I decided this year to try the 40 mile caribou hunt out of Chicken. Met up with ERDucker from the forum here on Friday morning and we figured we would give it a go. Neither one of us had ever been to the area. We planned on going in Thursday to make the road opening, but my work schedule dictated otherwise, so Friday it was. It rained off and on all the way up there and we figured we were in for some wet days ahead. We got to Mosquito Creek and saw lots of trucks and wheelers. We knew the road was closed ahead so that would be the only option. We decided to go into the town of Chicken first though, since we had never been there. Upon pulling in around 6 o'clock, we talked with one of the road maintenance guys who let us in on "a little secret" - they were going to try and let a group of people go through around 8 o'clock. We decided to wait it out. We heard a large group went in Thursday, but there were only about a dozen or so trucks and RV's waiting. Around 8:45, they gave us the go ahead. No caravan, "just be careful" they said.
We made it to the junction to head to Eagle and decided to stop for the night. We had a couple of trails in mind, but really didn't have one nailed down to try. Some maintenance people told us they saw a few caribou over by Boundary. Of course, other rumors flew all over between the 8 or so vehicles parked in the lot where we were. "There are a thousand in Canada and they'll be here Tuesday," one guy said. "They already came through and fish and game told me they are all 70 miles west of Chicken Ridge," another one said. We figured we'd just go in and see what we saw.
We got up Saturday morning and got some info from a guy parked nearby about a trail that would take us in a ways. He shot his 'bou there last year. So in we went on atv's. We would ride awhile, stop, glass awhile, ride some more. We saw absolutely zero animals. At some point, the guy that gave us the info rode in behind us with his son. They were headed all the way to the end - about 10-12 miles. We got in about 5, and started discussing whether to stay on this trail, or head into Boundary. We knew we had to decide, because if we were going to set up camp, we were already pushing the time. We decided to pull the plug and head to Boundary.
When we got to Boundary, there was a road block. A maintenance guy came and said the road was closed. He said he would let us through to turn around. Or, he gave us the option to go in, but said "if I let you in, you can't come back out." It didn't make sense to us, but we decided to go in and then beg him to let us back out if we needed to. We pulled ahead and spoke with another hunter on an atv. He said there was a group that saw some caribou back on some ridges a few days before, but nothing since then. As we were talking with him, the maintenance guy started coming up the road yelling "hey, let's go, time to turn around." We knew it was decision time. The guy we were chatting with said he would stay there if it were up to him. As the maintenance guy continued marching towards our truck yelling "let's go," we made the decision to drive on. We pulled away as he watched.
We headed up the road about a mile to a pullout and found the trail in. As we pondered where to go, a nice old man in an Argo pulled in. "Just here to get more beer" he said. But we chatted with him. He told us where animals had been seen, and how to get in the area. He was camped way in - about 15 miles - by Liberty Creek, but said he hadn't seen any animals yet. He was a little discouraged - and thus, getting more beer. He said nobody had seen animals in a couple days though. But he did put us on a trail that would send way back in and up on top. So we headed that way.
Going in was a little rough. It was high brush with just a tiny little trail. Once we were in a few miles though, it opened up. Wide up. Exactly what we had been looking for (minus the animals). We rode in a ways further and started climbing up and up and up. We made it to the top of a plateau that seemed perfect to us. We saw an atv on another ridge about 1/2 mile away. But this spot had a great valley coming up from the northwest, a couple of great saddles just east of us where the atv trail continued to go, and another valley on the south (where we had just come through). Although we knew we could go higher and have a better shot at seeing game, we thought we would probably have to try and chase down anything we saw. This spot, however, gave us a great vantage point to a lot of land, plus it had natural draw areas for the animals to come right through. We set up camp around 6 o'clock.
We spent Saturday night glassing the area as much as possible with the last couple hours of light we had. I hiked up to the next ridge to take a peek over, and although it was nice, there were a lot of trees there as well. A father/daughter came through on their atv's to go to Boundary for more water, saying they had 6 kids with them in camp (all hoping to shoot big bulls). We said we just wanted meat bulls, so he could let the small ones come through. Although we glassed quite a bit, we did not see a single animal come through. Discouraging, but we also knew they could come at any moment.