There’s nothing like showing up to your selected transporter’s hangar with preconceived notions of what he or she quoted you for a drop off, only to have him or her drop the bomb of reality right down on your pride. The cost of your adventure is now possibly doubled because your pilot insists you have way too much gear for the quoted price. What now? You’ve driven hours to situate your take-out vehicle and to have a ride to the airstrip, and now you’re faced with either paying the added cost of an extra flight for “necessary” gear or forsaking the whole hunt.
I’ve learned to not only fear that moment, but also to respect it. And though I’ve been hunting and flying in to remote locations throughout Alaska for many years, I found myself red faced and biting my tongue on this year’s moose hunt. My pilot did quote me a price for a drop off into a rather remote river for a 10-day float back to our vehicle. However, the Cessna 206 filled quickly with our cumbersome cataraft and frame components, as well as the necessary items for an extended river quest in comfort. We had a full plane, but one that the pilot felt was unsafe for the type landing on which we were about to gambit. So, he simply informed us it would be another $400 and that our gear would be dropped off the next day. We dubiously opted to bag the hunt, but for more reasons than just the additional money. We’ll examine this thought later. However, this decision was extremely difficult to think perfect, as we had spent countless hours planning and preparing for another awesome hunt, diversified with mixed bags.
If you haven’t experienced this analogy first hand, you may be wondering just how to prevent such circumstances from plaguing your hunt. It’s unbelievably important to have secure transportation to and from the field. And when something is amiss, it leaves you with sour feelings about the integrity of your entire adventure. There are a few practices to which to adhere that will help ensure your transports go smoothly.
Find Competent Services
Research is important when selecting air or river transporters. You may know that for every seven Alaska residents, three of them know how to fly an airplane. You notice that I didn’t state they had a pilot’s license, or that they were skilled. To be skilled, deemed competent and licensed for professional purposes means years of flying in Alaska’s remoteness and hundreds of hours behind the controls of safe aircraft. To find a competent air or river charter service will make or break your adventure. You should start by searching the Yellow Pages for a pilot that services the area you wish to hunt. However, this is not always the answer, nor are they always easy to find. You probably only have the phone directory for the area in which you live. This is when you must rely on word of mouth, which usually turns out to be a far better source. Also, Alaska authors are now doing the homework for the average hunter by conveniently placing this information inside a bound book. I have placed over forty reputable services in my book, A Complete Guide To Float Hunting Alaska, that specialize in remote transportation across the state. Although these type books are great tools, as they contain many tips and suggestions for improving your next hunt, they should be used merely to guide you toward making sound decisions concerning your adventure. The proverbial point is, to do your homework. You’ll be happy you made sound decisions concerning your transportation to and from the wilds of Alaska.
Get A Price Quote
It’s very important to obtain a price quote for getting you to, and if necessary, from your intended locale. Be sure to ask if the quote is one way, each load, round trip or weight-dependant. Clarity on both ends will eliminate confusion, which is inevitable on your first couple of adventures. Your pilot or boat captain will usually specify that the price quote is for a given weight, for a given type aircraft or boat, which means that it’s totally weight-dependant.
Having a price quote in writing will usually safeguard you and the charter service from “he said, she said” situations. In the end, it’s usually the customer (hunter) who pays for the miscommunication, especially if the price quote is not in writing.
Adhere to Weight Restrictions
The FAA mandates many restrictions on what pilots and aircraft can and cannot do when transporting for hire. Weight is one of the biggest issues. Your transporter will inform you up front, usually, how much weight they can fly in on one trip with one type aircraft. Adhere to these weights. If they ask you to minimize your gear weight, going in, to 150-pounds per hunter, believe it. If you show up with more, you’ll be charged for extra flights at the transporters’ discretion. Don’t become frustrated or hostile with a transporter when he or she informs you that you have too much gear for the given price quote. Simply re-pack or shed pounds, but this should be done prior to showing up at the airstrip.
Plan, Pack and Re-pack
Plan your gear and food wisely. Don’t carry items that you probably won’t use or consume, it will simply add weight and bulk when being transported. Pack your gear in many small containers going in, especially when flying. Air transporters prefer many small bags instead of a few large ones, as the smaller bags are easily stuffed and stowed in tighter places.
When packing for your trip, lay all your items out on the floor where you can study the entire load. Look at the items and judge their importance. The first time you do this, remove all items that you know are not going to be used on your trip. Next, weigh everything in your pile. You now have to shave weight by removing the items that are not essential, such as that extra, extra change of clothes, or that third pair of boots. Once you have shaved all the weight you feel is humanly possible, remove more “non-essential” items. Believe me when I say, you’ll almost always have items in your cache after the trip that you never even saw while on your hunt. Leave these items at home! You’ll get better at this as trips go by, but don’t let it cost you hundreds of dollars in the beginning. Pack wisely and enjoy the benefits of knowing you packed wisely while a well-planned hunt ensues.
Author / Wilderness Guide