Contributors to this thread:
4 of us are heading up to the haul road to Caribou hunt the end of August. I am planning on renting a raft or 2. For those of you who have crossed the Sag is it better to have one larger raft or 2 pack rafts? Figure we will cross with a rope on the raft then pull it back across to allow the other guys to cross or we will split up and 2 guys can cross or float down the river ad meet the other 2 guys. I'm also guessing it is better to have 2 small tents or camping off the rd a few miles then one 4 man tent for finding an area large and flat enough.
Any experience with Go Noth rentals vs Alaska 4x4 rentals
Forget the rope. It will drag in the water and make crossing difficult. To give you and idea of the force, There were places in which a 600' 3/8" rope would drag a 30" buoy to the bottom during the tide. We took 1 or 2 rafts depending on our numbers. The 8-9 footers work best. We kept them in the back and carried inflated to the river. Buy a small cigarette lighter low pressure air pump. Worth every penny.
You will often be able to wade most of the way, jump in and paddle like H and get across. Then you rope up a ways to be able to avoid the next rapids. There are a few places to float, but be careful. Once you get just below the maintenance station near pump 3, the float is nearly impossible due to the rocks.
We mostly used them to cross and then come back in the same place. The problem with floats is that you are below the banks and really can't see much. If you do the floats, it's best to have seen something from the road and then you have and idea where to look.
Good luck, but that herd has dropped from 70K or so to 22K. We quit going the last few years and now I live in MT so I doubt I'll do it again.
Most places we crossed involved taking the raft a few hundred yards from the road to the river.
Thanks for the info. We will most likely just use it to crossback and forth in the same spot.
Have you considered Larry Bartlett’s Pristine Ventures for renting gear. He has some nice stuff and really went the extra mile to take care of us. If you rent from him he’ll probably give you some valuable hunting tips.
Do not go without a raft, you'll kick yourself in the ass when you see Caribou across the sag. It's not hard to cross the river in a raft, IMO.
I use a PR49, but I see people up there every year with a Walmart special, they make it happen.
Good luck! I cannot wait until August!
What about a bear fence? Do you guys ever have issues with the bears in camp. I see a few videos with guys setting up a fence and some do not. I'm not usually the guy in camp who worries about the bears but some of my buddies do.
Our schedule is pretty flexible on when we can go, do you think the 23rd of August- Sept 2 is a good time? I understand they are where they are and will get there when they get there. Are the bugs starting to die down by then?
I don't bother with a bear fence when I head up there to hunt the road and I wouldn't count on having any issues, IMO.
The end of August should be just fine, less bugs, possibly more caribou. One will never know until they go.
Take a raft, but hunt from the road. Use the raft if need be. I was stepped on by a grizz in my backpack tent when I was sleeping , hunted there in 94 and saw a lot of bears. He straddled me and woofed on my tent. I played dead and he left. When I crawled out, he saw me and returned to destroy my tent. I took refuge in a nearby truck camper ( had to wake the owners up) and we sat in the cab while he ripped my tent to shreds.
Damn Ned, sounds like quite the night! Glad you made it out ok.
yea, not sure a bear fence would have helped me, I don't think they were available back then. All I had on me was pepper spray, I didn't want the hassle of carrying a sidearm because I was sheep hunting out of a backpack and trying to lighten my load ( not too smart). My buddy dropped me off on the other side of Atigun Pass and then continued up to Prudhoe Bay to fly in and rifle hunt the Brooks Range, he was to pick me up on his way back down. I ended up hitchhiking up to Prudhoe Bay and got his truck from the outfitter, then went back down and finished my hunt sleeping in the truck. Almost filled my tag but not quite, it was the first year they made it mandatory you could only harvest a full curl ram up there. Anyhow, (stick with me here) my time ran out, as we were on military leave with the Air Force; so I drove back up to Prudhoe to pick up my partner. He was weathered in, so I'm sitting there booking an expensive puddle jumper out of Prudhoe back to Fairbanks, and in walks 3 National Guard pilots who are putting some flying time on a General's leer jet. For ten dollars, we flew to a native village further North, had lunch, and then back down to Fairbanks. Had the jet all to myself. My partner ended up killing his ram with a rifle. ( sorry non typ, didn't mean to ambush your post, it just brought back some memories)
Dang Ned,,lucky man! How rough is the haul road?
