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Thread: Fly in/float out north slope hunt...

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    Premium Member AZinAK's Avatar
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    Post Fly in/float out north slope hunt...

    This hunt starts seven months ago when the AF&GD informed me that I drew no tags and that they had cancelled half of what I put in for (Unit 14 moose). I decided then that I wouldnít have my fall be the normal, when I can, where I can hunting season. So, I decided to try to put together a hunt that a buddy had told me about. He had done the trip a couple times with great success and explained that it was a great ďadventureĒ, which included a scenic drive (800+ miles one way), a fly in to a remote location, and a float trip all in one hunt. Sounded like a great trip to invite my dad on. Heís who introduced me to the outdoors and had always been my hunting partner chasing Elk, Mule Deer, Couse Whitetail Deer, Black Bear, Turkey, Javelina, Quail and many others growing up. He had always taught me that the time spent was more important than a kill. I figured this would be a good hunt for the roles to be reversed and for me to take my dad into the field.

    After getting the ok from the boss, and him checking with his...the planning started. I had to setup the air transport first as I was already behind the curve for getting it scheduled enough in advance. My buddy has used 70ļ North many times and had nothing but wonderful things to say about Mike and the rest of the outfit, so I gave Mike a call and set things up. I decided on the 26th of August as this was late enough to hopefully have cooler temps for meat care, and to also hopefully combat the bugs. He said he had sheep hunters booked throughout the day, but if I was flexible that he would be able to get us flown out. So I paid the deposit and moved on to the next thing that needed to be reserved, the raft. Alaska Raft and Kayak in Anchorage ended up being who I went with. They were beyond helpful and very professional. They also offer a discount when you rent for an extended period. I decided to go with a SOAR Pro Pioneer after talking to different people, and especially Larry Bartlett. He agreed that since the river I would be floating would be shallow, thin at times, and braided, that it would be a good fit. This all ended up being true. Even with good water levels, a full size raft would have been a lot to deal with. I will definately use this raft again for this hunt in the future. It performed great. Now that the modes of transportation were setup, it was time to figure out all the details to include equipment and food. After much research I ended up going with the Nemo Alti-Storm 3P tent. It is a 4 season tent and performed great. Sleeping bags used were the Wiggyís Ultima Thule -20ļ, and the Ultra Light +20ļ with the over bag that makes it a -20ļ bag also. They both kept us very warm in cold temps.



    With a 600 lb. useable load limit, we had to think light for the flight in. We ended up being a couple pounds shy of 600 including my dad and I with ALL our gear. Mountain Houses and other freeze dried food were the main part of our food along with some other simple additions. We used a Base Camp filter from Katadyn that worked awesome! I loved not having to sit and pump water, thus keeping me from doing anything else productive during that time.

    I decided to take my Browning A-Bolt Composite Stalker chambered in .300 WSM for this hunt. It has performed well in the past and is a flat shooting rifle that I can confidently shoot out to 400 yds with no worries. Iíve taken a caribou and a black bear with it in the past, both being one shot kills with the bear folding in half and not moving, and the caribou taking all of three steps before expiring. I have a Zeiss Conquest 3-9x40 scope on it that I love. Great edge to edge clarity and ridiculous low light brightness. Definately has been a great rifle/scope combo for me. My dad decided to bring his TC Encore Pro Hunter with his .270 Win barrel, scoped with a Burris Banner 3-9x40 on it. It hasnít been until recent that he has realized there is a difference between good glass and great glass. My Swarovski SLC binos showed him the way. He didnít want to spend that kind of money so he picked up a set of Leupold BX3 10x42 binos. Not bad for the money and a definite upgrade from what he has been using for the last decade.

    After scrubbing our hunting list multiple times, we finally felt we had everything in order, and with good timing as it was time for my dad to fly north. He arrived on a red eye early on a Friday morning. We spent the day verifying and packing everything and picking up the raft and satellite phone. We decided to break the drive up from Wasilla to Happy Valley by stopping in Fairbanks for the night. This left about two thirds of the drive left for Saturday. We stayed with my buddy Steve (Stid2677), who had turned me on to this hunt, and who has helped me, and taken me along on other hunts in the past. Canít say enough as to what a stand up guy he is, and how much I appreciate him. After a great breakfast Steve whipped up of biscuits and gravy with eggs, sausage, and bacon, we head north. We made it to Happy Valley that night at about 8 pm. It was a total of 15 hour drive time from Wasilla. Not bad with construction and 800+ miles. We just hit everything just right, and the Haul Road wasnít bad on the way up. We got checked in with 70ļ North and was given a hot meal and a bunk house to sleep in since we werenít slated to fly out until the next day. We were excited to say the least.

