It was quite windy and cool as we wrapped up breakfast and headed to zone 5 for the day. I liked the looks of this zone, lots of small hills, rocks and cover around and between the many lakes and ponds surrounding us. We made our way across an esker for about ½ mile before coming to rest on a hill overlooking two big sections of tundra. We spotted bulls immediately but they were a little too far off. We then headed for some further hills where we stopped and glassed.
There were several bulls bedded, ¾ mile away. The situation was poor for me, there were too many eyes and ears and they were bedded in the open with very little cover for me.
One of the bulls got up and started to feed toward us, still ½ mile away. Paul asked if I wanted to stalk it, but again – it was not a doable stalk for a bowhunter. My first reaction was to defer it to Bill, but then I retracted that and told Bill and Paul that we could all get closer and see how the situation unfolded, if he got into a better position for me, I’d take him, otherwise – Bill could make a decision.
We moved quickly behind several small hills, which blocked our route from the feeding bull. Several hundred yards later we came to a rest on a big hill and peeked over. The bull was feeding in the open, 270 yards away. I told Paul that there was no chance for me, and that if Bill wanted him – he should take him. Bill asked Paul what he thought of the bull and when Paul told him he was a good one, Bill rested his rifle.
The Bull dropped in his tracks. Bill was officially tagged out with 2 animals. We spent the next couple hours working on the cape, horns and meat. We then packed everything back to the boat and moved West to see if we could find those caribou we had seen earlier in the day.
Before long we spotted the bulls, which had fed toward us and were now bedding in an open pasture. Two of the bulls were shooters, the rest were dinks and cows. Bill then spotted a 3 rd shooter bull feeding on the shore of the lake. I looked at the situation – it was doable for cover, but wind was going to be a problem. The choice I had was to risk the wind angle, and work the cover. The bull was feeding in such a way that I only really had one choice – and that was to risk the wind. So off I went toward the bull. It took only a few minutes to reach the point where I could see antler tips bobbing – 40 yards away. The bull had no idea I was there, but the wind was making me very nervous. It would occasionally shift in a direction close to the bull, but it was just enough of an angle that he still did not detect me. I moved to within 30 yards and pulled an arrow from my quiver. I could feel the wind shift again and blow directly toward the bull. It was over. His head came up and he blew – like a whitetail - then ran past me toward open ground. My first real stalk was blown – but it was fun nonetheless.
I walked back to Paul and Bill and we discussed the other caribou. I understood the fickle wind and the fact that they were bedded in the open. So we sat there glassing for a few hours until they got up to feed - late afternoon. The caribou moved along the bottom slope of a small hill and during quite a few occasions they were in excellent positions for me to kill one of them. I decided it was time to make a move, so I grabbed my bow and binoculars, then headed over the tundra toward the caribou.
At first they were hard to find. I peeked over a small hill and expected them to be in front of me. But they were nowhere to be found. I glassed, and then caught them moving east along the shoreline of a lake. Perfect! The shoreline narrowed to 20 yards and was surrounded by a long bushy dune that would provide excellent cover. I raced down the backside of the dune, probably just 30 yards from the caribou at one point, and then stopped at the first opening in the dune. I peeked over, and found myself eye to eye with one of the cows. Damn!!! She had been much further forward than the rest and that blew the setup. A rookie mistake, for sure.
The entire group ran up on top of the dune and the largest bull gave me a 50-yard shot – which I passed, of course. They crossed into the tundra then ran back toward a peninsula. Since the others never really saw me (just the cow) the bulls quickly calmed down and resumed feeding. I saw a 2 nd chance and moved to stalk the two big bulls one last time. The bigger of the two stood in the open so I froze behind a small bush. When he dropped into a ditch – I sprinted across the tundra until I was within 40 yards of him feeding. I took out my arrow and waited for him to walk into a dense stand of willows. I eased forward and setup just beyond the willows. From there, it would be an easy 20-yard shot when he emerged. But before he came out, the wind shifted and carried my scent right to him. He blew – then ran out of those willows before hooking up with the other bull, and eventually the rest of the herd. The last I saw of them they were trotting across the tundra and out of sight. I was so close!That was the last stalk of the day. We headed back to camp and the rest of the guys really cleaned up today. Lots of folks were tagged out already; one group had even called in a plane to take them back to Yellowknife. The weather had brought out the caribou in droves – I just hoped it would continue. My trip was now half over – but in actuality – it was just getting started.
Our outfitter for this hunt is Adventure Northwest
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