The trip to Ultima Thule Lodge was a bit long, but well worth the wait. I arrived in Anchorage around 2:00 p.m. and found my luggage with no problems. I met another sheep hunter on the same flight and we discussed our upcoming hunts while waiting for our luggage. This was his second dall sheep hunt, the first he came home empty handed. I enjoyed our conversations about hunting and could see he was a true hunter who loved it for the joy of hunting. His advice to me was to never give up, even when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, get up and keep going. He said it all comes down to mental toughness. Thanks, Wade, I hope you had a great hunt. I boarded a shuttle to my hotel on a rainy, overcast day. The locals say this is one of the wettest summers in a long time. I arrived at my hotel and waited for dinner with Ultima Thule guide Johnny, hunter Mario, and George, a friend of Johnny’s. We enjoyed a great meal at Glacier Brewery and got acquainted by telling hunting stories. Mario is from Spain and has hunted all over the world, he is a class act and I liked him from the start. He runs his family’s candy manufacturing business.
The next day I was picked up at 8:00 a.m. to begin the four and a half hour drive to Chitina’s airstrip (pronounced Chitna). We arrived at 2:00 p.m. after a few stops for snacks and lunch. The airstrip was a large parking lot with one log storage building that identified it as Ultima Thule Outfitters’. Johnny showed us the fishing wheels used for subsidiary fishing. Paul Claus, Ultima Thule owner, was due in at 3:00 to pick us up. He arrived on time and in a plane that is truly awesome. It is an Otter with a modified jet propulsion engine. It looked like a hover craft landing and only used about 30 yards of the runway.
For the aircraft lovers out there here is a clip of the Otter landing.
My excitement showed regarding the plane and I was able to ride as co-pilot. I love flying in smaller aircraft. The country is beautiful with the Wrangell Mountains in the north, Chitina River directly below us, and the St. Elias Mountains in the south. It was a bit overcast so we couldn’t see the peaks, but there were two peaks above 16,000 ft. and a handful of others between 10,000 and 14,000 ft. on the Wrangell side. The lodge is indescribable. Everything that wasn’t taken from the land is flown in. They have a small tractor, four wheelers, a dozen or so structures, and gorgeous flower gardens. Dinner was excellent, sheep steaks and wild mushrooms over a bed of mashed potatoes.
The next day was Monday, August 9th. At 11:30 I was flown out to my hunting area in a SuperCub airplane with large tundra tires. We saw a lot of sheep on the way which was encouraging. I had three different landings, one in Hawkins Glacier where I was dropped off to wait for Paul, another on a glacier that we were going to hunt, and a third on a tundra knoll that my guide, Johnny, preferred over the glacier area.
Here is video of both the glacier and knoll landing. Pretty cool stuff.
It was beautiful in both spots, but the knoll had more impressive panoramic views. I could see the Barnard Glacier directly below us feeding into the Chitina River, University Peak to the northwest, and rugged, steep mountains to the southeast.
SuperCub's landing spot & Chitina River in the background
University Peak & Barnard Glacier at the bottom of pic
I was excited for my hunt to begin. Johnny and I saw a few small rams really close to camp. The excitement was building and I couldn’t wait to see what opening day of dall sheep hunting would bring.