40 Mile Air, like winning lottery.

Justhuntitall

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May 16, 2018
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Tried past 2 years as a new client to book with 40 Mile I haven’t found trick yet to be first phone call, think I be an old man time I get to fly with them . They only had 2 Moose and 1 Caribou hunts left I would of took either just to be on their client list.

I know I don’t post much just creep around reading taking it all in is there any other transporters besides Zack out of Tok and 40 Mile to fly you in to 40 Mile heard?
Thanks
Shane
 

Yellowknife

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Apr 9, 2012
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Fairbanks, Alaska
There are a couple guys out of Delta Junction, and Wrights Air out of Fairbanks flys that herd. You have to be on the ball or you can run into the same problem with all of them though. Demand in is fairly high for the six weeks that is hunting season, but it doesn't get reliably filled by other operators because of the other 10.5 months of the year that they have to pay the bills...

The handful of other guys I know typically either have long established client lists or sketchy histories.
 

Trial153

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Oct 28, 2014
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NY
Good luck. I know I been trying to find the same answer for last year and do nothing but strike out it with transporters.
 

AKBorn

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Aug 14, 2018
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Maryland
Sorry you guys couldn't get a slot this year. I know it's little solace now, but keep after it -
 

robie

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Mar 7, 2013
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Houston, TX
I'm with you. I'm not sure if it makes it better or worse but I'm wait-list position #1. They lady had just finished taking the 1 group for the caribou spot.

Last year they told me they had two groups cancel. I'm hoping that holds true again this year and I still get to go.
 

Scott/IL

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Jan 1, 2014
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175
I called 73 times before getting something other than a busy signal this morning lol. By then the waitlist was already too long. From talking with them last year, I don’t think they even took a new customer group. It seems like it’ll be nearly impossible unless a return client offer to takes you.

On to looking at plans B, C, and D for this fall I suppose.


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TheCougar

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Jun 6, 2016
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Fort Worth, TX
Same. And Papa Bear also. I basically just gave up. Guys have their transporters, but they guard it like a honey hole. I’m going to wait until the economy tanks and go when demand is lower.
 

Doc Holliday

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Jun 15, 2016
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With this much demand, and banks loaning like crazy again, seems like other companies would be popping up???

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Kevin Dill

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Aug 26, 2014
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I might be mistaken but: I think most transport pilots get their start by flying for someone else. They learn the ropes and eventually understand the business which...trust me...is very difficult and demanding. Imagine trying to coordinate the following...

Hunter itineraries, pick-ups and drop-offs in town, bush flight schedules, weather issues, unpredictable caribou patterns, airstrip locations and maintenance, aircraft maintenance, FAA compliance, ADFG requirements and compliance, expediting services and more.

The chances of a good pilot just deciding to get into the transport business 'cold' is about nil. There is also the potential issue of competition, and most transporters prefer to respect and avoid the areas being served by another company. It's big country, but not full of caribou. More planes and hunters would mean more competition which is good for opportunity and pricing but maybe not so good for the quality of a hunt.

A lot of the 'we have no openings for moose or caribou' can be traced to escalating demand. Q-L caribou are kaput. Guided moose are expensive anywhere and AK-YK moose are extremely expensive compared to a diy - transported hunt. There is pressure (as in demand) for services but this isn't like opening up a tire shop. There aren't many qualified pilots and what few exist can't overcome all the hurdles required to run a quality transport business. Or maybe they just want no part of it. This is perfect for the existing companies who stay booked and don't need to advertise services at all. It sucks for hunters who feel hopeless about ever getting a shot at going.

For those searching for a pilot; I suggest thinking outside the box for clues. Forums can work but not so great. Taxidermists can be excellent sources for hunt information. Regional air carriers (at the airports) might be able to give you a list of transporters they know or work with. Game processors and butchers often know pilots. Flightseeing companies don't fly hunters but they know who IS flying people to hunting and fishing. Pilots often use their planes for deliveries, surveys, geological purpose and lots of other tasks. Sometimes the companies they fly for (contract to) can put you on a name. The key is to keep chasing down names and asking everyone if they know someone you can call. Keep persevering and it will happen.
 

Yellowknife

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Fairbanks, Alaska
I believe the state limits the number of transporters in an area.
This is not true, although many guides wish it was.

Functionally though, there are a limited number of landing areas, and as Kevin says they prefer not to be on top of each other if possible.

