DISSAPPOINTING Kotzebue caribou hunt



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  • DISSAPPOINTING Kotzebue caribou hunt

    Just returned yesterday from a VERY DISSAPPOINTING Kotzebue caribou bow hunting trip. I had arranged with a well know transporter/guide/outfitter service for a seven day hunt. ( I actually got the name and recommendations from this forum ) This was unguided and non-outfitted, all I needed was a ride into a good caribou hunting location. They dropped me off late on Saturday, September 16 and I began hunting the following day. I hunted 2 days and didn't see a single caribou. I was getting worried. Well, half-way through the third day, still without seeing any caribou, I phoned my transporter and asked if being moved was an option. They said yes they would come get me the next day before noon. The next morning ( 4 days into the hunt already) I packed up my camp and took everything to a gravel bar awaiting pick-up. Noon came and went and they had not showed. Around 3 or 4 pm. I called them and was told they were not flying because of wind, but if it calmed-down they would be there later that day or by noon the following day. I know weather is a major factor in Alaska, this was NOT my first Alaska hunt, but I saw other planes flying all day long. I had been sitting on the gravel bar all day waiting on these guys and couldn't hunt for fear of being away when they did come. Dark came and my 4th day of hunting was over without seeing a caribou. I didn't set my camp back up, thinking I would be picked-up the following morning. I slept under a tarp that night. Next day came, noon came, no sign of my ride. I called them about 3pm. and was assured that I was being moved that day, dark came and they did not. I was fit to be tied at this point, another day wasted, wasn't able to hunt for fear of being away again. I decided they were just not going to come and move me. I set my camp back up. Now I am 5 days through my hunt and still no caribou and have actually hunted only 3 of the 5 days, 2 days have been spent sitting on the gravel bar waiting on a ride. On the 6th day of the hunt I had given up on the move, I tried calling them but there was no answer. I figured if I was going to have any chance of actually seeing any caribou I would have to journey out further. I hiked around most of the day seeking caribou, again none to be found. Around 4pm. I was heading back towards camp when I saw my plane land on the gravel bar. I took off as fast as possible to catch him. When I got there he was heading back to his plane and I laid into him pretty hard about the hunting experience he had provided me so far. His answer was that he had been busy the last couple of days doing other things but would move me now if I wanted to. I was 6 days into the hunt and only had one more day to hunt but did want moved. He took me to a place where I WISHED I had been put originally. There was caribou everywhere! He said that if I wanted to extend my hunt to call him and let him know, I told him I would call IF I wanted to extend, I was scheduled to be picked-up Sept. 24, this was Sept. 22 when he dropped me off, so I had 1 day to hunt. The next morning I was out early chasing caribou, I had a blast. I pulled my bow back on 3 different animals but just couldn't get the shot I was looking for. It was a GREAT day! I came back to camp that evening and was considering calling and extending my trip a day or two but couldn't justify the additional time off from work or the fees the airline would charge for rescheduling. My hunt was over. Out of my 7 day hunt I had actually chased caribou 1 day. Early the next morning I packed my camp and went to the gravel bar awaiting pick-up. Well it didn't come...I called about 6pm. and was told that they assumed I wanted to extend my hunt and hadn't planned on picking me up but if I wanted out that day they would be there. Again, no show. If I had know they weren't coming I could have hunted instead of sitting around waiting all day. I spent the night on the gravel bar sleeping under a tarp. Next day, 9 days into my 7 day hunt they did pick me up around 2pm. I was so mad about the entire ordeal I had little to say because none of it would be good. They offered no apology or explanation about how they treated me during the last few days. The people I used for my trip have been in business for years and I know they can't treat everyone like I was treated or they couldn't stay in business. I won't tell you the name of this outfit but if you are interested e-mail me at kyoung@adt-it.com and I will. Sorry this was so long but I needed to tell my story. Just a side note. I found the locals of Kotzebue to be friendly and helpful, I recommend the Bison Street Store for food and lodging (great people). Also, I know some on here give complaints about the State Troopers but I had one land and check me during one of my three days sitting a gravel bar and he was a nice fellow.

  • #2
    That's what hunting is all about!

    KpYoung, I'm glad you had a good time in Kotz, but sorry to hear about your less than ideal hunt. But, that's exactly what hunting is! If it were a guarantee, it would be called shopping. If you want a guarantee, hire a guide. Caribou are impossible to predict, sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not... I've hunted out of Kotz several times and this year I saw one lone cow within rifle range. I saw about 12 or 13 more that were at least 2-3 miles away. Needless to say I came back empty handed, but that is to be expected for some hunts. I spent 8 full days in the field hunting, and to no avail. However, I've had very successful hunts in the past and I figure this to be a hunt where I had to pay my dues. Hopefully this last hunt of yours counts towards that...

