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Thread: Kenai DC618 and Tustumena lake

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Default Kenai DC618 and Tustumena lake

    I've been waiting to see what I can find in the forum history and haven't been finding much. When I put in for this tag I had assumed I would just boat across Tustumena lake to this hunting area. And at this point that is still what I want to do. I was just wondering if anyone could tell me if that side of the lake have places to land a boat? Or how is that lake in August? Is it pretty rough and can we get some good fishing in on the crossing? Also if anyone has ever drawn this tag in the past and would like to throw me some pointers it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    Matt

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    I've done a little digging and I've found that most people recommend horses for this area. And I've also found that the lake tends to get choppy out of no where because of the wind coming down from the glacier. Any more info at this time would be great! Thanks!!!Matt

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Hi Matt.

    Congrats on your permit. It's a great hunt and one I really hope to be fortunate enough to draw myself some day. There's potential to kill a truly massive caribou in this area - but in general caribou are few and far between so you have to be prepared to work for it.

    Don't take boating across Tustumena lightly. My friend drew this permit in 2010, and we looked into access pretty thoroughly, and have seen this discussed elsewhere. Tustumena is a big lake, and the weather at the east end may be far different than it is at the west end. Conditions on the lake vary from day to day - August or September, it doesn't matter. You'll have to plan some flexibility in your schedule and work around the weather. Keep in mind that the Tustumena glacier makes its own weather, and it can get rough on the east end. It's not named Devils Bay for nothing. Wear your life jacket. If you do boat, make sure you have a come-a-long or some other means to get your boat way up out of the water while you're gone - you don't want to come back from your hunt to find your boat beat to crap or just plain gone. There is a trail from the lake that'll get you up into caribou country, but I can't recall exactly where it's at. Look through some maps - it's on at least one of them.

    We flew in. There aren't a lot of places in that hunt unit to land a plane, so call a couple of transporters and you'll get a feel for what your options were.

    It was windy as all get out the first two days of our hunt. When the wind finally died, the mosquitoes took over. It was the buggiest trip I've been on in south central. My buddy killed a great bull opening morning (we flew in a couple days early). It was just plain dumb luck and a good reminder to look over your shoulder. We had spotted a big bull the day before and were going to try and relocate him - however over night the same bull (or another of the same class) joined up with a couple of smaller bulls and bedded down for the night a 1/4 mile behind camp. Sweet pack - sweet hunt. I shot a nice black bear on that trip as well - fat with blueberries.

    Pack light, hunt hard, be safe. Good luck.
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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info! That is exactly what I was looking for! I'll look into what you've said, you definitely put a new perspective on the hunt. I think I might need to make a trip come June to find out more. Thanks again

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Tusty Lake

    You can access the DM area from the lake, but for the DC you really need to go around to the other end of the hunting area (Skilak). It would be a very long hike over crappy terrain to get from the lake up to anyplace where you can find critters on the NE side of the lake. I've never talked to anyone who's taken a caribou out via T-lake.

    There are no moose left around Tustumena lake as the brown bears have eaten all of them. That said, I've spent many seasons in hunting camps on the north shore during regular moose seasons back when there were moose around and we brought a lot of moose out of that area back before and during the early days of the 50 rule. The DM tag area starts over at the NE corner of the lake and we'd registration hunt to the west of that and did so successfully for many years. The area was beetle killed back in the late 90's and all that standing dead spruce has since fallen over creating an impenetrable mass of criss-crossed trees, much of which is stacked up to chest high. You can't even get into the areas we used to moose hunt and being Refuge land, it's prohibited to use a chain saw (or anything else with an engine) to cut a trail through there. Nature took away our access and the game. It used to be a great hunting area and we never saw more than 2 or 3 other small hunting groups in that area. Occasionally, a couple guys would come in via Doc Pollard's horse trail, but those who hunted via horse usually didn't come all the way down to the lake.

    As for boating, if you have a boat that is good in Cook Inlet, then you'll be OK for T-Lake (most of the time). If you have little river boat, then don't go. That lake eats low freeboard boats for lunch and doesn't give you a minute's warning about doing it. It's a short wavelength, but tall wave height lake that will beat the crud out of you and swamp a river boat in a flash. I wouldn't touch that lake with anything that has less than 2 feet above the water line with a good sea cutting Vee bow.

    Since you need a boat that is seaworthy enough, you'll be in a boat that's too big to beach. It takes 6 men and a boy to get such a boat back into the water after the surf throws it high up the beach while you are sleeping. Ask me how I know. You need to use an off shore anchor system on T-lake. Minimum of 2 tandem anchors to withstand the force of the waves, a good mooring buoy, and a rope loop that allows you to pull your boat in to the beach for loading and pull it off shore about 10-15 yards where it can ride out the stormy seas bow on like a good boat will. Using that method, we've spent many days sitting around the hunting camp fire watching the lake do all it can to thrash the boat while the boat just happily bobs along with it.

