2007 Alaska Caribou Hunt

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
Alaska Caribou Hunt 2007

Our adventure began as a wild dream and, after two years of research and planning, became a reality. We wanted to do this trip as much as possible all on our own. However, getting into and out of the Alaska bush successfully would require that we rely on several third parties for services and even our survival. This really bothered me since my experience with relying on third parties usually means disappointment at some level. I finally settled on using Matt and Julie Owen of Northern Air Trophy as our transporter and provider of gear and supplies. Turns out, we could not have made a better choice for our hunt out of Kotzebue.

We felt that a trip of this magnitude would best be done as a party of four to allow for a better division of effort and to ensure our survival if we met with any serious difficulty. I was surprised at how many of my friends were interested in doing this trip until it started to become a serious plan. Two of our friends Rob Rizutto and Bobby Gonzales, actually committed to the trip and the planning began in earnest. We had many phone conversations, tons of e-mail and two group meetings before the hunt. What started out as a group of casual friends ended as individuals that will be bonded forever by our once in a lifetime experience together. Anyone that has had a successful wilderness experience will be able to relate. Now when we meet, the handshake and a hug take on new meaning.

What follows are the entries from my journal for this hunt.


August 30

Our trip truly took on the aspect of an adventure with our first flight from Ontario, CA headed to Seattle. The plane hit 12 pigeons during the take off, the pilot turned around and requested an emergency landing. A mechanical team checked out the aircraft and we were on our way after a three hour delay. Of course, we had to change our connecting flight to Anchorage. At the baggage claim in Anchorage, we claimed only three of our twelve bags. The remaining nine were on the next flight an hour later. We called the hotel for shuttle service, then agreed to a meeting place and time. The shuttle took over an hour to make the ten minute trip after three more calls. We planned on taking the earliest possible combination of flights just in case we had any problems like these. We arrived at our rooms at 7:00 PM with plenty of time for dinner at Gwennies Old Alaska Restaurant. We had a great dinner and drew lots for shooting order. Bonny was first to draw and pulled number two. Rob was next and pulled number one. Then BobbyG drew number four and I took the remaining number of three. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed our last indoor shower and set the alarm for 2:30 AM.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
August 31

The 2:30 alarm came much too soon. I’m sure we looked like a three ring circus trying to get our gun cases, luggage and camp duffles down to the lobby. We had to wake the hotel personnel to get the shuttle to the airport. When we arrived at the Anchorage airport, we found a few Inupiat passengers and several hunting parties. Checking in with this many bags and firearms is always a challenging process, but all went without incident.

The flight to Kotzebue gave us some beautiful views from the windows of our 737. Snow capped mountains jutted up through the clouds and when we could see down to the ground we were greeted by glaciers and wilderness. We did have to make two passes at the Kotzebue airport before landing due to heavy fog which rolled in just as we were trying to touch down.

The first thing I noticed as we disembarked was the difference in temperature. It was much cooler in Kotzebue than in Anchorage. I’m worried we may not be able to fly out today due to the fog and heavy cloud cover. If flying is difficult in a 737, then it may be impossible in the Cessna 180’s which only fly 1,000 to 1,500 feet above sea level. We help other passengers with their bags at the baggage claim and all of our baggage arrives without incident. Julie shows up to pick us up right on time. She took us to her headquarters, which consists of two tents, at the other end of the air field in her pick up truck. We piled our gear high in the bed and two of us sat on the tailgate. Transportation in Kotzebue is little different than that to which we are accustomed. Most of the locals ride ATV’s and motorcycles, and we see snow machines parked along side of most of the homes.

We unloaded our gear into one of the tents and Julie took us to the Bayside Inn for breakfast. She picked us up at 10:00 and we returned to the HQ to pack our gear in preparation for the flight into the bush. I get the impression that Julie spends a lot of her time shuttling her clients around the village to take care of their individual needs.

