasn’t a fan of this and ran 50 yards to the small brushy creek bed, DOA.
Great, another animal down at 9:30 PM!! We snap a few quick pics and begin to get to work processing him. 10:30 rolls around and as I am sawing out the ribs via headlamp it begins to start pouring….AWESOME!!! We bag up the caribou and put it under a near by spruce tree and begin heading back to the tent. We soon realize we are both out of water and need some for our late night mountain house meal. So we sidetrack over to a nearby pond and fill our 3 liter bladders and then begin the mile march in the dark, pouring rain back to our camp thankful we had set it up prior to going hunting.
The GPS once again guides us in the dark with one headlamp between the two of us (I am noticing a trend here) back to our camp. We slog into camp just after 11:30 PM and dive into our tent out of the rain that is now coming down sideways. We begin heating up water for mountain house dinner and getting out of our wet, bloody, raingear and putting on dry socks. Thank goodness for a 2.5 pound tent that has 60 sq ft of vestibule to undress and cook in without having to mess with moving the sleeping bags out of the way.
Sleep comes easy that night just after midnight. After being up for nearly 22 hours with mucho activity between wake up and bedtime we were both pretty ready to crawl into our downy oasis. It pours all night but we wake up at 10 AM to just a slight drizzle coming down on the tent. A couple cups of coffee and bowls of oatmeal later we were back on our spotting hill above camp surveying the area. Fog rolls back in causing us to have to retreat back to the tent for another cup of coffee while things clear up to glass for Becca’s caribou.
After I finish my coffee I start glassing from our tent to see 8 or 9 caribou coming up over a ridge about ¾ of a mile away. Breaking out the spotting scope I start telling Becca what I see, “cow, cow, calf, cow, cow, oh wait small bull!!!” They are working their way down to a watering hole about 1/3 of a mile from camp and we throw our guns on our backs and head that way. A cow and a calf are the first to leave the watering hole as we are just getting down there and the small bull is the 3rd to leave.
I range the caribou, 248 yards, and I reach over and crank Becca’s scope to 9 power which gives away the fact that it’s a bit of a ways out there, but totally doable especially with the Snipepod bipod snapped onto her Remington Model 7 .308. She asks if she should hold high and I replied “just aim right where you want to hit it.”
I am looking at the caribou threw binos while she follows it in her scope, working its way parallel to us and waiting for it to stop. I tell Becca “As soon as it stops to feed, shoot”. We wait and wait for him to give up a shot and our patience pays off. He stops and she shoots. It runs 20 yards and dies after one awesome shot. I couldn’t have been more proud or have made a better shot. I have never used shooting sticks or a bipod before while hunting but after it was down I took the rifle from her and looked through the scope with the bipod and quickly became very glad that I had her setup with this little 6 oz bipod. I was easily able to hold the cross hairs perfectly steady on the downed caribou and know it made the hunt for her. This was her first ever caribou and second big game animal she had ever taken. Saying she was excited would be the equivalent to saying Michael Jordan was an ok b-ball player!!!
It is now 12:30 PM and an hour later we have him all bagged up and ready to go. Amazing how much faster I work when I don’t have to skin via headlamp!!! This shooting game in the middle of the day thing is kinda nice.
Since our friends with two little ones are waiting for us at the trailhead for a couple days of fourwheeling in the area, we get our packs loaded up with just what we need for the trip out. We begin the 12 mile trek back out that we had just began coming in from about 27 hours ago.
We roll into the trailhead about 8:45 PM and are greeted by our friends and their 20 month old and 2 month old sons. We share stories from our previous days’ adventures (they had just come from Valdez fishing for silvers) and then crawl into bed for some well deserved rest, glad to be blessed with yet another successful attempt at filling the freezer.