Yeti

Alaska Float Hunt Report 2014

Dhosera

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Feb 16, 2012
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65
So I figured I'd post this here in anticipation of the Upcoming Hunting Season in AK....And because I love reading other reports and need to contribute.

Alaskan Float Hunt 2014

So this all started back in 2006 which was my first trip to AK to visit my cousin where we fished and caught Halibut, Coho, Reds, Pinks, Dollys, rainbows and also hunted very unsuccessfully. Hunting would be the next trip focus in 2010. In 2010 Justin and I visited a friend of his that lives out in Prince William Sound at one of the Hatcheries for a week of Black Bear hunting and fishing. PWS is like a playground and Justin was able to take a Blackie and I was unsuccessful but not for the lack of trying. We also did a pile of fishing and caught Silvers, a variety of Rockfish and other bottom dwellers, ling cod and Halibut. We also pulled shrimp pots, hiked into some lakes to fish and hunt, hiked into the alpine after Blackies, and had a fantastic trip but didn't fill my blackie tag. When we got back into Whittier we had a few extra days and decided to try and fill my Blackie tag chasing Alpine blackies near Cooper Landing by spotting and stalking them up high in the mountains where they are feeding on berries. We had a tip on an area to try and hiked up the mountain and as soon as we rounded a bend nearing the 3-4 mile in mark we were spotting bears on the open hillsides. We turned off the trail bushwacked through the Alder choked, Devils club infested mess up to treeline and made a plan to go up after them. The thermals were carrying our wind directly up the mountain but we were certainly out of reach of the feeding Blackies noses and started up after them...Wrong. I learned right then and there how good they noses are and how to hunt them. With the stalk blown we headed back down and out of the mountains and I vowed to return. Fast forward to 2011 a couple buddies and I were on our way up about the same time 1 year later with better gear and a plan of how to get those Alpine Blackies. long story short we were beat up badly by 60 MPH winds and rain for 5 days straight but when the weather cleared on our final morning of the hunt I was able to get the wind right and pulled the trigger on a beautiful alpine Blackie.
 

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Dhosera

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Now on a fishing/sightseeing trip to AK in 2012 Dad and I had a conversation about his bucket list hunt and his response of Alaskan Moose was all I needed to hear. I told him if he was in I would do all the research and planning to start the process. My sister and brother in law have been in AK for a few years now and have yet to tackle the moose hunting puzzle let alone the hunting puzzle. In fact I would later learn that the biggest animal my bro in law has ever harvested was a Squirrel. I had to invite my hunting buddie Justin and thus formed our Group of 4. I've done a PILE of reading and research and knew some of the best flight services, hunt planners and gear to start looking into. This was completely unguided DIY trip. We settled on a river and flight service and got on their list for 2014. Ok 2 years of saving, buying gear and planning should be enough right? Well its barely enough. We purchased all of our specialized gear over the next 2 years and I started a spreadsheet of who was bringing what, weight of each items ect. We watched taxidermy, float hunting, butchering movies, and youtube for anything float hunting related. Lined up our rental gear which was a Rafting package and Satellite phone. We were limited to 90 lbs of gear per person to flyout with. That didn't include the rafting gear but included all your food, clothes, rifle, ammo, waders, boots, hand cannon ect. I originally thought no problem but turns out 90lbs is not much weight we found out.

