Gear Prep for Caribou

SgtTanner

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Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
58
Good Morning.

I’m planning a trip to Alaska for this summer. A buddy who lives in Fairbanks has invited me to hunt Caribou, north of Fairbanks, in August. The 40-Mile herd. We’ll be in the field about 6 days, and if we tag out early, we may go looking for a black bear.

Like most people, I don’t have unlimited discretionary monies. I have some questions regarding gear prioritization. I’ll try to give you a good idea of what I have, and what I might be considering purchasing or upgrading, though I’m open to other suggestions on specific brands/models. I’m hoping you all can help me sort out which items are highest-pri, and which can wait til next year.

Optics: I currently have a good pair of 8x42s. I’m considering getting either 12x50s (something like Leupold BX-5, Maven B2, or Vortex Razor HD) or a compact spotter (a compact gold ring, or Nikon ED50, something like that). Whichever I go with, the budget will be $1K or so, maybe a bit extra to get a bipod as well.

Sleeping bag: For some context, my buddy has a Kodiak flex-bow tent that we’ll be using. For transportation we’ll be using his truck and then his side-by-side. No backpacking, so weight and bulk are not huge considerations. I’ll be taking a fat/comfy Exped Megamat pad. I’m not real familiar with climate in central Alaska. I have a few options:

- A 0-degree base camp bag. The large type that’s canvas outside and flannel inside, with synthetic insulation. It’s comfy, but heavy and large, so it takes me some time to heat the thing up after I get in it.

- A 0-degree Coleman mummy from my boy scout days, synthetic insulation. Meaning it’s about 20 years old. If I don’t use this bag on this trip, I’ll likely get rid of it.

- A 20-degree Kelty mummy, about 15 years old, but still in decent condition. Down insulation.

- A Montbell Down Hugger #5. 800 fill down, rated to 40-degrees. I’m not considering taking this (more on why I’m including it below)

If I upgrade my sleeping bag, I’d go the “buy-once-cry-once” route and get a high end down bag. Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, Montbell, or maybe Kuiu or Stone Glacier for hydro-phobic down. I’m interested in your thoughts on temp rating. I would like to have something that would work in conditions colder than my Montbell – kind of a two-bag quiver idea, though I’d probably still keep my giant base camp bag.

Rain pants: I have a good rain jacket, but don’t have good rain pants. I have a few pairs of soft-shell type pants with good DWR, but no dedicated hard shell pants of the type that may be needed for epic storms, though for the worst storms we’d probably seek shelter. I would be thinking something like Sitka Cloudburst.

Puffy pants: For sitting and glassing. I have good base layers and pants, but wouldn’t mind being toasty warm while I heat up a meal and glass. I would be looking at something like Kuiu Super Down Pro pants.

So, how would you prioritize those items? Are there other options on those items that I should consider, as far as brand and model?

Outside of these items, what has been the most critical piece of gear that saved your bacon on an Alaska hunt?

Thanks for your help.
 

Frenchy

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Sep 12, 2011
Messages
395
Location
Bozeman, MT
Your 20 Degree Kelty bag should do the trick. I wouldn't worry about upgrading your optics specifically for this trip, but if its something you've been thinking about for other uses....have at it.

In all honesty. Take what you already have and go hunt! I've hunted the 40-mile herd a bit, and I never had any specialty gear. The only trouble I ever had was getting there. Two flat tires in the damn near the middle of no-where. Was lucky to walk into the only place around, and just happened to find the only guy within 100 miles set up to fix tires.
 

N_8

Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
35
Location
Yakutat, Alaska
When I'm trying to make a call about what sleeping bag or layers to bring to an area I'm unfamiliar with I'll use.
https://weatherspark.com/
Figure out the nearest station to where you will be hunting and look at the stats for the hunt period. Maybe subtract 10 degrees plus if you are going to be significantly higher in elevation. Good luck.
 

SgtTanner

Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
58
When I'm trying to make a call about what sleeping bag or layers to bring to an area I'm unfamiliar with I'll use.
https://weatherspark.com/
Figure out the nearest station to where you will be hunting and look at the stats for the hunt period. Maybe subtract 10 degrees plus if you are going to be significantly higher in elevation. Good luck.
That's a super cool tool! Thanks for sharing.

Your 20 Degree Kelty bag should do the trick. I wouldn't worry about upgrading your optics specifically for this trip, but if its something you've been thinking about for other uses....have at it.

