A DIY Alaska moose hunt? Yes! Many hunters in the lower 48 are surprised to learn that it’s possible to hunt moose in Alaska without a guide. In fact, you can hunt moose, caribou, black bear and wolf (plus small game and fishing of course) on your own.
The logistics are crazy. It’s a ton of work. And it takes a great deal of planning. But after decades of doing his own DIY trips to Alaska, Caribou Gear founder Ted Ramirez will tell you that it’s all worth it. Every trip is the trip of a lifetime!
It should go without saying that planning a trip to Alaska is a big undertaking – and this article couldn’t possibly include all the detail that goes into it. Our intention here is not to provide an instruction manual. Our goal is to share some of Ted’s wisdom on the subject. If you’re interested in planning a DIY Alaska hunt, what are some important things to consider? What are some of the big keys to making it a success?
Planning your own DIY Alaska moose hunt is possible. We sat down with Ted to talk about some of the most critical keys to success. Here’s what he had to say…
1. Find Yourself A Reliable Team
According to Ted, a DIY moose hunt in Alaska requires teamwork. The first thing you need is a partner or a few partners that you can rely on. The logistics of hunting in Alaska are easiest with an even number. So start with either two or four people. Either way, these must be people you can count on.
The teamwork begins as soon as you commit to going. Once the team is committed, everyone needs to pull their own weight. Ted recommends having regular meetings leading up to the trip. Each person in the party needs to be involved. Throughout these planning meetings, responsibilities should be divided up, so that one person isn’t doing all the work.
“The planning stages of the trip will require a lot of research like finding a place to hunt and contacting bush plane pilots,” Ted explained. “Then, the partners or the group will need to share gear responsibilities, shipping costs and so on.”
Then perhaps most importantly, the hunting partners must look out for each other in the field. Your hunting partners should be people you can rely on, and also people with whom you are compatible. “If you forget to drink enough water or if you’re not feeling well, your buddies may need to recognize when it’s time to stop for a break and re-energize,” Ted explained.
A successful DIY hunting trip to Alaska begins with a good team.
2. Plan Your DIY Alaska Moose Hunt in Reverse
Ted recommends that you begin by finding a place to hunt and a bush plane to get you there. Then, work your way backwards, finding a local flight from Anchorage or Fairbanks, and then finally your airfare to one of those cities from home.
Ted shared an example of someone he knew, who once planned an Alaska hunt, only to discover that he couldn’t get a bush plane pilot to fly him out to where he needed to go. He had to burn his moose tag and couldn’t go on the hunt.
The point is, don’t plan a hunt you can’t access. Start with the hunt location and the bush plane. Communicate clearly with the pilot and make sure he is able to take you where you need to go. Only then, can you begin planning the rest of the trip to get there.
3. Know the Alaska Rules and Regulations Inside and Out
One of the most difficult parts of planning a DIY hunting trip to Alaska is sorting through all the different rules and hunting regulations.
Ted explained that each hunting unit in Alaska has different season dates and different regulations. Even within a single hunting unit, the regulations might vary from one river or one drainage to another. Some rivers or parts of a unit might be closed to hunting – or the season dates might be different.
When planning your hunt and your location, don’t make any assumptions. Read all the rules and regulations. Make sure the land is public and open to hunting. If there are state parks or other land management agencies in the area, be sure to look up their regulations as well.
“In Alaskan, Chicaco is the word for a greenhorn,” Ted told us. “As a first-timer, planning a trip like this can be a mind-boggling experience. Studying maps, reading all the Alaska fish and game rules and regulations, different season dates and lengths in every unit, there is a lot to think about. But that challenge is also part of the fun and part of the whole experience.”
4. Be Prepared for Changes in Plans
Ted told us the story of a time they had been on a long float trip for moose in Alaska. At the end of the trip, they reached the pick-up point, which they had agreed upon with the bush plane pilot. It had been raining hard for days, and they were happy to have reached the end of their float. However, when they called the pilot on their satellite phone, they received bad news. Due to high water and weather, he wouldn’t be able to pick them up at that point. They would need to row another 40 miles down river, where he’d meet them the next day!
“On any trip to Alaska, you need to prepare for changes in plans,” Ted added. “The fog might delay a bush plane flight. You might have to sleep at the tarmac for a couple of days. Be ready to roll with those changes.”
Ted also told us of a time when the bush plane pilot wasn’t able to land in the spot they had planned to begin their hunt. He had to drop them off miles down the river from where they had originally thought they would begin their hunt.
Make backup plans, pack extra food, and expect that things won’t happen exactly how you had imagined. Part of an Alaska adventure will be rolling with the punches. You can expect that.
5. Be Methodical, Both in Your Planning and on the Hunt
“When planning a trip to Alaska, it’s about being methodical,” Ted said. “Whether you’re researching Alaska’s hunting regulations or you’re keeping your camp clean to stay safe from bears, be patient and methodical in everything you do from start to finish.”
Ted emphasized that patience is critical. Having patience and thinking through tough situations can keep someone from getting hurt. Always be aware of your surroundings. And be conscious of your fellow hunting partners.
When you’re exhausted and you just want to crawl into your sleeping bag, it might be tempting to cut corners. Don’t do it. Take the time to hang your bear bags properly and do all the little things that matter.
“Even seemingly insignificant things like where each person sleeps in the tent, those things matter,” Ted explained. “On a float hunt where you’re setting up and breaking down camp along the way, we always keep the same arrangement in the tent. If you wake up at 2 a.m. you’ll know exactly where you are and where each of your hunting partners is.”
Before you leave home, make detailed checklists. Keep track of who is responsible for what, and how it’s getting to Alaska. Know exactly how you plan to transport your gear and how you’ll get it home – along with any meat and antlers. Make your plans as detailed and meticulous as possible – right down to which hotels have freezers so that you can package and freeze your meat before taking it home.
Is a DIY moose hunt in Alaska a lot of work? Sure it is. “And it’s nonstop,” Ted added. “From the moment you get off the plane until the time you get home, the work is constant. But that’s also part of the fun. There’s nothing that compares to Alaska.”
Start Planning Your Alaska Adventure!
In the Past, Ted has offered seminars on DIY hunting in Alaska. Unfortunately those seminars have been on hold – first, due to COVID. And more recently because of Caribou Gear moving to a new warehouse. We hope to be able to continue those seminars in the future. Keep an eye out here on our website and on our social media platforms for announcements. In the meantime, check out these other resources:
Whatever you do, don’t wait. Ted often says that when you do finally take that first trip to Alaska, you’ll wish you had started sooner! Start planning your trip to Alaska. Best of luck and let us know how we can help.