During the time we were planning the trip my sister announced shes was preggers and my Nephew was subsequently born in April 2014. I wanted to go up early and visit him and help my brother in law get packed up for the trek north so I went a few days early. I flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago to Anchorage to Homer on September 12th. While in the Airport in Anchorage waiting for our small puddle jumper to take us to the little town of Homer I met Steve from Steve's Outdoor Adventures on the Outdoor Channel. We exchanged stories of upcoming adventures and turns out his cameraman is from Traverse City Michigan! Small world.... So the 13th and 14th were time well spent with my new Nephew and family getting ready to head out on our long anticipated adventure and put the finishing touches on the Meat Trailer. The morning of the 14th we left Homer drove to Anchorage and picked up Dad and Justin in the Airport. We picked up last minute supplies such as fuel and couple odds and ends our licenses and headed north to Wasilla. Stayed the night in Wasilla and then onto Fairbanks to check into the Flight Service. We arrived late on the 15th and check into our flight service and weighed out our gear. We were WELL over the limit on gear and weight since they figure an average of a 200lb hunter. Hell there isn't a one of us that weighs 200lbs! So that night we packed and repacked out gear and shed things we thought we could live without in an attempt to get down to the weight needed. The tent was a Cabelas Alaskan Guide 6 man with extra gear vestibule weighing in at 35lbs alone so each man had to take their share of that weight. We shed most food that was not freeze dried because of the weight, half our salt and Stop-rot for capes, tarps, knives and other items. Man did I wish we kept all that stuff.
 

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Dhosera

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Feb 16, 2012
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Day 1
The morning of the 16th rolled around and we were "close enough" on weight and scheduled to fly out but our drop off point was weathered in so we sat. Around noon they changed things up and sent us on their scheduled flight to Fort Yukon along with all our gear. We landed in Fort Yukon around 2 pm ish and met our pilot and started loading enough for a load in the Heilo Courior. The plane was an amazing machine with oversized wings, huge tundra tires and a souped up engine. It was crazy how much he could load in that little plane and how fast he was up in the air. We flew very low to stay below the clouds over seemingly endless tundra and lakes and up a neighboring drainage for nearly 2 hours before jumping up over the mountains and down into our drainage. Best 2 hour flight of my life viewing bull moose, grizzly bear, multiple packs of wolves including 2 pure white wolves and caribou. He flew low over the runway which was nothing more than a gravel bar nearly half a mile from the river checking the wind direction before making a seemingly easy landing on the terribly uneven rocks they called a strip. We unloaded our gear and Daniel (our Pilot) gave us the GPS coordinates of our pick-up which was 55 miles down river and said Ill see you in 10 days! He'd be back in 4 hours with my Dad and BIL. He took off and we were alone until we noticed another 2 guys up the river a ways! We were pretty bummed here we flew all this way and there's 2 guys here already. We wondered over to them and they had killed a 54" moose and were processing it right near the runway. One was an older Alaskan resident who was just along for the moose meat and the other was a guy from Wyoming who had killed the moose. They were pretty pumped to say the least. They offered us of all things a cordless sawzall and a battery pack as they had already killed a moose and a small caribou and no longer needed it for "what they had into it".... We thought about it but heck who carries that amount of cash on them so our stubbornness kicked in and we declined. We then went about the task of packing the 150 pound raft the nearly 1/2 mile to the braided river we would be floating and all our gear and pumped broke out the pump and started pumping...and pumping....and pumping. The raft was a Levitator 16' long and built especially for this type of hunting. They can carry over 3,000lbs, have reinforced rubber air chambers, oar locks, sawyer composite oars, gear racks and a ton of tie down loops. I was impressed at how well built they were and they were bran new! We spent the next few hours roaming around looking for game, finding shed caribou antlers and just getting acclimated to the area. When we flew in we saw caribou below us along the river near an Ice field so with the other group occupying the runway area we decided to try and put some miles on tonight and get down stream a ways so we could be by ourselves. In Alaska you cant hunt the same day you are airborne so we would have to wait until the 17th to hunt anyways. After Dad and my BIL flew in we repeated the steps to get their raft down to the river and ready. WOW rafting looks easier than it is, we found out and after bounding around a bit but we figured it out. We were way up near the headwaters and the river is extremely braided. The hardest part of rafting is deciding which braid has the most water and least amount of hazards. They don't call it float dragging Alaska for no reason. We would run out of water and get out and drag back to deeper areas or different braids and so on. We only made it nearly a mile or so downriver before it started raining and we were running out of daylight and decided to beach things and get the tent set up. After all the setting up we spotted a herd of Caribou below us that night crossing the river and we were in high hopes for the next day. We enjoyed our 1st mountain house of many for the next 10 days and hit the hay.
 

