Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A couple weeks back we took a week long trip to scout for Geese, but caught a Bear among other things.... we went home and reupped our supplies, cleaned up and linger'd on thoughts of Birds.....

So , again, we set off for another Spring hunt, off to old haunts and gathering places, where the animlas are attracted and the vallys and hillsides, beaches, river bottoms where plants and berries grow succulent, The Mountain is great for Caribou year round, the river for Arctic Char in Winter, Salmon in summer,Smelts, Herring and Whitefish/Sheefish wander the lagoon and up the river, Moose, Muskox, Bears of 3 kinds wander from the trees, the open Tundra mountain tops and the Ocean. Caribou over Winter in the area by the thousands.
In the lagoon, Seals of all types as well as the occassional Walrus, Beluga, Sea Otter show up in summer.
Mammoth tusks and Whale bones are found in the surf and shallow waters to carve for the artists among us.
Trees float down at break up and replentish our firewood supply for summer, and in winter we sometimes camp among them, and get some for firewood or crafts.
We loaded our sled with the stuff we would need and further with stuff to leave at a friends to store untill Summer......some grub, tarps, ropes, gas, ect.
I traded labor and an Ivory tusk for Gasoline and some artwork thrown in as well, and we were off.
Heading South via river, lake, land, and ocean we arrived with smiles and vivid memeories of good times. Having camped the area and raised our kids in the area , the kids were all that were missing, and miss them we did........

Spring Subsistance Bird hunting is Federaly regulated, and we have a generous season, with large bag limits.
Its the kind of hunting where some are good at it and some arnt, like Wolf hunting and such. we share and trade foods with each other and Goose/ducks /Swans are a great "New" meat to have after a long winter, a taste of their own.
Anyway, we only hunt those that arrive first and then we work over the Sea ducks inna few weeks when we run low on these guys and put a few away for later.
Well hunt male ducks in the large flocks they gather in in July as well, if we need some, then we again agressivly hunt Geeese again in late August/early Sept when the fat youngsters start to fly straight and low........
I missed this place last Spring, with my right arm broken a couple months earlier and being right handed.
When I did try, I just got wet and wasted gas, due to weakness and high spring melt off. This is the time of year to travle with a shovle when the slush and mush get deep. I made up for it during July, August and September, hunting along getting back my strength with work. Enough to see my meats through fairly to March with some supplemental "fresh"Caribou.
This year we barely have any snow, 'cept here , where we campe'd, its white 6 ways to midnight, cold and staying that way, in stark contrast to the bare and snowless Springs sprung North, where I reside at the moment....gotta love 90mph snow, with no bumps......and Im back in good shape.

We built a teepee on the local design, of tarps and poles.

We usually build a fire outside to burn into cooking coals and we also heat rocks to bring in and warm us a few hours, but that first night we couldn't find the rocks~~LOL!!~~

Right now the Caribou of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd WACH 401,000 strong have a wide swath leaving the Northern Seward Penninsula heading North. Most urgent are the females that will calf enmass in the mountains and plains of the Arctic North Slope.
It's the Bulls that lag behind as well as remenant Reindeer from the former Reindeer Herding industry (they ran off and asemulated with the Caribou in 1995) that we hunt as they walk the hills and shores, waiting for the main herd to rejoin them in the Fall after freeze up. Theres enough around all the time to keep us in the meat.

Caribou are everywhere..........sometimes in the way, as you will see......~~LOL!!~~

But since I was so far away, better foods could be brought home ,besides we can catch Bulls to dry up right now, close to home, as the herd moves North past where were living.

We took off to familiar country, places we rode for years and know what is and what is not........

We sit many a spell looking down, as Predators do, seeing what moves or where the Ravens are.

We were On High, cruzing the mountain top, in circles ,driving, stopping, looking .......you cant really "Look around" while driving a snowgo on a rock studded mountain top, with no trail, 60 miles and a few hours from help, 2-3 days walk from camp at 15 above and riding alone with a few days till "If im not back by such and such, look for me". So we stop at each "Step" in the stair case like mountain ridges hopeing to get the jump or prehaps shot while looking about. This is a great way to come across Fur traks as well.
So we stopped and scanned and the wife poited out "Something" down this creek about 3 miles away moving around as he was, digging, he was mining away for moose meat that was litterly frozen in layers of ice, in a creek we later saw.

Well the wife usually dosent have much to do with Bears. Being a Kobuk River Inupiaq, the women in the family still do not eat Bear meat.
Thinking of others and that big 'ol rug overwhelmed her trigger finger and she got the itch.

"I'm gonna try to catch that Bear" was all she said, rather matter of factly, as she got on with the rig with me and we then decended along the downwind back side of the ridge above the Bear. I marked a spot in my mind and stopped there.
We got off and I walked alotta yards before I spotted him and signaled Agnes to meet me when I was quite aways away. She drove up, stopped and I didnt think it would hurt to try and call it, rather "Man Charges Grizz" as I have seen Browns come over outta curiosity before, when we were making lotsa noise lke chopping wood and such, and then they stand there a bit having an eyefull, before trotting off to the bushes.
Sooooooooooooooooo I started yelling, Ahhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!and such,and not 30 seconds later he came trotting up to have a look.
She steadied her Finn VTK made M-39 Mosin Mosin using the very usefull FMJ .7.62X54R Czech light ball.
She Asked me "Should I shoot it now?" And I asked her "Do you know how to use the sights?"~~LOL!!~~ I told her as I tryed to get a close up, but such wasnt gonna work on that camera, oh well.

