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Thread: Crosscountry's Great Alaskan Adventure 2013

  1. #1

    Default Crosscountry's Great Alaskan Adventure 2013

    After reading so many great stories I wanted to add something to this great site. I tried to keep it short, but that didn't seem to work out well. Hope you enjoy it. I know a few of you have been on this river before. Please keep the name to yourself even if you do recognize it.

    This story begins as many Alaskan adventures do. It was fall of 2011 and the family was gathering for our annual Thanksgiving holiday at my parents house. The turkey was in the oven, sides were prepared, pies were baked, and we were outside shooting clays off the end of the driveway. During the last 4-5 years, my dad had decided that he wanted to try some sort of new adventure almost every year. He wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to spend time doing things he had thought about for a long time but never pursued.

    One of the first big adventures was a trip to Alaska for a whirlwind fishing trip. We had flown to Homer and spent three days on a long range charter catching huge halibut, ling cod and tons of rock fish. I think we had just shy of 1,000lbs of fillet on the dock after that trip.

    Next up was learning how to hunt elk. We headed up to Idaho to visit a cousin and spend our first season chasing these ghosts through the mountains. Maybe we were just lucky but we managed to fill 4 of the 5 tags we had. We were hooked on elk hunting!

    Fast forward now a few years and here we are looking for another great adventure. We knew Alaska had great potential and we all loved hunting. So, it was a natural choice to decide that an Alaskan hunting trip sounded like a great idea.

    I had spent a couple years on fishing boats in AK and was also really into boating rivers. I had dreamed of floating down one of Alaska’s beautiful rivers since I started boating in the mid 90’s. Hmmm, maybe I could combine a hunting trip with a river trip??

    After a great meal and a few beers we started talking about this great Alaskan hunting adventure. But what were we going to hunt? Moose! Why not go after the largest big game animal in North America? We had been successful with elk, so why not a moose hunt? Maybe it was the beers, or the tequila, but that night we planned our trip, bagged our giant moose, and already had the antlers on the wall by the time we headed to bed.

    In the morning, reality set in and we all were scratching our heads trying to come up with a plan on how to enact our dream hunt. I was elected lead planner and so began the real journey towards our great Alaskan adventure.

    Over the next couple months I scoured the interwebs for every YouTube video, forum post, and magazine article I could find on hunting moose in Alaska. I was excited! But also very overwhelmed at the prospect of what it was going to take to plan a successful trip to the Great White North. Having spent some time up there I was aware of the difficulties in travel and logistics. So, I enlisted the help of a hunt planner, Mike Strahan. What a great choice this would soon prove to be!

    Mike was a tremendous help and after many, many hours on the phone with him we had come up with a game plan. My Dad had decided that he wanted a chance at both moose and caribou. I wanted to do this hunt on a river. So, Mike helped us decide on a river that would fit our experience level and give us an opportunity at both animals.

    I won’t bore you with the planning and logistics, but anyone who has planned, or attempted to plan a trip of this magnitude understands how much effort goes into a trip like this. Our family thought we were crazy! At the Thanksgiving table in 2012 I tried to explain to everyone that this really wasn’t that big of a deal, but all they heard was, Alaska, river with no guide, moose, bears, grizzly bears! “Are you really that crazy? What if you all die up there? Why don’t you go with a guide? Please, think this through!”
    Well, we already had the trip planned, deposits were made and we were going moose hunting. Mom did request that we all make sure we had enough life insurance just in case we were eaten by a bear.

    Time flew by and before we were truly ready it was time to get on the plane and fly north. I hadn’t been able to get all of gear sent up early so we had 8 checked bags between the three of us for the trip. Wish I would have taken some photos at the airport. And here is where the daily journal begins:

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    September 12th – Flight to Fairbanks

    Arrived at the airport and got all the bags checked in. I’m always impressed with how easy it is to fly on Alaska Airlines. Smooth sailing and we arrive in Fairbanks with all of our gear. Light rain falling and it feels like fall.

    Time to go meet up with the guy that is going to supply all of our boating and most of our camping gear, Moose. I mean, with a name like Moose we couldn’t go wrong. Turned out this was another great individual that went way above and beyond to make sure we had the best trip possible. All of our gear was in excellent shape if not brand new. We knew weight was going to be an issue so we talked about different boats and set ups that we may want to take. Planned on meeting at the air transporter the next day to weigh gear and make final decisions on gear.

    September 13th – Friday the 13th

    Oh boy, decision time. It was painfully obvious that we needed to dump a lot of weight in order to make the load limits for the planes. Moose and his crew were tremendously helpful with making last second decisions on boats and other equipment. Now we also had to decide on what personal items to leave behind.

