Welcome to Alaska!
We're twice the size of Texas, with very diverse ecosystems and different big-game species in each. We have the largest diversity of big-game animals in the United States, but perhaps the lowest density per square mile. In other words, there's a lot to hunt here, but a lot of acreage out there without a single living animal on it for most or all of the year. There are lots of ways to approach this, but in your situation I would start with building relationships with other hunters. You're in the military, so that shouldn't be too hard. You will quickly find that people are very protective of "their" spots. But there are a few who are freer with information. But the relationships also extend to commercial operators; equipment companies, raft rental outfits, air charters and more. Get to know some of these folks as you go, and you'll glean tons of information that will help you.
At the same time it's a good idea to educate yourself about Alaska, the different regions of the state and what they have to offer, where the various species are found and how to hunt them. Access is a huge deal here; the road system is very limited. There are some good road-based hunts, but most of them are well known and relatively crowded. It takes some doing to find areas to hunt off the road system, that nobody seems to know about. But they are there. Our main "road system" is our rivers. We have over 365,000 miles of rivers in Alaska and they range (to keep the analogy) from little dirt jeep or ATV trails to superhighways. Just like a road, our rivers traverse country that contains good game habitat. The hard part (but very rewarding) is to identify these productive pockets along a given river system. To do that you need really good maps or aerial photos, general knowledge of the habitat preferences of the target species, an awareness of the local game regulations, some knowledge about the river system itself, and current, accurate information about overall herd health. There's a lot more to it than that, but that should get you started. More questions will arise as you get farther in to this.
There are many research tools out there. Here are a few:
- Our Hunting Pages. We have recently added a ton of content to our hunting area on this site. It's a work in progress (anyone out there want to help?), but it will give you some good direction to go. Of particular interest is the menu on the left-hand side of the page, which offers the following:
- Hunt Planner. This contains information about our hunt planning services we offer on this site.
- Timeline. When you should be planning which parts of your hunt, and details about the research process.
- Location. How to find a place to hunt.
- Library. A list of items from our store that you need for hunt planning and skill development. The store contains over 300 titles, many of which contain information about specific species, including how to hunt them, what gear to use, and a wealth of other information.
- Management Reports. A link to the management reports provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, on moose, caribou, brown bear, black bear, deer, Dall sheep, goat, elk, muskox and more. These reports are not always current, but they provide an excellent baseline and a foundation for questions you will ask of the area biologist.
- Resources. A list of the people you need to talk to, along with what questions to ask (and what not to ask). This will help you navigate the minefield of public input without getting blown up. You will make mistakes, but this will help prevent some of them at least. Contact instructions are provided.
- Color Infrared Maps. This is an excellent planning tool and instructions are provided on where to find them and how to use them for planning your hunt.
Below the Hunt Planning Menu, you will find the Hunting Menu, which contains links to our pages that include a general GMU map
, general hunting information
, pages on float hunting
, guided hunts
, unguided hunting
in Alaska, meat care
, trophy care
, field care tools
, and pages on all the major big-game species found in Alaska. We are looking for writers for some of these pages, as they are not complete. If anyone out there is interested, drop me a line and let's talk. We've made a significant dent in providing the info, but there is still a lot of work to do.
- Float Hunting Book. A few years ago I wrote a book called, "Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers". It contains detailed instructions on hunt planning, and specific details on float hunting techniques, river navigation, gear, hunting tactics for moose, caribou and both kinds of bear, plus write-ups on fifty river systems around the state. You might find it a useful tool. For some reason the publisher doesn't want me selling it, however I have found it out on Amazon and you can purchase it there.
- Our Hunting Forums. You have already discovered this resource. I would poke around in here a bit. There are literally thousands of pages on this site that you can use to plan your hunt. Last time I checked, I think our site had close to 160,000 pages of content, much of it on hunting in Alaska.
Well, that should give you something to chew on for a while. You have found the right place to make new friends, and to get the information you need. Welcome home, and I hope your experiences in Alaska are everything you hope for!