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Thread: Brooks Range 2013...

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Default Brooks Range 2013...

    Where to even start...There is part of the story that will be left out due to other forum members being involved. I wanted to share the positive side of my adventure with my brother. Please keep the comments positive.

    At some point this last winter, my brother and I started talking about doing a sheep hunt together. Cody wanted to come up and experience a true Alaska hunting adventure and boy did he get one!

    Last October I had re-booked the air charter that flew myself and hunting partner into the Brooks. The two of us were to team up again and return where we had hunted the year prior and Cody would join us. Long story short, my hunting partner didn't make it due to being on another hunt.

    Cody arrived at 1am on the 16th, got a bit of sleep, ran a bunch of errands, and got his tags and license. After that, we packed up and were north bound for the 6 hour drive to Fairbanks.

    Along the way, it became dinner time and we needed to fuel up! No better "Man Fuel" than a Grizzly burger challenge!



    After way too much food we continued on and got to the hotel and rested up. We awoke the next morning and headed over to the charter office, weighed-in and waited.

    I let Cody hop in the front seat with our pilot, Daniel, who's flown me in the last 3 times. I thought this would be cool for Cody as he's never flown in a bush plane before and he'd get to talk with the pilot about this and that.













    After two hours of flying, we landed and soon saw that there were seven sets of ram horns lined up near the plane. This was certainly not what we wanted to see when we landed.

    We had plans to hunt the other side of the river, which hadn't been touched but with recent rains, the river was running high and we didn't think we could ford it. So talking with another hunter and his brother, who was actually an acquaintance of a good friend of mine, he said they did see a couple other legal sheep that should be in there but said they were on the move and it would be tough. Reluctantly, with not much other options, we headed back into the drainage that had been hammered 5 days prior.







    The walk in wasn't too bad but the brush was thicker than last year and it was tough walking. We wanted to cross to the other side and walk in because there wasn't any brush to deal with but the creek seemed pretty high. We saw some sheep on the way in but mostly lambs, ewes, and young rams. Cody also spotted a grizzly bear on a far hillside about 3/4's of a mile away. I threw up the binos and saw this amazing bear quickly moving the opposite direction, which was good! The bear was blonde, almost whitish with rusty colored legs, quite a bear! Not too long after, it started raining on us and it was time for the rain gear. It rained all night which sent the creeks up even higher.

    But it was good to be with Cody, so much time has gone by without us doing anything together and we were about to have quite the trip.

    The next morning we woke and donned our rain gear and began our hike for the day. Not too far into the morning the rain let up and we began glassing a few sheep but nothing proved to be legal. As I was putting away the spotting scope, Cody said "HEY! There's a caribou"! I looked up and sure enough, a pretty nice bull was walking right towards us. Cody wanted to take the bull but I had reservations because our hunt had just started and I fully expected us to have two sheep to pack out in the coming days. Plus we were already 7 miles from the airstrip.


    Two rams that were too small.

    So we continued on and saw quite a few rams and one in particular that was really nice but he wasn't legal, just the way his horns grew, he might not make it to being full curl before he dies of old age. Plus I could only count 7 rings on his horns l and even at that I couldn't pull the trigger on counting rings only.






    We headed back to camp that evening and ate some freeze dried mountain house, enjoyed a little camp fire and readied for the next day.


    The hike started out great, being able to follow some caribou trails along the creek and we soon spotted a pair of rams but yet again, they were not legal sheep. This was becoming the theme of the hunt, rams that were too short. Soon though, the fog began to drop in and as we climbed to get a vantage of the next drainage it began to snow. We paused briefly for a break and as I was scanning I saw something moving amongst the rocks about 200 yards away. A quick look through the binoculars revealed something I'd never laid eyes on before, a wolverine! I quickly cued Cody in and we watched him run through the rocks and out of sight. I told him how rare that was and to count himself lucky to have seen one!





    We finally reached the divide between our drainage and the one to the north to only be stuck in the fog. The temperature dropped and the fog was freezing to the vegetation on the ground. We hunkered down in a little depression and cooked up some hot lunch and waited for the weather to hopefully clear. After the weather failed to improve, we picked up and moved west with plans to drop off the ridge line and then down another drainage back to camp. We hoped that we'd drop out of the fog and maybe see some rams.