    Thirteen days on the river and the weather forecast was for cold, cold, and even colder. With some snow thrown in for good measure. After packing, re-packing, and then re-packing yet again we thought we had it down to the bare minimum with gear and food. Just enough food to get us by, but if we didn’t catch any fish or kill any animals we were probably going to get a little hungry.

    We ate our last meal, took our final showers, drank our last beers for the next two weeks. I started thinking “Maybe I am really crazy for taking my Dad and Brother out on a trip like this.”

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    September 14th - Fly out

    Final weigh and we are 30lbs under weight. I really wish we would have packed a little more food and maybe a few more clothes.

    There was a light rain falling at the airport as we climbed into the plane. Bubba had flown out on the first plane and Dad and me were on the second plane about 20 min behind him. Just north of Fairbanks we flew past some snow covered peaks that were rising out the clouds here and there. Then, the clouds broke and the skies cleared in time for us to cross the Yukon River flats. Wow! Amazing views!

    This was my first time in a small bush plane and I couldn’t be any more excited. The flight was smooth, the scenery amazing, and the excitement and anxiety continued to build. Finally after almost three hours we buzzed low through a mountain pass with herds of caribou running through the tundra below us. There it was! Our river! But is it really a river that is floatable? I had never seen a river that was that braided! I wish we had actually flown up the river drainage so I could have scouted the best route.

    Our pilot then pointed out the landing strip. What?!? Really?!? You are going to land there? Oh boy, here we go. And the landing was so smooth I hardly noticed we had landed. And there was Bubba, waiting next to a pile of gear that he had been dropped off with just a few minutes earlier.
    Now that we were on the ground and the plane unloaded, we waved goodbye to the pilot and were now on our own for the next two weeks. The enormity of it all started to settle in. Here we were, hundreds of miles from the nearest town, road, or help of any kind. Why did I think this was such a great idea?

    The work began and we shuttled all of our boats and gear a couple hundred yards down to the first braid of the river. While inflating the boats we witnessed our first moose sighting of the trip. We couldn’t shoot even if the moose was legal since we had flown today, but we had some fun playing with our moose calling and paddle flashing. For about 10 minutes we called and watched this moose from only about 200yds away before he finally trotted off across the gravel bar and disappeared into the folds of the tundra.

    We wanted to get a few miles downstream before camping for the night since there were a couple other people camped at the airstrip and another group was coming in tomorrow. So, the float dragging began. After getting the boats loaded we had to immediately drag them for the first couple hundred yards. Then we had to navigate the endless braids. Luckily we managed to always find just enough water to float us and only had to drag in a couple of spots before finding the first nights campsite.

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    September 15th – First hunt day

    We awoke to a very cold and crisp morning. Not a single cloud in the sky. We were a little slow getting moving for the day but as soon as we had crawled out of the tipi, Bubba spotted the first brown bear of the trip. Thankfully it was about two miles away and running across a hillside away from our camp. We spent the morning calling and glassing with only more bears spotted.

    Around noon we broke camp and started floating down river some more hoping to put a few more miles between us and the group that was getting flown in behind us. We saw the planes headed to put in but other than that it was quiet and peaceful.

    We were still managing to find the right braids and the dragging was only minimal much to my surprise. We had a few spots picked out on the map that we were hoping to concentrate on for moose but kept pulling off and checking gravel bars for sign. On about the third stop I was just setting up the spotting scope when Bubba spotted the first caribou of the trip. And there were 5 nice bulls in the group!

    Dad had first crack at them and I think he had a little bit of ‘Bou fever because he couldn’t hit them. Finally Bubba gets a chance and drops one. Woohoo! Caribou down! As we head over to get his caribou and make sure Dad didn’t wound the one he shot at we spot the small group only about 70 yds away. This time Dad manages to drop one, even though he let the big one get away.

    Curiously, once my dad dropped the second one, the rest of them stop and start watching us. Now I had to decide if I wanted to go after the big boy. I was hoping to use my bow instead of a rifle and they were just out of range. I decided that with the two animals already down that we had plenty of work cut out for ourselves and watched as they slowly walked away.

    Lots of high fives and photos and then the work began. These guys weren’t as big as an elk, but it still took us a while to get them cut up and packed back to the boats. The gravel bar we were on wasn’t a good place to camp and I was worried about bears coming in to the carcasses. We continued on downstream and finally found a suitable campsite just as it was getting dark about 9:30pm. That was a long day! But we were already having more success than we could have imagined.

