It looks like I might have a chance to drive down from Fairbanks this next weekend and try to fill my DC482 tag for a bull on the Cantwell side of the Denali Highway, unless they hit the quota and close it by emergency order before then. I've got a bunch of questions about how to do it safely, if at all.
Is there any up-to-date source for road conditions? Do the folks at Alpine Creek or the Gracious House mind phone calls from non-customers just calling to see if it's safe to drive out there? How about the troopers? I saw in the Nelchina news thread that the road was fine this past weekend, but online weather predicts snow in Cantwell for the next couple days, then colder, clear weather for the weekend.
I drive a 4WD crossover SUV with 17-inch Blizzaks, so I do alright in a bit of snow but don't have the ground clearance to power through 8+ inches. I would plan to drive back to Cantwell each night to check the forecast and make sure I don't get snowed in while I'm sleeping. What's the road usually like with some snow at this time of year -- do enough hunters and others still drive it to make pretty good tracks? Is drifting much of a problem around mile 85-100?
What can I expect for caribou numbers and behavior compared to mid-September? Are they in bigger groups or well scattered? Moving more or feeding more?
Does anyone have experience with bull meat quality at the end of October for this herd? From the info I could find it sounds like people get pretty good meat when the season re-opens after the rut closure. Is a large bull still risky a week after that? I know it wouldn't be as good as young or early season meat; I just want to make sure it's edible.
Also, once the Denali Highway gets snowed in, is it ever worth hunting the Parks through Broad Pass or anywhere else for this herd? I haven't seen anyone mention that, but it is in the hunt area and I've seen bou there in the winter before.
Thanks in advance for any advice!