Drop Camp Caribou Hunt

Hams42

Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2020
Messages
27
Location
Billings Montana
Hey all asking for some help on planning a possible drop camp Caribou hunt.

A DIY drop camp Caribou hunt is currently my dream hunt, but planning a trip is a tad daunting. I'm not sure exactly where to start.
I know that traveling from the the lower 48 to Alaska isn't the cheapest hunt in the world but I am trying to plan this hunt to be as affordable as possible. My wife and I are in our mid 20s and want to do this hunt while we are still in good health and aren't currently tied down by anything yet.

I don't want to cut corners and have nothing against guides but I don't want to go completely broke from this adventure trip. So I would like to do a DIY hunt. Central Alaska is where I think I would like to hunt. So flying into Fairbanks and starting there.

My main questions I have are as follows:

How do I select a unit?
How do I find a transporter?
Are there flights straight out of Fairbanks or do you have to drive 500 miles up the Dalton Hwy?
What is a typical transport cost?
What type of gear list should I have?
What is the best way to get to and from the transporter?
What is the best way to transport antlers, hide and meat home to Montana?
What are the prices going to look like for the total trip?

It will for sure be my wife and myself, but other friends and family may want to join.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
 

BayouBengal

New member
Joined
Dec 15, 2011
Messages
25
Hey all asking for some help on planning a possible drop camp Caribou hunt.

A DIY drop camp Caribou hunt is currently my dream hunt, but planning a trip is a tad daunting. I'm not sure exactly where to start.
I know that traveling from the the lower 48 to Alaska isn't the cheapest hunt in the world but I am trying to plan this hunt to be as affordable as possible. My wife and I are in our mid 20s and want to do this hunt while we are still in good health and aren't currently tied down by anything yet.

I don't want to cut corners and have nothing against guides but I don't want to go completely broke from this adventure trip. So I would like to do a DIY hunt. Central Alaska is where I think I would like to hunt. So flying into Fairbanks and starting there.

My main questions I have are as follows:

How do I select a unit?
How do I find a transporter?
Are there flights straight out of Fairbanks or do you have to drive 500 miles up the Dalton Hwy?
What is a typical transport cost?
What type of gear list should I have?
What is the best way to get to and from the transporter?
What is the best way to transport antlers, hide and meat home to Montana?
What are the prices going to look like for the total trip?

It will for sure be my wife and myself, but other friends and family may want to join.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
So you have a couple of options here. If you have time and could build experience over trips on multiple years then I would recommend looking into the 40-mile herd fall hunt. Non-residents can participate (bull only). It is a crowded and chaotic hunt though. Plenty of info on it online. This is a road hunt, largely, and lots of wheelers.

Outside of that you are looking at a transporter to get you out to a drop camp site. That is not a small effort, so really do your research. You can generally use $750/hr for bush plane costs. If you have a group you may also want to look into hunting the herd out by Kotzebue, but again that is way out there. You will also need to have a plan to contend with grizz as you aren't allowed to harvest as a nonresident without a guide (unless you are about to get eaten).

I would use a taxidermist here in Alaska and have it shipped back, rather than trying to get everything back frozen.

Bottomline, including your airfare I would tentatively estimate you should budget at least $6k if you want to do a fly in drop camp hunt. If you want to road hunt/hike the 40-mile herd you can do it far cheaper (airline tickets, rental, tent camp and food), but realistically you aren't likely to bring down a trophy quality bull.
 

Hams42

Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2020
Messages
27
Location
Billings Montana
So you have a couple of options here. If you have time and could build experience over trips on multiple years then I would recommend looking into the 40-mile herd fall hunt. Non-residents can participate (bull only). It is a crowded and chaotic hunt though. Plenty of info on it online. This is a road hunt, largely, and lots of wheelers.

Outside of that you are looking at a transporter to get you out to a drop camp site. That is not a small effort, so really do your research. You can generally use $750/hr for bush plane costs. If you have a group you may also want to look into hunting the herd out by Kotzebue, but again that is way out there. You will also need to have a plan to contend with grizz as you aren't allowed to harvest as a nonresident without a guide (unless you are about to get eaten).

I would use a taxidermist here in Alaska and have it shipped back, rather than trying to get everything back frozen.