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    September 16th – Meat Care

    Woke up and it was super cold. We didn’t have a thermometer but I would guess it was down into the single digits and everything in sight was covered in rime. Then is started to snow. That was our cue that today was going to be a rest day and we would finish cleaning up the meat.

    I tried my hand at fishing for some of the grayling we were seeing in the river, but quickly got cold and discouraged. Back to helping with the hair picking and trimming.

    Had our first up close and personal encounter with a bear. He poked his head above the willows about 40 yds away. Bubba dove for the pistol, I started making noise and Dad just didn’t know what to do. But the bear wasn’t too interested in us and disappeared into the willows.

    Finished with the meat and took a hike up the hill behind camp. Got our first taste of what it is like to hike through the tundra. Quickly realized that we wouldn’t be shooting any animal very far away from the river.

    Dinner was caribou tenderloin and Mountain House. Thank goodness we had some meat and wouldn’t just be surviving on the MH the whole trip. And then it started to snow again.

    September 17th – Float to Moose Camp

    Once again woke up to bitter cold and dusting of fresh snow. A quick morning hunt turned up a few more bear tracks and not much else. Time to pack up and get moving down river.

    Cold day on the river. The sun played hide and seek all day finally getting swallowed up by the clouds. The wind started to blow and the cold could be felt in every bone in our bodies. Stopped along the way checking for sign and not finding anything fresh except wolf and bear tracks. We didn’t have wolf tags and couldn’t shoot a brown bear so we kept moving downstream.

    Finally couldn’t take the cold any more and had to stop. This wasn’t one of the places we had marked on the map that we wanted to hunt, but it looked good. As we were scouting for a place to set up the tipi we found our first fresh moose tracks.

    Set up camp, called and raked brush for a while and then more caribou for dinner. Backstrap that is. Might as well eat it before the critters do. We hadn’t been able to find a good spot to set up a meat pole so we had the meat laid out on the oars and covered with a tarp.
    And again it started to snow. This time it was really starting to pile up. At least it was warmer now.

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    September 18th – Moose Camp

    In the morning Dad stayed close to camp and Bubba and me went up on the hill behind camp. It looked a lot closer from camp. Snowing off and on all morning. We called from a location with some fresh rubs then climbed the hill to watch and glass. After a couple hours and nothing spotted we were both cold and wet. Needed to get moving so we started a wide circle back to camp.

    At the edge of the river bar Bubba dropped into the willows to look for more sign as I stayed a little higher to try and spot if anything was moving through the brush. Bubba made it back to camp before I did and found a very excited Dad.

    Dad had just watched a big bull cross the river to our side about 150 yds from camp. He only had two brow tines though and he couldn’t tell how wide he was. Bubba soon found out just how big he was when he spotted the bull not more than 50yds from camp. Then got a big surprise when the bull charged him and veered away only about 20yds from him.

    I made it back to camp just after this and found Bubba cleaning his shorts and Dad about as excited as I’ve ever seen him. I dropped my pack, grabbed my bow and said let’s see where he went. Only made it about 30yds from camp and there he was looking at us through the willows. Dad was about 5 yds to my left and my first reaction was “Shoot Dad!” But he didn’t. Since he only had two brow tines on each side my dad wasn’t sure exactly how wide he was and thought he might only be about 50”.

    For the next 5-10 minutes we watched him as he walked through the willows and spruce around us. I kept trying to convince my dad to shoot because I thought it was a legal moose. He was only 70-80yds away. As he waked off into the timber I told my brother to follow me, I was going to see if I could sneak in close enough to get him with my bow. Didn’t see him again but had some fun calling and raking back and forth with him. Later on, my dad would see a moose that taped out at 42” and realized that the moose he passed on was probably 60”+. Oh well. Still an amazing experience and just what we had come to Alaska to experience.

    Spent more time calling that evening before another great meal of caribou backstrap and MH. And you guessed it, it was still snowing.

    September 19th – Moose Camp

    Couple more inches of snow in the morning. Left Dad at camp while Bubba and me did a big loop towards where the moose had gone the day before. Didn’t cut a single fresh track. Figured we had probably ran the guy out of the country so headed back and broke camp.

    Another very cold day on the river. We had an idea of the next location we wanted to camp at and check for moose. Stopped on many gravel bars along the way. Started seeing some fairly recent caribou sign. And a few set of moose tracks here and there.

