Arctic Alaska Part 2

Arctic Cold

The nights were getting cold. Sub-freezing temperatures holding until late morning when the sun would finally creep up above the mountains and thaw some of the frost. It was a chore getting up with 20F putting on waders and wading boots that are frozen solid. Boiling water and pouring over the boots usually did the trick.

Full moon over the river setting behind the mountain.

If the sun was out all day, late afternoon felt pretty nice until the sun dipped behind the mountain and it would instantly drop about 20F. Heavy frost or a light dusting of snow was expected most mornings now.

Camping in Alaska

Glassing The Tundra

Our next group of hunters arrived and we now had four new tags to fill. I did not expect that it would all happen in two days, let alone three in one. The morning of September 16 we were up on our hill glassing the valleys and mountain sides when we spotted two decent bulls coming down the mountain behind our camp.

Once the two bulls crossed the river and appeared to be making their way through the brush in the valley down below, we came up with a plan. The guide took two of the hunters down to intercept while I stayed up on the hill with the other two hunters to keep glassing on the bulls and provide hand signals to where they needed to be.

After a short time we could no longer find the bulls and had lost them somewhere in the brush. The hunters down below had ventured a half mile or more south and had stopped at a confluence where two drainages merged, glassing back to us watching for hand signals. We didn’t know where the bulls were so at this point no signals were given besides a shrug. Now we were just waiting for the bulls to emerge from cover.

As we sat idle and watched from the hill, several more small herds of caribou were moving through in the distance and one herd was making their way toward the guys down below. Unknowing, the guys started hiking up the other drainage toward this new group of caribou. All we could do was watch.

A Distant Shot

As they neared, it was apparent they spotted the herd when they all dropped down to the ground. A decent bull was in the mix and after we heard the gunshot, we watched it drop. The hunter made a clean 125 yard shot from the other side of the drainage.

While all of this was happening, we finally glassed the original two bulls again. They had bedded down in the brush which made it difficult to see them. We grabbed our packs and started hiking South to meet the other guys. Once we met up again, a new plan emerged.

I stayed with the successful hunter and worked on caping and quartering out the caribou. The guide took the other three hunters back North to keep an eye on the two bulls bedded down. He was going to give hand signals if he needed me.

About Those Hand Signals

Just as I was finishing up, there was a confusion of hand signals and miming back and forth through the binoculars until I finally understood the signal to run quickly over to where the other hunters were. On my way jogging and hopping across the tundra I could see the two bulls emerging from the brush. Staying crouched, I quickly caught up with the guide and the two hunters that were planning to shoot.

The bulls were moving and quartering away so we needed to move quickly to get close enough for a shot once they cleared the brush. At 250 yards, the two bulls were coming out into the open. I helped one of the hunters, Chris, locate the first bull as it was stepping out into the river – the guide spotted for the other hunter, Mike.

Three Caribou Down

The bulls were getting nervous and it was now or never. Chris made the shot and the caribou just stood there. Then it stumbled and splashed into the water. Mike was quick to make a shot on the second bull before it disappeared back into the brush.

Chris with his bull caribou after we pulled it out of the water.

It was getting late in the day so once we quartered out the caribou, we packed what we could back to camp and left the rest to cool overnight. The next day Mike hiked back with me to help pack out the rest of the meat while the other guys headed back to the glassing hill.

Day 2

As we were preparing our last trip back to camp, we glassed a group of caribou further South and we could see the guys moving into position. Again, we were able to watch it all unfold through our binoculars as the last hunter shot his caribou. It was a successful hunt for all four hunters and they were all done in just two days.

Leave a Reply