I rented a 4X4 3/4 ton Ford from Enterprise in Fairbanks, at a much cheaper rate than I got quoted from Go North, IIRC. Not familiar with the other outfit you mentioned.
Does Enterprise allow travel on the Dalton? I’ve taken a Uhaul van up before so I get the don’t ask don’t tell mentality I was just curious.
"How rough is the haul road?"
Depends on the day, but typically it's just fine. After a hard rain or a bunch of snow it can be kind of rough. For a gravel road (in most places) it's pretty damn nice. Incredible drive and scenery, I look forward to the 8 hour drive most Friday evening's when something is in season and I have no other plans.
20 years ago it was much tougher but they have slowly been paving stretches. The speed limit is 55 but when it's paved the semis fly and that eventually tears the road up.
That's when a gravel stretch beats a paved stretch. The paved potholes are brutal. We always figured 15 hours from Wasilla.
Damn Ned! I couldn't stop reading your post....awesome!!!
The haul road (at least in 2012) was a darn good gravel road....but I takes alo of truck traffic so it has to be put together well.
TEmbry- Yes they allowed me to drive the Dalton, I brought this up right away and didn't try to hide it. I also called them up 6-8 months before my trip, not sure it matters but I spoke with Ryan Leid (907-452-4906). But I used my own auto insurance, which they required me to show, I brought a copy of my policy. We almost made it the whole way without incidence, but had a big rock hit windshield on return trip right before getting back on pavement. I had the option of using my Comprehensive policy with $100 deductible (which is what I did) or Enterprise offered to replace it for $200 flat rate. There was also some cost advantage to using their "off-site" office (within walking distance). My experience in 2016 was that the road was not all that bad overall, especially if it was dry. There are many sections you can do 50-60, and a long paved section in the middle you can do 70+. It's just a damn long drive and the big trucks can throw up some rocks. And it was muddy/rainy on the first half of the drive up, which sucked.
So tell me.... how hit and miss are the caribou along the Haul Road? Is there a possibility of a caribouless caribou hunt?
I suppose anything is possible but I can't remember going up there a single time over the past 4 seasons (around 15-20 trips) and not seeing a caribou. Sometimes you see lots, other times you see very few, possibly none.
Also, for those wondering how to avoid rocks hitting your windshield, pull over when a semi is coming and let them have the road, much less chance of getting smacked with a rock. It's also much safer, I even pull over when one is behind me to let them pass.
Nick can I borrow Stephanie’s car?
I wish I could offer out a vehicle this season, cause I would but I have too much going on and will need my vehicle to do it all. I would be more than happy to send you or anyone else all the information with regards to rental companies in the area that have vehicles to be used on the road.
Nick's advice about the trucks is right on. Also, never park at the crest of a hill. It forces the truckers to slow way down just in case someone is approaching the crest at the same time from the other direction. Don't expect substantial shoulders on the road and don't pull way over. If they've worked the road recently the shoulders may collapse.
They aren't particularly fond of the hunters and are making a living. Try and make it easier for them.
Did the haul road last year first 2 weeks of sept. Rented from go north. Had an antifreeze leak right away but they got it fixed before we left Fairbanks. Very few caribou around neither of us even had a shot opportunity. Lots of traffic and hunters on the road. Lots of Asians looking for the northern lights. Odd.
Not sure about now, but years ago we had two flat tires while hunting the haul rd. Ended up asking some guys at one of the pump station to fix a flat for us, they were very helpful. ( they were Goodyears though LOL) My buddy also blew out a pair of boots while we were hunting sheep up there, went to the bar in Coldfoot and the bartender actually had several pairs of good hunting boots for sale :)
The maintenance facilities will not fix your flats for you. Bring the little kits to repair punctures and an air pump (cigarette lighter powered). If on gravel for a while and it looks like new stuff, stop periodically to check your tires. If you drive on them flat they are not repairable. See if you can come up with a second mounted spare.
