A report on [NAME REMOVED] and the Mulchatna herd...
WOW! I love Alaska! Now to the nitty gritty. NEVER USE [name removed] FOR ANY HUNTING RELATED THING!!!! As fishing fly outs they know their stuff, but as far as hunting goes they are loobies. The only person there who has any clue about anything concerning their hunting info, is [name removed], who once they have your down payment he cannot be gotten a hold of. I know I tried +150 times over February-July. We even tried showing up on locale when we were up there fishing in July. The ladies at the desk when we called would say, he might be in at 1, try then. And then when you called at 1 they would get mad at you for calling them and say [name removed] was busy.
Now, beef #2(I have had 2 weeks to plan this out ya know...)
[name removed] when I was looking to book I asked what herd he hunted, and what units we would be in. He said units 9,17, or 19 were the possibilities for caribou and 9 or 16 for black bear. As he was unavailable to talk to for the 6 months leading up to the hunt we didn't know where we were flying to until we stepped on the plane. Unit 17B. Smack dab in the middle of the Mulchatna herd. I hadn't wanted to hunt the Mulchatna herd as the numbers and reports are quite dismal. When we booked with him, he told us that he didn't really hunt the Mulchatna herd, more of a boundary where they collide with another herd that is doing just fine, yadayadayada. So we booked.
Another thing he promised us about the caribou, both over the phone, e-mail, and his brochure, was that they were flying over the caribou area ~1x per week and knew where they were starting the first week of July. On August 10th we were their second flight out, their first dropped off other hunters. They didn't see anything but the 50 when they flew in. We only saw 25 when we flew in.
After caribou we hunted black bears. Now it is August and the salmon are still running strong in the rivers, and the berries are not quite ripe up on the mountains. They put us 15 miles away from the nearest river, and at 3000 ft above sea level, with the ocean in view(as a point of perspective). So ~15 miles and 3000ft elevation away from bears without any fish(none at all btw) or ripe berries up high for incentives for the bears to move away from choked salmon streams. We saw 0 bears when we flew in. And when we asked the pilot which direction was the best way to hunt the bears, down the mountain North, East, South, or West he just said "Everywhere" and took off. We were quite discouraged, but hey, they are the experts right? That is what we paid them for right?
When asked roughly what time of day morning, afternoon, evening we would be picked up, everyone was clueless. So we wasted hunting time because "they might come any time now" and just were left sitting on our gear.
Now for the blow by blow of hunting.
Day 1 for caribou. Woke up at 4:30 am, hiked out 3 miles to a good hill to glass the surrounding area. 50 mph winds and spitting rain, but hey, it was good to be hunting. Stayed there for 5 hours saw nothing, not even a ptarmigan. Hiked another 2 miles to another ridge, stayed till dark. It was 35 deg and raining all day. Saw nothing, but ate a good 3 pounds of blue berries!
Day 2, little discouraged but still have 4 days left for caribou not too shabby. Get up a 4:30 hike to a hill 4 miles from camp glass for 3 hours see nothing head back to camp. Make a little snack. As I boiled the water my dad glassed the surrounding hillsides in the vain hope that we would see some caribou. I looked up and out across the lake. There, not 1000 yards from camp 3 caribou were just on the edge of the lake! 2 cows and 1 calf. We wolfed down our food, grabbed our rifles and packs to see if there were others. We got within 50 yards of those three just to check that there wasn't a bull there. Nope, but we headed out another 2 miles to a ridge to glass the area, 'cause where there is one, there are more and we had seen 3! Immediately was saw another group, 8 this time but still all cows and calves. 30 minutes later another group, 5, crest the ridge and work their way towards us. All cows and calves. We hiked to a different ridge another 2 miles from camp, more in the direct path of the caribou. We spotted another group of caribou, 3, all cows and calves. 20 minutes after that we saw a group of 4 all cows and calves. 2 hours later we saw our last group 5 cows. We stuck it out till dark, hiking to new ridges. By the end of the day we covered 15 miles almost. No bulls. While technically we could shoot any caribou, we weren't going to take a couple of cows on the second day of 5 hunting days! Besides, we saw 25 caribou!
