Got back from a great trip up north on Saturday. 4 of us left on friday morning from southcentral and headed north after a stop for breakfast at Rose's in Heally and a forgotten credit card with a 10 mile backtrack to Ester we left Fairbanks and cell service to a whole different kind of Alaska. We stopped at the Yukon for pics of the bridge so the youngest in the party could complete one of his Alaska man duties. We stopped for dinner and fuel at Coldfoot then through Atigun and a different world. We arrived at Happy Valley strip Late friday night. Howard and Debbie from Arrowhead greeted us with a smile. One of our party was already in camp so we had a nice snack of grayling and chicken.
The caribou were running late and Howard was scambling to put all his clients in the caribou. We ended up going west of the highway along with most other flying services we didn't go to what are the "normal" camps for that time of year. A nice gravel bar on the Toolik was to be our home for the next week. Day one we set up camp climbed the bluffs around camp getting a lay of the land. Day two we could hunt and around noon we spotted a couple small bulls about a mile from camp. Two of us went out and after a good stalk we had meat on the ground. Glad we all brought good pack frames as the terrain can make for tough walking.
Day three two of us went south of camp after a big bull that was hanging around in the same area we saw him the night before. After coming out of a willow patch we woke up a cow moose, she was not running so as we walked by I gave a couple low bull grunts hoping she would be curious and not run away possibly spooking what was seeming to be very spooky caribou. The big bull vanished and we ended up harvesting two smaller bulls. As we field dressed the furthest one out, we spotted somthing running out of the willows 3/4 of a mile away. It was a 60" bull moose, as it is a drawing only area we just watched. He was making a beeline straight for us, he got closer and closer we then realized he was coming for a fight with us. We yelled and whooped at him and at 150 feet we locked and loaded thinking we might have to DLP this big boy. Finally at 50 feet he turned skirting us by about 50 feet stopping to look then he continued to the next drainage. The other guys in the party watched the whole thing from across the river being very entertained. The only thing I can think is he heard my grunts and was watching us till we stopped in one place and was going to run us off. We had another bull come right into camp after one of the guys did a cow call. These moose must not see people very often.
The caribou we found the first four days were as skitish as sheep the stalks were difficult and shots were long. Howard came in and picked up our first 6 caribou finding a tired bunch of hunters. He offered to move us but we had seen more and more caribou everyday so we opted to stay. On day five we saw that a large group of bulls had moved within a mile of camp, the night before they were 3 miles out. So at 7:00 3 of us set out up river to make a go at them. We popped up out of the willows to find a not skitish group of bigger bulls 150 yds out. After taking 3 nice bulls the herd ran toward our camp and the other two hunters took two more with the biggest one right in camp. By 9:00 AM we had 5 nice bulls down and by 6:00 PM we had everything hanging. We called Howard on the Sat phone and asked to come out a day early. Friday Morning we broke camp and Howard had everyone to Happy Valley by 1:30.
On the way home we stopped in Wiseman just out of Coldfoot and found the neatest little store with a gift shop and cabins to rent I highly recommend it. A great time was had by all, and a big thanks to Howard and Debbie with Arrowhead for your proffesionalism and hospitality. Its so different up north of the Brooks I recommend anyone that loves caribou hunting to do it at least once, it was a great experience.
Lots of meat processing I put up 96 jars of caribou and have some Jalapeno cheese dogs coming from Indian valley.
I'll post some more field pics when my partner sends them to me