Double Rifle Caribou, August 29, 2017
KC Kaltenborn, MD (my endocrinologist), and I were dropped of to hunt caribou about a half-hour flight from Talkeetna on the 28th of August. A big bull was at the shore when our float plane touched down on a cloudless and warm fall day in Alaska. We didn't see any animals on the flight out and after this bull ran off we didn't see any for several hours due to the heat of the day. About half-four to five pm the caribou started appearing on the hills to the east and south and west of camp. A few average bulls and females, nothing really spectacular but our hopes were high for tomorrow (the first legal day to hunt).
Before sun up, at first light we were out of our tents and glassing. The hills to the east were in shadows but we could see four bulls feeding between 1/4 and 1/2 mile away. Three were average and one was outstanding. I mean high, wide, and lots of long points. KC is a meat hunter with no interest in trophies and says younger animals and females fast better. With that I mentioned I was off for the big fella. I was carrying my Harrison and Hussey double rifle, box lock ejector, made in 1920. It was owned by Douglas Jardine (google him). He was the captain of the English cricket team in the 1930s, and was responsible for defeating the Australian championship team with an unethical (but then not illegal) body line tactic. Jardine was the most hated man in Australia at the time. The rifle sports a Swarovski 1.25-4x scope, and is cased in oak and leather.
|Before sun rise, the big bull.|
As I was gathering my rifle and other items the big bull moved to my left behind some alders and out of sight. I moved into a draw to my left hoping to ambush him on the other side of the alders some way off. I made it to the area I expected to see the bull, was quiet, the wind was in my favor, and I waited a bit. Moving on the bull appeared and saw me as soon as I saw him. He turned to run and I fired the left barrel and took him just behind the shoulder with a lung shot. The 400-grain Woodleigh soft nose entered his left side at 80 yards about a 20+ degree uphill shot, and exited his right side just under the spine. He ran 20 yards and fell. Upon approaching him I realized in my haste to shoot he was one of the average bulls and not the big bull I was after. As I was finished cleaning the caribou and taking the last load of meat to camp with KC I noticed the big bull high on a rocky hill to the south feeding peacefully. After a short while he moved over the horizon and was out of sight. Damn!
|In haste to shoot, I took a smaller bull with the .450-400.|
In camp for six hours and no caribou movement with the hot and sunny day. Unusual for Alaska in August. At 4:40 KC called me from my tent that he saw a bull on the hill to the south. I glassed and it was the same big bull. I took my pack with some water, knives, sharpening stone, and bone saw. KC took his pack with meat sacks, food, water, and his rifle. The question was how to maneuver for a shot as it was uphill, lots of alders in a valley between us and the bull but it was now or never and we were off. I'm 61 old and slow and KC is 62 and a trim marathon runner. He was using an extra rifle I have: a Remington model 600 from 1967 with an 18-inch barrel and chambered for the .350 magnum cartridge. Not a long range rifle by any stretch of the imagination. It was a rapid uphill hike for 20 minutes to get into position.
We moved up to a valley on the left and the caribou was above us on the right, about 300 yards off, maybe more. We used the alders to our advantage to keep out of sight. KC had to shoot now as to go down into the valley that was choked with thick alders and up the far side the caribou would be completely out of sight and could possibly be aware of our approach. KC settled in for a long shot with his bipod down. First shot was a hit but not fatal. The bull did not move as he did not know where the danger was coming from. Second shot was a miss and the bull actually walked 50 yards in our direction. Third shot dropped the bull. It took 10-15 minutes to make our way to the bull. A long shot with a .300 Weatherby but a near impossible shot with the short .350 RM. Scope was a Leopold 1.5-5x.
|KC (a great doc and friend) with his bug bull and the .350 Model 600.|
|KC shot from the alders on the knoll to the left and the bull was on the hill under the top rocks to the right.|
A magnificent animal, blue sky, wind so no bugs, and McKinley as clear as could be. We took down one load of meat that evening and the second the next am, called for a flight out, and were home that afternoon. Doesn't get any better! KC is still not a trophy hunter so I will hang his antlers in my home after a European mount is complete. Most of the velvet was naturally gone. If I was not able to get the big bull, I'm pleased KC did.
|McKinley was out with 100% blue sky.|
A last note on our pilot. Dave Hicks is an excellent pilot--safe, honest, and ethical. KC and I met up with Dave for the flight in an unusual way. The flight service we planned to use stopped flying hunters earlier this year but was still taking (non refundable) deposits, keeping the money, and farming their hunts out to other pilots: in our case, it was Dave. Not the best way to do business in my opinion. Dave's company is N2Alaska. His contacts are: 907-616-1010 (phone), firstname.lastname@example.org (email), and wwwn2alaska.com (web site). Dave can fly you hunting, fishing, flight seeing, and drop you off at his remote cabin for a wilderness experience. His wife, Peggy, is a retired teacher (as am I) and substitutes at the Talkeetna school (as do I) and their two great kids are in the local high school. KC and I will fly with Dave next year and he comes to you gents with our highest recommendation.
|David Hicks' Cessna 185 with the antlers.|
Thanks for reading this.
PS. You can read a few pages back on my experience with a flight service in the arctic and that is the reason I now hunt closer to home. ANWR hunts in the arctic are getting expensive--$3000 per person and the flight may be as short as 15 minutes. Closer to home is now the way to go for me. The area KC and I hunted in is open only to Alaska residents but for you out-of-staters you can contact myself or Dave Hicks and get information on hunting moose, caribou, black bear, and wolf in close by areas open to all. Cheers.