2020 Caribou DIY trip

NUGGET

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
197
Drive. Stop. Glass. Drive. Stop. Glass. Repeat until you shoot one.

The meat starts tasting like mountain goat the closer one gets to October.
 

AKBorn

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
239
Location
Maryland
I drew one of the non-resident DC475 tags...stoked. TBD if I'll be able to actually make the hunt, but if I did it would likely be the last 4-5 days of the season, Sept. 15th-20th or so. I grew up in AK, but haven't been anywhere along the Denali Highway, at least not in the past 25-30 years. I've read a good amount about the area and the hunt that residents typically do, and my dad has hunted the Tangle Lakes area a couple of times in the past few years, with some success. Being out of state, I won't have a chance to do any scouting (other than tons of e-scouting), and I know that the caribou can be wherever they happen to feel like, depending on the weather, etc.

My question is this - at that time of the season, if you had just a couple of days to hunt, what areas along the Denali Highway would you prioritize? And would you just road camp and day hike in a couple of miles every day, or hike in 5+ miles and set up a backcountry base camp? I'm thinking of focusing on the CUA area (not afraid to hike a bit with a pack, even in tundra), but that doesn't narrow things down all that much.

Finally, how concerned should I be at that time of the season about the rut affecting the quality of the meat of a bull? I'm mainly interested in the meat.
I really hope you get a chance to hunt this tag - never sure how long tags like this will be around for non-residents, and in my opinion the Denali Highway is some of the most beautiful and scenic country in Alaska (and that's saying a lot).

I grew up hunting that area in the 60s and 70s, no idea where the better spots are these days. We used to camp at the trail to Osar Lake (sits above the McClaren River at about the 36-mile marker) if we came in from the Paxson side, or at Brushkana Creek (about Mile 115 I think) if we came in from the Cantwell side.

Back in the 60s, if we drove down the trail toward Osar Lake, we could usually camp for a week or two and only see 1-2 other hunters....those were great days to hunt in Alaska!
 

Arctic_Beaver

Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2017
Messages
69
Location
Anchorage, AK
I drew one of the non-resident DC475 tags...stoked. TBD if I'll be able to actually make the hunt, but if I did it would likely be the last 4-5 days of the season, Sept. 15th-20th or so. I grew up in AK, but haven't been anywhere along the Denali Highway, at least not in the past 25-30 years. I've read a good amount about the area and the hunt that residents typically do, and my dad has hunted the Tangle Lakes area a couple of times in the past few years, with some success. Being out of state, I won't have a chance to do any scouting (other than tons of e-scouting), and I know that the caribou can be wherever they happen to feel like, depending on the weather, etc.

My question is this - at that time of the season, if you had just a couple of days to hunt, what areas along the Denali Highway would you prioritize? And would you just road camp and day hike in a couple of miles every day, or hike in 5+ miles and set up a backcountry base camp? I'm thinking of focusing on the CUA area (not afraid to hike a bit with a pack, even in tundra), but that doesn't narrow things down all that much.

Finally, how concerned should I be at that time of the season about the rut affecting the quality of the meat of a bull? I'm mainly interested in the meat.
I would absolutely focus primarily on the CCUA if I were you. Outside of this non-motorized area, nearly every pullout and trailhead is going to have a truck/camper with ATV's zipping around along the Denali Hwy. You can eliminate that competition pretty easily off the bat by sticking with the CCUA. My other bit advice would be to hike-in to an area that offers a good vantage point and then glass from there. You can PM me for more info if you'd like.
 

wchinook

Newbie
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
2
Location
California
I would absolutely focus primarily on the CCUA if I were you. Outside of this non-motorized area, nearly every pullout and trailhead is going to have a truck/camper with ATV's zipping around along the Denali Hwy. You can eliminate that competition pretty easily off the bat by sticking with the CCUA. My other bit advice would be to hike-in to an area that offers a good vantage point and then glass from there. You can PM me for more info if you'd like.