Her first shot was a good one, but about an inch low of the spine bone, but sh e did rip his arteries, just as good as a Heart shot, gushing like a fountain, the second shot doing the same, also just below the spine, they were about 4 inches apart, I dont know which was first.

He gushed and gushed.
75-100 yards later and it was done.

She's 5'2" , the Bear is longer than my '95 Arctic Cat Bearcat.......either he make 'er look small or she make 'em look big ~~LOL!!!!!!~~

4inches of FAT as my blade shows. The intestinal fat renderd clear as water in the pan and near tasteless.

Fog, snow and "Whiteout"

We stopped to a shelter cabin and dryed our drizzel/wet snow wetted clothes and I ate Bear Steak while she had boiled Seal in fairly short order and we slumber'd off for an hour or so in the heat before carrying on in the low fog

Good to be "Home" again....

So we built our blind with willows and sheets, tied with Willow bark strips and string, with willows on the snow to keep the Caribou skin seats dry.....and more willows to blend us in as another snow cover'd willow patch....
We also use these when hunting Bears or Fur and calling to them(fur) or watching a kill site.
We parked the ride about 200 yards away, by a big snowdrift.

Nice and homey, a spiral, open topped sitdown/stand up blind with guns, grub and warm company, Geese hunting "Our way".

We did well enough to have Geese to take some with us to give away to elders and friends, but it got cold again, like 5above at night and the Geese quit comming almost all together. Pressing issues with our jackshaft, behind the secondary clutch on the snogo dictated we take the pause and get 'er fixxed, as well as deal with our meats which were freezing hard, so off to the nearestVill we rode, being 30 or so miles away.
not a bump or shocker on the trail, anywhere, the trail was as smooth as can be. The ride back to camp was made at triple the speed......

We spent a night and cleaned up, and sent for parts, back home.

Our good friend and elder Rick suggested we better spend our time hunting insted of waiting as it was gonna be foggy bottoms for awhile and insisted that we use his ride, a 4stroke (HEAVY!!!) Artic Cat Bearcat, the latest version of my '95 modle.....what a change, and off we went......

I must not here that for a maximum of success, you need to put in your time. There is no "Guarentee" for anything, and knowing what alternatives you can turn to, due to conditions, weather, animal migratory patters and habits, to be sucessfull, you must not waste your time either. If ever your after "That ONE animal" good luck! I just happen to hunt what I can and am never dissapointed that I didnt get a target species, but always happy I do get something, even if its just firewood.

On the way back to camp, we pulled up and passed some Caribou who had the road to themselfs, and evidently didnt wanna leave it till we passed 'em ~~LOL!!~~ Not trying to bother 'em, but I figure if I should be doing anything, staying on the trail when I didint actually want to shoot one would been the right thing to do,,,,,~~LOL!!~~~ They were having none of that.........

We spent a couple hours catching Ptarmigan for the breasts for home and she boiled the rest as soup for us at camp, some Ravens got the remains. Can get em by the pound or by the ton........Feathers are good to use with artwork , as they are a non migratory bird and traditional in use.
We were sniping Ptarmigan that showed up to scratch at the mud spots as well ~~LOL!!~~

We rode past out Blind, and as we thought, it was a "Bird magnet" as usual...... I love this place......

But when we were at camp, the birds just diddnt stop flying by, and so I began to get my swing on........and ended the first day with a dozen Canadians ............ and a box of shells down.....~~LOL!!~~

The second day we had 21 more. We took shots with some visitors and we visted others that evenin' and ended up staying at friends cabin, and dryed out our sleeing gear with a wood stove and hanging the bedding in the rafters for a couple hours, and real comfort on those cold nights.

The third days catch ended best, with many Canadians, a Swan and the only Speckle Belly of the hunt....... Not a duck was seen the whole hunt.........

This pict is at the "lunch break" LOL!!

After further shooting, we decided to break camp, as we had enough to make the trip worthy, an the shells well spent.

We pack'd our stuff and meats for home, with the heavy stuff down and the light stuffs atop

We came loaded down with stuff to leave at camp and returened witha sled load for the house and alotta food for us.

We took our sled up the coast North aways outta the hills and onto the ocean side, and heavy it was, where we left it beside a snowbank. We then took the 60 mile RT East/West to return Rick his snowgo, take him a small load for his freezer and bring our snogo back into action.
The jack shaft had arrived about 3 hours ahead of us.........

The next day we took the 6 hour, 20mph slog back to our wintering home in Noorvik.
Being near 30 degrees, and with that heavy load we dumped alotta lube oil in the gas and stopped to cool it frequently.
We stacked drift wood to dry, up out of the sand so we could come along someday and and collect it as dry fire wood, on our breaks driving up the coast and took our time.
With a satisfyed grin, and feeling good, we bid our farewell and put our backs to the Kiwalik basin, our summer Salmon fishing river, and former year round stomping grounds..........

We met a nephew who was in need of gasoline, on his way to Buckland, as the trail conditions he had left and we now faced were gonna be soft and mushy. The river near Noorvik was 1 foot of watery slush under 2 feet of snow, ready to trap and wet any one who got slowed to a stop or just hit a pocket and stopped. That can make for a loooooong day........
We topped off and gave him the 4 other gallons, as we were gonna be fine along those lines.

The last pict, onna hilside looking to drop off the sled, return Ricks machine and proceed to restocking the pantry to the North.........


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  2. Another great blog Chip. I really liked the videos. I really like reading your blogs.