Inevitably one of the first questions I get asked about unguided hunts for moose in Alaska is: what is the success rate for hunting moose? This is a great question to ask any outfitter, guide, or transporter you plan on using. The answer is usually given as a straight forward percentage or a window of percentages. Just remember one thing. This is hunting, not high fence killing. Percentages can be misleading and quite often change from year to year. So although this is a great question to ask, keep reading so that you can do some of your own independent research on what moose populations are really like in the unit you plan on hunting.
Population numbers: The Tail of the Tape
When planning a DIY moose hunt in Alaska, you should first do some research on overall moose populations in the management unit you plan on hunting. There might be a recent census you can find from ADFG that could give you a great idea of trending populations. Bottom line is often this: if there is a high population of moose in your area, you are more likely to see them while hunting. A census was just done in unit 16 and the number of moose is steadily increasing to superb numbers. Alaska is a huge state with thousands of square miles of hunting territory, large game is often quite spread out. A large population is key.
Predator control: It Works!
Another research point to look into is predator control programs. The state has implemented programs to slow down the high mortality rate of calves and adults. In areas with large wolf and bear populations, up to 65% of all moose calves are killed before autumn. Wolves are very good at what they do, and that’s eat moose. Their populations rarely decline because of anything other than lack of moose. So when populations of wolves are high, moose populations are low. This has been the trend for millennia. With strict management principals at work, Alaska has learned to control predator populations in order to balance the moose herds. Find out if there has been a recent program in the unit you plan to hunt. For example: Unit 16 has been under a predator control program for five years. Strict quotas and baiting regulations have been used to keep both bear and wolf populations in check. Probably a good reason for the increasing moose population mentioned earlier.
Once you have decided on a great unit to hunt for moose, you should access satellite images, topo maps, and even pictures on-line of the actual terrain you’ll be traversing. Not all moose country is created equal, nor does it all hunt the same. You wouldn’t employ the same tactic for whitetails in Montana as you would in Minnesota. Nor would you here in Alaska. Even though you’ll be hunting in the same state, it is so big, that the interior of the state is completely different than the coastal regions. Swamp country is different that high country or tundra. Learn about the type of browse, forage, and cover that is available in that unit. Those answers will very much add to your intel for this hunt. Unit 16 and 17 for instance hunt differently because there is a giant mountain range in between them. The type of hunting that you expect, depends on where you go.
The bottom line may be difficult to pinpoint however a rough estimate can be formulated after transporting many hunters over many years. I have seen outfitters advertise “100% success rate last year”, however, the overall success rate for that company in the past 5 years may be 71%. In 2014, Adventure Outfitters Alaska went 2 for 5. Less than 50%. But the true tail of the tape was that one group passed up a legal bull with 3 brow tines because it was 48 inches. Another group brought only bows. They couldn’t close the distance on a toad bull that hung up at 200 yards on day 6 of the hunt. They never saw him again but said he was dead to rights with a rifle. So, our success rate looked down that year, but could have easily been 4 for 5. A banner year for any company. Make sure the success rate you're looking at makes sense with the research you’ve done. Most hunt rate success is determined by total population of moose in the area, and how hard/effective the hunters hunt. I have asked dozens of outfitters and transporters what their success rate is and the average is somewhere between 60-75%. This is right on par with our overall average since 2013.
Best of luck planning your future hunts!
If you are ready to get planning your unguided moose hunt, check out our moose hunting page or give us a call and we'll take you step by step. If you’re up for the challenge, we can help you get everything dialed in and mission ready for the hunt of a lifetime!
Jake Doth, Owner
Adventure Outfitters Alaska
HOW MUCH DOES AN ALASKAN MOOSE HUNT COST?
The most common question I get asked about moose hunting in Alaska is “How much does it cost?” It’s a great question, and one that is not so straight forward to answer. This article will focus on the unguided Alaska moose hunts and what a non-resident can expect from a DIY adventure in the Last Frontier.
HUB OR BUSH?
The location you plan to hunt is the most important question to tackle. Your choice quickly becomes either: hunt near the main airports in the state, or venture further into the bush for a much more complicated and expensive hunt. The number of days planned before and after the hunt will depend on your answer to this most pivotal question. The rule of thumb for most hunters is to be in the field for 7-10 days.
