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Thread: 40 Mile Caribou Hunt – Pic Heavy

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    Default 40 Mile Caribou Hunt – Pic Heavy

    Just got back to Maryland after three weeks in the Great Land, visiting my family and doing a caribou hunt out of Tok. Figured I’d share my story with the members – although, after reading about some of the epic hunts on here (Alex and Vince’s caribou hunt, Lanche and Becca’s bou hunts, and Bighorse’s goat hunts) this is gonna sound like Club Med! Not really, but not nearly as grueling as those outstanding hunts.

    My hunt planning started last Fall, by soliciting the AOD membership for a potential hunt partner on a 40 Mile caribou hunt…after emailing and talking with several good candidates, I decided to go with Nick Clegg (goes by the Nikster on the Forum) and the planning began in earnest. We talked through gear and food lists, who was bringing what, and the other details that go into a 2-person remote hunt.

    We met in Anchorage on August 29, and went out to Rabbit Creek Rifle Range to check our rifles – a good thing, as both scopes had been knocked way off zero during our flights to Alaska. After getting our sights back on target, we picked up groceries, propane canisters, and other gear items in Anchorage. On August 31 we were off to Tok, a scenic 325 mile drive through a beautiful part of the state.

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    After a night at Young’s Motel and dinner and breakfast at Fast Eddie’s, we were set to hit the field! But the weather wasn’t quite ready, so we hung around the hangar, talked with some other hunters, and took a couple of pics with the Cessna 206 that would take us about 100 miles from Tok.

    My hunt partner and new friend, Nick Clegg from Idaho.

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    Sorry guys - IMG codes aren't coming over as intended, will continue after I figure out what's going on...


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    By 2:00 that afternoon, the weather relented somewhat and we departed in the Cessna.

    After approximately an hour’s flight in the 206, we landed in the field where Leif and Randy would come to take us the rest of the way in the cubs. The Piper Super Cub is an amazing machine, and a joy to fly in – and the guys at 40 Mile sure know how to fly them, makes for a safe but adventurous start to the hunt.

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    The guys took me in first with our gear load, then went back for Nick and his gear. We had to buzz some caribou off the ridgetop runway, and then we landed and unloaded. Then the planes were off, and I was alone on a mountaintop with a view for miles in every direction – what an awesome feeling! After taking in the scenery and enjoying being back in remote Alaska, I set out to find a good spot for the tents.

    Leif brought Nick and his gear in about an hour later, and we started setting up the tents – albeit with plenty of distractions, as we had numerous visitors curious about our arrival.

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    We found a level spot just below the ridgetop, somewhat sheltered from the wind and with room for our sleep tent and gear/food tent. Here are a few pics of our little slice of heaven. That’s a good frost you see in the first pic, we had a good one every night it wasn’t cloudy.

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    We had a great view of the surrounding area, as the following pics will show. The great thing about ridgetop hunts is, you have a great panoramic view right from the tent. The other side of that is, whatever you shoot, you’re gonna be packing uphill to camp. But that’s part of the deal, and a part I’ll gladly accept to have views like these.

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    After enjoying ribeye steaks for dinner, we glassed a while and hit the hay a little after 10 pm. Our 6:00 wakeup call brought this view out the tent door – the first pic is a little fuzzy, but the second pic shows our pre-breakfast welcoming committee.

    A nice bunch of about 40 cows, calves, and young bulls…so we enjoyed the view while getting dressed, had cereal for breakfast, and then it was time to take a look around and see what was happening. We hiked around the ridgetop, seeing plenty of caribou all around but nothing we wanted to chase immediately. I’m a meat guy and Nick was looking for a wallhanger, so I had offered him the first couple of days to find a bigun, as I was confident I would find a bull I was happy with before the hunt was over.

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    With no trophy-sized bulls in sight nearby, we scouted for a water source and found a nice seep coming out of the mountain about ¼ mile from camp. Although this water might have been good straight from the source, both Nick and I had agreed (due to reading many giardia accounts on the Forum) that we would filter our water, and we filled up our water jug, smaller water bags, and bottles.

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    While we were filtering our water, we enjoyed the company on the ridge above us. I’d have been happy with several of these guys, but Nick was holding out for something special, and his decision would be rewarded later (I’m not gonna steal Nick’s thunder, I’ll let him share his story and pics in a separate thread).

