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Thread: Farewell Bison BI352

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    Default Farewell Bison BI352

    Well I guess I kind of won the lottery! Got drawn for the Mar 1-31 Farewell Bison hunt. I'll be hunting by snowmachine coming in by the iditarod trail. Two friends are coming along, one has ridden snowmachines to Nome three times previously. We are planning on setting up camp in an Arctic Oven tent. We will ship meat on NAC out of McGrath.
    I would like to hear from anyone who has done this hunt previously. Particularly I would like to hear how you located the animals and anything else that might be of help. How do you age your meat when it freezes in 24 Hrs?

    Appreciate any advice
    Thanks

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I did this hunt in March of 2002. It was the first and only time that I have used a guide. I was raised in Alaska and swore that I would never use a guide, but...with a once in a lifetime tag and the place I was at in life, it just made the most sense. I was finishing up my degree at the time and didn't have the time or resources for a do-it-yourself hunt. I'm not trying to discourage you from doing it yourself - I would do so if I ever won it again - just telling you the route I took. I went with John Runkle out of Nikolai, though I have heard second hand that he's not doing it any longer.

    Anyhow, we located animals very quickly the first day by finding high spots and glassing. The first herd we found was about 15-18 animals and consisted solely of small bulls, cows, and calves. We passed on that group and went off to the south of the trail (Iditarod trail) to go to another vantage point. From there we spotted three bison - a cow, a calf, and a large, old bull. It was an odd group, as I didn't expect a bull to be hanging out with a solitary cow and calf, but he was worthy of a stalk. We took an hour to move into position and I got an easy kill shot from about 100 yards. Done deal.

    I'm not sure what else to tell you, other than to study pictures and mounts of bison to learn how to judge sex and trophy quality before you go afield. The first small bulls we saw looked huge to me, but I'll admit that I didn't study up ahead of time. Also, make provisions for emergency shelter and such, as the weather can be unpredictable and brutal that time of year. I lucked out and had mid 20s - mid 30s during the day, but that's not the norm. Every year the camp that my guide ran would have multiple do-it-yourselfers come into camp with gas-soaked gear in bad weather looking for a place to escape life-threatening situations. It's a great hunt, but not one to be taken lightly. Good luck to you.


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    BEAUTIFUL Bison there!!!!

    Wow, so it sounds like this could be tougher judging size than bears are. Were there any special indicators that you remember to tell a larger animal from a small animal? Do you know about where you guys were when you started glassing for animals? What caliber were you shooting? and was he hard to get down on the ground?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I'll have to drag up some of the papers I have on judging size. As for caliber, I was using a 300 H&H Magnum - one shot, not difficult to kill. It helped that I took out 1/3 of his heart with that shot, though. We were probably 40-60 miles back down the trail from Nikolai, but I'm estimating quite roughly here. We weren't to the mountains yet - still out in the flats.

    Maybe you should stop by the Wildlife Conservation Center at the end of Turnagain Arm sometime and look at their bison. They're wood bison there, so a bit different in size, but it might help with some size estimation. Basically, they all look huge at first. After you've looked at a few of them, telling them apart becomes easy...but at first, they're all monsters.

