I didn't bring this up on the Bowsite for a while as the memory is a tad painful. But, I did just got back from a hunt in from Montana where I finally killed a bull (rifle) as I was not able to get it done during the first week of September when I was out there with a bow. On that hunt I passed on a couple of long bow shots on decent bulls. But since I was heading to AK on 9/14 I was hunting opening week in MT and it was harder to pinpoint bulls due to them being a little quiet.
My Alaskan bow hunt though was a hell of an adventure, sadly though, with no animals harmed in the making of the hunt.
We flew to Anchorage on 9/14 and the drove to a airstrip on 9/15 up in Willow. My hunting partner and pilot took off in a 4 seat Maule with about 1/2 our gear. Our guides and the other gear went in on an earlier flight. We landed about 130 miles to the NNW at a miners claim/airstrip where we then caught a Super Cub flight to a sand bar up the Kichatna River near the SW boundary of Denali park.
It had rained about 5" in our valley before our arrival, so to say things were soggy is an understatement. The next morning we put our two rafts (2 hunters 2 guides) in the water. I was with a green-horn raft pilot (inexperienced with anything but slow moving rivers as he had floated easy rivers before) and the river was at close to flood stage, in fact the water crested the banks 2 days later...
I was in boat 2. Within 10 minutes, my guide misjudged a nasty stretch of debris filled river and put me into a sweeper near the outside cut bank. The up-current facing tree caught under my life vest. Keep in mind I had on three layers of clothes including rain gear, plus hip waders, my 10x42 Swaros in a Kuiu case, rangefinder, and a pistol and knife on my belt. Also it was still raining, about 50 degrees air temp, and the glacier water was reportedly 38 degrees. The tree lifted me up and put me from the front of the boat to over the stern and into the raging water. The boat was now hydraulically stuck under this tangle of trees and I was swept under the water and under the boat. I popped up for a breath but immediately had my foot caught in something under water which yanked me back under again with my head downstream and me looking up at that murky sky through the silty water. My foot somehow popped loose and I was free. I was now floating downstream into more sweepers. There really was no swimming to do as my rubber hip waders were totally filled with water along with my skinny legs, besides the rest of me was obviously saturated. Apparently, a life vest loses some buoyancy if it has been soaked thru prior to getting into the water with it...something to think about. Anyways, as I'm floating down the river about 50 yards, I'm able to angle towards a partially submerged log stuck mid river. I was able to get my arms around the trunk and the current pushed me down to the root ball. There I began the wait for my guide to free the raft. It probably took 3-4 min for him to finally cut the stuck straps and lift the tree over the boat. By this time, my life had already flashed through my mind. I distinctly remember seeing the moment I first kissed the girl who later became my wife and I relived the moment my son was born, no joke. I was aware that I was losing most of my strength as I think the adrenaline of the dunking was being displaced by the frigid cold. Miraculously Steve, my guide was able to get back on the oars after freeing the raft and was able to avoid simply running me over. He got the boat angled just so, and I reached up to the slippery rubber tube where Steve manhandled me over the bow by reaching down and grabbing my belt. Thank God I had that belt on. I was now spent and simply limp, laying across the bow. Steve got me to shore below the channel rapid where I stripped in the rain and changed into 'dry' clothes. I remember the wet sand bar feeling hot on my bare feet and was with it enough to know that this was not ideal.
About 10 min into trying to change out my clothes I began to feel my extremities again and asked where my bow was....Well it was 25 yards off shore in a rapid that was about 10' (guessing) deep and running 10-12 mph. We tried making a grapple out of a charcoal grill grate and a hanging 2 lb rock that we drop-shot off it. This was attached to 100' feet of parachute cord. We attempted to dredge the bottom but, to no avail. In fact, that grapple and rock would not even touch bottom of the main channel before the rope would straighten out below us. So, my entire setup, Strother Rush bow, tight spot quiver, a CBE adjustable bow sight, custom CE pile driver arrows that I footed with a few inches of aluminum arrows, all tipped with German kinetic silverflames and CE lighted nocks, my goto browning mercury filled stabalizer were all lost. My "weather resistant" Nikon rangefinder was not 'dunk proof' and died. Better it than me so says the wife lol. I add the loss up to around 2200-2300 bucks give or take.
After we finished that days river run and made camp (in the rain...did I mention it rained the next 6 days haha)I switched to a rifle for the remaining 99.95% of the 12 day hunt. We saw 2 legal bulls one of which was within 30 yards but invisible to me due to the brush while another bull crossed the river 450 yards or so below camp. This bull didn't want to play and disappeared into the alders. I did have a probable 45" bull (if he wasn't completely broke off on one side) pose for multiple 10-40 yard bow shots. That was a lot of fun. Also male brown bears were elusive although we had 2 different sows with cubs within 150 yards. We saw many black bears 1500 vertical feet above us and above the alder lines of which we did not choose to pursue as it would take time away from where we thought our best chances were for our primary target species. It stopped raining on day 7 when I finally dried out so that was really nice.
The hunt minus the near drowning/equipment stealing part and a last day logistical problem that shortened the hunt by a day, was fun and I'd do it again when the finances allow. Not sure how smart I am so says the wife lol.
