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Thread: Caribou Meat Quality - Late September

  1. #1
    Supporting Member Gr is for Greg's Avatar
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    Aug 2007

    Default Caribou Meat Quality - Late September


    I know this has been asked and discussed before, and I did a few searches, but I had some trouble finding good results. A friend is looking to go up the Haul Road for caribou the week of Sept 21. It is still bulls only at that point, and starting to get into the rut. Anyone care to give accounts / advice on meat quality? I have heard the full range from "the meat is fine" to "you can't eat it". I seem to remember more people saying that the meat quality goes downhill pretty quickly after the about the middle of September. Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

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  2. #2
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Fairbanks, Ak.


    Bou rut is not a set date. Might get rutty meat in mid sept. Might get good meat in mid Oct. Sept. 21 is early, IMO, to cancel any bull shooting. You can always shoot younger bulls without the large racks, if your concerned.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    NorthWest Alaska


    A few words on my experiance.

    Let's start with Reindeer. In '95 a few hundred thousand caribou move into winter range on the Seward pennesula, and left that spring with 90% of the Reindeer.....mighta been 30,000+ deer there.....
    Reindeer are so close and intermixed with caribou, I belive they are completely absorbed into the wild Caribou of the WACH.
    the Reindeer that seed'd the herds were from Norway, after the Siberian reindeer they started with died, or ran off unattended. Lapplanders were also brought to teach he locals how the herd properly.
    The Lapp Deer rut and Birth earlier than the Caribou.
    Now their intermixed, it is as MT said.
    Now Caribou, especcially before '95 start rut at about the first week of October, when it used to freeze up. This cold weather is "Iffy" now.

    In October, when massive ammounts of herds are going by, we work on the females if we need more meat, or prehaps didnt have a boat, so you gotta catch them on the land, and newly formed ice lets them make very predictable trails , and sitting in ambush is very easy then.

    My fatherinlaw told me to watch the weather and set my events by it.

    When its cold up north,as in the North Slope, the Caribou will start to move south. By mid sept, Moose will be rutting, and ice will start to form on the puddles /lakes edges. Then Caribou will be moving by soon, and we can start to top off the freezer or dry meats as the insects are almost gone.
    At abut 35 above to 25 above, when the puddles feeze and thaw only at the end of the day, you can keep carcass's whole, and we often hang them up on a rack, or in a tree.
    When the puddles stay frozen all day, at about freezeing all day long, you have less than a week to get the Fat Bulls, their carcass's should freeze well whole. Its time to pack up and get where your going before freeze up catches you.

    The surest sign of impending rut is when you catch a bull and his stomach has lttle food and lots of water. Hes not caring to eat, gonna be living off those 2 inches of fat, only living to screw the females and he'll be smelling of it by the next day.
    You can smell that sour yuuk smell before you shoot them, its pretty powerfull and dogs will refuse your steaks.
    They lose their fear and are almost suicidal.... They will come to you, like kamakazis to check you out and see if your worth their time......

    Then it will stay below freezing, getting up to 30 above in mid day. Within a couple days, the scent of rut will be on the meat. By the end of that week, the rivers will be frozen all the way across and everything will stop moving, for 3-4 days and then, with thicker ice, movement picks up fast as all the gather'd caribou are hustling south over solid ground and ice.

    We try not to hunt bulls again untill after X-mas, and then they are skinny.
    Great for dry'd meats in spring, if you save your winter meats during the long cool sunny days, before the bugs come
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  4. #4
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Apr 1999
    Anchorage, Alaska

    Default Rutted-up caribou

    I have encountered meat that was too rutty to eat in mid September, and bulls that were fine in mid October. It is my experience that all of them don't go rutty at the same time, however I won't take a chance with wasting an otherwise perfectly good animal. Generally I avoid hunting caribou from about mid September (by the last week for sure) until mid October or so.

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  5. #5


    You can set your watch to the Caribou rut. 15 Sept thru 15 October they are in rut. On the 30th of Sept they are in hard rut and inedible. The two weeks preceeding and following the 30th are progressively bad for the quality of the meat. Take only small bulls during this time and you "might" be able to eat them. The quality of the meat is poor after the 15th of Sept. It doesn't get again til March. You can eat the bulls after October 15th, but they aren't good. August and March is the time for good Caribou meat.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    NorthWest Alaska


    I should have explained that Im writing about the WACH herd, abit north of the Arctic Circle in lattitude at that time. Ive only watched this peticular herd, no others, 20+ years straight as a harvester and go through quite a few, but thats my experiance, others may and do differ, Im sure.
    For the WACH, its the end of Sept., the only rutted ones before that time are Reindeer, in this herd.

    Its easy to watch them and the tempature.

    Im sure other herds about the state have their own times, as the cold settles about this big state differntly.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....


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