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Question for all the "Ethical" hunters on here - What would you have done?

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  • Question for all the "Ethical" hunters on here - What would you have done?

    Alright, I had something happen while on my last caribou trip which frustrated me. After it was over my partner and I contemplated what the correct thing to do actually would have been. Read the story and let me know what YOU would have done if in this situation.

    Location: Haul Rd near Franklin bluffs

    Sunday evening: Pull off the road to glass after having stalked a fox (unsuccessfully) and spot a single bull grazing about 1 to 1 1/2 miles from the road. Watch for about 30 minutes then see 2 hunters walking the pipeline right-of-way about 1/2 mile from road. Figure they've seen him and it's too late in the day to go after him. Return to camp, clean Ptarmigan and discuss plans for next day.

    Monday AM: Head out at day-break looking for Bou. Stop and check the same spot after about an hour and see a single bull walking in the same area, but no hunters to be found....

    Decide to go after him, or at least get a closer look since we weren't seeing many bulls. Hike (wade) out to the pipeling road to sit in some trees and glass. Notice a herd of Muskox coming my way about 100yds down the trail....plans change, crawl about 50 yds out into a small creekbed while the Muskox pass by. 30 minutes later (they stopped there to graze) back to scoping out the Bou. Follow several low areas/weed patches out about 1/2 way to would-be Bou, glass again. Notice another bull bedded down near the one I had seen, much much larger. The smaller one continued to roam around the area and graze. Slowly begin to crawl closer and closer while the small one is grazing away from me. At about 400 yds I run out of cover, so I have to wait for him to bed down which took about 45 minutes. Also notice I've run out of solid ground and am in a very soggy area. I took about 2 hours crawling on all fours to get the next 250 yds unoticed, having to pause while both bulls get up graze and bed down again several times. I notice a small red patch on the bottom of the larger one, just behind his front leg.

    This is where it starts to get tricky. I spend several minutes looking him over and watching him walk around. No noticeable damage other than a slight limp, so I figure a bull this size....someone took a long shot and nicked him. No blood dripping or spread on him, if he was hit it had healed/coagulated. I continue, belly-crawling from this point on in through weeds/water. I'm coming in from an angle upwind (not best, but only option I had), so both bulls bedded down looking away. At just over 100yds out, I see a hunters head pop up from out of the river bank about 300 yds the opposite side of the Bou. I stop and watch him to try to figure out if he had just seen them or had been on them before me. He makes no moves and doesn't signal for about 15 I continue in. I move about 5-10 yds at a time, stopping at every head turn or move of both Bou. I range him at 42 yds and I consider myself good to 60. He's still laying down, and I have a good broadside view of his body. I contemplate raising up to shoot or crawling closer.....he begins to move so I get ready to draw so I can shoot when he stands. Just as I raise up to draw.....another hunter pops up from behind a small knoll and begins to signal me off of him!

    My stomach knots up as I realize someone else is also on him, then I realize the guy is signalling he had hit him. I back off about 30-40 yds and he's still signalling, so I try to signal back asking if they're after both or just the one that had been hit. Signalling didn't work. About that time the smaller one got up, so I layed still not wanting to spook them. He walked straight towards me, grazed for a minute and then bedded down about 75yds out. I notice a third hunter farther back also in the river bed. Go for him or not? I decided the best thing is to just head back to the truck as to not mess up him retrieving his wounded Bou. I crawl back a little further, then get up and walk straight away from them. Both Bou notice me and stand up when I'm about 250 out, so I keep walking straight away and they bed back down.

    When I get back to the truck, very frustrated, my partner tells me 2 guys had stopped by around noon and let him know they had a "mortally wounded" animal they were waiting on it from the night before. He let them know I was out there and told them to waive me off of it, which they didn't do for over an hour after they got out there. He also told me they were all shooting longbows and needed to get within 30yds to get a finishing shot.

    That evening we return and talked to the actual guy who had shot it, he said it was hit right behind the liver and he would wait it out and get it. He stated that gutshot's have a 100% recovery wait if you wait long enough. I figured I had done the right thing by backing off.

    Tuesday: We talk to the guy again, checking to see if he had finally got it. He had put a stalk on it, they both spooked and mananged to run about a mile, swim the Sag and get away. At this point, my frustration was even greater! One of the largest (very heavy antlers, tall with palmed tops and long tines, palmed bezs, just beautiful although a bit on the narrow side) Bou I had ever seen had gotten away and would likely end up dying unclaimed.

    Ethical Questions:
    Should I have finished it off when I was @ 42 yds?

    Would I have been wrong to shoot the smaller (still very nice) bull? Possibly spooking the larger one?

