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StormsGSP

Home from Alaska.

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StormsGSP

I am back from my great Alaskan Adventure. What a trip. Hope you enjoy my LONG trip report.

First, some background. I have an uncle that likes to spoil me. Two years ago he took me to Colorado to go Elk hunting. Five or so months ago he called me, and long story short, got this hunt in Alaska for me. I have been boiling with excitement as I prepared over the months. My uncle paid for the hunt, but I still had to work my ass off to pay for flights and gear, and I am still in debt.

I flew out the 13th, and went to my hotel in Fairbanks. There I inspected my gear one more time and put it in my pack.

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In the morning I headed off to Wrights Air Service. The trip would be 3+ hours north in a small plane.

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There is really only one way to see Alaska, and that is by air. The 3 hour flight was spectacularly beautiful. The scenery takes your breathe away and the vastness is beyond belief.

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The pipeline:

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If I could summarize the terrain in 2 words, they would be “Mountains & Water”.

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We crossed into the Arctic Circle, and we could tell we were in for a cold trip:

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More scenery:

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As we landed we spotted a lone muskox walking by camp:

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We landed in the back country, and from there it was time to fly in the 2 man Super Cub FURTHER into no where.

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StormsGSP

My gun for the trip was my Kimber 30/06. I got this gun 3 years ago after saving all my summer money for it. I LOVE this gun. I called it my Triple Stupid gun for this trip. Most people I talked to said it was stupid to bring a wood stocked gun to Alaska, stupid to use a 30/06 on a sheep hunt and stupid to use a 30/06 on a grizzly bear. O well.

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After the Super Cub Flight I met my guide. His name was Joe, and he was 23. We both smiled, his last client was 65. If sheep hunting was a young mans game, then we were a deadly dynamic duo. I told Joe I wanted to hunt VERY hard, he did too. We became fast friends and it became more like 2 buddies hunting that a guide/client relationship. We split the gear up so he wouldn’t have to carry it all and so we could travel farther and faster.  We set our plan. We pointed our sights on the tallest snow covered mountain, and decided to climb it, hoping it would bring us to an untouched area with a big ram. We both decided that since we were both young and in shape, we would aim for an exceptional ram. We packed and quickly left, two 20 year olds off on their own in the Alaska bush.

We were hunting in the Artic Circle, and because it was summertime, we had nearly 24 hours of light, there were 2 or so hours at night that were dusky, but far from a full night. You could hunt 24 hours a day. I was jet lagged, so we made the 3 mile hike to the mountain we had decided to climb and then only went about half way up.

There were some steep parts:

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But once we made it to our spot to spend the night, the view wasn’t so bad.

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I awoke from my first night in the tent ready to go. The bad news was that on the very first night, my sleeping bag broke. The zipper was busted, and from then on I would have to fold it in half around me- it didn’t work well and was uncomfortable at best. I spent $70 on the bag, I should have spent more.

We were half way to the top of our snow covered mountain, but the half we had to complete was the tough part. We had to make it through snow, ice and rock. There was one vertical 10 foot face we had to climb- scary. The slopes were VERY steep, and trying to balance with a 40+ lb pack and 10 lb gun on your back isn’t easy.

The hike to the top:

First up this:

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Then this:

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Don’t fall:

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It was a crazy and dangerous climb, more like extreme back packing than hunting. But when we made it to the top, we felt like winners.

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We came from the middle of the top river bottom in this picture and made it to the top in about 18 hours, including our nights sleep:

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The view from the top:

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Well we had crested our mountain, but the back side proved very difficult as well. It was pure steep shale. If you have never hiked on shale before, let me put it like this, think a 60 degree slope stacked with dinner plates. Every step is a balancing act and the rocks slide and you try to stay put.

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Our hike did, however, put us where we wanted to be, a sheep heaven. There were white specks EVERYWHERE.

A sheep bed:

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We sidehilled it to a good glassing spot, and had dinner. Dinners were Mountain Houses, dehydrated meals that you add hot water too:

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The beauty of Alaska can be found in the big:

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And the small:

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There were many reminders that the Brooks Mountain Range is not an easy place to live:

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We camped again and when we awoke, there were sheep all around us. At 10:30 AM we spotted 2 rams together high in a mountain across a valley to us. They were a long way off, but we decided to try to put the stalk on them. The problem was there were a TON of ewes and lambs around the rams. We would try to sneak undetected by them to get to the big boys.

