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exbiologist's picture
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Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2399
Bush Plane Drop Camps

Anyone ever attempt a bush plane drop off hunt? I had never seriously considered this in the lower 48 until casually looking at a map of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (cool name, huh?) and noticed there were little airstrips located in the mountains and along gravel bars of the Salmon River. I've backpack hunted before in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and think this would beat the heck out of hiking your camp in 20 miles.
I just looked into the pricing and you're looking at the neighborhood of $400 round trip, sounded good enough to me so I just bought an elk tag.
Anyway, anyone have any thoughts or advice on this? Is this more popular than I realized? What's the chance of the area around the airstrips looking like a camo-clad refugee camp? I can't imagine there would be many people packing in much further from the airstips, but that's gotta be a great way to put some real distance between yourself and the crowds.
I'm gonna go for it and if this sounds like a good deal to anyone else, there's about 80 nonresident Middle Fork B elk tags left. The tag allows you to hunt the rut with a rifle (opens 9-15, deer also). You can't beat September in the mountains and this could be pretty exciting. Also, I'm going alone but would love to have someone join me.
Here's some images I found on Google Earth of two of these airstrips:


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Location: north Idaho, USA
Joined: 08/13/2007
Posts: 131
Bush Plane Drop Camps

EX,
The middle fork tag covers a lot of land (GMU 20A, 26 & 27). Care to narrow down your destination a bit more for the record? A large portion of this area burned in 07. I hunted 20 last (08) season for ten days for Elk and Mule Deer and did not harvest either. Wolves and fire combined with two heavy snow fall winters have really stressed the whole region.
That dude Serious Hunter who posts here lives in my neighborhood and has sheep hunted a bit in 26 and 27. You should PM him, he might even hunt with you.
Rogie

exbiologist's picture
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Location: Colorado
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Bush Plane Drop Camps

Rogie, how do you feel about the backcountry pressure? I don't know whether or not getting to an easy access airstrip will put any distance between myself and other hunters. I'm looking at going into 27, either the Chamberlain Creek airstrip or Cold Meadows airstrip from an air taxi service out of Cascade ($400 round trip, plus $0.36/lb over 150 lbs of gear or meat). There are several strips on gravel bars, but then I'd have to climb 3,000 feet up the canyon with all my camping gear. Bag that.

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Location: Southeast Colorado
Joined: 01/07/2007
Posts: 93
Bush Plane Drop Camps

Interesting idea. I'll send you a PM.

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Location: north Idaho, USA
Joined: 08/13/2007
Posts: 131
Bush Plane Drop Camps

You want what most Idaho hunters want. Ten days in the back country without seeing another sole and your choice of Bull Elk. We haven't had that for a long time. There will be 1636 other hunters with tags, so you will definitely see other hunters. I'm pretty sure Mile High Outfitters has a base camp at Cold Meadows since they petitioned the forest service to allow them to install hot tubs there. In most cases this would be considered a little extravagant for a spike cap. The area you are looking to hunt is very close (relatively speaking) to the largest non resident population and within two hours of the largest resident population (Boise) in Idaho. Get a forest service map for the Payette National Forest and check the area you want to hunt for pack trails and forest service roads. If these are in the area you will see people.
Pressure? Last year we packed our camp in about four miles from the forest service road on an unmarked trail. The second day a guy on a four wheeler rode through our camp while we were out hunting. I know this because I am a skilled tracker and was able to pick up the distinct prints of a Dunlop ATV tire in the soft soil next to my tent. As a group we determined that these were not the tracks of a trophy quality ATV so we decided not to harvest the stupid bastard.
Bottom line is that if you can get there so can most of the others.
Check out the posts by SoulesXXX I think he did a guided hunt with Mile High last year. I'll see if I can find his post.
Rogie

exbiologist's picture
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Bush Plane Drop Camps

I heard from some other folks over PM too that make this sound like I for sure won't be alone at the airstrips, but that's fine, I can pack my gear a few more miles into the backcountry. And the plane will have cut off 90% of what would otherwise have been a 20 mile hike. Gotta at least go for it, besides, I've already got the tag and this still seems like fun to me.

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Joined: 01/22/2007
Posts: 120
Bush Plane Drop Camps

I suspect that there are numerous hunters that access this area via the jet boats up the river. I know when I floated down the Salmon, I saw lots of Boats running up the river to cabins and camps along the banks of the river. Yes they have to hike up and out of the canyon. But that's not a 20 mile hike.

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Location: north Idaho, USA
Joined: 08/13/2007
Posts: 131
Bush Plane Drop Camps

I wasn't saying don't come, just being upfront about the condition of things. With Idaho OTC tags that don't require pref. points we get a lot of yahoo's. The requirements to draw a tag and hunt Elk in most western states weeds out a lot of people that are not willing to put in the time and money to draw. Those people come to Idaho. I think non residents that draw Utah N.M. or Co have been forced by the systems to put in a great deal of effort, time and money and therefore maybe have a little more regard for what they are doing. In other words, just because you can get your ATV around that locked gate with all the "targets" bolted to it doesn't mean you should. Even when you know you won't get caught.
It sucks to work as hard as you are going to work to get away from the people at that airstrip only to sit and glass a ridge and spot some guy running his four wheeler on a pac trail in an area clearly designated as "Wilderness".
Sorry for the rant. You will enjoy the Frank its beautiful country. Good luck on your hunt. Oh yea, September hunts the last couple years have tended to be on the warm side.
Rogie

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Location: SW Mtns. NM
Joined: 05/04/2008
Posts: 227
Bush Plane Drop Camps

Yeah, when I get my bailout money..... sorry. I hunt on foot.

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