Arriving in Kotzebue, Alaska we were met right away by the outfitters crew and they did a great job getting us loaded up and transported to the staging area where we were able to repack and organize for the flight into the field. A slight weather delay for a few hours and we were on our way. The flight in was 1 hour 45 min in a Beaver on floats. The views were spectacular with a few grizzly bears, and two moose spotted along with a lot of caribou.
We dropped off two other hunters and their gear before being flown across the lake and dropped on the other side (I’d say 5-6 miles away in a straight line). The pilot Mike explained that the caribou generally migrate out of two mountain passes and split around the lake. This was generally true but we had some random warm weather days and saw caribou moving in all directions. Communication was great, Mike can be a bit rough around the edges, but he’s also a bush pilot!
I tagged out on the first morning.
I had quickly put some clothes on to go outside to go to the bathroom. I unzipped the tent and looked across the river behind us (we had to cross this river every time we went hunting). There were two bull caribou grazing only 150 yards from camp. I rushed Danielle out of her sleeping bag, but she ultimately decided to pass up on the opportunity. I grabbed my rifle and the rest is history.
Some warm weather set in the next day and the caribou numbers seemed to have dropped. We saw a few off in the distance but none close by camp. If you have never walked in the tundra, it’s extremely difficult to cover distance in and you’re certainly not going to do it in a timely manner. These animals however cover an amazing distance in little time. Three days after I tagged out, we saw a nice bull pretty far from camp and decided to hike out that way. I bet we hiked for four miles before the herd appeared as they funneled out of a draw, with the large bull nowhere in sight and there was no way we were going to catch them.
Danielle wanted to head back to the top of a hill by camp after we watched that first group walk right passed it. We hiked back to that spot and sat for most of the afternoon. The wind hardly let up. In fact the weather up there would change faster than anything I have experienced. Blue skies and mid 40’s to suddenly high teens, winds and sleet. We made the decision to head back to camp, when suddenly Danielle noticed a group of caribou walking right to us in almost the same spot as the previous group we had watched walk through the same area. A few minutes later Danielle placed a perfect heart shot on a bull caribou, and it was hands down the pinnacle of any hunt I’ve ever done. A lot of planning, money and time went into this hunt and to know it was her dream hunt just made that moment that much more spectacular.
The food, camp rental and items that came with both were fantastic!! We never came close to running out of food. The tent was essentially brand new and had plenty of room for two adults to make work, cots were very comfortable. There was even some potatoes, onions and spices packed in there that went great with some caribou meat.
The hunt was fantastic, we had an absolute blast.
We didn’t see as many animals as we thought we would but I think that had a lot to do with the random warm days, which no one can control. We saw a giant bull caribou shortly after Danielle shot hers. One day we did a lot of hiking and helped the guys across the lake with recovering one they had injured with a bow.
We did have to stay in the field an additional day due to weather.
I had talked to AK airlines before booking the trip and was advised that there was not a need to book a more expensive refundable flight as this is a regular occurrence out of Kotzebue. MAKE SURE TO GET HUNT INSURANCE! We heard stories of other hunters having to pay $800 to book a last minute flight.
Overall the hunt was amazing, and we would do it again in a heartbeat with the same outfitter. We made some great new friends and a million memories plus filled the freezer.
My only complaint is this: we were told to buy a cheap pair of waders mostly to get in and out of the float planes. I bought a cheap pair, but there was water everywhere up there and I wore the hip waders for the first three days until my feet hurt so badly that I finally switched to leather boots and gaiters. Spend the money on some good insulated hip boots with plenty of support or a breathable wader with boots such as the Simms Guide waders and boots. My feet hurt for over a week after our hunt.