"Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success" - Napoleon Hill
The quote above is the only way I can describe Alaska's River Wild Adventure's 2020 fall season. I'll start out by saying ARWA went 100% across the board! This makes for four of the last five years with a success rate of 100% on Dall rams. Overall, ARWA went 8 for 8 on rams, 3 for 3 on moose and 1 bonus sheep-cape-stealing black bear. Long story short, we recovered the sheep cape and harvested a nice black bear. ARWA's average ram this season came in at 9 1/2 years old with 13.25" bases and measuring just over 37" on his long side. The ARWA crew this season consisted of Jon Burrows, Eric Bechel, Peter Mayer, Jeff Rost, Jared Miller, Jacob Woolace and myself.
Week one, ARWA welcomed Chris Zaccheo, Jon Cordova, Justin Wise and Luke Mendell to the Alaska Range. Right out of the gate, Jon and crew were about to cut the distance and get within a comfortable shooting range on a nice wide flaring ram when a grizzly sow with two cubs came barreling through the valley and blew every sheep in the vicinity out of the country. From that point on it just seemed like bad luck was stuck on us. Jon ended up going home without a ram that week but...his story is not over. Chris was hit with a streak of bad luck as well. Chris and crew had multiple runs on shooter rams but kept having trouble with the elements. Ram one was blown due do a shift in the thermals and ram two was botched by the sun. Unbelievable when you have a ram in the crosshairs, and he picks you off with the sun directly behind him. Chris was blinded and couldn't take the shot. With nothing to lose, Chris and crew threw a dart at the map and went for a hike. As luck would have it, Chris was able to harvest a classic looking 9-year-old, 37" ram on the last day of the hunt. Justin and crew were in a true slug fest. The group just couldn’t come up with a mature ram after a couple of spike outs and a half dozen serious climbs. On day eight they finally found what they were looking for. Justin made a clean shot on a nice 11-year-old, 36" broomed ram. With that one shot he kicked himself out of the <1>1>
Week two was a full house. ARWA was happy to welcome Jeff Mees, Robert Gurnea, son Tristan, Peter Althausen and his 2 sons, Angus and Garrett. ARWA crews had a pretty good game plan going into the second round, after the 200 miles that the guides put in during the previous hunt. Peter really capitalized off of the scouting by tipping over a beautiful 40 incher on day one of the hunt. The group made quick work of the ram with two teenage sons (Angus and Garrett) at his side. The Althausens turned their attention and energy into helping find a ram for their friend, Robert. Robert and crew were so close on day one of their hunt as well. Either the ram caught a whiff of them or saw something he didn’t like and boogied up the mountain before Robert could get behind the gun and pick him out. The miles started piling up trying to get a second crack at the trophy ram. On day 7 the crew took up a spike camp in hopes to close the deal. Before coffee on day 8 the 38" nicely flared broomed ram slipped up and Robert made a textbook 500 yard shot. Jeff and his 3-guide crew were kicking over every rock. They too packed up a spike camp and went for an extended sleep out. On day 6 an old warrior of a ram materialized out of the clouds. After a difficult climb through the shale, Jeff was able to down the 12-year-old, heavy horned, 35", broomed ram with one shot.
Week three ARWA turned a lot of its attention towards moose hunting. Kevin Moore and Walter Vollrath took off for the swamps, while Jason Elam headed into sheep country. Kevin pulled the trigger on a beautiful 58" 4x4 bull on day 2, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. The bull, while mortally wounded traveled over a mile unbeknownst to the guys. With darkness closing in the guys decided to back out and head for camp. As unbelievable as this sounds, the bull moved directly towards camp and bedded down right in the middle of trail. Even though it was almost dark, they were able to see the bedded moose and confirm that it was Kevin's bull. With a literal shot in the dark, the bull was down for good and ended up being 103 yards from camp. This one is truly an unbelievable story! Walter and crew were in the moose from the start but just not seeing much for mature bulls. His luck would change on the last day of the hunt. Just a few hundred yards behind camp a nice mid 50s bull with 4x5 fronts stepped into the open and bedded down in the sparce spruce. Guide and Walter wasted no time and slipped in on the napping bull. Mimicking the sounds of a challenging bull the guide brought the moose to a standing position and presented Walter with a broad side shot. That was all it took and the all-night butcher fest began. Jason and crew were logging some serious miles in the search for a mature ram. On the second to last day of the hunt, the crew found a ram and put him to bed. The group started their climb at first light only to find him one valley over. With time running out and a snow storm rolling in, they descended to start a second climb in order to get around and above the ram. After 7 hours of traversing, Jason was able to connect on a classic looking 9-year-old, 35.5" ram.
Week four, ARWA welcomed back Carl Weiss along with his son Gregg for a moose hunt and Chris Williams for a sheep hunt. Chris and crew got to work right away by finding and getting on a ram that had been eluding the ARWA crews the entire season. However, the ram pulled a Houdini on them and slipped away. The crew was motivated and got aggressive on day 2 with the Houdini ram and went right at him while he was in a deep ravine. At 160 yards, Chris and the ram came eye to eye. In a quick fashion, Chris was able to make a successful snapshot on the 10-year-old 36.75" double broomer. Carl, Gregg and crew were in quite the chess match with a trophy bull from the start. On day 5 the bull and his harem moved into an area that seemed approachable. Gregg and guide slipped in undetected, and a cow led the 60" bull right to them. At 82 yards, Gregg placed 2 shots into the bulls' vitals and was down.
