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Author Topic: Arctic Adventures - by Dan Williams  (Read 355 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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Arctic Adventures - by Dan Williams
« on: April 17, 2003, 06:04:00 AM »
Arctic Adventures

by Dan Williams
     The storms intensity grew making the sweat strewn cloths even colder. This is supposed to be fun I kept reminding myself with a big ole grin on my face. My partners Allen and Loel returned the smile as the caribou kept on coming, moving in the such tireless effort a man can hardly run to keep up with.


     The arctic isn't new to me…anymore that is! Growing up chasing whitetails and grouse in central Minnesota only prepared me for what was to come, the greatest hunting lands of them all, the Last Frontier! Hunting the barren swept tundra came difficult and closing the final gap seemed hopeless at first, albeit fun. My first caribou trip to the 'slope' took place six years ago and I yearn for the chance to back on a yearly basis, this year was no exception.


     My partner Loel, from Anchorage Alaska, flew up the evening before and with a good bit of rest we headed on the eight hour road trip through land that hasn't been touched since the gold mining era of the early 1900's. This was Loels first trip to the 'slope' but not his first caribou hunt. We met up with Allen and his two partners Tim and Mark, at the pull off we called home. The first stalk had Loel almost in shooting range, with caribou streaming between us in an ever so open country; we could only grin with excitement and anticipation of things to come. The third day found Allen, Loel, and I finally hunting together with what seemed like an endless supply of caribou coming from no where. Barely was there time in-between to get repositioned for passing herds were moving quickly into the mountains heading for places a little less drastic then out in the wind swept arctic tundra. The first group of the morning found Loel within thirty nine steps as the big bull passed by never hesitating behind his herd of cows and young bulls. They did manage to stop and display for us a mere 60 yards away as the big bull chased cows around in circles, we could only smile, the hunt was made right then and there. The second group found us changing positions when the herd came over the crest in front of us. Busted again, a mere 40 yards away. The set up was perfect in all but one aspect, the "quarter mile boogie" as we ended up nicknaming it by the end of the day. The knob was too close to the set up where the herds kept coming through so we moved over a quarter mile to higher ground to wait in anticipation as the small herds of twenty or so caribou started working there way to our ridgeline. One would signal the other two and then beat feet through thigh deep snow, across a partially frozen creek which, between the three of us, we managed to poke three holes in, two of them by yours truly.


     The third group came but this time with a plan. Alan was to go to the front, a nice big rock about 3 feet in diameter was to be his cover. Loel was hiding on an adjacent hillside the previous two herds used as they filed by our set up locations. I was to play back up, in other words, run like crazy hoping they didn't spook the group to bad and would stop just above my little crest unknowingly of my presence. It worked to perfection as the first bull filed by Allen. As he drew turning from left to right, then back to his left not quite sure what the caribou were to do, I was making mad dashes hoping to cover the escape routes. The bull stepped clear as Allen shot. Loel and I made a dash across the creek as the herd turned and went straight away from us behind a hill, hoping for one more crack at the remaining animals who were working away from us by now, Allen's bull was down along the side of the hill where the herd came from.  We stood there smiling as the whitetail hunter (Allen) of the south crested the hill. Little did Allen know of our previous day's adventure. The bull was down for keeps along the creek bed and with a long and soon dark hike approaching, we headed back to camp. The truck was a welcome site and as we gathered our things, the time came to inform Allen of the bear sighting. No it wasn't a brown bear from the famed Kodiak Island, or an interior black bear content on filling its belly with the many blue berries frozen to there stalks, no this bear was a little more out of place. The day before was spent taking photos of a polar bear 145 miles from the nearest pocket of ocean. No one knew what the bear was doing there, but we all knew what it meant, life was going to get serious if we weren't to the rigs by dark. The drive back to camp was a typical drive,  white out sections of road where the road itself was moving in the blowing snow. No bear sightings however eased our minds. My four season tent was a welcome of joy for the wet cloths were hardly keeping us warm as we boiled water for our dinner. Allen's crew was staying in an arctic ten man tent, Government Issue style of course, with a yukon stove to boot.


     The night proved restless as the mercury kept falling. It was well below zero and windy as usual as we ate breakfast at our main camp. The trek out to the bull was sightless of bears, as we found the polar bear had moved close to twenty miles the past day, missing Allen's bull as a midnight snack by less then one hundred yards. By now it was a party of four. Tim, one of Allen's partners came with us to help with the field care and take part in the long hike back out with a magnificent bull. Loel and I had the easy job of carrying bows, the hide, head and cape, while Tim and Allen pulled all the meat on a Kmart special sled. As we butchered, the storm worsened, making the job of caping, quartering, and especially gutting a thankless task in its own right. We were all shivering with cold, eager to get on the move back to the rigs, and then back to camp. As we made the last big hill we all stopped to take a breather and glass the valley below. Another group of caribou was working there way up the valley and as well all looked at Allen, his smile said it all!

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