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Thread: great float hunt trip

  1. #1
    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Default great float hunt trip

    Foreword;
    Barth was looking for a partner for this float trip and graciously invited me along. He is a Missouri resident and highly experienced and avid hunter but had no experience rafting or hunting in Alaska.
    I live in Fairbanks, Alaska and have been blessed by the opportunity to hunt Alaska for the past 5 years. I’m an experienced rafter and my wife and I own 3 different rafts.

    Day 1 - 7 September

    After a last minute stop at the local Fred Myers we meet Andy at Shadow Aviation for our flight out. He is a wonderful pilot and very knowledgeable of the area.

    I fly out first and haul some of our gear to above the lake and inflate our secondary “emergency” raft before trying to find the trail leading down to the river.

    Almost as soon as I walk up into the meadow behind the lake I see a nice 58” bull walking along the tree line. Not having anywhere to go or even being able to make it back down to the lake I hide behind one of the few small black spruce and video tape the moose walking to within about 25 yards. I remember thinking this has to be a good sign; little did I know he’d be one of the few we’d get to see.

    After Andy arrives with Barth and the remainder of our gear we finish unloading all the gear and cross the meadow to find the trail to the river.

    Moving the gear the ¼ mile to the trailhead took the entire rest of the day and proved to be one of the roughest parts of the whole trip. Not that there was too much gear but the tundra was extremely deep and rough to cross with gear. Barth gets an introduction to Alaskan tundra, Devils Club, and Alaskan bugs all in his first day in the field.
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    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Default day 2

    Day 2 - 8 September

    We attempted to call for most of the morning trying to coax the moose from the previous day with no luck. So we set out to attempt to locate some smaller lakes where we saw moose from the air.
    About noon we decide to start moving all our gear another ¼ mile down to the river and float 2 ¼ miles to our second camp. During our portage Barth has a close encounter with a large lynx (40-50 lbs) that walks to within 10-15 yards of him.
    While floating we find an unbelievable amount of bear, wolf, and beaver tracks along the riverbanks. The river is very narrow and has very high uninviting banks unsuitable for easy camping. Barth convinces me to leave the second raft inflated to carry some of the gear behind ours, which proves to be pretty nice and makes a lot of extra room in the main raft.

    We also regret not having a small caliber firearm for the dozens of grouse we spot along the river.
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    Default day 3

    Day 3 - 9 September

    This day we float approximately 11.5 miles stopping at a few small ponds and old river channels to check for sign, unsuccessful with the exception of a cow and calf Barth spots inside the heavy timber.
    We see a whole lot more bear, wolf, and beaver tracks everywhere but no more moose sign or browsed willows. Beaver are spotted at near every turn and combined with howling wolves in the distance are heard constantly slapping their tails in the water all during the night.
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    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Default day 4

    Day 4 - 10 September

    Barth spots a beautiful gray wolf from the front of the raft and tries a shot but narrowly misses.
    We encounter a bunch more no-seeums, mosquitoes and a total lack of moose sign and float for about 10.1 miles.
    We begin calling every night from camp in the hopes of getting a response or having a moose move in for the next morning.
    Late at night Barth wakes up after he hears two bears sniffing around the tents and walking off. He has a tense moment due to having the fly of his tent open and the bears putting their noses to the screen above his head. No real clue if they were grizzly or black bear.
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    Default day 5

    Day 5 - 11 September

    More sign of everything except moose, lots of bugs, beaver, and grouse again. We catch a small grayling today that proves to be quite delicious for desert and float for 6.3 miles.
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    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Day 6 - 12 September

    I get up early and let Barth sleep in. I see some fresh sign on the edge of a burn and start to rake, almost immediately getting an enthusiastic response. After going back and forth for about 15 minutes the moose goes silent. I attempt to get a response for a little while working towards him when I hear the moose cross some water. While I’m watching crouched in a fairly open area he unexpectedly comes crashing through the spruce from behind me charging to within 40-45 yards. He wheels around as I stand up and turn and runs back into the spruce before I can get a shot. In 5 years of hunting in Alaska I’ve had bulls come in close when calling but never had one charge. Needless to say having a 2000lb animal run at you that close is a puckering experience. I immediately rake a few times, he stops, and while watching me starts to slowly circle keeping his distance. I wait until he moves into an opening and put him down with one shot from my 300 RUM. As I work to get closer he tries to stand and I shoot again, but we find later the thick spruce must have deflected the shot. Once I get close I finish him off with a third shot.

    Barth hears the shots and comes to investigate. After seeing the moose he admits to being rather surprised by his size and we head back for breakfast and to move the camp further around an oxbow to get closer to the kill site.
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    Default more day 6

    After taking pictures we make great time butchering, taking only about 6 hours to skin and bag the whole moose.