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Dhosera

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Day 2
The next day it rained all day but we were up and looking to fill tags. We divided up into 2 groups and hunted both sides of the river. Justin and I crossed and went up onto a point overlooking the tundra and ice field. We did some calling and spotting to no avail. After hiking for miles in every direction I finally spotted a bull moose way up a nearby drainage and heading parallel to us. It was odd to see such a huge animal alone walking in the Tundra with zero trees around for miles but he was headed up and over to the next drainage area. We tried paralleling him and calling but he wasn't interested and at more than 3-5 miles away who knows if he could hear us. Late that afternoon we headed back to camp and found dad and Aaron at camp and they hadn't spotted anything. We packed up camp and started to head downriver. We weren't even 1 mile in and Justin/Aaron pulled over and gave the old animal signal as they spotted a herd crossing the river and ended up taking a cow dropping her nearly in the river. It was perfect we dragged the raft within feet and started breaking her down and into TAGS bags. TAGS bags are a synthetic game bag that worked GREAT at keeping the meat breathing and cooling. Since the temps dipped into the 30's each night we didn't have to worry too bad about spoilage as long as we could keep them dry which was a challenge. We loaded her up and onward downriver until it was getting dark so we stopped and made our second camp. Justin and I were on tent duty while Dad and Aaron made our 1st meat cache. That night we spotted Caribou above us in the Tundra filtering down out of the mountain passes.
Day 3
The morning was beautiful. It was cold down in the 30's but finally clear. We divided up yet again and Justin and I left camp only to return a short while later with shed from a Bull that would go over 60" we found. Once we rounded the corner behind camp there was Grizz trax and scat everywhere. They were on the sandbars digging up roots. Everywhere you turned there was trax, scat or diggings and it was obvious the grizz were frequenting the area. I was hoping to spot one as I had a Grizz tag in my pocket and looking to thump one. We made the cardinal mistake that day and saw caribou in the mountains so that's where we went after them. NEVER do this!!! Let them come to you or don't get one. We hiked and hiked and found ourselves nearly 5 miles from camp way up in the Tundra near a small herd of cows, calfs and small bulls. We decided not to take one as we did not want to pack a small animal all the way back to the river. We sat resting and bitching at one another about what we had just done for a while until we spotted another herd making their way out of one of the mountain passes and heading in our direction. For the next couple hours it was a foot race back down the tundra to the river where they were heading. We paralleled them and got into position to cut them off below a little rise but still plenty too far from the stable river bottom ground and up in the nasty tundra. We barely beat them and set up for the shot. We could see the tops of their antlers coming just above the small rise heading straight towards us. So all summer long we practiced shooting out to 300 yds and here they were filtering by us within bow range. They were actually too close! Justin was filming as I tried to decide what animal I wanted out of the herd of nearly all bulls. I chose a dark chocolate antlered bull with curling tops and wicked fronts on him. His fronts are what made this bull stand out from the rest and as we tried to communicate what animal to get on for the shot we finally seemed to be on the same page. At the shot the bulls scattered but didn't go that far, Justin picked out his bull and after he and I continued to put bullets in the same 2 bou we had chosen when the smoke finally cleared we had 2 beautiful bulls down. We took some pics, not nearly enough, and started the process of breaking down the animals and getting them into the TAGS bags. This area of Alaska is unique because Fish & Game requires the harvest and removal of all meat on the bone including the rib cages. For the rest of the day we took loads weighing in around the 100 pound mark back and forth to the river over a mile away down off the tundra, across the many different braids in the river to the main channel where we could get the rafts close to pick up the meat. My dad and Aaron heard all the shooting and hiked in to help. We couldn't get them all out and it was starting to get dark so by Fish & Games rules the hides antlers had to stay in the mountains that night until we could get back for the last trip in the AM. We left some clothes on the animals hoping the Grizz and wolves would stay away and hiked back to camp. We got there around dark wore out, forced ourselves to heat up some water for our delicious Mountain House meals, ate and piled into our bags for the night. That night we had some excitement as the wind started whipping a bit. Dad woke us all up and swore he heard footsteps just outside the tent in the river gravel we were camped on. We were all on high alert yelling, making noise to let this bear know our presence. 3 of us had .44 Mags by our sides and I can tell you it was out of the holster in each of our hands. The highlight was Justin poking his out the tent yelling "fire in the hole" and touching one off into the air. We all decided the threat was gone and tried to get back to sleep. It was hilarious as each of us were not going to make it back to bed and as we sat there straining to hear anything the wind was whipping and moving the tarp outside the tent which was tied to a bag filled with rocks and brushing up against the side of the tent! Hmmmmm.... Our phantom bear:)
 

