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Thread: How necessary is an ATV for hunting caribou along the Denali highway

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    Default How necessary is an ATV for hunting caribou along the Denali highway

    Hello, my wife drew a caribou tag along the western half of the Denali highway. I have never hunted caribou up there before. I have hunted caribou in the western Alaska Range, the mulchatna herd over by Illiamna, and along the Dalton Highway. My question to anyone willing to offer some advice is how essential is an ATV for hunting the Denali highway? I have never done much hunting using 4 wheelers. I mostly like to travel by foot or get dropped off somewhere by aircraft. My wife and I don't own a 4 wheeler. I have considered getting one for this hunt and for bear baiting, but I don't currently own one. Thank you in advance for any advice anyone has to offer.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Not necessary at all. I saw caribou from the road several times last year when it was open for 'Bou. I don't know where your tag ends, but a couple guys got 'Bou by riding bicycles into the Valdez Crk. road.
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    Member .338WM's Avatar
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    My first Nelchina caribou, a very nice bull, I hunted on foot utilizing experience and knowledge learned on a successful Mulchatna hunt. If you and your wife are fit enough to hike off the beaten path and use what you know of caribou behavior you should do fine, provided the caribou are in the vicinity.

    Wind, weather and bugs, influence their behavior quite a bit in my experience.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I've taken one on foot up there while leaving the atv in the back of my truck. There are some non-motorized areas up there (Clearwater Controlled Use Area) and some other areas where there simply aren't very many trails. Head out into some of these areas and you should have a good chance of success, not to mention much less company than those on the atv trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    Not necessary at all. I saw caribou from the road several times last year when it was open for 'Bou. I don't know where your tag ends, but a couple guys got 'Bou by riding bicycles into the Valdez Crk. road.
    Her tag starts at the west end of the highway and ends about halfway between Cantwell and Paxson. I believe somewhere around the Maclaren River. Where is the Valdez Creek Road? Thanks for the advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by .338WM View Post
    My first Nelchina caribou, a very nice bull, I hunted on foot utilizing experience and knowledge learned on a successful Mulchatna hunt. If you and your wife are fit enough to hike off the beaten path and use what you know of caribou behavior you should do fine, provided the caribou are in the vicinity.

    Wind, weather and bugs, influence their behavior quite a bit in my experience.
    My wife is more fit than I am. She doesn't have an ounce of fat on her. Me on the other hand. I could stand to lose about 15-20 lbs., but I ain't afraid to walk. I packed a moose 5 miles one time out in Illiamna, but that was ten years ago. I think I'll do fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    I've taken one on foot up there while leaving the atv in the back of my truck. There are some non-motorized areas up there (Clearwater Controlled Use Area) and some other areas where there simply aren't very many trails. Head out into some of these areas and you should have a good chance of success, not to mention much less company than those on the atv trails.
    Good points. One of the reasons why I don't like to hunt with a 4-wheeler in Alaska is sometimes it seems like you see more people than less. Although I definitely know there are some major advantages. When you say you've only taken one on foot up there though, that makes we a little wary. One in roughly how many Brian? 5, 10, 20, 50? 1 in 5 isn't bad odds, 1 in 50 however makes me think I ought to look at getting access to an ATV.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Valdez Creek Road leaves to the west of the Denali Hwy. right after the Denali Hwy crosses the Susitna River. I know at least one guy I passed info to about riding his mtn. bike in there got a caribou. The Valdez Crk road is not allowed for use for hunting as it's in a non-motorized area. You must leave your vehicle at the gravel pit right off the Denali Hwy and use non-motorized methods to travel in. It feels weird to do this as campers, fisherman, and miners drive by you in their trucks, but it's the rules. I saw caribou off the road in July, August and September last year. You are still going to need to pedal/walk five to ten miles so I don't mind passing along the info....even though the negative PM's will start flowing my way in a few minutes from posting this.
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    Last year after I shot my caribou out of Tok, I took my Mom up to the Denali Highway for a few days of looking for game and reminiscing (we had spent 2-3 weeks hunting and berry picking along the Denali every fall when I was a kid). We spotted a caribou about 200 yards off the road around mile 70 on the Clearwater CUA side, and we waited about 15 minutes for a hunter to drive by so we could point it out to them. Wouldn't you know, no one drove by during that time, so the caribou went on its merry way.

    My Mom is in her late 60s, so we don't leave the main gravel road much anymore, and we saw quite a few caribou that someone could have packed less than 3/4 of a mile back to the main Denali Highway. the closest one was within 200 yards of the road.

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    Thanks AKDoug! I appreciate the advice. If you get any negativity, send em to me. I'll take the heat. It's not your fault for helping out a fellow hunter in need. I am the one who asked the question, not you.

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    While ATV's are nice, they are NOT needed to take caribou on the Denali. Last year I shot one 170 yards from the road. It was in the walk in area about mile 54. The main thing is to take your time and spot.
    Wish you and the wife good luck.

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    Member H20Dogg's Avatar
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    Default Not needed, however.

    I did the bike thing, ATV thing, and my buddy just gets them off the hwy. They can be all over the place at the certain time of year. An ATV is nice though if you get a big one. I like camping a ways down trails, gives you the whole morning to hunt while people are riding down the trails from the HWY.

