What a rollercoaster! Arriving to discover there is not any fresh sign is a kick in the gut. Way to stick with the task at hand. I also need you to book my travel as I never find the deals you do. Great looking bull and I can feel the cold just looking at those pictures.
Thanks everyone! Still very happy with how everything went down.
I’m back in Anchorage at my friends house so most likely not going to see another wolf. Thought I might have a chance this morning if anything was messing with the carcass but thankfully nothing was.
The meat seemed to be cooled about the perfect amount overnight without being frozen this morning so that worked out well. It was a little warmer this morning but the wind was blowing about 20 mph so it felt colder. I still worked up a sweat getting the bison back to the truck.
Instead of chaining up the truck and risking getting stuck going out into the field go retrieve it, we borrowed a sled from the folks at the place we were staying and sledded the meat back to the truck.
The landowners don’t want you to leave any bones in the field because they can really mess up their harvesting equipment so everything but the guts has to come out of the field.
Here is a picture of the first sled load out this morning. I pulled all 4 quarters back to the truck while my friend worked on getting the ribs and head off.
Second load (and last) was the head, skin and backbine.
The sled worked really well. We had him back to the truck in about the same amount of time it would have taken to get the chains on and then off and we didn’t have any chance of getting stuck this way.
Saw some VERY pretty scenery on the way back to Anchorage. Also got to see some caribou as well which was neat. Thought this was a neat picture of the bison in the back of the truck with the mountains in the background.
Didn’t realize he was showing off a little leg there!
Have the fun job of skinning out his head tomorrow. We are going to process him on Thursday after letting him hang all day tomorrow.
They are a big animal, but the quarters really aren’t that much bigger than a big bull elk on this younger bull anyway. The back straps really might be smaller than a big bull elk. The one thing that is huge is the head and the hide is super thick so I’m thinking that I have several hours ahead of me getting his head skinned.
My workshop for tomorrow. A date with a tarp and a knife.
I have a few more pictures to share and I will hopefully get the actual hunt story told tomorrow. Also plan to post up some of the processing information.
Okay, been working most of the day on caping and fleshing the hide and processing the meat.
I’m at my friends local archery shoot so I’ll try to work on posting up some of the hunt story.
As I mentioned in the post from earlier that day, we actually had fresh bison tracks in the snow that had to be at the most 2 days old.
We went to the first guys house to pay the trespass fee and it was $50 that was good for the rest of the season. It wasn’t exclusive or anything but it didn’t sound like anyone else would be hunting that evening. He told us where we could park, drive, etc. It seemed like the bison were bedding on the neighbors property (the one that charges 50 pounds of meat) during the day and then moving onto this property during the evening and night to feed.
One thing that struck me as funny is that he had mentioned that he didn’t want anyone to shoot a bison in his front yard, I just didn’t realize that his front yard was a field about 1/2 mile wide by 1 mile long. He also talked about using flashing lights and a air horn to keep the bison away from his house if they got too close because evidently they had used his house as a scratching post in the past.
We drove over to the area where we could park which was very close to where we had seen the fresh tracks earlier that day. We had met up with the guy when he got home from work about 3:15 and it was probably 3:45 by the time we got parked and headed into the neighbors property hoping to head them off on their way over that evening.
The field was clear and for some reason it had quite a bit more snow than anywhere else. It was pretty tough walking with about 10” to 12” of snow with a hard crust about 8” or so. Sometimes you could walk just right and stay on top of the crust, other times you broke through on every step. We found some old bison trails in the snow and that made walking quite a bit easier.
We are just trudging along about in the middle of the field and my friend spots 2 bison in the trees between the fields. We drop down but there is no way to hide or anything so we just hold still.
The 2 bison move on out single file and we clearly can identify them as cows. Still very cool to be at least seeing bison though! Watching them and 2 more start coming out of the trees! The first of them is also a cow but the last one sure looks like a bull! It had all the characteristics of a bull, blocky head, much heavier mass on the base of the horns, almost a 2 tone color on the hide, the only problem is it didn’t have an obvious tuft of hair on its belly to indicate a penis sheath. They were not even 100 yards away and I was about 90% sure it was a bull but not 100%. We mistakenly thought we might be able to see balls if he turned just right but turns out they don’t have balls that hang down so that wasn’t helpful either. We moved around a bit trying to make it a bull but we didn’t feel 100% positive, so I passed on him. I say that because I am now 100% positive he was a bull.
When we moved a bit they turned around pretty quickly and headed out.
We got up and continued walking toward the row of trees and noticed that they really hadn’t run off that far, just a couple hundred yards or so. It was tempting to continue after them but we still weren’t 100% sure it was a bull so we just went through the trees and looking in the next field. My friend looked to the East and there was 50 to 60 bison about 1,000 yards away moving on a diagonal to us. It looked like they were heading to the tree line to cross about a 1/2 mile in front of us.
We took off toward them but it was pretty obvious that it was going to be a pretty close race because there were no old trails through the snow going that direction and we were breaking through the crust on EVERY, SINGLE, STEP.
