A Muskox Hunt (Pic Heavy)

KayakMacGyver

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Messages
245
Life has been in the way of me posting this hunt recap, so I apologize for the delay

We experienced incredibly smooth travel to Nunivak from Florida. Every one of our flights were on time and we made it to Mekoryuk about 30 hours after we departed MCO on January 14, one day before the opener of Muskox season. Based on feedback we received leading up to the hunt, we set our travel expectations very low and were quite surprised to get there on time.


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There were no other hunters on the island, and none scheduled to arrive for a few more days. This meant that we’d have first crack at Muskox and, rumor had it from some reindeer herders, that there was group of ox about 10 miles outside of town. We settled into our shack and anxiously awaited the next day, where weather would dictate our ability to get out.

Our Shack:

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Some photos from around town:

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KayakMacGyver

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Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Messages
245
Our good fortune with weather continued and shortly after sunrise (around 10 am!) on opening day, Ed Kiokun, our transporter, knocked on the door. I want to give a BIG shout out to Ed. If you ever need a transporter on Nunivak, this is your guy. Ed is the President of the tribal association, the fire chief, basketball coach, search and rescue lead….I could go on and on. In short, A LOT of people count on Ed and we couldn’t have been in better hands. He was always incredibly responsive to or calls/texts leading up to the hunt and every piece of advice he gave us was spot on.


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It was a COLD, but beautiful ride out. As a transporter, Ed couldn’t offer us any assistance with the actual hunt, but thanks to the helpful herders we were able to point the snow machines in the right direction. An hour and a half into our ride we spotted a small group of ox that included one very nice bull. We parked the machines and made a quick stalk to get Alicia into position. Patience was key, as the group surrounded the bull once they became aware of our presence. It took 45 minutes for the bull to finally clear and Alicia when the opportunity presented itself at 75 yards, Alicia put the 180 grain 30-06 bullet right where it needed to be. The bull dropped right in his tracks.

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Less than 48 hours after leaving our home, the hunt was over. We began the process of breaking the animal down while Ed went back to retrieve one of the snow machines that broke down in the sub-zero temps on our way out. Once quartered, we loaded the ox onto Ed’s snow machine and brought it back to his heated shop for further processing.
 
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KayakMacGyver

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Jun 8, 2018
Messages
245
I took care of everything in the shop that night, except for caping the head. There is no way to prepare for caping a muskox and I really didn’t want to screw it up. The horns wrap really close to the hide and I wasn’t sure how to effectively handle it. So, we opted to pay a local $200 to do it for us. In hindsight, I wish I would have just done it myself as the caped hide we got back is going to cause my taxidermist a lot of repair work around critical parts (eyes, ears, etc.). For anyone planning to do this hunt, I highly recommend handling the caping on your own if you have ANY experience with caping out an animal. Most mistakes can be repaired easily due to the thick hide and you can be sure to take care around the critical parts.

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At this point, the smooth sailing ended. Weather was moving in and it was looking like our planned Wednesday departure wasn’t going to happen. We booked a flight with Grant Air to get out two days early, on Monday, when weather looked the most promising. For whatever reason, they cancelled the Monday flight into Mekoryuk. Weather was definitely doable, but we have a hunch there weren’t enough passengers to make it worth their while. We called to confirm that we would be moved to Wednesday, when we learned that they don’t automatically rebook you for the next flight! We then learned that the Wednesday flight was full and we wouldn’t have a CHANCE to get out until Friday.

We begged and bribed someone to sell us their seats for Wednesday, but no one was willing. So, we sat for the next 3 days wondering when we would ever get out of there. We tried fox hunting one evening, but the reindeer herders hadn't started their slaughter so the foxes weren't really active. Friday’s weather was looking like crap, and it could be an entire week before we had another chance to find our way home.


With the help of my wife pestering the crap out of Grant Air and Ed tugging some strings as well, they agreed to send a much needed cargo plane in on Wednesday and we caught a ride out on that. They hadn’t received a shipment of cargo since November due to weather! Needless to say, the village was very happy to receive supplies.



