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Thread: Nw Brooks Range Caribou Hunt Report 2016

  1. #1
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    Default NW Brooks Range Caribou Hunt Report 2016

    Just got back this last weekend from anamazing hunt up north. First off, thanks for all the help, tips and suggestionsI received from this site. You all made a world of difference in this hunt.Also, sorry for the length. I can be pretty wordy, haha.

    Quick Facts:

    · Outfitter:Brooks Range Aviation dropped us off out of Bettles, AK
    · Dates:8/24-9/2/16
    · Results: 7 Caribou(4 trophies, 1 small bull and 2 cows) and one grizzly

    The trip started with a ~12hr drive from Anchorage to Prospect Creek Airport atPump station #5. My truck was loaded down and we towed an empty trailer withhigh hopes of returning with both full of meat, trophies and gear. Fortunately,the drive up the Dalton to Prospect went without a hitch, and we excitedlyunpacked the truck and waited on BRA to pick us up to shuttle us to Bettles.BRA allows 1800# of gear on the fly out for a group of four, and we took everybit of this weight. Among what we brought was: 4 individual lightweightbackpacking tents, one Arktika Arctic Oven with a stove for a communal cook/drygear/hang out/warm up tent, ~45 beers/person, ~1L whisky/person, vac sealedchili, gumbo, and other dishes for dinner, bacon and hashbrowns for breakfast,etc. We were not light but we were comfortable!!
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    Unfortunately, we arrived at the end of a 5-day storm, so BRA was very hecticcatching up. We got stuck in Bettles an extra day, but that is hunting in AK.Once we got out of Bettles, it was ~1.5hr flight in the otter to our drop site.Once we were there and got set up, it was an amazing camp site. We were surroundedby mountains, archeological sites, a lake full of fish, and caribou seen nearbyfrom camp. We were pumped! We immediately began scouting and wishing we couldhunt on the fly in date, since there was caribou all over the hills surroundingcamp.
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    The first day we hiked over to a good glassing spot to watch a group way up on the top of a ridgeline and see if they would come down towards us, when we spotted two wolves heading towards them. They were ~550 yards away from us, and moving quickly away from us towards the caribou. Had they been a bit closer, we would’ve had a shot. Well the wolves chased the caribou up and over the ridgeline, and it seemed they disrupted the migration pattern since we did not see any more groups come from that direction. So, we continued on glassing and spotting a big grizz way off in the distance. We quickly moved to a closer spot, and watched him for about an hour or so as he munched blueberries on the opposite riverbank. Finally, he started moving along the riverbank up towards us. Excitement took over as we watched him get closer, and we decided the hunt was on. We very hastily moved to a position right on the riverbank, and waited until he appeared through the brush and out onto a small gravel bar across the river from us. I waited for a good clear broadside shot, and took the shot at ~125 yards hitting him right in the kill zone. He reared up let out a roar and tried to bite at where my bullet had just entered his side, and my buddy quickly placed a second shot right through the kill zone as well. He dropped exactly where he stood. We were thrilled to have a nice grizz down on the very first day. However, excitement was overcome by a bit of nervousness as we had not figured a good place to cross the river yet. We knew we could cross, just hadn’t figured out where yet. We dropped him at ~5pm, and spent the next 3 hours scouting a good place to cross the river (we did not have a raft with us). After deciding on an acceptable place to cross, we decided it was too late to continue, so we left him overnight. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well knowing I had a downed animal I had left overnight, but we knew he was dead and knew exactly where he was. The next morning, we awoke ready to go recover my bear. We had decided even the best spot to cross was still going to be a bit too deep to cross without a swim, so we ditched our pack frames for large backpack drybags. We put minimal supplies and a change of clothes in the dry bags and planned to use them as floatation aids when we swam. Once on the river bank we stripped down to our long underwear and knee high boots and attempted our crossing. We made it ¾ the way across the river through waist deep water until we hit the channel where it got deep quick. We both ended up swimming a ways to the shore on the other side, where we quickly stripped, put dry clothes on, and did a few jumping jacks to warm up. We then continued on down river to the bear, where we butchered him, and loaded him up into a dry bag. We very much wanted to get back across the river ASAP, so we left the skull and all the foot bones in, so it was not a light load. Especially in a drybag with no frame and no hip belt! Luckily we found a better spot to cross coming back across the river, and with the extra weight of the bear in the pack, we were able to cross without swimming coming back across. We got back to camp cold, wet, exhausted and super stoked. A few beers were drank that night!

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    The next few days consisted of fleshing and skinning out the skull and paws as well as hunting for caribou. We were able to down 2 cows and one small bull to pop our caribou cherry and at least get some meat off the trip. However big trophies bulls were few and mostly far away. However, on day 6 our luck would change.
    Our group off our woke up and split into two 2 man hunting groups. My buddy and I going to the same spot we had been glassing for a few days, and the other two headed south to check out a new area. We hadn’t even put our warm glassing layers on when a group of 10 caribou with 4 nice bulls crested the ridge, heading our direction. We proceeded to watch them and we hopped from small rocky hill to hill as we tried to determine exactly where they were heading. We had a moment of panic when we thought they were going to cut due south (and where we would not be able to intersect them) vs continuing west towards us. However, they started to slowdown and graze, and started bedding down. We decided to sit and watch them and hope they would move to us, when the two other guys in our group appeared on the horizon hiking towards us. As they got closer, some of the grazing cows saw them, and slowly started reversing their direction of travel and grazing away from us. My buddy and I were scared our hunt was going to get busted by the rest of our group, so we decided to try and crawl across the open tundra and up the hillside to get within range of the two big trophies that were sleeping. When we were about 330 yards out, one of the small bulls and cows grazing busted us. The four bulls that had been asleep were woken up and spotted us! Fortunately, they did not run off, but stood up and were trying to decide what to do. My buddy quickly decided to take a shot when he had a clear broadside, and put one in the head bull. Unfortunately, it was a little low, and just missed the kill zone, but he was very injured. The rest of the group ran off across the valley while his bull limped towards some brush covering. We gave him about 30 min while he bedded down in the brush hoping he would bleed out without any additional stress. We got within 220 yards and sat down waiting. However, he must have smelled us as the wind changed direction, as he got up and started attempting to walk away from us. Thinking quick since we needed a perfect shot to drop him and had a small window of opportunity, I quickly hopped down on all fours, covered my ears and told my buddy to use the pack on my back as a rifle rest for his shot. Well it worked as he placed a bullet perfectly in the kill zone and dropped the bull where he stood.

