I just got back from about 7 days in Kotzebue. The weather was unusually warm and the water levels dropped quite a bit over the last month. For the first time in four years of going to Alaska it never rained even once during the week we were in the bush.
Our float trip was mostly a drag, push & pull trip. The fishing was fantastic though, while along the river we only saw about 100 caribou. Most stayed up high where it was nice cool. We also saw some moose, including a nice bull moose though we did not have a permit and it was probably borderline 50. Also saw a musk ox and a wolf. The musk ox was only a few hundred yards away but the wolf was way too far to shoot. My buddy and I came home empty handed despite seeing several respectable bulls. We had a specific criteria that was never met so we bagged it so to speak.
For the first time in three years, we bumped into others on the river though one group of 4 over 80 miles is hardly crowded. Another first for me was getting buzzed by two state troopers. The first one flew right by us but radioed a 2nd plane that was on top of us within minutes. He circled us several times, including a few low passes to try and land on our gravel bar. After that, he moved on.
We spoke to others who hunted up high and they had much better luck. Both groups had thousands walk by over the course of a week. The downside is that one of the groups we spoke to were representatives from Cabela's there to film a caribou hunt and check out an outfitter that may soon find its way into their hunt catalogs. This is completely subjective on my part, but the airport was significantly busier with hunters than I have seen it over the last three years over the same time frame.
We were flown into the bush by Eric Sieh of Hageland Aviation. We've used him a few times alreay and I can't say enough good things about the man as a person and as a pilot. If any of you want to use him for a hunt, my only advice is to book very early. i.e. November the year prior to your hunt. He's real busy with repeat customers and he's flying for four different outfitters on top of trying to take care of 4 kids and a wife.