Road Trip

By Chad Wildin
Alaska, DIY, Public Land
RoadMay/June 2011 EBJ (Issue 65) - These were some of the first caribou I’d ever seen, let alone hunted. The two bulls trotted by at 50 yards as I tracked them at full draw, waiting for a shot. Having never hunted caribou before, I had no idea how to stop them. Luckily, my brother realized the situation and deer grunted from his position behind me. Both bulls stopped in their tracks, offering a broadside shot. The months of practice were about to pay off as I settled my 50-yard pin behind the shoulder of the lead bull. I knew the shot was good the instant I released the arrow…

While growing up in Montana and hunting all the typical Western big game, Alaska had always intrigued me. I’d seen the beauty of its landscape and animals on television, but never dreamed I’d someday be hunting it. After moving to Eagle River, Alaska a year earlier, I could hardly wait to gain residency and put my bow in action.

Eager to join the fun, my brother, Daniel, flew in from Billings, Montana to accompany me on the trip. We would be making the 15-hour trip in my truck with a slide-in camper and a small trailer to carry gear and fuel. Eight hours north of my home in Eagle River, we stopped the truck to check gear on the trailer. During this stop, I noticed engine coolant leaking from under the hood. After determining the leak was fairly serious and coming from the water pump, I nearly blew a gasket myself. Daniel calmed me down as we discussed our options. It was decided to turn back toward the nearest town, Fairbanks. It was Friday and we still had a couple hours until 5 p.m., so we were in search of a repair shop.

We had no luck finding someone to repair the truck on such short notice and we didn’t have the right tools to do it ourselves. The search for a rental truck also came to a dead end. I had one more option, so I began calling rental companies in Anchorage. As luck would have it, we found a truck with camper available in Anchorage, but the price was steep and Anchorage was another sixhour drive. Thank god for credit cards and Mountain Dew. We made the drive south, stopping every 50 miles to fill the radiator with water. We arrived at my house around 3 a.m. and got some sleep before picking up our rental truck in Anchorage. We were pointed north again in our new rental truck and camper.

I reflected on our crazy journey to this point as we watched the two critters crash through a small brush-filled creek bottom. My caribou stopped after a 150-yard sprint and began to sway. His partner, not knowing what had happened, began to hook him with his antlers, as if to say, “Let’s get going.”

Chad Wildin

For a full account of Chad and Daniel's adventure, go to page 14 in the May/June 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.