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It took around 27 hours of flying/layovers to get back to MCO, and another 5 hours drive for us to get home to North Florida. We had a freezer/generator waiting in the truck when we got back to Florida, which was definitely needed considering the temps locally were pushing 80 degrees. All in all, it was a great adventure and experience. For a variety of reasons (aside from the odds), it was likely a once-in-a-lifetime hunt We may put our kids in for the hunt when they get older, but Alicia and I will never apply for the hunt again.

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Some lessons learned and I'll try to update as I remember more:

  • This hunt is NOT cheap. we knew this going in, but it’s still a little tough for a DIY’er to come out with that kind of cash. All in (not including the mount), it cost us around $10K. We played the points game with some credit cards, so if you had to book roundtrip flights to AK, you’re probably looking at closer to $12-$13K.
  • Keep all of your meat…It’s the best eating game meat we’ve ever had. Per the advice of some hunters who have done this before, we opted to take it all home. If you have an opportunity to send your meat out on a cargo plane before your scheduled departure from Mekoryuk, do it! There is no guarantee that you’ll be able to fit it all on your passenger flight out, and you could be in a situation where you can’t bring it all home.
  • Don’t underestimate the cold. I came very close to frostbite on an evening fox hunt (no foxes, unfortunately). I bought a lot of expensive cold weather gear before this hunt but didn’t really have a way to test it in sub zero conditions. Unfortunately, some of the pieces didn’t meet my expectations and put me in a rough way. Do as much research and testing as you can, then add a couple more layers to your bag just in case.
  • Be prepared to process all of your meat and cape out your animal in less-than-ideal conditions. A replaceable blade knife works great and is what I used to process out the entire animal. We spent a lot of hours bent over in a shed boning out/packaging our meat.
  • Transporting the meat/hide:
  • Meat:
  • We opted to use totes, but they barely made it home. When our totes came off the conveyor in Orlando, there were small amounts of blood starting to seep out, despite our care in packaging. The cold compromises the integrity of the plastic and it cracks very easily. That said, this is pretty much how everyone transports things to/from AK, so I’m not sure if there are really any better options that don’t sacrifice a ton of weight. Weight = $$$$ and logistical challenges. Pack plenty of duct tape to wrap the totes and triple bag your meat in heavy duty contractor garbage bags, then hope for the best.
  • Hide:
  • We used garbage bags and a large tarp to wrap up our hide into a muskox burrito. Ed had given us this advice and it worked great. However, Alaska Airlines gave us a lot of crap about it in Bethel and we almost didn’t get it on the plane. It took a bunch of haggling to get them to agree and if they didn’t we would have been screwed. Others had advised on using a trash can, which would probably work well. I might try a combination of the tarp and trash can if I had to do it over.
  • Be flexible. Travel is the biggest hurdle for this hunt and you really need to plan on 2 weeks, unless you get very lucky. We planned on 10 days and, had we not gotten out on the cargo plane, would have been stuck there close to 2 weeks.
 
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RobertD

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Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
1,513
Location
Southwest Georgia (GA)
Awesome man. I'm only like an hour and a half away from you, I think I'm going to start hiding in your bag or something for some of these great trips. Or at least borrow some of y'all's draw/tag luck. Congratulations on an awesome trip.
 

BrooksRanger

Member
Joined
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
51
Location
Southeast, Alaska
Thanks for the great write up. I drew this tag for Spring 2023, and am going out in early March. Obviously very excited, and it is great to hear other people's experiences see their photos. Living in Alaska makes it a little bit easier getting out there, but the weather is always the biggest variable to deal with.
 

JAG

Active member
Joined
Mar 2, 2020
Messages
215
Great hunt and nice write-up! Please post a picture of the mount.
 

RyGuy

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 10, 2022
Messages
79
Location
Fort Collins, Colorado
Awesome story! Congrats to you both on the successful hunt.
Being a DIY hunter and traveling so far away is very impressive. The fact that you could pull off this hunt should give all of us inspiration to go after our dream hunts.
 

crock239

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
496
Location
Iowa
Wow, huge adventure in the logistics alone! Congrats and thanks for sharing
 

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