Started off Friday with the flu, but not one willing to cancel my hunting trip to Lake George for Goat, I decided to go anyway. My hunting partner and I loaded up in the C-206 for the 15 minute ride out to Lake George at about 5pm on Friday the 4th. I happily put on my skydiving rig and my partner looked worried putting on a spare rig. I assured him that his rig was only to be used if he had to bail out of the plane in an emergency...as for me, I was going to enjoy wearing my parachute . My partner has only made one tandem jump before, so I understood his nervousness... As thrilling as the skydiving into a hunt was, it sounded a lot cooler than what it was. I'd like to think of this as a good primer for a really remote skydive hunt in the future.
I exited the airplane at 4000 feet and enjoyed a 10 second freefall over Lake George. I landed safely and immediately put up a wind-drift indicator so my buddy could land his airplane along with my partner. The reason for this was even though my buddy has thousands of hours of flying, he thought the runway was a little short for his 206. He wanted to concentrate on landing with wheels on the ground the first 20ft of the runway. He had just enough room with about 100 feet to spare when he finally braked his aircraft. The wind drift indicator was just an extra tool made available for him to assist him in landing. We both decided to plan a good sheep hunt next year in the Brooks Range where I would skydive in, have a gear drop, and then raft out a river to a suitable pickup point. It'll be nice to have a year to plan a sensational hunt like that !
Anyway, back to the hunt. The first night we set up our tents and glassed the peaks to the East of Lake George. We did not see any sign of Goats, but we decided in the morning to head up into a bowl on peak A. After walking a couple of miles to the base of Peak A, we observed that we could not get across a very swift moving creek. We walked for a couple of miles trying to find a crossing point, but we could not find anywhere safe to cross. In the early afternoon, we decided to head up to a bowl on Peak B. Once again, after alot of walking we realized that we could not cross that creek either. We tried to follow the creek to its source. We followed it up into a canyon that was impenetrable. Now we were getting frustrated. It was approaching 4pm on Saturday, and we haven't gained so much as a foot in elevation. On our way back out of the canyon, I noticed a nice looking bear trail that went up into a berry patch overlooking the canyon we were just in. We followed the trail up into a very thick berry patch. After just a few seconds, I noticed the brush was being thrashed around just 20 yards from us. I had to get my partners attention and let him know a bear was just a few yards away from us. (I told my hunting partner he would have first dibs on any bear that we encountered. He has accompanied me on many hunts in the past, but he has never taken a game animal.) Several times I saw a nice sized Black bear head raise above the patch of berries and give us a good look. I told my partner not to shoot, as I wasn't certain if it was a sow with cubs, wasn't sure about the size, etc... I told my partner to wait until the bear went into a clearing about 20 yards to the right before deciding to take the shot. He asked me how I knew the bear was going to go into the clearing. I told him that there was only 2 ways out of that berry patch, either THRU us, or thru the clearing. We waited about 10 minutes till the bear got done feasting on what would be his last berries. The bear then wandered into the clearing and stood broadside to us giving us a good stare. I then decided that is when the partner should take the shot. The bear was big bodied and definitely a boar. I told the partner to shoot at anytime. Bang ! Down the bear went rolling to the bottom of the hill. After waiting for about 5 minutes we headed down and confirmed that it was a nice-bodied boar. My partner was ecstatic that he got his first bear. We took almost 2 hours to skin the bear. We wanted to take some of the meat with us, namely the backstraps, but the temps were in the 70's and the meat would've never lasted without spoiling. At this point we had a tiring hike back to camp about 3 miles away.
The next day we hike back to where the bear carcass was to see if anything was eating on it. I observed two spots on the bear that were eaten. About that same time, my partner told me there were two coyotes watching us. I looked up and saw 2 very fat, very good-looking coyotes looking at us standing over their meal. We had no desire to kill the coyotes although they would have made some beautiful trophys.
After looking at the carcass we hike over to Lake George and took the canoe a few miles around the lake looking for access to Peak C. We had the pucker factor as we were paddling along the lakeshore. The last thing we needed was to flip the canoe and become immediate statistics. After several hours we finally found access up to Peak C. The only problem was it was getting late in the day, and it would take about 12 hours to get up into the glacial valley. We weren't set up to get ourselves into that predicament. So, we called it a day and paddled back to camp just in time for darkness to set in.
Even though I was skunked on getting a Mountain Goat for this year, this past weekend couldn't have been anymore perfect. Clear skies, beautiful area, sunny, warm. Good time spent with my partner as he harvested his first big game animal... Life was good.
The next morning we called by pilot buddy and he once again expertly landed his 206 and picked us up for the quick ride back to Wasilla. We were back at my place and skinning the bear by eleven a.m. The bear squared out to a perfect 6ft (no, we didn't add any inches). I estimated the bear was 300#+ . The bear was at the taxidermists by 4pm to be made into a rug, and even the taxidermist stated that the bear was big-headed and big-pawed. Skull was 18". This will make a very fine trophy for the perfect hunting partner...
pic 1: Knik Glacier
pic 2: Johnny ready to jump (yes, i was excited, even though it doesn't look like it)