Contributors to this thread:
Alaska drop off hunt for Dummies
So I’m retiring from DOD next spring (already retired from the military) and want to start working on my bucket list hunts of which one is an air transport Alaska DIY caribou hunt. Looking for advice on the best way to go about this and how to choose a transporter.....what time of year, tag info, flight info, must haves gear wise, how to deal with bears, etc., etc. A couple of things about me - I really don’t have any buddies that has the means or dreams to go on a hunt like this so it will likely just be me. I don’t mind hunting by myself but would like to try and hook up with someone else who is going. Even though I’m turning 60 next year I’m a fitness fanatic so don’t mind a tough hunt/spartan conditions. Thanks in advance! ~ John
If you are hoping to hunt next year, booking with a transporter in the very near future is key. Most transporters are either already booking for 2020...or will be soon. Unless you hook up with another hunter already on the transporter's previous client list, you will be hoping for a leftover spot as a new client. Transporters book return clients first and new clients get what's left....if anything. Hunt timing will depend on the leftover openings.
You are going to read great reviews on 40 Mile Air and Tok Air. Getting on the 40 Mile Air list as a new client is one tough proposition. I'm not sure about Tok Air openings? Both air services fly two man Super Cubs...pilot and hunter....which is limiting. If you go with a float plane transporter, your odds of booking a spot will increase dramatically. I've flown with Brooks Range Aviation out of Bettles and would highly recommend them. I'm sure you will receive other recommendations on this thread. Again, if you are wanting to hunt next season, this is the first hurdle you need to cross....and soon. Good luck with your search/decision.
Best to compile a list of every possible air transporter who might fly for caribou drop hunts. Call all of them and inquire about a hunt for 2020....see if an opportunity even exists. My thinking is that 1/2 to 2/3 of them are completely booked (or will be) for next season. The vast majority of hunters and pilots are booking their hunts 2 years or more ahead.
I went on a DYI caribou drop hunt with Ketchum Air Service on Lake Hood, Anchorage. Flew in to hunt the Mulchatna herd, which they scout regularly to locate the herds. They won't take you to random spots, they know where 'bou have been frequenting. It was very affordable and a great experience. You're out there alone (with your group) at the mercy of the weather. I went in mid August of '97 before the rut so the meat would be edible. Antlers were still in velvet. Four of us took 6 'bou bulls, one a beautifully symetrical (almost unheard of with caribou) 16x16. True trophy. One of mine was a 1.5 yo, and the other was a big mature bull with a decent rack, that was 100 yds from the tent when I came back down from packing out the first one. We saw only one black bear, and it was a dry year and there were literally no biting bugs - amazing!! I just looked up Ketchum Air and they are still operating. We were on a lake and the wind blew out to it almost the whole time so no bears smelled us and came to investigate the meat stores. We took a Beaver in, and an Otter back out. The flight out was hairy and at one point we dropped in freefall for a few seconds, I would have been on the ceiling if not for the belt. The weather had turned to crap and we were lucky to get out without a few days delay up by the lake. I'd do this again if I had enough extra time. I'd even do it alone, but not as much fun alone for 9 days. It was a great hunt. 5 of the 6 bulls were on the first day of hunting. The best one was on the last day. We spent time in camp fishing, bs'ing, sippn' whisky and tending to meat and skulls. Ketchum Air Service! Back then it was only $750.00 Not sure now, probably way more.
Unless something has changed, nonresidents can no longer hunt the Mulchatna herd.
I hunted the Mulchatna in '98. It wasnt long after that the herd TANKED.
I used Aniak Air for a drop off Bou hunt....both me and my buddy tagged out on decent bulls.
What’s the limit on caribou? You can hunt black bear as well?
AK Regs can be confusing. But with the current caribou crash you are pretty much looking at 1 bull caribou for Non -res and probably hunting the northern slope areas OTC . The season is shorter as well. Easiest/cheapest option- fly to fairbanks, rent a uhaul van, bowhunt the haul road. easy to do solo, cheap enough to talk another retired friend to tag along.
Other options exist, like Adak if you saw the current thread on that hunt you could book it solo and meet up with a lot of others and have a real AK adventure. And the limit on caribou is 2 bulls and as many cows as you want!
The other option that would combine your other thread is Kodiak has a herd of caribou and you could easily hunt both Sitka deer and Caribou the same hunt on Kodiak in the summer solo.
Oh man I didn’t know Kodiak had caribou. And the Adak thing sounds sweet too. Thanks!
Here are some to check out in addition to the previously mentioned:
https://arcticairflying.com/ https://arrowheadoutfitters.com/caribou-hunting-northern-brooks-range/ http://www.weguidealaska.com/hunting/caribou.html https://www.n2alaska.com/nalchina-caribou-hunting/ https://www.mikeodin.com/caribou.html https://www.northernairtrophy.com/caribou-drop-hunts http://flyingak.com/hunts-trips/
We flew out of Kotzebue Alaska this year with Golden Eagle outfitters they were great did everything they said they would put us on caribou it's just up to you to bring one home.
Granted, I catch hell from posters on this forum all the time because I’m a big proponent of taking an Alaskan Unguided Moose Hunting class before going MOOSE HUNTING in ALASKA. The proof it is important is in the success. However, caribou are quite possibly the easiest big game animal to hunt in North America...there is no need for a specialized information class to be successful caribou hunting. I might suggest that you find an outfitter instead of a flight service because they may be expected to have a little better area and experience on the ground actually hunting. But there are some good air taxi services. You can PM me if you want names. Insist whomever you choose give you the names of ALL of his clients from the previous year. It is a great culling technique to save you some heartache. It’s too easy for outfitters to give “reference” lists that are just cherry-picked names of people that will say they walk on water. Good luck.
I don’t understand saying caribou are the easiest animal to bag then recommending an outfitter. Not unless shooting a 400 inch bou is the most important thing to you. For the cost of an outfitter, you can do multiple DIY bou hunts and increase your odds of getting a nice one.
Your gear completely depends on if you’re going in a cub or a bigger plane.
Last year I did a considerable amount of research into a similar hunt. If you want details send me a PM with a phone number we can talk
Sorry IDYL...We miscommunicated. I meant “use an outfitter to take care of outfitting and transporting” but not guide. It would be an unguided hunt but facilitated by an outfitter instead of a air taxi. I hope this clears it up for anybody else that might also misunderstood.
Call golden eagle in Kotzebue and book a trip with Jared and Jesse. For sure the best value and easiest way to hunt caribou in Alaska. They fly 206’s. That makes for weight capacity to carry a comfortable camp!
It's one thing to find a transporter into caribou country but if you want to bowhunt them, I'd be looking for one that can take you into a herd that's in bowhunter friendly terrain.
If I were to do it again, I'd skip the air taxi and just hunt DIY on public land near whatever town I chose to stay in. On my first trip, I saw just as many caribou around Soldotna, AK as I did on the tundra where we were flown into. I also didn't care for the tundra environment all that much, so a more mountainous area would be my preference.
If only it were that easy, Matt.
Please explain, Nick. My trip was 15 years ago, so things may have changed since then.