    Packing him out feels like another 10 hours though, the 60 yards through the tundra sure feels much longer than the remainder of the ¼ mile to camp. We make 3 trips before Barth’s pack frame breaks almost in two and darkness begins to set in. It is safe to say we both slept well this night.
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    Default day 7

    Day 7 - 13 September

    I get up early and haul the last two loads into camp and Barth and I enjoy our standard oatmeal breakfast.
    We let the meat dry a little on a meat pole and get on the river a little before noon to float for 8.1 miles stopping at occasional promising spots with no luck.
    For dinner we make the same mistake most moose hunters make and almost make ourselves sick gorging on tenderloin steaks.
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    Default day 8

    Day 8 - 14 September
    Barth decides he wants to float most of the day and take a chance on seeing a bull on the river as opposed to working further off the river. We float for 8.8 miles with no luck, and again see very little moose sign along the riverbanks.
    We find a camp across from a nice looking area and call aggressively before turning in. Not long after we get into our tents I hear a grunt from not far off and excitedly call to Barth while I get up to look (in my boxers), all I can hear from his tent is giggling as he admits he was using his call and muffling it into his pillow to see if I’d do anything.
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    Default day 9

    Day 9 - 15 September

    While rafting we spot a bull approximately 500 yards up a hill at about the same time he spots us but he doesn’t appear to go far. We attempt to call him down with little response so Barth attempts to put a stalk on him.
    We encounter the roughest water of the trip, but at worse its only about a class II and we fly through it.
    Unfortunately at the end of the day we find ourselves closing out Barth’s last day for moose with no luck floating for 16.7 miles But with a lot of sign on the riverbanks we hope to get him a wolf or bear before we finish up the trip.
    While setting up camp Barth spots a set of moose antlers buried in the river bank nearby.
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    Default day 10

    Day 10 - 16 September

    I wake up a little late this morning and call to Barth who later tells he was waiting for me to call again before getting up, until I started to shake the tarp on his tent. When I call again from my tent it occurs to him I couldn’t be shaking his tarp and he calls back to let me know something is on his tent. I jump out of my tent in time to see about a 5-6’ black bear run into the brush. I try to shoo the bear off and Barth asks if it’s a grizzly or black bear. When he hears it’s a shoot-able bear he spots it and attempts a shot from his sleeping bag. We look for an hour for sign but find no blood and only a nice size willow that the bullet appears to have struck.
    Today we meet the first people we've seen since Andy dropped us off, but we float past their camp and exchange greetings without stopping, they've been unsuccessful so far and admire our moose. We finish off the day after floating a long 22.6 miles.
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    Default day 11

    Day 11 - 17 September

    We set out and try to float hard but find ourselves getting out of the raft every few turns to drag through low water and only manage to get about 4.5 miles before hitting the confluence with the Tanana River (we did manage to put quite a few more miles on but won’t mention how many to keep the river in question a secret).
    We meet our second set of hunters and only other people we see on the river. We decide to stop and visit a little while to take a break from rowing (and dragging). They’ve been there a few days due to being unable to get upriver much and are disappointed when we tell them of the other group. They’ve been unsuccessful at much more than fishing and haven’t seen anything at all.
    We make camp on a sand bar further down the Tanana and find my sleeping bag and blanket are soaked from being on the bottom of the raft. So we start a nice bonfire to dry out a little which also helps with more tenderloin steaks after a mountain house dinner (well we both enjoy Barth’s steak after mine lands in the fire).

  13. #13
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    Default day 12

    Day 12 - 18 September

    Both of us wake up a little whipped after a rough night of heavy wind and cold, Barth suffered the worse in his bivy tent, with his tarp coming loose constantly during the night.
    We float hard, rowing almost non-stop to get to the Yukon River and reaching the village of Tanana at earlier than expected only to find our plane is hours early. Barth saves the day in finding someone to get our gear and us up to the plane before he leaves. We arrive back in Fairbanks early and my wife comes to pick us up, almost passing by before she recognizes us. We both have our priorities in taking long showers before doing much more and spend the rest of the day processing the best cuts of meat and bringing the rest to Delta meats and cleaning the worse of our gear.

    After thoughts;
    The trip was an absolute wonderful adventure (according to my GPS about 149 miles total, some of which was walking and still doesn't cover all the mileage we hiked) and even though I can’t speak for Barth I’d do it again given even half as good a hunting partner as him. Although I’d take my Cataraft over the Superbug next time and as always my packing list could use some slight modifications. The amount of work involved in doing this trip can easily be underestimated (as an example; in 11 days I managed to lose 21 lbs, none of which was from a lack of eating well).
    So as I write this I’m looking forward to maybe a late season Caribou hunt and planning a spring black bear hunt for '08.
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  14. #14
    Member akhunter3's Avatar
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    Awesome trip!!! and great pictures!!!

    What type of pack frame was your partner using that broke in two??



    Again, awesome story and Congratulations!!!!



    Jon

  15. #15
    Member Alaska Gray's Avatar
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    Great story.. Awesome pictures
    Living the Alaskan Dream
    Gary Keller
    Anchorage, AK

  16. #16
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    Very Cool story and pictures, thanks for sharing.

  17. #17
    Member RANGER RICK's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Sounds like you guys had a very good trip and a moose to boot !!!
    Pictures are great .

    RR
    Practice does not make perfect !!!!!
    Perfect Practice makes perfect !!!!!!!!!!


    USS SARATOGA CV-60

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v5...ex_2-1-1-1.gif

  18. #18
    Member moses42ak's Avatar
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    Wonderful story to read and ditto the pictures to look at. If you're looking for a partner for the trip next year, put me on the list.

  19. #19
    Member .338-06's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing your hunt!

  20. #20
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing such a great experience! Loved seeing all the pics! Sorry to hear Barth didn't get a moose bit it does sound like you have him hooked on hunting Alaska.

    Have to say the story about the blackie shaking the tent is pretty funny. Still trying to picture a guy in his sleeping bag trying to get a shot at one.

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