My Last Remote Alaska Hunt

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  • MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    At the end of August, I flew to Alaska for one last remote caribou hunt; remote AK hunts have been a huge part of my life for the past 21 years. I would be hunting with my closest friend, who has hunted remote Alaska with me 4 times before; on this hunt we also brought his son, who is 18 and recently graduated from high school. Although not related by blood, his son has known me as “Uncle Mike” since he could talk.

    We drove from Anchorage to Tok on August 29, checked in with 40 Mile Air and weighed our gear, and flew into the bush on the morning of August 30.

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    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    After shuttling us and our gear to a remote strip in the larger plane, we went the rest of the way via Super Cubs. We would be hunting a spot that was new to me, nestled between ridges at about 3800 feet. After the cubs dropped off the three of us and our gear, we set up camp, had a late lunch, and glassed quite a few caribou that were moving through the area. Several nice bulls were among the groups that moved through.

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    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    Somewhere along the way to Alaska I had caught some type of cold/flu, and hadn’t been sleeping well; between our night in Tok and our first night in camp, I probably got a total of about 2 hours sleep. So the first morning of the hunt, I told the guys I needed to lay in my sleeping bag for a while, even if I didn’t sleep. They got up and started glassing, and eventually hiked over to a couple of ridges just across the saddle from camp.

    I got out of my bag about 10 AM, got a snack, and started glassing from camp. I saw the guys about ¾ mile away on one of the ridges, and saw a few small groups of caribou wandering throughout the area. Around 11 AM, a group of about 30 caribou wandered past camp on the ridge behind me. One bull was big enough to shoot, so I made a quick decision and said “I haven’t really started hunting, so if you keep walking, I’m gonna let you go. But if you stop and get clear of the other caribou, I will take you.”

    They kept moving across the ridge while I watched them from near camp. When the bull was about 250 yards away, he cleared the other caribou and stopped to feed. One shot from my .338 Winchester ensured that my family in Anchorage would have caribou meat at the end of the hunt. A good meat bull, and a really easy pack to camp!

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    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    On the 2nd and 3rd days of our hunt, we got about 3” of wet snowfall over the course of 30 hours or so. No visibility and wet snow meant that we pretty much stayed in the tent throughout the storm to keep warm and dry. I was pretty impressed with my nephew, at one point we were in the sleep tent for 22 hours out of 24, and not a word of complaint from him. He was a little bored, but so were we.

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    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    This was the toughest weather of any of my 12-15 remote Alaska hunts since 2002. We were in the field for 7 days, and it either rained or snowed every day except for the day we flew back to Tok. We spent a lot more time in the tent than we would have liked, as the low cloud cover at 3800 feet kept visibility below 150 feet much of the time. I’m curious if other hunters in the 40 Mile area encountered the same weather? The funny thing was (as shown in one of the pics above), there was a higher ridge about 5 miles away that didn’t get a flake of snow while we were getting ours.

    On the 5th hunting day, my buddy and his son shot 2 caribou about a mile from camp, at about 3 in the afternoon. That’s when the real fun started – soon after they shot them the rain and the wind commenced in earnest, and we dressed and quartered the 2 caribou in a driving rain. After both caribou were dressed and quartered, we started the process of packing the meat back towards camp.

    We got all of the meat about halfway back to camp, and placed on our Tyvek sheets in a spot that we could see clearly from any direction when approaching. We took the first load of meat back to camp, arriving just before dark cold, wet, and tired.

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    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    The next morning I rousted the guys out of bed and told them we had a busy morning ahead of us. We had planned to fly back to Tok the following day – but with the weather we had encountered, I didn’t want to chance any weather delays if I could help it. My plan was to get all the meat packed back to camp and bagged up in the morning, call 40 Mile for a meat pickup, and inquire about potentially flying back to town that evening if it fit their schedule.

    It has truly been my privilege and good fortune to fly out with 40 Mile Air from 2006 to the present day. They have always been very clear with my group on what they plan to do, and have been flexible in terms of our flyback days when their schedules allowed. On this occasion, they flew in with the Cubs, and took both caribou and young Mike back to Tok, while Mike Sr. and I broke camp.

    A couple of hours later they returned to get both of us and our camp, and we were all back in Tok by about 5 in the afternoon. I was glad that we had been successful on the early out – although 40 Mile was able to fly the next day, it was raining steadily and we would have broken camp with everything being a wet, soggy mess.

    After a long rainy drive to Anchorage, we were able to drop off about 350 pounds of meat and quarter bones at my sisters house; within 2 days all of the meat and soup bones were cut up and divided among 7 different families. Not the Alaska hunt finale I had envisioned, but a successful one! The weather was the clear winner this year, as remote AK reminded us that she’s the boss, and we’re just temporary visitors to the wild mountains.
     

    pbharvey

    Habitual Testifier
    MDS Supporter
    Dec 27, 2012
    30,445
    Thanks for the story and pictures.
    How hard is it to get a non-resident caribou tag?
     

    smdub

    Ultimate Member
    MDS Supporter
    Nov 14, 2012
    4,771
    MoCo
    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

    Any pics of the Cubs? :) Would love to ride in one somewhere like AK.
     

    MDHunter

    Ultimate Member
    Mar 12, 2007
    1,210
    Free America
    Thanks for the story and pictures.
    How hard is it to get a non-resident caribou tag?
    In the area I hunt, it's a registration tag - you can get the permit and tag over the counter, but once a certain number of caribou are harvested, the hunt will be closed. You pretty much gotta take a bush flight (or a rough 50 to 60 mile boat ride) to hunt the zone we hunt, so the hunt has never closed on us. Non res hunting license is 160, caribou tag 650.
     

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