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Brooks range bou!

brownbear932008

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I am finally getting the chance to sit down and do a little write up on my Alaskan caribou hunt. First off it was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on in my life and gonna be very hard to beat I think.
We arrived on the 8th of Sept. in Fairbanks after a very long flight from Virginia. We were so tired we decided to grab a bite to eat and a room for the night instead of hitting the 8 hour trip up the Dalton Hwy. besides we wanted to take in all the sights during daylight hours. We got a good nights rest and awoke around 4am hitting the highway northbound. After driving an hour outside of Fairbanks I learned real quick you could make some good time on the haul road but it was kinda like a Dukes of Hazard episode if you did and I also learned that the moose are very big and slow and 70mph was too fast! Guess I just wanted to get north to see some bou quickly.
After driving for around four hours and seeing some of the most amazing sights known to mankind we stopped at Coldfoot for some breakfast around mid morning. I have to say it was pretty darn good grub to be in the middle of nowhere basically. Coldfoot was a really neat place. We then ate real good knowing this was gonna be our last good meal for maybe a week or so and hit the road again heading to Antigun Pass and the snowy brooks range. Here is a pic of the pass and how it appeared when we started up it.
 

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brownbear932008

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Okay here we go after we made it over the pass and onto the northslope we began seeing lots of Dall sheep we probally saw 50 or so easy all ewes or small rams. The weather was starting to get nasty the clouds were pretty low so we were worried about getting into the field that evening and losing a day on our hunt time. Those of you that have been there know what I am talking about with the Alaskan weather it is something to say the least. The time of year we choose is a great time but also it is the time of the year when the seasons are changing really fast. So back to the story!
We arrived at Happy Valley in the early evening hours around 3ish I guess and met Mike with 70 North. Happy Valley was just a small place to land small planes and base out of. Mike said he couldn't get us north the weather had already socked in that area near the range but he had a hot spot that had been producing well to take us too. He was in the process of moving a group of hunter out of the field and had about 3 flights to make. Then it would be our turn. So we took the down time to repack our gear some to allow better handling for us on the planes. After we all were done Mike invited us to the hub of Happy Valley I guess you would say and spoke with us about safety and commonly broken laws that get folks into trouble with the wardens in the area which I thought was super. I am guessing lots of pilots don't do this a lot. I cannot say enough about Mike and his business he did everything he could to help us and did a great job. Well after about an hour Mike had gotten all the other hunters and game out of the field and the nice caribou they had brought in really got me pumped think the group had taken 6-8 caribou mostly for meat as they were resident hunters.
We loaded up the plane and took off flying over the tundra we saw herds of caribou scattered everywhere while flying I couldn't wait to get on the ground. We finally landed in a river valley about 30 miles west of the haul road and as we landed bou ran off the runway so I thought we may be in a good spot it seemed since we could look around the valley and count probally 100 bou in the area already!
We set up camp and got everything squared away with that and pulled out the spotter checking over the bou within sight of camp. We saw several great bulls in the herds scattered all around us. One really caught our eye I wouldn't doubt that he was a booner. We watched the herds until dark from camp and ate our mountain house dinners and hit the sack. All night long while in my sleeping bag I heard the tick tick of snow falling on my tent it was in the mid 20's I guess all night and we awoke to a few inches of fresh snow on the first morning. Here is a pic of the first morning and one of the plane's we traveled out on.
 

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brownbear932008

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If you look in the tent pic you will see a herd of bou on the ridgeline that is where we had seen the brusier the evening before. So we ate breakfast after getting out of our warm sleeping bags "Mind you we left 70-75 degree temps back home and now it's 20ish so we are freezing to death". Anyway we ate our breakfast while glassing the herds around us and decided to hit the herd in the tent pic since there was some nice bulls in the herd. Big boy was long gone now and not anywhere in sight. Me and my hunting buddy packed up and began our adventure. While walking we notice a break in the terrian and wondered if we had a river between us. Neither of us could remember one when we landed the evening before. We began walking over the tundra and boy that was an experience I will never forget much harder than the mountians out west in my opinion best way to describe it is walking on a water bed covered with basketballs and swampy. Well the herd was about 1-1 1/2 miles from camp and we soon realized we had flown across a river and the herd was on the other side of coarse and we had no waders only wool pants gaitors and duct tape which really worked out okay. Gotta love duct tape! We soon crossed the river and upon making it to the other side with no major falls in the ice cold water we managed to get a lil wet but not too awlful bad. Soon after crossing the river the ocean fog socked up in on the tundra and we could only see 50 yards if we were lucky so we sit down and came up with a plan since we were blind now and couldn't see the herd in front of us!
 

awapiti

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Awesome write up so far, looking forward to reading about the rest of your hunt.
 

brownbear932008

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That Helio was an awesome plane I think that thing could land about anywhere it looked like it was just stationary in the air almost! Here is a pic of our view from camp every morning when we climbed out of our bags it was beautiful.
 

