Tim Metcalf (aka Bigpizzaman) and I left to hunt Mountain Caribou with Dave Dutchik and Dallas Gertner of Redstone Trophy hunts in early to mid September. We flew to Norman Wells and caught a shuttle flight into base camp on September 9th or 10th.
You can see from the photo (below) that Wright Air uses more than enough airplane. Upon arriving at base camp, we unloaded the airplane and as we were carrying everything off of the dock and up the hill to the base camp's cabins, Tim slipped and fell. He probably stuck his arm out to break his fall, and while he probably didn't know it at the time, he actually severely injured his shoulder (he had surgery a few days after he returned home).
Upon our return from hunting the minerals licks on the first day of the hunt, I found two completely different sets of fresh grizzly tracks.....how do I know that they were fresh? They were in my mornings bootprints....and that'll make you walk a little faster and pay a little more attention to your surroundings when you are heading back to camp every evening!! I carried a camp persuader (aka 12 ga. shotgun) slung over my shoulder a couple days later in the hunt.
Most mornings I would walk ahead of the horses (I have a long stride), and when the mineral lick was not too far ahead, I found the horses had a tougher time keeping up with me....LOL. It's funny what the excitement of the brisk morning air and thrill of anticipation can do to your pace and your stride!!
However, after setting it up near the mineral licks, it wasn't fooling the caribou, so we really only used it to get out of the rain on the one day that it really poured with high wind. We built three ground blinds near key choke points, and we let the wind and caribou activity dictate which ones we used.
The vast majority of the time, we resorted to the ground blinds that we built out of dead pine trees and pine boughs. They worked extremely well....especially when placed near the most used travel corridors.
I had re-occuring problems with my camera batteries failing, so many of the attached caribou photos are compliments of Bigpizzaman.....who I might add is great guy to share a camp with....and it really kills me to admit that....LOL!!
If you look at the extreme left edge of the photo, the top edge of the boulder field has a little yellowish patch of grass. I built my ground blind just to the left of that yellowish grass (literally right on the edge of the photo), in those darker pine trees. Tim built a blind almost directly across from me....probably about 150 - 200 yards away. His blind was right on the corner of the mineral lick, and it got quite a bit of attention over the 5 days that we were there. He would have been just off of the left side of this photo, on the lower edge of the grayish boulders.
I immediately grabbed my bow, nocked an arrow, and clipped my release onto my D loop. I slowly rotated my body so that the bull would be broadside to slightly quartering away when he reached his closest point of approach. As soon as I saw the double shovels, I knew that I would take the shot if I was given the opportunity.
I had a slight breeze in my face....coming right from the bull.....perfect. The bull stopped to drink from a seep that was right behind a small pine tree. I estimated him to be well inside of 40 yards. Once he finished his drink, he followed a smaller bull trotting past my position....and when he was directly at my nine o'clock, I put my pin on his shoulder and released my arrow. The arrow hit him about 5 inches behind his shoulder and slightly lower than the very middle of his body.
I have taken many caribou over the years, and once they were hit by an arrow, they would sprint a short distance, and then just stand around until they got wobbly kneed and collapsed. Not this guy....when that arrow hit him, he shifted into overdrive. I put a pretty good hit on the bull (the arrow probably could have been another 3-4 inches further forward), but it was a lethal hit nonetheless.
He ran about 250 yards and got just off of the boulder field, and collapsed in the yellowish grass. I thought that was it.....and I just sat there and watched his head drop. He actually got up one more time and walked towards Tim's blind a little bit more....he was 300 yards west of Tim's blind. When he bedded this time, it was for keeps.
I intended to wait until later in the day to clean the bull, as I would have to cross the boulder field to get to him, and I didn't want to spook the caribou and disrupt Tim's hunting. However, the guide (who had been sitting up on the hill all morning watching us hunt) saw the bull drop. He brought the horses down and led them over to some brush near the bulls position.
About that time, we had a slight break in the caribou action, so I gathered my gear and quickly made my way over to the bull.......
