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Thread: Planning a Haul Road Caribou Hunt

  1. #1

    Default Planning a Haul Road Caribou Hunt

    I'm hoping to get a little help with the logistics on this trip. I'm looking at mid-September and I'll be flying into Fairbanks, renting a vehicle, and hiking to get away from the road. I want to utilize a backpack camp to support a bowhunt within the 5 mile archery only area.

    My basic questions are as follows:

    How far does one have to drive (I know it's dependent on where the herd is at the time) on average to get to a productive area?

    Is it possible to get any "last minute" info on where the herd is located immediately prior to the trip? (Fish/Game biologist, guys on this site that have been up there, etc.)

    What are the parking options and if I am responsible about where I leave a vehicle can I expect it to still be there in one piece when I get back to it at the end of the trip? (yes, I've read the stories here about the truckers vs hunters)

    I'm hoping to camp/hunt in some mountainous or at least hilly terrain. I've done the google earth tour of the highway and of course the terrain varies greatly along the road but I am wondering if the Caribou get up into the hills or keep to the flats.

    What are the options for dealing with the meat once we get back to Fairbanks? We will take some of it home with us but will not be able to fly everything back so in addition to needing a place to cut/wrap/box and freeze the meat we are taking home, we will need to donate any meat we cant transport.

    I've spent a pile of time reading the reams of info on this site and have some idea of what we are getting into. We are experienced bowhunters who have done successful Alaska DIY bowhunts in the past and we are capable of doing the hard work necessary to make this one a success. We just need a little help in getting this one planned. Thanks in advance for the input and sorry for the long winded post.

  2. #2
    Member dwhunter's Avatar
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    Try the search feature first on the site and you will find answers to most all of your questions, this topic has been covered in great detail in the past. If you do not find what you need try another post for specifics.


    Doug

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    Actaully we haven't had any problems leaving the truck along the road. I would have to recommend driving the road, finding the animals and hunting the animals. Its is as simple as that. Check with the charter outfit in fairbanks when you get there and see where they are hauling hunters. First its cheaper,second we can bring all the meat back with us. You will have your plates run and when they find out it is a rental you can then ask the guy who will talk to you what to do with the meat. Any senior center that is set up to cook meals will be happy to take any extra meat. They then pass it out to those in need.

    For what its worth.

    Neal

  4. #4
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Busta Ribs View Post
    I'm hoping to get a little help with the logistics on this trip. I'm looking at mid-September and I'll be flying into Fairbanks, renting a vehicle, and hiking to get away from the road. I want to utilize a backpack camp to support a bowhunt within the 5 mile archery only area.

    My basic questions are as follows:

    How far does one have to drive (I know it's dependent on where the herd is at the time) on average to get to a productive area?

    Answer:

    Caribou in Sept can be from Dead Horse all the way to Galbrith Lake near Atigun pass depending on the weather. Basically depending on the road trafiic you will have access to some animals by driving the road. You have a couple of walk in options again depending on the weather and the migration of the Caribou Pump Station 2, the Gravel Pits, Toolik Lake, Slope Moutian, and Galbrith lake are some of the more popular. Fraklin Bluffs is also decent depending on what the weather is doing, but you may need a float across the river to hunt them.

    Is it possible to get any "last minute" info on where the herd is located immediately prior to the trip? (Fish/Game biologist, guys on this site that have been up there, etc.) Nothing against fish and game but this forum as well as others tend to be more accurate on a regualr basis then fish and game. Happy Valley Air Strip shares info as well as Channel 19 on the CB listen to the truckers :-)

    What are the parking options and if I am responsible about where I leave a vehicle can I expect it to still be there in one piece when I get back to it at the end of the trip? (yes, I've read the stories here about the truckers vs hunters)

    Answer: I have hunted the Haul Rd from 1995 on and have never had an issue then again I don't park in the way or act like I own the road. There are ample places to park however that also means other people are looking for those places as well.