Basically everyone I know that has been up there has had a flat tire at one point or another, except me :)
I have D rated tires on my truck since early 2013 and I have one flat tire in that time, it was from running into a hidden boulder sized rock on a trail in Idaho while coming out from elk hunting.
Definitely be prepared for a flat.
Another tip that most people would never think about...Bring a squeegee thing for your windows, you'll thank me later! In order to hunt effectively up there you have to be able to see out of your windows and when they are caked with 1/4" of mud that won't be possible.
Nick has it right about the tires. If driving on gravel a lot you gotta have the tight rubber. Got stranded in the Gila in 2004 in a rental vehicle with a gravel induced flat.
I haven't been up there since 2013 I think it was. I lived in Anchorage at the time and it was anywhere from 13-16 hours depending on multiple factors. I only got one flat in 5 trips. Anything can happen up there and it can be hard to anticipate everything that can go wrong.
On my first trip up there. I was on my way home and had just crossed the Yukon river. I was headed up hill coming around a big sweeping corner. A big rig was coming the opposite way and didn't have a lot of time but I hit the shoulder and came to a near stop. The big rig did not slow down and was barreling down the hill. I took a load of rocks to my whole truck and cracked my windshield. I got moving again and not far down the road I noticed my temp gauge was in the red. I pulled over and hopped out and heard liquid hitting the ground. My radiator had taken a rock thru the grill of my Tacoma. I was screwed.
I had a couple people stop to see if they could help and one older guy that tried to cut and crimp the tubes but it was useless. I asked him to send a tow truck for me once he got to Fairbanks and I had no way of knowing if one was on the way. Some DOT workers towed me down to a pull out so I wasn't stuck on the non-existent shoulder. They said they'd check in on me if I was still there in the morning, which I was. They called me a tow truck on their sat phone. A little after noon, the two truck showed up and got me to Fairbanks and to an auto shop with just enough time for them to call Anchorage to get a new radiator flown up next day air. I lost almost three days between the time I got stranded and the time I got back on the road headed home!
As far as caribou, they're either there or their not. We made a trip in early September once and there were zero caribou. We drove up and down from Toolik to Deadhorse glassing and couldn't find caribou anywhere. We had our best success in the end of October after the rut when the caribou were pushing south towards Atigun pass. But that's a whole nother ball game!!!
It sounds like it will be an epic adventure. We are debating on the electric fence. We have a few on the farm we can pull and ship with out gear. I did not think of the squeegee. I'm sure it will be very handy. I'm honing to secure the rental truck this week and probably lock in our flights next then we will be committed. I plan on taking my Meindels and for a 2nd pair either Muck boots or hip boots. Which would you guys bring?
I've killed and been apart of a bunch of caribou off the haul road, and a few others not far from it, all in Muck/rubber Boots. Maybe I'm crazy, and I certainly could be... but, hiking boots ain't fun when you're hunting in water...
Oh he is crazy. Crazy as hell actually . But I would second his muck boots . Mucks and gaiters are a good combo . IMO . Can’t wait to be living on tundra Time again!! Hunt
HUNT................ There are dead bou walking right now... It's going to be a good time.
And for anyone interested in coming I highly recommend the last two weeks of August.
I would bring at least 2 pair of cheap, loose fitting hip waders for crossing the river. I've use this type and also the much more expensive ankle fit. One is for crossing and the other is if you have to hike in waders a lot. I have to put plastic grocery bags in the ankle fit or I can't get them off.
I've hunted quite a bit up there in leather boots. Each year is different. One year it can be so dry that the tundra is crunchy and the next you will be walking in water any place it's even the least bit flat. Some of the side creeks will be uncrossable. You won't know till you are there.
Booking the rental truck. Go you guys thing the 28th of Aug- Sept is a historically good time. I've read post for the last 2 weeks of Aug and also first 2 weeks of Sept. I know each year will be different.
Nick knows his stuff! Take his advice!