caribou

Deep down I feel that anyone who is a hunting has a bucket list on certain animals that they want to go after before they die.  I say go after because hunting is a very clear meaning which is to hunt.  Or better yet let’s use the direct meaning which is hunt·ing ˈhən(t)iNG/ “the activity of hunting wild animals or game, especially for food or sport. – to chase or search for (game or other wild animals) for the purpose of catching or killing.

To chase or search… hmmmm, we hunt because we want to challenge ourselves.  If we as hunters want something easy then we should just buy our meat from a grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living a subsidiary lifestyle where wild game meat is our only way to fuel my family and for the ones that do I give them a lot of credit for how they live.   Hunting to me is something that is part of me.  It’s not something I just do, but it’s something that makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than me, something primal.  I don’t like to use the words like weekend hunter because a hunter is a hunter no matter how often or what type of game animal you are after.   I like hunting because I like the meat I personally get from a successful harvest.  I like hunting because I like knowing that the meat I am cooking or dehydrating for jerky comes from wild animals.  Do I need to hunt to stay alive?  Currently… NO; but I want to keep the tradition alive and pass along the knowledge that I’ve learned over the years to my son.

So if we can put aside the limitations that an average everyday hunter goes through and just get to what we’re actually think about;  to me it’s seasonal hunts and locations I want to have access to during the upcoming season.  Being that I’m an average hunter that usually just hunts in the same state year after year after the same animal, I still think about expedition hunts out west and up in Alaska.  Those are what I like to call the hunts that I want to do before I die.  Yes this will mean we’ll talk about going after the animals that we want to kill for no reason other than because we want to.  Sure we want the meat and sure it’s bla bla bla but the fact is for must of us we are just weekend killers and the meat we get from the kill is the icing on top. There is nothing wrong with that because we are doing our part as hunters by keeping the wildlife maintained and the meat we collect after a successful kill is clean meat that we know isn’t filled with hormones.  Ok so I preached a little I guess but what are you going to do?… shot me… LOL  : )

Here’s one of my bucket list animals that I want to hunt before I die.  I’m writing this hunt in great detail because I’m using it as a textural affirmation so here we go…

I want to do a spot and stalk Caribou hunt in Alaska.  I’ve seen so many videos online and on tv where they Caribou is migrating across Canada and Alaska and you see these hunters on horse back tracking down Caribou over the wide terrain.  I thought about how I want my hunt to take place.  In a perfect world, I’d like to have a prop float plain chartered in next to a rapid river where we would set our base camp.  During the morning or evenings I would fly fish for salmon or the native trout when I’m not on the hunt.  Each day we would hike up the beautiful mountain peeks and glass for hours across deep valleys looking for the right Caribou herd to go after.  We would have a few failed attempts during the week but we never give up as each day provides a new chance and challenges.  The Caribou we do find would be in full velvet.  Myself [and if I have a guide] would start the process on closing the gap between us and the herd looking for the best shot opportunity.  I would want it close, no further than 35 yards as it would require skills to get close enough without be blown by the herd.  My heart would be pounding full of excitement every step of the way.  As we get 100 yards in I can see the herd become cautious making us wait it out before pressing on.  We would have to get on our hands and knees and crawl the rest of the 60 to 70 yards without being spotted or heard.  I’m sweating everywhere while I’m being tested physically and mentally.  As the gap between the bull and I are narrowing down, I stop and range to find the perfect distance and notice that the Caribou bull we are after is only moments away from being killed by my hands when I release my arrow pointing towards its vitals.  I play out in my head what I’m going to do, where I’m going to aim, when I’m doing to release the arrow, make sure to breathe through the release between my heart beat while all along praying that I make a clean and humane kill as I don’t want the bull to suffer.  The shot is perfect and the bull doesn’t run off too far as I can see him fall to the ground.  We give him time to pass and then work our way towards him.  Every step closer I start to reflect on all that has happened heading up to this moment.  We walk up on the bull and I set my bow down beside him and put my hands on his body.  I’ll again pray to God, thanking Him for the clean kill, allowing me to take its life and knowing that none of its remains will go to waste.   After a few brief moments to take pictures and congregations between myself and the guide for a successful hunt, we start to section off the meat and pack it in for the long haul back to base camp.  I carefully wrap the head and cape and place it in my outer frame backpack. We leave the gut pile for other animals to benefit from the kill as well and start our way back down the mountain.  We arrive at camp hours later tired and ready to eat.  We cook up the heart and a few other sections for a well deserved feast and talk about the whole experience to relive the moment.  After our bellies are full, we call it a night.  The next morning we pack up and head to the river.  While we wait for the plane to arrive to take us back to town, we pull out our fly rods and cast in the water to chase after more fish.  It’s a brisk morning so the fog is everywhere.  I think to myself… WOW, I couldn’t ask for a better ending for a successful hunt.   As the plane is coming in, all that is left is to leave my mark on the ground but instead of just writing my name, I would write my wife’s name Yana and my son’s name Landon in the sand because even thought they might not have been there with me, they were there in spirit.  After packing up the plane, we look back one last time to remember what took place, what we accomplished.  This is my Caribou hunt I’m after.  One day I will have this experience.

As you might have noticed, the actual killing of the animal wasn’t the main point. The harvesting of the bull was just the result.  Everything leading up and afterwards was the experience that I was after.  The meat is great but I wanted the experience.  Does this make me a bad guy?  No, it’s just the truth.  I didn’t have to kill the to feed my family.  Killing the Caribou was just part of the experience and so in a way you can say that I killed the bull for the sport of it.  The meat I gained afterwards was just the icing on the cake as it will be something I can share with others and enjoy for weeks, even months ahead.

I have many more hunts that I have on my bucket list and each have a very different style or outcome I’m after for that hunt.  The above is what I would hope the hunt would be like, of course hunting is never perfect but it can’t hurt to imagine.  I can picture each one in detail on how I would like it to go.  Maybe one day I’ll write them out as well but for now, I believe this one will do.  I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please comment below if you have a hunting bucket list too and what it would be like for you.  If you’ve hunting Caribou in Alaska before, I’d love to know how it went.

 

– Travis Stowe
Host of The BowRush Podcast

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