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Outfitter Review - Westwind Guide Service

Submit Date: Feb 20, 2002

Outfitter Information

Outfitter Name: Westwind Guide Service

Outfitter / Contact: Tony Lee

Location: AK, USA

Hunt Information

Animals Hunted: Moose, Caribou, Grizzly, Black Bear

Game Quality: Exceptional

Game Quantity: About 2,000 caribou, several moose, 1 nice grizzly, several black bear and wolf.

Accomodations: Top Notch. All excellent equip

Camp Condition: Excellent

Food Quality: Great and lots of it!

Guide Experience: Well-seasoned and very persona

Other Personal Experience: All had lots of bush experienc

Review Information

Hunter: Bill Hefner

Phone:

Email:

Would Recommend: Absolutely.

Overall Impression: Couldn't be better. Already booked for 2003.

Finally, on the 9th day...... After a year of planning for this moose, caribou and black bear hunt, my brother-in-law from Anchorage, Dr. Adam Merli, and I were delayed a day in Iliamna at the Iliamna Lake Lodge by bad weather. Air taxis couldn’t fly because of high winds, low ceiling, and lots of fog. After a great dinner and an evening of pool with a hunter from Arizona, the following morning we were told to be at Holliday Air at 8:30 a.m. where we viewed the mandatory videos for non-resident hunters on how to identify a legal moose and how to field dress a moose once it’s down. Then we wait for the air taxis to get caught up on a lost day of flying hunters to other camps. Finally, at 3:30 p.m. we loaded our gear aboard a Cessna 185 and were off to Westwind Guide Service’s main camp, about 90 miles northwest of Iliamna, in the Mulchatna River basin area. Upon arrival at the airstrip atop a small mountain we load our gear into a pile and walk down about half a mile to main camp. We completed all the necessary paperwork in the cook tent, had some hot soup and a sandwich then walked back up the hill to the airstrip where Tony Lee (owner and operator) flew us to our spike camp in his Super Cub with big tundra tires. Camp was about 20 miles farther on a small shelf-like hill between two larger hills, which formed a bottleneck area in the valley where moose had to pass. Adjacent to the short, flat top hill, which served as the airstrip, there was a big alder thicket where Tony had cut out a protected area for our tents. Our guide, Dave Dunn, a part-time taxidermist in Wasilla, AK, had everything set up and was just waiting on us. Day 1: Heavy fog for most of the day. We saw lots of caribou, but no moose. We sat on a hill above camp and glassed from first light until about 8:30 p.m. and then had dinner of dehydrated food and turned in for the night. Day 2: Fog-free. We glassed hundreds of caribou during the day. Mostly cows, calves and young bulls. Late in the afternoon we saw a big bull across the valley that had just shed his velvet, but he wasn’t moving. His red antlers stuck out like a sore thumb and we called him “Big Red”. But no moose. More Mountain Home dehydrated dinners in a bag. Actually, they were very tasty. Day 3: After the 6:00 a.m. alarm and a quick breakfast, we went uphill behind camp and lay on the hillside and began glassing. “Big Red” was headed our way. After a quick run downhill we set up in front of the alders by camp and waited. Two minutes later Adam dropped him right on the airstrip in front of camp. Now we had some camp meat! It was chili with caribou for dinner. Day 4: While glassing from a hill we see a black bear on the next ridge. Then we see a big, blond-colored grizzly down in the valley about 400 yards from camp that was so fat his belly was dragging the ground. He looked like a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig. When he winded us and/or camp he took off running up the hill and over the ridge. The black bear just kept on eating blue berries. Although the two bears were about the same length, the black bear looked skinny compared to the grizzly. The guide said the bear looked old and under-nourished for the winter and suggested we take it. After an hour stalk around the side of 2 ridges, Adam and Dave caught up to the bear. I was watching everything from about a half mile away through binoculars. Adam shot him down hill about 50 yards. After about 3-4 somersaults I heard the shots about 2 seconds later. I hiked over to congratulate them. They skinned it out and took the hide, skull and a back strap for dinner. After cooking for 2+ hours it was a little chewy, but good. Sure beat the dehydrated food. Day 5: Six a.m. came early. Late that evening Adam took another caribou about a mile away from camp. We called the outfitter on the VHF to bring in a packer the next day to pack the meat back to camp, which was about a mile or so away. By this time I was getting discouraged because I was holding out for a big moose. Day 6: Dave and I spotted a moose right after breakfast and head after it. It rounded the point of a hill and we went down the side of our mountain, thru alder thickets and up the side of the other ridge only to see that the