Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: 3 Generation Brooks Range Caribou Float

  1. #1
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,159

    Default 3 Generation Brooks Range Caribou Float

    This trip was planned as a repeat of a trip I did last year with my wife and 2 sons with the addition of my Dad this year. Unfortunately my wife came down with both salmonella and giardia a few days from the trip so she opted to stay home and deal with an unpleasent weight loss program. lol We hadn't been camping much this year due to playing tour guide to family groups, so we're still unsure of the source. It was probably something she ate/picked up in Anchorage.

    We left Anchorage early on the morning of August 2nd heading north for the Dalton Hwy, Happy Valley, and 800+ miles of adventure with either the Yukon River crossing or Coldfoot planned as an overnighter. We stopped at the Hot Spot just north of the Yukon River for their yummy burgers and collectively decided to push on to Coldfoot and the BLM campground for some sleep after 12 hours of driving. The next morning we refueled the truck and ourselves at Coldfoot and pressed on for points north. I had my dad drive up Chandalar and Atigun so he could go back home to Oregon and brag that he was now a qualified IRT'r (Ice Road Trucker) minus the ice and snow.

    The next afternoon we arrived at Happy Valley and checked in with Mike at Seventy North. We weren't due to fly out until the next day and I'd planned on taking my Dad all the way into Deadhorse just so he could say he'd been to the end of the road. Mike suggested we spend the night at Deadhorse since the plane was scheduled to be there that evening anyways. After the the first trip in the morning we'd shuttle the truck between flights to the takeout and then meet the plane at Happy Valley for the second load. As luck would have it, the fog rolled into Deadhorse that evening forcing the plane to return to Happy Valley. The next morning we drove back south to Happy Valley, arranged a vehicle shuttle, and loaded up for a popular fly-in/float out Brooks Range river.



    This river, like many in AK, is shallow and braided. I'd packed light last year and packed even lighter this year knowing that every pound in my raft would conspire against me and force us to drag back into deeper water. The water was slightly higher compared to last year, but this river doesn't get that much deeper. It just spreads out more.

    OK! After the put-in it'll be left, right, left, left, then 3 rights, then.....oh forget about it. We'll just read and run and try to go the direction most of the water goes.



    As always 70 North www.seventynorth.com provided great service and helped us pull the final details together to start another incredible trip. For anything in the Brooks or farther north you can't beat 70 North!


  2. #2
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,159

    Default

    This put-in requires the gear to be humped about 1/4 mile to the water. The raft at 135#'s without frame is easier carried inflated rather than rolled.



    After a long day of sorting gear, flying in, and carrying everything to the river it was time to camp and cook dinner...chilli with a cornbread topping from a dutch oven. Yummy!



    Last year, as we were cooking dinner, my wife looked up and pointed out 8 'bou on the bench above camp checking us out. This year we didn't have any dinner guests, but the next morning there was a nice bull and young cow inspecting our camp. The boys were still sleeping and we were a long ways (approx. 80 river miles) from the truck. We passed, but took it as a good sign of things to come. I'd planned on following my same plan as last year. We'd float for most of the first day and make camp where my wife shot a nice bull the year prior.


  3. #3
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,159

    Default

    We floated onto our next campsite stopping a few times along the way. We didn't see any caribou, but we weren't the only predators along the river. Just as we floated up to our next camp my Dad spotted a wolf. It turned out there were two, with another further distant keeping a wary eye on us.



    If you haven't been to the Brooks Range add it to your bucket list. Pics don't do it's incredible beauty justice. You have to experience it!



    After 2 days at our first planned hunt camp with only seeing , fast moving caribou a mile away we opted to float further down river. Last year we had crummy weather that kept many of the sheep hunters grounded just prior to the opener. This year there was a huge amount of air traffic going to/from higher elevations and another group dropped along the river a few miles downstream of us. We figured we'd leap frog that group and find another tight spot in the canyon to glass for caribou. I knew from the prior year that I wanted to complete our hunting while still in the mountains. The river canyon constricts the 'bou to one side or the other in many places and is much easier to hunt compared to the foothills and open tundra farther downstream. Our 4th night found us near the end of the mountains. We'd spotted a cow at the base of one of the side mountains and upon glassing picked up dozens of well worn trails across the tundra. This spot would have to do!


  4. #4
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,159

    Default

    We spent the remaining hours that evening glassing and seeing another fast moving cow. I reminded my sons that we were in a "any caribou" GMU, but both said "I want a bull". OK! No problem with that. However, compared to the 100's of caribou we had seen by that point in the trip last year, and lack of them this year, I was thinking I'd harvest a cow if the opportunity presented itself just to put meat in the freezer. The next morning we glassed without seeing any movement. Since my oldest was the designated first shooter this trip we packed food and water and headed off for the well used trails we could see from camp. My dad and youngest opted to stay in camp and watch and hope.

    We found a decent spot up high giving us ample visibility up river and down. The afternoon was almost hot and found us alternately sunbathing, glassing, and taking turns napping. Eventually rain clouds developed and a squall headed our way. We donned our raingear, turned our backs to the wind and waited for the rain to pass. Just as it ended another rainbow appeared. My son and I joked about hopefully having a caribou at the end of the rainbow instead of a pot o' gold.



    As luck would have it....our wish wasn't far off. After the rain ended I took a short walk to look below the plateau we were on and to my amazement there was a young bull. I scurried back to my son and excitedly told him what was grazing below us. I still have no idea where he came from other than divine intervention perhaps? We left our packs, low crawled to close the gap, and found a position about 200 yds away. We couldn't risk getting any closer for fear of being spotted.

