Forum members, this post is a recap of our 2011 DM-830 hunt. In speaking to my hunting party we agreed that I would post this story once we where close to a return trip to the Koyukuk. The time is near, and we are in the final stages of our planned 2013 DM-830 hunt. The only changes for this year are we have added another hunting member, my very good friend Jeff. So this year it's four of us and I have upgraded my 24' Sea Ark 150 HP jet to a prop. I hope you enjoy the write up and more importantly, I hope our 2013 trip turns out as EPIC as our 2011 Koyukuk hunt.
Special thanks to many forum members that provided me guidance and insight to make this trip so successful. Specifically, Stid, Sweetpint, AKgramps, & AKJeff. (I know I am missing a few but these members have been just great to assist. Thank you.)
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After months of talking about this trip, and then talking about how “what if we really do draw tags”, we find out that we drew a party DM 830 tags. Let the planning begin… Months of discussions ensued through talking to many other forum members and then through word of mouth talking to others that have done this trip, not once, some not twice, and many – multiple times.
So my hunting partner Chris and I start the “really” serious talks about “is this for real”, do we really want to do this? Not yeah, but “Hell Yeah.” So we started our serious planning sessions and map reading etc. We decided after many “what ifs”, that we’ll take the boat as far as our fuel can take us. Water testing the boat as discussed by many was a great tool. We dialed in what our weight limitations or capacities would be. We had the boat weighed, and what our maximum weight could be to pull this trip off.
So we starting our packing list of must haves, should haves, and nice to haves. Weighed the boat loaded with all the gear and realized we were going to be about 500 lbs over weight. So off came the nice to haves. Still 300 lbs over, we reduced our fuel capacity by a third, (now more fuel stop planning’s.) And then we reduced our “should haves to bring in our weight within limits.
Then came the calls to transporters for the “what if we get 2 or 3 of these things, and how to get it all out. Calls to the airlines came and we figured out the fly out plans for the meat we are going to have being successful. Okay, we are ready, Chris, my son-in-law, and I are ready for this to happen. Count down to 9/10/11 and we are off. Final packing and food lists (consisting of mainly freeze dried foods.)
Down to the wire, we connect with another forum member Travis and his wife and we started talking about traveling the Yukon and Koyukuk together. Man, what a relief connecting with him since he has taken the trip once already and our schedules and timelines clicked into sync and lined up. Last minute checks with the boat and gear, and we dot our I’s and cross our T’s and we are ready!!!
Plan was to be on the road by 9 am on 9/10/11 and we actually left at 8:15, we were so ready. And we connect via texting to our traveling friends all the way up through Fairbanks. Past Fairbanks we counted on connecting at the bridge since you lose cell coverage. 12 hours later, we are at the bridge and we are one step closer to making this trip a reality. Off to bed, we shut down at 10:30 pm and are up at 7 sharp. We started our fuel transfer from trucks to boat and finishing loading up the boat. Looking at my boat, I ask myself, “can we get on step”? Two guy’s on board and we test. Wow, gets on step with little effort so adding the 3rd person should be okay. Well, took a little longer to get on step but we did it and found a cruising speed of about 25 mph. Not too bad considering I did all my planning on 20 mph. And this would only get better as we burn off fuel.
So we meet up with Travis and connect like we have known each other for some time. Final checks and Q&A and we are off. My mind and heart are racing like never before (did I forget something, is something going to break, what if we… etc.) And we are off. 20 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles, all is well. Past Rampart, and then to Tanana, refuel, take a break and we consider a stopping point for the night. Settle on an island point and quickly set up camp, gather firewood, for our first bonfire on the Yukon… talk of Northern lights bring them out and what a show… We eat, chat on the day and off to bed. Day break comes early but we are ready to go, if all goes well, we should make the Koyukuk by night time.
With several stops along the way, we are just taking our time and enjoying the sites and ride, everything is going as planned. We hit Ruby, stop by and check out the sites and town - good times. And then we are off to Galena, our planned last fuel stop. We decided to fill up to carry 250 gal and we’ll take that as far as we can up the Koyukuk.
We are off and hit Ellis’ camp and check in with Glenn and crew, get the latest updates and we are off again. After a bit we decide to camp for the night. Another great morning and once again we are off with our minds on the final destination. Cruising along we are once again just enjoying the ride and the sights, still all is good and no issues to speak of at all.
