Success in Alaska

Uintah

Junior Member
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
25
So I just got back from my first Alaskan caribou hunt and I have to say, it was everything and more that I hoped and dreamt it would be. We saw and experienced everything from incredible landscapes, moose, caribou, grizzlies, muskox, sun, snow, and even the northern lights during a rare, clear night! We flew out of Kotzebue with Ram Aviation as our transporter. Brian, Ben, Megan, Hunter....The whole crew went way out of their way to ensure we had the trip of a lifetime! I can't say enough about how happy I am with the service we received, Ram is a first class operation all the way!

We were dropped on a gravel bar/beach along the Noatak river in the Noatak National Preserve, a few hundred miles above the Arctic Circle and no one else around for who knows how many miles! Since you can't hunt the same day you fly, we quickly set up camp ate a quick dinner of delicious Mountain House fettuccini alfredo (the first of many) and headed out onto the tundra to glass...

Picture of camp and the view out our front door each morning:
Cloud Sky Tent Tarpaulin Natural environment



Cloud Sky Water Mountain Natural landscape


The first night glassing turned up a few herds of caribou, nothing too close, one herd across the river with some decent looking bulls and another herd of about 30 caribou way off (probably 2 miles +) in the distance moving and feeding along the way. They were so far away it was hard to tell what was a bull or cow, we could only tell they were caribou. Never the less seeing caribou got us excited about the next days prospects. We also glassed up a grizzly not far away feeding on what looked like a previous hunters carcass/gut pile. We were then treated to an amazing Arctic sunset!

Grizzly through the scope and sunset:

Terrestrial animal Grassland Landscape Grass Sheep


Cloud Water Sky Natural landscape Orange
 
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Uintah

Junior Member
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
25
Day 2

After a restless night thinking about the next morning and all the big bulls and herds of caribou we would see we woke up and got ready for the day. Our goal was to head up to the top of the big skyline ridge to the south of camp and glass. I'd learned two things preparing for this hunt... First, that the Tundra is no joke! It is ridiculously difficult and hard to get anywhere quick, many will say it's like walking on bowling balls sitting on top of springs, LoL! That's as accurate as it gets, 2 miles felt more like 10! And, the second is that if you do see a caribou and it's heading away from you don't think for a second that you can ever hope to catch up to it! And, a third thing I learned is that the open tundra is BIG! Distances are much greater in reality than they look. That said, what I thought would be a quick jaunt up to the top of the ridge turned into a full morning and afternoon of hiking. Along the way, we glassed a good sized herd heading our way so we hustled to get into position to make a play if we wanted to, but no dice. We got to the ridge where I wanted to be after they had crossed over and made it to the next ridge. They did give us a good opportunity to glass them though as they moved which was fun. A few hours later a shot rang out and we learned that the first member of our 4 man group had a caribou down. It turns out as we were glassing from the ridge a small group of 3 bulls had walked right to Brad and he had a short stare down at about 50 yards with his bull before pulling the trigger. It wasn't the biggest of the three, but he couldn't pass up a 50 yard shot. Our first of 4 bulls was down!

Brad's bull:

Face Cloud Sky Plant Plant community


After Brad shot his bull we hustled off the ridge and over to where he was at. The other two bulls that were running with his hadn't gone far, they were just down in the next valley feeding one was higher up (closer to us, the other was further away down low) so we headed towards the higher of the two to get a better look. At around 500 yards we stopped to glass and look the bull over. Even at that distance it was clear to see he was a good bull, beautiful white mane, good shovels long bez and points off the top. So I made the decision to shoot and am glad I did!

My bull:

Sky Cloud Plant Trophy hunting Elk



Sky Plant Cloud Hunting Deer hunting



Cloud Sky Plant Trophy hunting Hunting


He was everything I had hoped for and ended up having double shovels as well! I was a happy hunter and not one bit sorry that I shot this guy on the first day. Since I shot him towards the end of the day and a little over 2 miles from camp, we hustled to cape and quarter him and made the decision to come back first thing in the morning with light packs and fresh legs to haul everything back to camp.
 
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Uintah

Junior Member
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
25
Day 3

First thing in the morning we headed back up the hill to where I shot my caribou. Upon leaving the night before we put all the meat and quarters in game backs as well as the head and cape, wrapped them in a tarp and dragged them away from the carcass. However, during the night a grizzly had found the buffet and ate everything! He was kind enough not to eat the antlers, and also left one half eaten backstrap and a shredded front shoulder. Everything else was gone and the carcass buried...

Plant community Ecoregion Grass Plant Terrestrial animal


I was super bummed to have lost everything. It was a pretty dark moment for me. The rest of the day was spent packing Brads and my bulls antlers back to camp and glassing. We didn't turn up anything close or worth chasing for the rest of the day. Back at camp that night for dinner we grilled up some back strap from Brad's bull with potatoes and onions. It was so good! We also cooked some ribs over a small fire!