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    Long before it was a draw hunt or what ever it is now. I used to take the wheel barrow back "Windy Creek", remove the head, guts, and knees down, throw it in the wheel barrow and push it out.
    Problems related to Fish and Game harvesting.................Make it illegal to use and combustible fuel to operate any mechanical equipment when in pursuit of any Fish and/or Game in Alaska.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    Long before it was a draw hunt or what ever it is now. I used to take the wheel barrow back "Windy Creek", remove the head, guts, and knees down, throw it in the wheel barrow and push it out.
    How far did you push that thing AGL? I used to labor for bricklayers during my summer breaks from college, and I pushed a few wheelbarrows full of mortar around. I would think pushing a wheelbarrow along the bumpy side trails off the highway would be a lot of work, but never tried it, so could be way off base.

    Whereabouts is Windy Creek? When I was a kid we used to hunt the Osar Lake Trail, just south of the Highway before you drop into the McClaren River Valley from the Paxson side.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdhunter View Post
    How far did you push that thing AGL? I used to labor for bricklayers during my summer breaks from college, and I pushed a few wheelbarrows full of mortar around. I would think pushing a wheelbarrow along the bumpy side trails off the highway would be a lot of work, but never tried it, so could be way off base.

    Whereabouts is Windy Creek? When I was a kid we used to hunt the Osar Lake Trail, just south of the Highway before you drop into the McClaren River Valley from the Paxson side.
    I built much of the Windy Creek Road for "City Service Mines & Minerals" back in the early 1970's it is a good 2-wheeldrive road. Windy Creek is just behind the old Susitna Lodge, right out of the gravel pit just past the Susitna River.
    Problems related to Fish and Game harvesting.................Make it illegal to use and combustible fuel to operate any mechanical equipment when in pursuit of any Fish and/or Game in Alaska.

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    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. How long ago are we talking? Did that thing have a square wheel? Are you sure that was a caribou or a baby wooly mammoth? I hear that mammoth veal is about as good as it gets... assuming one had invented fire with which to cook it.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    When you say you've only taken one on foot up there though, that makes we a little wary. One in roughly how many Brian? 5, 10, 20, 50? 1 in 5 isn't bad odds, 1 in 50 however makes me think I ought to look at getting access to an ATV.
    With regards to Nelchina caribou, it's 1 in 7 or so. That's simply because on the other hunts we used atvs or snowmachines right away, though I'm reasonably certain I could have filled caribou tags on foot other times. Actually, on a number of the atv-based hunts, I primarily hunted on foot after setting up camp. The same principle applies near the road as it does 20 miles in an atv trail - walk a ways from where you park, find a good vantage point, and spend a lot of time glassing. Caribou tend to move a lot, so as long as you have some room to move without other hunters around, you should be golden.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyD View Post
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. How long ago are we talking? Did that thing have a square wheel? Are you sure that was a caribou or a baby wooly mammoth? I hear that mammoth veal is about as good as it gets... assuming one had invented fire with which to cook it.
    Your welcome......Maybe some day, you will be able to look back on your life with pride of having lived a manly life in the Alaska Outdoors. But most likely you will look back at a life well wasted, as one who lacked gonads, and was only useful at taking cheap shots at real men. I truly feel sorry for you.......
    Problems related to Fish and Game harvesting.................Make it illegal to use and combustible fuel to operate any mechanical equipment when in pursuit of any Fish and/or Game in Alaska.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    I built much of the Windy Creek Road for "City Service Mines & Minerals" back in the 70's it is a good 2-wheeldrive road. Windy Creek is just behind the old Susitna Lodge, right out of the gravel pit just past the Susitna River.
    Second "road" on the left after crossing the Susitna bridge. I'll be exploring it on 4th of July with the wheelers and post a report with pics We've been exploring trails from the west end of the Denali Highway since 1976, first on foot, now on wheelers... this is as far east as we have made it so far. LOTS of trails up there to check out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    Second "road" on the left after crossing the Susitna bridge. I'll be exploring it on 4th of July with the wheelers and post a report with pics We've been exploring trails from the west end of the Denali Highway since 1976, first on foot, now on wheelers... this is as far east as we have made it so far. LOTS of trails up there to check out.
    "Second "road"...Yes. Not to be confused with it being the third east exit!

    O/P...An ATV simply adds comfort and increased ability to be much more selective in killing the Caribou of choice, as opposed to lugging one on your back and perhaps taking a lesser bull or cow, that is about half the size of a decent bull.
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    Member .338WM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    With regards to Nelchina caribou, it's 1 in 7 or so. That's simply because on the other hunts we used atvs or snowmachines right away, though I'm reasonably certain I could have filled caribou tags on foot other times. Actually, on a number of the atv-based hunts, I primarily hunted on foot after setting up camp. The same principle applies near the road as it does 20 miles in an atv trail - walk a ways from where you park, find a good vantage point, and spend a lot of time glassing. Caribou tend to move a lot, so as long as you have some room to move without other hunters around, you should be golden.
    That mirrors my experience hunting those animals as well. Whichever vehicle I use to get to a hunting area I use primarily to haul camp and then spend time glassing and hunting on foot, whatever the game and country of choice may be.
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