The following appears in the January issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
STORIES AND PHOTOS BY BRIAN WATKINS
Frustration. That’s the name of the game when it comes to bowhunting. Hunting with a bow brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. From blown stalks, to missing an animal, to wind shifting. They say a bow hunt starts where a rifle hunt ends.
OUR AUGUST WAS FILLED with hunting. After a successful goat hunt in Southeast Alaska (Alaska Sporting Journal, December 2020), we made our way north to hunt caribou off the Dalton Highway north of Atigun Pass.
My buddy Trevor had to work the week in between, but I was able to get some extra time off, so friend Dave and I headed north, with Trevor planning to catch up with us a couple days later.
On the way up, the biggest bull I have ever seen was feeding in an area I didn’t expect to spot one. I was shocked at where he was and immediately had “bull fever.”
The caribou had a double shovel, long tops and a mess of horns on his bezes. He was quite literally the perfect bull. The only problem was, I couldn’t keep composed. I was shaking like it was my first animal ever.
My mind raced and my heart pounded. It’s the rush every hunter loves to experience – heavy breathing and sheer adrenaline. I snuck within 50 yards of the bull, but as I ranged the animal, he took a few steps forward. It didn’t compute in my head that he might be past my 50-yard pin as I released an arrow. I shot just under him and watched the bull of everyone’s dreams trot into the thick brush. Frustration.
We saw more caribou but didn’t get a stalk in. It was a couple of days of chasing animals in rifle range but with bow in tow. Finally, Trevor met up with us and we were dead set on getting a caribou down.
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THE FOLLOWING MORNING, WE spotted a bull and made a plan to cut him off as he was meandering around. Trevor went up one draw and I headed up the other. Trevor took the better route for the caribou, as I had already missed a shot.
As luck would have it, the caribou headed my way. I sent an arrow at 40 yards on a perfectly broadside bull that
should’ve been an easy kill. I heard a weird whistling noise as I let the arrow fly and it struck the ground between the bull and me. I still don’t know what happened, but we believe one of the blades from my mechanical arrow had popped out and sent the arrow in a tumble. More frustration.
That said, it’s important to keep a positive attitude when bowhunting. Even with the lowest of lows, you are there to get the highest of highs. That’s easier said than done and it took Trevor and Dave there to keep me going.
We spotted two bulls about half a mile away and feeding in an area that was easily stalk-able. We set out to cut the bulls off. Trevor and I did the same move as the previous day, splitting up to increase our chances. I went in one draw and he went in another.
As I crept along, I spotted a bull just 25 yards away. He lay down as I saw him. I saw the other bull lying right next to him. I motioned for Trevor to come next to me so we could try and double up on the bulls. We stood there for close to an hour without movement from the bulls.
After our patience grew thin, we started to make bird calls to get the bull’s attention. That didn’t work, so we started to sing a Beatles song, “I am the Walrus.”
Finally, the bulls stood. I took the first bull and Trevor the second. Within a week of hunting together, we were able to double up on goats, then caribou! It was a thrill of a lifetime. This was the highest of highs. ASJ