Thanks for the suggestion Arctic Beaver. I don't have PM capacity on Rokslide yet, but I'll follow-up later when I do (I just joined in order to start getting info for this hunt...) Your logic for the CCU is what I'm thinking, although I've also read that the crowds very much thin out after labor day - do you think by mid-September there would still be that much motor vehicle activity in other areas? I haven't been able to get a sense of how many people are out there at that time going for moose as well. I think the good thing about this hunt is that it is pretty feasible to be flexible - if there are a lot of others in the pull outs, then we'd definitely stick to the CCU, if there don't seem to be too many people around, then we can drive a bit and check out some other areas. My other consideration is that by mid-September a lot of the caribou may already be further east than the CCU, so I'm not sure if there would still be as good of a chance encountering them there or not, but it does seem like they could be around.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2017
Messages
73
Location
Gakona Alaska
Nugget:

Hunting the Denali Hwy. does not have to be as you described. Many true hunters actually get out of their trucks and hunt. That entire area is full of great hunting if you actually remember hunting includes tossing a pack on your back and hiking in a bit. It sickens me to watch what you described as hunting. When we moved down from Kotzebue to Gakona I took my son on his first hunt 13 hunt and watched the clown show on the Denali Hwy. and told my son "We will NEVER hunt like this." We then proceeded to spend most of that day getting into our hunting spot, took about 5 hours and proceeded to take 3 nice bulls over the next 4 days. When we worked our way back to the road guys were rushing up asking "Where do you get those bulls?"...It's easy..."If you want the goods you have to pay the price"!

Remember that you don't have to follow the "Clown Show" along the Hwy. heck you could actually hunt and get away from the crowd.

Walt
 

NUGGET

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
197
Nugget:

Hunting the Denali Hwy. does not have to be as you described. Many true hunters actually get out of their trucks and hunt. That entire area is full of great hunting if you actually remember hunting includes tossing a pack on your back and hiking in a bit. It sickens me to watch what you described as hunting. When we moved down from Kotzebue to Gakona I took my son on his first hunt 13 hunt and watched the clown show on the Denali Hwy. and told my son "We will NEVER hunt like this." We then proceeded to spend most of that day getting into our hunting spot, took about 5 hours and proceeded to take 3 nice bulls over the next 4 days. When we worked our way back to the road guys were rushing up asking "Where do you get those bulls?"...It's easy..."If you want the goods you have to pay the price"!

Remember that you don't have to follow the "Clown Show" along the Hwy. heck you could actually hunt and get away from the crowd.

Walt
Hey Walt you can glass for miles from the truck. Then put the stalk on. Sorry to burst your bubble but even the guys driving around are hunters. “True” hunters? What a joke. You want the guy to just start hiking blind without seeing a bou? Riiight. I’m just proud you finally made a post that didn’t include you pimping your outdated hunt planning service.

If you want to see people go to the CCUA. Fact. You’ll see more people there than most other areas you walk into.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2017
Messages
73
Location
Gakona Alaska
Hey Walt you can glass for miles from the truck. Then put the stalk on. Sorry to burst your bubble but even the guys driving around are hunters. “True” hunters? What a joke. You want the guy to just start hiking blind without seeing a bou? Riiight. I’m just proud you finally made a post that didn’t include you pimping your outdated hunt planning service.

If you want to see people go to the CCUA. Fact. You’ll see more people there than most other areas you walk into.
Have we ever met? I am trying to think of how I have pissed you off? If you like the idea of sitting in your Motorhome with a spotting scope attached to the window looking for that caribou well more power to ya but for me t ain't hunting sitting in your RV my man! Good luck and remember I am the guy coming with those racks strapped on my back, I will save one for ya.. And by the way guys like me never miss a chance to help a fellow hunter regardless if he is paying for it or just need advise...... Love ya man
 

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NUGGET

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
197
That’s a cute little bull there Walt. I hope you didn’t fly in for that one. We get bigger ones along the Denali highway.

I have no problem with you except you are trying to say your way of hunting is the “right” way. And you make great assumptions against people you respond to. You know nothing about me and never will.

Furthermore a great hunter knows how to efficiently hunt an area and what tactics to use. Im not going to get into all these with you because some guys don’t get it. Pretty sure you’re one of them.