    As for the Fall weather, it is as unpredictable as any weather in Alaska. That said, I've spent more September mornings sitting on the T-lake north beach staring out across a mirrored lake surface under bright blue skies with a crisp nip in the air left by Jack Frost from the night before. That area can be so awe inspiring that I've returned many times for recreational day trips and just plain ol' camping. In general, the lake is flat as glass at dawn with the breeze picking up by lunch and the waves beating down all afternoon and well into the evening. Then it tends to settle down during the night. Calm, rainy weather gives you the best lake surface conditions, as you'd expect. But if you go to this lake, you should plan your arrival and departure for the early to mid morning hours and be prepared to spend a few extra days waiting for a weather window. Never allow your time table to push you into crossing that lake when the surf is up. Always plan to wait it out.

    There are more brown bears on T-lake than you can shake a stick at. You WILL encounter brown bears if you go there. The streams are chock full of spawning and spawned out reds in July and August. It's a bear feeding frenzy.

    There's no worthwhile fishing in that area. You may not fish for salmon in T-lake or any of the spawning streams that drain into it. There's little point in even bringing fishing gear unless you were going to go out and try for lakers.

    The attached image is the pulley system that I built for T-lake. After dropping 2 anchors with about 50 feet of line between them, it is terminated with a mooring buoy to which I attach this pulley that has 2 wings off the sides. A fishing cork is permanently attached to the end of each wing and at the front of the pulley. The tripod placement of corks keeps the pulley from being able to flip over in the water. If you were to just use a ring off the buoy to run your tether line from the boat to the beach, what you'll find is that the super-choppy surf is going to spin your buoy every time the bow rise lifts it out of the water. Then you'll need 3 men and a boy at the beach to pull the retrieval line, dragging the boat and both anchors back to the beach. Yes, I've made many errors and discovered many solutions to being on T-lake over the years. I'm more than happy to help answer any questions you have about surviving the lake itself.

    bchanchpully.png
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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    OK JOAT, now tell him how hard you REALLY think it will be to hunt that lake.

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    haha Looks like it was a bit naive looking to enter from the lake. But thats why I asked the question. I guess Ill be looking to enter the area by horses or a fly in. Anyone have suggestions for Air Taxis?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sayak View Post
    OK JOAT, now tell him how hard you REALLY think it will be to hunt that lake.
    I think it will be REALLY, REALLY hard to do!

    I've never had the guts to even put in for the DM tags on the east side due to the difficulties of getting from the lake back into huntable terrain along that side of the lake. Did I mention the rocky cliffs and quickly rising hills covered with deadfalled beetle kill?

    After waiting it out for several years, we did a day trip in Sept '10 back to that area just to see if access had improved and if there was any moose sign whatsoever. An entire day of working our way down the north beach and probing back into the forest at multiple landing points and we could never get more than about 50 yards beyond the beach until we hit the horse trail at nurse's cabin. Plenty of bear sign. Never saw so much as a moose turd or hooved footprint in the sand. Unfortunately, it's a bear infested wasteland now. Not to mention that what was once a beautiful spruce forest is now an ugly gray mass of broken sticks.

    FYI... access by air is also quite limited. I think you should be checking out the horse guides in the Cooper Landing area.
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    Kingman first thing I would do is to contact F&G bio in soldotna I am sure he can give you some info on the whereabouts and health of the herd.I had a buddy take horses in from the t-lake,barged them up to I believe bear creek,but that is out of your area. One thing for sure Tustemena lake is to be respected but not feared.I have crossed at least a hundred times up to the glacier in just a zodiak,but heed everyone warning concerning weather and such the lake is not to be taken lightly.I will say this the bull my friend took was a 2 year old and to this day I have yet to see a caribou with beams that thick.
    If I am not mistaken DC618 is the fox river side so going in from skilak would not be a good option.
    Dave

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info. Just called Alaska horseman and I'm checking into all my options. And Thanks for all the inputs!

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    Congrats on your permit!! I had to pipe in here. DC618 is Fox River herd. Access is off the SE end of T-lake. I think some other posters are confused on which permit you have. Good luck and you should have a great hunt. This hunt is easier than DC 608.

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    So do you have any inputs on how i should get there. I know where it is. Im just trying a to find the best way in. I hate having to rely on anyone elses info at all and Im planning a short excursion in the summer to find out. But as I said before any info is appreciated!

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    Dc618 is a tough area to get into. The fox river is tough horse country, some packers might not even want to try it. There may be a lake back in there you can land on and that will probably be your best bet. JOAT has hit it on the nose be careful the Tustumena Lake/Fox River area is a brown bear infested mess, not many moose left at all and not as many caribou as there used to be either. Make sure you take a partner in this area, not a good area for a solo trip.

