September of 2015 some awesome friends joined us way up north and basically guided me on my first hunting trip.
It takes about 8 hours of driving to get to the hunting area from the Kenai Peninsula. Since that was our first year homeschooling we were able to take our kids along. They hung around the campground while we were out hunting (with some of our group, we didnt leave them alone!)
We hiked and road hunted and four wheeler-ed over crazy bumpy terrain. We hiked more and boated into this lake FULL of weeds. We got stuck on sand bars and constantly had to clear our beat up prop of weeds. On day 4 we made it back into the lake and climbed a few knolls. We searched and searched and never found any bou close enough. Finally sitting on one knoll glassing the other side of the lake we spotted a huge herd WAY up on a bench of a mountain. Since it was our last day to hunt we decided to see if we could get close to them.
We jumped in the boat and motored over to the other side then started climbing and hiking.
This isn’t a forest or plains we were hiking. Most of the area was waist high willow trees or bumpy, bumpy tundra.
Up and down up and down we went through ravines and plateaus, then we stopped to glass again. While the guys were looking up at the bench at the big herd I spotted only about 300 yards away a smaller herd walking directly in front of us.
Excited at their accessibility, we quietly continued on up and down and across the crazy terrain until suddenly there they were.
I saw the cows, then about 50 yards away here comes through the willows this huge rack walking right at me. I cant express how crazy it was to see that huge rack swaying in the branches coming closer and closer, not even being able to see the body of the beast. The one and only bull of the herd continued to walk right up to us until he was maybe 40 yards away and stared at us.
I popped off a shot standing and then handed the gun to my husband who shot again. Then the caribou took off (after being hit twice!) and our friend popped him again!
He finally went down a few yards away.
What a RUSH!
Once we started butchering him up for the trek back to the boat we realized we hadn’t brought our pack frames NOR game bags.
My husband hiked back to the boat and went as fast as he could back to our camp to get those things as we started skinning and gutting the beautiful bull. He had taken his coat off after we had shot the caribou so he was only in his sweatshirt.
As soon as this all took place it immediately started howling wind and rain. The temp dropped to about 30 and then the rain turned into sleety snow that was being blown sideways into our faces. My husband got back COLD only to find his coat soaked. It had been in the fifties that day and we went from sweating in the sun to a wintery freezing tundra.
We made a couple trips in the sideways sleet snow with heavy loads. In this particular hunt, it is unlawful to remove the meat from the bones to get it out of the field. That drastically increased our weight!
The boat, which is actually a small raft, was MAXED out. The waves picked up on the lake and we took on water. My husband at this point was severely cold. We slowly made our way back to camp on the lake. The sand bars and weeds even harder to deal with now that we were so loaded and cold. My husband was the one driving the raft and was visibly starting to show signs of hypothermia. His face went gray, he was shaking uncontrollably. He said his heart started fluttering weird and his vision was starting to go. It was SCARY, but the whole time I had faith God would get us back safely.
Once we hit the boat ramp my husband took off for our old 1989 Mallard motorhome and we cranked that heat and got him warmed up as fast as we could. He was very close to being gone, I am fully convinced of that. This whole hiking the bou out and getting across the lake took hours.
Exhausted, relieved and excited for fresh meat we slept well that night and headed home the next morning. We woke to a winter wonderland. It is truly amazing how quickly Alaska’s weather changes. We went from a warm fall day to a deeply frosted early winter.
I guess I cant forget to mention the stomach flu hit the kids and ladies back at camp pretty hard the last two days of the trip. It was a mess. On the way home I caught the bug and the kids and I spent the 8 hour drive home pretty miserable. Even through all that we had a great trip.
I am so thankful for our friends who showed us the way for our very first hunt. My dream of putting wild game in the freezer finally happened.