We went down our slope and up the mountain with the rams. We went slowly and as quietly as possible, but we ended up getting busted by a group of ewes. They retreated up the mountain, taking the rams with them. We retreated to the base of the mountain. After an hour, we climbed half way up to glass. We got a few REALLY good looks at the rams. Both were legal, one was huge. He was the king of the mountain, and we decided that this was our boy. After an hour of glassing, the two rams went right over a crease to a different side of the mountain. We ran down the mountain we were on, ran along the base, and glassed to find where they went. Their new area was more inhospitable than the last. All the slopes were 70 degrees and it was straight shale. He had position himself near the top in the middle of a huge shale slide. From his throne he could see everything.

We watched them for 4 hours, unable to do anything but stay hidden and wait for something that would allow a stalk. At around 7pm it started to rain and some fog moved in. Perfect, we would hike the mountain in the fog, sneak into a shooting position and shoot the old ram. Halfway up the brutal mountainside, the fog starts to retreat. Not wanting to get caught in plain view, we retreat to the bottom of the mountain once again.

We reach the bottom, and we are now in the 12 straight hour in pursuit of this same ram. After another hour, fog moved in once again. We decided to take once again climb the mountain. It was 11:30 PM, the rain made the rocks slick, and the fog and impending dusky night limited our view. The hike was dangerous, and it was foolish for us to do it, but we were young and dumb 20 year olds, and like idiots, we decided not to be stopped by danger. We moved incredibly slowly, transferring each ounce of weight with care as to not make any noise. We climbed up the 70 degree slope on all fours, the wind and slick rocks threatening to whip us off the mountainside to certain serious injury and more likely death. After a 2 hour climb, we made it to our ledge at 1:30 in the morning. 15 straight hours. The climb had kept us warm, but once we stopped moving, we were cold. I was in a prone shooting position, waiting for the fog to clear. I had only long johns and under armor and light rain gear. The cold rocks quickly sucked out my warmth, the wind and cold temps made me freeze. I stayed in the prone shooting position for an hour, but the fog didn’t clear. The shale had been poking me, and I was frozen. I slowly put my gun down, and curled into the fetal position, shivering. My guide did too. Another hour passed, 3:30 AM. I look at my guide, and he too is curled up. I look over and the fog has cleared. The ram lies on an opposing slope, 218 yards away. I crawly back to my prone shooting position and tell my guide im going to take the shot. A few breathes calms my chattering teeth and nerves. The king of the mountain is curled up sleeping peacefully, the fog that still lingers around his snow white figure makes him look mysterious and powerful. My first shot entered behind his rib cage and up into the vitals. The muzzle flash blinded me, and I leaned in closer to find him in my scope as the guide urged me to shoot again. I found him in my slope, he was standing looking for what awoke him. I put the crosshairs on this neck, hoping to ancor him where he stood. I pulled the trigger again, the bullet smacked its mark. When I leaned in for a closer look to find him, I had gotten too close, and for the first time in my life, I got scope eye. Bleeding between the eyes, I was purely elated as I heard him crumple and slide down the slope. We rushed to him (it still took 15 minutes to reach him) and he was as big as we had hoped. After a 17 hour pursuit, the king of the mountain was dead.

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Utterly exhausted, we butchered him quickly.

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Sheep hunting is absolutely my favorite type of hunting. It is difficult, they are wary, it is hunting on steroids. I LOVE it, the only problem is it is so damn expensive.

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StormsGSP

Heavily loaded, we descended with our prize. We slept for 5 hours then started out long long long trek back to base camp.  Sore from previous days and now loaded down even more, we knew the trip wouldn’t be fun.

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Two winterkill Caribou we found along the way:

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After a painful trip, we made it back to basecamp.

Me and Joe with the Ram:

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We took a few days off in base camp; gorging on sheep meat and sleeping comfortably.

Side note: I have hunted for a few years in MA. I have also hunted in CO, MD and NJ. In all that time I have never been more than an hour from a road and had only been checked ONCE by Fish and Game. Well what do you know, I fly all the way to Alaska, then I fly into the Artic Circle, and while hanging out in base camp, F&G lands to check our licenses and tags!

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They were very nice, everything checked out fine and they were on their way.

One of the few fires we had. It is such a harsh area, and so windswept, that there are no trees. There are some shrubs in protected areas, and these provide enough wood for a fire, if you take plenty of time to gather wood.

