Alaska Caribou Hunting

Hunting Caribou in Alaska

Your unguided caribou hunt in Alaska begins when you touch down in Kotzebue, after your flight from Anchorage. Kotzebue is the gateway to the Arctic and before nightfall your camp will be set up in one of the most remote areas of the world: the arctic tundra. The stark landscape is home to the large and majestic caribou.


The caribou migration is one of the great marvels of North American wildlife. Because of their large size, it’s a fact that caribou are fast, they can run up to 50 miles per hour. They often have been known to go as far as 35 miles a day. Our focus is the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest caribou herd in Alaska, with estimates of 250,000 members. Which are primarily known as the barren-ground subspecies and are prized for the antlers of the bull. Herd numbers are cyclical and the total estimates affect each year’s harvest quota. Very often people still confuse these animals as their counterpart, the reindeer. Although in Alaska, that name “Reindeer” is used for a more domesticated variety that is often herded by native peoples OR more popularly known as “Rudolf, Dancer, Prancer & Vixon”! On average, hunters harvest about 16,000 caribou in Alaska each year and our work is to help you in this harvest.

Quick Caribou Facts

  • – The Western Arctic Caribou Herd is made up of over 250,000 caribou – The largest herd in Alaska
  • – Caribou can run up to 50 mph and can travel up to 35 miles a day
  • – Adult males weigh up to 500 lbs, yielding up to 150 lbs of meat
  • – Antlers can grow up to 4 feet long from left to right – an excellent trophy!

Know more about caribou in our Alaskan Caribou Hunting Blog.

The Caribou Herd

An adult male can weigh as much as 500 pounds and be over five feet tall at the shoulder – Keep in mind:  Once you have them down and have dressed them, you should only be dealing with approximately 125 – 150 #’s of meat.  They are also known for their unique antlers, which can grow 3-1/2 feet long and over 4 feet from left to right.  They are second in size only to moose antlers.  Unusual, but true;  female caribou also have antlers, unlike most other deer.

The caribou herd ranges over approximately 140,000 square miles of northwestern Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provide caribou hunting maps along with their hunting numbers and units. In the spring, they travel north toward their caribou calving grounds, including the Brooks Range and its northern foothills. Each herd uses its own unique calving area, but different herds may mix together while on their winter ranges. Many herds winter in the boreal forest, but during the remainder of the year caribou prefer treeless tundra and mountains. During summer, the herd moves westward toward the Lisburne Hills and then switches eastward back through the Brooks Range. The mountainous Brooks Range has more shelter and is a better feeding ground during the winter. The caribou use their large hooves to scoop through loose snow to find plants to eat. Throughout the year, caribou tend to favor the leaves of willows, sedges, flowering tundra plants, and mushrooms, but subsist mainly on lichens in the winter months. By fall, the herd splits and travels in groups that number in the hundreds, moving to their wintering areas. Our job, as your transporter, is to keep track of the caribou, allowing us to situate you in the best place for a successful hunt.

Our Alaska caribou hunt season gets started the end of August and runs through the end of September for a couple of reasons:

  • – Antlers have shed their velvet and have turned hard.
  • – The animals haven’t gone into their rut yet, so the meat is still good.
  • – The migration South from the North Slope is in full force, so the odds of seeing larger numbers of animals while you’re in the field are higher!

Hunting Season

Caribou Hunting SeasonCaribou season begins in mid-August; our hunts begin with drop-offs in late August, with the potential for the season to last through the end of September. Within this time frame the caribou have begun shedding their velvet, their huge antlers are hard, and the migration is working its way through the drop zones that are best for our clients. As a bonus, the infamous bugs that Alaska is known for are all but non-existent since the season is cooler than the summer months, thus making your unguided Alaska caribou hunt that much better!

As an experienced hunter, you know we cannot guarantee a successful harvest, but we will give you the best opportunity to secure a set of antlers. However, your trip is less about the trophy and more about the experience of sharing in the wonder and exhilaration of the hunt. Caribou hunting in Alaska has a long history, going back to the Ice Age. The caribou is an animal that has been a major resource for humans in a large geographic area and across a time span of tens of thousands of years. Our work with you continues that ancient caribou hunting tradition.