We met two other hunters at the HQ, Robert from upstate NY and Bob from Anchorage. Bob has hunted several times out of Kotzebue with various transporters and tells us he has used Northern Air Trophy exclusively since his first trip with them. We have a great conversation with Bob and Robert while waiting for the fog to lift. They gave us some good insight on hunting caribou, dealing with bears and camp life in the bush. They also told us that we will definitely be checked by the “fish cops” and to be sure everything is in order. Sounds like if we are prepared and cooperative, the Game and Fish officers will be pleasant. As soon as the fog began to lift, Matt began fueling up his plane and we helped to load Bob and Robert’s gear on board. As the plane left the runway, I did a little math on our travel time. About three hours for their round trip, an hour to fuel and load our gear, an hour and a half for our flight and another hour and a half to unload and set up camp. It could be 9:00 PM before we can cook dinner. We decide to go back to the Bayside Inn for lunch and Julie once again drives us down. After lunch, we made some last minute adjustments to our gear and Matt returned shortly thereafter.

Finally, the appointed time had arrived. We loaded up and were in the air. After two years of research, planning and anticipation, we were headed into the Alaska bush. Rob and BobbyG flew with Matt, and Bonny and I flew with another pilot, Mike. He asked how many times we had done this and we explained it was our first trip to Alaska. He was very accommodating to us, explaining where we flying and what we might see enroute. He spotted some Dall sheep and turned the plane so we could get a better view. We saw more and more caribou as we approached the area in which they wanted to drop us. We also saw three grizzly bears near our potential camp site.

We tried several times, circling very low, to find a place long enough and smooth enough to land. Matt and Mike were concerned that we may have to return to Kotzebue and try again tomorrow because of low fuel. After forty-five minutes of circling, they picked the best, if not the most ideal place, and set down. Their skill made it seem uneventful to land on a lumpy gravel bar 650 feet long. We cleared some snags at the far end of the bar to give them a little more room to take off for their return flight. We unloaded our gear and watched the planes leave. We are really on our own now.

We worked quickly to set our camp. It was a little frustrating for all of us, being unfamiliar with the gear. Fortunately, Rob had some experience with a similar tent and that got us going in the right direction. We made seven gallons of water, had dinner and cleaned up for bed. We did a little glassing before the sun was obscured by cloud cover and spotted some 30 to 40 caribou high above our camp on the far side of the river. There were two smaller bulls and one that would warrant a closer look. From two miles, I could see his good length and nice palmation on his tops.

I’m now closing my journal at 10:30 PM and there is still sufficient light to write without a lamp. We have decided to sleep until we wake and have a leisurely breakfast before packing our gear and heading out. I would like to glass from camp in the morning before we make any definite plans.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 1

We had rain off and on throughout the night and during breakfast. By the time we have camp cleaned up and our gear packed, the clouds lifted enough for good visibility. We spotted several caribou from camp, with one bull about two and half miles north that looked worth closing the distance for a better look. We packed up and headed north. We crossed Kigvak Creek without any difficulty. When we came to the Kugururok River, we couldn’t find a crossing after three attempts and covering two miles of river bank. We abandon the caribou on the east bank of the Kugururok.

BobbyG starts glassing on our side of the river and spots some bulls we saw when we flew in. One we named “Big Red” due to the color of his antlers, fresh from the shedding of velvet. They are on a bench about a mile and a half out. Rob is first up and after very little discussion, he wants to try for Big Red. We head straight at them. The going is easy in the river bed, fairly flat with small rock. We then must break brush through a willow thicket for a half mile. Occasionally, we can follow game trails, but mostly we must break our own trail to stay on track toward Big Red. The willows are dripping wet from the recent rain and the water is soaking into our pants. We don’t want to stop and take precious time to put on our rain gear.

When we break out of the willows, we are at the base of the bench. It’s too vertical and brush covered to gain the top in this area. We work our way south and find a caribou trail that goes straight up the side of the bench. By moving south along the bench, we have improved the wind for a stalk even though we have opened the distance between us and Big Red. We top out after the steep ascent about four hundred yards from where we last saw the caribou. There are no other caribou coming from down wind and the wind is straight into our faces. We slowly approach, using the topography of the tundra covered bench for concealment. So far, so good. We actually stalk past the area of the last sighting. We are using a set of bleached out antlers near the top of the bench as our landmark. I suspect they are still attached to a skull based upon the angle which they protrude out of the muskeg. There is scattered low brush that we can also use to conceal our approach.