    Our day to fly out came and we patiently waited our turn. We ended up being the last of the day which was fine as they were a little behind from weather and their other aircraft being down. I wasnít even expecting to get out that day so I was pleased. We had a great flight in with seeing caribou and two grizzly bears, one right above where we were going to make camp. It is such a beautiful place, from the tundra, to the mountains, and seeing it all from the air was pretty special. We landed uneventfully on a gravel bar with our Helio pilot Bob and unloaded our gear. With a quick pic from our pilot/photographer Bob...we started looking for a place to spend a couple days.



    We packed our gear up the bank and spotted the bear we had seen when we flew in. He was just meandering along going straight away to the base of the mountain about 3/4 mile away. Was pretty neat. After the tent and bear fence were setup, we crawled in our bags excited for the days to come. During the night, I noticed the wind had picked up and that it was raining. Inside the tent it didnít seem like more than a breeze and a light rain.


    Day 1, and our first huntable day, started with me I going out to make oatmeal for breakfast, and realizing then that it was very windy and sleeting/snowing. We spent most of day 1 in the tent, with glassing attempts when the weather would break. Fog and low clouds didnít help. We did end up seeing a group of six caribou just above camp but were unable to close the distance on them. Still was good to see there were caribou around.

    Day 2 we had way less wind, and it had warmed up so that just rain fell from the sky. After breakfast, we were just finishing setting things up around camp when I noticed movement out from camp about a 1/2 mile. It was the Grizz! He was coming toward us slowly from right to left. I grabbed my rifle and slipped into the brush heading in a direction that would set me up to intercept him if he continued the path he was on. I could see the upper half of him during the stalk, and tried to position myself so that he would be in a spot that would expose all of him for a clean shot. That spot put me at 140 yards and in the readied in the prone position. I had one little window to shoot through, so I put my scope on it and waited for him to step into my field of view. Many tense seconds later, his head and dark chocolate legs filled my view. I placed the cross hair on his shoulder and put pressure on the trigger. My rifle barked and when it settled I watched as the bear tumbled down into a small cut. I jacked another shell and scanned looking for movement. After about five minutes of not even a sound, I back tracked to my dad to get some back up. He had been watching the whole time through his binos. He couldnít see me, but saw everything go down. He said I made a good shot as he saw the water on his coat spray off from the initial impact, and the spray of water and blood from the exit. He never saw the bear after tumbling down the bank either so we decided to take rifles and Mr. .44 Mag and see if we could find him. It was open where I had shot him so we could see well from a distance. We went wide and creeped up to the spot we saw him go into. He was laying in the bottom not moving. We were pumped! Then all of a sudden he took what I guess can be classified as a breath. Scared the bajesus out of us! He did it one more time and that was it. I never heard a moan, jaw popping, and looking at the way he was laying with his head kind of twisted under himself, you could tell he rolled down the bank and didnít move after that. We cautiously walked up to him and made sure he was done. We high fived and realized this was the first animal that we were both together for. We would always hunt together, but he would shoot his while I was hunting another area, and vise versa. Pretty special animal to do it on. We got him rolled onto his belly and started looking him over. We quickly realized he was a VERY old boar. His back and especially neck and head were starting to go past silver and started going white. All of his canines had been broken off and were also very worn. All the rest of his teeth were extremely worn. I donít know how well he could have ripped/chewed meat. Probably was mostly a vegetarian and for a while by the looks of it. His claws were good though. Well over four inches long and very white on top through the whole length. We took some pics and skinned him out. I packed the hide with skull back the approximately 1000 yds to camp. That pack had to have been 100+ lbs.










    Back at camp, we removed the skull and paw bones from the hide and took as much flesh and fat off as we could. We laid the hide out on some bushes to get it cooling. The day temps were peaking in the low to mid 40ís, and the nights were dipping into the mid to low 30ís. Perfect for cooling and keeping meat and hides. That all basically ate up the better part of that day and we hit the sack ready for more.