    What constitutes "mortally wounded"?

    This is no slight to the longbow hunters or the other hunters involved in this situation, but it seems to me that if you (any hunter) had someone with the means and in the position to finish the kill, that you should have identified you were there and allowed the shot. Hairs could be split over whose shot mortally wounded it later, but someone would have bagged a likely record book bull.

    I know this has been a long post, but this was one of the best stalks I've ever put on. Nearly 6 hours, crawling through soggy tundra, only to end with great frustration and not knowing what the correct thing to do was..... This was definitely the hardest shot I've ever had to not take.

    Give me your thoughts on what you think you think would have been the right thing to do in this case or what you would have done.


  • #2
    Thats a Tough one

    as I have been on the other end of the situation from where you were. I have spent a half a day stalking a bedded bull that feeds a little and lays back down. layed in soaking wet clothes for hours awaiting my shot and only to have someone see the bull and put a stalk of their own on it and blow it for me. the Haul road bou with a bow can be quite frustrating at times but its all part of the game. just be thankful that you werent the one with the wounded bull that got away, been there too and its the most sickening feeling. That happened to me with the biggest bull I ever shot up there. The good news is that theres tons of Griz and wolves up there lingering in the same areas as the Bou so the meat dont go to waste! But it sure would be nice for you to have taken him and have the rack in your front yard and the meat at the processors instead of being partially buried in the tundra to be eaten in a few days!


    • #3
      I've been on both sides of that fence, personally if I was the shooter then I want that animal to taken, if possible by me, but if it looks like he's spooky and I might lose him, then I'm signaling the OK sign for someone else to shoot if they get a shot. I had a guy stop me in the road and ask if I was hunting because there was a bull in the tundra, I stalked it for 30 minutes and it crossed the road 60 yards out from me, I did not shoot, once its past me I notice a arrow in the rump, his buddy had wounded it, had I known I would have shot at 60 yards, instead it walked out of sight of the road and most likely was not found.
      Alaska Wildrose Charters and Cabins


      • #4
        You had done the Ethical...

        & let the dude who shot the bull worry 'bout wounding & not getting an animal, I wouldn't & don't need that on my mind. Granted, this seems to happen a lot in the L48 with deer, someone will wound a deer & it will be shot by another mortally, & the one who had the killing shot should claim the deer.

        As beautiful as the animal sounds, it didn't go to "waste" if it died on the tundra, rest assured. (meaning something fed off it & it's nutrients go back into the eco-system)


        • #5
          wounded bou

          I would of put the wounded one down, The other hunter had his chance to take the bou but wounded it instead so I feel it is still fair game and the next hunter who has a chance to take it and put it out of it's misery should do so. There's something very wrong about wounding an animal and then letting it linger for days, we should provide the quickest death as possible.
          I once held the yardstick of anothers perfection, I threw it down and carved my own................


          • #6
            I doubt it was a liver hit if it survived 2 days and ran a mile and swam the river. I think you did the right thing.


            • #7
              You made your decision then, and why second guess it now. Part of the decision process should incorporate accepting any and all consequences of your decision at the time. You can't forsee the future so that becomes irrelevant.
              Here's one for you. A number of years ago, my brother and I went caribu hunting off the Denali highway. We had two tier ll permits, at that time, bulls.
              We were back probably 30 miles with the intention of going back out that evening. Rain was threatening and the creeks would rise so we didn't really care to get stuck on the wrong side for who knows how long.
              We left the trail and went up a slope and parked the wheelers, we hadn't seen a sole for several miles. We then proceeded on foot through shoulder high brush for a qtr mile or so. Breaking out of that, and having a nice swail in front of us, we decided to sit and's a natural caribou funnel.
              After sitting for maybe a half hour, what sounded like a cannon went off about 50 feet to our left, scared the hell out of both of us. Seconds later we were engolfed in a cloud of blue smoke, adding to the "what the hell". Excited talk from a couple guys ensued and we realized that they were hunters shooting a black powder gun. They took off, unaware of us as we were of them, but from the sounds of it, they were shooting back the way we had come in.
              We decided to move further, but as we stood up, a line of caribou came up over the ridge to our left and trudged along at about 250 yards. The lead was a beautiful bull in full velvet, I decided to take him, and did. No sooner had I put him down, but this young bull, 2 yrs at best comes limping around the hill from behind us. He had been hit square in the hind leg, at the knee. What to DO?
              My brother had his unfilled permit yet, should we put the wounded bull down and punch it? He really didn't want a small bull, and where had the musket guys gone, we assumed it was what they had shot at. We discussed all the what if's, and boiled it down to if we didn't take it, it would die. If we took it and punched the tag and later those other guys showed up to claim it, we would have another issue. We decided to put it down and accept what ever consequences came.
              My brother went to catch up to it and put it down while I went back to get the four wheeler and gear. On the way back I ran across two GI's that had shot it and they were about the most dejected looking couple of guys you would ever run into. They had looked all over for that bou, and felt terrible that they had not found it. I told em we had and my brother was going to put it down and they were welcome to it. You never saw a happier pair! They took off over the hill to catch up with my brother who by that time had caught up to the wounded animal and put it down. He turned it over to them and all worked out fine.