Anchorage, Kenai, and Fairbanks are the main hubs for moose hunting and will be the most economical to work from. As soon as you start planning hunts away from those hubs, the cost exponentially increases with each mile. It might seem absurd to the uninitiated, but everything is very costly to run in AK. Especially air taxis and boat charters. Seems like a great idea to plan a hunt in the Brooks Range, 400 miles out of Fairbanks; until you add up shipping costs, securing food to eat, and multiple flights in/out……. Then you drop a moose. Logistics of meat shipping, and trophy processing simply get considerably more expensive in the bush. If you rent a car, stay in a cheap Anchorage hotel, and do most everything from a large airport, the logistics get much, much easier. AOA takes all of the guess work out of this hunt. Call for a quote on a turn-key, remote, unguided, Alaskan Moose hunt!
AIR TAXI or REGISTERED GUIDE
There are pros and cons to each of these scenarios. Registered guides can have camps already set up in the field for you to use. There could be a main camp that is quite luxurious with a cook and everything. You then go out and hunt on your own for moose. These hunts tend to be the most expensive DIY or unguided option. One thing to remember is that whatever guide you choose, probably has 3-7 guided hunts planned, in that very same area near base camp. Many camps have been used in this way for decades. One could assume that most of the intel and scouting was for his big money hunters, not the Do-It-Yourselfer which brings minimal profit.
Air taxis are the most economical way to get remote for your unguided, Alaskan moose hunt. They specialize in a certain area and have the best local knowledge that can be found. They know which ponds are deep enough to land on, which runways can be accessed at varying water levels, and how to access high country above tree line. It is what they do, and they are very good at it. Most air taxis move goods, materials, and people over a huge swath of country. Because they only transport things, they have an unmatched knowledge of the Alaskan bush. The downside is that air taxis cannot have camps set up in the field. They only transport. You must bring your camp with you in the airplane and do everything yourself.
RENT GEAR OR SHIP IT?
We have researched the data, crunched the numbers, and the verdict is in. If you meticulously plan all logistics perfectly, you will save money by doing everything yourself. In fact, you could save up to a few hundred bucks. You can ship up totes of gear and food well before your hunt to someone who can pick it up and store it. You can go bare bones camp and food and rough it for ten days. There are ways to save money. Just get to AK a few days early and prep everything for the hunt. The major downside, is all that work and planning, possible lost totes, and most likely, less than outfitter quality gear. AOA’s camps are perfectly designed for the bush planes and will be waiting for you on the dock!
Renting gear is an added cost. No doubt. But showing up and knowing that everything is already waiting for your hunt, is more than worth it. A good outfitter will have talked with you about the hunt, what to expect, what gear he will be providing, directions on how to safely use it, and a food plan that would be impossible to do on your own. Do you really want to ship up a 45 pound, 4 -season, outfitter tent? I wouldn’t spend the money to come here on a hunt of a lifetime with anything less than a bomb proof shelter. When you crunch the numbers and look at the logistics, it really is a no brainer.
So with those major costs added up, its time to run the numbers. Here are some guidelines to get you started on your research. They are average costs including many air taxis and outfitters across the state. These numbers do not include getting to Alaska from the lower 48, nor do they include tags or licenses.
Unguided Alaskan Moose Hunt From Anchorage, Kenai, or Fairbanks
Transportation only: $4,000 - $8,000 per person
Fully outfitted: $5,000 - $10,000 per person
Unguided Alaskan Moose Hunt From a village or bush location outside of a hub
(this usually includes the flight into the village)
Transportation only: $8,000 - 10,000 per person
Fully outfitted: $9,000 - 12,000 per person
Hunting big game in AK isn’t cheap. But neither is Arizona elk or Alberta whitetails. Expedition hunting thousands of miles from the nearest American city other than Anchorage, requires a new level of planning. Do your homework and start emailing outfitters and guides. Its not something you’ll get done overnight so start early! Good luck and let us know if we can help.
Aim small, miss small
Jake Doth, Owner
Adventure Outfitters Alaska
How to plan an unguided Alaskan moose hunt?
Nothing will raise your heart rate like a massive 50” inch bull moose coming into your calls. It is one of the most fantastic hunts in all of North America. The worlds largest deer is truly a magnificent animal. The problem isn’t in the attraction of a remote, wilderness hunt in the most beautiful country known to man. It’s the cost and the logistics of everything that scares people away. Don’t get me wrong, a DIY or Unguided moose hunt in Alaska is not for everyone. But if you’re up for an adventure, a lot of planning, a bunch of logistics, and what could truly be, the hunt of a lifetime; than keep reading and find out how doable this hunt can really be!