    Arrive at our next campsite under a large bluff and immediately spot a couple of moose way up on the mountainside. Pull out the spotter and see that it is a cow and calf. Get camp set up with some excitement in the air. Spend some time glassing from on top of the bluff, but no luck finding any other animals. And once again it starts snowing.

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    September 20th – Caribou Crossing Camp

    What do you know? Another cold and snowy morning. Leave Dad on the gravel bar calling and head up on the bluff to glass. Visibility is poor and can’t see much except for snowflakes in the air.

    Midday we see another group of boaters coming down the river. They stop and talk with Dad. A lone caribou wades out into the river just upstream of them and quickly darts back out of the water and back into the timber. Dad trades one our saws for some butter. The other group keeps heading downstream.

    More time behind the spotter and binos that evening with nothing spotted. Had high hopes for this place but it isn’t panning out. Head to bed with even more snowflakes falling.

    September 21st – Caribou Crossing Camp

    Wake up to a stiff, cold wind blowing and overcast skies. Dad and Bubba slowly start getting camp packed up as I run up on the bluff for one last look around.

    Caribou! And a lot of them! They are crossing the river about 250yds downstream from camp. I run back down to camp, ditch my bow and grab my Brother’s rifle. We claw and scramble our way up a steep bank to get closer to where the caribou were headed.

    As we get into position to spot the caribou I realize that there was a herd of about 250 animals feeding on the hillside, moving up and away from the river. From this angle the closest we can get is about 475yds. Too far for me to be comfortable shooting, especially in this wind.

    We see where they are heading and work our way back out of sight and start up the hill to cut them off. I get set up behind the only little, scrawny tree on the hill and wait for them to cross in front of us. About 15 minutes later they start feeding by only 250yds away. Well within my comfort zone. I pick out the bull I want, settle the crosshairs, and pull the trigger. Before this, Bubba told me to dry fire the rifle once to make sure the firing pin wasn’t frozen. Click, worked just fine. This time though, there was nothing when I pulled the trigger. Pull the bolt out and stick the frozen piece of metal in my armpit to try and warm it up enough to work.

    Ok, this has to work this time. Once again find the bull I want and wait for what seemed like an eternity for him to get clear of the rest of the herd. Boom, bull down. Now with the rest of the herd just standing there we decide to use one of our moose tags on another caribou. Boom, second bull down! They fell with their noses almost touching.

    Only now do I realize how far away from the river we are. In the heat of the chase we had climbed a long way up the mountain. It was ˝ mile on the gps back to camp. This is going to be a lot of work! Radio down to Dad to get the packs ready because we have two bulls down. I had never had to butcher an animal when it was this cold out. Kept one pair of gloves on the whole time.

    When we get the first load of meat back to camp we watch as another herd of several hundred animals cross the river just below camp. Why didn’t a just wait and ambush one with my bow?

    After we get all the meat back to camp it’s too late to move camp. So, we unpack our gear and spend another night.

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    September 22nd – Caribou Migration

    Another cold morning. Pack up camp and load the boats. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t have shot that second caribou. Where are we going to put a moose now?

    It’s not snowing today, but it’s breezy, overcast and very cold. I think we are all wearing every bit of warm clothing we have.

    As we pack up camp the caribou continue streaming across the river by the hundreds and even thousands. The first half of the day we are in the middle of huge herds of caribou. I’ve never seen so many animals together in one place! We almost get run over at one point by a herd of 500-700 animals. We just take our time floating down the river enjoying the sight of so many of these beautiful animals all around us.

    We stop for lunch with the other group of hunters that had passed us a couple days ago. They have several nice caribou down as well as a moose. Great group of guys and have fun talking and telling stories before continuing down the river.

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    September 23rd – Cold float day

    Cold day on the river. Spend the day working our way downstream looking for sign. Find some fresh sign, but no good place to camp. Camp about a mile upstream of take out.

    Set up a meat pole and hang the meat for the first time. Meat is looking good. Spend time cleaning it up a little better. Call the transporter and discuss weather and make sure we are still looking good for a pickup on the 26th.

    Setember 24th

    Wake up to a clear and cold day. Hear a plane for the first time in several days. It’s the transporter flying in to pick up the other group a little early.
    I work on meat care while Dad and Bubba head out for more calling and glassing. No luck spotting anything but there are some recent tracks.

    Get camp packed up and load boats for final float downstream to the pickup location. A couple of the other group are still waiting for the final load out as we pull into camp. There’s a fire already going and plenty of firewood already gathered. What a nice surprise. After an hour or two, the plane comes in for the final load. We chat with the pilot and make plans for his return in a few days to pick us up. We are the last group on the river for the season. Kind of an eerie feeling being this far out in the middle of nowhere.