My advice to the guy asking about unit 13 is his best chance at getting a bou. He probably doesn’t have connections to a moose buggy or a SxS. Disclaimer (those are NOT hunters -according to Walt). By driving the road he can get some killer glassing spots and see some bou and put the stalk on. Most likely get one 1 to 3 miles from the road. When you have to keep the meat on the bone this is a doable range. I NEVER said to drive the road and hope to shoot one from the road.

There is a lot more satisfaction in a hunt in unit 13 than flying up to kotz where you 100% are dependent on a pilot for your success. The country you’re most likely bou hunt out of kotz is butt ugly compared to unit 13. And the best part of unit 13 is you have a real chance of a trophy bou. Most the ones from Kotz are a big pile of “meh”. Kotz bou are caribou hunting participantion trophies for the most part. If you want a big bou AK range bou are where it’s at.

To the non resident who has this tag I hope you find the time to hunt it. You will not be sorry. Most likely you will never get the shot to hunt it again. It’s worth it. Don’t listen to Walt. I’ve hunted this tag a lot over the years. I’ve never seen anyone once I stepped one foot off the road. I don’t own an ATV etc. it’s all been done with a backpack. Once you get your airline ticket send me a PM and I’ll give you all the details.
 

Arctic_Beaver

Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2017
Messages
69
Location
Anchorage, AK
Thanks for the suggestion Arctic Beaver. I don't have PM capacity on Rokslide yet, but I'll follow-up later when I do (I just joined in order to start getting info for this hunt...) Your logic for the CCU is what I'm thinking, although I've also read that the crowds very much thin out after labor day - do you think by mid-September there would still be that much motor vehicle activity in other areas? I haven't been able to get a sense of how many people are out there at that time going for moose as well. I think the good thing about this hunt is that it is pretty feasible to be flexible - if there are a lot of others in the pull outs, then we'd definitely stick to the CCU, if there don't seem to be too many people around, then we can drive a bit and check out some other areas. My other consideration is that by mid-September a lot of the caribou may already be further east than the CCU, so I'm not sure if there would still be as good of a chance encountering them there or not, but it does seem like they could be around.
I have typically hunted Labor Day weekend in the CCUA. While driving to the area I start hiking from, some of those gravel parking lots and trailheads look like NASCAR pit stops. If I had to guess, I would say there will still be people zipping around on those trails mid-Sep, but Labor Day is probably the busiest weekend. There should still be plenty of caribou in the CCUA in mid-Sep though still.

I disagree with some of the other posts on this thread about seeing lots of folks though hunting the CCUA. I posted my own thread about my hunt last year on the Caribou forum here. We saw two parties once I left the truck and neither were hunting caribou and they stayed close to the highway. So it's still possible to find your own space to hunt if you hike in, it's a large area. I know there are a few more common areas in the CCUA folks either bike or hike into, if you PM me later I can share that. My preference to hunt this area is to still hike in to areas that offer a good vantage where you can glass from (even without spotting or glassing any from the highway), or terrain that might influence their movement. To each their own though...
 

NUGGET

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 7, 2019
Messages
197
CCUA is obvious and gets a lot of people in there. Bikes, horses, pack rafters hikers. It gets it all. If you time it right you may not see people. The probability is you’re going to see someone. Hell even in Arcticbeavers post he saw some non hunters. Even with that said you’re not going to see enough people to really affect your hunt. Lots of country. Beautiful country. I’m not saying the CCUA is a bad choice, but it’s not even top 5. I’ve never seen a person while bou hunting in 13 once I’ve stepped off the highway. Doesn’t get better than that. Is it fall yet?
 

Chiro22

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2018
Messages
104
Location
California
Such great info. Thank you so much. Finally found a buddy who’s willing to commit to the time and cost and energy expenditure for a caribou hunt. Definitely going to be utilizing the form for as much research as possible. We are planning for at least 2021 if not 2022. Such great info. Thank you so much. Finally found a buddy who is willing to commit to the time and cost and energy expenditure for a caribou hunt. Definitely going to be utilizing the form for as much research as possible. We are planning for at least 2021 if not 2022. If anyone does have any information on outfitters to contact, Given the vastness of Alaska we might want to have a local guide with us., feel free to DM me. Thank you so much.
 
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