Caribou drop camp report

MITCHMO

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2016
Messages
736
Location
Lake Michigan
Hi guys and gals,

I’m currently working my way home from my first caribou trip. I figured some people might appreciate some of the info so here you go.

Day 1 we flew to anchorage and onto Kotzebue. Travel was easy and we packed two carry on and two checked bags each, our packs in a duffle and our guns. Pro tip, use the delta credit card and get at least one bag free. Once we landed in anchorage, we collected our bags and brought them Alaska airlines for the final leg. Everything went fairly smooth. Staying in Kotzebu isn’t cheap. There’s a couple places to stay and we elected to stay at an air bnb which worked out ok. The hotel is $330 a night so keep that in mind. The transporter can give you contact info and will also shuttle you. The hotel does have a walk in freezer which is super nice. Very friendly people.

Day 2 was a spare day in case of flight or luggage issues. I wish we would have done some fishing but we just walked around and checked out the sites…there’s not much. I think we walked around town three or four times before we stopped. Also, there’s no Verizon up here. Supposedly AT&T works. The internet was also very hard to come by. Have a good plan because you probably can’t use your phone like you’d hope unless at the hotel. The airport was even running on Starlink.

That night we met at the hotel for an orientation with the other hunters and transporters. It was very helpful and answered all remaining questions. Whether it was about rules, expectations, meat, or communication. It was all laid out. Needless to say, we were pretty fired up and didn’t sleep much.

Day 3 We got picked up the next morning and headed to the hanger. No one had any spots picked out so I had to use a pre downloaded low res onX map. I didn’t really need it but it was nice to have. We got into the plane and quickly took off. It took about an hour to get there and I was pretty discouraged not seeing any caribou along the way. I was even more discouraged to see us landing where there was already a camp! After a quick motivational speech from the pilot about “get that F-ing shelter up as fast as you can, he took off and was gone. We set up camp and got settled in all the while concerned about our neighbors. We were up on top of a huge ridge and realized water was about 600+ feet of vertical and about 1/2 to the bottom. I got ready to head down and couldn’t believe it, there were a couple small caribou in the flat at the bottom. We quickly got the binos out and started picking out caribou all over.
 
After some glassing to get us fired up, we went on a water mission. When we got to the bottom, we had some caribou come check us out. They really are very curious. After grabbing water. We went on a large knob on the other side of the creek. It was several hundred feet high and about 1/2 mile across. While sitting on top we could see caribou laying in a few snow patches. They really like them on sunny days it seems like. We also watched a really good bull running flat out across the next ridge face. Water was flying up behind him as he ran. After about 600 yards, he turned and did the same running the other way. It was almost like the caribou were being frisky and wound up. Anyways, we hiked back up to camp and met our neighbors. Thankfully they informed us that the three of them were tagged out as were the six that were camped there before them. Ok, now we weren’t so sad we got dropped on another camp. Here was our camp we rented from the transporter. There were a LOT of bear stories so we put up the fence to help us sleep.
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So where did I leave off here. The rest of the day was filled with glassing and absolutely falling apart inside wanting to chase what we saw. After dinner I spotted a lone animal and threw the spotter on it. I just about fell out of my chair. It was an absolute stud of a bull. I ran across the ridge to the other camp like a crazy person to get them to come check it out. He was about a mile away and in a perfect spot to go after. Too bad it was day one!
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After we all drilled over that bull for 20 min, he finally walked out of site. It was very hard to sleep that night.

Day 2 woke us up with rain and heavy fog. Our spirits were crushed. After a few hours we noticed the tent started to get lighter. I opened the tent and started glassing the far hill. Just then we heard the guys at the other camp making some noise and we pretty much ran out the tent to see them pointing at 4 bulls on the next ridge over. We immediately grabbed our gear and took off. We quickly side hilled our ridge to get above them as they were working up. We dropped down and met them coming along the side of the ridge. They were at about 300 yards and right when we were think this was in the bag, they turned and worked up over the ridge. We crawled up the top and peeked over. There was zero cover and they quickly spotted us. We flipped a rock to see who was shooting first. I lost so my buddy dropped the biggest in his tracks.
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Just hammered a burger at the Bison restaurant here in Katzebue. Feeling like a real human with some good food.

Anyways, walking up on our first caribou was awesome. We couldn’t believe it happened on hunt day 1. It was a beautiful bull with a small double shovel and a lot of character. We were surprised to see most bulls still had velvet. I was amazed how thick and soft the velvet was. Absolutely beautiful animal.
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The other three bulls hung around and I could have easily filled my tag but declined to shoot. If anyone knows me, I almost never pass up a legal critter. Passing is very rare for me. But none the less, I let them walk.

We made quick work of the packing and each took half the caribou and left the head. We were only a mile from camp and figured we could muscle it to camp. It of course about killed us but we went back for the head and took the opportunity to grab fill up water on the way back.

We found a small depression a hundred yards or so from camp and turned a tarp into a meat locker. There wasn’t any way to get the mean off the ground so we did the best we could piling rocks on the tarp.
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Now it was my turn!
 
Ok took a break to go throw spinners off the break wall and drop our meat off at Alaska air cargo. Less than 1/2 the cost of doing it as checked bags. Very slick. Ok so I think we left off where I was up to bat. That afternoon proved to be very uneventful and the weather continued to decline. We went on a long ridge to hike and only saw a couple groups of caribou but none we could go after. Once they started to head away, there was no catching them. On the back of our ridge, we could see a group of 20-30 several more miles back. Our hope was to wake up in the morning and be surrounded.

Well surrounded we were. Only problem is that it was more fog and rain that surrounded us. As I sat tucked under the vestibule glassing I couldn’t believe it when I saw a group of bedded caribou in a fog break. They were on the same big knob we sat on day 1. We grabbed our gear and took off. Making a big 2 mile circle around them and up the back side of the knob. Crawling over the top only worked to see the look out. There was one bull above the rest. He was cool looking but obviously smaller than what we shot the day before. After a long wait in the rain and wind, they finally started to stand up. There was one bull that had double shovels and a bunch of points but was really small, then a really big bull with no real points. I was absolutely dying inside. Safety off, safety on, trying to convince myself to shoot. What if these are the last we see???? How mad will I be then?? I wanted them feed by at about 100 yards and up and over the knob. My buddy and I decided to take the long way back to camp and look for more. We immediately bumped into that same group and once again, I had my finger on the trigger and he walked over the rise and out of site. By now I was so frustrated because of my indecision, I said screw it, if I see him again, he’s going down. I started walking across the ridge and started up a small rise and suddenly saw antler tips and dropped to the ground. I quickly realized that I saw a LOT of antler points. It was obvious there was a different caribou over the rise. I found a path that would let me crawl closer and then slid on my belly over the top of a small gravel pile. What I saw on the other side absolutely blew my mind.
 

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