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The sights from base camp were pretty, and it was good to recharge:

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Fully recharged it was time to hunt Grizzly Bear.  These weren’t the monster bears people think of when you say Grizzly, these bears were in the 6-7 foot range. Our plan was to go the 5 miles upriver to where three drainages converge. From there we would glass and hoped to spot and stalk a bear.

Along the way we came across this, apparently it was a large Eskimo sled left here:

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Glassing:

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One of the drainages we glassed:

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Another area:

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An artic quill pig we came across during the hunt:

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We hunting for a few days without seeing anything. With 2.5 days left to hunt, we hiked the 5 miles back to base camp, then continue 14 miles downriver. On the final morning of the hunt, we saw a few caribou, my guide urged me to take one, but I declined, hoping that our persistence would pay off. Twenty minutes later we spotted a bear about 600 yards off rooting for a ground squirrel. I was hoping to get a close shot. We stalked closer, and I was forced to shoot at 120ish yards.  I was told bears have an extraordinary will to live, and this one was no different. It took 3 hits, all which would have killed it eventually, but none right away.  The final hit took out both shoulders and the vitals. Its claws were white and the teeth were pretty worn, it was an older bear. My outfitter estimated 14 or 15 years old

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I didn’t enjoy the bear hunt nearly as much as the dall hunt. It was a passive hunt, with a lot of walking and glassing. It wasn’t very physically demanding, and once the bear was spotted the outcome wasn’t really in question. You also don’t even get to eat it, which is a big satisfying part of the hunt for me.  I’m glad I did it, but I have to need to hunt another one.

Skinned out, you can see how pretty the coat on it is here:

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The most amazing experience and hunt of my life was over. I was exhausted, sore, in debt, and happy as hell.

Moose Tracks:

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Wolf Tracks

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Kimber, small Dall horns and a small Caribou shed:

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Alaska is a harsh place:

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A few from the flight to Fairbanks.

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Back in my hotel in Fairbanks, I ended my trip with something I had craved for a while. A true College Kid meal:

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The End.

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Uplander
Trip of a lifetime there Alex.  Truly unbelievable.

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Cooter Brown

Wow!  What a terrific story, and fine pictures, too!

I don't have to tell you what a lucky young man you are for having the opportunity to make a hunt like that at your age.  Like you said, I'm sure you guide was grinning ear to ear when he saw you get off the plane.  That was a tough hunt and sometimes there's no substitute for a young body.

And score one for blue steel, walnut, and classic cartridges!

Congratulations!

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browndog

bravo ...

spoiled forever now, aye?

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PaFlyfisher

You earned that sheep. You truly hunted for it. You put the time and sacrifice in and you earned it. That is what hunting is about.

Lots of people can pay enough money and shoot a trophy (perhaps not a sheep but some trophy animal). Precious few ever seem to put the effort into it that you did.

Nice job buddy.

Bede

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grousegunner
Simply Amazing!  Congratulations on your dream hunt Alex and thanks for taking us along.

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Wingman

I worked my way through college in the early '80s by salmon fishing in Bristol Bay. I met a long-time Alaskan guide who told me that when he flew his clients into sheep camp the first thing he told them was that plane flights, especially super cub flights, did bad things to scopes. So everyone should doublecheck their zero right after landing.

He had a "shooting range" set up up a steep slope above the lodge. He'd hike the hunters up there and they'd sight in their rifles (or he would). But what he was really doing was watching to see how his clients handled the slope. The vast majority of the guys who could afford the hunt were older; some were in shape, some not. he sorted them out on the way to the range, and decided where to take each hunter based on that.

He said his favorite kind of client was one that went in debt to go on the hunt, perhaps a hunt he'd dreamed of for years and would never be able to take again, and who was in shape: that was the client he busted his ass for.

I don't doubt your guides felt the same way.

Very nice ram.

And don't poo-poo the grizzly: those bears vary in size tremendously across their range and inland bears aren't as big as coastal bears. Mature ones anywhere are true trophies, and yours has a nice color.

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redtop
You better be nice to that uncle, the reason most the hunters are older theyr'e the only ones can afford it yet alone handle the hunt, nice flip flops on the guide. Great pictures and story.

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jmooney
Awesome.  You have seen and done things that many only dream of.  That's a great sheep and you earned it.  You done good my boy.

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Brad Eden
Spectacular. Period.

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WPG Gizmo
Alex you are truely living the life :D   What a great hunt

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Matto

Wow!

I'm jealous.

Great PE.

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Roost em 1st
Big Kudos to you Alex. Thanks for the view of your trip.

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