I’m not sure where to begin. But wow! Today was the day for Steve and I. It all started after breakfast when we found out that the lake was still too rough for boat travel. That meant all of us would be heading behind camp and spreading out as best we could. Since we had already established that a long hike was unnecessary, Steve and I decided to hunt behind camp with everyone else. But rather than line up on top of each other and potentially mess someone up, we decided to take the farthest end of the funnel and the last place in line. That would give us a crack at any caribou that made it past the other hunters and it was important to me not to affect someone elses' hunt. It’s huge country, so it could still work. We hoped for the best.
Steve and I found a nice trail down the side of a hill. We glassed there for a half hour but I was not 100% confident that this was 'good enough.' I’d never hunted this area before, neither on this trip, nor last year, so I wanted to scout the area a bit before settling on the first trail we came across.
I left my bow and pack with Steve and dropped down into the bog below. I picked my way across the higher ground until I came to a finger of trees between two bogs. The hard ground funnelled down to a single trail which blew me away. Still, I wanted to see what was ahead of it so I hiked another ½ mile through another bog and over a far hill. I found lots of other tempting trails but nothing like that first one. On my way back, I saw a herd of caribou moving from right to left. I ducked low and moved quickly to get a vantage point. I didn't have my bow, I just wanted to see the trail they were using. They passed on that same trail I liked earlier. That confirmed my suspicions. Steve and I moved our gear there. Within 30 minutes we were settled in for a long wait.
The weather was miserable. A cold, hard, sleet pounded us all morning. The wind whipped the wintery mix horizontally at times and it was impossible to stay warm. We saw one herd of cows and one unimpressive but solitary bull. At 11:30 I told Steve that perhaps we should call it a day, we had not seen many bou and being that we were at the end of a long line of bowhunters I was losing confidence. Our hope was that the other guys were stacking them up like yesterday and maybe that was affecting the downstream flow of caribou toward us. I also needed to do some chores back at camp with my HD video gear and this weather was not particularly suitable for my new pricey camera. As with any hunt, part of me always wants to stay. I know as well as anyone that you can’t kill caribou sitting in camp. In all honesty, I don't think either of us were going to quit, but we did discuss it. We agreed to stay one more hour. That may have been the best decision we ’ve ever made.
Thirty minutes later we glassed a herd of caribou crossing the ridge above us. They appeared to be running, no doubt spooked by the other guys and were now running through the bog. As they got closer, one of the bulls caught my eye. He was a nice bull, wide, heavy, nice bez and one shovel. His points looked good and that cinched the deal for me. If he came by our funnel, I would shoot him. Well, he did. He was the lead bull by the time he hit our blind and I double lunged him with my Bowtech Allegiance at 16 yards. The bull went down in sight - just 40 yards away! We were excited! He was a good bull and Steve got it all on video.
Watch Pat shoot this great bull on video (4mb)
The next hour was spent on chores. We caped and quartered the bull to relieve some of the pressure on the Tuttulik guides who had been running themselves ragged after yesterday. It’s a service they perform for you, but we were good at it and neither of us minded. We no sooner had we finished up our chores when Steve spotted another herd of bulls cresting the mountain. He saw a nice bull that he was interested in and headed up the hill after him. I would have put the odds of him getting a shot at 1 in 50, but my goodness, he pulled it off as I video taped the heard walking right past where he had moved to head them off. The largest bull lurched forward and the next thing I could see through my video camera was Steve’s classic victory walk. That was an awesome stalk and another fabulous shot. The bull barely went 100 yards before piling up.
Watch Steve Shoot this nice bull on video (5mb)
We were both flying high. Two super bulls within 90 minutes of each other. I filmed him talking about his bull and we both decided to call it a day. My pack and my bow were still back at my caribou so I left my camera behind at Steve’s bull and we both hiked back to get my caribou and the rest of my gear. As I packed up my stuff, Steve saw yet another group heading through the gauntlet. Since my video camera was 300 yards away, I told him that I would not shoot any of them. Steve responded, “Pat, you might want to reconsider that” His tone was interesting. I grabbed my binoculars and nearly had a heart attack. I’ve been on many caribou hunts, and I’ve seen some real breathtaking bulls, but nothing like this. In all honesty, the video camera did give me a pause. But only for about 3 seconds. Now, it was a race to put my release on before the bulls were in our lap. Steve grabbed my still camera.
This photo was taken from Brian Hallstead's video footage. Brian was tagged out when this monstrosity walked by him at 3 yards. Brian captured the event on video shortly before they made the fateful decision to head down into our funnel at the end of the gauntlet.
Steve was counting down, urging me to hurry. “Pat, you’ve got 15 seconds, now 10.” With only a second to spare I got the release hooked up and whipped an arrow on my rest. Damn! I realized it was the arrow I hat shot my first bull with. I whipped it off the rest and grabbed my 2nd position arrow. I could see them approaching. Time was running out. I could hear the mud sucking with each step. The shot was going to be another close one. There were two big bulls in this bunch, both were shooters, but that last one was 1 in 10,000. The first bou was a small bull. He stopped to look at me and I froze. But the bulls pushed him ahead and kept walking. The big bull was moving behind the one in front of him. "Crap!" I thought, as I realized he was being blocked by another bull. But as the trail narrowed he backed off and was now in the last position. The stars had aligned. I had to keep from looking at that obscenely enormous rack, and for the first time (in a long time) I was shaking. But not so bad for me to mess up an 18 yard shot - dead center through his heart! The new Muzzy MX-4 flew perfectly through the bull. He lunged forward and went down in seconds. Just 50 yards away and only 10 yards away from my last bull, this great beast layed down. It was surreal.
We nearly died from heart failure. I wanted to shoot a big PY bull, and I did that two hours earlier. I never dreamed I’d have a Boone and Crockett bull on the same day. But as we walked up to him and picked up his rack. I realized that I was looking at something far more incredible than just a big bull. This bull was supernatural. He had rack jutting out all over him. His mass is incredible and his points have points. Steve just stood there shaking his head. We were both in awe of this bull. It was too much to take. My only regret was that my camera was back in the bog with Steve’s bull but it’s a small regret.
We later learned that this bull had been very close to several hunters. Brian Nett who is was hunting with Brian Hallstead, walked away to stretch his legs as this bull walked 3 yards from their rock. Brian Hallstead was tagged out. The real hero in this story is Kevin
from Wisconsin, who many of you may have seen here on Bowsite.com. Kevin had a 45-yard, shot at this magnificent, once in a lifetime caribou a mile earlier. He was not comfortable with that distance and did not shoot. Lots of bowhunters would have tried that shot when such a bull walked by. But Kevin didn’t and he earned my respect for that. Steve and I were at the very end of the gauntlet. Had we stayed five more minutes filming Steve’s bull we would have watched this creature walk by my bow a few hundred yards away. A chain reaction of events that led to me shooting this bull is almost too difficult to comprehend.
The bull is beyond belief. I’ve rarely seen anything like it - even in photos. He’s very unique. His horns do not follow the typical forward sweeping pattern. All I know is he died a quick death with a perfectly placed arrow under fair chase conditions - a fitting end to such a spectacular animal. In fact, Steve and I shot exactly four arrows, and killed four bulls all within 100 yards. Not a single shot was over 18 yards. We are officially tagged out and now I’m returning the favor for Kevin. I’m taking him to our funnel tomorrow and will hopefully help him fill his second tag. He deserves it.
This day I’ll never forget.