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Thread: Float vs. Drop hunt

  1. #1

    Default Float vs. Drop hunt

    Let's hear the pros and cons of each, i.e., floating con - constantly making and breaking down camp, floating pro - covering more territory.
    "The days a man spends fishing or spends hunting should not be deducted from the time he's on earth. " Theodore Roosevelt

  2. #2
    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default Pros & Cons

    I've done several of each (always with friends). The big issue as far as I'm concerned is that game populations in Alaska tend to be low and not even. With that in mind, float hunts are much better than drop camps. The 2 noteable exceptions to that are black bear and deer. Drop camps seem fine for those two.

    I haven't hunted any of the species that require guides (nor will I ever - probably). That leaves 2 species - moose & caribou. Both are best (IMO) done from a float hunt.

    The big con (again IMO) is being wet. I hate being wet (and cold). It's easy to be miserable on a float hunt if you ae not well prepared. We now own both a cataraft and a tent with a "break-down" stove. Problem solved.

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Pros and Cons of Float Hunting

    Romo,

    This is a big chunk to take on! Lots to talk about on this one. Here are a few of my ideas.

    PROS AND CONS OF FLOAT HUNTING

    1. Constant setup and takedown of camp. When I first started float hunting, it seemed like I was spending most of my quality hunt time setting or breaking camp, hanging meat or taking it down, loading and unloading boats, and so forth. Finally I realized that I was taking on too much river! I wasn't hunting, I was "camping with guns". It was little more than a boat ride. Since then, I plan most of my float hunts for shorter sections of river or I use an outboard. Either way, I can focus my efforts on three or four camps, rather than camping in a different spot every night. It has made all the difference.

    2. It's more expensive. A typical float hunter's gear pile is roughly twice the size of a drop camp gear pile. You have the boat and frame, of course, then the straps, pumps, outboard, fuel, oars, etc. All of that stuff has to fit into one of those little bitty airplanes, and that often means an additional flight. If you're renting a raft, many places charge around $100 / day. Then you have dry bags and other specialized gear that you may not take on a drop camp hunt. I figure on around another $1,000 per hunter. You can cut corners and save some of this, but it's still gonna cost more.

    3. Freedom of movement. This is a huge plus to me. On a drop camp, you're pretty much stuck where you are. Sure, you can spike out somewhere from base camp and all, but you're limited to however far you can reasonably walk from base camp. In most cases you're hunting the same ground several times. A float hunt allows you to do this, plus move as the mood takes you. It's a fact that not all areas in a river corridor are productive hunting ground. Floating lets you find and hunt those hotspots.

    4. Access. Alaska is twice the size of Texas, but our road system is about half the size of Hawaii. Our rivers are our road system, and they take us places that would be impossible to get to otherwise. This means that float hunters have exclusive access to some of the best hunting in the state, simply because there is no other realistic way to get there. Even then, we are just hunting the fringes of good habitat, with vast areas out of our reach. We talk about overcrowding a lot, but really there is a lot of prime hunting habitat out there that is never touched. Float hunters have the best opportunities to hunt those places.

    5. The kitchen sink. Most float hunters I know tend to pack on the heavy side. Not always a good idea, but we do it anyway. This means you can bring real food! You can bring cots! You want to be careful, but you can have a truly comfortable hunt on a float. Of course you can do this on some drop camp hunts, and cannot do it on some float hunts.

    6. Get away from crowds. Because you have the ability to relocate, it's possible to move away from other hunters. Enough said.

    7. Access to water. On some drop camp hunts, you have to haul your water with you! On a float, you have the whole river to drink. This also gives you the opportunity to fish, if you want.

    8. Special skills required. Float hunters should at least know how to row a boat, and keep the bow pointed downstream. That's the starting place. From there, you can open up additional possibilities by acquiring better whitewater skills and such. But I would not recommend an Alaska float hunt to someone who has not spent some time on the water.

    Okay, enough talking for me. Anyone else have some ideas on this?

    -Mike
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    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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  4. #4

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    Mike pretty much hit everything from what I can see. Out of all those my biggest gripe with float hunting is setting up and breaking down camp every day, other than that, I enjoy it immensely. I plan on doing many more in the future and as I get better I will try newer, rougher country looking for that 65" bull moose.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    Mike pretty much hit everything from what I can see. Out of all those my biggest gripe with float hunting is setting up and breaking down camp every day, other than that, I enjoy it immensely. I plan on doing many more in the future and as I get better I will try newer, rougher country looking for that 65" bull moose.
    What you need is a big raft with an elevated platform. Then you can just camp right on the raft in the middle of the river! : )

    On a serious note what length raft are most people using? (For a party of 2-4)

  6. #6

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    For 2 people we used a Levitator, I think it is a 16 foot boat but maybe not. I would not float 4 people in 1 raft, you'll be very limited to what you can bring out. Maybe a cat would work but they are heavy and generally require a frame, which is also heavy. If you have 4 hunters I would do 2 rafts or 2 Magnums with Oar Saddles. The Magnums are the bigger version of the Pro Pioneer and I think they are designed to carry 2 hunters and 2 moose but check with Larry B on that one.

