AK moose/caribou float hunt 2015

phish938

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Messages
21
Sorry if this post is not in the appropriate area, but it was started as a moose hunt although we were only able to harvest some real nice caribou. This is going to be a long post so I do apologize about that. I will provide a real quick summary of the hunt, review of the Levitator, as well as the consultation service, and a little bit about my background so you can decide if you even want to listen to my opinion.

We floated a river in Alaska for 10 days. We started planning the trip 2 years ago and launched the beginning/middle of this September. There were 2 other individuals that were on the trip. We did use Mike Strahan as our consultation service. We are from central Montana. Myself and the other younger gentlemen are both in our early/mid-thirties and the other gentlemen is 50. We all are avid hunters, but myself and the younger gentlemen are more back country type hunters that enjoy working for our game and almost consider our season a “failure” if we “have” to use our rifles to notch our tags. We used Wright Air service and dealt with Ken most of the time. From my understanding they are a little bit more expensive but they provided AMAZING service. I would not blink an eye to use their service again even knowing that it is a little bit more expensive. I would highly recommend their charter service to anyone that is thinking about hunting their area, but realize because of their reputation they often book out 24 months ahead. We decided that we would drive with a trailer and hauled a couple chest freezers up. We were able to plug into the hotel outlets so they were nice and cold when we got back. Didn’t even have to use the generator on the trip back because the cooler stayed a perfect temp the entire 48hr drive. The weather was marginal at best for that time of the year but we were able to launch and get back out when we had planned. There was another group that was dropped at the same location at the exact same time that we were (I will give details later) which did bum us out a little, but quite honestly I do not think that it affected our hunt what so ever. We did see one legal bull for sure as well as a couple that we called into camp and were able to glass a few up as well. Circumstances never really panned out. We were able to harvest 6 caribou. The following is the gear list
Rafts: 16ft levitator, 14ft AIRE
Shelters: 6 man seek outside teepee, and 4 man nemo teepee for our gear.
Stoves: Seek outside box stove in the “Seek” and the nemo had a Wifi stove.
Weapons: Bowtech destroyer, bear, and I believe a Matthews. Tika t3 UL 300win mag, 300 RUM sendaro, and another 300RUM. I was shooting nosler patrician 180gr factory loads. I am working on a load using accubonds but didn’t have it quite dialed yet. I believe that both the other guys were rolling with Nosler of some sort for their ammo.
Camo: sitka, kuiu, ASAT, Krypteck all made appearances. Basically synthetic and merino all around. I don’t know if we had a stich of cotton.
Packs: MR crew cab, MR Metcalf, and Kifarus new set up.
Boots: Kennetrecks, danner, hawnwag
Waders: Simms, simms, and Patagonia

So now for the reviews. All of the above mentioned gear worked great. We have beat the hell out of all the gear prior minus the seek outside shelter. We were really pleased with it though with no issues other than a few tears on the sod skirt which were no big deal.

First I will cover the Levitator. To give you a little back ground I am simply a river rat. I have rowed every single major raft company that you can think of and have been down rivers in anything from 10ft bucket boat to a 16ft self-bailer. I have also had a immense amount of time in drift boats as well because I have spent some time guiding fly fishermen. I have personally only owned Aire boats, because I really appreciate their durability. I was thinking about possibly taking my 14ft lion Cataraft initially but after really looking at the weight of the set up and how it was going to tough getting it packed small enough for the plane. I decided on going with the Levitator. These rafts are designed by Larry Barlett. If you are reading this I most likely don’t have to let you know who he is. But he is the owner/operator of Pristine Adventure in Fairbanks. He designed this raft with AK float hunting in mind. He was absolutely amazing to work with and i really can’t say enough about the customer service….I felt more like I was buying a raft from a buddy.