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Dhosera

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Day 4
We were up early, ate some quick breakfast broke down camp and packed up the rafts to head down to where we stashed the meat the night before along the riverbank. We cautiously approached hoping an overnight visitor hadn't claimed the meat cache and were pleasantly surprised. We parked the rafts and 3 of us headed into the mountains after the last load of Meat and antlers. I glassed the hills and sure enough another herd of Bou was headed down nearly the same route the previous herd took the day before. We did spot momentarily a bull moose on the opposite side of the river but way too far up the mountain to even try for. Aaron was going to stay at the Meat Cache and rotate he meat so it would dry/cool evenly and would stay near the river to try and head off the herd as we decided it was stupid to kill them so far away from the river from all the work we had done yesterday. Well we watched the whole thing painfully unfold from a 1/4 mile away as the herd headed towards the river and Aaron headed away from the river. He hiked to nearly our level and up onto the tundra after them, picked out a bull and at the shot it piled up and splashed into the tundra but he was still gun up and aiming. Since he a resident of AK he can shoot something like 5 or 10 Bou a day so we thought well maybe he's thinking of taking another. That cant possibly be the case knowing all the work we had done the previous day, and at the sound of another shot we had 2 more down. The herd of course headed our way where dad proceeded to pick out a bull and now we had 3 down the same distance away from the river.....Lovely. A short time after our shooting spree we saw what looked like a military helicopter followed by a refueling helicopter then followed by our Pilot Daniel which all were headed up near the drop in strip. We didn't think too much of it but there's more to that story later on. The rest of the day was pure hell. Dad, Aaron and Justin started breaking down animals and I strapped on one of our 2 packs we brought and just started hiking loads back to the rafts. It was well over a mile down out of the Tundra, across the braided river channels to the rafts. We were able to get everything out throughout the day but we were exhausted and had to raft to find a suitable spot to camp for the night. We loaded the 6 bou up in the rafts and headed downriver. Just before dark we found an area suitable to camp that had a very tall steep ridge behind camp that could be scaled for glassing and calling. We made camp and a giant meat cache down by the rivers edge, boiled more water for mountain houses and climbed into our bags exhausted.

Day 5
We all slept in exhausted and soar from the day before. We literally didn't do too much as far as strenuous activity. The entire day we wanted to spend as much time recuperating from the days before so it was spent Calling, thrashing willows for moose, trying to dry out gear, cooking, eating, drinking water, fleshing my caribou cape ect. The day was a typical rainy Alaskan day and cold in the 40's. I must have scaled that ridge behind camp 6 times that day to continually call, thrash and glass. You could see a LONG ways from the ridge top and off to the SE after a short hike you could overlook a beautiful oxbow. I thought for sure a moose would show up any minute and kept hiking over to check it throughout the day. We spotted more caribou off in the distance but being tagged out on caribou we were concentrated on Moose. We did see what appeared to be the other group we saw at the strip pass by us on their raft as they were headed downriver with that Moose loaded up. We finished off the day eating an entire rack of ribs and an entire caribou backstrap cooked over the fire. We had brought spices and a little bit of oil and after the search for a concave flat river rock yielded a perfect match that is how we cooked the pieces of backstrap over the fire. Something other than candy bars, cliff bars or mountain house was awesome and just what we needed to recharge. I believe we used the satellite phone that evening so the guys could talk to their wives and check in with the good news and to tell them we were alive.
 

