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Thread: Mulchatna Heard???

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    Default Mulchatna Heard???

    I was planning a hunt in 17B this year. After reading all the posts I might be changing my minds. Is the heard truly dead in that area? Myself and some friends were planning on using Talon Air for our fly out into 17B. I was wondering if anyone has had any luck in this area the past couple of years? We want to use our money where it will be best spent. We have been talking about going up north now and trying that instead. Thanks for any advice.

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    Ricky,

    Since publishing Caribou Hunting: A Guide to Alaska's Herds, the Mulchatna has taken a nose dive across the southwest ranges. The last time we hunted this area was about 5 years now. The trend went from moderate encounters to nearly zero encounters in one season. Since then, the herd has shown the same trend from the Kilbuck Mnt.s south and east through the Mulchatna and Stony river drainages.

    Biologists are rather stumped by this sudden "collapse." But, some seasons air charter pilots are seeing pockets of animals migrating through certain corridors during august and september. However, groups are highly scattered and fragmented populations of mostly cows and young bulls.

    Some groups still shoot a caribou or two, but pickings are slim. The years just before the decline presented with bands of animals that enveloped mostly cows and young bulls, with a bull:cow ration of 70 cows to every 1 shooter bull.

    So, all that to say that if you pick the right air charter service who is willing to find pockets of animals just before your trip, they might be able to drop you onto a river with decent chance at encountering scattered bands of caribou, but don;t expect a 350-400 class bull to be found with regularity.

    Most groups that go to 17B these days do so with fishing and sight seeing as their priorities, with harvest success down on the list and hope for "luck" and good timing.

    Hope this helps,

    Larry

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    I'll be interested to hear from any locals about that too. I remember the herd being so large they ran right through our yard in Dilingham.
    Same day hunting from the metroplex, predators, and hoof rot took a major toll on the herd. What a shame.

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    Here is a link that is more than many may care to read, it is a PDF : http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...pplication/pdf .

    To add, I hunted that herd for 13 days from a drop camp in 1992, it was awesome to say the least, on average we saw 1000-1500 head a day. Illiamna Air Taxi put us in the thick of them. I wish the herd was able to maintain such numbers as existed then.

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    Yes, I guided exclusively in that area for a number of years and it was absolutely incredible. But for the last few years prior to 2000' it actually became a chore to find a good "shooter" bull. Besides the hoof rot, I really feel the area just got hammered by hunters. It was just too easy for Anchorage and the whole Kenai to have access to. I can remember seeing Talon and Illiamna air just stacking hunters on top of each other over there. I just don't believe an area can take that kind of pressure before "something" changes. By the time I stopped guiding it seemed that most of the animals were just moving farther and farther west, where the wheeled planes could still access them.

    It's sad to hear that it's even worse than when I left it. I feel very privileged to have been able to see the "Serengeti" over there when I did.

    These are both Mulchatna drainage bulls....




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    I did not spend the amount of time over there you did, 4merguide, however we never saw another soul during our time hunting. Illiamna did a great job job putting us on the animals and without any competition from other hunters.

    Nice bulls in the pics there !

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    Lots of reminiscing about what there was and what there is. There are still caribou to be found, but they take a lot of looking and nearly all are taken incidental to hunting something else and stumbling across a few animals. As for trophy quality, it is now an area where any caribou you find is a good caribou. I live and hunt in GMU 17 year round and IMO you'll do better most anywhere else, concerning caribou that is.
    Foolishness is a moral category, not an intellectual one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by .338WM View Post
    I did not spend the amount of time over there you did, 4merguide, however we never saw another soul during our time hunting. Illiamna did a great job job putting us on the animals and without any competition from other hunters.

    Nice bulls in the pics there !
    Yes, in the earlier years you could easily be put down in great areas with nobody else and still find some great animals. As it got later 99-2000 it seemed like everybody had to jump in where they found them. This is the time frame I am referring to. There are only so many places you can land a float plane where you are seeing "huntable" amounts of animals. That's why I mentioned that the wheeled planes were still being able to get to them farther to the west.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    ...Besides the hoof rot, I really feel the area just got hammered by hunters. It was just too easy for Anchorage and the whole Kenai to have access to. I can remember seeing Talon and Illiamna air just stacking hunters on top of each other over there. I just don't believe an area can take that kind of pressure before "something" changes...
    There is still a sign just outside Sterling: "Caribou Unlimited". About says it all re: how it was in the mid 90s-early 2000s. Shortsightedness on the part of ADF&G and greedy outfitters who could not see past the seemingly "unlimited" herd. I wonder if there was ever a sign on the Great Plains that said "Buffalo Unlimited".
    Ricky, good luck to you. I'm sure you will earn your caribou if you hunt that herd.