When I got the boat I was a little taken back when I inflated it. It is a very narrow boat for the overall total length and gunnel diameter. It appears to be much longer because of how narrow it is. I was pretty impressed with the over all build of the boat. Although it is absolutely his design he does out source the manufacturing to Maxxon I believe. HE used to use Soar, but I think it has changed. I have rowed a number of Maxxon boats in the past. I have also seen what a Maxxon boat looks like after a few years of being rented out to “splashes” and I will say with the amount of abuse those rentals take those boats held up very well. The boat has very little rocker (rise on the bow/stern of the boat) to increase the total surface area touching the water. This is important because it increase the total payload. It looks like the first models had NO rocker, but reading reviews it seems like he may have added just a little because of complaints of getting water in the boat. To me even before rowing this boat seemed like a BS complaint because a guy can simply cover his loads with a tarp. But given the size of the gunnel unless you are in some pretty splashy water I don’t even think a guy would need a tarp. Now that he has some rocker I didn’t even use a tarp, except to cover from rain. The bottom line is even if a boat has big rocker angle if you get side ways in a rapid the water is still going to come over the sides without rocker. So basically to me this means if you are floating on a river that is splashy you are going to have to tarp your meat anyway because pf side splash.

Larry developed a “oar saddle” system that again is so off the norm that I did have questions. Getting rid of the frame you are able to cut back on a huge amount of space and wt in those plans, but I was nervous about how stable they would be. I will say that I was VERY surprised/impressed with how rigid they held even with a deep oar stroke. You do have to make sure that your boat is properly inflated (which you should anyway) but if your boat is topped off you are good to go. I will add that I do not feel that this is a white water set up. I’m not talking class 3 stuff I am talking big class 4’s. Although the chance of failure is very little, with strap attachment points, and all the pieces to the oar saddle, there are simply too many variables that could possible fail in those really dicey situation. But lets be honest, anyone that is taking on these classes of rivers are most likely not hunting, nor are they being flown in bush plans. I will get a frame for these types of use. I did have to cant the oar saddle to the sides to off set some of the oar wt. This is hard to explain, but when you have a real narrow boat you inherently will also have a narrow width between your oar locks. This ends up with the oarsmen having to support a ton of the wt. He improves this by using counter balanced oars. I canted the saddle off to the side and this improved the wt vastly. Canting the locks over also allowed me to be able to stand when rowing and this really helped my vantage point. So really having to cant the saddles ended up being a big benefit because I would stand while oaring. The drop stich floor was amazing to walk on because it can take a relatively high PSI. Make sure that you are really good about not letting sticks and sharp rocks fall under the floor though because this is the biggest draw backs to drop stich flooring. I was able to haul all 6 caribou as well as a 50lb box. Im not 100% but I am guessing I was rolling with about 1000-1300 lbs. The boat honestly drafted in maybe 2 inches of water. I was absolutely baffled at how well this boat handled the wt. There is a stated 3000lb capacity which may be a little aggressive, but I am certain that I could have easily had another 1000lbs on that boat with no big issue. That’s 2000lbs folks. That is crazy talk in the rafting community. Sure all boats can hold that but how deep is their daft line going to be and thus making it a dog to oar. I am not saying that she wasn’t a little sluggish in regards to movement but in comparison to my 14ft lion it dealt with the weight just fine. I could keep going on this raft and if you have any questions hit me up on PM. Long story short for getting boats into a bush plane, and being able to load the heck out of them I do not think that I have rowed a better boat.