Eventually, I spot the caribou about six hundreds yards out. They are bedded in the center of a large flat. There are only three bulls, the rest have moved on and out of sight during the two hours it has taken us to reach this location. Big Red is one of the bulls. We map out a strategy to get us within three hundred yards and the stalk is on. BobbyG and Bonny want to stay behind. I won’t have it. We are in this together and who knows how far or how long we may have to stalk this bull. I don’t like the idea of separating in this vast wilderness. The chances of being attacked by a grizzly are ten times greater for a group of two than a group of four. We all move up slowly and carefully.

At the three hundred yard mark, we stop to glass the bulls. Big Red is definitely a shooter and Rob wants him. One bull is clearly too small to waste a tag on. The third bull is pretty good in size, has a nice shovel and good bez’s, but his tops have some great character with long tines. The cincher is the six to eight inch backscratchers. I tell Bonny that she should really consider taking this bull. We all glass the oblivious caribou and discuss the merits of the third bull. Rob and I are convinced he is a shooter. Bonny is not so sure. I tell her that if she passes, I intend to take this bull. I thought that would convince her, but it backfires. She says, “I don’t want him, but if you do, go ahead.” I thought she was just being gracious and letting me shoot first. Turns out she was hoping I would pass because she was thinking of the hike back to camp with two caribou instead of one.

At that point, Rob and I move up for the shot. We have a few scattered bushes that give us just enough cover for the final approach. I range the bulls at 235 yards. I have Rob move to the left to clear the brush and get into shooting position. The small bull spots the movement and has us pegged. I check with Rob to be sure he is ready for his shot. I then move to his left into a shooting position. That’s all the small bull can handle and he looks about ready to bug out. Big Red stands and then the third bull stands. They turn in the same direction as the small bull that appears to be leading what could turn into a quick exit. Rob fires his .300 Weatherby and Big Red drops at the shot. The small bull puts it into high gear and my bull is right on his tail. My bull stops after just twenty yards and looks back. Big mistake. I fire, he’s hit hard and his head immediately drops onto a muskeg clump but his legs stay underneath him. It’s such an odd circumstance it almost seems comical. I’m thinking this bull is dead but the tundra has him propped up. Just as I finish this thought, up comes his head and he starts to follow the small bull. I rush a follow up shot that misses low. There was no need for the follow up shot. He makes another ten yards before piling up for good. Two bulls down on the first day of our hunt.

We clean the animals and pack up the quarters, ribs, tenderloins, backstraps and neck roasts. The law requires that we bring out all leg and rib meat attached to the bones, we can leave only the spine and the legs below the first joint with the gut pile. It’s a lot of extra weight having to carry out all the bones. We plan on taking both animals in one trip. It takes all of us to get BobbyG on his feet with his load. He has two hind quarters and all the meat that is not on the bone from one caribou, a huge load. Bonny and Rob help me to get my pack on. My legs are shaking and I haven’t picked up the head or taken a single step. We can’t get Bonny and Rob onto their feet. The loads are just too heavy. We decide that BobbyG and I will carry our meat loads to the edge of the bench, and return for Rob and Bonny’s loads. As we are highstepping through the tundra with our heavy loads, BobbyG asked, “What are you thinking?” I respond, “I think I shouldn’t have pulled the trigger.” We take our loads the edge of the bench. It’s clear we cannot make it back to camp in this manner. The tundra is killing us and it’s far too risky to try to take these heavy loads down the vertical slope into the willow thicket below. No one needs to break a leg, or worse, while we are out here on our own. We return for the other two loads and bring them out to the edge of the bench. I untie all the packs and divide the meat sacks into eight loads. Rob and BobbyG take the heads further north along the edge of the bench to a place that looks better for the trip downhill. With the loads cut in half, we can at least manage to negotiate the tundra safely.

