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Thread: Lessons learned from a first time Yukon River rookie

  1. #1

    Default Lessons learned from a first time Yukon River rookie

    First of all, thank you all who endured my endless questions regarding the DM802 hunt. Here is the report followed by some lessons learned:

    First of all, what I am about to do goes against every fiber of who I am. It is taking every ounce of intestinal fortitude to continue... indeed, my fingers are trembling at the prospect of.... quoting Kenny Rogers: "You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run". Whew... got that out of my brain, so I can continue with the report. This song kind of represents our trip.

    I got home from work on Friday and spent the evening getting last minute things together and ready. Then on Saturday, on the very wise suggestion of a friend, I loaded the boat with 100 gallons of water, and 3 people (1,500 pounds), to see if my boat could handle the load of gear and moose... we went out to Longmere Lake and was able to get on step and run about 22 mph! We made circles for about 1/2 hour to also calculate the fuel burn. It looked good. Got home and drained the water and loaded the camp and hunting gear.

    Sunday morning; 0600... we're off! We got about 1 mile from the house, in the dark and all of the sudden, I heard a noise. I stopped to check things out and realized that a plastic sled (used to drag moose through swamp if necessary) had come loose. We go that secured and back on the road.

    Next stop, Wasilla... we refuel, and grab some lunch. I noticed some unusual wear on one of the trailer tires, so we spent some time, on Sunday, looking for some replacement tires... no luck (strike 1). We decide to move on. We get to Fairbanks and again shop around, again no luck. We got a quick dinner, and decided to keep going.. we had a spare.

    A few hours later, on the Dalton Highway, about 70 miles from the Yukon River, we run into some fog that could easily have been considered "Phase 3" (slope term), meaning that we could see about 6" beyond our hood! We continued to inch along because we were not in a safe place to stop and eventually got to where we could see about 10'... Things continued to improve until we found the snow/slush and slimy roads with mud similar in consistancy to peanut butter... what a mess (strike 2).

    We made it to the bridge and looked over the launch in the dark. Decided to back-track to a gravel pit about 1 mile away... this was more of a mud pit than gravel! We were able to find some high ground to pitch our small tent and got a really good night sleep.

    Monday morning... we finish loading the boat with our camping/hunting gear and about 100 gallons of gas. Got the boat launched, got a close parking spot (the lot was full of maybe 50 trucks!), fired the old Yami up, started the GPS and depth finder and we're off. Full throttle and we were able to get a whopping 1500 RPM (should be 5300 or so)... we were making about a 4' wake behind us... I raised and lowered the trim and was gaining about 100 rpm every second or so, after a few circles, we made it on step... not sure if the mud in the water was holding us down or what... but we are going... 22 mph down river! We get about 1.5 hours down river and decide that would be a great place to unload some gas for the trip home. This will help to lighten the boat a bit. I also decide to dump out our 5 gallon can of fresh water because I had a filter and could refill (big mistake! Clear fresh water was very hard to find).

    We continue down river stashing gas about every hour or so... finally, the boat is running good and happy. We reach our destination about 1/2 hour before dark only to find that the only flat spot was very soft mud and not conducive to camping... we explore a bit more and find a bit firmer spot up a slough. While not the ideal spot, it was relatively clear of brush and flat enough to fit the Cabelas Guide Dome "Condo" tent. Got the bear fence up and settled in for the night.

    Some time during the night, it sounded like a 747 landing on the river and then all of the sudden, the big condo tent was dancing with all kinds of gyrations! But domes are great for wind, right? At 3:00 am a big "micro burst" gust hit the tent with enough force to bust one of the tent poles and poke it right through the rain fly! Fortunately, I had a spare pole and the highest quality of duct tape! We got things patched just in time for the monsoon! The repairs held but barely...

    The next day we were able to hunt morning and evening in some excellent looking country, however the willows were as thick as a bamboo forest and over our heads... we had a tough time walking through them and couldn't see over them. So, we decided to hunt the perimiter of the islands. Plenty of sign but no response to the calls.

    So, another reasonable night sleep, but we both woke up with pounding sinus headaches (stike 3)... we had a break in the weather with the forcast calling for a bigger storm than the first night's, so we decided to load up and head for the truck. We had a good trip, but fought the wind the whole way! Darkness settled right as we found our last gas stash. Thankfully I had a good GPS track that I could follow in the dark. We got back to the truck, loaded the boat and camped back in the gravel pit (things dried out since our last stay). Woke up and hit the road by 7:00 am... made it home before dark... 13 hours from the Yukon River.