Day 3 Fog and rain stopped visibility at 200 yards, but we hiked out anyway to glass for a few hours. Nothing. All day, nothing.
Day 4 rain and wind ~2 mile visibility. Glassed all day, nothing.
Day 5, final official caribou hunting day. We would have shot a cow yesterday at this point had it been an option. We were in spitting rain all day and saw nothing. We trudged back to camp at 4 in the afternoon, dejected as all get out. We were boiling water for our lunch/dinner, when I saw a bump on one of our favorite glassing hills. I thought it was a bush as I surely had looked it over and over before. I took out the binos anyways, and gave it a look. There was a wolf. My dad had bought a $30 wolf tag fully aware that it wasn't going to get filled, but hey, you never know. The wolf was 1 mile away with the wind in our faces. Perfect. We stopped lunch, grabbed rifles, shooting sticks, and the rangefinder and began the approach. We snuck within 516 yards when we ran out of cover. Now my dad is an excellent shot, as I have previously bragged on, he dropped it with one shot to the heart with a .270 Remington A-bolt using 140 gr. hornady light magnums. It was beautiful. It ran, flopped more accurately, five feet. A gorgeous mature male in its prime ~120 lbs or so. Just beautiful coat. We are getting a live mount done. Spent the rest of the day in trophy care and casual glassing. Did get 2 ptarmigan, tasty btw, very tasty.
Day 6 Spent the morning tidying up everything and glassing around camp. Not venturing more than a 5 minutes walk from camp because hey, they could be coming any second. 5 pm they came. No caribou all day, we didn't see any flying out either. A grand total of 50, 25 flying, and likely the same 25 hunting.
Day 7 Bears. I have already vented my spleen in regards to the placement. Nonetheless we spent all day hiking to various look overs. 10 minutes before dark, we saw a black bear. A huge boar. 2 miles away in a straight line through the air. 2000ft below us. 4.5 miles walking as we found out later. We saw it for a whopping 2 minutes before it dashed into an alder thicket.
Day 8 you can see 10 feet in front of you and the fog stops it there. Nevertheless 5 am found us glassing what we could. We hiked down to near where we saw the bear but after 4 hours sitting and barely being able to see the end of your nose we headed back to camp. By the way, did I mention that the grasses there were 6 ft tall, with 8 ft ferns and wildflowers? Gorgeous as can be, but when you think you are near a bear the flora is well above your head, it is foggy anyway you get a wee bit nervous!
Day 9 last official day for bears. We hiked down 4.5 miles and 2000 ft in elevation each way again. This time it was clear and gorgeous though. We spent 14 hours down there, only thing we saw was a massive, and I mean massive bull moose. Using the 10" between the antlers rule, it was pushing 70" with 5 brow tines on one side, 4 on the other 15 long tines all the way up the paddles on each side, some of the tines were and easy 12-15" long. Just spectacular. No moose tag, residents only area anyway, and the season wasn't open yet. Typical. Any way we got to watch him for 12 hours just 300-400 yards away. That was breath taking.
Day 10 pick up day, well sort of. We didn't dare venture far 'cause they might be coming any minute now. It was clear and beautiful too mind up until 4:20 pm. Then fog started to roll in. We heard the plane at 4:30. We saw it for 2 seconds then fog crashed in all around us.
Day 11 Bonus day! Not really because we didn't know when they would come and get us. Picked us up at noon. No bears on the fly out.
All in all the weather contributed a good 30% to our success, or lack thereof. The other 70% was due to poor locale. We feel like this outfitter took our money and ran. I hope that you never use him, and that you never have that kind of trouble.
However, I was able to spend almost 2 weeks in the most pristine and gorgeous places I have ever been graced to view. I spent an awesome time with my dad and had a blast. That alone was worth, but we would have like to have a real opportunity to fill our tags. We did do some awesome salmon fishing for silvers and reds on the Kenai and had a blast.