    Anyways, I always try to plan the best hunt possible with the greatest chance of success that I can afford. I also have to consider being skunked, and then determine if the cost is worth coming home empty handed. If it is (which it always is for me because I love to just be out in the field), then go for it, if not, change your plans...

    Better luck next time, and I'm glad you at least got a chance to draw on a few caribou... That chance evaded me this year, but that's why they say... There's ALWAYS next year!


    • #3
      That sounds like the horror stories of Caribou Unlimited!


      • #4
        Man o Man...

        Saying he was too busy for a pick up, i'd call a lawyer to get some answers...otherwise it sounds as if you'd have a great time if you were dropped off in the last place the first time...


        • #5
          Rough but ......

          I kind of feel sorry for you, but in all honesty.

          1) You should have already had a pre-hunt move organized before you flew out with your air taxi. I know when I hunt caribou I always ask for a mid-hunt move to be scheduled on a certain day.

          2) You were hunting, so hunt. Why park your ass on a gravel bar having a hissy fit for three days?

          3) I have been on a few fly-outs that were not successful, some that were. It took us eight days this year of hard hunting to score on a nice moose -- and we only saw about five moose the whole trip. I have been on others where I had to walk over four miles from the landing spot to get into game. Just because you fly in does not guarantee success.

          4) When you are going to get moved, pack everything up, but keep the tent up until you see the plane coming. Sleeping under a tarp is no fun.


          • #6

            the reality of it is he can't hunt if he's been told to be on the gravel bar ready for his move and they gave him a somewhat specific time. Sure he could hunt within 100 yards or so of the pick up spot but my bet is that there wasn't a real good vantage point from there and what are the odds that the caribou are going to come traipsing through his pick up spot. usually you have to go quite a ways to score.
            I see nothing he did wrong in this at all except for possibly booking a hunt with an air taxi service instead of an outfitter which is what i'm assuming happened. But coming from out of state he doesnt really have anything to rely on but this board and any other info you can dig up.
            Yet another horror story from the Western Arctic herd.


            • #7
              kpyoung, I know you dont want to hear this but your story is not uncommon. The only time you can totally rely on an air charter picking you up is either on a preplanned pick up/move day or when your hurt real bad! Thats just part of the busy air charter world during hunting season. As to your lack of success, thats part of hunting too. If you are from out of state I am sorry your Alaska dream hunt didn't work out, if your a local then you wouldn't be complaining cuz you'd understand thats how things go. You arent the only one who spent money on a fly in and came home empty handed. I am 0-2 on fly ins this year, a very expensive one to the Peninsula for brown bear this spring and another one for sheep this August. Sometimes you get the game and sometimes you dont. I do understand your frustration and the desire to vent but its old hat for most of us.


              • #8

                Guys, I don't think he is neccesarily complaining about the lack of game although that was a small part of his post. Most hunters realize that there is nothing guaranteed about these hunts. The injustice that has been done here is to have an Air taxi tell you they will be at a location at a specific time and then not show up. I can fully understand the weather on the first try as this is Alaska and smart pilots do not fly in crummy weather. but the other 3 times are simply unforgivable. As if the hunting wasn't bad enough, the guy is told on numerous ocassions to be ready for pick up (wasting valuable hunting time) and then no show. I don't see a reason to defend that.


                • #9
                  Wow, some of these replies are surprising. It's amazing how many people feel compelled to reply when it looks like they didn't even read the whole post.


                  • #10

                    Sorry if I sounded mean in my post... Just tryin to let you know there were other unsuccessful hunters this year... And how I cope with it.. .hahah

                    Good Luck in the future...


                    • #11
                      I wasn't trying to sound mean either if I did, its just that I have yet to have a pilot pick me up when he was supposed to unless it was a designated day and even then its iffy. Those sat phones make you feel like your calling a yellow cab but these guys are flying like crazy during whichever hunting season it is and youre not the only one in the field they are juggling, I didn't realize that the first time but I did the next time as the same thing happened. Seems that a lot of air charters bite off more than they can chew, if your schedule strays from the norm its not so easy for them to alter the rest of their schedule. And yes sitting on the creek bed for a couple days when you could have been hunting sucks, but you made the call, you have to remember that( I have been there, I know). To me you need more days in the field when your dealing with commercial air taxi's if you are thinking you will move mid hunt. Thats why so many will tell you to allow at least 10 days for fly in hunts. Once again, I was not bashing your post in any way just enlightening you that thats how it goes sometimes.


                      • #12
                        I read the whole post

                        I just know how it is with air taxi's and any deviation from the original plan can be a bugger to get done, which is why I said in the future, plan your mid-hunt move AHEAD OF TIME, not out in the field via satellite phone. They may be called taxi's, but they do not respond like regular taxi's.

                        It is all a learning experience, and hunting out of Kotzebue is a frigging zoo anymore. I bet he has learned (the hard way) and next hunt he will use more references, better palnning, etc.


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