The point of this story is that crap happens. But, I'll say that the rafting experience level of my guide (in higher flow waters) directly contributed to my near death experience and equipment loss. He was an experienced moose hunter, and excellent caller, and an all around good guy who I enjoyed hunting with. I have no animosity towards him in the least.
I had a 2 minute discussion with the outfitter after we got off the river of which he asked me outright 'if the guides rafting decision put in me in harms way'. I answered "yes".
I changed my flight left Anchorage that night since I didn't need any time on the end of the trip for meat logistics.
I've been waiting for a call from the outfitter as I feel there might be something owed here...what are your thoughts? What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Thx and be careful out there. It only take a second for disaster to strike...
Not sure what would be owed in your case, but if you liked the outfitter, he did what he was supposed to do and you deem him a MOSTLYbresponsible guy, perhaps a discussion about a redo is in order. A frank discussion about what you lost and a reminder that the guide may have been a bit inexperienced to be in that position mightvresukypt in him cutting a few bucks from a future trip. For him, if he is a stand up guy with an interest in staying in business for the long haul, he might relish the opportunity to salvage the client relationship and get you back.
On the other hand, if you would NOT hunt with the guy again, I doubt you will ever see any type of compensation.
Scary, but good story! Thanks for sharing. Glad to have you back.....
The problem is that even if he offered a half price hunt it may not be worth the financial risk.
Glad your alright hope you can work out something for return trip, pray for low water next time.
Hug your family and thank The Lord that he brought you home!!! That big bull Moose will eventually make it up on your wall.
Best regards, Scott Alberda
Look on the bright side, you are alive and have a good excuse to buy a new bow!
Concerning compensation. I assume you signed a contract with the outfitter. Having signed a few of these myself, they pretty much release the outfitter from any responsibility due to injury or loss of equipment. All responsibility rests with you, the client. With that said, the outfitter is responsible for having safe, functioning equipment. And if you were given a life vest that was defective, that's an issue. You could also see if Alaska has any licensing requirements or training for guides, and see if your guide met those requirements.
I'd do what I could to work it out with him one on one at first. Sounds like you're looking for compensation on your bow. Good luck with that. He's more likely to give a break on a future hunt. Have an attorney look over your contract if he fails to be cooperative.
Best of luck!
We all knew that at some point in time it would be our turn, no matter how many years we had been at it. You have to be diligent 100% of the time when you are on the river, even a momentary lapse of attention can result in disaster. Similar to driving on a busy highway.
I guess my point is that your guide may have been experienced and he could still have had a problem.
I don't think you are owed anything here, unfortunately. Certainly not the equipment because that is your responsibility. Can't blame the outfitter for the raft flipping as that can happen to the best guide in the world.
Was the lifejacket USCG approved? I don't know anyone who keeps life jackets in a dry sack to keep from getting wet.
Was it truly inexperience or just a case of "crap happens".
Had something bad happen on a big river in Quebec, on a caribou hunt. Fortunately our guide was a quick thinker, as were my hunting partner and myself, or we would likely have been the stars in a body recovery project somewhere enroute to the Atlantic Ocean.
You're lucky you have the memories, and best of luck on your next adventure. Thanks again for sharing this with us, Bill.
To answer the question asked, the guide told me that he had been on multiple DIY and DIWF (with family) float hunts. All were on comparatively lazy/slow rivers with open channels. I have done exactly one white water 'rafting' in a one man 'duck' on the Ocoee river in Tennessee. With my limited 'experience' it was interesting to feel the guide routinely make the wrong oar strokes, and then quickly make a correction. The realization and subsequent conversations he had with guide 1 about not entering a set of rapids with the boat East and West on a South flowing river were interesting. It was also interesting to hear him mutter 'oh my' and other similar fearful expression as we approached other bends and sets of rapids. So, based on my observations, he was outclassed on a river with class 3 rapids compounded by high water.
The other guide, who has a summer job guiding floats on the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon, stated that this river (due to the ever changing channels, sweepers, and lack of river 'maintenance') was more dangerous than the Colorado.
Again, the crux of the matter is 'were we given a guide experienced enough for the conditions?'. If not, is it reasonable to expect more of a conversation of how the hunt went down?
I think mishaps happen more than some may think and sometimes something seemingly small odds become reality real quick. My Buddy went in the drink on the Holitna in Alaska and lost his gun at the bottom of the river. Very expensive gun too. He was sitting on the front of the raft and fell in with his weapon in hand but lost it.
My pops had a similar and near death occurrence to yours on the "Hoholitna" river. He was sitting on the front of the raft in slower moving waters and the raft hit a snag and stopped it instantly and he slid off the front into the drink. An attempt to pluck him from the water was made after the raft was freed but it kind of failed. The raft party ran him over and luckily he was able to grab ahold and somehow held on to the back of the raft just long enough for his partner to pull him up. He had the same gear on as you and feared he would die. He was pretty concerned naturally. They had to start a fire immediately to get him warmed up because he was very cold and could not get warm for quite a while. Thankfully the waters were not flowing like what you described or he may not still be here.
Glad to hear you are ok man and maybe the outfitter will make it up to you in some way. Stay safe.
I said that I'd be interested. It was a productive call.
Sounds like he feels bad for your situation & is willing to make things better! If you are still interested, I would take him up on his offer. Hopefully, things go a lot better the second time around.
I'm glad you're ok and hope you get to come back.