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Thread: 2015 Moose Float Hunt

  1. #1
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default 2015 Moose Float Hunt

    Hi folks,

    I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I thought I would post a little travelogue of this fall's moose hunt. There are a lot of different aspects to it that might be of interest, so here goes, photos and all.

    This fall I was guiding for Mike "Buck" Bowden, who owns Hidden Alaska Guides and Outfitters, and was joined by another guide I had never met, Steve Unfried. Turned out to be a really good guide, and it was a privilege getting to know Steve. Our hunters were Raymond Dyer (he was my hunter, and my nickname for him was "My main man Ray", from "the Bucket List". Helped me to remember his name. The other hunter, the one Steve guided, was Raymond's hunting partner, Brian Aguillard. Both men are from the Baton Rouge area. They were good hunters, who understood that moose hunting is no guarantee. They worked very hard on this hunt, and while nobody actually "deserves" to kill another creature, they were rewarded for their efforts in many ways, as you will see.



    The flight out to the field was stunning, as usual. Hard to remember sometimes how special Alaska is, when you see it every day. But the look of wonder on our hunter's faces was a great reminder of just how good we Alaskans have it here.



    Steve was delayed on another hunt, and the rain kept him out of camp for the first hunt day. But Ramond, Brian and I got the camp set up, and hunted together the next day. Steve arrived, and he and I discussed our plan for hunting this area. My philosophy about float hunting is to look at a float hunt as a collection of drop camps connected by a river. Sorta communicates the idea that we're not there to hunt the entire river. This is a tactic that has paid off well for me over the years. Focus your efforts on a few prime locations, and in between, it's just a boat ride.



    The scenery was so beautiful, and the surrounding mountains so compelling, "my main man Ray" just couldn't stop glassing the mountains. The problem with glassing tall mountains, is that you eventually spot game way up there and then you are obligated to go after it. Thankfully, Brian had dealt with heavy alder thickets on previous Alaska hunts, and he talked Raymond into the wise idea of hunting closer to the river. I've met many hunters who punched through those alder thickets ONCE. Not many of those come back for seconds!



    So the alternative to climbing the mountains is to hike the valley, locate a good glassing place and park yourself until you see game moving. That's what we did on this hunt.
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 09-27-2015 at 18:36.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    We did a little fishing, and the guys caught a few salmon, and some Dollies that were so full of salmon eggs, they regurgitated them when you picked them up. The river was beautiful!



    We were told by our hunters that there are officially only three or four bald eagles in the entire state of Louisiana, so they were understandably excited to see many eagles on this hunt.



    Here's a Dolly that ended up wrapped in foil and cooked over the coals.



    What Alaska hunt would be complete without at least one can of SPAM? I hate the stuff, but Raymond did his magic with the cajun spices and such. It was.. well, interesting.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    We hunted the drop point for three days, and decided to move on downriver. Steve and I finally put the boats together and we loaded up for our first float day.



    We were using Northwest River Supplies (NRS) "Otter" self-bailers, 14-footers. One of the boats had a tube leak, which we incorrectly attributed to a faulty patch. Closer inspection revealed that the patch was holding, though it was peeling at the edges. We finally isolated the culprit, a leaky valve. So we dug out a repair kit to search for the necessary parts (these boats belonged to the guide service).



    The repair kit needed a new... well, it needed a new repair kit. Never store your repair kit where the glue can freeze in the off season! Thankfully we found a new valve stem and seat, along with a valve wrench, and were able to rebuild the valve and be on our way. We were grateful that we had what we needed, as the tube was losing about half it's air in an hour. We almost called for a replacement boat, which would have cost thousands of dollars in air charter and rental fees.



    Soon we were on our way to our next hunting area.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    We set camp a couple of miles downriver, and did an evening hunt, walking along the riparian zone to another vantage point. Steve and I were wearing breathable chest waders, but our two hunters had hip boots. More than once we had a baptism along the way, and I think the hunters ended up becoming believers in the chest wader option!



    The chum salmon run was over, but there were a few silvers and even some sockeye around.