Anyway, don't use [name removed] for hunting, fishing is their main focus and they do well there, but not for hunting.
Last edited by Brian M; 08-22-2006 at 12:37.
In keeping with the forum rules, specifically rule #7, I have removed the name of the transport service from this thread. I understand that this is valuable information for those looking to book hunts, so in that regard you are more than welcome to send Utarded a Private Message concerning his post. We don't moderate the PMs that are sent, but do ask that public messages refrain from negative comments. Thanks.
i did a fly out caribou hunt with a drop service outa lake hood once and had about the same experience, just a money run is all it was. i did take a good bear and one caribou, but they didn't have any idea where the caribou were or even tell me what game unit i was in. i spread their name around alot, not here for obvious reason.
Sounds like your pilot knew excatly what he was talking about when he dropped you off for black bear. Typically black bears won't be on the rivers with the fish, black and brown don't blend real well, sometimes they do. but most blackies were i guide are right at tree line, if you can see alders thats where the blackies will come outa of.
the problem with fly outs is pilots....they don't hunt, they fly. expect a reporty from the air and nothing else. But you've gotta understand when you sign the check that thats what they do. you cut a corner on cost to avoid paying a guide....so your not getting a guide, your getting a pilot. they'll drop you where they've seen game or where others have gotten game.
sorry to hear about your trip, lots of stories just like that, from drop hunters,transporters, residents, guides you name it, we've all seen it! hang in there, not everyone is the same.
I had a VERY similiar experience last year with a charter out of soldotna. Sorry to hear that you had to go through the same thing.
What else do you need?
Under normal circumstances I wouldn't weigh in on any post in a negative way but this rain has me down. That being said, if I paid to go on a fly out trip and got a good bear and a caribou, I would consider that a success. To fault someone for a trip whether or not they know the unit number is ridiculous. If there is more to the story (there were 8 of you and that's all you got) let us know. What is the real expectation?
Originally Posted by BRWNBR
Outside of that, good points.
I didn't even think for a moment air taxi's were supposed to provide any level of service other than your safe plane ride. If you did not crash, you left on the scheduled day and were picked on the scheduled day, I would say you should have tipped the pilot. That seldom happens in the bush. You tell them where to take you and then rely on your own knowledge, skills and abilities to do the hunting.
With the charter, it was specifically part of our fee that they would scout and put us in a locale with game. We didn't tell them where to place us. We did get picked up a day late by the way, and we understand that that happens. However their overall lies, unprofessional attitude, and unavailability were ridiculous and I hope that I can help others avoid their snare. Had we told them, an outfitter not an air taxi mind, where to put us, I would have absolutely nothing to complain about. Nonetheless we paid for them to place us where game was, not just where it was convenient to pick us up after a day fishing trip, saving them a couple of bucks. Had we even had a realistic opportunity, or had they been up front and not claimed that they knew where 1000 caribou were, or that this was an awesome bear area(by the way, the bears they saw according to a chummy insider were from their fishing excursions. They put us away from where they knew black bears where).
As per the Rules, I must have overlooked #7 and apologize for that.
Hopefully none of you get financially raped as such.
about your deal Utard. Thanks for taking the time to post, and hey, your dad took a special trophy in that wolf that many never see, much less harvest.
With that said, didnt some of us try and steer you from this particular hunt/herd? I thought you had asked about the Mulchatna and were advised to avoid this area, in favor of say, the Western Arctic?
One thing's for sure, if somethings a loser, you'll probably hear/see it on the ODD before anywhere else.
Yeah, you had, but at that point we had booked and was looking to see what to expect. Also after hearing that we talked to the guy and that was when he said that he didn't "really hunt the Mulchatna" and he hunted a fringe, whatever that means.
Yes, we are very pleased(and extremely suprised!) at the taking of the wolf. We might try out the Haul road sometime, maybe somewhere else. Who knows what tomorrow might bring. Just wanted to reveal yet another slick talker.