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    I'd like to see the yearly harvest stats from the Mulchatna for the 90s. I have a hard time believing that a bou herd approaching 300 thou critters and spread from Bethel in the west to Illiamna in the east could have been "shot" out. Had to be something else going on there.
    4merguide..........those are definately great racks, but...............if you believe the herd was shot out, doesn't that make you part of the problem?
    For the kind of money your going to pay for a good bou hunt, might as well do the WACH or the Central arctic. Tho there have been hunts posted here from guys flying out for bou with 40 mile Air.
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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    I'd like to see the yearly harvest stats from the Mulchatna for the 90s. I have a hard time believing that a bou herd approaching 300 thou critters and spread from Bethel in the west to Illiamna in the east could have been "shot" out. Had to be something else going on there.
    4merguide..........those are definately great racks, but...............if you believe the herd was shot out, doesn't that make you part of the problem?
    For the kind of money your going to pay for a good bou hunt, might as well do the WACH or the Central arctic. Tho there have been hunts posted here from guys flying out for bou with 40 mile Air.
    Where did I say I thought it was shot out? I said I didn't think it could take that kind of pressure without something happening. I also stated that from what I saw the herd was moving more to the west. Btw....I guided (contracted) FOR a guide/outfitter that had the area. Personally I only guided maybe a handful each year. I really have no idea how many others they hauled in during a season. What I was getting at was that the area as a whole was easy to access by not only guides/outfitters, but just about anybody in So. Central that had a plane......and there are lots of them. I remember at times it seemed you couldn't stand there for a few minutes without hearing a plane somewhere.

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    Dad hunted there 3 years ago and was hiking 15 miles every day (friend had a GPS) and they moved camp 3 miles about half way through the trip and him and a friend had a 7 mile pack 1 way to haul out 3 cairbou once they found a pocket, 2 cows and a bull. however, on thier first day (first day of hunting) a band of cows and young bulls walked through thier camp and one guy shot a small bull right out side camp and another one shot a small bull about a mile from camp.
    Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

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    they shot the 3 on the 9th day of the 11 day hunt, there was 3 hunters, and other than the first day they didn't see any till the day they shot the 3
    Eccleasties 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, There for the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.

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    Couple things, "The highway sign " Caribou Unlimited encompasses the taxidermy part of the business.I may be wrong but to my knowledge he has devoted his guiding to the N,W part of the state like Kotz.

    On another note,In 1975 I drew an ELK permit in WY. Made quick friends of both the outfitter and the guide assigned to me. I was asked to extend my hunt at no extra charge. Nice guys and I took them up on it.

    Fast forward to 1978. I was an assistant AK guide was asked to guide about 3 weeks in September. You can imagine my surprise when I hit base camp to find both the oufitter and my former guide. My outfitter assigned me the WY outfitter and off to the spike camp we go. We pack a 3 day supply and head up for SHEEP. What luck, we find 11 Rams. Only problem a EWE is the lookout. I say were locked in till maybe tonight we don't want to spook these guys. Take a nap. My spotting scope goes from one to another these are beauties, Time goes by slowly. All of a sudden there up and strart running. I'm looking for maybe a grizzly to have come in the picture. Hey, do you see what's going on ? No answer. Hey, did you hear me? Nothing. I lift my head, look around, he's on a knol waving a white handkerchief..I am just fit to be tied. After a little guide/client talk, a bite to eat and a new plan. we set out.Luck #2 for the day. They had split up but 6 big one we found. I peaked over and they were about 70 yards below me. I backed out. I whisped final instuctions with the last words beings "don't blow it the big one will go 40" So he gets to the edge. Time goes by.nothing. I think what could have happened. So, I creep up. They may be 90 yards away, A whisper, don't take too long. I think I want the ROMAN nose one "sugar he's 3rd best maybe 36" but he's your decision. Boom flop. Others look, then walk away.Big exhale.He smiles so I know he's happy. I'm somewhat dissapointed. Gosh, #2 would of gone high #37/low #38. Oh well so it's a Roman nose.

    Back to spike cape, turn all the stuff and salt. He wants to catch up on sleep and have a lazy day. Then off for Moose We found what looked like about a 55 incher, Sun reflecting off the palms. In heavy timber. He woulnt move. Next day same place, Hunter ansy. Finally hunter says, I'll look on the back side of this hill. Wow, he comes running back out of breath. Huge Moose. Off we go. Yep, so I sit, gave him instructions to rest his rifle on my shoulder and make quick work of it cause this guy is on the move. The rifle cracks and down goes a beautiful 61"Alaska Range Bull. We had several more days to look for Grizzly but none showed up. The other hunter did quite well. His Sheep was a miniature with a very tight 1 1/4 curl 37" his Moose a dandy 721/2" which he shot after climbing a tree to see it.