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deer_shooter

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That's a brute of a ling cod. Heck of a nice bear too and some great 'bou. Sounds like a an awesome adventure
 
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Dhosera

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Feb 16, 2012
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Day 6
We had already decided the day before that we were behind badly being only roughly 6-8 miles downriver from where we were put in and we needed to cover 55 miles to the take out. Today was rafting day, we needed to get some miles covered! We were up early broke camp, got everything loaded into the rafts and took off. It was another typical Alaskan day overcast, rainy and cold in the 40's again. We rafted stopping periodically to check the sand bars for fresh sign. We found areas of older moose, caribou and bear sign, but nothing too spectacular. We stopped and fished for greyling and found some biters. They are beautiful fish to say the least with their huge dorsal fin and iridescent colors. We spotted absolutely no game during the float but covered nearly 30 miles! It was a LONG day of floating. Late in the day we found what appeared to be a decent spot to camp and call home for a couple days. We had a decent ridge behind camp that could be reached with a short hike, had good visibility as we could see up and down the river quite far, a high flat bank to camp on as the water was rising with all the rain we were getting, and wood for a fire and a tangled mess of wood to use to build a good meat cache. We pulled in and began the work of setting up camp again and building the meat cache. We called and thrashed but just couldn't get a response.
Day 7
We awoke to COLD temps below freezing and snow! There was a heavy dusting of new snow that fell overnight. It was a decent day with cloudy skies and snow off and on so I hiked above camp to glass for a while. I froze in the wind but I was able to turn up a cow a long ways off in the distance. The day was spent calling and glassing. My dad joined me on one of the hikes up the hill to glass and I spotted a wolf off in the distance but try as he might he couldn't get on it. The difference between glass and good glass was pretty clear. His Nikon's were not near the quality glass my Vortex's were. Very impressed to say the least. Aaron and I followed some very fresh moose sign back into where a drainage dumped into the river bottom area we were hunting. The moose seemed to be in the area and using the creek beds as highways out to the main channel of the river from way back in the bottom. I was amazed at how thick the brush was back there and how the heck a moose with headgear could make its way thru the jungle. We ran into a few Spruce grouse but couldn't get a shot off in the thick cover and also ran into our first HUGE arctic hares. I had the .44mag with Shot shells out and drawn on those guys but they caught me off guard each time they took off due to their size. It was like a dog taking off when you jumped one they were so big. The rest of the day was spent cooking, rotating meat and calling to no avail. By the end of the day the snow had melted off and it was a balmy mid 40's.
 

