mulchatna bou harvest
Just wondering how it went for those who choose to hunt the mulchantna herd,any biggies hanging over the fire place?was up in the shot gun hills for the 15th straight yr and saw more bous this yr then last but nothing worthy of putting a clienet on,had a nice brown bear we were watching for a couple days next to camp take off like a bat out of h--- on opening day for them after a cub(one of seven)took off.all i saw out of 3000 or so were mostly young bulls and cows and few new borns.saw no impressive racks even the gray/whites were lacking growth.the new borns seem to be thin as to yrs past.for those who hunted was it worth it?i know the weather was not to friendly and so glad i was not on a dropoff on top of the hill.
I spent the month of Sept. out near the area you mentioned...and my caribou observations closely paralelled yours. Although you apparently saw twice as many as I did, I too did not see a significant horn. I have not seen a bull-not a trophy and not even a dink-since '03. But, again like you, I did see many more caribou than in recent years. While I do not expect a return to the glory years any time soon, I do hope that we might see some real bulls out there in the next few years. Lets hope...
Just out of curiousity, what do you guys think has led to the decline of large bulls in the area? I have hunted in the area twice, once about 12 years ago and once 3 years ago- I saw very different things...12 years ago there were large bands of bulls everywhere it seemed. 3 years ago we saw caribou, but it paled in comparison to what it was...outfitters? predation? selective natural selection of big bulls? Again, I haven't spent much time in the area, but the reports I get parralel yours...just curious as to your thoughts on the causes.
I took my son out for his first big game hunt and he got this nice Mulchatna bull. It is not a whopper, but is certainly a nice bull. Yes, that is our tent in the background. We weren't run over by herds of 3,000, but all four of us in our group took home caribou, and my son got his first trophy. Mulchatna was good to us.
First off,round one,nice to see your boy get a bou,2nd,i feel a little insulted by the not over run by herds of 3000.by looking at your pic it appears you were in a drop off camp by a lake.i would not expect you to see many bous from there in a ten day hunt or so,if i am wrong please correct me,as for myself i spent about 30 days in a spike camp with a jet boat and covered few hundred miles and climbed many of hills.i did not see a herd of 3000 i saw about 3000 animals,mostly in small groups the largest being of about 200.also the pic you provide is what might be proof in the pudding as to the size of antlers being produced from the herd.Sokeye in my opion the decline is do to a couple facter's,one is that from all studies the bous have a thing to rise and fall,also the predertors are thicker then fleas.saw more bear this year then ever with lots of sows with 3 yr olds and the wolf sighn was thick see more of them in the winter.also one can look and see the in the past ten yrs ever body and their brother has hunted this herd.one good thing i did see this yr was the liken seems to be coming back
Decline of the mulchatna herd...
What happened to all the mulchatna caribou bulls? Great question Sockeye. I wish I had a great answer, but I don't. But I do have several observations. First of all it isn't just the large bulls that are gone. Basically, most of the caribou are absent from their former areas out there. In the early 90's the entire area referred to as the mulchatna herd was ultra sensational for both huge numbers of animals and especially those large bulls. Then in about 1995 the decline started. I do not believe that there is any one reason for the decline and subsequent implosion of the head. Yes, we guides and outfitters shot many bulls. But the herd became hugely popular with both resident and nonresident drop-off hunters. At one point at least 12 air taxi services were operating full-time or seasonally out of Dillingham alone. They were putting many hundreds of hunters out in the bush each week of the entire fall hunting season. Hunters also came out from Bethel, Aniak, Kenai and Anchorage. A huge number of bulls, both large and small, were getting harvested and without question the bull to cow ratio became terrible. Now, only about three or four air transporters are working out of Dillingham and they all live there. All the other "part-time" transporters out of Dillingham have moved north to Kotzebue. Around the year 2000 there was a hoof rot disease that affected the herd. We observed a lot of limpers for a few years. Many or most of those limpers probably died, possibly to predators. There is a healthy wolf population throughout western Alaska. Wolves primarily eat only meat, so I believe the wolves had some impact on total caribou numbers. I believe that all these factors influenced the decline. But again, I'm still profoundly baffled at the near complete implosion of the entire herd.
In 2002 we had a slight increase in the caribou activity and we all hoped the decline was over, but it wasn't.
In 2003 the former migration pattern of the area I'm familiar with was clearly further affected by the decline. About half of the expected head never showed up that year. But we still found some 370 class bulls.
Also, keep in mind that according to modern records and native folklore, caribou populations in Alaska and Canada have often fluctuated up and down, often without a known specific reason.
Well, in Sept. 2004 not one bull, large or small, migrated through on routes where thousands had been just a few years earlier. 2004 and 2005 were as bad or worse. In 2005 I only hunted sheep and goats, but my friends in western Alaska did not see a caribou in the entire month of Sptember. In Sept. 2006 I saw a few herds of 30. And this year I observed many small herds of migrating caribou, but still not one obvious bull. But hay...maybe this is the start of the next mulchatna herd explosion! (Wishful thinking ?)
One last observation...In the early 90's the hills out in western Alaska were covered in thick, lush, white caribou lichen. It was everywhere and I often observed the migrating caribou herds eating it. In the late 90's much of it was gone and the remaining lichen would turn to dust as one walked over it. Now, most of the white caribou lichen is gone and the hills are growing other green tundra stuff in its place.
Is global warming to blame?
Alaska True Adventure Guide Service
According to Bio's, this herd in particular has crashed several times in the past. One of the reasons for the crash is the age of cows. When the cows get to a certain age, they aren't as capable or capable at all of reproducing. At the same time, the big bulls are susceptible to predation after the breeding season because they lack the stamina and antlers to ward them off.
In a nutshell, the bulls keep trying to breed the mature (too old) cows and they in turn do not calve come spring. The bulls are killed off after mating and what you have left are adolescents that aren't fertile or were not impregnated.
Two other reasons for the decline are the hoof rot that was going on a few years ago and the fact that they ate themselves out of house and home. Without food in their traditional grounds, they forced themselves west pushing all the way to the Kuskokwim river south of Kalskag.
In recent years, ADF&G liberalized bag limits on cows while putting a hard limit on the taking of bulls. I think it was too little to late.
Just my opinion based on what our local Bio's thinking.