I am flying out of Kotzebue with Eric Sieh on August 12, to the headwaters (Twelvemile Creek) of the Noatak. My brother and I plan to do some backpacking in Gates of the Arctic first, then begin a float-hunt which will end in Noatak (or Kotzebue if the weather allows and the Pro-Pioneer with Oar Saddles seems capable).
I've read with great interest a lot of threads on this forum regarding the Noatak, GMU 23 in general, and issues regarding locals, non-locals, non-residents, wanton waste, etc. etc.
With all that in mind, I'm forging ahead, and I'm excited. I've done three previous caribou hunts: two mid-September hunts, and one mid-March hunt; all rifle hunts 5 miles off the Dalton highway. I now want to get a bit further off the road system :-)
On the Noatak, my goals are to harvest two caribou and one grizzly bear if the gods favor me. Because this is a long float early in the season, my greatest concern is meat care. Not only because I feel sensitive to that issue in this area, but I consider myself primarily a meat hunter. Antlers just don't taste that good.
So, my questions are: given I observe the general tenets of proper meat care (quality game bags, out of sun, dry, citric acid coat), how many days (or range of days depending on conditions) in late August can a person grounded in reality expect caribou meat to retain high-quality? I would also like to salvage most/all of my grizzly meat. Any suggestions regarding this? What age/sex/condition of bear should I target? Is meat care/longevity any different from caribou?
One possible scenario for how this hunt could work is that we float the first half or more without hunting, then hunt the lower half when I'm at max a week from Noatak. This will probably take some willpower if we see a lot of animals. A mid-trip meat fly-out has been considered, but is economically unfeasible for us starving college students.
I'm not demanding this be a "trip of a lifetime." Quite the opposite, I'm hoping to have a lifetime of trips like this. I want to do it as intellegently, ethically, and elegantly as possible. Any feedback, constructive, critical, etc. that helps me accomplish that will be greatly appreciated!
Please know that I have read most of just about every book that I can get my hands on by Larry Bartlett, Chris Batin, Tony Russ, Duncan Gilchrist, and other Alaska and hunting authors. HOWEVER, I'm eager to learn from the diversity of opinions and experiences that this forum offers.