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brownbear932008

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Okay sorry for the delay but duty called and I am at home sick today but gonna get this done! So here we were socked in by the fog and could only see 50 yards of tundra. We discussed if it would be best to wait out the fog then move into position for a shot on the herd or move with the cover of fog since we had an idea where the herd was located and when the fog cleared we would be in range for the shot already. The wind was in our favor so we decided to move on in with the cover of the fog.
We got to what we thought may be within range of the herd or close enough that we thought we wouldn't have to move much in the open tundra. After sitting for around an hour or so we began to see animals pop out of the fog with our glasses. Still couldn't see them with our naked eye. They were around 300 yds away. About 5 bou finally came into view to where we could judge them better with the spotter we saw two bulls one small one and one good one that we decided we wanted.
My buddy was the first shooter since he had made the trip the year before and got skunked on a walk in hunt off the haul road. He slowly made his way about 50 yds ahead and set up for the shot. The bull was already broadside and gettin a little jumpy after seeing him move in a little closer for the shot. At the shot I heard the round strike home and saw it hit the bull in the shoulder area. The bull went only about twenty yards or so and hit the tundra and was down for the count. The other animals disappeared into the fog bank. So 1 big bull was down! Here is my buddies bull he took it had a perfect rack with nice double shovels and everything a big bodied bull we guessed 400-500 lbs on the hoof. We could barely move it around to work it up.
 

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brownbear932008

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After downing the first bull of the hunt we moved on the second group of bou just around the hill in a small valley. After making the second stalk and moving about a quarter of a mile we were on the second group of caribou that were within 350 yds of our position and we also notice the other herd was just north of us and within shooting distance also. So here we are sitting in the middle of about 100 or so bou trying to decide which one to take. Both herds had bedded down at this point so we were in no hurry we got a good look at all of them. I had narrowed down between two bulls each on opposite sides of the herd. One was really wide with tall tines maybe up to 24 inches. While the other was average on width but had very heavy massive tops with lots of points. There were also probally 6 other shooter bulls between the two herds. This was a great spot to be in to say the least. We talked about taking my pick on the two bulls and then picking two more to down quickly out of the herds but decided it would be to much work to pack since we were a ways from camp across the tundra.
After sitting there for 30 minutes or so I decided to take the bull with the big tops when he stood up. We sit there for some time and the herd seemed to be settling in for the day in thier beds so I decided I would move ahead 50 yds or so to get closer and after 20 yds of mving some of the cows saw me and got up soon most of the herd was up on there feet including my bull. I set up on my badlands pack and took the shot which was around 300 yds. I don't think I have ever had buck fever so bad I was all over the place the bull was feeding straight away for some time and he finally turned broadside and I took the shot with the 7mm stw. I heard the bullet strike home the bull did a few circles and was down for the count. Now we had two bulls down within a quarter mile of each other and lots of work ahead. We took field photos and dressed both bulls and decided we would quarter and pack the animals on day two. Here is some pics of my bull.
 

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brownbear932008

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We arrived back into camp beat after another icy river crossing we would have 12 by the time all the meat and capes were back into camp for good. Only 1 dip in the water and that was me gotta say it's nothing like sitting on your behind in an artic river with snow flying and the water is halfway up your pack and belly! Burrrr gotta love the wool though would have never made it without that stuff. Amazing stuf when wet. Well the next day we quartered and bagged meat all day and moved some bags closer to the river to take it all across at once. And on the morning of day 3 we finally finished getting everything to camp.
Both tired and sore we were having a hard time thinking about taking 2 more animals after what we had been though. We had actually stalked a few groups of bou and passed some nice bulls waiting for a monster to show. Not sure we made the right decision since one herd crossed camp basically the evening of the 1st day.
But as we crossed the river for one last time I saw a white dot on the ridgeline about a mile from camp and thought that looks like a bear. I had no optics since we were packing meat I had unloaded everything basically. Once I made it into camp I pulled out the spotter and sure enough there was a big grizzly on a kill across the valley. He was almost white, while watching him we saw an even bigger grizz in the river bottom that moved up and took over the kill. To watch these animals was unreal, but made both of us nervous since we were 30 miles out from any mankind period. We watched both bears until dark when the big one moved back down into the river valley we were in. I was so tired that night I had plans on staying up and keeping an eye on camp but my buddy said I was snoring in 10 minutes. I gotta admitt I was pretty worried with 300 lbs of meat near camp and grizz poo all over the runway it seemed. Well we woke up when light enough to see and got out of the death trap bags we slept in! LOL I saw the white grizz but not the big one anywhere to be found. The white one had crossed the river and was making its way straight toward our camp and was already about 1000 yards away. The bear kept coming and turned broadside at 300 yds making its way to the airstrip we were camped on! We both were locked and loaded at this point because we didn't know how the bear would act. It continued onto the airstrip and walked downwind. I kept taking pics and got one just as he hit our scent downwind and he took out of there THANK GOD! We watched him run for 2 miles and didn't stop... We decided at that time we should call the transporter and head on out since that was too much excitement for us and we were beat after four days in the field. We tried to get out all day but the weather was very foggy and rain. We finally got back to Happy Valley and out late in the evening. I was the last out of camp and it is unreal the feeling of being in a true wilderness all by yourself. I got to witness a black wolf on the heels of 500 bou trying to catch one while waiting for the plane to come back and get me. To bad he didn't come closer since I had a wolf tag in my pocket. We didn't see another human or even hear a plane while out there not even a jet liner at 30,000 feet. That country is unreal and at the same time so unforgiving. We took major chances crossing the river so many times but looking back I would do it again over and over. LOL This was a dream hunt and will be hard to top I think! Here are some odd and end pics of the trip.:D
 

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brownbear932008

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Yeah that bear was so awesome I have never seen one so light they tend to get that way in the Artic area we were told. I would have loved to have been able to take him home. But that is a guided trip I will never be able to afford not much into the guides anyway. I like the DIY way don't need a guide to pick one out for me and hunt it and all I gotta do is pull the trigger thats not much of a hunt in my book. Maybe someday those crazy a## laws will change but I doubt it.
 

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