How long is a DIY moose hunt?
You cannot do this hunt in 1 week. This drop camp style of hunting requires time in state before the hunt and definitely after the hunt if you are successful. When you add in the danger of weather delays during our foggiest month of the year, you begin to feel the gravity of this hunt. Don’t be scared off just yet, you can do it in as little as 10-11 days. Planning a total of 14 days is much better. Only you can determine how to gamble on your connecting flights with 900 lbs of dead moose and a rack weighing in at 70 lbs, and spanning over 5 feet. Make sure you leave yourself time to make this all possible.
What travel arrangements should be made for an unguided moose hunt?
You first have to get to Alaska. Anchorage or Fairbanks are the go-to spots from the lower 48. These international airports are small, but fully functioning and very capable. Everyone seems to have their own tricks of the trade when it comes to buying tickets, so we’ll save that for another article. Shop early and use airline miles when possible to offset costs. Plan on flying in at least 1 day before your hunt. If you are doing everything yourself, you may want to plan at least 2. Prepping food, shopping, packing, and getting mission ready always takes longer than you think. Your flight home should be scheduled at least 2-3 days after you are planning on getting out of the field. Meat processing, weather delays, trophy sealing and shipping all add to the scramble of getting back home after the hunt. Don’t make this a stressful and difficult time. Just plan your hunt right and give yourself time. If you are not successful on the hunt and cannot change your flights, go explore the amazing state, do some fishing, etc.
Most people use bush planes to get into remote regions for their hunts. The bush plane drop camp is standard operating procedure, however the float hunt is also gaining popularity in some regions. Drop camps are much easier to plan and execute. Bush planes have tight spaces and minimal weight allowances so make sure to contact your transporter or outfitter with weight restrictions. If you are bringing all your own gear, you should have each bag weighed and added up for the air taxi service. Weight is non-negotiable and could be a big damper on your plans if you end up 20 pounds over limit! The easiest way to do this is to rent the necessary gear for the hunt. This adds cost, but is worth it ten times over. Having the right gear for this trip is essential. Plus, you don’t have to pack up wet gear and lug it all over the place, trying to ship it home and get everything squared away. Just give it all back to the outfitter, grab your trophy and meat, and head home!
What happens after the moose hunt if you are successful?
When you get done with your moose hunt, the meat, trophy, and any other logistics are your responsibility. The DIY moose hunt is just that: Do-It-Yourself. If you are renting gear from someone, they can help direct you on what places to use for meat processing and trophy shipping. All of these contacts for after the hunt should be contacted beforehand with any specific questions you might have. Ask about processing time, flash freezing meat, Fish n Game sealing requirements, etc. Airlines will no longer take trophies but they will let you pay for an extra piece of luggage which could be a 50 lb box of meat!
What does a DIY Alaska Moose Hunt cost?
The cost varies greatly on where you hunt and what services you require for your hunt. Long float plane rides to the game management unit are costly and so is flying commercially into a small village. The most economical hunts are out of Anchorage, Kenai, and sometimes Fairbanks. This is a rough estimate to get you planning. All costs are per person estimates.
AOA offers complete camps, perfectly designed for the floatplanes, Full meal packages, satellite phones, all flights in and out of the field, and full logistical help with the “Do-It-Yourself” part of the hunt. We do not provide tags, flights to AK, or lodging. Unit 16B: $5400 pp, Unit 17B: $7200 pp because of the long flight in and out of camp. Book the hunt of the decade, today!
A self-guided moose hunt in Alaska can be one of the most thrilling hunts in North America. The task of planning it successfully requires commitment and time. Be realistic with your expectations and give yourself the time to do it right. Plan on everything being expensive once you reach Alaska and that inevitably, something will go sideways. Be prepared and flexible. Bring a great attitude and go have the hunt of a lifetime!
Best of Luck!
Adventure Outfitters Alaska
Most of my queries about unguided moose hunting in Alaska comes from folks who have years of hunting experience in the Lower 48, but have never been to Alaska hunting. Many have been here to fish or on a cruise, but want to revisit the last frontier on a new adventure with rifle or bow in hand. This article seeks to give you an idea of what to expect when you embark on a DIY moose hunting adventure in the Alaska wilds.
Rule #1: Start your planning and research early. You should be choosing an outfitter close to a year in advance (6 months at least).