    As we worked along, we skirted a couple large rock outcroppings to take a peak down the slopes on the north side. Through the fog, I spotted four rams in a bowl on the north side of the ridge. We dropped in elevation and got close and found them all to be less than full curl and not legal. We then hiked up to the top of the ridge and dropped over the other side. We were now on our way down the other drainage, headed right down to camp about 2.5-3 miles away. Or so we thought...

    The drainage soon got narrow and we followed a creek down a tight gorge. This went on for a long ways and when it opened up at the bottom, I could see a large creek through the snow and fog and I didn't recognize it. It was also flowing in the wrong direction. I immediately knew that we were not where we were suppose to be and looked at the map and pulled out the GPS. I quickly figured out my error and was crushed with the outcome of it. We were now about 6 miles away from camp and in the bottom of the drainage to the north of us with a very high divide between us. This wasn't good news to break to Cody as we were already tired and moral was down. The only option we had was to hike up this steep ridge line to the top and down the other side. It was hard, long and exhausting. Our legs became like rubber and daylight was fading.

    At first I was a bit worried about our situation, being caught in the cold wet snow with it being dark. But then I thought about what could happen and what we had with us. We had good gear designed for these elements, we'd been out in this weather all day and we were still dry and we had more dry clothes in our packs. We had plenty of food and water with a stove to heat them up. We had a sheet of plastic that we could have sheltered under or wrapped ourselves up in. So if worst came to worst, we could have drank hot fluids and eaten hot food and stayed dry all night and walked out the next day. But we pressed on and even though it wasn't fun and we were tired, we walked into camp after dark at about 12:30 and crawled into our bags and ate some hot dinner and hydrated with gatorade.

  2. #2
    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    With last night behind us, we looked outside to snow blowing sideways. We were content resting from the prior nights excursion but after a while it became more and more difficult to wait it out in the tent. We stayed warm in our bags and napped and talked about all kinds of things. Although boring and confining, it was time well spent conversing with Cody. It was also during this time that Cody took a look at his aching big toe. He pulled his sock off and his whole toe nail was black and blue underneath. Repetitive jamming of that toe in the end of his boot on endless down hilling caused it to separate from the skin I think. So with a hot razor knife, heated over the stove, he melted through the nail to relieve the pressure. That was the excitement for the day.

    Evening set in and it sounded like it might be letting up and sure enough I looked outside to see the newly snow covered mountains and patches of blue sky. We were excited to just get outside and stretch.









    The next morning was probably in the teens and our boots froze so solid that we couldn't lace them. We had to wear them around for about an hour before we could get them laced up. By 10:30 we were headed out and we began climbing a different mountain. As we did, we came across sheep trails in the snow, which was about 6-8 inches, but no sheep. After we'd nearly ascended to the top of the mountain, I'd spotted 3 sheep... no, 5 sheep... no, 9 sheep! But I recognized the big one, it was the one we'd seen two days prior and had a bunch of smaller rams with him, all 9 sub-legal sheep. Unbelievable!!!



    We trekked upward and couldn't figure where all the sheep were that had made all these trails. But after we nearly finished our hike and were descending back to camp, we found out. We had suspected that the snow pushed them out of some of the drainages and down lower. Sure enough that was the case as we saw about 100 sheep down low half-way to the air strip.






    We glassed some rams and yet again, all sub-legal. It was getting very hard to deal with mentally and we got back to camp and discussed what we should do the next day. The consensus became that we should head out to the air strip and cross the river and try that. The creeks had come down 4 inches based on a mark we'd cut into a willow in the creek. So we figured the main stem river should be crossable. I'd crossed it the year prior with no trouble in one of the braided sections.




