40 Mile vs Brooks Range vs North Slope

Lv2hntnfsh

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
12
Curious on what the data says!

There is a lot of experience on this site and I would like to know a little more about how guys are selecting their final hunt locations for caribou.

I am working with a few different outfitters and would like to know the difference between the herds (40 Mile vs Brooks Range vs North Slope). I think a guy can put a decent story together on reputable outfitters but what about success, animal size, and reason for selecting one place over another? A thousand bucks one way or the other on the flight price is not going to matter to me...a few thousand maybe so.

I am from Iowa and admittedly I am a trophy whitetail hunter. This will be my first trip to Alaska and trophy is important but success chances are also going to be rated pretty highly. I want to do a DIY drop hunt, which hopefully does not make this a limiting factor. So far my reading says no?

I have been elk hunting a couple of times in Colorado, bear hunting a few times (Ontario, Quebec, Wisconsin) and I would rate my outdoor/hunting skills above average. I am willing to put the work in once we get to the location but from what I understand with Caribou, you are at the mercy of the outfitter and location that you select?

I appreciate any feedback!

~Chris
 

soggybtmboys

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May 20, 2016
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85
Location
Upper Midwest
Well, you have to decide if you want an outfitter or a transport service. In Alaska they are two different things, and quite a bit difference in price tag. We had a group that hit the North Slope of the Brooks in unit 26A this year. It was a DIY hunt, and planned and prepped for 2 years nearly. 8 of us went. Success was 3 for 8, but marksmanship problems kept the group from being 6 for 8, with the 2 remaining die hard bowhunter who either passed or did not get on into comfortable range.

The Slope is an amazing place, barren and tough weather. Has a beauty all its own. In my opinion, is not conducive to successful bowhunting. Rifle hunter need to be comfortable with their weapons to 300 yards. Tons of walking, you may need to cover as many as 4 or 5 miles in one direction, thru tundra mess, to find good bulls.

Our drop off spot appeared incredible, with literally sign everywhere. We hit in between migrating groups, or it was just scattered while we were there.

There are many things to consider, but I would first start by prioritizing what is you are looking to do, type of hunting, numbers or trophy quality, etc. Talk to lots of guys and outfitters or transport services. You want ultralight camp, or prefer more modest weight restrictions? Time of year is also a consideration when you can go, may affect where you can go, anticipating on where animals may or may not be.FB_IMG_1536093125660.jpgFB_IMG_1536097429863.jpgFB_IMG_1536321233917.jpg

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soggybtmboys

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May 20, 2016
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85
Location
Upper Midwest
North Slope, either the migration is there or it's not. They are wanderers, and if you aren't in the migration, you may only see small groups drifting thru, or perhaps a few summer residents wandering about. Can't comment on 40 mile herd, never been, but my understanding is that herd is more of a static herd comparatively speaking. They move about but not like the huge migrations off the tundra. If I'm incorrect, I'm sure someone will say so.

Different units will also have different regulations, and as a non resident, it will be important to know them. Have to pay attention to unit closures to non residents and non locals, GMU 23 is one in particular that changes frequently the last couple of years.

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Lv2hntnfsh

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Oct 16, 2018
Messages
12
Soggy,

I am looking for a transportation service, these folks should have first hand knowledge about restrictions and regulations right? I 100% agree that it is the hunters responsibility once on the ground but we should be able to depend on them for location right?

Looking at your trip summary you went through BRA right? Did they drop you on the North Slope? We are young and fit folks so the work does not scare me (maybe it should :cool:).

~Chris
 

soggybtmboys

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Joined
May 20, 2016
Messages
85
Location
Upper Midwest
Yes they should, but they have to becareful how they advise. As a transport service, technically they aren't suppose to outfit/guide. Get on the AK fish and game email list and it will help keep you abreast of changes and when tags become available for sale. Transporters will have area of operations, and each area will be characteristically different in terrain or potential migration dates.

