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Advice for planning a caribou bowhunt in Alaska

Where To Go

Several caribou herds roam the state. The Western Arctic herd in northwest Alaska is the largest and numbers close to a half a million. The chance of taking a nice bull here is greater than, say, in one of the smaller herds to the south. In addition you get to take two bulls on your trip.

However the Western Arctic herd may not be your choice for true monsters; some of the smaller herds harbor much bigger bulls in terms of antler size. The Mulchatna herd, located in the Mulchatna river drainage west of Anchorage, is an example. The only downfall of these smaller herds is that most are drawing-only areas, whereas tags for the Arctic herd can be bought over the counter.

Wherever you decide to go, do your homework and apply for the proper licenses and tags. Contacting the area biologist (www.adfg.state.ak) for the current conditions of a specific herd is a great way to start.

Equipment

Just about any modern archery setup will get the job done. The state does require a minimum of 40 pounds draw weight and a broadhead that has a cutting diameter of at least 7/8 inch.

Transit & Camp

Most hunts are usually five to seven days and can be done guided or unguided. The do-it-yourself hunts are, in my opinion, the only way to go, but they require a lot of planning and preparation.

You will need to arrange camp logistics. First, hire a transporter. A transporter is not a guide. He or she is the person who gets you from Point A to Point B and back again. Most are veteran bush pilots, but not all are created equal. Again, do your homework and select wisely. Remember your life is in their hands both in the air and on the ground.

If you're going the DIY route, you will also need to provision for shelter and food. Bush planes are small and weight does become an issue, plus the fact that you are getting charged by the hour and one trip out is a lot cheaper than two or three. I like lightweight tents that take up little space. Depending on the size of your party, you might take two small tents: one for sleeping and one for storing gear.

As far as food, try and buy what you need from one of the local stores in the town you arrive in. It won't be cheap, but at least it will contribute to the local economy. I usually try to contain everything needed for a five to seven-day hunt in one cooler. Recently I have gone the dried food and MRE route; surprisingly all of it tasted very good and took up little room.

You will also need a gas stove, cooking gear, a good water filter, game bags, and a decent frame pack or large backpack plus knives.

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