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Dhosera

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Day 8
We awoke to more snow and colder temps below freezing. The wind was whipping pretty good and snowing sideways. We needed to make it downriver and closer to the take out so we packed up camp and the rafts and headed off. I did hike up the hill one last time to glance at the plentiful oxbows and clearings we could see across the river from camp in hopes a Bull moved in overnight but that was not the case. The snow was an inch or 2 deep and was not melting today as fast. We had our rafts loaded down with Caribou and covered with tarps in an attempt to keep them dry....big mistake. The tarps served as sails as the wind was whipping up river. We literally were being blown upriver even with the crazy fast river current which averaged from 3-4 MPH. We made it roughly 1 mile downriver and were frustrated, wet, frozen and miserable. We pulled over and stopped in a stand of spruce trees and built a huge fire to warm up. We sat around for a couple hours eating some more caribou meat and hoping the weather would die down. Mid afternoon we decided to head out on the river again braving the wind and snow. I had to literally row downstream to keep the raft heading in the right direction and going downriver. We hit a nasty stretch of river where a log jam had diverted the river in several directions but the main channel into the forest and it was actively eroding the banks knocking countless trees into the river as sweepers and extremely tight switchbacks with hazards on both sides waiting to claim any that dared to enter. It looked almost impassable but it was too late the current was sweeping both rafts right on in. Justin and Aaron hit the mouth 1st and made it thru the 1st turn and blasted into the 2nd only to hit the opposite side sweeper which took their raft up on one tube. They came back down and bounced off the opposite side but were both still in the raft as well as all their gear. Very dangerous close call as the river temps were hovering around 35 degrees. The river is raging thru the small opening and has carved out a deep trench with who knows what below the surface. We were next thru and I on the oars. We made it thru the 1st couple switchbacks and just scraped the 3rd without too much excitement. We would later learn that section of river put 3 other groups in the river with thousands of $$$ in gear lost but no lives. We ended up talking with one of the other groups who informed us of their brush with that stretch as well as a group they were communicating with that was above us that went in the river there as well. They had to pull over, gather what gear they could find, strip down out of the wet clothes and build a fire and make camp right there to keep from getting hypothermia. One group had lost a sleeping bag, one was wet so they had 1 dry bag between the 3 of them. Bad situation. Dark was approaching fast as we tried to find a suitable camping site with everything we wanted for Moose hunting. Believe it or not finding an open flat area big enough for our tent, with good visibility up and down the river, with wood for a fire, high vantage point for glassing and fresh moose sign are few and far between. We couldn't agree on a spot and finally found one extremely late in day that was "good enough" pulled in and rushed to put camp up, build yet another meat cache and filter water for our mountain house dinners. It was dusk as everyone bailed into the tent to boil water as we were all exhausted from rowing and braving the nasty weather that day. I decided to make a few half hearted calls and beat the snot out of a small spruce tree just out the tent door before I bailed into the tent. We were just starting to boil water when Justin said be quiet what was that.... We listened and all could hear a bull grunting behind camp. At that noise we all bailed out of the tent frantically searching for our guns and video camera. Dad bailed left and Justin and I bailed right. We didn't hear the bull for a while so I raked a tree and grunted again. The bull responded grunting away behind camp a few hundred yards back in the thick stuff but seemed to be getting closer. It was quite again for what seemed like a long time so I did another raking grunting sequence he responded and this time you could tell he was closing the distance. Justin and I were both behind a big downed tree within 10 yards of the tent, guns ready waiting for the bull to show himself. He slowly slumbered out of the thick area and turned to look at us at roughly 90 yards. He looked straight at us for what seemed like an entire minute but most likely was less allowing us to judge his antlers. He had to be 50" wide in this area or 4 brow tines on a side. I could clearly see he wouldn't make the brow tines so I checked and rechecked what I thought his spread would be and knew he would be close. I was so focused on checking the moose out I had no idea where dad was or Aaron to see if they could even see the bull. I remember telling Justin, just feet away, " think hes legal, I really do.... If he turns to run put him down". My scope was on his antlers checking the spread using the 10" between the eyes rule and i must have done that a half dozen times while he stared in our direction. He was getting nervous and turned to run as I let one fly right thru the pump house. He spun and Justin put another one in him as he started to run, vanished around the corner and we knew he wouldn't be far so the man hugging and celebrating started. Ill never forget walking up on that animal. Here's our group of a buncha Michigan deer hunters, in a foreign territory, hunting foreign animals, and we just harvested this massive animal completely on our own. We took photos and gutted the animal in an attempt to cool the meat down and walked the 150 yards back to camp knowing we would have some major work ahead of us tomorrow.
Day 9
We awoke to bitter cold temps we estimate around 20 Degrees and a fresh 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. We were all struggling to get going knowing we had to break down the entire moose, haul it back to camp, break camp and raft downriver and find the take out strip. We built a huge fire next to the moose and started the process of breaking it down. It took us until noon to get everything sorted out and packed out to the river. By early afternoon we were on our way downriver. We ended up finding the strip which was nothing more than a decent sized gravel bar with 2 pieces of surveyors tape on adjacent trees. There were 2 other airplanes at the strip and another large camp. We recognized the planes as we saw them flying around in the air over the last 10 days. They were a good group of guys with their own planes that fly in nothing but the best as far as food, wall tents, wood stove and even beer! We built a meat cache and set up camp as we talked with the guys and that's how we found out about their mishap with the bad stretch in the river and also they had communication with the group that was behind us that also went in the river. The group had killed a 56" moose and a couple little meat bulls as they were residents and could shoot anything, and a nice Grizz. They asked if we had Grizz tags, we had 2, as they had had some problems with a bear the last couple nights getting into camp. They also asked if we heard about the plane crash??? News to us... But apparently the group that was at the strip when we landed that had that moose down tried to fly it out of the upper portion of the river and crashed trying to do so. We were told that the upper strip was nothing more than a tiny strip only good for putting someone in and that you couldn't get a load out of it. Apparently their friend that dumped them there in a private plane came and picked up the older guy and the moose, but never made it. The 2 helicopters we saw were a med-evac and a refueling chopper. The older guy, the one who offered us the cordless sawzall, was hurt pretty bad but the pilot was fine and was flown out by our pilot so that's why we saw the 2 choppers and then our pilot fly in there. We would later see photos of the crashed plane and runway upon flying out. In order to be flown out our flight service made the other guys float the 55 miles down to the next take out with their moose which ended up spoiling on them as they left it covered and wet due to all the rain and didn't allow it to dry out and breathe. Thats also why we saw them pass us one evening on the river but they didn't stop to chat. Upon arriving at the take out with a spoiled moose, crashed plane, hurt companion, and after going in the river loosing a bunch of their gear I imagine they weren't too happy. It just goes to show you how wrong things can go up there.
 

