Caribou in the Brooks Range

BrentD

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Does anyone here have first-hand experience with caribou hunting in the Brooks Range? My hunting partner and I are kicking it around. We would be interested in a DIY drop camp, not float trip. The Brooks is a high priority for both of us.

Also, does anyone have anything good or bad to say about Arctic Air? They specialize on a herd of caribou to the west of the Brooks from the Delong Mountains to the Kotzebue Sound, which isn't exactly what I'm looking for, but might still be of interest if something better can't be found.

Post your experiences here, or email me at brent@iastate.edu if you prefer.

Thanks.
 

Jonesy125

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I just got back last Sunday from a Brooks range caribou hunt. I don't have the time right now but I'n the morning I can give you an overview of our experience (it was awesome!)
 

BrentD

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Jonesy, take your time. A good story probably needs a whole new thread of its own too. But I definitely am interested in your experiences.

Awesome and Brooks Range seem to go together, though I've never been there - yet.
 

madtom

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That trip is high on my list, too. Hopefully the pieces come together easily.
 

BrentD

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I think it might be a bit difficult to avoid a 450 mile drive from Fairbanks to fly out of somewhere to get into the Brooks. That would add at least 2 days of travel to the trip (and thus 2 fewer days of hunting).
 

Jonesy125

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I don't have the pictures transferred from my camera to my computer yet, still been trying to get unpacked and repacked for our archery season. Once I do I can share some pictures with you. I did this trip with my dad and my uncle, to be honest I never really had a big desire to hunt caribou, but I have a 2.5yr old son and anyone with kids knows how busy life can get and a long time ago I made myself a promise that I would spend time in the Brooks Range with my dad and my uncle at least once. We flew into Bettles AK and used Brooks Range Aviation for our field transport. We showed up in Bettles on Aug. 23rd and were not scheduled to fly into the bush until the 25th (Just how flight logistics worked out) As soon as we got to Bettles we were met by the pilot and he said if you guys can be ready in 3 hours I can get you out today! So off we went, I will leave out the long winded details of the day by day but we were able to put down 3 great bulls and spent 2 days dealing with an absolute pain in the a** grizzly bear that was within 40 yards of us numerous times even after 5 warning shots. We were able to run him off of our meat with the only loss being a ripped cape. We didn't see a lot of caribou maybe 60 total in 6 or 7 days. (95% bulls) 1 wolf that we couldn't put a play on because of the open country, a wolverine and some of the coolest most untouched country I have ever seen. If you are interested I have tons of info as far as prices, logistics, gear lists, ect. I would not hesitate to use Brooks Range Aviation again, they treated us great, had professional pilots and lived up to there great reputation.
 

BrentD

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Jonesy and BHGH11 I will take every shred of information you guys have to offer. You can post it here or email me. I'm all ears.

What was the weather and bugs like Jonesy? I was in the Yukon Delta at about this time 5 yrs ago and it rained every day, with temps in the 50s and yet, no bugs. Strange.

My experience with dealing with grizzlies: 0 I'd like to hear how you kept your meat and camp out of their reach. Some folks I know carry battery operated electric fences for around their tents. I don't know if they are very effective but maybe they sleep better.

Did you bring all of your own gear?
 

dragginwood

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Following as well. Interested to learn more, this is on my bucket list. Hopefully within the next 5 years.
 

Bambistew

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The Delong Mountains are part of the "Brooks Range." I wouldn't write them off... They are just as untouched as anywhere else up there, and short of a few areas the mountains are just as big and "rugged" as the rest of the range. As a matter of fact the area near the far west edge of the Gates of the Arctic NP probably sees fewer than a couple dozen people a year. The eastern Books sees a fair bit more traffic due to being accessible from other locations.

For logistics its pretty hard to beat flying into Kotz on a commercial flight and flying out direct from there. The hunting is better in early September as the 'bou migrate from the north slope toward Kotzebue sound, if you go earlier the flight could be a couple hours north and cost more and they will be scattered. Check out Golden Eagle Outfitters in Kotz. Jared is a good dude.

I go up that way (DeLongs and Willuk mountains) for work occasionally, and always look forward to it.

IMO, the thing about the Brooks hunting is weather can F you, and will... The storms up there can linger longer, and the fog will stick to the ground, and can for days at a time. Its a toss up to go early, and suffer the bugs and potentially fewer animals, but better weather, or go later for more animals, worse weather, and no bugs. I've been stranded for work, more times than I've made it out on time, winter, summer, spring, fall... doesn't matter. The fog sucks.