Now to review Mr. Strahan’s service. Over all the bottom line is that the knowledge that he provided us allowed us to have an epic 10 day hunt and notch 6 caribou tags. It was obvious that this man has had extensive time chasing moose around, and his knowledge base on hunting and meat care is really impressive. But honestly I was pretty upset with his service. We had several calls discussing gear, hunting methods, and going over a few maps. On each of the conversations he would have us confused with another group that he had, and we would have to remind him who we were. Not a huge deal, but evidence of what was to come. It was pretty obvious that he isn’t the most organized guy. When we were going over maps which although he did add a ton of information to them they were basically contour maps that I am assuming you can purchase at the forest service dept. We were under the assumption that we were getting maps that were special and that are tough to get a hold of. This confusion could have simply been our mistake. About a month or so before we were going to leave it was noted that he had put another group on the same river that we were going to be on SAME DATE. He informed us that this would not be an issues because “they are going way higher in the system” Again I am no expert but I have looked at a lot of maps and obviously scoured satellite imagery the minute we knew what river we were floating. To me it looked like were Wright was going to put us was the very top and I did mention this to him, but he informed us, that they were going to be dropped higher in the system. Again to me it didn’t even look like a possibility but figured he was the expert. Again I did call him on it and basically gave us some line about how he didn’t know the exact coordinates to the strips because the piolets were so tight lipped with them. Which could be true, but basically within about 5min conversation with Wright we were able to figure out that we were in fact being placed at the top of the system. So to me if you are going to be a AK river guy and get groups on these rivers that have no knowledge of them he should be able to have at least a general idea of where the hell the strips are and what charters use what strips. And this is going to be nasty statement but it is simply truth…after about a 2mins speaking with Larry about this river he was able to tell us the name and basic location of the strips that we would be using!!! And from my understanding he hasn’t even been putting people on these rivers for about 5 years. To even strengthen my opinion about this situation is that all of the piolets had RAVE reviews about not only Larry but his groups as well. I can not say the same for Mr Strhan. Let me be straight forward. This was not any of the piolets or other people involved with Wright were meaning to bad mouth Strahan at all. I prompted these conversations because I wanted to know if they had the same feelings of him that I was developing. I also wanted to see what they thought about Larry because we wanted to know who we were going to go through next time we did an AK hunt.

So yes when we landed I landed on the river another group landed on top of us…..and yes this was Mr. Strahan’s group. So basically to recap we paid this gentlemen to get us on a remote river in AK, and he placed another group right on top of us on basically the exact same hunt. Honestly like l said before I am not asking for a refund or can say that the money that we gave him was wasted, because it was a amazing trip and we did cut some tags. After OUR EXPERIENCE with both Strahan, limited contact with Larry, and the locals opinions on Strahan’s service I would not suggest using him. In regards to our next trip in 2018, lets just say that we are already speaking with Larry;) Again I know this sounds harsh but these are just the facts. If I have any suggestions to others that are starting their planning to pick the guy that is going to “fit” your group. This is MY OPINION but I think you might be a little more happy with Strahan if you are a part time hunter, that likes to bring the kitchen sink, and “just want to have a fun FLOAT.” Now if you are a group that doesn’t mind getting their ass kicked for ten days to increase their odds at a HUNT of a life time I am GUESSING Larry might be better fit. With that being said I still think that the 1500 our group paid Strahan was PROBABLY worth the cost.
So there it is sorry it was so long. Please PM me or ask any questions. I really wish I could have “spoken” to myself 2 years ago when we started planning on this.
 

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phish938

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Messages
21
Shoot i just realized i made error. I said " But the same can not be said about Mr. Bartlett" I meant to say "but the same can not be said about Mr. Strahan." Sorry i just got the names messed up.
 

Ray

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
1,097
Location
Alaska
You can go back and edit that section of your post. You can also insert some line returns to make it more readable with multiple paragraphs.

I would guess you are not going to post this over on the AOD "supersite"? ;)

This sounds like a trip that was hinted at in a post over there a while back. Larry not putting people into old over hunted areas and Mike still dumping groups into moose waste lands.
 

JPD350

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
765
Location
Abq NM
Glad you at least had a good hunt and I am sure we all appreciate your candor! LOL except for maybe one person but he isn't on this forum! There sure doesn't seem like many people talking about their hunts this year, thanks for posting about your hunt would like to hear about your caribou kills, rifle or bow?

A buddy and I are set to get our ass'es kicked come next September using Larry's service and his Legend boats, to say we are looking forward to it would be a huge understatement!!
 
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phish938

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Messages
21
Jdp350. I'm going to do a separate post in the caribou section about the actual hunting aspect;)
 

live2huntelk

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jul 17, 2013
Messages
414
Location
Ohio
Thanks for posting your experience! As JPD350 mentioned, your candor is appreciated. Your experience validates personal research that I have been doing on a DIY float hunt in AK for moose. Sent you a PM. Thanks for sharing and saving others from learning the hard way.
 

E Butler

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 12, 2015
Messages
198
My buddy and I did a float hunt with Larry in 2019 and it was literally a dream hunt. There is not a day that goes by I don’t think about the experience of that hunt.
 

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