The trip back to camp is brutal and we are all feeling it. Rob and Bonny are thinking dinner and bed. BobbyG and I want to go back for the second load. I think waiting until morning will cost us a full day of hunting and we still have two more tags to fill. After much discussion, we all head back up for a second round of hard work. We make back to the meat and heads in record time. We follow some dry stream beds through the willow thicket and find a better way up the bench. Unfortunately, we can’t retrace our exact steps on the way back, even with the help of the GPS. It takes all we have to get the second load down. We are back at camp at 10:30. A full day of hiking as caused the water to leech down my pants and fill my rubber boats full. We are all soaked. We have a quick dinner of Dinty Moore stew, clean up and are in bed by 11:00.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 2

A lot of sore muscles and headaches this morning. After a hardy breakfast, we pack up and head downstream. We will try to find the place where the caribou are crossing the river. After a mile and a half, we find nothing promising. We come across a lot of very fresh bear scat and Bonny, BobbyG and Rob all think they hear a bear rooting around in the willow thicket before us. There is no way to travel further downstream without entering the willow thicket where visibility will be ten to thirty feet. We head back to camp to cape out the two caribou we have down and try to recuperate a little from the previous day’s packing. We plan to hunt upstream afterward.

At camp, we take a break for lunch. Just as we finish lunch, a group of caribou walk by within 150 yards of camp. This gets our attention! A half hour later, we see another group of caribou approaching. There are three mature bulls. One has a nice white mane, decent tops, unique forked bez’s and a nice shovel. Bonny decides to take him at 123 yards from our camp. He takes three steps and topples over. We cross the creek and take care of business. We get the meat cooling in the creek and bring all three heads to camp for processing.

Our plans are interrupted as several more caribou come walking up the creek. We start glassing and see nothing but cows and calves. Soon more are joining them. In the distance, I see more caribou crossing the river with several mature bulls in the rear. It takes forty-five minutes for these caribou to join the group across the creek from our camp. We glass the bulls intently, but none are as good as the three we have on the ground. More caribou come into camp. I try to get a count but lose track at eighty-eight. There are just too many caribou milling around to get a good count. They actually bed within 150 yards of camp. After lying around for thirty to forty minutes, they begin to move again. Dinner and bed by 11:45. These long arctic days really wear a body down.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 3

Pancakes, sausage and eggs for breakfast this morning. We start the day glassing caribou in the usual spots across the river. Many are coming downhill along the same route as the others did yesterday. Just before dropping out of sight, we spot three very good bulls. The other caribou took about an hour to reach our camp from this location. We go to work caping our trophies and plan on letting the caribou come to us. After a couple of hours, BobbyG spots caribou crossing the river upstream from camp about a half mile. We grab our rifles and a rangefinder in the hopes that these are the lead animals. No such luck. We spend the rest of the day caping and salting the first three caribou. We did spot a grizzly about three miles off and heading away. Bonny, Rob and BobbyG saw a sow and her cub chasing after some caribou. The “fish cops” pay us a visit and check us very thoroughly, have some friendly conversation and hop back in their helicopter and are gone. In the evening, we glass a few more caribou, but none are coming our way. Early to bed tonight (9:00PM) to rest up for tomorrow. We will hit it hard trying to find a good bull for BobbyG.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 4

The day starts like all the others. Rain early in the morning breaking up just after shooting light. I glass while breakfast is being cooked. I do not spot a single caribou across the river. It’s amazing. We could see hundreds each of the prior days and now none. We decide to hike north to find a place we can get up onto the bench on our side of the river. There is a tremendous amount of tundra we have yet to glass in that area.

We find access with little difficulty and gain the bench. We glass back to the other side of the river and spot a grizzly feeding on blue berries. We continue on and top a small ridge. There are two ponds in the basin below. I spot a cow moose but no caribou. We cross the basin and go up the next ridge. Below is a large pond and another cow moose. We see two cow caribou and a calf. Just before we are ready to move on, BobbyG spots several caribou on the next ridge. They drop off the back side and we are after them. It takes a half an hour to cross the basin. We top the ridge and all we can spot are two cows.

We break for lunch and glass this area for another hour and nothing more is spotted. We head back, the way we came, toward camp. We come to the basin with the large pond and spot caribou across the river on the ridge that held the grizzly in the morning. We watch as they feed for the next thirty minutes. Suddenly, they start moving down the ridge and we watch as they plummet toward the river. We hurriedly cross the basin and come up the ridge overlooking the two ponds. I spot caribou coming across the basin. We drop back below the ridgeline and hurry down to get the wind in our favor. We top out again and see only four cows. We decide to wait to see if the rest of the caribou will follow. After an hour, we give up waiting and head back to camp which is a mile and a half away. And so it is when hunting caribou. Sometimes you guess properly the way they will travel and sometimes they choose another route that is totally unseen from your position.