    Head across the river to a high point for some calling and glassing. Good visibility with one bull spotted a couple miles away and back upstream. Oh well. One more day of moose season.

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    September 25th – Last Day of Moose Season

    Woke up early and was blessed with an amazing sunrise. Bubba and me head back across river to the high point and Dad stayed close to camp on the gravel bar. It’s cold! Watched a couple of otters playing in the half frozen oxbow below us. But no moose spotted.

    Just after noon head back across the river to camp so we can finish cleaning up gear and boats. Wait until the final minutes of light but no bulls showed up for us. Oh well, its been a very successful hunt! Hope we can fly out tomorrow and deal with the meat.

    September 26th – Fly out almost

    Wake up to low clouds. Not looking good for us to fly out today. We get most of camp packed up anyway and begin the game of hurry up and wait. With the satellite phone we are able to communicate with the air transporter and after several attempts we finally call it a day and will try again tomorrow.

    We unpack camp again and get settled in for another night on the river. With some time to kill I decide it’s time I finally get one of these grayling on my fly rod. So, I wade out into the water and on my second cast I have a fish on. For the next couple hours we have a ton of fun catching fish on almost every cast. Looks like we will have a change of diet tonight and can eat fish instead of caribou and MH.

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    September 27th – Fly out

    Much better weather this morning. Still overcast but the clouds are high enough that the pilot should be able to get in and pick us up. Sure enough, right on time here he comes dropping out of the sky and landing on the gravel bar.

    Bubba is first out again. Dad and me wait and watch as the clouds get a little thicker. Again, right on time the sound of the plane and it on the gravel bar in no time. Load up the rest of the gear and head south. A stop in a little village along the way for some more fuel and we are headed back to Fairbanks.

    Meet up with Bubba at the airport, get the gear loaded and head back to Moose’s place to return gear. He is awesome and lets us hang all of our meat in one of his sheds for the night. Back to the hotel for a hot shower and a good meal.

  12. #12


    September 28th – Meat Processing

    After sleeping in a bit and getting a few supplies we head up to Moose’s place. Once again he goes above and beyond and sets us up with a couple tables, a vacuum sealer, and some knives. Spend the rest of the day deboning all the meat and packing in boxes to take home. Nine boxes total for well over 400lbs of boned out meat. Woohoo.

    We split the antlers and decide to build a box to bring them on the plane with us. Wow, what a project. Spent most of the night packing meat, antlers and gear.

    September 29th – Happy Birthday to me

    What a wonderful way to spend a birthday!

    Get to the airport with very little time to spare. Alaska Airlines is super easy to work with on the extra bags/boxes and firearms and we get to the gate on time.

    Smooth trip home and excited to see the ladies waiting for us at the airport. Traveling with 18 bags of gear/boxes of meat is no small feat. I was so exhausted though that I never got a picture of our mountain of gear.

  13. #13
    Member Tearbear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012


    Sounds like you guys had a great time. Thanks for sharing your hunt...congrats on the nice bou!
    "Grin and Bear It"

  14. #14
    Member Ken R's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Anchorage, AK


    Great Post--Well documented. I am jealous! When are you returning? I would guess after a trip like that you are looking for the next AK adventure?

  15. #15
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007


    Definitely an epic trip. Now that y'all are experienced floaters we expect you to come back and connect on some bull moose...and provide another excellent write up. Thanks for breaking up the mid-winter monotony on this forum.

  16. #16


    I will definitely be back to AK! I was hoping for a week of fishing at the beginning of August but unfortunately that's not going to happen now. As far as hunting, the next trip will focus on moose for sure. And not sure the Old Man wants to return for moose so might be coming up with all my bowhunting buddies and leaving the rifles behind.

    I may not have many posts, but this site had a ton of great info regarding hunting moose, gear, and what to expect on a float hunt and was vital to our planning. Least I could do is give you guys a little what our experience was like. Nothing like embarking on an adventure with the family that I grew up hunting with. And Mom was happy to hear we didn't get eaten by bears.

    Hopefully I will have more to post in future!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2013


    Awesome read. Thank You for sharing.

  18. #18
    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Ketchikan, AK


    Great trip and write up. It was also fun for me seeing familiar ground.

    You'll fondly remember your trip for years to come and hoping you'll be able to do it again.


  19. #19
    Member MaxBaglimit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010


    Fantastic trip! You guys did a great job.

  20. #20
    Member Roger45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Palmer, AK


    Thanks for the story of a lifetime! Fantastic pics too...
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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