DIY Alaskan Caribou Hunting Adventures: Part 6 – Camp Life
Tundra Camp, Morning of Day 4
For Part 1 of this series, click here: Part 1 – Getting There
For Part 2 of this series, click here: Part 2 – Flying In
For Part 3 of this series, click here: Part 3- Antlers in our Midst
For Part 4 of this series, click here: Part 4 – The Hard Work Begins
For Part 5 of this series, click here: Part 5 – Packing Day
With three bulls in camp and bellies full of caribou tenderloins, sleep came very easy. With one tag left to fill, and most of the week left to do it, my focus turned to camp chores, while keeping Dad on the glass and looking for bulls in the distance.
The first thing that needed tending to was the cape for my bull. It needed to be salted and completely caped off the skull to keep the fur from slipping during the taxidermy process. It had been cold enough to where I wasn’t very concerned about it, but in warm weather you want to cape that skull quickly as the heat retained by the skull can be significant. You never want to wrap the cape up around a warm skull as it will only hold the heat in.
Dad Kicking Back
The weather was clearing, so other camp chores turned to cleaning ourselves, checking in with the pilots from Brooks Flyers on the sat phone, and recharging GoPro camera batteries with our Goal Zero solar systems. For this trip I brought a combination of a solar panel for direct charging and a battery bank system so we could charge or have backup phone power whether or not the sun was out.
Recharging on the Goal Zero Sherpa System
With my tags filled, my focus shifted to bow hunting for ptarmigan. Basically the grouse of the Arctic – their breast meat is delicious, and they’re called ‘tundra chickens’ for good reason. Small flocks litter the tundra, and provide a great challenge with a bow. If/when you do get one, they make for great group appetizers or a full meal of their own. They also compliment a plate full of caribou quite well. When you don’t get one, you can always take a break and enjoy the wild blueberries.
Looking for Ptarmigan
Prepping Ptarmigan Appetizers
Ptarmigan and Caribou Dinners Kept the Bellies Full
The tundra walking was getting much easier now, with light packs and legs getting over the hard work of the first few days. We’d see a passing caribou here and there, and hike to the highest ground around camp we could find to get the most visibility for glassing.
Most were in the distance, far too far away to get in front of for a shot. We saw one nice bull working his way up the creek bed, but couldn’t get in position and lost him in the alders in the creek bottom.
Camp View from Dad’s Knoll
A few days of this passed, and approaching a week on the tundra with meat hanging, we decided it may be best to call in for air pick a couple days out, and not risk being stranded by weather and losing any meat. We were very happy with three of four tags filled. We’d have one more day of hunting, then the Super Cubs should come early morning for our flight back to Happy Valley.
Bulls Passing in the Distance
That evening, we watched a group of five caribou cross a far ridge, enter our valley, loop around to a ridge Dad was on earlier in the day, and head across it towards our creek. There were three very nice bulls in the group and two cows, and while we moved as fast as we could, we weren’t able to get in position in time, and watched them cross the creek and up and out of view on the far side, with the skyline of the Brooks Range in the background. It was a great way to end the day, and what at the time we felt was likely the end of the hunt….
Settling in For Another Night on the Tundra
Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel and Sherpa 100 Battery System:
Modern cameras and GPS systems and satellite phones let you document your adventures and stay in touch from anywhere in the world. If, and that’s a big IF, they have power. Luckily modern solar systems like the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 kit have also reached levels or portability and functionality that make it possible to have that power, anywhere, anytime. The kit consists of a folding, lightweight solar panel with various connection options from USB to a cigarette lighter, and a battery bank, the Sherpa 100, that can be used to store power and recharge systems, even while you sleep. On the tundra, I was able to recharge GoPro’s, an Iridium satellite phone, and the Sherpa 100, simultaneously. If the sun wasn’t out, not a problem, the Sherpa 100 packs enough punch to recharge everything multiple times before needing a recharge.
Goal Zero Solar System
Emberlit Titanium Wood Burning Folding Stove.
This nifty little folding stove is something I really like having with me on backcountry hunts where access to fuel may be a problem, or the weight of packing fuel in is a problem. In Alaska, you never know if weather may move in and turn your week trip, into a two-week trip. Having a back up stove system that doesn’t need liquid or butane fuel is a nice way to conserve fuel in nice weather, or have a cooking or water purification option once fuel runs out. It packs down and weighs next to nothing, but quickly boils even large pots of water by just burning twigs.