The clouds lift and thin. The sun is shining occasionally. We take the opportunity to heat up some water and take showers. Bonny starts dinner and BobbyG spots a hundred or so caribou across the river and heading our direction. We wolf down our dinner and BobbyG and I grab our packs and head up river to get ahead of the caribou. They do not cross in front of us and, after an hour of waiting, we return to camp. We spot the same group of caribou back on the bench across the river. Evidently, they just circled around. We watch them until shooting light fades. They come off the bench but do not cross the river. It’s very frustrating to see so many good bulls but not be able to get to them. Tomorrow we will find a place to cross the river.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 5

Today started a little differently. After breakfast, Rob and BobbyG started on the dishes and I started refilling water bladders and packing lunches and snacks into our packs. Bonny went down to the creek to check the meat and spotted a grizzly running down the creek and toward our camp. She yelled, “Bear” three times as she hurried back to camp. We grabbed our rifles and jumped into the creek bed yelling at the bear. The grizzly stopped at a hundred yards and reared up on his hind legs, testing the wind and eyeing us over. He dropped and started to charge. We held our ground, yelled again and he stopped at seventy-five yards, rearing up and looking us over. I guess he decided he didn’t like the odds and turned tail, running away as quickly as he came into camp. What a way to start your day.

After the bear incident, we finished packing our gear and headed out. We went up river, watching for the grizzly. We used our Wiggy Waders to cross at two locations. We are now on the side of the river with all the caribou. We hike over a mile, breaking through willow thickets, slogging through moose bogs and highstepping over the muskeg. The muskeg is like basketballs covered with grass. If you step on top, it rolls sideways. If you step in between, you have no idea just how deep the hole is until you bottom out. Brutal.

We periodically reach some slightly higher ground and take advantage of it to glass. We spot some caribou about a mile out. They are headed toward us. We pick out what appears to be higher ground about 600 yards away to set up for an ambush. We have to go through more moose bogs, willow thickets and, of course, the ever present muskeg. Finally, we reach our destination. We are moving through some willows to find an opening from which to shoot, when I spot caribou antlers at 100 yards. I stop our hunting party and point out the caribou. They are feeding calmly, unaware of our presence. They begin to slowly feed downhill. We have to move quickly to get into position for a shot. There is one decent bull in the group and BobbyG is willing to settle for this bull. It’s not exactly what he is looking for, but there is only one more day to hunt and the caribou are becoming scarce. I range the bull at 199 yards. They are milling around and there is always an animal in front or behind of the bull we want. Suddenly, I feel the breeze on the back of my neck. A few seconds later, the caribou bolt.

We are all disappointed to have the situation unravel, but such is hunting. We watch the caribou, five bulls, hoping they will settle down and give us another chance at a stalk. Nothing doing. We watch them moving steadily away until they top a ridge nearly a mile out. There are several caribou on this side of the ridge, but they are too far out to judge. Chances are they will move before we can close the distance. It seems that once some of the caribou start moving, like the bulls we bumped, the others are not long to follow the same route.

We have nothing more to try, so we move closer. All of the caribou are cows except for one small bull. The bull walks within 125 yards and BobbyG would rather eat his tag than take this young bull. We all agree that it’s a good decision. We have lunch and continue to glass. We spot a good size group of caribou on another ridge a mile out. They are heading toward us as well.

BobbyG and I discuss where we think they are headed based on our observation of the caribou travel routes. We have watched this scenario play out several times through the spotting scope from our camp back across the river. We agree to set up an ambush on a rock outcropping across a small canyon from where we think the caribou will drop down. It’s a tough grind to get there ahead of the caribou.

Just before we reach the outcropping, a dozen cows start spilling over the edge of the far side of the canyon. We stalk from bush to bush until the closest place they appear is 100 yards and the farthest is 260 yards. We watch fifty to sixty cows walk through this area. Not a single bull in the bunch. There is a lull in the action as this herd moves off and I go up the ridge to see if any more to come.