    So, while we left a bit prematurely, we had a blessed trip, saw some incredible country and endured a great adventure.

    Now for the lessons:

    Things that I would do the same: I would read every post on this forum and others regarding this hunt and the area. I would over pack the emergency gear and be prepared for the unexpected. I would load the boat with the gear, fuel and people to see how it handles the load before leaving town. I would be very redundant with emergency communications; I.e. SAT phone, SPOT, etc. Have/use an established GPS track for the river. Be ready to throw in the towel when the odds are against you.

    Things that I would do differently: While it all worked out, I don't think I will ever take an open skiff on a 200 mile trip again. I would not recommend tent camping, instead sleep in the boat. Don't pour out the fresh water thinking you can find more later. Stash more fuel to lighten the load back up river (hopefully with a moose); We stashed fuel to Tanana but not after; I would recommend leaving fuel every 1-2 hours and enough at each drop for 1-2 hours. I don't think I would hunt this particular area (DM802) again, there is a reason that ADF&G cannot give all of the trophy permits away.

    I am sure that there is much more to be learned and would gladly answer any questions the best that I can. Good luck on your next adventure and be safe.

  2. #2
    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Bummer you guys didn't score, I was hoping you would do better than we did last year on this hunt. I don't think I told you about the lack of good drinking water to be found, we had the same problem.
    Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    Bummer you guys didn't score, I was hoping you would do better than we did last year on this hunt. I don't think I told you about the lack of good drinking water to be found, we had the same problem.
    Thanks. Good job on both of your hunts.

  4. #4
    Member pike_palace's Avatar
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    All that for a one day hunt?
    "Ya can't stop a bad guy with a middle finger and a bag of quarters!!!!"- Ted Nugent.

  5. #5

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    Indeed.... I would have liked to stick around and hunt more, but there were too many things working against us... The trip was good and it was great to see the country nonetheless.

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    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    Thx for posting - we have all had "learning curves' to deal with on outings and as long as no one gets hurt is all good!
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

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    That is a crazy lot of work for a one day hunt

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    Member iusckeeper's Avatar
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    You didn't mention anything about the learning curve in regards to your transportation? What kind of boat did you have? Would you use it again next time or ideally have something else?

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    thanks for posting this, I too am in the process of learning how to hunt here. Lessons learned!

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    Member akiceman25's Avatar
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    You guys had that gut feeling that it was time to go and you did. That is one thing that went right for you. Keep following your gut and things will happen....with a more positive outcome, I'm sure.

    Thanks for sharing! We all have stories such as this, no doubt....

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by iusckeeper View Post
    You didn't mention anything about the learning curve in regards to your transportation? What kind of boat did you have? Would you use it again next time or ideally have something else?
    Thanks for the question... I have a 20' Koffler River Special with a 50 hp Yamaha. I have a Bimini top for the boat, but elected to leave it at home due to weight and wind resistance. As I reflect, I really think the top would have been in the way with the extra fuel containers. I had 4-6 gallon boat cans, 3-30 gallon drums (one only had about 20 gallons), and 2-5 gallon cans. We used a barrel pump to transfer the fuel to the boat cans.

    My fuel burn was about 4.5-5 gal/hour at 5300 rpm.

    The boat handled well, we never drug the bottom (I had a great GPS track from a friend) however it was close a couple of times.

    I will not run for 9 hours down river or 11.5 hours back up (over 400 miles round trip) again in an open boat! We had great weather, thankfully, but the wind-burn was a bit painful. A bit of rain would have made a very miserable trip!

    As I mentioned, having a cabin type boat, like a Hewescraft or something similar, you are inside and out of the wind and you have your camp with you; when it gets dark, drop the hook and sleep. If the hunting is lousy, pick up and move. Fuel burn is likely more, but when I do this again, I will triple the budget and money won't be a factor. Forget hauling a massive amount of fuel and plan to purchase at the villages (Tanana was about $7.00 per gallon, but running a lighter boat is priceless!).

