How would you like the opportunity to combine an archery caribou hunt with fishing for silver salmon in Alaska? That is exactly what local resident and owner of Payson Apothecary Pharmacy, Craig Mathews, had a chance to do in August. This was his second trip to the “land of the midnight sun” for the two-week combined fishing and hunting expedition.
The adventure of the wilds of the Alaskan wilderness is a trip that every outdoor enthusiast should experience at least once in a lifetime. Having been there a couple of times has only whet my appetite to return for the unbelievable fishing and hunting, especially after hearing Craig’s story.
After getting off the plane in Anchorage, he spent a few days catching silver salmon on Willow Creek which is close to the town of Wasilla, now famous as the hometown of Sarah Palin.
Craig was still able to catch a couple of limits of silvers even though the salmon run was coming to a close for this year. With a medium weight-spinning outfit catching 8- to 12-pound fish can be a real challenge!
After a couple of days of fishing, he rendezvoused with the rest of the group and they made the 700-mile trek by truck to the Arctic Circle and their destination of the Sag River which is an hour south of the town of Prudhoe. This is the area where the caribou journey through as they migrate from the summer range to the less hostile wintering area.
Once camp was set up, it didn’t take long to find the game by glassing the surrounding river valley. Herds of 20 to 40 animals were spotted as they were making their migratory move and on the best day, they saw an estimated number of a 1,000 animals.
In the weeklong hunt, Craig glassed a number of trophy animals, but he was waiting for that real wall-hanger which finally came to pass toward the end of the hunt.
Most of the hunt was in pleasant 60-degree temperatures, but as luck would have it, his three-hour stalk was in 35-degree temperatures with intermittent snow and rain showers. Craig was able to position himself for a less than 20-yard shot by anticipating where the herd would pass through an area of the river bottom.
Craig made a clean shot with his Drenalin Mathews bow and the 325-inch trophy caribou was his. The excitement of the stalk then turned to the reality of the work getting his animal back to camp as quickly as possible.
After the animal was down, the field dressing was a hurry-up affair because of the grizzly bear population in the area. Craig brought a large inflatable river raft on the hunt, which was used to carry his trophy to camp that was over eight miles downstream. The hunt paid off with an animal that will generate hunting stories for a lifetime in the Mathews family.
The big game hunting season is in full swing in the West and hopefully you have at least one tag to fill. Good luck, and enjoy the outdoors, God’s creation.