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Thread: Un-guided Caribou Hunt 2016

  1. #1
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    Default Un-guided Caribou Hunt 2016

    My brother and I would like to take my Dad on a caribou hunt in 2016. I am trying to decide whether to go to Kotzebue or Deadhorse areas. I have also heard of guys flying out of Bettles. I am wondering which seems to be more consistent area to hunt in and which area would be easier to travel to and get meat back to North Dakota. Is there any other areas I should be considering? The Haul Road is not an option because Dad is 70 years old and only hunts with a rifle anymore.

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    Hunted both areas and would pick Deadhorse. The scenery, animals and outfitter was the best by a long shot. It is easy to get meat and racks back from both. You can also drive to the outfitter's aitstrip at Happy Valley. The scenery is well worth the drive up the haul road. The anilmals will be in velvet on the north slope and you have to hunt a few weeks earlier but still my recommendation. Weather can be an isssue in both locations. It is Alaska after all. If you want more info just pm me.

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    When are you doing this hunt? Are you driving or flying up here?
    I've hunted both Kotzebue and the N Brooks for caribou. You need to figure
    when you are getting up here, caribou are migrating animals....

  4. #4

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    If you hunt out of Kotz, expect logistics to be a little more work on the flip side dealing with hauling meat and antlers back through Anchorage via air cargo or checked baggage. It costs a little more in some cases for these services (commercial air leg to and from Kotz adds about $400 per person and $0.50-$1/lb for cargo back to anchorage).

    If you travel through Fairbanks and on to Bettles, it'll cost you about $340 per person R/T plus $.80/lb for excess baggage freight and then meat and antlers on the tail end. If I had to choose to hunt the NW region I'd go through Kotz and hunt the last 15 days of September. If you hunt out of Bettles, the pilots like to close the books by about 15 september because ice starts to form in Bettles pretty early in Sept some years. This might screw you if we get a cold snap early to mid september and forces the pilots to either get you early or possibly delay your logistics. This has happened a few times in 10 years, so due diligence is suggested before committing to a Bettles transporter.

    Trophy potential is slightly greater in the Central Brooks Range when compared to the NW region. In the NW, the Western Arctic Herd is in a fairly drastic herd decline, which suggests that fewer shooters might be noted compared to a growing/thriving herd. So, while you might see more animals filtering through a drop location, more cows and young bulls might be the scene compared to the Central Arctic herd region where you might expect to see fewer animals overall but a lot more shooters in smaller groups.

    All things considered, I'd locate a pilot from Happy Valley to drop you onto a good spot. Most years hunts for caribou in this region are productive from the last week of August to about 5-7 September. After that date the North Slope weather can really bugger up logistics with weather days and freezing conditions. We have most of our groups off the Slope by Sept 7th. But some our floaters come out later than that because they float back to the road with some options and deal with any weather problems on their own time and pace.

    Just some things to consider.

    larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    All things considered, I'd locate a pilot from Happy Valley to drop you onto a good spot. Most years hunts for caribou in this region are productive from the last week of August to about 5-7 September. After that date the North Slope weather can really bugger up logistics with weather days and freezing conditions.
    This is good advice, but perhaps the unpredictability of the fall weather in that area of the state should be further stressed. I've gotten a sunburn near Happy Valley on September 10, but I've also woken up to 6 inches of snow on August 16 and our boots so frozen that we had to bring them into the sleeping bag just to thaw them out so they would fit on our feet.

    Generally, I expect good weather in August on the slope, but especially if you get dropped off remotely you have to be ready for 15F and 6-inches of snow. That's extreme, 1 inch of snow and 35F would be more realistic, but the former does happen.

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    I appreciate all of the advice on hunt planning. I am leaning towards 70 North Air or Coyote Air to get us to the right area. Larry, I have purchased and read your Float Hunting Book and your Caribou Guide which are both full of great information. I am planning on contacting you to purchase your services in the next year or so as i want to plan a 2 man fly in moose hunt. We live about 2700 miles from Fairbanks so I think we would probably fly up there. I am wondering if it would be better to fly from North Dakota into Fairbanks or directly to Deadhorse? We have talked about driving up and wheeling to Deadhorse but worry about leaving a vehicle up in that area but this would eliminate air shipping meat. We are very flexible on our time frame so we would book our drop flights during the best times to hunt. I would think it would be fun to do a float trip but I think a drop camp will suit dad better.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildyote View Post
    We have talked about driving up and wheeling to Deadhorse but worry about leaving a vehicle up in that area
    FYI - Vandalism is unheard of on the Dalton north of Coldfoot/Wiseman. Really, it's practically unheard of North of Livingood. Depending on how far off the road you park I suppose that your rig could get hit by the occasional rock that gets kicked up by the big rigs, but you are more likely to take a rock when you are actually driving than when you are parked. I would have zero concern about parking a vehicle for long periods of time at Happy Valley Airstrip.