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Dhosera

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Day 10
So we were up early and called the flight service on the Sat Phone only to hear we wouldn't be getting out until early afternoon due to weather. Upon leaving the tent we could see one of our meat bags was drug off the meat cache and off to the side. In the middle of the night a Grizz had come into camp merely 40 yds from the tent and gotten into the cache. He destroyed one bag and was munching on the meat inside but didnt take it into the brush or so we thought.... It was bitter cold in the teens with a spattering of snow on the ground. It was the last day of Moose season and the other group wasn't moving too fast to go out either. They flew out and back to town to get some supplies and fly a load out as we sat and waited. We watched groups of caribou filter by us above camp and we thought about taking one but knew if it was in the river or on the wrong side we wouldn't be able to get to it due to our rafts being broken down already awaiting flyout, so we watched. Early afternoon Daniel flew in and we loaded the 1st plane for take off with a huge load of meat and myself being the first elected to go out to deal with the meat situation....and then things got interesting! We strapped in and powered up to take off and heard a loud noise like something broke or hit the plane and then lots of air in the cockpit. Daniel finished his take off just over top of the river and I had the gopro on and instantly dropped it. Both having headsets on Daniel said holy S*** what was that..... look back there and see if that doors gone. Sure enough I turned to see the cargo door missing on the plane. He said reach back there and grab that gear. I reached outside the plane and grasped onto the gear to keep it from falling out the side as I looked down to see Aaron holding the door to the plane above his head standing on the side of the river. He banked sharply around above the trees and right around to make an emergency landing. Upon landing we got out and inspected the plane. The door had ripped completely off the plane at the hinges but missed hitting the tail of the plane. Daniel repeatedly apologized as I was unaware of the severity of the situation. I didnt think it to be that big of a deal but Daniel would later explain how close of a call it actually was. Ill never forget it when he said you dont know how close were were to putting her in the river. He said if that door would have hit the tail you and I would have been in the river. Jeesh... Well the other 2 pilots on the strip who were there just happened to be of all things FAA aircraft inspectors. go figure of all the people in the world, they just happen to be there.They grounded the aircraft and flew in another plane to start the now delayed extraction process. It would take 5 loads to get us and all the meat out. We unloaded the first plane and reloaded it in another aircraft. The rules would allow Dan to fly the broken plane out doorless with the door secured inside but not with passengers or gear. So with the now new plane loaded and the broken plane secured we both took off uneventful and back to Fort Yukon. Upon landing and unloading they said I hope you have enough provisions to stay here tonight because we cant get everything out and back to Fairbanks today, youll have to split the group up and stay on the stip and in the mountains. Great... So Dan left to get another load out and there I sat in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a pile of meat. I noticed a gal coming down to a little shack at the airport every 30 mins and went over to talk with her. She was there to do the weather ever 30 mins for the area pilots and for the state/federal agencies. I asked if there was anywhere to get food or stay and she pointed me in the direction of the AC store. Its called Alaska Commercial Company and is their tiny village market. I walked up the street, getting looks from the villagers like you wouldn't believe, to the AC store. There I bought a $9 bag of Doritos, a $4 pepsi, and a $15 dollar bag of oberto jerky. Best $28 I ever spent! the weather gal had come back to do the weather and called to talk with her friend "ginny" who said we could stay with her....for $100 of course. Just then Dan came over the radio and she informed me he was about 10 minutes out and had a passenger. They