The weather remained cool and very windy as I entered my 4 th hunting day. The trip was now over, and most of the rifle hunters have tagged out. This opened up several units for us to choose from. But one of the better units for me was the North Rapids (zone 6) because it seemed to have better cover and more funnels and crossings than the other units. Since this was our normal rotational zone anyway, we headed there first thing.
Even though Bill was tagged out, he opted to come along on the hunt. He had purchased a wolf tag in case we crossed paths with one. This was fine with me as my objective was to glass from a long distance and then put my stalking abilities to the test. If some of you recall from previous hunts, I have a tendency to make excruciatingly long stalks – many times over several hours. Having Bill and Paul watching the stalk from a ½ mile away would not affect me at all.
As we approached the rapids we ran across two good bulls cooking across the tundra. Paul asked if I wanted to go after them but after looking at the situation, I passed. As I got to the rapids I decided to try a different approach and made this suggestion to Paul and Bill: “Since Bill has a wolf tag, why don’t you take him to look for a wolf while I carve out an ambush on the best stream crossing on the lake?” I had seen caribou cross here before and this seemed like a good chance for me. It was only for a couple of hours so I didn’t have too much to lose. Besides, I was confident a bull would cross here as they were moving a lot this AM because of the wind, cold, and lack of bugs.
There was a large boulder on the South bank of the rapids that had willow trees jutting around it. From there I carved out shooting lanes, video holes, and made a nice comfortable seat. The wind was good for a South crossing, but if they came from the North, it would be trouble. Well – what do you think happened? A group of caribou, including two 'honker' bulls showed up on the opposite bank to cross. They caught my wind and ran back into the hills. I saw a couple more caribou but as the sun lifted, sightings became non-existent. I noticed that Bill and Paul had returned to the top of the hill so I gathered up my stuff and headed toward their vantage point.
We glassed for an hour before we saw caribou in the distance. While I watched them, Paul became unglued. A big bull had appeared beneath us. He was probably the best one we'd seen all trip. He was wide – heavy and with very long points. Without hesitation I took off after him, sprinting a ½ mile on the backside of our hill. A few minutes later, doubled over from exhaustion, but with enough energy to peek over the hill, I tried to find that bull. It took a few minutes, but by the time I found him he was quickly feeding away on the flats. Discouraged, I walked back to Paul and Bill.
We were there for another two hours, and even had a group of small caribou run right by us. I snapped some photos and had just opened up my lunch when Paul exclaimed – he’s back! The bull that had fed onto the flats was heading toward us. I grabbed my binocs and dropped my sandwich. Sprinting again to get in position to intercept him before he reached cover.
But when I got to cover, there was no sign of the bull anywhere. Instead of just trudging along, I sat and watched from a ridge for 45 minutes. After a while it was apparent the bull was gone – but to where? The only possible explanation was that he had slipped across the rapids and crossed the river. “If only I had stayed in that darned blind!!” I thought to myself.
But I still wasn’t convinced he'd crossed. There was a chance he'd made his way back onto the flats. My curiosity getting the best of me, I decided to move slowly up into the flats in the hopes of spotting him. The ground was wide open, and with the exception of a football-length row of 'thigh-high' bushes I could see for miles. I made my way toward them when I caught movement. Two hundred yards in front of me was a pair of brown, velvet-covered antlers. My bull was bedded in the bushes.
I took a few moments to size up the situation; the wind was blowing from the South. The bull was facing the north. This meant my only hope was a cross-wind stalk directly perpendicular to the bedded bull. This was doable!
I dropped my binoculars, and anything else I would not need for my final stalk. It was going to be close. If he stood up at any time, or lifted his head even 10” – I’d be in plain sight.
With painfully slow movements I entered the brush, and carefully placed one foot down between the bushes. I was now only 50 yards and closing. It took me another 10 minutes to go 30 yards. There was much to lose, so going slow was the best option.
Now at 20 yards, I realized that I was close – but I wanted to get closer. So I slowly moved to within 10 yards of the bull. Suddenly, the antler tips came up and he briefly rose – at the same time I went into a tuck and fell out of site. I stayed that way for 5 minutes before peeking my head up again. His antlers were down again – that was close!
I decided to inch closer. A tiny step at a time. With as much control I could muster, I moved each leg, quietly over the bushes – painfully slow – until I was just 10 feet from the bedded bull. I stood there for at least 2 minutes – deciding on my next action. My goal was to shoot him in his bed, but even though I could see his vitals, a thick bush covered them up. My two options at this point were: wait? – or make it happen.
If I waited, the wind could bust me or he would eventually see me. My best chance was to draw, then make him stand up. So that’s what I did.
At just 10 feet (slightly quartering to the side of the bull) I drew my 70lb Bowtech Allegiance to full draw. Once there I went “ch, ch, ch” and the bull busted from cover. My arrow hit him directly in front of the hip and exited out the far shoulder – an awesome shot!!!
The bull ran 60 yards, wobbled, then bedded down. I was still watching him from the bushes. He was hurt bad, and layed his head on the ground. I was pumped, and walked toward him. Then, his head came up and he stood back up on his feet. ????
This was not a good sign. I hit the ground and layed there watching the bull as he walked five yards before bedding down again. The shot was fatal – but the bull wasn’t giving up.
For 45 minutes I watched him. He would lay on his side - his head down - breathing heavy for several minutes. Then he would gain enough strength to pick up his head for a moment. Twice he actually got up and walked a few steps. It was apparent that something was not right. It was best to try and get another arrow into him.
The last time the bull moved was back toward the bushes. He was laying down in the open, his head on the ground - and just 5 feet in front of them. So I crawled into the bushes and walked quietly to within 15 feet of the bedded bull. The 2nd shot was perfect, but the bull jumped up, spotted me, then came toward me.
All I could think of was – “Am I being charged by a caribou???” I lifted my bow to give him more to look at, then he stopped just short of me, turned around, wobbled and went down for good.
Now I’ve stalked and killed a lot of animals but I was ecstatic over this bull. He was a huge, PY bull, and I had pulled off one of the best stalks of my hunting career. Sometimes animals come easy, but this one made me very proud.
The rest of the day was spent caping, butchering and celebrating back in camp. All hunters in camp had tagged something. Three of us had 1 tag left going into our 5 th day.
What a great day it was – I really liked this hunt even more now.
Our outfitter for this hunt is Adventure Northwest
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