    Day 3 brought a little better weather with less wind and light rain that was off and on. We packed our day packs and grabbed our rifles ready for some exploring and hopefully, some caribou. Not ten steps from camp we look up the valley and see two young bulls working left to right at about a half mile away. We drop our packs and decide to try and put the sneak on them by going up a dry river bed, our only cover in the open between us and them. After a long stalk, they slip by just out of rifle range and now, aware that we are pursuing them. We end up stalking them all over the valley with them keeping just out of harms way. During our travels they group up with three cows. After one last slip, we give up on the bulls and my dad decides he wants to try and take one of the cows. Iím sure this is crazy to most of you, but it wasnít surprising to me at all. My dad has never been a trophy hunter. Does he have mounts of nice animals heís taken through the years on the walls, sure. But they just happened to be what was harvested for the hunt, and thatís it. He puts the experience first, harvesting meat for consumption, and then any kind of trophy quality. So, we head back to where the bulls had left the cows and found them again in the same spot they were. After a fairly uneventful stalk, my dad takes the older cow. She was lamed up a bit on her left rear foot, and probably wouldnít have made it through the winter. We are just over two miles from camp as the crow flies, and without packs. So we skin and quarter her up so that the meat can start cooling. We hike back and grab the packs and have a quick lunch and rehydrate from our parade around the valley. We head back and pack her out in one trip no problem as cows are significantly smaller than bulls are. We got all the meat cleaned and hung in TAG Bags. Iím sold on these bags. They are very strong and dry quickly. After the hunt I did a quick rinse and a run through the washer machine, and they look brand new. After the meat is hung, we eat dinner and go to bed. We arenít seeing the numbers of caribou I had hoped, but were happy with what we had so far and decided to try our luck on the float out.



    Day 4 we pack camp up and ready the raft. After a couple pre departure pics, we get on our way.



    We float through some narrow braids and shallow water with not too much problem. Neither of us are pros so it took a minute to get things figured out. We stopped a couple times to try some fishing as I had heard it was killer this time of year. In the first hole I pulled six different Arctic Char and one nice Grayling. It was a lot of fun.








    On the river we stopped and talked to a group of gentlemen that said they were seeing similar numbers of caribou and had only seen one Grizz with cubs. We floated until we had a couple hours of light and made camp. We didnít see anything on the way, but still had high hopes for the day to come.

  2. #2
    Premium Member AZinAK's Avatar
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    Day 5 we had breakfast and packed up rearing to hit the river again. On our way we are passed by an air boat on its way out. That is all we see for hours. At one point weíre floating along and I see some dark spots on a ridge to our left about a mile away. My distance vision is slowly deteriorating so I try not to call every rock or bush a animal as I can imagine it would get annoying. These rocks started to move though so I brought them to the attention of my dad. His distance vision is still perfect, though he canít say the same for anything from arms length in. Funny as my vision up close is still perfect. He reaffirms that they are caribou. We watch them moving along the ridge in the direction that we are floating. They seem a little spooked at one point and I think the air boat stopped and was pursuing them. They relaxed and continued moving with us and slowly down toward the river. At one point they drop into the bottom and we paddle hard to try and get to a good spot to hopefully head them off. I grab my rifle and head to a spot that I am hoping they come out at. Sure enough the lead bull steps into a braid of the river. I wait for him to get to gravel and once again prone, let him have it. 165 grains of Barnes Tipped TSX pass through him and he is done. I then pop up to a knee to see what the other bulls are doing as I couldnít see them. I look to my left and see the smaller bulls filing out in the opposite direction with small pauses to look for their fallen leader. I see the second biggest bull following the smaller bulls and with him at a trot, send him a little of the same medicine I had just sent his friend. After the muzzle drops I just see caribou running and think, ďI missedĒ! So I jack another shell and aim for the last caribou. They are at a dead run now. BOOM!...and a miss. They go into the brush and I look over at my dad. He has an excited/puzzled look on his face. He then points in the direction that I had been shooting and I see antlers. I had dropped the second caribou with my second shot. He dropped so fast and into a little depression that I didnít see him after my muzzle came back down. Six times Iíve pulled the trigger while hunting in Alaska with five one shot kills, none of them going more than three steps. My one miss is probably my luckiest shot. Not that I didnít have a tag for it. We just would have been really heavy for the float out and it would have been brutal to pull off. Iíll take the miss. I am always very aware when shooting and had never had an instance where I was unaware of hitting, let alone dropping an animal. I will definately slow down in the future. It was great though and many hugs and high fives were exchanged!





