A big assist to my executive editor, Andy Walgamott, for compiling this report by Eric Spiegel of his trip way north to an area north of the Arctic Circle.
by Eric Spiegel
Just got back from our first float hunt which was down the XXXX river in Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle. Eric Simon, my brother Kurt and myself were on the trip.
No guides, outfitters, or persons with any knowledge were involved!
Had a great time and scored a moose and a black bear.
Water levels were very low and the first two days were tough as we had to drag the rafts a lot, only making about 4 miles the first two days. Had to portage several times because in some places there wasn’t even enough water to drag the boats. It was very discouraging. Day three and four were a little better as we were able to actually get in the rafts for short stretches.
We had a good hunt plan, and when we finally got to a good looking area, we were able to stop for a couple of days.
Temps started out in the mid 40s for the first couple days, but dropped to midteens and snowing.
My brother shot the moose in the late afternoon on about day 6, about 1/2 mile from camp. After processing we moved all the meat (moose weighed about 1,400 pounds) about 100 yards from the kill site to minimize bear encounters, and started packing the meat to the river with the plan of dragging the raft upriver to load.
After stumbling through the willows and beaver ponds in the dark, we decided it would be safer to stash our first load (rear quarter, front shoulder, and ribs) at the river’s edge and drag the raft upriver in the morning to load it all.
We dragged the boat upriver in the morning and discovered that a bear had gotten into it. The three bags had been tore up, moved around, and partially buried. Very little of it had actually been eaten.
While we were cleaning it up, the bear came back and wouldn’t scare off. It was only a 5-foot black bear, but he obviously had a death wish. We were waving our arms and yelling to get him to turn away but he kept coming — until I shot him at 10 yards.
For our first float hunt (zero experience with rafting), it was great. An incredible amount of work in dragging the rafts, packing the moose, and rowing 10 hours a day for several days to make the take-out ( river was very slow) but I loved it and can’t wait to do it again.
We only got one moose and the small bear, but that was enough. We had to drag the rafts quite a bit even in the last 5 miles of the river, and with two moose we would have had to portage most of that.
We had started planning this trip last October and there were a lot of logistics involved. Surprisingly everything went as planned, no one got hurt, and we are looking forward to our next adventure.