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
For Part 6 of this series, click here: Part 6 – Camp Life
The last day of hunting progressed with a cool morning, camp chores, day spent wandering the tundra, glassing, ptarmigan hunting, but not a single caribou stalk. We spotted some bulls in the far distance, but nothing even close to huntable range, and the day came and went with us sitting down another nice caribou dinner, content with our three bulls in camp and one tag in hand.
Little did we know, but our evening routine was about to change. I was getting up to do the dishes when I hear Dad say, ‘Bull, 500 yards behind the tent, heading this way….’ I told him that was a nice joke, but as I turned and looked, sure enough, there he was, a large lone bull, walking straight towards us.
I told Dad to get his boots on and to get ready, it was now or never. We shuffled around grabbing boots, packs, weapons and ammo, and used the silhouette of the tent to block us from view as we slipped down off of the bench we were camped on and into the creek bottom. I had a hunch on where he’d head to — one of two spots based on trails, terrain, and how other caribou had moved throughout the week. I put Dad in position, propped up my pack, and told him to get ready as we crawled up the embankment to get a view of the valley.
When we first popped up, the caribou was gone. There were undulations in the valley though, enough to hide a bull, and so we waited to see where he’d pop out into view. Sure enough, not long after, there he was, right in one of the two anticipated routes. He was broadside, 150 yards to our left, very close to our tent.
I told Dad to shoot.
I saw the impact of the round, but the caribou just stood there. Another shot. Another impact. Then the caribou surprised us a bit and turned, jogging towards the boggy area behind the tent. Had he missed? Caribou have very large vital organs, and usually go down very quickly. Not the case with this bull, as a he headed towards the water, my thoughts switched to how I really didn’t want to clean a bull while waist deep in buggy bog water. He stopped again around 300 yards away, and another shot rang out. The bull laid down. Then the bull stood back up, and kept heading towards the water. We couldn’t believe it. Finally, a fourth shot rang out, breaking the bull down once and for all (on dry land).
The Recap Reaction
Tagged out. It all happened so fast, switching gears from relaxing with full stomachs into exciting hunting mode, and now packing mode.
We went back to the tent, emptied our packs, and started the walk to the bull, around 400 yards from the tent when all was said and done. As Dad approached it, I could see the smile just building on his face.
Dad Approaching His Final Bull
In the end, the old bull was just tough, and all four shots had hit their mark. He was a unique bull, with very long and tall beams, small double shovels, uneven tops and some long, quirky points. We called him ‘Oddball’, and said our thanks.
Posing With ‘Oddball’
We hadn’t had to deal with many bugs all week, but being so late in the day and so close to the bog, the black flies came out in force. We pulled on our headnets and got to work, quickly breaking the bull down into game bags to keep them off the meat.
Dad Tagging His Final Bull
We didn’t even bother to load packs, and just hand carried the game bags back to camp. Taking the last walk back to for the rack, relaxing and reflecting started to set back in. We couldn’t had scripted it any better really. We took bulls early, took care of them, enjoyed days on the tundra, and closed out with a final bull on the last day. We had enough meat for a year. Dad picked up his rack, and we enjoyed the endless sun on our last tundra walk.
Dad Carrying The Last Load
Back To A Completely Full Camp
Back in camp, we loaded the last bull on the meat tripods, cleaned ourselves up, and finished off the whiskey. We’d earned it.
No Caption Needed
We put the camera lenses on around 11 PM. The morning should be an easy one. Wake up, breakfast, and break down camp. We should hear the buzz of propellers around 9AM, and start the process of getting off the tundra and back to civilization…