Paul nocked on my tent door at 5:00 AM. I was dressed and ready 5 minutes later. The rest of the camp was still snoozing - heck, who could blame them. They were all tagged out. They also had pooled some money into a fishing derby. Each team (plus guide) would fish till 1:00 PM and the team with the biggest fish wins the purse ($120).
The derby sounded like a lot of fun - but it was not to be for Paul and I. Bill opted to fish. This was a relief to me, because I knew today was going to be painful and I hated to put anyone through that.
We headed to the North Rapids (zone 6). Our plan was to hunt there all day. But, while motoring there in the boat, we ran into a Booner on the lake. This thing was incredible! Huge tops, double shovels, long beams, back points, and wide bez points. Paul waited till the bull crested the hill and dropped down the back side before quietly docking the boat on some rocks. I jumped out then ran up the hill to stalk the huge bull - still out of sight.
I'll spare you the details, but long story short is I made a 'huge' rookie mistake and didn't pay attention to my flank. As I ran up the hill (last place I saw him) I literally passed the bull who had doubled back. He blew, then trotted across a mile-long strip of open tundra. Determined, I headed after him and ended up chasing him for 2 miles. Finally, I came to my senses. It was simply, not going to happen. He was on to me.
By this time, the sun had risen and it became quite warm. This brought out the flies. And they were simply unbelievable! I spent more time gagging on black flies than glassing, and my exposed (untreated) head was a succulent buffet for every biting bastard North of Yellowknife. I literally sprinted back to Pauls's boat - chased by a black cloud. Once there, I soaked my head in DEET and put on my bug suit.
The bug situation had us shaken, but not deterred. We arrived at the rapids and started our long trek up to the highest hill in that unit. Thankfully, when we reached the top, there was just enough breeze to keep the bugs away.
We glassed for an hour but failed to see a single caribou. Paul asked - "what do you want to do?" And I remarked: "See that far hill, a few miles away?" "Are you up to it?" To my appreciation, he enthusiastically said "Sure!" So off we went. It took another two hours to reach but once there we immediately started glassing. We could see the entire country in all directions from this hill. After ninety minutes of glassing we had not spotted a single caribou. No doubt the heat was a factor. I mean, there was nothing - and we could literally see for miles.
The sun was high and our spirits were low. While eating lunch we discussed options.
Going to another area was a bad idea, we were miles from the boat. It would take 2-3 hours to hike out. We agreed that the best thing was to stay on that rock and hope something turned up. In all honesty, I was disappointed. This was my last day and I hoped to at least see some caribou. The bugs, heat, and lack of wind were the culprit - no doubt. Paul and I split up to glass different directions. The sun, lunch and activity had made me sleepy. I decided to take a knap on the top of that rock.
"Pat, I found a huge bull!"
I jumped up, as if he'd thrown ice-cold water on me. "Where" I said?
Paul had been glassing East when a bull stood up a mile away, walked 20 yards, then bedded back down. But he lost him in the brush. After pointing out the direction, and the general vicinity, I spotted him immediately. He was a HOG, even from a mile away.
There was a hill behind him - and downwind. I could get to that hill easily, then look at available cover for stalking. The setup was not very good, but it was all we had. He was certainly worth it. I told Paul to forget the video camera - this would be hard enough 'solo.' Paul wished me luck as I dropped down the backside of the mountain and briskly walked the mile to the hill. Once there, I peeked over the top, but the bull was gone. I spotted him feeding between my hill and a similar one to the South. There was a big rock between those two hills and that's where I needed to be.
Dropping down behind the hill, I was able to get that rock directly between me and the bull, then I belly-crawled the 50 yards till I was behind it. It worked, the bull was still feeding in my direction as I dropped my gear and nocked an arrow. I peeked over the rock. My bull had laid back down and was facing me in plain sight.
"Damn-it!!" I said to myself.
That is not what I wanted to happen. The rock was not large, I was in an awkward position, and the bugs were very, very, bad. If it was not for liberally applying bug spray to my head this morning I would never be able to last. I carefully weighed all options. There was a chance I could belly crawl tight along the ground, then find a way to shoot him - but it was too risky. I decided patience was the best option. If he fed my way, he was toast.
Despite the sun baking me, black files migrating into openings in my clothes, and being contorted in a terribly uncomfortable position behind that rock - I pulled it off. Through the 1st hour, then the 2nd, and into most of the 3rd. After early 3 hours, the bull got up and began to feed.
This was my chance. He was going to feed past me - giving me a 20 yard shot! Right?
Wrong! He fed out into the tundra, my worst-case scenario.
It was now 4PM. I had no options left today other than to give this 'incredibly low-percentage' stalk a try.
The bull fed around the bottom of the hillside. I got up, and moved up the hill - with just enough slope that I could watch his antler tips without seeing his head. I kept a consistent distance of 40 yards at all times.
The bull moved around the face of the slope. I was dogging his tips the entire time. Together, we had both gone at least 200 yards. I continued to watch those tips. Then, they changed course and headed directly at me!
He was coming fast, and I was in the open. Scanning in all directions - I noticed a "boulder sent from heaven" so I literally dove, bow and all, behind that boulder as the bull's head came into clear view. I mean, I probably made it by 1 second!
From here, the bull came closer and I started to wonder how I would get off a shot. He was only 25 yards now and facing me. I was sitting on my ankles. My bow was layed flat behind the boulder as I watched those tips. He was very close. But I had no shot. He turned his head momentarily, giving me the opportunity to raise my bow. Then he changed direction and headed to the opposite side of my rock. I moved around in unison with the bull and the two of us actually switched positions.
Watching the antler tips moving to my left - I drew my bow. The bull took 4 steps and we were both in clear view. He snapped his head and stared at me. I'll never forget the look in his eyes' - they were bugging out. It was too late, I had already put my 20 pin behind his shoulder. I released just as the bull whipped around to run away. The Muzzy-tipped arrow penetrated his left lung and his spine. I put a 2nd arrow into him to speed up the process.
I couldn't believe it. The one bull we had seen in this zone, after hiking miles, was now at my feet. And he was another BIG Barren Ground Caribou. I motioned to Paul - who had no idea where I'd been for the last 4 hours - but was excited to find out what had happened.
An hour later we were hiking to camp - which was actually closer than our boat from this location. It took us several hours to reach the shore of Little Marten Lake, tired, hungry and bugged-out, we made it.
The camp went 100% - all hunters tagged out. And I was one happy bowhunter.
Our outfitter for this hunt is Adventure Northwest
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