We have been working with this charter service for about 14 years. The one thing that distinguishes them from most other services we know of is their incredible attention to detail. All too often on “DIY” hunts in Alaska, folks leave their homes with only a hazy idea of what to expect. They show up with improper and unsafe clothing, sleeping bags, etc. They think they know what to expect, then the surprises start! Not with this top-notch outfit. They will send you tons of info, and if you have anything wrong, it will be simply because you did not read the materials! They also supply all your food and camp gear, which is also different from some operations. You just show up with your license, and your personal and hunting gear, and hunt! Besides wonderful organization, their success rate is also awesome!
These hunts are based out of Kotzebue. This means you will overnight either in Anchorage and fly out the next morning to Kotz, or you may overnight in Kotz. You will be hunting the largest caribou herd in Alaska, the Western Arctic herd, which numbers around 260,000 caribou. In 2017 the success rates were again extremely high, and the animals were fat, with excellent capes and antlers. While the Mulchatna herd is not doing well, this Western Arctic herd is in great condition with lots of trophy animals. You are allowed to take only one caribou now.
Hunter success on these unguided caribou hunts usually runs between 80% to 95% (bulls and cows) over the last 30 years or so. But every so often the ’bou just do not show up, and that can happen, as the hunt is very weather-dependent. The outfitter’s camps are mobile and he relocates them between hunts as the herd moves along its migration route, to ensure you the highest opportunity for success (but there is no opportunity to be moved DURING your hunt). Over 30 years of experience dictate where they place the camps for highest success. Trophy bulls are quite common, and seeing 300 to 500 caribou is not unusual. You need to realize, though, that caribou are vast roamers and caribou here today may disappear tomorrow! And you need to be able to walk a couple miles a day.
Here is what the outfitter has to say about success:
“The 2019 Caribou season was a great season, with 100% of our Camps being put into the Caribou (meaning they saw them and/or shot them) – every year, we have one or two groups that either don’t shoot because they were looking for something specific OR we have guys that are not in the physical shape to be able to walk out and go hunting. So, our success rate goes down from the 100% to:
91% 2019 Season
89% 2018 Season
90% 2017 Season
Over the last 20 years, we have been in the high 80’s to 90th percentile.
You can also take wolves at no extra charge, but they require a $60 tag. During Butch’s 2011 hunt, one client took a gorgeous black wolf using a predator call (HINT!). All prices include airport pickup, and charter transport to the field and back. And don’t forget your fishing license and a collapsible travel rod with a few Blue Fox Pixee spoons and Vibrax spinners. Most of the camp sites are near water containing grayling and Arctic char.
Muskeg and tundra is some of the toughest walking you can do! If you are overweight or out of shape, you’ll be worn out in a single day. Call and discuss this to be sure you are up to the task. It can take most of a day to get a caribou back to camp. You can sometimes sink into the muskeg at nearly every step. But virtually 100% opportunity makes it all worthwhile, and you will be saving close to $5,000 compared to the cost of a guided hunt!
Dates: Season opens in early August and runs to end of September. About 50% of bulls are hard-horned by
September 1, and hopefully a few frosts have decimated the bugs by then.
Licenses: $650 per caribou and $160 for hunting license. Buy online before arrival!
The camps are mobile and will be placed to intercept the herds as they move along their migration route, to ensure you of the highest chance for success. They make every effort to assure clients will be placed in areas that are productive. But every so often the caribou just do not show up, and that can happen, as the hunt is very weather-dependent. They fly nearly daily and they will always monitor the herds in the area. The average hunter will typically see several hundred plus caribou on this hunt, according to the outfitter. Trophy class bulls are very common. One caribou limit. Eight days in total, but you can legally only hunt the day after arriving, so 6-day hunts.
Muskeg and tundra is some of the toughest walking you can do! If you are overweight or out of shape, you’ll be worn out in a single day. CALL AND DISCUSS THIS TO BE SURE YOU ARE UP TO THE TASK. It can take most of a day to get a caribou back to camp. You can often find easier footing so do not just dash across the tundra.
2021 PRICING (subject to change without notice until deposit received) Sold out for 2021
$4,550 per person ($4,750 per person for 2022; $4,950 for 2023, and $5,150 for 2024
This price includes all tents, equipment and food (this is what we recommend). You just bring your personal gear and choice of weapon, with a total weight limit of 60 lbs. If you choose instead to bring your own tents and equipment, it’s just “transportation services only”, meaning, you can bring 125 lbs. of your own personal gear (camp gear, food, weapons – all in at 125 lbs). You show up in Kotzebue and they pick you up at the airport and shuttle you around town if need be, get you staged and readied for the field, hunter orientation, etc. Then all gear is weighed and loaded into the aircraft and off you go. The cost associated with that service is $3,500 per person for the 2020 season, and $3,700 per person for the 2021 season.
Included: Airport pickup; air transportation in/out of field; food (very basic, including lots of freeze dried Mountain House meals); a 6-person Guide Model dome tent per each pair of hunters; cots; stove, propane, pots, pans, and cooking utensils; water containers; transportation of meat, cape, and antlers back to Kotzebue; and expediting assistance.
Not Included: Shipping of antlers, capes, and meat beyond Kotzebue; lodging and meals in Kotzebue before or after your hunt, or due to the inability to fly due to bad weather; gratuities.
License & Tag Requirements FOR CARIBOU HUNTERS:
It’s super easy, can be done at any time on the AK Department of Fish & Game Website. Game Management Unit 23 (sometimes Unit 26) is the unit you’ll want to reference, but for Caribou Tags they are all sold as “General Season Over the Counter” tags.
The only thing you will need for your hunt that you CANNOT get until after the new Regulations come out on July 1 is the Harvest Tickets. THEY ARE FREE, BUT THE STATE DOES NOT SEND THEM OUT WITH YOUR METAL LOCKING TAGS, AND THEY CAN’T BE PRINTED UNTIL THE NEW REGULATION SEASON IS UPON US. The operator will send out a reminder in July for you to print the Harvest Tickets, so no need to worry about that right now! If you have trouble with the website and can’t figure out how to purchase – go to: https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/bb264a6f-52ac-4f2b-96da-1a9e3ec8da58/downloads/1d350bsdc_69895.pdf
You’ll need to have the Harvest Ticket, along with your hunting license and metal locking tags, for all animals you intend to hunt while in the field. As a side note, they will print out in packs of five (5). You only need one, but because AK residents use the five/day rule, they are printed in fives.
Scattered throughout August and September. Please check with us for specific dates.
Transportation: Overnight in Anchorage with an AM connecting flight #151 or #152 on Alaska Airlines to Kotzebue, Alaska, where your outfitter will meet you. Depart on flight #153.