              So in the end, you make your choice and hopefully it all works out. Hold your head high, you made the right one, as we did but with two unkown outcomes.



              • #8
                Thanks for posting that story, Kurt. I think you illustrate a good point, which is that we can only do the best we can with the limited information we have on hand at any given time. As for the original story, it's really easy to second guess it in retrospect. Knowing what BigO knows now, I would certainly suggest taking the shot. He didn't, however, have that information at the time. As sad as it is to see a wounded animal get away, I think he made the right call given the limited information he had. Part of our responsibility when hunting areas like the Haul Road is to defer to others whenever in doubt. Last year I gave up on multiple stalks when I saw other hunters in the area. Often I was on them first - in some cases having stalked the animals for hours after hiking miles off the road to close in behind them - but who was "first" wasn't as important to me as giving the benefit of the doubt to other hunters.

                As for Kurt's story, I appreciate that his brother was williing to take the wounded animal. As nice as a large rack is, I think it's more of an imperative for us to utilize the resource responsibly, which is what they were trying to do. Nice to hear that they were rewarded for taking the right steps.

                Great discussion, BigO. Thanks for posting this thread.



                • #9
                  Bm, thanks, seems there are no right answers sometimes, just the best we can under the circumstance.

                  This brings up another issue; Say you are in a bull area, but come across a badly wounded cow hit and lost by a cow permit holder? With no hunters in sight that may be the ones that wounded the animal...what action if any should one take?



                  • #10
                    Several years ago I was winter hunting caribou about 60 miles East of Bethel. We came upon a small herd of caribou and we made a plan of attack. There was one bull in the herd that was limping so I took it. We followed the herd over a mile or so as we took 3 others from them. We started gutting and butchering them as we worked our way back towrd the first one I had taken. When we got back to where this one was all we found was a gut pile and the head. All I can figure is that the person who first wounded this bull must have come acrossed it laying on the side of the hill where I had left it and thought that it had finally died from their shot. Well I had already punched my tag so I was out one caribou. The good thing though is that that bull didn't have to die a lingering death.


                    • #11
                      Bummer! Just out of curiosity, what would you have done if Fish and Game had come by and asked where your meat was?



                      • #12
                        My hats off to you!!!

                        You made the right descision in my book. You did the sportmanlike thing and let the man who started his hunt finish it. It makes it difficult when it is a "large" animal. Makes it more difficult when you know it got away from the original hunter. If he had finished what he started and was able to harvest the bou, you would probably feel like you made the right choice. I for one think you did the gentlemanly thing and stepped back. My hat is off to you.



                        • #13
                          You likely made the best all around decision by not complicating matters in the field. You experienced what many bow hunters are coming to know as the Dalton Hwy Corridor "Fog of War." Things happen along that stretch each season that defy traditional ethics and common sense hunting, but it sounds as if you managed to avoid contaminating your own ethics by offering good judgment.


                          • #14
                            Being that the caribou was wounded I would have probably finished him off then I would have told the original shooter to go get his caribou. If he didn't want it then I would have tagged it for myself. Thats doesn't mean you made the wrong decision, thats just what I "probably" would have done. I dislike seeing animals suffering in the field from someone else's mistake. If you feel you did the right thing then thats all that matters and anyone else's opinion doesn't mean jack. At least you got to practice your stalking skills and it seems like you got that down pretty well.


                            • #15
                              Personally, I don't like to see anything suffer. If it would have been limping, even though that guy waved me off, I would have tried to put it out of it's misery.

                              Now, on the other hand, if that animal was walking around feeding, then spooked, ran, and swam a river, I'd say it's not hurting too aweful bad. I'm guessing it wasn't a "liver" shot or even a "gut" shot.

                              Basically, those guys led you to believe that they wounded the animal and they should get to stalk it. Yes, they may have wounded it, but they knew darn well that they didn't hit it good and used that to get a second shot at a bull that should have been yours. They probably slept in and wasn't quick enough to get on it early in the morning. Man, I think they juked you.



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