    I'm hoping to camp/hunt in some mountainous or at least hilly terrain. I've done the google earth tour of the highway and of course the terrain varies greatly along the road but I am wondering if the Caribou get up into the hills or keep to the flats.

    Answer: Only once have I found huntable numbers of animals in the hills during Sept and that was 6 miles back heading to Atigun / Sag river confluence not a easy hunt and was actully looking for Sheep. For the most part the animals should be gathering in small bands to get ready for the rut. About the 1-5 oct the are rocking and rolling into larger bands and heading for the pass on a normal year again depending on the weather.

    What are the options for dealing with the meat once we get back to Fairbanks? We will take some of it home with us but will not be able to fly everything back so in addition to needing a place to cut/wrap/box and freeze the meat we are taking home, we will need to donate any meat we cant transport.

    Answer: Contact the Fairbanks Food Bank they may be able to help you out. also some of the native coprerations in town may be willing to take meat depending on who you ask.

    I've spent a pile of time reading the reams of info on this site and have some idea of what we are getting into. We are experienced bowhunters who have done successful Alaska DIY bowhunts in the past and we are capable of doing the hard work necessary to make this one a success. We just need a little help in getting this one planned. Thanks in advance for the input and sorry for the long winded post.
    Word of advise: If you end up hunting the road be aware there are a ton of nonner's or those people who may not share your respect for hunting.

    Final comments: You're hunt is completely doable and research is always a great thing when heading into any hunt. Best Wishes and best of luck on during you're adventure. There are many more answers then what I listed just ryting to giv eyou some points of reference.

    Blue Moose.

  5. #5

    Thumbs up DIY Haul road hunt

    It is entirely possible, but to be able to give you good advise, a few questions need to be answered.

    Are you a non-resident? The reason I'm asking is most that come up here don't realize just how different the climate, terrain and services availability really is in Alaska, especially up the Haul road, from hunting the majority of the Lower 48.

    Are you planning on a solo hunt or are you bringing a partner(s)? Makes a HUGE difference in what you need to prepare for.

    Have you checked the availability of vehicle rentals on the Dalton Highway (Haul road)? Most rental places will not rent their vehicles for travel on this road, but a few will for a price.

    Are you prepared to bow hunt in bear country? This area has a very healthy population of Interior grizzly bears that just love caribou meat. The odds are you won't have a negative encounter, but the reality is the threat is definitely there and you must prepare for it, and know how to use "bear smarts" to lessen the potential of a bad encounter. Remember, these aren't park bears, and are at the top of the food chain.

    Have you ever hunted or walked across tundra? In most areas up there, the tussocks are thick. Walking is horrible, and many give up after just a few hundred yards of it. It is like trying to walk across a field of hairy bowling balls. Your traction and stability is greatly compromised in this stuff, and it is tough walking. I've done it a number of times, but only after going deep into my reserve of self-discipiline. Carrying a caribou back if by yourself will usually take more than one trip, and after the first, the second or third trip will have you wishing a grizzly would come and claim what's left. The only kicker to that is you cannot bring out the antlers except on your last trip out - State law......

    And, to see what can happen to someone that thinks they can get around these issues of walking, read the threads about those idiots in the "Tundra trucks". They tried to beat the system and drive to their downed caribou in utter defiance of the well-known regulations in place up there. I have no sympathy for them, but do hope they can get those trucks out of there soon. Idiotic behavior like that will bring down a much harder regulated hunt up there, and we don't need that. Most on here don't know or care about the history of even having walk-in access up there, and calling for more access is only going to get the native groups, anti-hunters and feds to clamp down on all off-road access. They already have, as most that have hunted that area for a while know. I used to hunt there on a regular basis starting in the 80's. Then, once the ground was frozen and there was snow cover, you could use snowmobiles, which was wonderful. Used to travel 20 to 30 miles off the road to hunt. However, other banned users, such as 3 and 4 wheeler groups, tracked vehicles owners, etc., started complaining and instead of opening the area for access even in the winter for all users, they banned all motorized vehicles access. That was bad, but points out the thought pattern for the powers that be up there.