Although all the comments that Kevin makes about the cost and difficulty of getting into the business are correct, the equally big issue is that a transporter business just straight up doesn't pencil for most people as a year round operation. They may all be charging premium rates and still over-booked in Aug/Sept, but right now it's -4F in Tok and dark for 20 hrs of the day. Expenses are exceeding income and cabin fever is setting in. All that "easy money" isn't looking so easy right now!

Outfits like 40 Mile and Wrights have alternative income streams (village flights, mail contracts, charters etc.), but it's still a long cold winter to make ends meet.
 
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Doc Holliday

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Jun 15, 2016
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Kevin and Yellowknife....makes alot of sense. I know my comment must have come off as ignorant

Easy to see why so many people in Alaska are pilots and have planes and boats. You really need them up there to access what is available
 

adam634

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Dec 6, 2015
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Idaho
I’m gonna be looking at other options for now on. 1st year tryin also and started trying to call at 5 till 8 didn’t get an answer till 8:45. Already gone
 

ndbuck09

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Feb 16, 2015
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Boise, ID
what's funny to me is that 40mile guys will talk in negative terms about Zak up there like one of their pilots did when we were waiting to be flown out of the hub strip after our caribou hunt. But it's not like we could realistically fly with 40mile anyway as new clients!!! and even if you get that last spot, will you get dropped in the leftover locations??
We all shot bulls on our hunt, had a great experience and Zak does his best as a one man operation which obviously has it's limitations. We booked with him a year and a half ahead so our prices weren't so high. He's getting real expensive now but it's obvious business principles to keep pushing up prices if you continue to have to turn folks away due to being booked solid.
 
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J

Justhuntitall

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May 16, 2018
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IL
what's funny to me is that 40mile guys will talk in negative terms about Zak up there like one of their pilots did when we were waiting to be flown out of the hub strip after our caribou hunt. But it's not like we could realistically fly with 40mile anyway as new clients!!! and even if you get that last spot, will you get dropped in the leftover locations??
We all shot bulls on our hunt, had a great experience and Zak does his best as a one man operation which obviously has it's limitations. We booked with him a year and a half ahead so our prices weren't so high. He's getting real expensive now but it's obvious business principles to keep pushing up prices if you continue to have to turn folks away due to being booked solid.
I’ve talked to Zack over the phone a few times and talked to a few of his clients and never heard a bad word about him. I would fly with him.
 

ndbuck09

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Feb 16, 2015
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Boise, ID
Not sure if it was clear in my post above but I'd do a trip with him again next year if I had the time to take off and the money to drop on the whole Alaskan experience again!
 

cocky84

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Dec 28, 2015
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Albany Missouri
Im a repeat customer and got in 5 minutes after they opened dec 1 and they told me they were already almost full.
 

Kevin Dill

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Aug 26, 2014
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As a service-oriented business owner myself, I know one of the top commandments is to retain existing customers and minimize turnover. It makes far more business sense to reload with clients who have been with you and are a known entity in terms of their needs, personalities, dependability, and payment. It makes the business run much more smoothly versus bringing on a significant number of new people who (probably) will have more questions and likely produce more bumps throughout the process. Those of us who fly & hunt every single season know how things work with a given pilot or transporter. We go in with few questions and understand the routine. My pilot typically talks with me about my itinerary and that's it. He knows I'll show up with the right amount of the right gear. We've known each other many years and there's a level of trust and understanding. I do what I can to make his job easier and less problematic. I like it when we chat casually during the flight into camp. He drops me off with a smile and says "Okay...see you on the 23rd. Good luck!"

With diy caribou and moose becoming more popular, there is a lot of demand (and competition) for transport services with the good pilots and companies. It's hard to get a seat at the table. Once there, many guys return for years knowing they'll have to hunt or risk losing their place to the next guy in line. A friend of mine did something like 20+ consecutive years of fly-in hunts...diy...in AK. Another factor for returning hunters may be location preference. First-time (with a pilot) clients probably aren't going to into the top areas with highest odds and best setups. But go enough times and they might be able to bump up to better area if an opening happens. That's how it's been for me. I've been dropped in 5 different areas the past 11 years, and I'm currently hunting a location I could only once dream about. In this case I'm referring to moose hunting, but the same principle applies for caribou.

Seems like you either have to get lucky or work your butt off (maybe for years) to get your chance. My thinking is along the lines of working hard today and going forward. If luck intervenes....you're a winner.
 
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