    We did see many bear-chewed salmon carcasses along the river, but this fish was fed on by birds.



    We had rain almost every day of our hunt, including this one. But as the shower passed, we were treated to a beautiful rainbow, and a promise of a sunny day to come!
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    The bugs were ferocious at times, including white sox. So when the wind wasn't blowing, the head nets came out. I joked with Raymond that Alaska brides wear mosquito nets instead of veils!



    I still have welts from those white sox bites!



    Steve relaxes in his tent during one of our many rainstorms. I took this shot as we were all heading off to bed for the night. I never seem to have trouble sleeping in the woods, and many nights I like to think of our camps as just one tiny speck of humanity in a vast wilderness. What a place we get to live!



    Here's one of our nicer camps, and a sunny day to boot!
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Finally we started seeing moose! This shy youngster escaped after Brian took his picture. Brian and Steve saw several smaller bulls, and one of them met the legal minimum brow tine count, but Brian wanted to shoot a larger bull, so he passed. One evening, Raymond remarked that as long as it was legal, he would be interested in shooting any bull.



    This may be the same bull, I don't know. Brian took this photo and I was elsewhere hunting with my main man Ray.



    When the sun came out, the place was gorgeous. At times it felt like we were living in a postcard.



    This was a brow-tine legal bull that Brian passed up.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Looking good!

  8. #8
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    On September 9th, Raymond and I situated ourselves out on a large gravel bar, using a drift log as a backrest, while Steve and Brian went downriver to a corner we suspected might attract a brown bear. There were some fresh salmon carcasses there, with signs of recent activity. Raymond and I sat on stand for five hours, through intermittent rain squalls (some of them pelted us pretty hard, so we just hunkered down and endured it). Finally I saw a flash of movement downriver where the other guys were; a young bull darted across the opening at a gallop. This is not normal moose behavior, and I mentioned to Raymond that the guys probably jumped him. We later found out that the young bull materialized out of the willows right in front of them, and didn't realize they were there until he winded them from about nine feet! No wonder he was in a hurry!

    I did a few bull grunts, in case the bull had a bigger bull with him. No dice. About an hour later, I did a couple of longish cow calls, and we waited another hour, through the rain and wind. Finally, more bored than anything else, I slowly stood up and walked over to a deadfall, which I proceeded to beat to splinters with a larger limb. Brush thrashing works well for me, and I gave it about five minutes or so before sitting back down, with my back resting against the log.

    Eventually evening turned into dusk, and just when it was almost too dark to shoot, 45 minutes after my thrashing session, I looked up and saw large antler palms heading through the willows across from us. No need to count brow tines on this big boy! I slowly turned to Raymond and pointed the bull out, advising him to turn his back to it and slowly, q-u-i-e-t-l-y chamber a round (we never hunt with loaded chambers), and shoot the animal. I turned again to verify that the bull was there, and he saw the white flash of my beard as I turned. I keep forgetting that that thing isn't brown anymore! The bull had been walking directly to us, grunting with each step. When he saw my beard, he stopped and stared at us from about 100 yards or so. Then he started to turn and go back into the willows across the river, where he came from. I told Raymond to shoot him and he did. Twice. The animal dropped in it's tracks.



    Can you guess the spread? Let's look at a few photos of this bull, from different angles, and let me know what you think he measured, okay? Here's another, taken the next day.



    And another (that's Raymond on your left):



    Okay another one:



    Hard to tell, isn't it? This is why I don't prefer a single snapshot to determine antler size. Animals on the hoof are moving and the antlers are usually visible from different angles as they move.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    We completely butchered the animal the night he was killed, and were back in camp by 3am. Next morning we returned for more photos, to clean up the carcass of all the meat, and to pack it in. Here is Brian and Raymond cleaning up the spine and pelvis.



    We put the quarters in the river the night before, in trash bags.



    We let them soak for about eight hours, and checked the core temperature. It was still 75 degrees against the bone of the hind quarter! So I left them in another two hours while we worked, and then we packed them to camp.



    Any guesses on the spread yet?
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    The antlers look pretty impressive on Brian's pack frame!



