During the past couple years of hunting here in Alaska I've endured several very frustrating moments from being caught in the mountains last year during a nasty wind and rainstorm to fighting a jungle of alders this year. Camping out in the wilderness of Alaska and dealing with all the elements here is a chore all it's own let alone despite spending a lot of money and hunting very hard only to come home empty handed. This year several of my friends came home unsuccessful with similar stories like mine. However one friend, Dr. Jim Delker had a very successful trip this fall and I would like to share his story with you. No I am not jealous (I really don't know if I have ever felt that emotion) I am very happy for him and his hunting partner, Dr. Jay Rohloff. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did. Stop into the Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic someday and slap Jim on the back and tell him “Congratulations Jim”. Maybe he will even take you with him next year! Here is his story in his own words.
Just got back from a moose-hunting trip near Kotzebue Alaska. We were hunting off some mountain ridges overlooking the Squirrel River basin. My friend Jay and I chartered an unguided fly-out "drop hunt" from Kotzebue, which is north of Nome (above the Arctic Circle). It rained every day but was unseasonably warm with highs in the mid 50s and lows in the 40's. No frost while we were there, though the last night we had to be in the 30's. We were supposed to hunt 7 days but were stuck in Kotzebue for 2 days due to weather conditions and minor mechanical repairs. We eventually got to camp and landed on a moss & rock covered plateau/ridge that overlooked 3 nearby valleys. You would not believe the place he landed this plane had you not seen it yourself. This pilot was talented and the plane was incredible-- I swear it took less than 75 ft of runway to land or lift off.
Anyway we landed and didn't see any game for days (other than a bear and a fox). On the flight in we saw hundreds of caribou and many moose in the surrounding regions. But because the weather was so warm the caribou had not been moving much. Jay and I each chose a hill to spot game from and went over 2 days without seeing a moose or caribou even in the distant valleys or plains. We were whining and feeling pretty dejected as we made a run to get water for camp--when a herd of caribou came running by ~400 yds away. There were no bulls in the herd but Jay said sometimes the bulls lag behind the cows, so I snuck towards their trail. Just as Jay had said along came a band of ~8 bulls following behind. I shot one bull and Jay shot two (oops). Our limit of caribou in this region is limited to only 5 caribou per day for residents. We were actually more focused on moose for this hunt but we did not want to go home without some meat for the freezer.
We butchered all 3 caribou and had to leave them in the field for the night as it was getting dark as well as starting to rain. We spent over half the next day packing them uphill in blowing rain to our meat cache near the landing site. Around 4 PM that afternoon the weather cleared and Jay spotted a bull moose across the valley over 1/2 mile away. He started cow calling and the bull responded and started rumbling over thrashing trees as he came. Jay signaled to me then snuck down into a meadow and began thrashing the trees simulating a competing bull. As I watched from about 250yds overhead, Jay shot the bull at about 50-60 yds. We spent that evening and the next morning just skinning and butchering the critter. We were required to leave the meat on the bone for all 4 quarters and ribs (which is required to be harvested).
Because the kill site was in a valley covered with trees and alders (and the scat of a very large bear) we hauled the meat in 50-70 lb bags to a temporary meat cache (did I mention uphill?) We made it ~1/3 of the way back to camp where it stayed for the night. The next day we hauled it the rest of the way to camp (oh yeah I forgot to mention this was uphill too). We hauled over 1200 lbs of caribou and moose meat including capes & racks. Yeee- Haaa!!!!! At more than point I thought I was going to die, but it is quite amazing what the human body can endure. It is probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. We did have a great time but as they often say, "the fun stops and the work starts the instant you pull the trigger."
Despite the hard work we had a ball and spent 5 days in some of the most beautiful wide-open country on earth. We were miles from any village or campsite. We heard only a handful of planes and never heard a gunshot or other sign of human life the entire 5 days. After a week without a shower and having to sleep in a tent-- the overpriced hotel in Kotzebue seemed like a bargain at $200 per night. Jay finally got his first moose after 2 previous unsuccessful hunts. I didn't get my moose but I am happy have my first caribou and to have an excuse to go back again someday. ;)
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