moose was too small to shoot. While resting on the side of a hill I hear in the distance what sounded like a bull grunting and rubbing his antlers on a small tree. I did some bull calls and thrashed a small spruce tree with a large, fiberglass moose call to simulate a bull thrashing a tree with his antlers. Several minutes later he suddenly appeared across the valley adjacent to a swamp. He had two cows with him. Dave and I headed down the mountain again, across and through some more thick brush and across the valley to the edge of the swamp. We were about 150 yards away, and making low sound bull grunts to cover our sound, when out of nowhere a lone cow came running up from the other end of the swamp and spooked the bull and his two cows! After a miserable hike back up the 60-degree mountain slope with my 35# pack frame and 9 lb. rifle we headed back to camp for a late lunch. Day 7: After glassing all day since breakfast I heard a wolf howl early in the morning and then several hours later saw a white wolf for about 10 seconds on a far ridge. Then Dave spotted the same big bull from the night before up in a small finger draw. So, off we go. From a quarter mile away he looked like a monster with a gigantic set of pure white antlers. Unfortunately, he saw us moving down the ridge but couldn’t make us out. Crouching and running we worked our way down the side of the hill along the side of alders to the bottom where he and his two cows were. It was about 8:00 p.m. when I finally got an opportunity to shoot. He was in a thicket about 200 yards away. I could see his head and antlers and most of his neck and left shoulder. With sweat pouring off my brow (and entire body – I was wearing insulated rainproof camo pants & top), and being out of breath, and just the idea of taking what Dave said looked to be a nice 70”+ bull, I slowly squeezed the trigger and missed. Dave followed up a split second later with another shot and he missed, too. For the next hour we looked for signs of blood and/or hair. Nothing! We called it quits because it was getting dark. For the next hour or so we slowly trudged back to camp. When we got there at 10:30 p.m. we had a couple cans of peaches and a few candy bars and crawled into our sleeping back, exhausted. Day 8: Dave glassed the area we hunted the night before and didn’t see any signs of the bull. He did see the same three cows at the base of the ridge way across the valley. Since time was running out for me to take a moose, I decided to turn my attention to caribou. I stayed near camp while Adam and Dave went up on the hill to glass the area. For the next 7-8 hours I waited for caribou until 8:30 p.m. but saw absolutely none! Another delicious caribou tenderloin dinner with pan-fried potatoes was on the menu. Then bed. Day 9: Tony was scheduled to pick us up first thing this morning. We set the alarm clock for 6:00 a.m. again for a final hunt. Still in semi-darkness all three of us climbed the hill behind camp overlooking the airstrip. About 8:30 a.m. I see a lone caribou bull walking toward us. We glass it and it looks like a nice one. High rack, double shovels and a single beze. I wrap the sling around my left forearm, and, feeling like a sniper, take aim. As he gets closer I keep cranking down on my scope - 10x, 8x, then 6x. The caribou is about 160 yards away and stops behind a small bush. I wait but he doesn’t move. Knowing that a small bush won’t stop a 300 grain Nosler from an H&H .375 magnum very much, I put my crosshairs on his neck and squeezed. BLAM! Then an instant later THWACK and he drops in his tracks. I finally redeemed myself from a bad shot on the moose! After several high fives and a bunch of photos we get to field dressing it. About 9:30 a.m. Tony lands his Super Cub and tells us he’ll pick us up right after lunch. After we have all the meat in the bags and sprayed with citric acid we lay it on the alders to cool. With nothing else to do, because we had already packed our gear, we headed back to the tent, finished off the rum and cooked up some caribou tenderloin and eggs for lunch and waited on Tony to pick us up. About 2:00 p.m. Tony returns, taxis his Super Cub over to the meat. We load my gear and game bags of caribou meat into the belly pod and return to main camp. After 9 days in the bush a shower was welcomed. Then a great dinner of caribou steaks and we turn in for the night. The next day we wait on the air taxi to pick us up and fly us back to Iliamna where we caught the last flight on ERA Air back to Anchorage by a mere 15 minutes! All things considered, especially the unseasonably warm weather, it was a good hunt, even if I didn’t get a moose. I did, however, see 3 bulls, about 8 cows, 1 calf, 4 black bears, 1 grizzly, over a thousand caribou and a lone wolf. Now I can start planning for my return hunt in 2003. Next year is a 2-week fishing trip to Alaska with my wife, Adam, and his wife. Domestic tranquility must exist before departing on another moose hunt!

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