    Back in camp, with core meat temperatures at 70 degrees, we built a brush pile for ventilation and stacked the bags atop the brush, with no bags touching each other. Another layer of brush over that, and then we tarped it to keep out the rainfall.



    We positioned the tarp so it would duct streamside breezes underneath, to further cool the meat. The next morning I probed it again and it was around 53 degrees. Perfect.



    Fresh moose heart for breakfast!
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  11. #11

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    Nice river bull

  12. #12
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    We made quite a bit of racket processing Raymond's bull, so we decided once the meat was cooled down, to move downriver and set up our third and final camp. Steve knew a great spot, so off we went!



    Sometimes we had to line the boat upstream.



    This was a tight little corner we had to negotiate to get into our final campsite. Notice the line in the current upstream of this little chute; it pushes your boat right into the right-hand side where that log sticks out. I ran into the same log on my way through just before Steve and Brian came through.



    This turned out to be our nicest camp, and it offered a great place to hang the meat, plus good hunting locations.



    The next morning we snapped some more photos for the album. It was just too beautiful of a day to pass up! Any guesses on the spread?
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Finishing up the work on the cape here. Steve is opening up the dewlap in this shot.



    And here I am trying to finish up fleshing while Steve and Brian look for a second bull. I believe a mature moose cape squares out about the same dimensions as a 6' black bear!



    Forgot to include this meat packing photo earlier. That's me getting strapped into a front shoulder.



    Steve cooked up a nice tenderloin for us in camp one day. Rolled it in salt, so it was completely coated, then grilled it over a charcoal fire until the internal temperature was 120 degrees. Let it rest ten minutes, and...



    I can still taste it now! That is one of the best pieces of meat I have ever had in the field! Or even in a restaurant!
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  14. #14
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    The meat got damp during transport downriver, so after we hung it, I pulled the bags off so it would dry properly (there were no flies that evening as it was too cold).



    Next morning, I put the now dry game bags back on the meat.



    On this hunt I was testing the synthetic "Caribou Gear" game bags, and we put the ribs and all four quarters in those bags. But the trim meat was in an "Alaska Game Bag"; a bag I normally don't use. Look how big the holes are in the weave! Fly eggs can pass right through those holes. Needless to say, we re-bagged this meat. The Caribou Gear game bags performed well, but the conditions were not what I was hoping for to achieve a really good analysis. I'll post more on that in another thread.



    On the road again, this time headed to the take-out and the flight home!



    Another beautiful scenery shot!
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 09-27-2015 at 18:54.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  15. #15
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Steve and I taking a break along the way. Nice to make a new friend!



    Heading downriver in the rain...



    On the way out, we saw a black bear sow with two of this year's cubs, along the river, looking for fish.



    Any more guesses on the antler spread? The rifle is my Winchester Model 70 .375 H&H, with a custom stock and a 20" barrel. How about it on that antler spread? I will let it percolate a while and see how you guys do.

    I didn't expect to do a hunt this fall, but this one fell right into my lap. I had to cancel my original hunt, due to finances. It was nice to get back into the field again.

    FINAL NOTE

    If you're considering a guided hunt for moose, caribou, brown bear, black bear or Dall sheep, you'd do well to consider Hidden Alaska Guides and Outfitters. The owner, Mike "Buck" Bowden is a personal friend and he helped me get into guiding over 20 years ago. He's been at it for over 40 years and has tons of experience. He also runs a clean operation, he has some good hunting areas, and he takes good care of his hunters.



    A recent photo of Buck out in sheep camp in the fall of 2015.

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 09-27-2015 at 18:50.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  16. #16
    Member Steve Springer's Avatar
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    My guess is

    71 3/4's

  17. #17
    Member akiceman25's Avatar
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    Nice write up! You should do so more often.


    I'm thinking 66"
    I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM2K7sV-K74

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    Wow, what a trip! Looks like a trip (or adventure) of a lifetime. Appears the hunters were in the best hands possible, if I had to guess on the spread I would say 64"?

  19. #19

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    That is one helluva bull. 75.

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    Neat. I thought 62" but bigger?

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