Got the letter that there were extra tags available for the copper river bison this year and my name was available. I had a couple of other hunts planned but figured I would make it happen no matter what so I called glennallen fish and game and said I'm in. After a month of research I had figured out this was not going to be a walk in the park. A couple of members here gave me some valuable info to work with. The next decision I had to make was to pay the ahtna fee of 1500 dollars. I read the meat eaters book about this exact hunt and figured I would try it once before paying the fee. My plan was to float from copper center to the headwaters of the chetaslina river and hike up in two miles to the public land and see if we could get into some bison.
I talked a friend into tagging along and we put in at the roadhouse in copper center and were off. After about two minutes we realized this trip was going to be tough. The wind was blowing up river and starting huge dust clouds. After eight hours of non stop rowing we made it to the river.
There was buffalo sign there but was all about three weeks old. It was very encouraging to see but with mixed emotion to know they were here just a couple of weeks earlier. We set up camp and did a little scouting. Ahtna land starts at the high water mark and we can not go above that or will be trespassing. There is a lot of alders just below the mark and the river is quite swift. After looking at it we decided to give it a go In the morning. At seven am we were crossing the creek in the dark and it was sketchy at best but we made it and were on our way. Took us four hours of busting brush through alders and crossing the creek multiple times to make it to public land. Love my barneys pack but learned to hate the top bar in the brush and had to remove it due to all the debris going directly down the back of my shirt.
We sat down and had a heart to heart and decided that if we did see some bison there was no way we would be able to get it out in a reasonable time. So we started the long walk back to camp with thoughts full of failure. Plans were already coming together for the winter hunt on snow machines. After camping that next night Gary and I made a plan to hunt every square inch of every island below the high water mark. Which made for some good brakes In between rowing into the Saharan dust storm that we know as the copper river. On our second island we got super lucky and ran Into a dream come true bull. Three 70 yard shots with the Christianson arms 338 ultra mag and our bull of a lifetime was down.
As we walked up to it there was an awkward silence as we both new we had gotten in over our heads. A few minutes of amazement at how big it was and we were ready to do this. The plan was set and I headed off to take the raft down river and walk it back up a small braid of water that came directly back to the bison. That was a big mistake. A mile later I found out the braid never came out the island. Now we were screwed. The pack was going to be a mile with lots of alder busting. After packing up a camp and our tools needed to render down the bison we left the raft and made the hike back to our new home.
Two guys on buffalo will test a friendship and our backs. After getting it about half way done we had a visit from a couple of other hunters who had a tag for there young son. I told them about two other bison that I had bumped on my way back to the raft and they were hot on there trail. They were back an hour later and had found the sign but no bison. They offered to put the raft on their jet boat and bring it back up river to within about seven hundred yards of the bison. Now the pack is a straight shot with two small water crossings and about a hundred times better than before. Can't say thank you enough to AKHUNTER and his friend Gary. We would still be there packing that sucker out if it wasn't for them and there help. Got to love those AOD forum members.
The next day the packing was done and the next part of our journey began. The copper river is considered a scary river and now I know why. When two portions of the river meet or there is a cliff side the undertows are something else. Twice there was water flowing over the pontoons and we had to high side it to keep the raft from flipping. It didn't help that the raft was very overloaded. After six hours we made it to the chitna airport. What a great feeling as we sat at the truck with our big old bull in hand. We did it!