Amal Ajmi’s 2011 Caribou Hunt – PA-11 Cub Special

Thank you to Amal Ajmi for sending this incredible report about her caribou hunting trip in Alaska –  flown in her Cub Special. Most of us won’t ever experience this kind of Alaskan back-country flying or go caribou hunting in the wild. I, for one, am in awe of the remoteness, the beauty, the ruggedness, and the risks that surround this kind of flying – this kind of adventure. You’ve got my respect, Amal!  Judy

2011 BOU HUNT

The end of summer in Alaska is a time of furious hunting and gathering activities in preparation for the long winter. My freezer, although full of berries and garden vegetable harvest, was scary lean on meat. Good thing I had planned out my annual Caribou (Bou) Hunt. I decided to return to the area I successfully hunted in 2010 to see if I could get a slightly bigger bull. Mark decided this year that he would try for his first Bou, so we set off on a bright day hoping for a fun, safe, and successful hunt.

There is a man Back there

My bird is a small thing, and I can only pack so much into her. Mark endured the 2 hour flight wedged tight somewhere in the back with half the gear. I have to make two flights for all our gear, as weight and room are always a factor when dealing with two people. We flew out on a calm day, wispy morning clouds scattered, and sometimes cloaking the lower hills, little peeks of yellow leaves often blazing with sunlight reminding me winter would soon be upon us. Further in, the low clouds dissipated and allowed us, mostly me because Mark just couldn’t see anything, to view the tundra; already past peak change the vegetation had turned brown awaiting winter snows. We landed at the strip and I unpacked the man and gear, and set off again to retrieve the rest of the gear at a half way point I stash fuel.

Off for the Second Load

My favorite thing in the world on a flying trip is to get where you are going, tie the bird down, put her covers on, set up camp and then take a deep breath.

Camp

For me, that is when you know you have worked hard and been safe and all is well.

My Bird all tucked in

Despite the thrill of being in the air and all the wonder that you see while in flight, there is always a buzzy attentiveness in your gut when you are in-route. You listen to your engine, watch the skies for weather, swing wide around hills not sure of winds around the corner, and concentrate on landing on that tiny little strip.

Camp at a distance

When you are done for the day, and you stand next to your bird feeling her warm engine, that buzz subsides, you are so very grateful for the beautiful day, the flight, thankful your bird is such the trooper and that she can take you to such remote areas……what a great feeling!!

Caribou in the River

Mark gave me a Bou report upon my return and it looked promising; he had scouted out the areas we would hunt the next day. Caribou are an interesting critter, and I have learned that they will “do what- ever they do”. There must be some sort of reason why they move the way they do, why they may be in one area one year and not the next year, but it escapes me. I have learned to be adaptive and patient when hunting Bou. Mark is a long time experienced and successful hunter and has an eye for behavior and movement. He really nailed the movements this year, and I got the first bull the very next day.

My Bull

Mark got his bull the day after and we decided that the weather would allow for deboning in the field to save on weight for the trip back home.

Mark's Bull

After three days, the meat all bagged up, I took a deep breath and just took it all in. What a great state to live in, what awesome opportunities for fun and flying, am so very grateful for it all.

Celebrating a successful hunt

The next day we packed up the meat and I set off for home, but encountered scary wind shears about 10 miles out. Stick and rudder, level wings and center the ball Amal!!!! I managed to get back to the strip and sat down for a bit, looking at the little bird that helped me get out of that stuff and safely back on the ground. The next day I decided to try the long way back home, flying through lower hills to get to an airport on the road system. This worked out great until carrying the man and last load we encountered wind gusts of 35 mph at the airport. Luckily, there is a cross-wind grass strip and the little bird took the gusts on the nose all the way down. Safely on the grass we came to a stop and I remembered to breathe. We tied down the little bird tight, put her wing covers and spoilers on and watched the wind blow hard. I walked over to her again amazed at what a great plane I have.

Cold Nights

The end of the trip was very uneventful. I called a friend and we were able to drive home that night to care for the meat; having to leave the little plane tied down at the airport. I didn’t sleep well that night, didn’t eat b-fast, couldn’t even breathe very well, until I drove back to the airport the next morning making sure she had weathered the winds. I checked her out with the usual pre-flight, got in and flew her home the last 75 miles. Riding the steady, calm morning air……..I thought about our little adventure, how much more I had learned about hunting, but mostly how piloting my little bird will be an ever learning experience….one I hope will last a very long time.

Amal Ajmi

6 Comments
  • Amal
    Posted at 11:19h, 30 September Reply

    Lisa, the elevation at the strip is about 3400. But cool fall days allows for nicer lift conditions. I am always amazed at what my little bird can carry. I seem to run out of space before she gripes about the weight, but I always test her to see if she can carry what I have put in her before leaving the area, JUST TO BE SURE!!!! She doesn’t have the extended baggage area like you super cubs do, which is good in a way, might get myself into trouble that way. Blue skies!!!!

  • Marti Whitmore
    Posted at 20:01h, 29 September Reply

    That’s so great to see a PA 11 doing all the work. I have one and have hauled a lot of stuff but you take the cake. Congratulation on the your great adventure.

  • Lisa Martin
    Posted at 08:39h, 28 September Reply

    Wow! I’m feeling very wimpy about packing my Cub. What was your elevation there?

  • Ray Johnson
    Posted at 17:05h, 22 September Reply

    Incredible flying adventure. Thank you for sharing this with us. Lucky Man !!

  • Amal
    Posted at 07:10h, 22 September Reply

    Thanks Shannon. You and Chuck should come up in your pretty bird!!! A fellow pilot hunted this same area last year in his T-cart. My first bird was a yellow T-cart, learned a lot from her. Have fun…Blue Skies!!!

  • shannon
    Posted at 16:56h, 21 September Reply

    Amal

    what a grate story and also two grate kills makes us want to move to alaska

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