My friend started out in the lead but about 1/3rd of the way there he was gassed and I took the lead. Walking behind someone else wasn’t bad at all because you didn’t have to break in and out of the crust with every step.
A couple times on the way over I wanted to stop and catch my breath and I slowed down a little but just kept plowing along. We had both put our down jackets on thinking we were just going to walk about 1/4 mile and then sit and watch through the trees and I was really starting to sweat.
We were headed to a little hill that was hiding us from the bison, but it was also hiding the bison from us. We weren’t sure if they were already coming into the field we were in or not.
We got to the hill and eased our way up trying to catch our breath and got to where we could see the field in front of us and they hadn’t started coming through yet. Looking through the trees you could see them getting close and there was an obvious trail right in front of us about 100 yards.
I sat down at the edge of the trees and got setup using my backpack as a rest expecting to just watch as they filed through the trees and take one then. My friend didn’t think we had time for that though and so we went through the trees and got to where we could see them. Sunset was at 4:15 and had already come and gone so we were worried about getting this done before dark. I sat back down and started glassing looking for bulls. They were all grouped up together and milling around a bit, so it was a bit tough figuring it out. I finally have a 100% sure bull in my binoculars and he seemed like a pretty good one too. My friend told me to get off the binoculars and get ready and about that time the bison started to move into the trees and as I got set up on the nice bull I had some brush in the way and then it was into the trees. No shot.
One thing I don’t even know if I had realized it at the time, but my mentality had completely changed from the opening day to where I was so focused on shooting a legal bull that’s really all I was focused on.
The bison were really starting to move through now and my friend was saying there was a really big bull in the back and I heard him, but I really don’t think it really clicked. I’m watching the bison file past and a bull starts coming through and it meets all of the characteristics of a bull and I didn’t really even think about it all, I had him in the crosshairs, he was clear, I felt good so I pulled the trigger.
At the shot the bull that I shot and several others went through the trees. My friend had been watching the big bull in his binoculars and was surprised that I hadn’t shot it. It was about 100 yards farther away but still within easy shooting range and he had thought I was lined up on him and was going to shoot him. Instead I had shot a bull at about 100 yards.
We picked up to go to the other side of the trees and see if there was a bison on the ground and the group had all stopped and were standing around. There was one at the very back standing there and I thought it looked like the one I had shot but wasn’t sure. We waiting a little and the one in the back started drooping his head and then laid down. All the others were standing and waiting on him but it was clear that it was my bull. Some of the others turned around and started ok’ing back to him so my friend said I should put another in him to finish him before they got him up or got around him to where I didn’t have a clear shot so I put a finishing shot in him and he went over.
At the shot the rest of the bison didn’t run off, but as we started walking toward him the ones on our side of the field started to run off. As we walked up we could see the rest of the bison on the other side of the trees about 50 yards away. They didn’t seem very concerned with us at all. Of course the big bull was over there too.
I guess I should be disappointed or mad at myself for shooting a younger bull instead of the big bull at the back of the herd but I’m not. As I mentioned my mentality had changed from the start of a hunt from wanting to shoot an older mature bull to just being happy to notch my tag on a legal bull. Everyone had told me that this was a hunt and not a shoot, but I guess it took me 2 1/2 days of not even seeing a track to make me realize it.
I had a legal bull on the ground in front of me and although it wasn’t an older bull, it was still pretty big.
We got our gear set down and did a quick inventory and my friend hadn’t brought his backpack so we only had one headlamp between us. In most of the other areas we had been hunting the plan was to knock the bison down while walking around of foot and then just driving up to them to retrieve them. That was not going to happen in this field with the amount of snow that we were trudging though.
We decided whatever we were going to do we needed to do it soon so we started to take some pictures with my phone since I had left my nice camera back at the truck as well. About 3 minutes into taking pictures with my phone and it dies. My friend said he thought he had some good pictures before it died so we decided to get started breaking him down.
I do think he did end up getting some pretty good pictures in the amount of time he had to work with.
The plan was for a tanned hide so the cut started at the belly and we worked it to the back on one side got the quarters and backstrap off flipped it over and repeated it on the other side. As we got them off we just set them in the snow to get them cooling off. Darkness came and we were a bit slower getting it taken care of since we only had one headlamp between us, and there was no doubt it was a big animal, but not something that a couple guys couldn’t get taken care of. Maybe a really big bull would have been a little tougher but the quarters were just a bit larger than a big bull elk. We didn’t end up ever weighing them so I’m not sure though. The one thing that I was prepared for was that the backstrap was not nearly as big as you would expect off of such a large animal. Where it goes over the hump on his back it gets really thin and narrow. The rest of it is not very thick either. They just aren’t very wide up on their back.
We also pulled the tenderloins out and set them on the other quarters. We talked it though and decided that we could set the quarters on top of the carcass and then cover it with the hide that was still attached to the head. We felt that with the quarters already somewhat cooled down and the overnight temperature going to be in the low teens that it would be about right.
