Both bulls were feeding directly toward us as my guide, Frank, and I belly crawled through the rocks to close the distance to bow range. At 50 yards, the older bull fed down into a depression and out of sight, but instead of following, his young toady remained in view as he turned to our right and continued to graze contentedly. His preoccupation with the next bite allowed us to inch ever closer as we eased to a position behind a boulder that would allow me cover to stand and get in position for a shot.
Inching forward, I could now see the top of the old bull’s back. Frank ranged him at 27 yards as I readied for the shot. My heart sank a bit when I saw the arrow strike as I thought it a bit far back but was soon relieved when the ancient hairy beast began to wobble. We watched as the bull slowly sank behind a large boulder. As it turned out, the bull was quartering away more than I realized and the German Kinetic broadhead had exited exactly where it should to bring closure to a lifelong dream of taking a muskox with my bow.
My desire for this adventure was kindled when I first read about muskox hunting in Greenland on the bowsite.com internet forum. Frank Feldman, an accomplished bowhunter himself, was instrumental in getting bowhunting for muskox legalized in Greenland in 2012. It was a year or so later when Greenland also made it legal to hunt caribou with archery tackle.
It is an adventure just getting to the hunting camp. We flew to Narsarsuaq and then a four-hour sea charter to Frank’s camp was required. The sea charter was an adventure as we traveled through icebergs and narrow, rocky passages through the fjords of southern Greenland. The level of excitement rose as we finally came in view of Frank’s cabin that we would call home for the next week.
Arriving at camp a little past midday, Frank’s daughter, Mie, had lunch ready for us. After a quick bite, cards were drawn to see who would be first to hunt. Andrew drew the high card and was up to bat. My Jack to Andrew’s Queen put me on deck, but my turn would not come until the afternoon of day two. Knud, our Inuit skinner and sometimes guide, arrived and announced that he had just seen a mature bull standing above the water’s edge just a short distance from camp. About an hour later, we were all standing above a mature muskox that fell to Andrew’s arrow. That evening, after a delicious meal of muskox steak, we were treated to an incredible display of the Northern Lights.
The next morning found us motoring some distance up a river, searching for muskox or the possibility of a caribou that had ventured down more closely to the water’s edge. Although we did see some muskox along the shore, there were none of trophy quality. I found that it required a trained eye to identify a mature bull from a distance.
Far up the river where the fjord narrowed and the glacier made its way to the sea, Frank spotted a small herd of caribou far up on an almost vertical hillside. Looking closely, it was determined that there were two bulls but getting in bow-shot range would really be difficult, so I relinquished my position to Chad who was anxious to get his bull and choice of weapon was not an issue for him. An hour or so later, after a challenging climb, Chad had his caribou.
We were then off to find my muskox, which I mentioned at the beginning of this story. After the obligatory photo session and caping my trophy, we headed back to camp where Mie treated us to a feast of lamb meatball stew and a delicious cabbage, carrot, and mixed berry salad.
Knud was scheduled to take Andrew and me to a different drainage and climb another set of mountains in search of caribou. I had concerns that I would slow Andrew down, his being much younger and a marathon runner. I certainly did not want to adversely affect his chances of getting his caribou. Besides, I had read about the fantastic fishing for Arctic Char that could be had in southern Greenland and was anxious to get into some of that action. Additionally, it was something Pam and I could do together instead of leaving her in camp all day. I will never regret that decision as we enjoyed phenomenal fishing.
That evening, upon returning to camp, we discovered that all parties had tagged their caribou, with Chad taking a second bull, this time with his bow. All were fine trophies. Three days into the hunt and four bowhunters had two muskox and four caribou.
Day four was a little slower as we searched for a good muskox bull for Chad and continued to search for caribou. It was late afternoon when a herd of muskox was glassed high up on a ridge far above the water. After studying them for quite some time, Frank and Knud determined that there were three good bulls in the bunch and that Chad should make a play on them. After a long climb and a short stalk, Chad sank his arrow into the side of a grand old warrior with a blue-gray face at 25 yards.
It seemed important to Frank that I get my caribou. I had taken a really nice caribou in Alaska a number of years ago and had come to Greenland to get a muskox, which I had already done. I was happy, but day five found Knud and me hiking up a long valley that topped out in a mountain pass some six miles distant. Muskox were everywhere, and I quit counting at 84. When Knud and I reached the lower portion of the pass and started the ascent, the wind was ripping through the pass. Knud pointed to his nose and whispered that he smelled caribou. In retrospect, I should have removed my bow from its place strapped to my backpack. We continued our ascent.
Just before we reached the crest of the pass, I saw a caribou coming our way a couple hundred yards above us. I got Knud’s attention, and we dropped and lay as low as we could possibly get on the barren tundra. With the exception of scattered rock, there was nothing between us and the ‘bou except air. I quickly shucked my pack and unstrapped my bow as Knud announced that this was a very good bull and he was at 92 yards. Flat on my back, I nocked an arrow and Knud ranged the bull at 60 and then 50 yards. With a crosswind ripping down the mountain, I sat up to prepare for a shot that I knew was going to be difficult at best. The caribou saw me and turned toward us, not recognizing us as danger. I seriously doubted this bull had ever seen a human. At 42 yards, he paused, facing us head-on, and I drew my bow. As I drew, he turned broadside, and before I could settle the pin, he broke into a trot. I swung with him, dumped the trigger, and heard the thump of the arrow as it made contact. I stared in disbelief as the magnificent bull made it about 80 yards downhill and started to sway and then collapsed on the tundra, culminating in one of the most difficult bowshots I had made in 40 years of bowhunting. It was a long six miles back to the boat, but there was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that at 67 I was still able to “gitter’ done.”
Upon our arrival at camp, we learned that Kevin had killed a grand old muskox bull, making it 100% for both muskox and caribou for four hunters in five days. It was pretty incredible bowhunting, to say the least.
To put the crowning jewel on the adventure, high tide was late in the afternoon, meaning that much of the boat charter back to Narsarsuaq would be in the dark. With cloud cover and snow flurries reducing visibility, the ride back through the narrows and icebergs took on a whole new dimension. The boat being equipped with state-of-the-art electronics was comforting, but there were times that the chunks of ice were so thick that Lars, our captain, could only idle along, weaving through the maze of ice and rock hazards. We made it back to our hotel just before midnight, a very relieved group of hunters glad to be back on shore.
Alaska Muskox Hunting