    My son went prone, rested on his elbows, and waited patiently for the bull to turn broadside. I watched through my scope. Boom! A miss. The bull looked up wondering what the noise was and then went back to grazing. A few more words of encouragement from me, another 5 minutes watching the bull who wouldn't turn broadside and offer an easy shot, and Boom! Crap, another miss. My son held his hand out which was shaking from the adrenalin. He said "Dad, I need some type of rest". We'd left the gear 100 yds behind us so our options were limited for something to lay the rifle on. I suggested he take off his boots and stack them up for a rest. He did and had to wait patiently again for the 'bou who'd now moved within about 175 yds of us to present a good shot.

    Now I was a bit worried. My son only had 3 rounds (1 left). If he misses again do I have him crawl back to the packs to reload? Do I let him shoot my .300 WM which he has not fired? If he misses and the bull attempts an escape do I shoot? If he's gone and the bull decides to leave do I shoot? "I hope he makes the next shot count" I thought to myself. Boom! The 7mm-08 found its' mark through both lungs. The bull dropped and was done!



    Through the 3 shots my Dad and youngest had watched the action unfold from camp. They made their way up to help with care of the 'bou and to help pack him the mile or so back to camp. After arriving back in camp it was getting late and there was still work to be done. My youngest wisely suggested "Dad we should just cook Mountain House tonight". "Ok, you're in charge of dinner while your brother and grandpa take care of the meat and I head back for the antlers". I'm not a huge fan of multiple meals of Mt. House (this was the only night we ate it. The rest were dutch oven meals or something cooked over a whitegas MSR stove), but on a late night you can't beat the convienence of freeze dried.

    I really missed having my wife along on this trip. She's a veteran of many multi-night raft trips and can just jump in where needed to get things done. However, I realized that my boys were growing up when my 11 year old could handle dinner chores by himself.

    I hiked up to pack the antlers back. As i started back to camp another light rain shower started thankfully putting the bugs to rest for a bit. After the rain another rainbow appeared. I stood and watched the incredible beauty of the Brooks unfold, glanced down at camp where my Dad and boys were hard at work, and realized I was the luckiest guy in the world at that moment.

    Due to the lack of caribou we'd seen and a report just prior to the trip that the warm temps had most of the 'bou still on the coast, we decided to head for the takeout another 50 miles or so downriver. We hoped we'd see more caribou, but knew the odds were against us.


  5. #5
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    1,159

    Default

    I've done this float twice now. The advantage of this river is that you can float back to the Dalton. The disadvantage is the lower river continues to be braided and shallow, headwinds, has cold fog that can blow in from the coast, and other sorts of challenges to deal with. If I were to do it again, I'd be tempted to pony up the money for an airplane ride back so I could spend more time upriver. However, 2 days of hard rowing saves alot of money.





    As with the upper river this year, there were far more people around. Numerous airboats and jetboats prowled the middle and lower river and there were many, many camps....increasing as we neared the takeout. Most did not have caribou yet. We floated the river from the mountains to the takeout on the Sag in two long days under constant attack from nesting gulls. My sons had fun defending our ship from attack from above. We weren't concerned from the fighter versions...it was the bomber versions that had us most worried!

    Upon arrival at the takeout it looked like a small city. There were numerous rigs parked, tents set up, and several boats. We'd enjoyed an incredible journey together, but were glad to be done.



    Hopefully my boys look back when they are older and appreciate the adventures we had together as much as I appreciate all the places my Dad took me, skills he taught me, and sense of adventure and love of the outdoors that he instilled in me. Hopefully this was one small way to pay him back.

    Thanks Dad!

  6. #6
    Member tyrex13's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Anchorage/Soldotna
    Posts
    1,176

    Default

    Thanks for your trip report, loved the one last year too. I gotta do this hunt sometime.

  7. #7
    Member tboehm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Soldotna AK
    Posts
    2,407

    Default

    What a wonderful trip to spend with family. Congrads on a job well done, thanks for sharing your adventure. Looks like the good lord smiled upon your efforts and you were rewarded for it in more ways than one.
    Semper Fi and God Bless

  8. #8
    Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    base camp connellsville Pa.
    Posts
    257

    Default

    Great photos, those boy will will cherish for ever.Thank you for sharing the hunt.

  9. #9
    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Ketchikan, AK
    Posts
    4,076

    Default

    Congrats on a great family remembrance trip and a great write up.

  10. #10
    New member
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Eagle River
    Posts
    2,022

    Default

    Wow, what a fantastic trip ! Great photos and write up, I particularly like the pic of the rainbow with tent and raft in the foreground. Thanks for sharing !

  11. #11
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Fairbanks, AK
    Posts
    115

    Default

    Cool family adventure and excellent write-up! Thanks for sharing.

  12. #12
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fairbanks, Alaska, United States
    Posts
    22

    Default

    Very awesome story. I have 1 girl and 3 boys who are 10, 8, 5, and 3. I can only hope to have the same type of adventure with them in the future.

  13. #13
    Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    wasilla
    Posts
    540

    Default

    congrats on a great family trip....

  14. #14

    Default

    Great write up and sweet pics! Congrats to your boy!

  15. #15
    Member akjeff's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Palmer
    Posts
    788

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Birdstrike View Post
    I stood and watched the incredible beauty of the Brooks unfold, glanced down at camp where my Dad and boys were hard at work, and realized I was the luckiest guy in the world at that moment.
    I must have missed this post back in August. This is a most excellent post and what a trip. Way to go dad! Truly inspiring and the above quote brought tears to my eyes (for real).

  16. #16
    Member Berto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Anchorage
    Posts
    336

    Default

    i also missed this thread, so thanks for the bump akjeff.

    Birdstrike and family, congrats on another float hunting trip well done, and successful at that!

  17. #17
    Member akjeff's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Palmer
    Posts
    788

    Default

    BUMP for winter reading

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •