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Thread: A little confused on optimal floating vs. glassing times

  1. #1

    Default A little confused on optimal floating vs. glassing times

    Hey guys,
    I have been reading Larry Bartlett's and Michael Strahan's float hunting books and if anyone needs good references, they are both packed full of great information and I highly recommend. We are heading to the rivers here in a couple of weeks to do our first float caribou/moose hunting trip and after reading both books they talk about "optimal floating times" and I just wanted to see if anyone that has experience with float trips can help me. It says to float early in the morning or late in the afternoons. They say to glass and rest during the day. I would never question these seasoned professionals, but I just wanted to make sure I am understanding this correctly. I thought you would want to glass and hunt and stalk when they are up moving around more (mornings and dawn), but they are saying we should be traveling down the river to our next stop on these times when the animals are moving. I guess I am used to hunting in the lower 48 where you want to be stationed and positioned to glass on times when animals might be moving (mornings and dawn), but I feel like Larry and Michael suggest us moving when the animals are moving. Is this in hopes of crossing paths with the moose or caribou? I hope Larry and Michael read this because I would love to hear their reasoning and help me wrap my mind around these concepts. Either way, I am going to do what they tell me in the books, but I know I will come across some questioning on my floating during the morning motives so I want answers. Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2

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    The only 'rule' is never be more than a few feet from your rifle. The rest is 'play it by ear'.

  3. #3

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    I am definitely not new to hunting in Alaska as i have raised my family on moose and caribou for over 20 years. I am however new to float hunting. Here is my best guess. IF you are going to float on a particular day, you may as well do it during the most productive times of the day for hunting. Floating quietly is in itself a form of hunting. By stopping and glassing from a vantage point during mid day on your float days you still are maximizing your hunting time. The chances of the animals moving around a lot during that time is minimal so therefor not much chance of spotting them while floating . However moose are apt to get up out of their beds and browse a bit mid day before laying back down. Therefore the optimom way to hunt mid day is to glass from a vantage point.

    However if you are NOT going to be floating the river on a given day then it is best to be located at a vantage point and glassing early morning and late afternoon. It is also best to stay put in each camp at least three days in order to give the moose a good chance to come in to your calling techniques. If after three days you have not experienced the activity you were hoping for then you may choose to move on to another location. Caribou are a different critter with different habits. The "camp three days" rule does not apply to caribou as calling techniques are not used. In my experience, caribou cover a lot more ground than moose as well.

    Now maybe some more experienced "float hunters" will chime in here and add (or take away) to what I said.

  4. #4
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    I'm no where near as experienced as Larry or Mike but I just think of the boat as a pickup truck. It's purpose it to take you from one hunting/camping area to another. Move at a time when you have no choice or when you think the hunting conditions are less than optimal. Although possible, I'd guess only a small percentage of animals are harvested while actually floating downriver.

    Breaking down camp/loading the boat and unloading the boat/setting up camp probably take close to an hour each. That's two hours where you are not "actively" hunting and the odds of a animal wandering nearby are reduced due to your activity. Try to minimize those days.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Birdstrike View Post
    I'm no where near as experienced as Larry or Mike but I just think of the boat as a pickup truck. It's purpose it to take you from one hunting/camping area to another. Move at a time when you have no choice or when you think the hunting conditions are less than optimal. Although possible, I'd guess only a small percentage of animals are harvested while actually floating downriver.

    Breaking down camp/loading the boat and unloading the boat/setting up camp probably take close to an hour each. That's two hours where you are not "actively" hunting and the odds of a animal wandering nearby are reduced due to your activity. Try to minimize those days.

    Good way to look at it! Thank you both for helping out!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadder View Post
    Hey guys,
    I have been reading Larry Bartlett's and Michael Strahan's float hunting books and if anyone needs good references, they are both packed full of great information and I highly recommend. We are heading to the rivers here in a couple of weeks to do our first float caribou/moose hunting trip and after reading both books they talk about "optimal floating times" and I just wanted to see if anyone that has experience with float trips can help me. It says to float early in the morning or late in the afternoons. They say to glass and rest during the day. I would never question these seasoned professionals, but I just wanted to make sure I am understanding this correctly. I thought you would want to glass and hunt and stalk when they are up moving around more (mornings and dawn), but they are saying we should be traveling down the river to our next stop on these times when the animals are moving. I guess I am used to hunting in the lower 48 where you want to be stationed and positioned to glass on times when animals might be moving (mornings and dawn), but I feel like Larry and Michael suggest us moving when the animals are moving. Is this in hopes of crossing paths with the moose or caribou? I hope Larry and Michael read this because I would love to hear their reasoning and help me wrap my mind around these concepts. Either way, I am going to do what they tell me in the books, but I know I will come across some questioning on my floating during the morning motives so I want answers. Thanks in advance for your help.
    I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I think I can help you out here. I've read both books you are referring to and I think I am fairly seasoned enough when it comes to float hunting. I've killed multiple moose and caribou as well as a nice grizzly bear and a few wolves while float hunting. I think you misunderstood both Mike and Larry about optimal glassing times. I think both men agree that the best time to glass is mornings and evenings. And ideally, on any float hunt, you should limit the amount of time you float to "ideally" no more than 3-4 days. Now, depending on your schedule, length of river etc., this might not be doable for you. But what you want to do is float to a nice spike camp with good visibility and adequate sign and begin hunting. If hunting is not good after 1-3 days, move on to another possible hunt location. When and if you decide to move locations, the "ideal" time to float is either evening or morning because that is when game typically is most active and you are most likely to see game while you are floating down the river. Bear in mind that floating is another strategy for hunting, just like glassing, spot and stalk, calling, and still hunting. In fact, I would say floating is a very effective strategy for moose because not only can you call while floating down the river, but you are quiet and it is essentially the same thing as still hunting. Not only that, but moose typically travel up and down the riparian (river floodplain) habitat, so you are in the "ideal" location for still hunting (floating). And, as an additional bonus, sometimes you even get lucky and manage to shoot moose right on the side of the river making for really nice packing. However, be sure that you anchor him securely and quickly so you don't end up with a moose in the water. Hope this make sense. Let me know if you have any questions. Oh, and one other thing. Another advantage to float hunting is sometimes there is some awesome fishing on the slow hunting days.

  7. #7
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Most of what I have to say has been said already, so I guess I will reinforce a few things. And my practices in the field have changed somewhat since I wrote that material. We all learn new things along the way, and sometimes the learning process has us changing tactics from time to time. That brings me to one point that probably overrides everything for me: flexibility. Don't lock yourself into one strategy and expect it to work on every hunt, or even on every day of the same hunt. You have to move with the changes. The best moose hunters I know are those with a wide base of knowledge that comes from years of hunting. Those guys will draw on past experiences to take their best guess on tactics when they find themselves stumped. There are conditions where just about anyone could kill a moose, and there are others when you have to be very sharp to know what to do and how to do it. So if your quiver is full of many different tactics, you can draw a different one out and try it if the "tried and true" just isn't working for some reason.

    To sum that up, I would say that it could be a big mistake to focus on only one way of doing things. It might work for you for a while, or even several hunts. But it's just a matter of time before it doesn't pan out. That's when you need to know a few tricks.

    As to the float early and late versus float in the middle of the day, these days I find myself leaning toward the latter, for several reasons, as follows:

    1. If you call while you're floating, you're calling moose to where you WERE, not where you ARE. I've seen bulls take as much as two hours to come to where I have called from, and I imagine they can take much longer than that. They're not always in a hurry to move in on your position. If you're calling while you're floating, chances are you will be a mile or three downriver when the bull steps out on the bank. The obvious exception is the bull that's standing just inside the brush line along the riverbank, where he need only to step forward one or two steps to become visible.

    Now, of course you will HAVE to float, so when you do, you might as well call. But I would advise against using the megaphone. That tool is for pulling bulls in from long distances. Just use your voice and cup your hands. Keep your calls quieter and focused on the immediate habitat near the river.

    2. It's easier to see game that's moving when you're standing still. So I like to be on the spotting hill during those prime times of movement (morning and evening).

    3. You make lots of noise setting and breaking camp, so I prefer to do that when the critters are laid up sleeping in the middle of the day. If they're close, they'll hear you anyway, but I prefer to avoid making much racket in the early and late hours. Most of the noises you'll make while you're setting camp are not natural sounds, and animals that are moving around during those times are much more likely to hear you, in my opinion.

    That said, on hunts where I have to make up some miles in order to stay on schedule, I may opt to float the morning anyway. If I do, I try to be as quiet as possible. Quiet those squeaky oarlocks, and avoid banging on your frame. Avoid moving around the boat much, because your frame itself might squeak. Early mornings are magical times for moose hunting, and there's nothing like the anticipation of drifting slowly around a bend, where each movement reveals country you've never seen.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    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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  8. #8

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    I think all these experts have answered the points in question.

    Good luck n your hunt.

    If I may offer one last bit of suggestion:

    hunt diligently and glass thoroughly from vantage points if available. Two tactics you're describing (float vs still hunting). When you have to float, do it when the hours are right to see moose moving around (lowest ambient temperature of the day and within good habitat and thoroughfares). When you glass, most productive times are these magic hours of 2-3 hours before sunup and sundown.

    LB

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    I think all these experts have answered the points in question.

    Good luck n your hunt.

    If I may offer one last bit of suggestion:

    hunt diligently and glass thoroughly from vantage points if available. Two tactics you're describing (float vs still hunting). When you have to float, do it when the hours are right to see moose moving around (lowest ambient temperature of the day and within good habitat and thoroughfares). When you glass, most productive times are these magic hours of 2-3 hours before sunup and sundown.

    LB

    Thank you all for your help and kind words. Hopefully we will have some pics to show you soon!

  10. #10
    Member Casper50's Avatar
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    In the last 12 years of float trips that my buddy and I have gone on we have shot 12 bulls. 4 have been while floating, all of the 4 have been taken between 10am and 2pm. The 8 while hunting have all been in the mornings or evenings. Just my expierence.

  11. #11
    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    On days you're going to move, do so in the morning. This gives you lots of time and daylight to locate and set up a new camp.

    Departing in the late afternoon or early evening may find you scrambling in the dark trying to make due in a lousy location.

    Another tip: Assuming you have pre-selected areas to hunt based on the map, set your GPS alarm to a point about a mile upstream of your next spot. Then keep your eyes on the bank for your spot of choice.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Casper50 View Post
    In the last 12 years of float trips that my buddy and I have gone on we have shot 12 bulls. 4 have been while floating, all of the 4 have been taken between 10am and 2pm. The 8 while hunting have all been in the mornings or evenings. Just my expierence.
    That's really interesting. I rarely see a lot of moose move mid-day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    On days you're going to move, do so in the morning. This gives you lots of time and daylight to locate and set up a new camp.

    Departing in the late afternoon or early evening may find you scrambling in the dark trying to make due in a lousy location.

    Another tip: Assuming you have pre-selected areas to hunt based on the map, set your GPS alarm to a point about a mile upstream of your next spot. Then keep your eyes on the bank for your spot of choice.
    Solid advice.

  13. #13

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    Good discussion - had the same question. Last year I think we lost some golden morning time starting out by blowing up rafts and breaking down camp to get going the first float morning after hunting the first valley a couple days. After that we got smarter. Of the three bulls we saw, two were morning and evening while parked and calling. One was mid afternoon while floating.

  14. #14

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    I usually prefer early morning floats over late evening floats. Unless I am floating a river that I am very familiar with. I hate pulling into an unknown location to set up camp in the dark. You have no idea if the camp is in an area with adequate sign, visibility, or glassing potential. Not to mention the fact it could be dangerous. I never recommend floating in the dark. Be on the water right at first light. Call while floating and stop frequently to glass and call. Several times we have called bulls down to the river ready to fight or mate. Be ready at any time. They will show up when you least expect it.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    That's really interesting. I rarely see a lot of moose move mid-day.
    .
    I remember talking to Ted Spraker one day and he told me that moose seem to get up around our lunch time....12-1pm. After that conversation I began to notice that for myself....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Packing camp and leaving will take a couple hours. I like to do a daybreak hunt for a couple hours, then return to camp, have a late breakfast, break camp and get on the river. Moose definitely move about a little in mid day, so there is always a chance to see one on the move while floating. Float till 4-6, pull over, set up camp, and hunt the last couple hours of daylight. Just remember on a float; once you've passed a spot, you can't go back to it and hunt it. If you're in a good spot up high in the river, with lots of sign and good activity, and leave it, you may not get into a better spot downriver.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post
    Packing camp and leaving will take a couple hours. I like to do a daybreak hunt for a couple hours, then return to camp, have a late breakfast, break camp and get on the river. Moose definitely move about a little in mid day, so there is always a chance to see one on the move while floating. Float till 4-6, pull over, set up camp, and hunt the last couple hours of daylight. Just remember on a float; once you've passed a spot, you can't go back to it and hunt it. If you're in a good spot up high in the river, with lots of sign and good activity, and leave it, you may not get into a better spot downriver.
    Exactamundo
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  18. #18

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    I always float early morning.. it's when I see the most moose. Last year I watched a bull for three days. This was towards the end of the season... but he'd be up walking around at any time of day. He'd heard my calls but wasn't coming to me. He'd stand in open areas and fully felt I should come to him. So I agree with the float mornings/ glass days idea. Last day, I was packing up, had done a few calls, and he came into camp so hard and fast, I barely had time to grab my gun. But he came right in. 3 of the last 5 I have shot came into camp on leaving day..lol Guess I need to leave more often.

    Went through gear today... man I love fall in Alaska.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by anchorrivercrowds View Post
    Guess I need to leave more often.

    Went through gear today... man I love fall in Alaska.
    That's a great strategy, funny stuff!


    Double up that sentiment.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by rilasp12 View Post
    That's a great strategy, funny stuff!


    Double up that sentiment.

    Funny huh? Yea, last year I was literally within 15 minutes of leaving... canoe was loaded, tent down, camp broken... grunt, grunt, crash crash, there he came, year before I was gone the following morning, just out spending the evening, bull comes right to me, 20 yards... and three years ago, was coming back to camp with my son(I don't stray far from camp when hunting to avoid scent broadcasting)... so coming back after a look about for the following year... ready to break camp, and a bull has just walked through my camp, and is broadside 30 yards from my tent..

    heh.. luck... I'll take it when it comes... all came after 10 days of hard hunting though

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