With a week left in the season, ARWA reached out to Jon Cordova and invited him back to Alaska for a chance at redemption. Within 48 hours, he was back in sheep camp. The crew had a lead on a possible shooter ram in the roughest drainage in the valley. Jon and crew loaded up a spike camp and went for it. Early into the hike, the ram presented himself just below a jagged wall in the back of the valley. The group planned the stalk and began their climb. After a well-placed 330 yard shot the 9-year-old 37.25" ram was going home with Jon and the redemption ram was well earned.
In closing, I would like to send a special shout out to the River Wild crew. This year's crew was crucial in ARWA's success this season. Last but certainly not least, a big thank you to all our guests, without whom the ARWA crew would never get to enjoy all the splendors of Alaska!
Double...double...with a bit of trouble.
Alaska's River Wild Adventures 2019 season was a huge success!
Overall, ARWA went 9 for 9 on Dall sheep and 2 for 3 on moose, with bonuses of 1 caribou and 1 grizzly. This makes 3 out of the last 4 years with a success rate of 100% on rams! ARWA's average ram harvested this season was once again above the states average, with an overall age of 10.5 years and a length of 37.25 inches. The only trouble to speak of transpired before the
season even started. Unfortunately, 2 clients had to cancel their hunts just a couple weeks before they were to take place.
Week one, ARWA welcomed the return of Jerry Heath with his son, Brian, in tow. Jerry harvested a nice ram the season before and wanted to treat Brian to a similar experience. Brian fell right into the groove, putting on the miles and spiking out. He was rewarded for all his efforts and took a terrific 10 year old, 37.5 inch ram after 8 days of hunting. The other two clients, Jonathan Angner and Al Jones were delayed and couldn't make opening day but that didn't handicap them one bit. They found a couple shooter rams on their first outing but had to sit on them for half a day. The rams were bedded in a unapproachable spot but finally the rams fed up and over. The chase was on and the gap was closed. By the lights end, which is just before midnight, a 10 year old, 35.5 inch ram and a 13 year old, 39.75 inch ram were loaded in the packs! But that isn't the end of the story. The guys got to experience a night out on the mountain with no tent or sleeping bag. Arriving back at camp some 25 hours later with two rams is an unforgettable experience, to say the least! And to cap it off Jonathan tipped over a nice bull caribou at 501 yards!
Week two we welcomed in Andrew Lunt and Joe Van Rooy along with John Glidden for a redemption hunt. John put in a full 10 days last season chasing two different legal rams only to come up a hair short. Not this year though! On day one John and crew got into a large band of rams. The group studied them for a number of hours and decided to back out. The following day they returned with a spike camp, along with Andrew and his guide. They were well prepared to do whatever it took to tip over two rams. After waiting all day for the thermals to turn around, the entourage made a move. As we moved in a grizzly popped out of no where and started
paralleling us towards the rams. And just like that, our rams were buggered. With our heads low we made our way back to spike camp. The following day we woke before day break and made our way up into sheep country with hopes that the rams would return. Surprisingly enough, the rams were there but broken up into smaller groups. John and Andrew were able to sneak, crawl and shimmy to within shooting range. And at the count of three, two shots rang out and two nice rams were down! John's being a 9 year old, 36 inch ram with a nice flair and Andrew's being a 11 year old bruiser at 37.75 inches. Joe and his crew pulled the second all nighter of
the season. Spotting the ram of a lifetime they threw caution to the wind and went for it, leaving the spike camp behind and going into a whole other drainage. As the light was fading Joe pulled the trigger on a spectacular 40.75 inch ram! Somewhere in his story I heard the term "black out, pack out"! Ha!!! Fitting since Joe and his crew didn't make base camp until 8:30 the following morning. And after a well deserved rest had to retrace to retrieve the spike camp that they left behind.
Week three, we welcomed John Baer, Dan Klein and Pat Feenstra. John and Dan were on 20 day combo hunts and were in it for the long haul. Dan didn't waste any time...tipping over a magnificent 58 inch bull moose with 4x4 fronts and a drop tine on day two. To keep it rolling, he then connected on one of the prettiest rams of the season on day five. A wide, shallow flaring 38 inch, 9 year old. A super ram! To top it off, Dan harvested a beautiful 7 foot grizzly bear on day nine. Talk about the best trifecta someone could ever ask for! John Baer was on his 100th plus trip to Alaska but only his second Dall sheep hunt. John was actually moose hunting when they spotted three rams fairly low on the side of a mountain. With nothing to lose, we jumped on the atv and went for a closer look. Within an hour's ride and a 30 minute hike the rams were spotted in the trees. Yes, trees! So, after a short game of cat and mouse, John took a rifle rest in the fork of a birch tree and harvested a 13 year old warrior of a ram at just 80 yards! If I wouldn't have been the guide on this hunt, I would have never believed it! Truly unbelievable!!! John's streak of luck would keep going and on day nine, after a couple hour waiting game, he was able to take a beautiful 56 inch bull moose with nice 4x3 fronts. Pat Feenstra came in as a pinch hitter and was able to fill one of the cancellations and on day two was able to draw blood by taking a nice 8 year old, 34 inch ram.
Fourth and final week, ARWA welcomed Brad Barker. Brad and his team hunted hard and found the big one. At one time they had a mid 50s bull in front of them but Brad had his sights set on the big one. Unfortunately, the guys just couldn't dig him out the brush. On the other hand, Brad definitely got his fishing bug under control during his hunt, every evening before dinner Brad would catch and release dozens of northern pike.
In closing, I would like to thank all our guests, without whom the ARWA crew would never get to enjoy all the splendors of Alaska!
Happy hunting this season and Cheers!
P.S. If you plan on attending the DSC or WSF shows in January...stop by and see us at DSC booth #520 and WSF booth #1104. We look forward to seeing you!