As I ease over the ridge, I see another hundred caribou strung out over the tundra on the same basic line as the first group. There are two very good bulls in this group. I motion for the others to join me as quickly as possible. I tell BobbyG there are two shooter bulls and to set up for a shot. He has not seen them yet and they are out of sight behind a small rise. I range the cows that are leading them as they top the rise at 300 yards. The first bull appears and BobbyG says, “Fire in the hole” as he prepares to squeeze the trigger. I tell him to wait, the second bull is bigger. He can’t see the second bull yet and Rob concurs for him to wait. The second bull is much better. He has everything that BobbyG wants, good tops with palmation, a big shovel, good bez’s and lots of overall length. I tell BobbyG to wait for the shot to develop. The bull clears after a few seconds and BobbyG promptly shoots right over his back. The caribou are confused but do not run. He shoots again and still is over his back. The shots are perfectly centered just behind the shoulder, but just way too high.

The bulls are now walking away from us and presenting no shot possibilities. Some of the caribou bolted at the second shot and some have turned back the way from which they came. The bulls are looking to each group as if they are undecided which way to run. Finally, the bull we want stops and turns broadside at 400 yards. BobbyG fires a third round and I see the bull react through my binoculars. Then comes the resounding “Wump” of a good hit. Rob and I both shout “You got him!” BobbyG says, “Are you sure?” Oh yeah, we’re sure. Just then, the bull staggers and drops. We are all excited, yelling and high fiving. It’s the best bull of the trip and the one with the most drama. You know you are hunting with the right kind of people when all but one are tagged out and everyone is trying their best to fill the last tag and are just as excited as the shooter when it finally happens. Awesome!

We clean, quarter and saw out the ribs. We load up for the long hike back. It is a long, long way back to camp if we retrace the route that brought us to this caribou. The GPS says it’s only 1.56 miles back to camp if we take the most direct route. The problem we face with the most direct route is not knowing what lies between here and camp. How many bogs and willow thickets will we encounter? When will come to the river, will there be access to the river bed or a shear cliff? And if we can get to the river, will there be a crossing place or water to deep and swift? It’s also late afternoon and there will be no light for a second chance. We discuss our dilemma and choose the short route.

It takes two and a half hours to get back. First we must highstep through a half mile of tundra with heavy loads on our backs. We all fall at least once on this leg. Then we have to bust through 600 yards of willow thicket that is completely choked off. That was really rough. We all fall several times. Even the stalwart BobbyG is nearly ready to throw in the towel at one point. When we reach the river, the bank is too steep to get down to the river bed. I have everyone drop their packs and take a break while I search up and down for place to get down. I find a spot that looks doable, but I’m not real excited about it. We go down, one at a time in case anyone falls, they won’t take out anyone else. We then have to find another place to get off of this level and make it down to the actual river bed. We search for a place to cross the river and again we have to settle for less than ideal conditions. The river crossing is pretty exciting, testing everyone’s will to succeed. Eventually, we make it, but the Wiggy Waders didn’t. It’s a long story, but the bottom line, Bonny and I had to cross the river without waders. We were pretty cold when we reached the other side, but we all made it. We return to camp at 10:05 PM and we are all spent. I don’t think anyone had another day of hunting left in them. We heat up some canned stew and chili for dinner, quickly clean up and hit the rack at 12:07 AM. A very long day, but an unforgettable hunt.
 

Attachments

sagebrush

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Messages
450
Reaction score
1
September 6

Today we slept in as long as possible, 7:45 AM. When I finally muster out of the sack, I examine myself for injury from yesterday’s ordeal. Both of my feet are back and blue. The rubber hunting boots are just not strong enough to protect my feet from the never ending assault of the willow thickets. I would find out I have a fracture behind the toes on my left foot when we are back home. I have several miscellaneous cuts and bruises, again from the willow thickets. I sure everyone else is in the same shape.

We have a leisurely breakfast, then started the necessary tasks in preparation for our return flight. BobbyG and Bonny caped his caribou with a little help from Rob and I. I pulled the meat from the creek, sorted it and put it into fresh dry bags for transport. Because of all the rain, I rolled out our salted capes once more to dry on this sunny, windy day. We then started packing all our gear. This took most of the day.