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    I tagged along on a spring hunt a few years ago. I don't know much but here goes. It is good you are going with two others who know the trail. The year I went we had excellent weather in the mid teens. About two days before it was extremely cold and windy. That was the year that musher took his goggles off going down from the pass and froze his retina I think. When we got to the hunt area we came across 2 guys tenting it. They had extreme cold for the whole week and one had frost bitten fingers. Be prepared for extreme cold and lots of wind. The trail will probably not be fast. We averaged about 15 miles an hour. Depending on exactly when you go you could have trouble finding lodging as the race watchers fill them up to the point of sleeping on the floors. Gas at Rainy pass lodge back then was 6 a gallon and we got the last. I advise filling up every chance you get whatever the cost. Use the best quality sled you can get and ask your buddies where to beef it up. Pack everything in the sled tight and cinch it down. Use old blankets or foam padding to fill in between items and empty spaces. Anything bouncing or rubbing will have holes in it or be destroyed. I found gas cans that fit inside an action packer with the lid off, as a sort of containment system. Any way gas can leak, with all the bouncing it will. You do not want even the smallest amount of gas loose in the sled with your food, clothes, and bedding. The Arctic Oven tent you are looking for is the best. I am not sure what size to recommend. 3 guys will fill up a 10x10 real fast. I am not sure a stove would fit in a 10x10 with 3 guys. How are you heating it? I don't know exact weights but those tents have to weigh at least 60 pounds. Warm air leaving the tent will pull cold air in at the floor. The first foot or so will not be toasty warm. The best is a cot that will get you up off the floor. I have used the ones that get you about 6 inches off the floor and it was not high enough. Cots are bulky so you will probably not take them. Use the best sleeping bag and thickest ground pad you can. Are you flying the machines out also? I would thing about doing that. Unless you specifically want to ride home I think it is almost as cheap to fly as to buy gas. I don't have much advise about judging size and sex. They initially all look big. Take your time and don't get too excited. They just survived the winter eating crappy dead grass and don't have much energy. The ones we saw just moved off a little. They don't have it in em to go thundering away in the snow. Have fun and report back when over.

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    Appreciate the great advice guys. I will definitely check out some of our local captive Bison herds.

    One of the friends going along is the manufacturer of "Alaska Bush Sleds" he builds them at his shop in Sterling "Mike's Welding". As far as emergency shelter, he builds one model sled that is a sleeper sled. It is fully insulated and used for food and gear as you go down the trail then at night you prop the top open, velcro up the canvas and slip on in for a good nights sleep. He also has a dedicated fuel and oil sled, it is specifically made to the dimensions of 6 or 8 of those square 15 gal. fuel drums. Real nice setup, he has pulled a chain of up to three of these sleds at a time all the way to Nome from Deshka Landing. We shouldn't need that many on this trip. The drums are thick walled, packed tight and have never leaked

    I also have the concerns of 3 people and a stove fitting in the arctic oven 10' tent. We will definately have lightweight cots, we will heat with either a wood stove or Mr Buddy propane heater. (This tent comes with crossflow vents)

    Mstumpe - Did you guys get one? How did you find the animals? What part of the hunt area were you in?

    I've been working on lining up a pilot and plane to spot animals for us. In your guys experience is this probably unnecessary. I REALLY want to help my chances of hunt success when it comes to getting an animal.

    The three of us all REALLY like to ride and plan to ride our snowmachines back to Deshka Landing.

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    Member shphtr's Avatar
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    Brian: way nice trophy - congrats

    I would have to second Brian's recommendations. I have been drawn once - went into the old air station at Farewell in Sept. In retrospect prob did not get the best advice from Dewy who lives at the station. I was not successful.

    I have a friend who is also a resident. Got drawn years ago and was unsuccessful. Then got drawn again about 2-3 years ago. Even tho he has his own 185 he hired a guide (I think also John Runkle). He said it was the best idea he has ever had, not only b/o successfully finding a good animal but more importantly b/o the logistics of handling the significant amounts of meat. He had no regrets - said it was money very well spent.

    If I ever get drawn I will hire a guide - I think you can see where I am heading! Best of luck for a successful hunt.

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    Member shphtr's Avatar
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    As far as a tent I whole hardly endorse your plan to use an Arctic Oven. If there are three of you you might consider the Arktika - then if you decided you did not want to keep it you could always sell it. Once you are in the field it will be too late to change your mind. The weather in the interior can be very UNFORGIVING. Good luck.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Don't not go if you can't find one. Remember 99.99% of the folks that have lived or hunted the north country didn't have one

