To set the stage for tale, I have been coming up hunting in Alaska for the last several years, mostly moose hunting, but often take opportunistic species as well. This hunt was set in gmu 23, to include ten days on the river hunting solo in my Magnum raft purchased from Larry at Pristine Ventures.
Arriving in Kotzebue I made my way over to Golden Eagle Outfitters to see when I could get my flight out into the field. Golden Eagle, although very busy this time of year was most accommodating, they allowed me to sort out my gear while they continued to keep up with the steady flow of hunters passing through Kotzebue. After witnessing what a flight service goes through to keep us hunters happy, we really should be appreciative of the hard work they go through. They are working very long days and the crew at Golden Eagle really wants you to have an enjoyable time.
With a time set to get out, Jared (who runs Golden Eagle in Kotzebue) loaded my gear up in his aircraft and advised me that there have been heavy rains in the area. We would fly up to my chosen spot to see how conditions looked for landing. After flying into my drainage we flew low and slow looking at the normal landing areas only to find nearly all the gravel bars submerged. Jared flew his wings off trying to find a way to get me in there, but it was clear, nothing short of a floatplane was going to be landing in this area.
Flying around, with at this point nowhere to hunt, I was disappointed. It also was clear Jared shared this same emotion. We both needed a bathroom break at this point so we flew to a air strip he knew of to take care of business while regrouping as to where I might hunt at. A years worth of planning and now I am scrambling through the reg book to find a place to hunt (got to love Alaska).
I have hunted Alaska before and just reminded myself this is why I bring flexibility and patience with me on these trips. With the decision made after reading the reg book I settled on a spot that although was not prime moose country, might hold some local caribou. Ok, well I brought a caribou harvest ticket with me, so maybe this is going to be a caribou trip; after all I like caribou also.
After a safe, dry landing of the aircraft into the new spot, I tried to come to terms as to how this will turn out. I am in a new, un-researched place; one I did not have any maps for. Jared flies off, I am left with the silence and solitude I come up to Alaska for. I decided to settle in for the night while organizing my raft and gear. As I began to inflate the raft I saw a set of caribou antlers a few hundred yards away on a gravel bar, this looks like a good place for caribou. Although he is a fine bull, I know I cannot hunt the same day as I flew, so all I could do is take a picture of him.
After the first bull passed I was able to enjoy other small groups filtering through the area in my first evening at my new spot. As hunger was setting in I prepared dinner, after with nighttime approaching, I settled in for a good nights sleep. It has been a long, rushed journey from Detroit to this place up in the Arctic I found myself in.
During the first night I stayed up reading the reg book, while wishing I had loaded additional maps into my Garmin GPS. It was a warm night, and I had fallen asleep without zipping the tent up. I awoke around 0300hrs and decided I needed to answer nature’s call, so I crawled out of the tent and after taking care of business decided to walk down to the end of the gravel bar. While down there I found some driftwood and took out some aggression on a willow while I imitated a moose grunt. With that out of the way I returned to the comfort of my sleeping bag for the night.
While I had enjoyed a good nights sleep, I awoke around 0630hrs. Lying in my bag still half asleep I thought I heard a moose grunt, I said, “no way, I could be so lucky” then I heard it again. It was faint but I know a moose when I hear one, so I grabbed my rifle and I exited the tent. Now sitting outside the tent I thought, do I call or just wait? I decided the moose was getting closer as the sound was coming from near where I called from during the night. Here I am sitting outside my tent, in my boxers belly crawling to the nearest deadwood to use as a rest in case I get a shot at that funny sound. Finally I am sure he is coming out when I see the willows and spruce moving as the moose makes his way onto the gravel bar 250yrds from my tent. I have my rifle ready and as soon as I am sure it is a moose I place my scope on him to see if I can get a look at his antlers to judge if it is legal. It only took a second to see he was over fifty inches and legal to shoot. As I quickly thought, wow, this is really happening, I heard my rifle go off. The shot looked good, right behind the shoulder where I was aiming. As I watched the moose my heart sank as he walked into the river, I remember thinking oh no this is going to get real cold if I have to cut him up in the river. To my disbelief, he came back onto the gravel bar and this is when I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder blade and that shot put him down for good, I had my moose.
With the moose down for good, I sat thinking of what this meant, it was cool out, but I knew it was going to get warm that day. It was a tough call, but I called Golden Eagle to request an early pickup, as I really did not want to float for days while trying to keep a moose from spoiling. My hunt was now over at this point and I was in a race to get the meat cut and bagged. I had told Jared, give me four to six hrs to get this done before you fly to pick me up. For those of you who moose hunt alone, I do not need to tell you it is a lot of work to handle by yourself. I remember thinking why did I do this? I will never do this again without help, but as I reflect back, I wish I were still out there. Nothing to me beats moose hunting alone up north. My aches are all gone and I still recall the hunt (if you can call it that) like it was yesterday. I am already planning for next year; my only regret is that I have to wait so long to do it again.
Things that worked for me:
Golden Eagle, these guys rock if you need flights out of Kotz. Took a tough situation and handled it well.
Larry Bartlett/Pristine Ventures, handled all the rafting shipments and general support
My old 30.06 (some guy was in disbelief I would come up with an old gun like that, I think he laughed at me)
NAC & Everets Cargo, both handled cargo without a hitch
Alaska Wildlife Troopers (checked my game and from all impressions are professional, tough, but fair people) I have heard negative comments concerning troopers, I have nothing but positive impressions after meeting one.
MT, you also get an “atta boy”
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