We grabbed a backstrap and tenderloin each and our gear and headed back to the truck. We didn’t follow the way we had come, but just went straight to the road and then followed the road back to the truck. Surprisingly we we back to the truck just before 6:30. The timestamp on the pictures were at 4:43 so I thought we got it broken down pretty quickly.
The spot we were currently hunting was actually much closer to the cabin where we were staying than the property where I had been hunting the rest of the time so it was just a quick 15 minute drive to get back to the cabin. I was still pretty stoked, but had some concerns about leaving him in the field.
I called the landowner where I shot him and told him that it looked like I owed him 50 pounds of meat and got instructions on when and where to deliver it the next day. We talked through how we were going to retrieve it and were discussing maybe being able to chain up and make it through the field next to the one the bison was in and then haul him through the trees and load him in the truck. This was still a somewhat risky proposition though with the depth of the snow.
I’m a believer in karma and I think I wouldn’t have thought of using a sled unless I had just been helping the landowners at the original property split wood. I had been using a sled to haul the firewood from where it was piled up to the garage where their splitter was. The bison was only about 1/4 mile from the road and carrying it through the snow would not have been fun, but dragging it on a sled didn’t sound too bad at all. We checked with the owner of the place we were staying and he had a sled that he used to pull stuff behind his snow machine that looked like it would be perfect.
With our plans set for retrieval all we had left was to wait for daylight to come back. I had a fleeting thought of going back over that night to get it, but we decided to just wait. I was a little worried about wolves or coyotes getting after him, but hoped if they did it wouldn’t be too bad.
I didn’t sleep that great but did get some sleep but once I woke up I couldn’t get back to sleep. We had pretty much already packed everything that could be packed up so there wasn’t much to do but wait for it to get light. Sunrise wasn’t until about 8:30 so it started getting light just a little before 8:00 and we headed over to pick him up.
The temperature had warmed up to 13 degrees, but the wind was blowing close to 20 miles an hour so the windchill was below zero so I was happy to be tagged out and just needed to finish the retrieval instead of looking at being out there all day in the wind and cold.
I had some fleeting thought of us pulling up and shooting some wolves off of the carcass but we got there and he was undisturbed. The sled worked very slick. I towed the first load of all 4 quarters back to the truck and loaded them up while my friend worked with a sawzall to cut the ribs and get the head off of the spine. When I got back I helped get the guts cut off and cut the heart out which will be a first for me to eat the heart of an animal.
We loaded everything except the guts in the sled and we both pulled it back to the truck. The head and hide was definitely the heaviest thing still together and it took both of us to move it and load it in the truck. We had it all back to the truck and loaded in about an hour. I had actually worked up a sweat hauling things back and forth and the cold wind didn’t feel too bad at all.
We went over to the landowners house to drop off 50 pounds of meat and we settled on just giving him an intact front shoulder. I offered cash instead of meat, but he for sure wanted the meat. You might think that a front shoulder is more than 50 pounds of meat, but we have already processed the remaining front shoulder and we came out pretty good on that deal, I think he is going to end up closer to 30 pounds of trimmed boneless meat off that front shoulder than 50, but he did seem happy with the exchange.
With that taken care of we found an old gravel pit type area to dispose of the spine and got back to the cabin before 10:00 that morning. Got the sled returned to the owner and packed things up and hit the road. I did say a BIG thank you to the lady who had given us the tip about where some of the other hunters had been seeing bison because who knows, if it came down to the last day I would have been able to hunt I might have ended up springing for that $2,000 kill fee at the one property where we had seen bison the day before. I really felt a lot better paying a trespass fee with a front shoulder.
There’s my novel on the actual hunt and retrieval. I’m typing this up on my iPhone so it has taken me a bit and I’m pretty sure I’m over the character limit for one post so I will most likely be chopping it up a bit but I hope it comes through okay. I’m sure I will remember some things I want to add in and will still post some more on processing and getting it home and that kind of stuff as well.
I tried to figure out how I could keep the head attached to the hide and get it caped out with the belly cut for the rug/robe/throw or whatever you want to call it but never could.
I called the tannery where I’m going to send it and they said that 98% of the hides they get didn’t have the head attached so they weren’t very helpful. One person there said I could cut the horns off to get the cape over the horns, but that sounded like a really terrible idea so I just went ahead and cut the head away from the rest of the hide that I will be using as a rug/robe/throw and then caped out the head.
I think it is going to turn out pretty good. It is about 6’ squared so should fit on our queen sized guest bed just about perfect.
The big grocery store chain here was having an end of year sale on coolers so I picked up 3 of them for $25 each to use to haul meat back home. After I got the hide fleshed fairly decently I rolled it up and stuffed it in one of them and then put it in the freezer with the lid propped open to get it frozen for the trip home. I’m going to have my taxidermist turn the ears and lips and finish fleshing and salting it so I can get it sent to the tannery fairly soon.
One batch of summer sausage curing right now, will be cutting again tomorrow so we can get everything good and frozen for the trip home leaving out Friday night at midnight.