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Normal Topic DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft....... (Read 3043 times)
UstaBZee
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DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Aug 16th, 2017 at 9:07am
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The item at the top of my bucket list was 'hunt above the arctic circle for caribou'....My friend Ken that lives in Palmer Alaska had what sounded like a good idea.  We would drive 775 miles north of his house, traveling the Dalton Highway along the Alaskan pipe line to a place called the Ice Cut, where we could launch our raft into the Sagavanirktok river... (locally known as the Sag).  We would float down the Sag to the mouth of the Lupine river and then pull the raft up the Lupine for 2-3 miles to reach the boundary of the rifle hunting zone where we planned to hunt...An ambitious plan for a couple of geezers that are both nearly 70.....

By mid afternoon the second day we had topped Atigun Pass in the Brooks range and continued north on the Dalton Highway...



That Evening we camped at the ice cut....plan was for Ken to drive the pickup about 12 miles north to happy valley airstrip and then hitchhike back...


Ken ended up walking almost the whole way back before getting a ride....by 1PM we were launched and on our way down the Sag...



The river was up due to recent rains so we made the trip to the Lupine pretty quickly....  We stopped and got organized for the drag up the river... I realized at that time, it probably was not going to be very easy!



The last half mile before the Lupine dumped into the Sag was a series of boulder patches with shallow water.  We began to work upstream trying to figure out what was going to be the easiest way to do things... We slogged, pulled, pushed and wallowed our way upriver for about 6 hours that afternoon and evening.   Eventually, it was decided that since neither one of us had legs that would work anymore we would stop and make camp for the nite...a quick check of the GPS and OnX maps showed we were not yet a 1/3 of the way up the river to the boundary.....

Reality set in, we had miles more of this ahead of us....


We set up the tent, and crashed...after some hurried mountain house grub....neither of us had trouble sleeping...bears or not. On the bright side we had a couple days until the season opened, we hoped to fish and scout if we had time....

The next morning we got packed up and began the rest of the grind up the river...we learned a few tricks that helped us cover a bit more ground and some of the river had gravel instead of boulders in places and that helped our progress...I managed to stay out of the river all day...not so lucky the previous day.  Ken managed to loose his footing and fall in 3 times...but never got seriously wet... After we had been going about 9 hours and were both pretty tired we checked the GPS again and found that we were close...another big push for 30 minutes put us well across the boundary and we found a good place to camp.



Got set up....with the whole camp behind a bear fence.  Not sure how good it would work, but at 6000volts I suspect it would be some deterrent for a nosy bear if we kept the food smells minimal.
Beside that we were armed with pistols and rifles...  We checked the GPS and found that we had actually pulled the raft up the river 4.75miles...No wonder my legs were tired....

We had time to glass for caribou and do some fishing...the Lupine was full of grayling that were willing to bite.  We didn't keep any as we didn't want any fish frying smells around ......









The tundra is raw and beautiful all at the same time...I was struck by the enormity of it and how its mood changed with the weather multiple times each day...it is very hard to explain  to someone and it really doesn't fit very well in a camera.

We had time to glass from camp and saw caribou and muskox.  We watched one bull caribou for almost 7 hours right from camp the day before the season opened...

Opening day, I opted to hunt the bull we saw from camp, Ken made a loop into another area..   I got up on a bluff and began glassing.  About 10am that bull showed up about 1/2 mile away between me and camp...and I watched as he walked within 40yds of our camp and then trotted  down to our fishing hole where he swam across the river....  A short time later 28 head came over the  hill running about 300yds away from me...there was a giant bull in the herd but they never stopped, they ran for probably 3 miles before they stopped and began feeding again...  by the end of the day I had seen close to 50 caribou with no chance to shoot.  Ken had see quite a few as well, but not one bull to be found.

Second day I took a stand in the area where all the caribou had crossed the previous day....I saw caribou all miles away.  None came to my crossing.  Ken found caribou, but no bulls...

Third day, I saw 2 caribou some miles away...Ken never saw one...

Fourth day I never saw a caribou...at noon I did a radio check...Ken had not seen one caribou....didn't look good.  At 12:30 he called me on the radio and said he had shot a small bull.  He said he was going to bone it out and bag it and would get it out the next day.  About 2:30 he called and asked me to bring the sled and meet him at the hill.  I took the sled and the pack frame and met him.  He had the backstraps, tenderloins, neck meat and rib meat in a bag.   I took the meat, his pack and rifle and loaded the pack frame.  He took my pistol and the sled and went back for the rest of the meat.  By 7pm he was in camp with all the meat.  When he showed up I had a fire going and the tenderloins sliced up... I am not sure if I have ever had a better meal than caribou tenderloin on a stick over a willow fire!!









The rain had finally quit for a day and the river was rising.  We only planned to hunt for 5 days.  It was warm and we had meat to deal with so the decision was made to clear out early on the 5th day to take advantage of the good weather and extra water in the river for the trip thru the rocks on the way out of the Lupine....





We loaded the raft and found room to pack the meat!  We launched and made our way down the Lupine.  The river was fast, and there were a lot of rocks to avoid...several time we had issues and had to get out and maneuver the raft into floatable water...but soon we were on the Sag again!  6 more miles and we were at Happy Valley and the truck.  The river was up and we had trouble getting out of the river, it was an adventure to the end...

I didn't kill a caribou....but that was not a requirement for this trip...it was all about the adventure, and 2 old guys doing what they love to do!

Z
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #1 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 9:37am
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my man,,a great adventure
  

It is much better to Hit the Animal in the right place, with a Rifle you can shoot well, then to hit it poorly with a Large Calibre..John Nosler
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #2 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 9:48am
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You're living the dream, Bob. That's on my to-do list
  

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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #3 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 10:06am
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thanks guys!  Not sure I was ever on a more intense/exciting trip!  Sure glad we did it, really wasn't sure if I would survive to push up the river but we did ok.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #4 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 12:23pm
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pretty epic trip there, well done guys  Cool
  

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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #5 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 1:04pm
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Amazing Boys, hope im still out doing all that at 70.

Ive been watching "Life below Zero".  a Great series about a bunch of Alaskans.  Looks like a great place.  Smiley
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #6 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 1:53pm
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Outstanding effort, scenery and write-up.

Thanks for posting that.
  

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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #7 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 2:26pm
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That would have been a great trip, thanks for sharing it with us.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #8 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 6:48pm
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wow, thanks for posting.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #9 - Aug 16th, 2017 at 9:11pm
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Awesome trip and effort to get there.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #10 - Aug 17th, 2017 at 7:14am
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Epic trip. Cool write up and pics. Thanks for sharing.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #11 - Aug 18th, 2017 at 12:24pm
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What an absolutely great trip and  report, many thanks for sharing it.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #12 - Aug 19th, 2017 at 9:00am
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great trip and report fellas. wouldn't wanna get up in the night for a piss and forget about the electric fence though !!!! Cool
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #13 - Aug 20th, 2017 at 8:15am
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Wow, thats a real adventure. Thanks for sharing.
  
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Re: DIY Caribou on Alaska's North Slope...or Two Old Guys and a raft.......
Reply #14 - Aug 20th, 2017 at 10:49am
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Epic   Cool

Cheers
  

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