It was when Tim arrived at the bull that I learned that he had been reading a book when the bull came into his view. He had been waving his book back and forth trying to get my attention, not knowing if I was aware that the bull was closing on my position. I never thought to look across the mineral lick!!
Since we had a lull in the action, Tim chose this opportunity to head over to the blind where I had been hunting. The guide and I took several photos, then we caped the bull and processed all of the meat for the trip back to base camp. Tim actually had some action that evening when a dandy of a bull wandered over in his direction, but he just couldn't quite close the distance enough to seal the deal. It was a DANDY of a bull, too.
Chris Green (aka Busta' Ribs) was exactly right in the thread that he started yesterday....these caribou are BIG.....I would say that they are closer in size to an elk, than the caribou that I have taken in the past. I would like to know if Chris shares that observation with me.....
Chase Fulcher and Dr. Warren Strickland both tagged nice bulls on this hunt, Chase's son hit a great bull that was eventually recovered, but not until after we left camp. When I spoke with Chase at GSCO last week, he told me that they had gotten the antlers and the pictures that he showed me suggest that the recovered animal was probably a 370" bull....give or take a few inches. Everyone in camp was great, and it sure does add to the experience when the camp atmosphere "clicks".
Even though I tagged out on the second day, I walked out to the mineral licks everyday with Tim (it was after I tagged-out that I carried a shotgun with me for the walks back to camp). Tim was never able to get an arrow in a bull that he wanted, and like I said, he is quite a trooper. I believe that he had shoulder surgery about 3-4 days after he returned home. I wouldn't want to be a Mountain Caribou bull the NEXT time that he sets foot up there.
I have hunted at Redstone on two occasions for Mountain Caribou and I saw one really monstrous bull. It sure seems like the Mountain Caribou have the healthiest numbers at this point in time. Jim Fink has good Barren Ground caribou (when the Porcupine River herd decide to migrate from Alaska down into the Yukon wintering grounds), and he has Mountain Caribou on his concession as well.
While I have never had the opportunity to hunt with Gana River or Arctic Red River, I continue to hear good things about them. Stan Stevens has people talking about some of his Mountain Caribou as well.....so Chris' observations about Mountain Caribou sure seem to add up from what I have seen and heard.
A 2X1 caribou hunt with Redstone was $5,500.00 last year (2010). Including airfare, charter fees, licenses, shipping of horns, etc.; I had about $8,500.00 to $9.000.00 in my hunt. I hope that this helps anybody considering such a hunt.
these post-season updates are a great way to filloff season lulls on the Bowsite.
Day one we saddle up, Jake takes off walking, we catch him about a mile out of camp. Jakes wearing a leafy suit and our guides horse is a bit freaked out by it. As we approach Jake, Volmer (the Guide) tells Jake to walk up slowly and put his hand out so his horse will smell him and settle down. As Jake reaches out to the horse, he comes unglued, I mean National Rodeo Finals action! This horse explodes up an starts bucking and kicking for the sky, the guide is pulling all he can on the raines, then they break. Horse takes off straight for a tree throwing the guide smack into it! Danm that had to HURT! He comes up cussing, heck he cussed the horse, the "cheap" tack, the boss, me for laughing, you name it! I told Jake as long as I was on a horse to stay the heck away!!! We had Rodeo action most every day, but I gotta go work now!
I've had horses try to "sweep" me off of the saddle by running under a low limb....and that is a great way to damage or destroy a bow....hence my decision to walk everywhere that the horses walk.
I must admit that I am surprised at the P&Y minimum for the Mountain Caribou. The minimum is 300 inches, unlike the 325 inches that are required for Quebec Labrador and Barren Ground Caribou. Yet the animal, and their headgear seem every bit as big (or bigger) than their "cousins".....just struck me as unusual....nothing more.
I wondered if you (or anyone else for that matter) had any idea or explanation for the slightly lower qualifying score.
Your Mountain Caribou is an absolute beauty. The double shovel is always rare!
Great bull and great report Jake, thanks for sharing.
My guide estimated my bull right at 600 pounds as well. Was your hunt in the middle of September?
Congratulations and thanks for sharing. Great story, with pictures, and recollection of the hunt!