Bottomline, including your airfare I would tentatively estimate you should budget at least $6k if you want to do a fly in drop camp hunt. If you want to road hunt/hike the 40-mile herd you can do it far cheaper (airline tickets, rental, tent camp and food), but realistically you aren't likely to bring down a trophy quality bull.
Thank you for all of this info. I have a few more questions if you'd be nice enough to answer them?
I saw the Kotzebue unit on Gohunt and saw that it was a very high success rate so it caught my eye. Would you access this unit by flying into Fairbanks and then getting a transporter from there, or is there a closer town to the unit you can fly into?

Also is just searching for reliable transporters on Google the best option or is there a better way?

Once you've found a transporter do they help you decide where to drop ypu base camp or is that up to you?

Alaska is a big place so I figure talking to the guys in the sky and finding out where the animals have been would be the best way to find a camp. But are the transporters forth coming with that information?

I want to be a respectful non resident hunter so I'd love some tips on how to keep the residents happy coming from a state that also gets a lot of non resident traffic I don't want to be THAT guy.

Sorry this is a lot but I appreciate all of the willing help everyone provides. And if anyone needs some help with hunting Montana please let me know I love to help.
 

BayouBengal

New member
Joined
Dec 15, 2011
Messages
25
Thank you for all of this info. I have a few more questions if you'd be nice enough to answer them?
I saw the Kotzebue unit on Gohunt and saw that it was a very high success rate so it caught my eye. Would you access this unit by flying into Fairbanks and then getting a transporter from there, or is there a closer town to the unit you can fly into?

Also is just searching for reliable transporters on Google the best option or is there a better way?

Once you've found a transporter do they help you decide where to drop ypu base camp or is that up to you?

Alaska is a big place so I figure talking to the guys in the sky and finding out where the animals have been would be the best way to find a camp. But are the transporters forth coming with that information?

I want to be a respectful non resident hunter so I'd love some tips on how to keep the residents happy coming from a state that also gets a lot of non resident traffic I don't want to be THAT guy.

Sorry this is a lot but I appreciate all of the willing help everyone provides. And if anyone needs some help with hunting Montana please let me know I love to help.
Sure thing, happy to help.

Kotzebue is remote, but Alaska Airlines flies directly into it. Cheapest way to do it would be to fly into Anchorage (or Fairbanks) and then catch a flight to Kotz. There are no roads that access Kotz, its air/boat only until it freezes up and sleds can make it around. I mention that only because when you get out there you are really out there and subject to the weather. There is a very nice hotel in Kotz that you can stay at, and for the most part the locals will welcome you as this is a good economic boost to the area. You would catch a transporter flight straight out from Kotz and they will put you at a campsite of their choosing. They are all fairly experienced at this and will do the best they can to put you in front of the moving herd. Of course, they cant control everything, but you will have a much better shot at shooting a good bull on this type of hunt versus the road battles. Honestly though, if you just want a caribou then hunting off the road system can be very effective - just don't expect the big antlered bulls you see in magazines. The transporters know where the herds are and the general direction of travel and they want you to be successful, but alot will depend on the effort you put into it.

You will need an inreach or sat phone if you go drop camp. Many transporters will require you rent a sat phone both for your safety and to give them weather reports when they fly in to get you. I would recommend having at least 4 folks in your party. Once you are dropped off you are really out on your own until the plane comes back.

The other thing with Kotzebue is you will have to deal with brown bear. Just be prepared for that. Seeing my first brownie at 297 yards was a significant emotional experience and puts into perspective that you are not at the top of the food chain in Alaska. I think the Kifaru guys just did a caribou hunt out of Kotz this year and made a good video about it - should be on youtube.

As far as getting along with the locals, just be respectful. It is really tough/expensive to get basic items out there so try not to fly in and buy out the local store with your food/gear. You can google lots out of outfitters, but I would recommend picking up the phone and calling them. Ask for references and call those folks as well.

Happy to help further, I know Alaska is exciting and I am doing my best to experience as much as I can while here.
 

deer_shooter

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2009
Messages
2,039
Location
Southwest Pa.
Not sure if this link will work as I'm a tech dummy but you may find a couple useful tidbits. PM me if you have any questions.

Lots of good info from Bayou above. Another option would be the haul road bow hunt. It's very doable but a bit of a goat rodeo with a good many other hunters and not a great deal of caribou. That said, we went over Labor Day this year and did not see many others on the road. There were a few 'bou that we could have had really good chances at but, as stated above, not the trophy class bulls. Also keep in mind that caribou move as they want to. We spent a week in a prime area and only saw a handful until the last day.
 