    Both were shot at about 100 yards and were only about 150 yards from the raft. We headed back to the raft to grab what we needed to field dress the bulls. We then also thought that we should call the wives and let them know of our success and that we would be camping there for the night. We called nightly and gave coordinates so they could track our progress and for safety. We had all of our electronics in my dads dry bag and so we started looking for it in the maze of stuff inside the raft. We quickly realized it wasnít in the raft and started trying to think where it was. It had our Sat phone, flash lights, and some other misc. stuff. The biggest worry wasnít having to replace the $1000 phone. It was that of our loving, worrisome wives that would be calling in the calvary at about midnight when we hadnít checked in. We started trying to figure out how far we had gone from our last camp as that had to be where it had been left. 15 river miles, or forever away out there. I basically said our only hope was if a jet boat happened upon us between then and dark. I wasnít too optimistic since we had seen so few people, let alone we were still pretty high up on the river. No more than 10 minutes later we hear the distant drone of a motor and canít tell if itís a plane or boat. Eventually we see the spray from the air boat and are elated! We flag the guys down and they beach next to us. Happens to be three Vietnam War vets and a gentleman from Oklahoma who is the nephew of one of the guys. They listen to our sob story, see that we are in quite the pinch and decide to help. Apparently my incessant ďSirsĒ from me struck a cord, as they ask if Iím military. I reply with a yes and a small grin forms on all their faces. They razz me a bit for being in the chAir Force, and we are on our way up river. My dad stays behind to tend to the two bulls while Iím gone. We get to their camping spot and I help unload and do anything possible to be as helpful as I can. Finally we are ready to head out to hopefully find our bag, but before we do Billy, who owns the boat, decides to do a look over of it. He finds water in the fuel filter and drains it. Long story short, my skill sets from being an aircraft mechanic for 10 years pays off as I fix a fuel feed issue as initially the motor wouldnít fire. They are ecstatic as they would have been in some trouble themselves if we couldnít get it going. Airboats are next to worthless without a working motor, and the worth they have is as an anchor. Off we go, and using the GPS I guide them straight to our last camp. I immediately find the bag, and see that the camo bag didnít do us any favors. Hot orange will be the color next time! We head back down to their camp and I am quickly invited to join their ranks as a future hunting partner. Apparently the fact that my vision is still decent, I know how to use a GPS, I can pack things, that I am a mechanic, and that I can take the trash talk from them, and return with ease must have won them over. We saddle up and are back headed down river to get back to my dad and the raft. Soon we are there and see that my dad has field dressed both caribou and hauled most of one of the bulls back to the raft. My dad and I express how appreciative we are and offer a number of things for payment. They refuse everything until I offer some of our Mountain Houseís. They had boxes of MREs and obviously realize the quality difference between the two. I throw in four packs of freeze dried ice cream along with the meals and they are happy. We exchange numbers and I am ordered to give a call in a couple weeks as repayment. They take off in a flash and we are left to tend to the caribou. We finish packing the meat and then the racks and setup camp. There was a Musk Ox about 150 yards away watching us that had been there the whole time since I left. He was neat to watch and was the 6th Musk Ox, and 2nd single we had seen at this point. We ended up seeing two other singles on the way out. After dinner and a call to the wives we get some rest and ready ourselves for the final push the next day.



    Day 6 begins for us a 5:30 am. We get up, have breakfast and quickly get to work packing things up so we can get on the river. During our pack, the Musk Ox comes down and watches us from about 40 yards for a while, then walks off and heads down river. We are done packing everything and start our float again after a couple hours of work. We finish the last leg by about 4:00 pm and load everything up in the 4Runner. The last two miles out of the 60+ of the float were by far the hardest. Once you hit the Sag, you have to watch for a marker that shows the braid that you have to take to make it to the takeout that is just above pump station 2. The water in this leg was low, and there was a head wind that required us to paddle constantly for an hour to make it to the takeout. It was brutal with all the weight in the raft. We head out and stop back by to grab a couple things we had left in Happy Valley. We talk to Mike with 70ļ North and thank him for his services and tell him about our adventure. He offers a hot meal and for us to stay the night in one of his bunks if weíd like. We take him up on the meal but decide to head south as we want to get the meat and bear hide taken care of as soon as possible. After spaghetti and bread, we thank everyone again and head out. We leave Happy Valley that night and make it to Wasilla the next afternoon. We head first to take care of the bear. We stop into Dahlbergís Taxidermy in Palmer and Jesse happily shows us how to turn the lips, eyes, ears, and nose. He also barrows us an ulu and explains the technique for fleshing the bear. We do a quick measurement of the hide and get 7í8Ē between the arms, and 7í6Ē nose to tail. Iím sure there was some shrinkage since it had been five days since I had shot him. Jesse couldnít legally take the bear as it hadnít been sealed yet, so we head home and finish the work. We salt it and wait until Tuesday the 4th to seal it as Monday was a holiday. The biologists at Fish and Game are impressed with how old the bear seems to be and ask a lot of questions. I canít wait to hear how old he actually was. We processed all the caribou meat in one day. We also took 50 pounds of scrap meat to Pioneer Meats for processing. They finished our breakfast sausage, italian sausage, and burger the same day. Iíve had the italian sausage and breakfast sausage already, and both are amazing.