landed and it was my dad so it was nice to see he was the other person that was able to get out. That meant Aaron and Justin had another night in the bitter cold. We felt terrible. Daniel went back to get another load of gear with the plane as he said he thought he could get in there before it got too dark and said we could use his jeep to bomb around town in. Well they only have a few roads so we went back to the AC store and bought more junk food for dad and also for Aaron and Justin for having to spend another night eating mountain house and braving the cold. Turns out the other group invited them in their wall tent for Moose Burgers and to drink the rest of the beer so they didn't have to fly it out! Now this jeep was in ROUGH shape. It only ran sometimes so he said if you get it running just leave it running, as it may not start right away again. The gas light was on so we thought it was out of gas or nearly out so we stopped at the gas pump to put some fuel in the tank for letting us use his vehicle. Well at $7.50 a gallon we only bought a couple gallons. We met "ginny" and loaded our clothes and rifles into the tiny cluttered cabin. We went back to meet Daniel at the strip to unload the gear and cover it up for the night before walking back to "ginny's" for the night. Now we haven't showered in 10 days so I imagine we were pretty ripe. She fired up her water heater and let us take a hot shower while we gorged ourselves on jerky, Doritos and junk food. The cabin was a small, dirty, 2 bedroom log home, where the walls only went up maybe 7' tall and were open above that. We literally slept in one room and she in the other...Weird I know but hey it wasn't outside. It was very interesting to talk with her about the Native lifestyle and hear about their way of life.
Day 11 thru 15!
We were up early and down to the strip awaiting Daniel's return with Aaron and Justin. They came back uneventful and we presented them their junk food goodie bags as we waited for the scheduled flight back to Fairbanks. They sent a huge plane in to get the nearly 2500 lbs of meat and all our gear out of Fort Yukon. The pilot told us we were "heavy" and was interested in how much meat we had there. The Scheduled flight made it back to Fairbanks and we started the process of looking for somewhere or someway to get all this meat and gear back to Michigan. We went to Lowes in Fairbanks and bought a 8' chest freezer and put it in the back of the meat trailer and loaded as much meat as we could in it. We ended up driving it all to Anchorage where we shipped all the gear, guns and antlers back on a pallet thru a shipping company. We felt like santa bringing bags of joy, in the form of meat, down from the north and delivering it to our friends and family we have up there. We gave a TON of it away. We dropped off some at the processor to be made into brats and sausage but only enough for Aaron and my sister. We then drove to Homer and processed the remaining meat for 2 whole days and packed it up and froze it solid. We bought 8 coolers in which we filled with 48lbs of meat and brought them back with us as checked baggage. Upon taking inventory of the meat bags we discovered we were missing a half a moose rib cage and a backstrap. Well the only way that could have been misplaced would have been when the bear came into camp the last night/ He musta got a whole bag out and into the bushes, came back for a 2nd bag and ran out of time, was scared off or was full. Bastard!

Overall we had an amazing trip. We are planning on doing this again in 5 years good lord willing. Feel free to ask questions or comment but for obvious reasons I wont disclose some of the details.
 

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teamhoyt

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 4, 2013
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855
Location
glendive, MT
thanks for sharing. sounds like quite the adventure. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose the door on your plane!
 

Gr8bawana

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Joined
Jul 14, 2013
Messages
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Location
Nevada
Wow! That sounds like an adventure of a lifetime. Congrats n such a successful trip. Also congrats on everyone getting home unhurt. The door incident would have made me crap my pants.
 

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