Article Submitted to HuntingLife by M. Scotty Lamkin at http://www.scottysalaska.blogspot.com
As a former professional Alaskan hunting guide I want to give you some of the information you need to get your Alaskan hunt underway in 2010. I’m talking about information you won’t get anywhere else. Most guides want to sell you a hunt- I don’t; I want to help you do it yourself! Coming from Kentucky 30 years ago, I knew how to hunt like most of you. Same rules apply here it’s just a LARGER place to apply them. What you don’t know is the terrain, the weather, and the logistics. You’ll need some help with that.
I have all sorts of info on my blog to answer many questions about hunting expeditions here and that info can be found at other places too. What you won’t find elsewhere is a former hunting guide that will share many of his secrets about this place. I’ve contributed this article to Kevin in order to help his readers understand some of the nuances about Alaska hunting you won’t find anywhere else.
I want to help Lower 48 hunters achieve their “trip of a lifetime” and not break the bank or your marriage to do it! FIRST THING, you need to realize, that on a small budget you have limited big game species you can legally hunt as US citizens without the aide of a guide. They are Moose, Caribou, Black Bear, and Sitka Blacktail Deer. All other big game species require a guide- based on my own experience that is costly! Note: Folks from outside the US (non-resident aliens) must have a guide for ALL big game. The State of Alaska has made some concessions to fellow US sportsmen- use them!
If you are any kind of sport hunter at all, you should be up for the task. Hunting here is not easy, it’s a very physical hunt, and you must be in shape-guide or no guide. Your gear has to be in good shape too; from your footwear to your tent-, all will be tested to the max. Lady Alaska dines annually on those Cheecakos (Alaskan greenhorns) that are not prepared for their hunt. She’s fat in that regard too!
Not trying to scare anyone, but Alaska hunting is like no other, period.
You can hunt here on your own and you do NOT need a guide to hunt the species I mentioned above. I would recommend to anyone that someday wants a Dall Sheep, Brown Bear, Mtn. Goat, or Grizzly (guide required) to hunt for other species on their own first. This gives you and edge when selecting a guide later. You won’t be a “cheechako” in the dark. You will have some experience here and be much better at asking the right questions when you are about to spend big money on an Alaskan guided hunt.
Hunting Alaska on your own for the first time will surely be an experience you have not been through before. It’s a logistics nightmare here when it comes to getting around the State. You’ll end up in small planes, as you get further out in the bush. What does this mean to you? “Strategic Packing” is required.
Bulky unnecessary items will cost you plenty when it comes to space- so pack tightly and pack wisely. Bring along quality gear at every level from clothing to camp equipment and be lightweight about it. Also remember, taking too much “emergency” gear can create an emergency!
What is strategic packing? Let me give you one example. When leaving for Alaska, first pack your gun in a soft case, and then pack it in a hard case. When you get to Alaska, unpack the hard case, and take only the soft case on your hunt. Small planes hate hard gun cases; they just don’t pack well in confined places.
Kevin may want me to expand on strategic packing later. For now, I want to touch on general subject matter regarding DIY Alaskan hunts.
If you are a good hunter, have patience for the fair game chase and have just a little bit of luck, you’ll get your game. The only other thing that would decrease your odds is TIME.
A 10-day hunt is normally adequate, but weather can bring that number of hunt days way down- it happens more often than not. Another downside to weather is being stuck in the bush and missing your flight home. THAT happens a lot too! Fortunately, the local airlines counter personnel here realize that happens often. Generally, a note from the air taxi on their letterhead is all the ammo you need to avoid additional charges. Just make sure you allow enough time for your hunt; two full weeks should be more productive. Once you are in the bush, it does not cost more to stay longer!
Speaking of costs, the size of your budget and what you decide to hunt for are closely tied together. Tags for non-residents vary by species. Moose tag is $400.00, Caribou-$325.00, Black Bear-$225.00 and Sitka Deer-$150.00. Plus the cost of your hunting license-$80. Licenses do impact the budget, but they are necessary. All things averaged, the cost of a float hunt for Moose & Caribou would cost you and a buddy about $3500. each (includes everything). Guided Moose hunt alone is $8,000. or higher! That $3500. could go up or down, the variable here is the flights for the meat and racks.
In the old days, we could haul clients and tie the racks to the struts of the airplane at the same time. Insurance companies frown on that nowadays.
Where you decide to hunt, also impacts the budget. If you want the most bang for the buck, a float trip is the answer. Floating some of Alaska’s rivers offers many benefits to a non-resident! There are several reasons why I recommend that. MOST IMPORTANTLY your motor is always running! The river will move you to different spots at NO ADDITIONAL COST. Have not seen anything? Move camp on downriver, stopping to read sign as you go.
If you were merely dropped off at a lake somewhere, you are stuck there- game, or no game. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened. Some of these river trips will be over 100 miles, so you see lots of country at no additional cost to you. Your Mobile!
Rafts can be rented locally by the week and that cost was included in the $3500. I mentioned. That number also included $750. for your airline ticket to/from Alaska.
Another good reason to float hunt is the fact that game always follows the river or nearby. That means you don’t have to pack your meat very far. By law, you are required to salvage ALL the meat. A mature Bull Moose could yield 600-700 lbs. of meat to deal with. Like I said, get in shape!
Not properly salvaging ALL the meat is an often written citation, issued by Alaska by F&G officers. Alaska’s meat salvage regulations reflect the high value we Alaskans place on game meat, ethical hunting, and respectful treatment of game animals. YOU NEED to know this prior to your hunt here.
You can’t be airborne and hunt on the same day either. Another good law that has saved a lot of wildlife! So before you land and disembark on your hunt have the pilot fly up and down the river you are about to float. Preen it well and make notes of any game you may spot. It’s some valuable information and will not cost that much more to have a peek before you land.
The photos you see in the post were actual hunt photos of two non-residents who came here to hunt. They took my advice and got themselves a raft.
I hope each of you eventually make it to Alaska and savor some of her wild and edgy places. You can do this!
M. Scotty Lamkin