Ultimate Guide to Hunting In The Tundra

You’re here to test yourself

You are an experienced hunter, but you are ready for the next challenge. You want to visit the remote Arctic and test your hunting skills, away from your daily routine. Taking an Alaskan hunting trip demands a lot of preparation for the hunter. Your success not only depends on the location of the hunt but also your physical, mental and logistical planning.  The worst thing that most hunters do before taking their Alaska hunting trip is underestimating how much walking/hiking they will do. Sometimes in order to find the perfect trophy you have to walk through dense alder thickets, muskegs and even cross creeks not to mention maybe even hiking up a mountain each day.  But even if you get lucky and find your trophy bull near your camp, the real work begins after you’ve taken your shot and now have to clean and pack up your kill. Starting a physical regiment 4 to 6 months before your trip will have you better prepared for the Alaskan tundra.

Your time here is the opportunity of a lifetime; to continue the tradition of caribou hunting that has existed for eons. Your adventure requires nerve, skill, and even some guidance. We are here to help make your experience as successful as possible.

On these Alaskan caribou hunts, we have been taking hunters into the wild from Kotzebue longer than anyone else. We learned our trade working with some of the legendary bush pilots years ago. In the same tradition, many of the other transporters in the area learned the trade working with us, but we are still your best source for guidance in this challenging environment.

When you are out in the arctic you have to be prepared for anything. Our experience is essential to your trip. As a path to preparation, we have brought together some of the things we have learned and made them available on this website. Browse this website, follow the links, view the images, and download the “Welcome Pack.” Your Alaska caribou hunting adventure begins with proper planning and now is the time to get started! When you’re ready, we’ll be waiting.

Game Meat Care in the Field

Alaska regulations stipulate that you must salvage all caribou meat, moose meat and all other edible meat from your big game animals, with only a few exceptions. Before you head into the field, make sure you have all the proper tools for meat and trophy care and know both the regulations on how to field dress and care for meat. The basic tenants of meat care are to keep meat cool, clean, and dry. The greatest threat to meat is heat. Remove the hide quickly and get the meat away from internal organs. Rinse off any rumen, bile, or urine that gets on the meat. As you work, keep the meat out of the sun; use tarps to create shade. If necessary, you can bag the meat in plastic bags and put in cool water for less than an hour to cool the meat. In all cases, thoroughly dry the meat, and put it into cotton game bags that allow air to circulate to the meat. Bag all of your meat before you take your first load back to camp. Once you are back at your camp, hang the bagged meat off the ground in a tree or on a rack. This helps keep the meat cool and clean. Hang the meat close enough to your camp to keep an eye on it, but far enough away to be safe from aggressive bears. Once all the meat is hung, remove the meat bags and spray the meat generously with a citric acid/water mixture. The citric acid will slow down bacteria growth that spoils meat and helps to deter flies from laying their eggs on the meat. The mixture will dry quickly. Once meat is dry, reinsert it into meat bags. Check on the meat daily and be sure it’s all kept cool and dry. Prepared properly, your Alaskan caribou meat or game meat will keep for a week or more in the field. Make sure to keep up and read the official Department of Fish and Game website for regular updates and changes.

To know more about hunting Alaska caribou, moose or bear make sure to check the Federal wildlife regulations site.
Read more: Alaska Fish and Game Department

Unguided Caribou Hunts in Alaska

2011_Alaska_Caribou_Hunting_with_Ram_Aviation_Kearns_Party_2 Packing out after another successful unguided caribou hunt with Ram Aviation.

Packing out after another successful unguided caribou hunts in Alaska with Ram Aviation! Read more: Unguided Caribou Hunts in Alaska

Alaska Caribou Hunting Pictures

Antlers by the runway in Kotzebue mean another successful Alaska caribou hunt with Ram Aviation. Antlers by the runway in Kotzebue mean another successful caribou hunt in Alaska with Ram Aviation.

Antlers by the runway in Kotzebue mean another successful caribou hunt in Alaska with Ram Aviation. What do they say: a picture’s worth a thousand words? Well, here are a few thousand words for you to view. This caribou picture was from one of our many successful hunts. Enjoy our caribou hunting pictures, courtesy of our customers or ourselves.

Bow Hunting Caribou

4270985231_4ff4d4a79d_o Some bow hunting tips for when you take your Alaska Hunting Adventure!

Don’t forget to pack your bow and arrows and catch a bull while going Caribou bow hunting on your unguided Alaska hunting trip with Ram Aviation! Be prepared to train your hand eye coordination and pack up the right equipment for the hunt. Read more: Bow Hunting Caribou