Dinner:
Food Frying pan Tableware Banana Ingredient



Ash Bonfire Fire Charcoal Wood
 
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Uintah

Junior Member
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
25
Day 4

Day 4 found us up early and glassing again for the remaining 2 tags. We headed up behind camp and started glassing. we immediately found a herd but it was across the river and heading the opposite way, we didn't see much else for a while so headed south along the river to another glassing point. After a bit we spotted a heard high up on a far ridge but heading our direction. As the sunlight lit them up it was easy to see that there were some good bulls in the group. The decision we needed to make was do we head high and cut them off? Or will they head low so should we stay put? We rolled the dice and decided to head high. So off to the top of the skyline ridge we headed. When we got to the top there was nothing to be seen for the first several minutes then a small group of 4 caribou fed over the ridge headed our direction. One was a decent looking bull, along with 2 small bulls and a cow. We also eventually saw 4 more larger bulls on a different ridge but again headed in the wrong direction and farther away than we wanted to go. At this point we decided to head back the direction we'd come from to see if we could get a better look at the 4 we'd seen previously. At about the same time we saw the 4 coming our way we also saw a large herd down low along the river where we'd come from earlier. It was obvious there were some good bulls in the group so we decided to pass on the small group and head down low to the bigger group. Fortunately the wind was in our favor so we circled around and came in downwind from where the herd was. We ended up crouching and crawling to the top of the small ridge where we could look right down onto the herd as it was feeding 100 yards away. There were a handful of large bulls in the group and so Jason and Stu both made the decision to shoot. Both bulls dropped after one shot only 30 yards apart! Our group was now 4 for 4!

Sky Cloud Trophy hunting Elk Plant


Sky Trophy hunting Cloud Hunting Deer hunting


We spent the rest of the day carrying heavy loads of caribou meat back to camp. It was exhausting and brutal but worth it! That night the weather took a turn and it started raining heavily as the temperature dropped.
 
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Uintah

Junior Member
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
25
Day 5

After breakfast we headed back out to get the antlers from the last 2 bulls. During the night the rain had turned to snow and we awoke to a truly Arctic sight....Snow on the tundra!

Plant Sky Snow People in nature Backpack


Once everything was back in camp we spent time caping and skinning the heads and taking more pictures as a group. It was a nice day to spend busy in camp as it would have been miserable to be out glassing in the wind and snow!

Sky Cloud Cargo pants Military camouflage Marines


Later that night around the storm broke and the sky cleared providing our first truly clear night sky. Around 10:30 when the sun finally disappeared below the horizon the northern lights began and did not disappoint. They were spectacular!

Sky Atmosphere Cloud Aurora Natural landscape


The following day, day 6 the weather was nice where we were but not in Kotzebue and so we spent an extra day in camp waiting for the weather to clear up so that we could be flown out. As is the case while we waited to be picked up and flown out we watched and photographed and filmed some big herds of caribou as they passed right in front of our camp just across the river.

Sky Plant Vehicle Natural landscape Agriculture


Deer Fawn Grassland Natural landscape Plain


Later on, during the morning of day 7, our plane arrived and we were flown out. As mentioned at the beginning, this hunt was everything I hoped and dreamt it would be and then some! Alaska is a magical place and it gets in the blood. Hopefully this isn't the only or the last time that I get up there to hunt!

Finally, a huge thanks and shout out to all of you on this forum who posted about your experiences both good and bad. The information found here was truly priceless in helping with both my preparation for and execution of this hunt!
 

ddavis_1313

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2012
Messages
595
Man that’s awesome! My wife and I are flying with ram aviation next year sep 9-15


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Dexter Grayson

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2017
Messages
569
Location
Kenai, Alaska
Sounds like a great trip! Pics are fantastic! Having hiked plenty of meat in grizz country at night, I have zero sympathy for you for losing everything. You served them dinner on a silver platter.
 

Team4LongGun

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
610
Thanks for sharing-sounds like a great hunt. Curious as to why you left all of your meat in game bags near kill site? Even backstraps? I would think even at last light, you could get one load of meat back to camp.
 

FLATHEAD

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2021
Messages
486
Great story and photos. Gotta do this hunt with my son before I get too old.
Maybe a Moose? I dunno.

Sounds like an epic adventure. Dont let the meat packing Natzis poo poo your hunt.!!!
You do the best you can. They werent there.
And "Back at camp" is still "in the field" until the plane grabs it.
 
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chucko

Junior Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2016
Messages
21
Location
juneau ak
Well congratulation but I hoped you learned a valuable lesson always carry your caribou back to camp, you can pack in the dark I have never left a scrap of meat in a spot that I cannot protect it , I leave everything on the bone including neck and backbone split 2 ways it is about 75lbs apiece . My partner and I are lifelong Alaskan residents and are both approaching 60 I have been doing this a long time it just bums me out everytime I here the story about leaving a animal in the field . I got a buddy who solo killed a 60 in bull moose and leap frogged the whole thing back to camp it you cannot get it back don't shoot .
 
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