This Alaska caribou hunt was one of my hardest hunts testing us physically and mentally every day pushing us to are limits. We experienced so many crazy situations that would’ve broke anybody down but with hard work, dedication and support all three of us came out successful!
We encountered charging grizzlies running at us down the gravel bar from the smell of a fresh kill to chasing the damn things out of our camp three nights in a row. Not just once or twice either it was 11 times in one night, they stole my cape and tried to take my antlers until we tied them to the willows…. still didn’t stop them from trying all night long, neither did the flash and bang from a 454 either.
To wake up to a grizzly breathing next to the tent sends chills throughout your body but to have them stand up only feet from you makes you realize how little you are to them… I’m just glad Shaun was always the first out of the tent to run them off. (I was behind him but mainly to give him moral support and words of encouragement any good friend would give before going up against a bear like; good luck! and don’t miss!
The weather warmed up and rained for most of the time we were there thawing the permafrost and raising the Anisak river close to three feet keeping us from crossing the without a raft or swimming it so Shaun and I decided to build one with his air mattress, it worked great until he had to cross back over on it in the middle of the night. After seeing his headlamp disappear underwater twice he gave up on the raft and stumbled across.
The next day Brian and Shaun came up with the idea of crossing the river in their underwear (bring hip waders) to try and sneak up on another bull then pack out Shaun’s bull he shot the night before. Once I saw Brian’s bull drop I realized I had to strip down and cross to help out, it was as freezing as it looked.
The day of extraction came and we all were ready to go home but one major problem kept us from leaving, the original runway was now deep under water so we had to make a new one by cutting down tons of willows, bushes and dirt mounds to only watch our pick up plane circle overhead and fly back over the mountain range.
We called a few hours later to hear them say “it’s too short and we need to wait for the river to drop…2-3 feet?!” I don’t think there was more then a handful of words said to each other the rest of the day, we all held our heads low that day.
On the 3rd day of waiting they tried again, still no way they could land the planes so again we watched them go over the horizon while we sat by the river. When we talked to them on the 4th day waiting (16th day in the bush) they were bringing in a smaller super cub with 35’s to try and land if that didn’t work they were calling the Coast Guard for help.
The Super Cub circled and circled again then disappeared… we had no clue what to think. Almost pure silence again until it came back and finally dropped in stopping inches from the river wash edge and willows, finally!!! After the pilot got the runway figured out he shuttled all the meat, gear and then us to another runway 10 miles away with five loads then we loaded up the bigger plane and took off to Kotzebue, Alaska. Highest of highs and lowest of lows with some crazy ideas in between!
Hind sight of it all I wouldn’t change a thing, we can’t blame the outfitter for weather conditions and we can’t blame weather for our luck. It’s hunting, some days success comes easy but other you have to tie your boots tight and make it happen! Be sure to get trip insurance to cover any missed flights.