There used to be a transporter or two that worked out of Deadhorse or nearby that would pick you up at the airport there. Not sure if they still do or not. I saw a guy advertising drop hunts out of a jet boat up the Sag or another river nearby, and will pickup/drop off from Deadhorse, but not sure who it was.

There are a couple transporters that operate out of Fairbanks that fly into the southern Brooks from remote outposts or via 206s.

A few pics from the Delongs.

We saw about 130 sheep (24 rams), 16-18 bears, a couple wolves, 4 wolverines, and a handful of caribou. This was early August, the caribou hadn't showed up yet. 3 weeks later they'd have been all over the place.

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Killed my ram on the far ridge near center of picture. The hike up this stream is still one of the worst hikes I've ever done. 3 miles of tangled willow 10' high, swamps, flowing water, and rocks. The areas along the edges were all tussoks and worse. It took me about 24hrs to make up there and back with a ram, sleeping about 3 hours.
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After sitting in a tent for 3 days of rain (most rain on record for a 3 day event) the fog lifted just enough to expose this rack sitting on the tundra.
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An old broomer and a squeaker wondering where their partner went. I doubt these sheep had ever seen a hunter. They watched me for a couple hours from 2-300 yards, and where still there at 4am the next morning when the sun came up. The hunt area is the size of New Jersey, and they used to give out 10 sheep tags, and about 6-7 people hunted them each year. The back to back hard winters in 2013/2014 resulted in massive winterkill, it will be a few more years before they consider opening it again. I know a couple guys that hunted it before it went to a draw in the 90's. They were probably the only ones hunting it, minus a single outfitter. It is still super wild country.
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A 13yo ram on the ground.
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Checking stream flows in the Wullik Mountains, early June.
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Jonesy125

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Jonesy and BHGH11 I will take every shred of information you guys have to offer. You can post it here or email me. I'm all ears.

What was the weather and bugs like Jonesy? I was in the Yukon Delta at about this time 5 yrs ago and it rained every day, with temps in the 50s and yet, no bugs. Strange.

My experience with dealing with grizzlies: 0 I'd like to hear how you kept your meat and camp out of their reach. Some folks I know carry battery operated electric fences for around their tents. I don't know if they are very effective but maybe they sleep better.

Did you bring all of your own gear?
Bugs were not an issue at all we had a few nice days and a few rainy days with about a 30hr block of hard rain/heavy fog. We did have some bottles of 100% deet and headnets that did not get used. We also had a bear fence but one of us forgot to bring the 2 D batteries for it so it stayed in the hangar at Bettles, it would have been awesome to see how it worked with that bear. We didn't have any bear issues until we had all 3 bulls back to camp we had a meat area about 85yds and within sight of our tent. Scrounged enough wood to build a criss-cross frame to keep all the game bags a few inches off the ground for air circulation and used an 8'x10' tarp over the top with sticks on each end in order to have a tipi like design that allowed air flow and kept the meat dry. We did see this grizzly about noon on day 4 or 5 he was a thousand yards away and 15 min. after we saw him we had our last bull down. Didn't put a lot of thought into it as the wind was blowing directly away from him from the kill site. That evening the rain let up and as I poked my head out from the tipi to go take a leak the bear was about 10 yards off of our meat. I went back in the tent to grab my 44 and the old grumpy guys for some backup we spread out a little and yelled at and advanced toward the bear. We have all had our share of bear encounters and I expected him to bolt. That did not happen he would stare us down or come towards us until we hit about the 35yd range then he would slowly retreat. We attempted to push him off about 3/4 of a mile and when we thought we were making headway we started back for camp, the bastard circled and nearly beat us back to the tent. We kept this up until dark with a couple of shots over his head with the 44's. Needless to say, we didn't sleep all that great that night but we woke up to no meat being scavenged and some big holes dug around our tent. I have no idea why he didn't take the meat while it was dark out. He was still there the next morning and the same game continued, this bear was actually still within 100 yards of us chewing on a skull he had taken while we loading the floatplane to leave. When I get around to it I will post some great pictures I got of him, after the first 30 min or so when it became apparent he wasn't an overly aggressive bear (as we did challenge him pretty hard trying to run him off) it actually just added to the experience. Sometime within the next week, I will start a thread with pics and the story of our hunt. I will also email you all the info I have from planning our trip.
 

BrentD

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I don't know if I would be sleeping with that bear out there. Sounds like he was pretty unintimidated.

I look forward to your emails. I have about a million questions. How you got your gear up there, how you got it back and with the antlers and meat too. We brought back our moose antlers with skulls attached for Euro style mounts. This was a big trick and a fair bit of luck. Did you split your antlers to make them more packable?
 
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