Yeti GOBOX Collection

First time caribou

John Rachow

New member
Jul 16, 2004
Upstate New York
Hi folks,
I have been a lurker on this great site for some time, but this is my first post. I am planning a drop-camp caribou hunt for the Mulchatna herd in 2006. Like most people, I am not a rich man by any means and this hunt may very well be once-in-a-lifetime. I want to do as much research as I can before putting my money down in an effort to have the very best chance for success. I have researched the old posts on this site ( and others) and have found a wealth of information. Still, I have a few questions that I hope you guys can answer or at least, point me in the right direction.

1. Since it appears the Mulchatna has started to change its' migration patterns from historical tendancies (maybe a little farther west and north?), I am wondering which town may be better to fly from? Since certain air services from each outlying town have been given geat reviews on this site, I thought that trying to find where the largest concentration of animals have been lately during late August and early September might lead me to choose a given town first, then choose the operator in an effort to cut down on bush flight time. Would going from Dillingham, Bethel or Aniak be better than from Iliamna, Port Alsworth or Soldotna?

2. Does anyone have a list of prudent questions to ask an outfitter / air service? I have started one, but not sure if I have captured everything.

3. How fast does a small plane travel and how far can one expect an air service to take you out from town? In other words, since flight time equals dollars and each service must have a dollar figure in mind when quoting a drop-camp package, how much air time could one expect a service to put in to find good animals?

Any and all help would be appreciated. Thanks.
John, welcome to moosies misfits.

The migration pattern has changed over the last couple of years. It seems the big ones are staying more to the north alot later. If you go out of iliamna, it should be a safe bet for a decent hunt. Plan on anywhere from 15min flight to about an hour, if you have a good pilot he will fly until he finds the herd and puts you down in a good spot. Flying with wheels vs floats is the way to go (another question to ask)

A couple of questions that are important for a non-res hunter is about hidden costs. Sometimes they charge you extra for the animal or if your in an area where you can shoot 2 they charge you for the 2nd one and alot arent always up front about it. plus if they pick up the meat half way through, what do they do with it? if they drop it off at a local freezer, theres gonna be another hidden cost.

LBG is pretty good on his advice, it is almost like he LIVES there..... ;)

When I went a few years back, we decided on using Dillingham as our jumping off point. We used Tom Schlegal at Bay Air in Dillingham, and he did way more than we expected and was very up front. I would not hesitate to reccommend him to anyone, and can't wait to get back up his way again, for another charter with them.

We chose Dillingham as we could fly there on Alaska Airlines via Jet. If you use frequent flier miles, or sign up for their Gold Card, you get a Companion Ticket, which ends up making the cost of flights to Dillingham much cheap than the flight to Anchorage PLUS the drive/charter to Soldotna/ and any other smaller carrier to Illimna or King Salmon.

The small planes you will likely be using will either be Piper Super Cubs (PA-18) on wheels or a DeHavilland Beaver.

The Super Cub (pictured below) will cruise about 100mph, depending on the prop and engine. Given that it is tandem seating, you can only get a pilot + 1 passenger per load. Most of the flight services using Super Cubs are pretty strict on weight, and the room is pretty small. They are great for landing on gravel bars along rivers. Range is pretty short, due to limited fuel capacity. :eek:

The DHC-2 Beavers are bigger, and are generally set up with seating for 4. It is probably the most common float plane in all of Alaska and Canada. It will cruise about 120 mph or so. Depending on the area you are hunting, the floats may be handier than the wheels on the Super Cub.

When we went out of Dillingham, we were about 100 miles away, so when you add in warm-up time for the plane, and a bit of climb and descent, you should figure on paying for 1 hour on the way out, per 100 miles.

Also, keep in mind, that after you get dropped off, you will likely pay for the return flight of the Pilot back to town (deadheading) and then when he picks you up, you will pay for his empty flight to get you. So it turns out that for you to go out 100 miles and back, the plane (and pilot) does 100+100+100+100 miles.

The nice thing about a Beaver is you can get 2 hunters plus 4 Caribou+gear in the plane. Where the SuperCub will be many more flights, for the same gear.

One of the things Bay Air was doing was they had the Beaver Float plane, a Cessna 206 on wheels, and the Super Cub. So they could offer you a flight to a small lake/pond/river on the float plane, or fly you to another village in the bigger 206 and transfer you via Super Cub to a remote location, but a real short flight. They seemed to have the best of both worlds.

There is a guy on this board, Pygmy who has made a couple of Alaska Caribou hunts, and his information is pretty good. Moosie, the Yahoo that owns this place, can offer you good advice if you are looking to shoot Cow caribou..

The other thing I will say about the Beaver vs. the Super Cub is that the Radial Engine on the Beavers is one of the cool sounds in life. The deep rumble of a radial engine as it comes to life is something everybody should hear a time or two... :cool:

Good luck, and welecome to Moosie's.
Thanks for the welcome and the information.

LBG - I am a little confused, though :confused: . You said that the caribou are staying more to the north and going out of Iliamna might be better. Isn't Iliamna at the south end of the Mulchatna range?

Yes Ili is more along the southern parts of the herd. I didnt see aniak in your post (my bust). Even out of McGrath would be a good choice. There not staying in the north, they just seem to be migrating south later than usual.

I've had decent luck out of Ili, also out of soldotna. we just had a good pilots that found the herd and put us down about a days walk ahead of them. A good pilot is half the battle.
John... the Mulchatna Heard is AWSOME... If you're looking for a Trophy Caribou (COW that is ;) ) I actually had a bad 'Bou experience last year. The biggest 'bou we saw in 4 days wa this one :


A far Cry from one anyone would want to mount.

I've heard the Mulchatna heard is taking hits from Hunters and Predators. Although Gunners and LBG's posts are good info, I'd say Head north, Leave the Mulchatna Highway of cows and spend the Extra $500 to put you were you need to be.

But I'm opinionated on this from one bad experience so you might want to Ignor my post ;)

I will say that Moose are nice out of Soldatna though :D


And, Before taking advice from LBG, Take a look what he looks like. He's the skinny one with the wood Stock

Hey oscar.

Fug off, oh sure pick on the anerexic guy :D

Stop telling people to not hunt the mulchatna herd. dang man, the mulchatna is already hit hard, we dont want the other herds hit hard also. you southerners, geez, I dont know what I'm gonna do with you guys :rolleyes:

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