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    After packing all of our water back to camp and eating a sandwich, we set out to find a big bull for Nick. We circled the ridgetop and glassed the surrounding country, seeing some decent bulls and having some young ones approach really close. Caribou are curious animals, and the yearlings may not have come into contact with humans yet, so you can get some really neat pics. J

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    A couple more close-ups of the young ones, as well as a pic of a couple good bulls.

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    After sneaking closer to some decent bulls in the early afternoon, we headed back to camp, where Nick spotted some nice bulls down the ridge that he wanted to check closer. So he eased down the ridge in front of camp and I glassed the other ridgetops and watched the caribou he was evaluating. After a while I couldn’t see Nick, but I could see the caribou he was watching, and about 7:15 pm I hear Nick’s 7mm Magnum and see the biggest bull go down. So I grabbed my knife, pack, some water and candy bars, and headed down to congratulate him.

    After taking pictures of a truly impressive animal, we got to work field dressing, and got back to camp right at dark with the hindquarters and front quarters still on the bone. The next day Nick went back for the last load of meat and the cape and antlers, while I stayed in camp trying to rest – I had eaten something bad for dinner last night, and hadn’t slept a wink. So no hunting for me on day 2, but plenty of time left if the weather cooperated.

    Day 3 dawned bright and clear, with another hard frost. With a good night’s sleep under my belt, I was ready to start scouting for a good meat bull. After breakfast I circled the ridgetop, glassing all the way around – nothing! Caribou are always on the move, and the thought that the 40 Mile herd might have mostly passed us crept into my mind. When I got back to camp, Nick had seen a few cows and young bulls below camp, so we walked down to check them out.

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    The group of 8 cows and young ones was moving from left to right below us, about 500 yards out…when a nice bull popped over the ridge at the end of the bunch! When he went out of sight behind the ridge contour, I moved down the ridge to a point that would bring him into view about 200 yards out – if he followed the same path as the lead caribou had travelled.

    He did follow the same path…but as soon as he came into view, he angled to the left, and all I saw for the next 100 yards or so was his hind end! Finally at about 300 yards out he turned broadside, and I touched off with my .338. It felt like a good shot on the follow through and he acted like he was hit, but he didn’t look anchored yet – so I shot again, and was glad to see him go down! My largest caribou out of 5 total, and first caribou hunt since 2005.

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    After handshakes and pictures, time to get to work…did I mention the part about always packing meat uphill to ridgetop camps?? Only about a .4 mile pack back to camp, but that seemed plenty long by the time I got the last meat load, antlers, and my cameras and extras (in trash bag) up the hill. Accidentally cracked the skull plate when I was sawing the antlers out, but I wasn’t doing a mount anyway – just made them look a lot wider than they really are on my pack.

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    When I went down to get the last load, this fella was about 400 yards off, and ended up running up right by our camp:

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    A pic of our meat cache setup – we packed both caribou up to camp with the quarters on the bone, and did the deboning after allowing the meat to stay on the bone for at least one night. 40 Mile came in and hauled Nick’s caribou to town while I was down getting my rib meat and neck meat, so we never had both caribou under the tarp at once (would have probably needed the second tarp in that case).

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    Since we had filled both of our tags by the end of the 3rd day, we called 40 Mile on the morning of Day 4 to check on an early pickup – as often happens at times like that, the weather had a mind of its own! Here’s a picture of me deboning my caribou on the morning of day 4 – no chance for planes to come in when the ridgetops look like this!

    Sure glad I brought extra game bags, and a couple of washcloths, that I used to keep the meat dry while deboning it. Nick and I spent the day reading and reminiscing on the hunt, as the rain and fog persisted throughout the day, finally slowing down in the evening and giving hope of a pickup the next day.

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    Now for my only regret of this hunt – on the evening of day 4 after the rain stopped, we were policing our camp, burning trash, and getting ready for a possible flyout the next day. While burning trash about 25 yards from the tent, we saw a beautiful grizzly about 100 yards down the ridge – it looked a lot like the first grizzly in Brwnbr’s “Fun Bear Hunt Report” thread, except it had white streaks down both sides of the chest! Both of our cameras were in the tent due to the wet weather, and by the time we got them the bear was gone! We walked around and tried to locate the bear, but it had left the premises – would have made an awesome picture. But, we did feel like the bear fence had been a worthy investment at that point.

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    The morning of day 5 was foggy, but we could see blue sky above the fog, so a pickup was a definite possibility. We carried all of our gear to the landing strip, only leaving the sleep tent up in case the weather changed. We had some extra food in the pantry, so lunch and early dinner both consisted of a couple of fried egg sandwiches and several bacon strips…yummy!

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