  7. #7
    Member Buck Nelson's Avatar
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    Default

    Lots of good points. Meat care can be more challenging on a float hunt. I think water is more dangerous than bears in Alaska, so there's a bit more danger involved in a float hunt. There tends to be more logistics and planning involved, and float hunts tend to run a bit longer than drop-off hunts in my experience.

    In my opinion float hunts tend to be a bit more adventurous and therefore often more fun. Getting a chance to keep seeing "what's around the next bend" is a big treat.

  8. #8
    Member Casper50's Avatar
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    Default

    I use an older Aire 18'.

  9. #9
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    Default Float vs Drop hunts

    Romo:

    This is a good thread!

    Because I am in the equipment rental business I get this question all of the time. I agree with everything that was said my Mike and you are 100% right that a float hunt takes more work and planning. Float hunters can not be lazy but they bag bigger and more animals form my experience.

    In the past 3 years all of my float hunters came back with caribou and the float hunters also had bigger animal because they had the choice of moving on and seeing more animals. I always suggest that the float hunter never tries to float a long way, as it can become a “Death Float” to reach your pick up point. A good rule of thumb is a 7-day float hunt should cover around 45 miles or so. It not that you can’t cover more river if you have to but it takes the fun out of staying at one great location and hunting and fishing for a few day. Setting up and breaking down your camp is a pain but the benefit is you can see a lot of country and can be more choosey in what you will shoot. A drop camp can be very frustrating at times because you are stuck hunting an area of about 5 miles from your camp especially up here in WACH. The tundra can be brutal to hike on and 5 miles will pound your &5$# in the dirt in a hurry. If those pesky caribou miss your 5-mile zone you may miss out period!

    Drop camps are simple and they work fine. The floaters have to work a little harder but the proof is in the results, more and bigger animals over all. The moose hunters really benefit from a float hunt as he can slip in and out of every slough where the moose are going to be. Drop camps for moose are really hit or miss.

    As far as shipping your own raft vs a rental check out the cost of fright vs the cost and convenience of picking up a top quality set up when you arrive, no hassle and cost effective!

    Walt
    Northwest Alaska Backcountry Rentals
    Your best bet in Rafts and camp rentals
    www.northwestalaska.com
    Kotzebue, Alaska
    33 miles north of the Arctic Circle
    Last edited by Gulkana Rafting; 12-11-2007 at 12:42. Reason: spelling

  10. #10
    Member Casper50's Avatar
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    Default Photo fix

    Messed up the photo earlier. On our last trip in September I saw two round rafts that has so much gear there was barely room for the hunters. I have no idea how or where they were going to put a moose. The front and back was stacked at least 3 1/2 feet high with quite a lot in the middle with one hunter on top of it. Fully assembled cots sticking out both sides. The rafts were floating well so it must have been mostly light stuff. We have one moose on the cat in this photo.
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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Photo

    Here ya go Casper, Turned the light on for ya.




    Steve

  12. #12

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    All good info here. I've already done the moose drop hunt in '06. I thing the biggest drawback was being in a fixed area. The routine became monotonous after a while. The only real work that we had to do was after my moose was on the ground. It sure would have been nice to change scenery and cover different terrain. While we did see some other bulls, I believe my hunting buddy would have had a better opportunity to harvest a bull too had we been able to hunt different areas. I can't say with certainty that it would have happened but I just believe it may have.

    That being said, I will be doing a float hunt. I had plans for '08 to take my nephew for his high school graduation present but he'll be a freshman at LSU and I don't think he should miss 2 weeks in his 1st college semester. I'd still like to go in '08 but if not, I'll be taking him in '09.

    As for the the work on a float hunt like setting up and breaking down camp, it might be a little more work but I think if each person has their set chores for the trip it becomes easier, i.e., one person sets up the tent while the other cooks, etc. Just my $0.02.

    Keep the responses coming!
    "The days a man spends fishing or spends hunting should not be deducted from the time he's on earth. " Theodore Roosevelt

  13. #13
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default More input

    Quote Originally Posted by Romo View Post
    ...As for the the work on a float hunt like setting up and breaking down camp, it might be a little more work but I think if each person has their set chores for the trip it becomes easier, i.e., one person sets up the tent while the other cooks, etc....
    Romo,

    What you say is true in most cases. You develop a routine, and each person has certain jobs they do. This makes the work go faster. Besides, most of it is enjoyable work anyway. Most of us have some "Boy Scout" in us and like to set up tents, set up a kitchen area, and so forth. This is part of the fun of hunting.

    Your past hunts up here will add a lot to your next experience; you have a better idea of what to expect, and you have learned from previous experiences.

    -Mike
    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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