Alaska DIY Caribou (and so much more) by Billy Molls

robby denning

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Billy's a 20-year veteran Alaskan guide. His how-to articles are some of the most read on Rokslide.

If hunting the Great North DIY is your dream, Billy says there's no better way to experience Alaska than a DIY caribou hunt.

Affordable Adventure
sums up Billy's latest article.

Alaska DIY Caribou (and So Much More)


*If you have questions, you can post them up here but Billy is in Africa until after June 24th, so be sure and subscribe to "Thread Tools" top of this post so you'll receive a notification when he posts.

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William Hanson (live2hunt)

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There's a lot of info packed in that article.

I'm curious about haul road options for bow hunters. How successful are those hunts? What tactics would you change?

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Ray

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I'm curious about haul road options for bow hunters. How successful are those hunts? What tactics would you change?

Its hard to tease out the data from the general harvest reporting database. It only reports successful hunts as far as I can get it to spit out info. And it includes all of 26B not just the highway hunters.

On average there are 700 general season caribou bulls taken each year in 26B. How many are from the road? don't know.

The few guys that I know that hunt the road with a bow every year take caribou every year. One guy took three trips before he managed to get into animals that were moving to terrain that provided cover. He took two bulls in two days on that weekend late fall hunt. Frozen ground allowed for a quick sled drag back to the truck.

The issue for most highway hunters is other hunters trying to chase the animals. You see some, you get out in front of their assumed path, then some other guys try to run right too them which changes their path. I prefer to road hunt by finding any terrain that may be obscuring animals and then walking out to see if there is anything hiding behind the terrain out of site of the road. Over the years it has resulted in a lot of walking, but when the animals are there, it puts meat on the ground.

There is not much to hide behind up north, so you need to find river cut banks, or what little willow scrub there is to get behind.

As noted in Billy's article caribou can be really comfortable in numbers and will let you get rather close at times. I find that they don't really care about you at 100 yards. 75 yards and they pick up the pace and move out to about 100 yards. You will need to be proficient at longer distances than you would typically be shooting at.
 

William Hanson (live2hunt)

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Its hard to tease out the data from the general harvest reporting database. It only reports successful hunts as far as I can get it to spit out info. And it includes all of 26B not just the highway hunters.

On average there are 700 general season caribou bulls taken each year in 26B. How many are from the road? don't know.

The few guys that I know that hunt the road with a bow every year take caribou every year. One guy took three trips before he managed to get into animals that were moving to terrain that provided cover. He took two bulls in two days on that weekend late fall hunt. Frozen ground allowed for a quick sled drag back to the truck.

The issue for most highway hunters is other hunters trying to chase the animals. You see some, you get out in front of their assumed path, then some other guys try to run right too them which changes their path. I prefer to road hunt by finding any terrain that may be obscuring animals and then walking out to see if there is anything hiding behind the terrain out of site of the road. Over the years it has resulted in a lot of walking, but when the animals are there, it puts meat on the ground.

There is not much to hide behind up north, so you need to find river cut banks, or what little willow scrub there is to get behind.

As noted in Billy's article caribou can be really comfortable in numbers and will let you get rather close at times. I find that they don't really care about you at 100 yards. 75 yards and they pick up the pace and move out to about 100 yards. You will need to be proficient at longer distances than you would typically be shooting at.
Thanks for the info

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Jdog

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AK fly in caribou hunts can be fun as heck...I've done a couple.

What a blast when timing or the herd movement aligns with solid weather and good buddies in camp!
 

billy molls

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Caribou hunting on Haul Road has been very tough in recent years. Tundra is VERY slow growing. In my opinion it seems the caribou have found better feed in the outlying areas. You really need to fly out by aircraft to have the best chance of success.

There's a lot of info packed in that article.

I'm curious about haul road options for bow hunters. How successful are those hunts? What tactics would you change?

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billy molls

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Please excuse my absence, but I'm sure you all will agree a totally wild cape buffalo safari in Africa is justifiable excuse-- by the it was was an unbelievalbe experience.

Anything I can help with on caribou, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm already itching to get my first taste of early season caribou tenderloin grilled over an open bed of willow coals!

Good Hunting,
 

TimberDoodle

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Thanks for the great info Billy. I'd love to hear about the buff hunt.