  10. #10

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    The hunter I was with was successful. Runkel? either wasn't guiding that year or did not have anyone booked that week. He did have his tent camp up and rented it to us. Wood stoves, wood, fresh spruce boughs for bedding. Not cheap but worth it to us. My memory is not too good and I would have to study some maps. Brian may be able to help with distances. We came out of the hills past the river and airport out into the flats. I want to say his camp was about 45-50 miles from Nikolai. We hunted back south about five miles toward the air strip. The area is open but full of small hills and valleys. The first day we had pretty much given up for the day. We had taken a side trail and did not want to back track so two of us went ahead cross country to try to find a direct line route back to camp. First rest stop and no sign of anyone following so went back and found them skinning Buff. They had run across a small band of a dozen or so in a little valley. Lost my hard drive recently with all my pictures. Not a huge animal but plenty good eatin that night. Did not see or hear any wolves but the tenters we ran across were camped near the river and said they heard them every night. Very close to camp was a small lake that a buddy landed his float plane on. He did not do any scouting, just brought gas and and went for a ride with us the next day. A plane would be helpful as it is a big area. He flew the meat out and we were going to continue to Nome. Had mechanical failures outside of Ruby. Towed machine to Galena and flew home from there. The mining area south of Ruby was really nice ride. Sounds like you have the right buddies going with you. You may find someone to rent a tent to you but as stated elsewhere they usually sell quickly on this site.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    mstumpe - Float plane? Did you go in the September hunt or the March hunt? If Sept, Runkle doesn't guide in the fall (or at least he didn't in the past).

    John - If Runkle will rent out one of his wall tents, that might be a great option. We got into bison right near his camp, and with the wood stove in the large tents, it would be a comfortable and warm way to spend your evenings. That might be worth looking into.

  12. #12

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    Sorry - skis on the plane - March hunt. I want to say we got into them about 5 miles south of the tent camp.

    Day one -We drove from fairbanks, took off at that private launch place around Houston. We had reservations at a lodge somewhere on the Su. Started snowing with very poor visibility. The race markers every 100 yards were helpful but missed turnoff to lodge so kept going. Filled up at lodge I don't remember the name of. Kept going until got to Rainy pass lodge at about 3 am. Threw bags on ground and grabbed a few hours sleep. Had breakfast at lodge.

    Day 2 - made Tent camp and settled in.

    Day 3 - Hunted and spent night 3 at Tent camp.

    Day 4 - Ride to McGrath and spent night at Kusko lodge.

    Day 5 - Spent night at race check point - forget which one.

    Day 6 - Ride to Galena spend night at Happy Puppy bed and breakfast.

    Day 7 - Fly to fbks.

    Day 8 - Retrieve trucks.

    Most excellent trip

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    Default congrats on the draw

    I also drew BI352, just starting to make plans. Good luck to you.

    OE

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    MSTumpe, thanks for the further details.

    AlaskaOE do you have any basic ideas of how you're going to go at this hunt yet?? Are you flying in or riding in?

    We're going to depart two days before the Iditarod Re-start on Mar. 5th and try to beat the rush of people on the trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shphtr View Post
    Brian: way nice trophy - congrats

    I have been drawn once - went into the old air station at Farewell in Sept. In retrospect prob did not get the best advice from Dewy who lives at the station. I was not successful.

    I have a friend who is also a resident. Got drawn years ago and was unsuccessful.

    Shphtr, I would sure appreciate more info as why you feel these two hunts were unsuccessful. I understand the guide could have helped, but was it equipment problems, not enough time allowed, problems in locating animals. Any further analysis of those hunts would sure be helpful to me.

    Thanks,
    John

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    Member shphtr's Avatar
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    I don't have info regarding my friends first hunt. For me, the prehunt info I had was that there were bison both in and around the river bottoms in the area of Farewell Lake Lodge as well as the area surrounding the old Farewell landing site. Dewy strongly advised me to look around his area and to NOT GO to the river around Farewell Lake. From my experience and from what I have learned since that was a mistake on my part. If I get drawn again I will concentrate my efforts on and round the river and the near by flats. This was for a Sept hunt - it may be different for a March time frame. I have heard that the bison in the spring can often be found around the small lakes/ponds that border the river but I can not confirm this.

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    I'm not sure yet, but will probably fly the area late Feb. and try to get an idea where the herds are roaming. Then likely follow/join Iditarod trail breaking crew to get out there for the hunt. I have some raw land out there that I would like to start clearing for a cabin, so if all goes well I will try to make a month of it.

    OE

    Quote Originally Posted by John S View Post
    MSTumpe, thanks for the further details.

    AlaskaOE do you have any basic ideas of how you're going to go at this hunt yet?? Are you flying in or riding in?

    We're going to depart two days before the Iditarod Re-start on Mar. 5th and try to beat the rush of people on the trail.

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