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Attacking Alaska Hunting Part 1: How do I start?

Steve Opat 2019 Alaska moose

Steve Opat with his 2019 DIY Alaskan moose.

There are about three dozen television programs in existence right now that serve to prove that people are utterly enamored with Alaska. I know the feeling; that’s why I moved there. The allure for me was always hunting and it always will be. That’s why I’ve spent the last nine hunting seasons trying to learn everything I can about harvesting game in The Last Frontier. I recently pulled off my greatest accomplishment yet when Trail Kreitzer and I harvested two gargantuan moose and one ornery bear. That trip was the end result of four years of dreaming, scheming, pestering and planning and, man, did I learn a lot. While it’s not prudent to give away the secrets of that escapade, I do feel it’s important to instill in all of you that your own Alaskan expedition awaits. 

This article won’t have you prepared to buy your tags, license and plane ticket, but it may very well get you to start saving for them. We just want to get you thinking about a trip: distilling your thoughts and cultivating your true desires. If you can do that and filter away your fears, misconceptions and egotisms, you can dial in on your Alaskan dream. 

“But Alaska is just so huge! Where do I start?” I thought you’d never ask…

It’s true. Alaska is “mega-normous.” Learning its game regulations book feels like trying to learn the laws for every state in between the Appalachians and the Rockies. This alone deters many potential visitors. Here are six tips to make your planning less stressful. 

1. Know what you can hunt

Close up photo of caribou in Alaska

Close up photo of caribou in Alaska. Photo credit: Steve Opat
  • Grizzly bear, mountain goat and Dall sheep require nonresidents to hunt with a guide or an Alaskan resident family member. These will be covered in subsequent articles, but for starters: 
    • Grizzly and brown bear hunts cost $6,000 to $25,000; 
    • Mountain goat hunts are probably less than $8,000; 
    • Dall sheep are the most affordable wild sheep hunts and cost $16,000 to $24,000; 
    • Muskox don’t require a guide and a handful of tags are available over-the-counter (OTC); however, they mostly require you to draw the tag. The total hunt will still cost over $7,000. 
  • That leaves the primary attractors: moose, caribou, black bear and sitka blacktail deer—all of which can be hunted with OTC tags and all of which can be hunted on a budget. 

Jump into the 2020 Alaska Application Strategy overview article below for more information:

2020 Alaska App Strategy Article

2. Decide what animal it is that you truly want to hunt

Go someplace quiet, sit someplace comfortable, close your eyes and wait for an image to appear. For me, it was first the caribou and their big sweeping racks as they silhouetted in front of a snow-capped mountain. Eventually, behind each of those bands of caribou, there was a moose calling to me. This was the year I could no longer ignore the allure of that moose. 

3. Choose your adventure

Return to that solemn thinking spot and really evaluate the adventure you want to have. Do you just want to shoot something huge? Do you just want to harvest anything that moves? Do you just want an adventure? Spend ample time discovering what it is that truly pulls you northward. 

4. Use your resources

Now that you know your species and your style, you can start finding the avenue to make it happen. This is where you’ll need to utilize your resources. I recently finished helping the goHUNT team complete their INSIDER reports for each of Alaska’s hunting units. Start with these. You’ll find plenty of other internet sites to consume your time, but the INSIDER reports are solid, condensed information to get you started. Also, use forums and social media to start finding guys like me who have been on a vast array of adventures and hunted all over the state. Many of us are willing to listen to you and advise you on what may be optimal for you. We won’t give all the information away, but we will steer you away from troubles and huge wastes of time. 

5. Select your professional support

Decide what DIY means to you and how much physical effort you want to expend. There are dozens of outfitters, guides, transporters and service providers to cater to your needs—once you know what those are. The best quality operations are often booked two to three years in advance and some (40-Mile Air comes to mind) have one set day that they accept bookings. 

Pro tip: Respect an operator’s time by thoroughly reading their website before you call them! These folks all speak to oodles of potential clients each year and answering questions that have already been answered exhausts them.

6. Know and grow your budget

You can complete an epic Alaskan adventure for under $2,000 if you’re disciplined, prepared and willing to work your butt off. It helps to be connected, too. Keep in mind, though, when you’re this far north and so far removed from resources, things simply cost much more. Trip expenses can stack up $200 at a time. That is honest. Even more honest is me advising you that I really don’t want you to get there and have to curb your enthusiasm in order to mind your budget. For another look at budgeting for an Alaska dream hunt, you can check out this great article on planning a DIY Alaska float moose hunt here.

Set yourself up for success. Prioritize this hunt. Value this experience. 

Pro tip: Start saving before you start planning. See how much money you can sequester in a year and then plan your hunt based on saving that much again the next year. Perhaps this should be tip #1. 

For even more information, check out these Alaska related articles that goHUNT has released in the past:

In conclusion

Calling upon all of my experiences, I can’t imagine that many people have regretted their trips to Alaska. I’m certain there are a lot of folks who weren’t quite cut out for the demands, the remoteness, the weather and the alder brush and will never go back. But I bet they all end that horrific tale with, “I’m still glad I went.” I hope you will go experience it for yourself. You can do Alaska. You can experience the Last Frontier. 

Check out the INSIDER Filtering 2.0 and Unit Profile reports for Alaska and keep your eye out for more of my ideas here at goHUNT. As always, feel free to drop a comment on any of my articles when you can’t find an answer you need as I’d be more than happy to help. Applications are due Dec. 16 this year.

Happy hunting!

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