In all honesty. Take what you already have and go hunt! I've hunted the 40-mile herd a bit, and I never had any specialty gear. The only trouble I ever had was getting there. Two flat tires in the damn near the middle of no-where. Was lucky to walk into the only place around, and just happened to find the only guy within 100 miles set up to fix tires.
Some of those are items that I want to upgrade at some point anyway, but it sounds like I don't absolutely need to upgrade for this trip. Thanks.

Keep the opinions coming. I really appreciate it.
 

AlaskaHunter

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Jan 20, 2017
Messages
366
Location
interior Alaska
Zone 1 which is off the Steese Hwy and Chena Hotspring Road closed in a few days the last 2 years as the quota for that zone was 530 bulls.
So if your friend hunts that zone, you might think of a plan B...I hate to hear you flying all the way up here, only to have your hunt closed after a few days.
The same is true for the other zones that have road access..for example Zone 3 (Taylor Highway access) could be closed if the harvest quota is met.

Your 20 degree Kelty should be fine. August tends to be a rainy month, so a tarp for glassing under is nice.
Also I like a tarp for laying out quarters while butchering.

Also Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska, so if you forgot an item, it is no big deal...

Also if caribou are scarce, you can shoot an animal of lesser value on your caribou tag...a black bear for example.
 

SgtTanner

Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2018
Messages
58
Zone 1 which is off the Steese Hwy and Chena Hotspring Road closed in a few days the last 2 years as the quota for that zone was 530 bulls.
So if your friend hunts that zone, you might think of a plan B...I hate to hear you flying all the way up here, only to have your hunt closed after a few days.
The same is true for the other zones that have road access..for example Zone 3 (Taylor Highway access) could be closed if the harvest quota is met.

Your 20 degree Kelty should be fine. August tends to be a rainy month, so a tarp for glassing under is nice.
Also I like a tarp for laying out quarters while butchering.

Also Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska, so if you forgot an item, it is no big deal...

Also if caribou are scarce, you can shoot an animal of lesser value on your caribou tag...a black bear for example.
Yeah, tracking that the season can be quick, though I'm not positive which zone he has in mind.

Taking a black bear on the caribou tag is an interesting thought, and one I would consider. Do the two normally hang out in the same type of landscapes in that part of Alaska? Any tips for looking for bears? My buddy is confident in his caribou skills, but neither of us have any experience looking for black bears.
 

Trial153

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Jan 4, 2016
Messages
1,597
Location
New York
I will be bow hunting caribou in Alaska the august as well.....20 degree quilt will be coming with me, ,most likely my 10x42s and tripod, my phone scope will act a doubler and leaving the spotter home to save weight. Rain gear is must. I will bring a puffy jacket but most likely no puffy pants. I plan of light base layer and then my hunting pants .
 

mdhunter61

Active member
Joined
Oct 3, 2010
Messages
299
Reading what you already have in terms of gear, I wouldn't buy anything - all of that gear will work well on an August hunt in the 40 Mile country. You don't need a spotter for caribou, if they're that far away try to get closer in the side by side and glass them. 8x42 will work fine.

I would use the 0 degree or 20 degree synthetic, can rain pretty hard in August in Unit 20.

Rather than getting puffy pants, I use lightweight long underwear under lightweight pants (I don't like getting too hot when I walk). For cold mornings, I bought a $20 pair of light overpants that are large enough to go over your hunting pants. They may be down, but I'm not certain. I am certain that they're lightweight, warm, and cost a lot less than real puffy pants. I only used them once or twice on a late August/early September caribou hunt in the mountains on Unit 20 last year.
 

AlaskaHunter

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Joined
Jan 20, 2017
Messages
366
Location
interior Alaska
Yeah, tracking that the season can be quick, though I'm not positive which zone he has in mind.

Taking a black bear on the caribou tag is an interesting thought, and one I would consider. Do the two normally hang out in the same type of landscapes in that part of Alaska? Any tips for looking for bears? My buddy is confident in his caribou skills, but neither of us have any experience looking for black bears.
If your off the beaten track, your likely to see black bears and grizzly bears chowing down on blueberries in same landscape as caribou, they are typically obvious and sometimes are chowing down in the same blueberry patch for hours. You can not shoot a grizzly bear without a guide or kin. The bag limit for black bears is 3 bears per person.
 

mdhunter61

Active member
Joined
Oct 3, 2010
Messages
299
As the grizzy population has grown so much in Unit 20, I haven't seen many black bears in several years, but we do see grizzlies nearly every year. A black bear's dark fur coat is pretty easy to see, and as Alaska Hunter mentioned, they are typically feeding on berries on sides of ridges - a lot easier to spot them there than down in the spruce trees.
 
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