    The road is tough on tires, so you might want two spares instead of only one (or, I suppose, a good repair kit). If you drive a 2016 Cadillac Escalade with low profile spinners and a custom paint job, you might want to avoid the area, but for most of us that realize that paint chips and sheet metal dents without affecting the utility of your vehicle, driving the Haul Road is no big deal. Any pickup truck and most SUVs or vans are fine. Crossovers like Subaru Foresters are commonly thought of as being "not enough of a truck" for the haul road, but I drive vehicles like that. Just don't be mad when your windshield takes a rock, especially with lower profile vehicles like a Forester.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildyote View Post
    I appreciate all of the advice on hunt planning. I am leaning towards 70 North Air or Coyote Air to get us to the right area. Larry, I have purchased and read your Float Hunting Book and your Caribou Guide which are both full of great information. I am planning on contacting you to purchase your services in the next year or so as i want to plan a 2 man fly in moose hunt. We live about 2700 miles from Fairbanks so I think we would probably fly up there. I am wondering if it would be better to fly from North Dakota into Fairbanks or directly to Deadhorse? We have talked about driving up and wheeling to Deadhorse but worry about leaving a vehicle up in that area but this would eliminate air shipping meat. We are very flexible on our time frame so we would book our drop flights during the best times to hunt. I would think it would be fun to do a float trip but I think a drop camp will suit dad better.

    Thanks
    If you have the time the drive from ND to AK is amazing. The drive from Fairbanks to Happy Valley is also amazing. Great country on the North Slope, hope you have a great trip. I wouldn't (didn't) think twice about leaving a vehicle, we hauler our camper up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HikerDan View Post
    FYI - Vandalism is unheard of on the Dalton north of Coldfoot/Wiseman. Really, it's practically unheard of North of Livingood. Depending on how far off the road you park I suppose that your rig could get hit by the occasional rock that gets kicked up by the big rigs, but you are more likely to take a rock when you are actually driving than when you are parked. I would have zero concern about parking a vehicle for long periods of time at Happy Valley Airstrip.

    The road is tough on tires, so you might want two spares instead of only one (or, I suppose, a good repair kit). If you drive a 2016 Cadillac Escalade with low profile spinners and a custom paint job, you might want to avoid the area, but for most of us that realize that paint chips and sheet metal dents without affecting the utility of your vehicle, driving the Haul Road is no big deal. Any pickup truck and most SUVs or vans are fine. Crossovers like Subaru Foresters are commonly thought of as being "not enough of a truck" for the haul road, but I drive vehicles like that. Just don't be mad when your windshield takes a rock, especially with lower profile vehicles like a Forester.
    It is good to know that leaving a pickup would be fine. I think it would save some costs with meat shipment and get to see some country on the way but it is a long way to drive. We drive real trucks down here in North Dakota as we have crappy roads to drive on thanks to the Baaken Boom. lol I just wanted to ask because some local populations dont like tourists.

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    If you decide to drive don't forget a way to chill or freeze your meat for the return trip. And the logistics of meat and antlers through Canada. Easy stuff made easier with your paperwork in order.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sambuck12 View Post
    If you decide to drive don't forget a way to chill or freeze your meat for the return trip. And the logistics of meat and antlers through Canada. Easy stuff made easier with your paperwork in order.
    A big freezer in the back of the truck works great. One thing I learned was that you need to strap the lid shut, otherwise on bumps the lid lifts a little and it lets the cold out. Strapped shut, it keeps cold much longer between freeze downs. Border crossings are a breeze. The US border station was extremely helpful in filing out the forms. Getting all the meat home is a big priority for me.

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    If you drive, stop at the US crossing on the way into Canada to declare your guns - saves any questions when you bring them back in.
    Then of course you will stop at the Canadian station with your declaration forms and fee for guns - note that the Canadians take this very seriously.
    On the way back stock at the US crossing again and fill out the USFWS form for your animals - you will need this to bring them into Canada.
    Canadians will also look at your gun declaration paperwork from the last entry - you don't have to do it again.
    If you see a white Toyota tundra broken down on the side of the road, give us a wave. We will be headed up in September for moose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bfish View Post
    If you drive, stop at the US crossing on the way into Canada to declare your guns - saves any questions when you bring them back in.
    Then of course you will stop at the Canadian station with your declaration forms and fee for guns - note that the Canadians take this very seriously.
    On the way back stock at the US crossing again and fill out the USFWS form for your animals - you will need this to bring them into Canada.
    I've had some interesting experiences with Canadiancustoms. I had one lady wave me through until I shoved the forms in her face;she then acted like I could shoot her at any moment! She had me slowly getout of the car and show me the guns. I laugh about it a lot I mean she didn'teven ask I had to tell her! That being said Customs does take this all seriously,they want paper work, and also they will try to trip you up with questions DONOT LIE TO THEM! You may find yourself sitting in a chair as they take your carapart (it happened to me and I wasn't even doing anything illegal)

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    Thanks for the advice but I have bee through customs quite a few times hunting/fishing and never had too many problems.

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