    I gave my Grizz hide and the smaller set of antlers to my dad as reminders of our hunt together. He is going to rug the bear and do a skull plate mount of the antlers. Iíll be able to see my bear when I visit anyways, so Iím not losing out on it. They will get more of a kick out of it in Arizona anyways! Sorry for the babbling and over descriptiveness. Itís my nature. Hard for me to tell a story or explain anything without a lot of detail. I have always had a desire for people to almost see or feel as I do from my experiences. Annoying to most, but anyone that knows me, knows I mean the best. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed. Please ask questions and I will do my best to answer or to help in any way I can.

    AZinAK

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    Member kingman's Avatar
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    Default Fly in/float out north slope hunt...

    Great write up, And congrats! I hope to one day repay my dad with a hunt!

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Was great seeing you guys on your way up. Enjoyed your visit and WOW,, congrats on a cool trip with your father.

    Steve
    "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"
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    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZinAK View Post
    Itís my nature. Hard for me to tell a story or explain anything without a lot of detail. I have always had a desire for people to almost see or feel as I do from my experiences. Annoying to most, but anyone that knows me, knows I mean the best. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed. Please ask questions and I will do my best to answer or to help in any way I can.

    AZinAK
    NOT Annoying in the least AZ,
    That's a Seriously Good write-up, all the detail very appreciated,....What a Great Hunt, and all that with your Dad along,.....Perfect

    Thanks for the pics also, and taking the time to tell it all,.... I'd Say,....."Write On !!"
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Thanks for the tale-enjoyed it.

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    Member junkak's Avatar
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    Very nice post. Thanks!

    Truly a great father-son adventure.

  8. #8
    Member OHTroy's Avatar
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    Great write up and beautiful Grizz!

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    AZ great write and storytelling...I had an additional tab open and had to check the products you used. It's those details that we hunters have that make it possible to relive the hunt in or minds for years to come.

  10. #10
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Great story and that bear is wonderfull.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

  11. #11

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    Congrats on a safe and successful hunt, I'm sure it's one you and dad will cherish a lifetime.
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

    On the road of life..... Pot holes keep things interesting !

  12. #12
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Man that is one amazing father son hunt! I love the coloring of your grizzly and how old he was, talk about an amazing bear. I think it was great that you were able to turn the table on your dad and take him for a hunt. One of these days I will get my dad back up to Alaska for a hunt.
    http://i123.photobucket.com/albums/o...0junk/reag.jpg

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    Before taking any of my advice for granted on here research the legal ramifications thoroughly I am not the Troopers nor am I the Judge that will be presiding over your case/hearing. Please read the hunting and sportfishing regulations and feel free to interpret their meaning on your own.

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    Great story. I have a few questions for you about your hunt if you would be kind enough to P.M. me. i don't have enough posts yet to p.m. you directly. Thanks.

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    Really appreciate your attention to detail in this write-up....having walked through the corridor to take a caribou by rifle, I've daydreamed about a flyout hunt up there. Thanks for sharing every step of the way on your fantastic hunt.

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    Member Bullwinkle50's Avatar
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    Great story and write-up. I love the bear. It is a beautiful hide and claws.

    Randy

  16. #16
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Great write up. Good looking animals, the bear hide is way cool.
    Didn't F&G measure the skull? Would be interesting to know what is scored. Especially since it was such an old one.
    Thanks.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

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    Sounds like you guys had great time. My Dad is alot like yours and he is all about the experience (and meat). He always says "You can't eat the horns". Congrats on making some great memories.

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    Cool story! Those teeth on your bear are nasty. No wonder old bears are usually in a bad mood. Nice to hear that good samaritans are still out there!

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    Great trip! Thanks fo the detail

  20. #20
    Premium Member AZinAK's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the kind words! Really enjoyed the hunt, and especially with my dad. Here are some more pics...






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