    The good news is by late August, early September if you can go then, there will be lots of black bears out on the blueberry covered hills. This area doesn't see much pressure so I would expect there being some huge black bears back in there if you aren't having much luck finding a caribou.

    You might want to look into it, but trying to access the fox river caribou herd from tustumena lake by taking a boat and walking might be nearly impossible. As others have said landing on a remote lake or taking in horses are probably your only options, and like I said if you take in horses make sure it's a person that has experience with that area, it is tough horse country and you could easily lose a horse if you don't know what your doing.

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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Unfortunately that is the way most of the mid-southern pen is now. My boys and I tried to hike back into Berg Lake a few years ago and it was like someone had poured giant Pick-UP-Sticks in the woods. My friends out on East End Road in Homer used to have a system of trails that would take them to the other side of the bay where they would hunt bear and moose. These trails are now totally covered by deadfall. Sad really, and won't get better in my lifetime. We do indeed need some fires to even things out.

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    Ok.....after reading JOAT's post I didn't know what the hell was going on. You have the caribou permit for the Fox river drainage. That being said, if you want to access it from Tusty it "can" be done. I have a friend that killed a caribou up towards Truuli glacier a number of years ago. I personally have been up the trail off of Tusty towards Truuli glacier a few times. But the last time a buddy of mine went in he said he had to come back down because the trail was so over grown that he simply lost it almost at treeline and could not find his way up through. This was at least 8-9 years ago. I haven't tried it in years so I have no idea what the trail is like now. If indeed the trail is "doable" other than it being a pretty good distance, it isn't that bad. If you have a couple guys with you a caribou pack down the mountain wouldn't be that bad.

    You just have to pick your days boating across Tusty. You would probably be hugging the south shore which usually is more protected until you reach Devils Bay. If it's blown up you'll just have to wait it out for awhile. And like what was said have a comealong and lay down some logs to pull your boat out of the water while you are gone. Also make sure your boat is real clean, as you don't want a bear to eat it while you are gone.

    You may not run into a lot of caribou in the area but they are there. It only takes one....right? If I was you, and you still want to try it, I would scout out the trail this summer. Or at least try and find somebody that has tried it recently. Maybe F&G knows? Heck I may even like to try it again this spring for a blackie as Tusty is pretty much in my backyard.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Sorry if it caused any confusion as I was referring to all my experiences on the north shore of T-lake in general and not talking about any particular caribou hunt area. I didn't catch the exact location he was looking for until after my postings about the lake itself. Getting to the southern end of T-lake is considerably worse than getting to the NE shore for the DM hunt area. From a boating standpoint, think of it this way... the distance you have to travel to get from the boat launch down to south end is the same as crossing the Cook Inlet from Kenai. If you wouldn't take your boat across from the Kenai River to Big River and back, then that boat has no business on T-lake. Even though you "can" get a zodiak on that lake, doesn't mean you "should".
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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Well thanks for the info, my hunting partner and I have a lot to think about now. Are there any boats you would recommend for such a venture?


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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Since Tusty is pretty much in my back yard I've spent a lot of time out on it. In almost 30 years there have only been a couple of times I couldn't, or shouldn't have gone out on it. You just have to be careful man. I used to take my old, heavy, wide beam 16' aluminum out on it all the time. Now I have an 18' Bayrunner and don't have a problem going out in it either. You just have to know the limitations of your boat, and know how to maneuver it if it blows up on you out there. Best thing is just to hug either shore as far as you can. people seem to get in trouble when they dry to go across, or run straight up the middle. It can be nice until you come around Caribou Is. and then, blow up on you in a heartbeat. If there is any chance that the lake can blow up at all, which there usually is, I just always stay close to shore.

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    The only lake that is legal to land on in that area will be Windy Lake. I have been to Windy Lake before but i hiked in to get there from Tustumena. Not a good option too far away from where you will hunt.

    The trail to access high country is in Devils Bay at Clear Creek. The Clear Creek trail is not maintained by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge but a few hunters still go up and down each each fall. This is the route you will most likely take. take some ribbon along to mark the trail for the way back. There are usually a couple of brown bears on Clear Creek for a very short distance, maybe a hundred yards or so feeding on the reds spawning.

    If you are worried about the boating conditions run the lake from the crack of dawn untill about 11am, or wait until its one hour until sunset. Those are calmest periods of the day.


    Tustumena ridge above Clear Creek


    clearcreek.JPG

    Bears on Clear Creek, Tustumena Lake
    tustumenabear8.jpg

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Well we were planning a spring black bear hunt looks like ill try for here and try and get the lay of the land.
    Tustumena_lake I saw your name in past listings when I looked up the area. I was hoping you were still around to throw me some info.
    Thanks everyone for the help and feel free to keep adding it on. between previous posts and what i have here. I feel like we have a chance. I feel pretty privilidged just to get this tag and I know my hunting buddy does too. Gotta love them party tags!


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