Last edited:

Bambistew

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 10, 2002
Messages
7,030
Location
Chugiak, AK
How do I select a unit?
How do I find a transporter?
Are there flights straight out of Fairbanks or do you have to drive 500 miles up the Dalton Hwy?
What is a typical transport cost?
What type of gear list should I have?
What is the best way to get to and from the transporter?
What is the best way to transport antlers, hide and meat home to Montana?
What are the prices going to look like for the total trip?

It will for sure be my wife and myself, but other friends and family may want to join.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
You don't have a ton of options as a NR. Centeral AK wouldn't be my first choice. The 40-mile herd is currently be culled to reduce the numbers. I've yet to see a trophy bull come out of that herd this year and most are stunted, old bulls and small antlers. A crash is likely to happen soon as the herd is way too big. My definition of trophy is likely different than most. I'm talking 380 class bulls, XXL size and better. They are non existent this year it seems. I've seen a few nice ones, but nothing big.

The easiest thing to do would be to call Jared Cummings with Golden Eagle outfitters in Kotzebue. Logistics are pretty straight forward, fly commercial to Kotz, walk across the parking lot to his hanger, and fly in/out of the bush. Bring stuff back home with you on the plane. Ship up or bring gear along in coolers. split your rack and pack the antlers in cardboard and bring it on the plane with you. Salt your cape in the field bring it home, meat in coolers. Done. Once you start adding in additional steps, moving locations etc, you have more expenses. Car rentals are not cheap here. Easily $100/day minimum, a truck will run you $150+

That part of the state is the wildest and some of the prettiest around. It would be a hunt/trip of a lifetime no doubt.

If you hunt MT you can hunt Alaska. Its just a little wetter here at times. No running to the store to get stuff so bring what you need. Lots of gear lists floating around out there.

Fairbanks has a few air taxis that will fly you out, but they book fast, and its a long flight to where the caribou are. You'd easily be looking at $800-1200/hr don't forget you pay for to/from and return to/from. It adds up fast, a one hour flight in is 4hrs of flight time. I would expect to pay at least $3500 pp for a flight plus tip. Some rides can be shared, some not, just depends on who the operator is and aircraft.

There are a few things to make the trip less expensive, like get an Alaska Airlines CC and use companion ticket or airline miles. Try to hunt off the road system with everyone else, etc. Lots of the same base costs either way. Meals, hotels, tags etc. A fly out trip will run you probably $6000 pretty easy these days PP from the L48. @mdhunter61 has done a breakdown on his costs a number of times, search for his threads, tons of good info and he's caribou slayer.
 

Gary

Active member
Joined
Jul 4, 2009
Messages
350
The only thing I would add is to check out taxidermy costs before you come up. One of the respondents suggested getting the taxi work done here. It will be much more expensive to have it done here, if you can find a good taxi close to home. I would expect the transportation costs back to MT for a shoulder mount bou to just about double the cost for the taxidermist. Just another thing to check out before coming up.
 

Hams42

Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2020
Messages
27
Location
Billings Montana
Thank you to everyone this is exactly the stuff I needed to hear. I'm probably leaning towards the Kotzebue hunt since I'm looking for an adventure. Probably going to plan it for 2023 so I have more time to plan and save. Thanks again everyone.
 

Hams42

Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2020
Messages
27
Location
Billings Montana
Oh gosh I have another question already 😅.
What should the total trip time be? Like how many days on either side of you drop camp flights. I imagine AK weather changes at the drop of a hat so I want to try to account for that.
 

Bambistew

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Joined
Dec 10, 2002
Messages
7,030
Location
Chugiak, AK
Oh gosh I have another question already 😅.
What should the total trip time be? Like how many days on either side of you drop camp flights. I imagine AK weather changes at the drop of a hat so I want to try to account for that.
I would plan 2 days on either side. I think most guys hunt 7-10 days, and most/many get flown out as soon as they get their animal. You could be delayed by weather mostly rain/fog are the killers up there.

I'm not sure about daily commercial flights to Kotz, they change the schedule a while back. Just call Jared and he'll line you out. Don't over think it. I think he takes about 150 hunters a year.

Good luck!
 
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