    About halfway out we spotted 7 rams together on the hillside above us and one of them was full curl! Finally a legal sheep! We were very excited and were sure we'd be able to get on him. After we maneuvered down the creek we began climbing up the hill. The rams were out of sight and bedded down. But we had about a dozen ewes and lambs above us. We had to wait about an hour for them to finally move off so we could continue up the mountain. When we finally reached the area the rams had been, they were gone. We hustled to the next ridge line thinking they'd tucked back into the side drainage a bit but they weren't there. Continuing to move as fast as we could to catch them, we wound up clear at the back of the drainage, looking into the next one over with no rams in sight. They completely vanished.

    We were mentally broken and physically exhausted and had only a couple sips of water between us. We went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows just like that.

    Hours later, we reached our base camp and all the hunters were gone except one. There was a new camp setup but no one was there. We pondered where they might be and if they were on the other side of the river. We started getting ready for the next days river crossing and to try our luck over there. We scouted the first creek to cross and figured it was doable. So mentally we were fairly ready, we knew it was probably our last shot.




    So we ate some hot food and re-hydrated while glassing the hills and the country around us for caribou and bears. We hadn't seen anything at all when I caught a glimpse of movement way up river. I kept my eyes glued on the spot while telling Cody to get the spotting scope. I didn't want to take my eyes away from the spot for fear of losing what I had seen. I quickly got on the scope and immediately, a bear appeared. We watched it for a bit on the open hillside scarfing up berries and Cody excitedly said, "let's go get it"! I didn't need much convincing but was not confident in the situation.

    The bear was 2-2.5 miles away and on the opposite side of the river, the river we hadn't crossed yet. We quickly figured it'd be a good trial run for the next day! So with lite packs we were half jogging towards the bear. The wind was blowing hard towards the bear but with us on the opposite side of the river we felt good that it wouldn't smell us. We lost sight of it soon after we started and after a while we thought we might not find it again so we moved higher on the hill and Cody quickly spotted it. The bear had moved into the willows and we continued along the river until we felt that we were downwind enough to cross. We had to take our pants off to get across as the water was up to our upper thighs. We reached the other side easy enough but it was a bit unnerving being amongst the willows knowing a grizzly bear was nearby. Cody began getting his pants and socks on while I stood with the rifle ready. Once he was done, then I'd get dressed. But I was nervous and looking for any sign of the bear. I took a few steps forward and there it was at about 60 yards. It didn't yet know we were there, I quickly got Cody's attention and I put my arm through the sling of the rifle and pulled it in tight. I had to wait for a short bit for the bear to turn and once it was quartering away and I squeezed the trigger sending the bear into a frenzy. Without stopping, I cycled another bullet and sent it towards the bear. After a quick 10-15 seconds and three shots, the bear was down. It happened so fast and so unexpectedly I almost didn't believe it. We got dressed and walked over to the bear, making a wide circle all the way around with the rifle ready. It was over.




    I couldn't believe I finally got a Brooks Range grizzly and never thought I'd shoot one in my underwear. After three trips up there I finally got one. They're not big bears but probably some of the prettiest.

    We loaded everything up and made our way back to camp getting back just at dark. Cody started a fire and mixed up some crown and pepsi we stashed as I took care of the bear. As soon as I was done we tried to warm by the fire, and stayed up till it was well past bed time talking and just enjoying being where we were. Standing next to a nice fire on a gravel bar in the arctic with your brother you haven't seen in 8 months is hard to beat!




    So with plans to head across the river the next day, we woke up ready to go, except one problem...It was snowing again...hard...and completely socked in.




    So we were stuck in the tent again until about 1pm but remained fogged in the rest of the day. We held back at base camp wondering if we should even attempt going in if this was going to be the result? The next day we got up and again, more fog. We tried to take a walk that evening up the river to look for sheep but we were exhausted just walking on flat ground. I felt drained, like when you have the flu. Cody's feet had blisters and we came to the realization that no matter how bad we wanted to keep going, our bodies were finished.



    We called the air service and waited a day and they came and got us. A couple times we'd wondered if we made the right call but all it took was for us to walk a short distance to realize that yeah, we were done.

    It was really really hard to absorb, feeling like we'd failed. I felt like I failed Cody as I was his pseudo-guide. But we talked long about it and we had a good trip with lots of adventure and we left it all in those god forsaken mountains. But a few things I've learned or was reminded of on this trip was that friends come and go and there is no one I can trust or count on more than my two brothers. I wish the other could have been there but I think next year the three of us will get another adventure put together.