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Confused about the difficulty in finding fresh clear water. The north side of the Yukon in that area should have numerous small creeks that are clear, cold and fresh.
    No windshield on your boat?
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    Confused about the difficulty in finding fresh clear water. The north side of the Yukon in that area should have numerous small creeks that are clear, cold and fresh.
    No windshield on your boat?
    Last year we were up there and most of the creeks on the northside had some pretty dirty water coming out of them. We finally found a decent one that we were able to stop at when we needed water
    Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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    5 gallon bucket and an hour or two to settle it, then strain, boil or straight= drinking water
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    You were very heavy for a 50hp engine and considering you want to run a top, an upgrade may be in order. Not saying a 50hp in incapable but that when your running a tight schedule and possibly facing a moose haul and weather more power would be helpful.

    Honestly, all that fuel, moose, gear and a 50, point that into a headwind with chop and your not going anywhere fast.

    I wear a balaclava (sp?) and glasses for my longer runs in an open boat. Earmuffs too.

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    AFG: Thanks for the detailed report. The important thing was that you had a great adventure and that you made it back safely. The "bringing home the bacon" part of it is just a bonus and not the main event. Running 200 miles down a river you had probably never seen before with your wife along took a lot of courage. You did your research and were able to stay out of trouble. What you learned will certainly be applied on any future trips to this river or others. I, for one, am impressed!

  17. #17
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    This may be a dumb question because I have a 12' boat and have no prospect of ever running in a big river. That being said.. Why did you drive all the way to the Yukon River bridge if you were going to drive all the way back down to Tanana? Would it not make more sense to put in at Nenana (or hell, even drive around to Manley) and cut several hours off the drive in the truck and boat?

    I bet the draw success rate for this hunt is high. I also bet you drove within rifle distance of 50 legal moose between your house in the suburbs and that swamp in which you camped.

    Again, I might be talking out of school here... but I wouldn't triple the budget for the next hunt.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    This may be a dumb question because I have a 12' boat and have no prospect of ever running in a big river. That being said.. Why did you drive all the way to the Yukon River bridge if you were going to drive all the way back down to Tanana? Would it not make more sense to put in at Nenana (or hell, even drive around to Manley) and cut several hours off the drive in the truck and boat?
    Considered that, and based on reports from this forum and advice from several experienced in the area, and being unfamiliar with the rivers, I decided that the bridge was the safer bet. The Dalton was likely a better road than the road to Manley and that would have cut about 60 miles off of the river running. I was also concerned about the launch area at Manley, though I have never been there.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    I bet the draw success rate for this hunt is high. I also bet you drove within rifle distance of 50 legal moose between your house in the suburbs and that swamp in which you camped.
    The draw was 100% with permits left over. I am certain that we drove past many legal moose, however there was more to this hunt than harvesting a moose (though that would have been great). Much of my motivation was the adventure of the Yukon and the fact that we had a permit for the specific area.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    Again, I might be talking out of school here... but I wouldn't triple the budget for the next hunt.
    Perhaps. My thinking is that instead of trying to save as much money as possible, and overloading the boat with "cheap" fuel, I would go lighter and purchase the fuel at the villages. I burned less than 30 gallons to Tanana and approximately the same getting back from camp. I burned 45 from Tanana to the bridge. So, instead of hauling 100 gallons, maybe spending a bit more for fuel and only carrying what is necessary (with a reserve of course) may be wiser in this regard.

    Thanks for your comments and questions.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bighorse View Post
    You were very heavy for a 50hp engine and considering you want to run a top, an upgrade may be in order. Not saying a 50hp in incapable but that when your running a tight schedule and possibly facing a moose haul and weather more power would be helpful.

    Honestly, all that fuel, moose, gear and a 50, point that into a headwind with chop and your not going anywhere fast.

    I wear a balaclava (sp?) and glasses for my longer runs in an open boat. Earmuffs too.
    Agreed! Unfortunately, the Kenai has a 50 h.p. limit, and that is where I live and run my boat the most. In retrospect, I don't think I could have got on step with a large Yukon moose and gear and fuel. We did fight the wind and it cut up to 5 mph off our speed at times.

  20. #20
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    Thanks for setting me straight. I figured there was a good reason to drive all the way up there. Keep pestering your state representative about that road to Nome and one day you'll be able to drive to DM80two. That's right along the planned route.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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