    While all this was going on, the remaining group had made their way across this small valley and were just getting in range of the other two hunters in our group. However, they were busted, and the caribou moved up the mountain pretty quickly. One buddy tried desperately to chase them up the mountain, but alas could not get within range. I mention all this since when he chased them up the mountain, the second largest bull in the group got spooked, and did a 180 and ran back towards where I currently was! I got excited hoping he would come right at me, however he quickly disappeared back in the valley, and my hope was lost. By this point we approached my buddies bull and were checking out the rack. All of a sudden my buddy yells “look up!” and there was that same bull, 185 yards up the mountain above us, trotting along at a pretty quick place. My buddy quickly ranged him for me, I dropped to a knee and used his bull’s rump as a rifle rest and placed a shot at my bull. It was a perfect hit, and dropped him where he stood! We both yelled out so loud in excitement the other group heard us from quite a way away. We were estatic! We had two nice bulls within 200 yards of each other down. We spent the rest of the day butchering and packing the two bulls back to camp, and started enjoying some of the best tasting beer and whisky I have ever had. We stayed up to something like 4am that night drinking, smoking cigars and enjoying the incredible northern lights.

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    The next day I awoke at around 11am and took my time getting moving. The other two without trophies had left earlier to try and get their bulls. After a slow morning, we got moving to go find where the other two hunters were and to assist them with any hunting or packing. We got to the glassing rock, and saw two nice bulls in the distance. We immediately assumed the other two hunters were on a stalk of those bulls, so we started trying to see if we could locate them. Way, way out on the tundra we saw two specks I at first mistook for crows. I was mistaken. The other two in our group had a caribou down miles away from camp across a never ending tussek and marsh field. It took us a while to get to them. Then as we got within range of a better view of them, I was both excited and my soul was crushed at the same time. They had not one, but two bulls down way out in the boonies. I was stoked that now everyone had a nice trophy, but overwhelmed at the task ahead of us. It was hard enough hiking there with an empty pack! Well an eternity later we had both bulls back at camp, where we drank, feasted, and nursed our blistered feet and worn out backs.

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    Brooks Range picked us up the next day and we loaded both Beavers to the max with meat, gear and our smelly exhausted bodies. The flight back was amazing, and the 12 hour drive back was full of us reminiscing and wishing we were still out at caribou camp.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Fantastic report! Man, that was a great read...thanks for taking us along on the journey! Looks like you'll all have some fantastic eats this winter as you reminisce about your shared adventure.

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    Definitely one of the most enjoyable reads this year! Congrats.

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    Member akhunter3's Avatar
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    Sounds like an incredible trip! Thanks for sharing
    Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!

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    That's the kind of stuff dreams are made of. Glad it all worked out well for you guys!

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    Member Rob B's Avatar
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    Congrats on an awesome hunt. I sure love reading reports like this.
    Being Built (27' Wooldridge Super Sport Offshore Pilothouse)
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    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your fantastic story. I see some driftwood on the river. Were you able to scrounge up enough timber for a camp fire?

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    45 beers and a liter of whiskey per person? Now that's what I'm talking about, sounds like my kind of trip.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Great story
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Quote Originally Posted by mobilefamily View Post
    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your fantastic story. I see some driftwood on the river. Were you able to scrounge up enough timber for a camp fire?
    Thanks, it was everything I could've hoped for. As for firewood, it was pretty wet, and I never really tried. We had brought in ~65lbs of duraflame logs to use in our woodburning stove. The river wasn't super close to camp, so hauling any wood back to camp would've been a pain. Additionally, it was pretty windy most of the time so a fire outside would've been difficult.

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    All, thanks for all the kind words. I really wouldn't have had such a successful trip without all the help I received off this site. A few other notes;

    I rented the Arctic Oven from Bill in ER. He posts ads to rent AO tents and other gear on CL all the time. He was super helpful, friendly, and I wouldn't hesitate to rent a tent or a raft from him. Hard to argue with his rates vs buying a AO tent.

    I rented my sat phone from the satellite phone store. After reading a thread yesterday, I double checked my cc bill, and saw that I had not been refunded my deposit yet. I called, and they pretty quickly got me my refund, but it sounds like that is common operating protocol for them, so something to be aware of.

    Feel free to message me or post a reply if anyone has any other questions about any aspect; the outfitter, gear, logistics, etc. I hope I can give back even just a fraction of the help I received for my hunt planning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dexter Grayson View Post
    45 beers and a liter of whiskey per person? Now that's what I'm talking about, sounds like my kind of trip.
    Haha, yeah I was willing to sacrifice my cot before beer. It worked out to 4-5 beers per day, which were pretty **** nice at the end of a long day.

  16. #16
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    Hey a2thak! Great story! We were the guys at the Prospect airport when you flew out! We also had a fantastic trip and will write it up soon.

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    We had a great hunt as well. Thanks for helping us unload our gear out of the planes. 100_0123.jpg
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