This hunt has 4 basic components:
Phase 1: Getting Remote
First order of business in this DIY hunt is to secure a ride into the remote Alaskan bush. Booking a commercial flight to Alaska will be easy in comparison to this decision. Many outfitters book up a year in advance so plan early. Make sure the float plane, boat, or argo is available to transport you during your hunt. Adventure Outfitters Alaska requires a 50% deposit to hold the seats on the float planes which get you in and out of the field. Transporters close to Anchorage, Kenai, or Fairbanks, have much easier logistics. Operating costs are kept to a minimum and our DIY moose hunts become very affordable. They are all inclusive, and could go for as little $5,500 per person.
If you have to take a commuter flight to a village or remote town once you get here, things get much more complicated and expensive.
Phase 2: Travel Planning
Travel to Anchorage, Kenai, or Fairbanks is very straight forward. Its relatively cheap to get here and back home to the lower 48. However, you should expect travel to be somewhat complicated if you plan on flying around the state of Alaska once you get here. Tiny airports away from Anchorage, Kenai, and Fairbanks are costly and often delayed due to weather. These ever-present problems can wreak havoc on your connecting flights. Be realistic about the amount of time needed to get ready for the hunt once you get here. And most importantly; how many days after the hunt you will need to take care of of meat salvage/processing, trophy shipping/sealing, and possibly gear shipping. Take care of all your travel plans early.
Phase 1 and 2 are paramount to the success of the hunt. Getting plane tickets purchased and a transporter booked confirms the commitment for the hunt and then allows for actual planning and intel gathering. Until money is transferred, it's still a pipe dream. Booking early also helps offset the cost for the expedition. Half the major bills will be paid well in advance of the hunt, making it a bit easier on the pocketbook.
Phase 3: Surviving the Hunt, gear and sustenance
Now that you're committed, thoughts should turn to what life will be like on the hunt. The answer to many of these questions is a moot point if you are planning on renting gear from Adventure Outfitters Alaska. We will take out all the guess work. If you are not renting gear, ask yourself some questions. What is the weather going to be like? What should I bring to stay warm and dry? Can my tent survive 40 mph winds and driving rain? This phase of your hunt might take some real thinking and research. Renting gear is much easier and could save the hunt if the weather turns ugly. Adventure Outfitters makes this crucial aspect of your hunt flawless. If you're set on shipping up your 3 season tent to save some money, that's fine, just make sure you look hard into the reality of shipping up gear. It can be costly and cumbersome at the end of a long hunt. As far as everything else you will need to bring for your hunt, well that’s a discussion for another time. When you book with AOA, we take all the guess work out of planning what could be the hunt of a lifetime.
What you plan on eating on your hunt is also very important. Often folks will tell me: “I’m just gonna buy a bunch of mountain house once I get there”. OK, that’s totally doable, but very expensive and will no doubt make your time at camp bland and tasteless. If you plan on doing mountain house, buy it in bulk at a wholesaler and ship it up. Good, single meals can be $10 a piece in Alaska. If each guy is going to eat 3 squares a day, for 10 days; that’ll add up. Buying healthy food and preparing it before the hunt is much better, in every way. In order to do this on your own, you will have to plan well, and be highly motivated once you get here. The best option is to get a complete meal package from an outfitter like us. We can save you time and money. Our menu is diverse and ever changing. Fresh food at moose camp is one of the best parts of the hunt.
Phase 4: Getting Home
The hunt is over and you may or may not have dropped a moose. If you did not, then you will only have to gather your gear, get it squared away, and fly home. If you rent gear from AOA, you can drop it off on the dock and you’re done. If you kill a moose, then you have to deal with the antlers and the meat. Most hunters box up a few 50 lb. boxes of meat to fly home, and donate the rest to the transporter or outfitters. Others spend the big bucks and ship it all to share back home. Regardless, you will need to find a meat processor who can grind or process your moose and then flash freeze it for your trip home. Some guys have it made into sausage and then shipped home at a later date. Some guys grab the loins and the back straps and head home. This is completely up to you, just make sure, like everything else in this process, that you start early and make sure you have a game-plan for getting home with everything your heart desires!
Although it’s not easy to plan and execute, the unguided Alaska moose hunt can be one of the most rewarding hunts in all of North America. If you have questions, feel free to give us a call. We’ll help you execute the hunt of a lifetime.
Aim small, miss small.
Jake Doth, Owner
Adventure Outfitters Alaska