    It is a fascinating hunt and area, but you have to be prepared and realize just what you are getting into. Going with a group or even with a buddy makes it a trip of a lifetime and a safety cushion for you. Going alone unprepared can get you hurt, killed or stranded, and to break down up there is outrageously expensive. There are no services up there, and though most truckers will assist someone in dire need, don't EXPECT to get that from anyone. There are occasions when there is no traffic on the road due to weather conditions, washouts or industry slowdowns.

    If you can sucessfully make this trip, it is a trip of a lifetime. Please be safe and good luck, There are some excellent caribou and hunting is fantastic up there when the herd is there.
    Last edited by Hawken54; 02-24-2007 at 12:42.
    Now just why in the hell do I have to press "1" for English???

  6. #6

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    The drive from Fairbanks till you start seeing caribou is gonna be like 300 miles , but you'll have to drive like 325-360 miles to a place where you can walk in. Someone mentioned the difference in climate up here to what you might be used to. It can be sub zero in Sept on the slope depending on when in Sept you go and there might be snow on the ground as well, just depends. So bring good gear and the wind can blow like crazy up there also and if your 5 miles off the road camping you'll have to endure whatever comes your way. There are lots of Caribou to be had and as for where they will be, well that is constantly changing that late in teh season. They might be just north of the pass to all the way up to Pump 2 which is another 100 miles north of the pass. And someone mentioned walking on Tundra being tough, it is , and IMO the most miserable type of hiking there is. You might want to buy a sled that you can pull behind you as with the possibility for colder temps that time of year you'll need to have more gear than the standard August walk in. Either way you'll dig the trip but make sure your prepared for what the conditions might be and you'll survive it.

  7. #7
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    This last Sept. it was around freezing with VERY thick fog on the north side of the mountains, while on the south side it was nice, clear and 50f.

    Have fun, be safe and most of all BE prepared! It isn't like the lower 48, where you can hike a few miles and find a road or a house. Make sure you have good quality equipment, anything less could mean your LIFE!

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  8. #8
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    There's 2 emergency shelters to the east of the road on the north side of the mountains.
    One is red I think, and says DODGE. It's just a few hundred yds off the road. The other shelter is gray/green and says FORD. It's about 2.5 miles from the road. They would also be great places to store meat, while you relay your gear and kill back to the road.
    I'm quite sure they'll still be there come sept.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    There's 2 emergency shelters to the east of the road on the north side of the mountains.
    One is red I think, and says DODGE. It's just a few hundred yds off the road. The other shelter is gray/green and says FORD. It's about 2.5 miles from the road. They would also be great places to store meat, while you relay your gear and kill back to the road.
    I'm quite sure they'll still be there come sept.

    Would we need a key for the shelters, or are they left unlocked?

  10. #10
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    Actually the trucks are North of the Haul Rd in the Toolik River drainage, as the road at this point runs primarily east-west. Anyway they are on the WEST side of the road. You could get to them by going east, but it'd be a long trip.
    As for hunting caribou, it is always hard to predict where the caribou are going to be. Colder weather tends to get them moving south, but no guarantees. The folks at the Fish and Game office in Fairbanks will tell you what they know but for the most part, they get their info from hunters who have been up there recently. In early- mid September, count on driving up to Pump Station 3 (approx MM 310) at least, which is 395 miles North of Fairbanks.
    By mid-Sept the caribou are rutting which means that the meat of the big bulls will be inedible or nearly so. Cows and younger bulls should be fine but if you are up here for a trophy kill during the rut, you won't enjoy any of the meat. A trip a few weeks earlier will make all the difference.
    I have hunted up there 5-6 times now and have never had a problem with vandalism but I do make sure I am well out of the path of truckers and other visitors. I usually park next to the highway where the Alyeska access roads go to the pipeline and make sure I am in no way blocking access for maintenance or emergency vehicles. These sites are limited though.

    As mentioned earlier, car rentals that allow Dalton Hwy use are hard to find, here's one.
    http://www.arctic-outfitters.com/auto-rentals.htm
    Good hunting!

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