    Cody and I sat down with my topo map software after we got home and plotted out all of our routes and figured we walked 60+ miles and had over 17000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

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    Sweet hunt and pics! Thanks for sharing.

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    Member Rob B's Avatar
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    Great story and amazing photos. I hope to hunt the Brooks one day.
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    Hard hunts like this one are what make some of the best memories! You guys will look back through these photos in years to come and will view it as one of your best shared experiences. Thanks for the great story.

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    Thanks for sharing your hunt with us. Sounds like you got to experience everything that is sheep hunting, trips like this makes the ones that end with horns in hand all the more special.

    Best wishes for next year, fair weather and heavy packs.

    Steve
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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    I meant to explain too what we did wrong when we got turned around. When we topped out on the ridge line, it was only a finger. We thought we were on top but the fog kept the other ridge line hidden. Looking at the topo, I don't think it even registers. So we went over the top thinking we were on the way down to camp. It felt right but it actually looped is in a complete 180. Had we been 200 yards to the east, we'd have hit our mark and it never would have happened. Once I looked at the map I knew what we'd done. Stupid mistake but things happen and we kept our heads as best we could.

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    Thanks for the story.
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    Great write up and great adventure. Glad you were wise enough to look at many rams and not shoot on the "ring" factor. I've seen far too many sheep that people said were 8 or older and weren't close. You guys sure had some crazy weather! Congrats on the GRIZZ!

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    Great write up and congrats on the grizz!

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    Great story!
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    Member pa 5-0's Avatar
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    Appreciate you taking the time to post the story and pics. Great adventure for sure. Counting the days til next AUG.

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    WOW!! Great write up and thank you for sharing!! Your story makes me realize just how unprepared I am to go on a sheep hunt! Looks like you shared an awesome adventure with your brother and that is a beautiful bear!

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    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    Mossyhorn,

    Amazing story, good read buddy !!! Thanks for sharing, I heard the Brooks got weathered in early this year and made it hard for most. You know some of the best hunts are the ones you do with those closest to you and that means alot, You guys did good, and spending the quality time together is all that matters. Congrats on your bear and a big thanks for predator control.......those sheep need every little help they can get up north aside from dealing with harsh winters.

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Sounds like you and your brother had the deck stacked against you on that hunt but gave it everything you had. Glad the two of you still had an enjoyable time together and were able to get a nice grizzly to boot!

  16. #16
    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kahahawai View Post
    Mossyhorn,

    Amazing story, good read buddy !!! Thanks for sharing, I heard the Brooks got weathered in early this year and made it hard for most. You know some of the best hunts are the ones you do with those closest to you and that means alot, You guys did good, and spending the quality time together is all that matters. Congrats on your bear and a big thanks for predator control.......those sheep need every little help they can get up north aside from dealing with harsh winters.
    Thanks guys...Ya there's a lot of grizzlies up there, more than I think most realize. We saw tracks and scat everywhere. Talked to another hunter that said he saw, I think, 5-6 bears and one stole a caribou from him.

    The weather was the biggest limiting factor, trying to find sheep in the snow was tough, finding them in the patchy broken snow seemed tougher. Our biggest regret was going too hard in the beginning. I think we both burned ourselves out quicker than we should have. The night getting turned around really took the worst toll. So in the future we need to try and hunt smarter. We just felt the crunch with the weather and felt we needed to do what we could when we could.

    Definitely time well spent though. Had my brother call me and thank me again for one awesome adventure and even though we didn't score, he said it was the trip of a lifetime. So that was good.

  17. #17
    Member Tearbear's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your hunting story...one of the best on this forum that I've had the privilege to read. Congratulations on your nice bear...not too many hunters get to shoot a bear while in their underwear.
    "Grin and Bear It"

  18. #18
    Member HuntNBgame's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing, Good write up. Congrat's on your Grizz.

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    Thanks for sharing your awesome pics and adventure, Sounded epic!

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    Great read! Hunts like this often make the best memories.

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