Julie told us last night via satellite phone that Matt and Mike would pick us up in the late afternoon. I called again this morning and she asked about our weather. She said they were fogged in at Kotzebue and didn’t know what time they would be able to start flying. We packed as much as we dared and planned to call once more before packing the cots and striking the tents. We didn’t want to set up tents in the rain or in the dark if we didn’t get picked up today.

Bonny started a huge pot of spaghetti for lunch. We were all pretty hungry by 2:00 PM. Just as she was about to serve, the planes were heard in the distance. We hurried to pack the cots, strike the tents, roll the capes and wash the last few dishes. We each had a few bites of spaghetti straight out of the pot and had to throw the rest out. Bummer. We know it will be a long time before we eat again.

We help load the planes and BobbyG and Rob leave with Matt. Bonny and I stay behind to finish the last tent, pack the dishes and police our camp. We can’t get all the gear and our meat out in one load. Matt will return to pick up the remaining camp gear after he drops his next hunter this evening. We arrive back in Kotzebue just as Matt is loading the last of the gear for a solo hunter he is dropping. Before we have Mike unloaded, Matt is back in the air.

Julie takes us to the boning shed after a stop at the market for baggies, soda and chips. We wolf down the sodas and chips and some snacks from my back pack I stowed in a bag. It’s just enough to keep us going while we bone out the meat. After boning, bagging and packing the meat into boxes along with the capes, Julie takes us to the Bayside Inn where we will dine and lodge for the night. We gorge on excellent Chinese food, shower and hit the sack. I turn out the light at 11:30 PM.


September 7

We meet for breakfast at 7:30. Julie is picking up two groups of hunters on the 7:30 flight from Anchorage. She will bring them to the Bayside Inn for breakfast and bring us back to Northern Air Trophy HQ to cut and box our antlers. The flight from Anchorage is late and Julie doesn’t pick us up until 10:00. We rush to pick up our meat boxes and get to the airport.

It starts raining pretty good and we must huddle inside one of their tents to assemble the two boxes for our antlers. After three tries at packing, Julie steps in (thank goodness!) and lays out the antlers for us. We pack extra cardboard around the perimeter, tape, tie and shrink wrap the whole package. We rush to get all our gear, then the meat boxes and finally the antlers into Julie’s truck. It’s 11:45. There is no way we can take care of business and still make the 12:30 flight.

I take the antlers into the Northern Air Cargo terminal. The others take the meat boxes to the Alaska Air Cargo terminal. $472 later, our meat and antlers are on their way to Ontario. We rush over to the main terminal to discover the plane we are taking is over an hour late and hasn’t even arrived yet. We check in with the agent and decide to switch our itinerary to fly into LAX tonight. It costs $200 to switch our flights, but we avoid paying $512 a night for two rooms for two nights in Anchorage because there isn’t another flight to Ontario for two days. We’re up $824.

We have just thirty minutes to make our connecting fight to Seattle once we arrive in Anchorage. I call the sat phone company to arrange pick up of my rental phone while walking up the jetway. I pay an airport storage service $5 to hold the phone until the rental company can pick it up. I rush through security check and on to our departure gate where I find the rest of our party calmly eating Quizno’s. Our plane is delayed by one hour. Good news, we will for sure make it. Our luggage will probably make it. We have a 120 MPH tail wind that will help us make up thirty minutes. Bad news. Our connection to LAX from Seattle boards at 8:19 PM and we don’t land until 8:30. Worse news. We deplane at Concourse C and our departure is from Concourse D. No way we will make it

Out of the jetway and we immediately check our connection status. The plane is forty minutes late and the gate is changed to the one next to where we deplaned. Couldn’t be more perfect if we planned it. We walk through the door at home at 2:30 AM. A logistical nightmare coming and going, but it all worked out in the end. The only thing remaining is to pick up our meat, capes and antlers when they arrive in Ontario in the next two or three days. Would I do it all again, knowing what I know now? In a heartbeat!
 

Attachments

Brettski

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
1,008
Reaction score
0
Amazing.....absolutely amazing!!! What great stories and amazing pictures, but like you said, the pictures cant to justice compared to actually being there!
 

QuackWhacker

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 25, 2005
Messages
76
Reaction score
0
Great story...I felt like I was actually there with you! Alaska is on my list of "must see's" and one of these days...I'm gonna make it yet!
 


Top Bottom