We hit lower 3 day and stop to check in with Travis and Felicia and after checking our fuel and all - we decide we can make it to the final destination but we also agreed to check upper 3 day and if it’s good, maybe… (But we also knew that some folks were up in upper 3 day stuck but with some awesome 73” moose.) Amazing how word travels in an area 500 miles from the nearest road system and no planes.
We get to upper 3 day and stop to check things out - water is too low for me to want to go in so we after just a short time, we agree, just a bit more and we can be where we really wanted to so we are off to the final destination. In just a short time it’s 8 pm and we are minutes away from our destination and we turn into the mouth of the river and what is there to greet us!!! Holly crap, several folks had told me “don’t shoot your first moose you see”, and after 5 to 7 minutes, we decide to let him go – wondering, should we have?
Up from the mouth many miles - we decide to look for a camp spot to call home for the next 10 days. We find a good spot and feel good about the location and didn’t really see anyone around for a few miles – we felt good. We set up camp, find wood for a fire and call it a night – good times again. Talk- laughs and dreams fill the fireside until again the northern lights are out once again. Just an awesome trip so far- how could it stop? Two days till the 16th and we all are hunting. Spend the next two days building meat poles, gathering more firewood, scouting – planning etc and on the night of the 15th, we are off to bed for an early rise and hopes of a moose down on opening day.
Chris had “that” look and passion in his eyes – he wanted a moose and was tired of taking his gun for walks the last couple of years. I felt good someone was going tag a moose tomorrow. Chris is up at 5:30am and before I could realize it was time to get up – he had the coffee ready and water boiling for breakfast. We eat, drink our coffee and Chris is off to our spike camp. Cale and I decide to stick around camp for a bit and we’ll do some calling right from our fire.
At about 32 degree and 6:30 am we start calling… amazingly after just a few calls we have 3 distinctive moose raking their antlers and grunting. I can’t believe this, in the first few days of this hunt I have heard more moose raking and grunting than I have in my entire adult life. Chills running all over we are wondering – do we wait, go after them – or what. We decide to wait a bit and we are just playing with the moose around us – but nothing showed up in the open. After it quiets down a bit we decide to do some walking and exploring. We are hearing moose around us just not seeing them. It’s late morning we decide to grab a quick bite and to go chat with some guy’s that came in the day before and down river from us. Moose down on their camp with a registration bull down. After a little bit, Chris comes by in the raft and we talk for few more minutes and he is off again – we also decide to head back out. Back at our base camp we are grabbing water and our packs for the afternoon and we hear a shot – man it’s pretty close and we know that no one is up river from us except Chris so we are off to see if he connected… HE HAS THE LOOK!!! Moose, big moose right over there and he points across the river - 218 yards. We grab our stuff and off we go to see what we find – sure enough, just 22 yards from impact – Chris has his first Bull Moose. What a happy and proud guy. It’s 1:00 pm so we are up and about with pictures and we start the work. After 3 hours we are done and enjoying an adult beverage sitting by the fire feeling like we are literally on top of the world. What an opening day – what a truly great hunt it’s been so far.
We wake up on Saturday to our first real day of not so nice weather – rain and wind, and it’s blowing. But we are up and out hunting once again. We don’t see much, the weather kind of took care of this day for us, we did manage to see a fox and a cow with a calf plus later that night we did also see a nice bull that would fit well for a registration bull but we never got a good shot.
We wake up on Monday to a mystical morning, fog, dampness in the air but you could tell it was going to be a good day - I could feel it. Chris and Cale are at the same spot he tagged his moose just two day earlier. They set up and I am off to our second spike camp about a mile up river. I set up on my perch and start calling – again, I am hearing bulls but nothing is coming out, then all of sudden I hear water splashing down river and sure enough here is a bull starting to cross the river to my side but down river about a 1000 yards. Then I hear the motor on the raft and once again I feel good we might have a connection soon. Sure enough, I hear the engine shut down and a few minutes later I hear a shot… man on man, I can’t believe this – maybe two moose down and we have only really been hunting 3 day’s. After waiting a bit I run down river and we talk things through - but no moose.