With regards to bou, I have a hunt coming up this fall south of the brooks range. We'll be dropped off by plane on a ridge or gravel bar, and base from there. I'll be bowhunting, my partner rifle hunting. I plan on bringing a floorless tipi, and was wondering if in your opinion you think we might have trouble finding dry sites to set up, and if we should consider bringing some sort of tipi footprint/ground tarp in case things are a bit wet.

In addition, I've been hearing a lot of different opinions on footwear. I see in your article you mention bringing wiggies, which I can do. I've heard some people just say to wear their normal boots with gaiters, and do crossings in the wiggies. Others say to wear hip waders with wading boots or hiking boots, and some say wear wading pants with wading boots because some of the crossings get a bit deep. We're limited to 50lbs/person, so I can't bring them all. Any insight that you have would be appreciated.
 

Nick Muche

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There's a lot of info packed in that article.

I'm curious about haul road options for bow hunters. How successful are those hunts? What tactics would you change?

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We kill plenty each year by hunting off the haul rd and after I fill my Unit 13 tag this fall I'll head up there for another. Being a good shot, patient and half way decent bowhunter surely will up your odds. It certainly can be done, especially if you are willing to cross a river or walk a considerable distance to go after bulls most driving the road won't see or want to go after.

I like flying out as well, but sometimes that don't work out well either. Most expect to have caribou in their camp and if you aren't willing to hunt or more importantly walk, then don't expect guaranteed success. Caribou hunting, like Billy said, can be feast or famine and that rings truer each day it seems..
 

billy molls

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Thanks for the great info Billy. I'd love to hear about the buff hunt.

With regards to bou, I have a hunt coming up this fall south of the brooks range. We'll be dropped off by plane on a ridge or gravel bar, and base from there. I'll be bowhunting, my partner rifle hunting. I plan on bringing a floorless tipi, and was wondering if in your opinion you think we might have trouble finding dry sites to set up, and if we should consider bringing some sort of tipi footprint/ground tarp in case things are a bit wet.

In addition, I've been hearing a lot of different opinions on footwear. I see in your article you mention bringing wiggies, which I can do. I've heard some people just say to wear their normal boots with gaiters, and do crossings in the wiggies. Others say to wear hip waders with wading boots or hiking boots, and some say wear wading pants with wading boots because some of the crossings get a bit deep. We're limited to 50lbs/person, so I can't bring them all. Any insight that you have would be appreciated.

TimberDoodle, The buffalo hunt was amazing.

You shouldn't have difficulty find a dry place to camp in the Brooks. I'd make sure you have a system to seal your tent at ground level as the bugs can be brutal in that country.

As far as footwear, It really all depends where you get dropped and how much rain you're having. You should bring gaiters, but in my opinion, Wiggy's, Sourdough Slippers, or regular hip boots are a must. Waist-high wading pants are certainly fine--some guys prefer them so they don't have to bring/wear rain pants.

For me and 95% of my clients we wear regular hunting boots, gaiters, and through on Wiggy's as we need to.

Good Luck!
 

stu_manji

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Indiana
how durable are these "wiggys" you are talking about? never heard of them, but sound sweet for some spots I hunt in the midwest
 

BassBoysLLP

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I would check out frog legs as well. You can have these custom built with many different types of boots.

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AK Troutbum

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I see that having a jet boil is nice. Question I have is, has flying with the canisters gotten any easier?

From my experience it’s never been hard, assuming you’re just talking about bush flights/operators. I’ve flown with over a half a dozen different outfits (actually closer to a dozen), in AK over the last 30 years and so far have had zero issues with fuel. For every transporter out there that doesn’t allow Jetboil fuel canisters, there’s at least 6 that do.


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AK Troutbum

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40 mile air told me no on those canisters, willow air will only when in a float plane. That is why I ask.

40 mile is the only one that I’ve ever heard of with this policy, it has to do with the type of licensure that they hold. I’m sure there are probably others, but definitely there are many more that accept those canisters than don’t.


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Chugaglug

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I see that having a jet boil is nice. Question I have is, has flying with the canisters gotten any easier?
brooks range aviation had no issues with any type of fuel, we've brought canisters and white gas bottles, they've even filled our MSR bottles with avgas and we've ran our dragonfly on that
 
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