    With time to spare i invited both to come stay at my house, get gear up and go Caribou hunting the Munchatna herd.
    I explained they all look big so take your time. I gave them all my camping gear and off they go with my pilot friend air taxi operator.
    They flip a coin to see who would shoot first then decide they would only carry one rifle as most likely there would only be ONE huge havestable bull in the bunch. Along the way they see a dozen or so. They make the stalk and the designated shooter elecs to pass. Well, he's not good enough for you i'll pass him up to.
    On goes the day. Seeing hundreds now. Gee, you know that was a darn nice bull I think if were lucky enough to see him again i'd like to take him.
    Luck #3. They see him, they stalk him, and the get him. Next day the other guy tags out. Whenerver they show, I can not believe my eyes. After the 60 day drying peried the Bull was #13 in the World Boone and Crockett Book. Not to take anything away from either of these hunters as they are both very skillfull but a certain amount of luck enters any situation especially hunting.
    Sorry for the long rant i just got the winter blues carry me off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    I'd like to see the yearly harvest stats from the Mulchatna for the 90s. I have a hard time believing that a bou herd approaching 300 thou critters and spread from Bethel in the west to Illiamna in the east could have been "shot" out. Had to be something else going on there.
    "Shot out"? That was a big factor, but there are other factors at play in that herd's demise: disease, predation, splitting of the mega herd made up from a temporary joining of the Mulchatna and Peninsula herds (when each went separate ways)... probably more. I just hope ADF&G learned a thing or two from that collapse. I mourn the loss of such a magnificent biomass.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roland on the River View Post
    Couple things, "The highway sign " Caribou Unlimited encompasses the taxidermy part of the business.I may be wrong but to my knowledge he has devoted his guiding to the N,W part of the state like Kotz.


    Sorry for the long rant i just got the winter blues carry me off.
    That (Caribou Unlimited) is good to know, but the average person (like me) would get the wrong impression. Animals are never unlimited.
    That was a good story. I love to hear hunting stories.
    Hang in there Roland, spring is in a couple days!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    Besides the hoof rot, I really feel the area just got hammered by hunters. It was just too easy for Anchorage and the whole Kenai to have access to. I can remember seeing Talon and Illiamna air just stacking hunters on top of each other over there. I just don't believe an area can take that kind of pressure before "something" changes.
    4mer, your above quote suggests you feel hunting was a significant contribution to the decline of the overall herd. I'm not criticizing you, just using your statements to represent an idea stated on this forum by others, and many times before.
    As I said, I would like to see harvest stats for the good years. While the herd was accessible to a lot of folks, it was still a large number of animals spread over a huge area.
    All the bou herds in Alaska have spikes and waned, then spiked again over time. WACH, 40 mile, Central Arctic. Large swings in numbers over time is the status quo for bou. That's with or without human hunting.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
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    The sign everyone is referring to is indeed the name of a ceratain master guides outfitting buisness,As Roland pointed out there is also a taxi buisness there also.I know who the guide(not personally) is with that buisness and to the best of my knowledge he do not hunt in unit 17. I know he worked in 9 at one time not sure if he still does....Larry Bartlets post is pretty spot on from my understanding,prior to decline the bull cow ratio was way out of wack,I have also seen reports on preditors,disease and everything else. The place was a zoo,not outfitters/guides although I sure they were in there pretty good ,but it is a very accessable area and every air charter hammered it,I can think of close to twenty charters off the top of my head that would drop off several groups of hunters a day for weeks on end.And dont forget about the fleet of personal planes up at lake hood that hunt in there on a regular basis.I do not think it was a surprise to anyone that the herd crashed,remember talking with guides I worked for about it many years ago...
    I am sure there is still some great hunting in there just not like it was and what a shame it always had a high percentage of double shovel bulls in there....

    MT Here is a caribou report from 98-2000 and 2002-2004



    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/ho...-2mt_south.pdf

    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/ho..._sc_sw_int.pdf

    I am sure there is more to it then hunting as well the population went from est 90,000 in 1991 to 200,000 in 97 so that cant be good either

    harvest est in 91/92 was 3273 in 98/99 9770

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    I love the saying, "I'd rather be lucky than good". Rolands story really emphasizes that. Someday I'll float or fly out for a dedicated Bou hunt. For now, it's into the mountains for me. Although, this year I'll take some time to hunt Moose with my any bull Yanert tag.

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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    4mer, your above quote suggests you feel hunting was a significant contribution to the decline of the overall herd.
    I had in my mind what I was trying to convey but I guess I did a poor job of it. I probably should have emphasized what I said in my second sentence....

    "But for the last few years prior to 2000' it actually became a chore to find a good "shooter" bull"


    As that is what my job was, to find the best bull I could for the hunter, this is what I was referring to. During the last few years I guided, there were always plenty of animals to be found, just not the amount of high caliber bulls that I had been used to seeing...very easily I might add. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I thought hunters were the reason for the fall of the entire herd....that was not my intention.

    But I do feel too much pressure can "manipulate" the animals to change their habits....thus when I said "they seemed to be moving farther and farther out west. Seems logical to me that in an area where hundreds of float planes would land and hunt for years on end, that the animals would get a little bit wiser and just move further away from that area.....am I wrong thinking this way? And as was stated, I was there when the hoof rot was going around...a sad thing to see. So I think there were also other things that had an effect as well. Finally, and as we all know these herds are cyclical, they rise and fall naturally over time. It may have just been their time, and hopefully they will come back strong.

    Sorry for the confusion.....

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