Cale is at a real low right now – plus he got bit by the scope and a nice mark… After a few hours of looking we decide – no moose and it’s late morning now. So back to camp for a bite and we’ll take off again hunting. It’s 1:00pm and I decide I am going to go up river several miles and just float back down river - Chris decides to go with me and we are off. About 5 miles upriver and we shut down and start to float back down. After an hour or so the wind was picking back up again so we decided to head back down river to Cale, we get there – sit down grab a drink of water and we look up and BAM – another bull about 220 yards away and less than 100 yards away from were Chris tagged his bull. The three of us are all together and we decide he is a shooter – and we shoot – moose down. For sure number 2 and it’s 7 pm. Plenty of time to celebrate and the work begins. 1 and ½ hours later we perfected our process and we were hanging quarters again. It’s dark now and we are done for the night – fire started and we are celebrating again.
We looked at our two moose and talk about “what in the world are we going to do with 3 moose?” Talking until late in the night – we half hardily decide – two moose is enough, we don’t need a registration bull – we have plenty of moose for our families.
So we wake up a little later the next morning only to see that our meat pole has collapsed and the moose is on the ground…. Wake up call comes quick and we are off to pick up our game. As it turns out – not too bad, some sand on the meat but by no means a mess.
Since the guy’s below had left the day before (with 2 bulls) we decided they had a better set up and location than we did plus they had a good meat pole to use so we moved our meat and camp down river. After a few hours we are done and sitting by the fire once again talking about the trip so far – how great it’s been. We decide we’ll use our Sat phone and give our prearranged call to Charlie Green for transport of our meat and maybe some gear. As it turns out Charlie say’s he can come get us the next day and it should work out just fine. It’s a day earlier than we really wanted but we knew we had at least 3 days ride back to the bridge and that’s if we have no issues. So we feel good about our plans and we enjoy the next day and a half waiting for our ride.
Almost to the minute Charlie’s son is at our camp and we are loading up. We load up pretty quick and decide that Chris would go with the meat and Cale and I will either make it back to Galena by night fall or we’ll catch up with them the next day. As it turns out we are making really good time with the jet and our load and we actually catch up to them at Ellis’s cabin and our check in with Fish and Game. After we get everything checked out we are off but we are really close to not making it back to Galena in time before night fall. Turns out Peter waits for me and the short-cut off the Koyukuk and he escorts me through the short cut shaving 30 minutes off my travels but once through he had to high tail it so he could make it back to the house before dark. They made it but going 20’ish, we were about 30 minutes behind and it was dark. A quick call on the sat phone and we had landing lights on the river and we made it about 10 pm. Tired and spent on a long day we call it a night.
Our accommodations were not the Hilton, but all things considered, it was nice to get heat, and a shower, plus a bed. Although next time – I think another night in the tent wouldn’t have been too bad. Morning comes quick and we are up checking on the meat and all, things are tightened up both for the meat and along with the SeaArk. We say our goodbye’s to Charlie and son, fill up with just a little gas and off to Ruby to get more gas and some fine “MILLER HIGH LIFE” for the return trip to the bridge. By now, I know exactly what my burn rate is and mileage to the bridge. If all goes well, one more night on the Yukon and we’ll make the bridge the following day. After fueling up and a case of the High Life we are off again – feeling good, real good about our trip of a life time. 40 or so miles from Tanana, we find just about as perfect a campsite as one would want for the last night on the Yukon.
And what a campsite it is, with a log jam any bushman would be proud of we commence to getting the chain saw out and cutting 4’ to 7’ logs and start piling them up. Once we have what we think is enough, we light it up and man-oh-man, what a fire for our last night. Good times by all, along with the High Life, and we enjoy our last night till way past midnight. Off to bed on the sand, we slept likes baby’s till sun up. With the fire still going, we finish up coffee and breakfast and once again, we are off for the balance of our 150 miles or so to the bridge with no issues. Wow, is it over? No not yet, with a stay in Fairbanks one more night, and one more day driving back to A-town and the butchering begins with moose, a lot of it too.
In Fairbanks we decide to get a nice hotel, stop at the beverage store and we are back to the rooms for our first real night in decent place with real hot water (and plenty of it) and real food that didn’t require “just add water.” More good times…
Up the next morning for our final leg home to A-town and we check on our moose shipment, my son picks it up and brings it back to the shed to hang for a little more time till we are home to start butchering just under 1450 lbs of shipped moose meat (on the bone.) Four days later, and six of us are finishing up the butchering up enough meat for three families and our friends that helped.
What an EPIC trip of my life… Till next time.
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Next time is now. T minus 12 days and we are off to Koyukuk 2013. I will attach additional pictures shortly due to my 2 pic limit per post.