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Mulchatna Herd?

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  • Mulchatna Herd?

    Hey guys, I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me. I am a cop in Washington, and one of my buddies at work invited me to hunt caribou with him, and his best friend who is a fishing guide in Alaska next year. It sounds like we would be hunting the Mulchatna herd. I've read this herd is about 150,000 to 200,000 strong with a lot of great bulls. My friend told me he understands the herd is down to about 75,000 this last year but still thinks we have good chances at good bulls. This would be an unguided hunt, and the lodge is somewhere around brystol bay and we would fly north to the hunting grounds. I used to be a licensed taxidermist before I became a cop and would love to mount my own caribou instead of someone elses. Anyone know how this herd is doing? What the hunting is like? Hopefully this will be the first of many trips to Alaska! Once I figure out how to post pics, I will post some of my mounts.

  • #2
    Try Another Herd


    Check the Forum archives, many posts describing the decline of the Mulchatna Herd over the past few years. In 2004 I went on an 11 day moose/bou hunt on the upper Nushagak - while we saw about 1500 caribou, we only saw 7-8 shooter bulls out of that number. Many other hunters have reported equal or worse luck.



    • #3
      Why do you think the Mulchatna herd is down? What would a good caribou hunt be for a non-resident first timer? I never really cared for record books or scores, just a nice specimen would put a big smile on my face. Also is it realistic to shoot ptarmagin or other critters when hunting caribou. Sorry to pester you guys, thanks


      • #4

        I would say go for it and hunt the mulchatna. The good thing is the herd is recieving less pressure right now than the herd in the northwest.


        • #5
          Mulchatna Caribou


          When are you planning this hunt? Caribou season is already under way in many parts of Alaska, and if you're gathering information for this year, you're really behind the curve. Assuming you are doing some advance planning for next year, here are some tips.

          Any successful Alaska hunt depends to a great extent on good research. Strangely, this is exactly where most folks fail. They talk to friends, or come to places like this hoping for a hot tip that will save them the work of checking the details themselves. The blunt truth is that there are rarely any shortcuts in this area. For everyone who took the easy road and had a successful hunt, there are hundreds of others who failed and came away resolved to do a better job next time.

          For caribou numbers, distribution, hunting pressure, access point information, seasons, bag limits and so forth, your single best resource is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Area Biologist assigned to that area. You can also look at Harvest Reports for some information that is somewhat dated, but still good background information to have. If you go to the link I just posted, go to the section on caribou and click on the "2005 Caribou, Part 1" link. This will take you to their most current report on the Mulchatna "Herd". I use the term "herd" in quotes because a typical caribou herd is actually a loose aggregation of smaller herds that may or may not travel closely together. At some times you may fly over an area and see literally thousands of animals in one area, but most of the time if you see any at all, they will be singles, trios or small herds widely scattered. In some cases you can position yourself in front of these small groups and others will come by through the same area. That's frequently how a migration works. Additionally in some years, the migration proceeds in large "pulses" where the migration temporarily stalls in one area or another for a week or more. This is due to weather in most cases, but can happen for other reasons as well.

          If I were you, I'd begin this process by reading through the harvest summaries I posted earlier in this post. From that you will be able to come up with a list of good questions for the area biologist. Keep in mind that the harvest summaries are dated. That means that the information has a fairly short shelf life. For example, earlier harvest reports show no caribou in the Goodnews Lake area, however as the Mulchatna Herd started to diminish and scatter, some groups broke off and can be found in areas where caribou were not historically found. The Aklun Mountains area is a case in point.

          As far as the Mulchatna Herd is concerned, there are animals there, but as I said, the numbers have dropped, and some groups have broken off and established themselves in other areas, most notably farther to the west. Some of them are accessible from charters out of Dillingham.

          Hope this helps!


          Michael Strahan
          Site Owner
          Alaska Hunt Consultant
          1 (406) 662-1791


          • #6
            Thank you Michael,
            The hunt would be next year, so I wanted to start gathering info now. Thank you for the tips, they will give me great start. I wonder how these changes will effect the hunting lodges that were in good locations to hunt this herd. Thanks again, Nebs


            • #7
              plan B and plan C

              Good points Mike..... research gives you knowledge and without that you cannot have the wisdom.
              when planning a trip I try to have a couple extra options already in my bag. Some folks decide to go to a specific area or lake, and the pilot may tell you that he was just there and no animals to be found for his last group, or he may say, I flew over today and saw 5 camps in that area.
              I have been caught like this and had no backup, ,,so I asked the pilot for some help.... But,,,
              He is tired and has been flying hunters around for weeks and it all becomes a blurr to him. days run into last week etc.. He now has the pressure of helping you with a new location. These guys want you to have success, but they are pilots and they have a lot of other stuff on their minds, Fuel for the plane
              suggest the two other places you have researched and your pilot can give you good information this way, rather than saying " So where can we go to get a good chance?".
              I had a pilot tell me once that he saw a huge herd just a couple of miles from a certain lake the day previous. I said well lets go there then.
              away we went and he said to me as we approached the lake that the herd was just over on that hill over their. We flew for an additional 5 minutes to the hill over their, which of course means not a couple of miles, but 5 to 10 miles from the lake.. sure enough, the herd was up on that Mountain that he called a hill, about 8 miles from the lake he dropped us in.
              Those were the nearest caribou we saw in 6 days and it was pure hell getting just two for 4 guys.
              Was this the pilots fault?
              NO WAY,, he is in an airplane and probably never walked or hiked like that far for game, also everything being relative, he could get to um quick in an airplane, and is thinking honestly,, " Right over there, near this lake".
              Your pilot is one of your best resources, but don't just show up and ask him to lead you to the herd.. Not fair to him, and it is so much fun to drag out the maps months or years in advance and plan, plan, and dream, and dream of your next Alaskan Expedition...
              I found out early that doing things in Alaska is indeed an Expedition. its so much different than the lower 48, where you can drive to your hunting area each day, etc.. That I suppose is why I love this place so much.
              The rewards for a well planned trip, and the excitment of going out to such remote places just drives me.
              You have found a good place my friend here on the forum. You will get tons of advice and you can sort out the B.S. from the cream. It makes it all so much more fun and exciting.
              When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

              Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years.


              • #8
                It sounds like Fishing guide friend has his own pilots for transporting customers, and he would be coming with us. I know I need to do more research (good thing I have a year!), but he would be monitoring the herd a lot. I would think this would be a plus for us, as I doubt his pilots would take their employer anywhere but the best spots. On another note, are black bears present in these parts of the interior. I was thinking about buying a blackbear and wolf tag just in case. Thanks for all your replies.


                • #9
                  If the fishing guide friend is working with pilots flying that area regularly, then I'd say you don't need to do any research. The pilots will be looking for places to hunt with bou in the area. More than likely, all you have to do is show up with your buddy from work, and leave the rest to his fishing guide friend.
                  Concentrate on getting some good equipment if you don't already have some.
                  I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
                  I have less friends now!!


                  • #10
                    just remember

                    Just remember, if the pilot is putting you on animals, he's crossed the line from pilot to guide and could be breaking the law. It's a line that gets crossed because hunters aren't prepared and they put pressure on the pilots to find them animals. Pilots want the business so they try to be helpful to keep their clients happy.
                    An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
                    - Jef Mallett


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