Yes, we went with BRA and we were dropped off on a lake in 26A. Our initial choice was made with current Intel when we got into Bettles with field reports. Our first choice got scrapped due to terrible wind, our bush pilots dropped us on a second choice they felt was safer and more conducive.

Regardless of how in shape or young, the tussocks up on the Slope will humble you. Anyone who's been in them will get a chuckle out of this pic, and know why.

20180825_160747.jpg

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Dexter Grayson

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2017
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207
Location
Kenai, Alaska
Brooks range and north slope are typically the same thing when discussing caribou. That being said both are phenomenal, and I believe that it comes down to what kind of camp you want to have. Brooks range is a big comfortable camp at predetermined locations. 40 mile is 55lb camps but transporters usually do their best to drop you somewhere in the direction that the majority of the herd is heading.
 

AKBorn

Senior Member
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Aug 14, 2018
Messages
152
Location
Maryland
I’ve hunted the 40 Mile Herd for years; sometimes we see several hundred caribou in a period of 6 hunting days, and sometimes we see 2-3 dozen. Caribou are hard to pattern or predict, they change direction on a whim and a significant cold front can alter their travel patterns.

I can’t comment on trophy quality – the only animal I have ever measured was a moose, because it had to have at least a 50” antler spread (or
4 brow tines) to be legal for a non-resident. Every caribou I have ever shot was a trophy to me, but I haven’t kept any of the antlers.

And important point, it is up to YOU to understand the restrictions and regulations, not the transporter. They may have some knowledge because they fly into that unit, but don’t trust your license and money on what someone else says about the AK laws and regs – study them and learn them inside out. Wanton waste is taken very seriously in Alaska, and the game meat salvage requirements are much more restrictive than most places in the lower 48.
 
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Lv2hntnfsh

Junior Member
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Oct 16, 2018
Messages
12
Like any other hunt, people need to know all of the restrictions and regulations. I think this goes without question.

Without getting into the weeds too much---This post was purely on how to select which herd/area to hunt. What has been the most prosperous in the last couple of years.

There are a lot of good summaries by all areas. There are also some who struck out. I have also been in contact with some outfitters who are completely honest and say they have struggled to get the success rates where they used to be. So just looking for some others to chime in on what they know.

~Chris
 

AKBorn

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Aug 14, 2018
Messages
152
Location
Maryland
Back in the 1990s, the Mulchatna Caribou Herd in southwest Alaska was believed to have up to 250,000 animals, and non-resident hunters could harvest 5 bulls in a season. The 90s may have been the heyday of caribou hunting in Alaska; I don’t think we’ll see numbers like that in our hunting lifetime again.

Success rates are tough to decipher – not everyone computes them the same way, and it’s tough to really get a handle on how many hunters were NOT successful each season. For example, this year I have not seen any posts on Haul Road caribou hunts on the forums I frequent; usually several successful hunts are posted each fall. Did guys just get too busy to post, or were less people successful than past years?

There’s no such thing as a surefire caribou hunt; the best a transporter can do is put you into an area where they have been seeing caribou, and hope the bou don’t change their pattern all of a sudden. That DOES happen – a few years back my hunting partner and I photographed some monster bulls at 100 yards or so in the 40 Mile country, while we were getting water for camp on the day we flew in. A cold front came through, and we didn’t see any more bulls like that for the entire hunt. We both managed to harvest a caribou, but probably not what you would consider a real trophy bull.

Both the 40 Mile country and the Brooks Range have established caribou herds, with some very good bulls in them. If you select a dependable transporter with a history of flying hunters into that area, your chances are probably pretty decent to see a fair number of caribou. Whether one of them is the trophy bull you desire, and whether you are able to get within range and harvest the animal, is something that none of us here can foretell.

Best of luck to you, whichever herd you hunt. I keep wanting to fly out one year with Wright Air and do a caribou hunt in the Brooks, but I keep going back to 40 Mile country almost every year. Maybe one year…
 
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