If you've considered all of the planning and logistics necessary to pull off a successful muskox hunt in Alaska, and you are still interested in going on your hunt, then this article is for you!
Even as a do-it-yourself hunt the costs associated with this area in Alaska are sure to bring even an experienced hunter a little bit of sticker shock. I hope this article will help you plan a successful hunt for your adventure of a lifetime!
Begin this adventure in December! Apply by December 15th for the muskox hunt(s) of your choice on the Alaska DF&G website.You must have a valid hunting license to apply. I’d recommend purchasing a license as far out as you can so that you can use the same license in multiple draws. (Example: applying in Dec 2021 for the winter 2023 hunt should purchase a 2023 hunting license and use it for the next 3 consecutive draws). Hunt codes are as follows: DX001 (Fall hunt on Nunivak Island) or DX003 (Winter hunt on Nunivak Island). You can apply for 6 total choices at $10 per choice. I’d recommend applying for the winter hunt x 6 choices. If you can talk a buddy into applying with you, you will avoid having to pay for a non-hunter to join you on your own trip. You may apply up to 2 applicants on the same application and it would not hurt your odds much at all of drawing a permit.
DX001 : Fall Bull Muskox Hunt (Aug 1-Sept 30)
DX003 : Winter Bull Muskox Hunt (Jan 15-Mar 31)
Now it’s the third week of February and you’ve drawn the permit for unit 18, Nunivak Island for bull muskox! Chances are you do not have the proper hunting license for the calendar year in which your hunt takes place unless you planned ahead as I indicated in the previous paragraph. Make sure that you purchase the $160 non-resident hunting license for the calendar year in which you will be hunting. The actual permit that you drew (the piece of paper that has the notchable tag with harvest ticket) will be mailed to you from the AK DF&G the July following your successful draw result. At this point you have your annual hunting license (paper, printed from the web), the muskox permit (paper, sent to you in the mail), and you will need one more vital item to be able to go on the legal hunt, a locking-tag. You can purchase the $2,200 non-resident locking tag at any time before your hunt, but keep in mind that many vendors in the state do not carry muskox tags or they will sell out before you get there. I recommend ordering your locking-tag online from the AK DF&G website at least 2 weeks prior to your departure date. They will be available in January of the calendar year indicated on the tag. Keep in mind that Alaska hunting regulations and permits/harvest tickets are structured off of a regulatory year basis (July-June) but that hunting licenses and locking-tags are calendar year based (Jan-Dec).
Soon after you draw the permit you will need to decide if you want to make this hunt happen or not! The biologists and department appreciate if all permit holders will call and indicate their intent to use or not use their muskox permit for the upcoming hunts. Many hunters are overwhelmed by the logistics and aspects of muskox hunting on Nunivak and will surrender their permit back to the state allowing another alternate-list hunter to receive a permit.
If you decide to keep the permit and embark on the hunt, now it is time to reserve space for a critical part of your successful hunt, a licensed transporter on the island.
Unlike most hunts in Alaska where you can get dropped off by a plane or boat transporter and be able to bring your own gear to start hunting, Nunivak hunts are an entirely new animal. One would have a very difficult time arriving at the Mekoryuk (MYU) airport and being able to set out on your hunt unless you brought a snowmobile or seaworthy boat along with you in your checked baggage. The Mekoryuk airport is nothing more than an airstrip carved out of the tundra, usually surrounded by high snowbanks and ice. There is no taxi service, no shuttle service, no hotels, no restaurants, and only one small native corporation owned convenience store. Basically put, it is a village that is a long way from nowhere!
Now that you know you must have local help on the island, even for the self-guided hunter that you are, let’s discuss a few details about transporters and/or guides. Transporters on the island have created their own niche market for permit holders traveling to the island each hunting season. A standard transporter agreement will include transportation to/from the airport, a place to sleep in their own homes or outbuildings, meals, and transportation to and from the field via boat or ATV (fall hunt) or snowmobile (winter hunt). The transporters have multiple snowmobiles and sled combos and will generally lead you on the trails out on the island so that you can locate herds of musk oxen and harvest your trophy. Transporters can stay with you in the field and help you transport your trophy back to the village. However, transporters may not help you judge trophy quality, indicate which animal to shoot, or help you field dress/cape the animal in the field. When I went on my hunt with my father in the winter of 2019 we used our transporter to take out to the far end of the island and to leave us there with our camping gear and one snowmobile for the remainder of our hunt. This option is a little more extreme as most hunters will only stay in the village at night and go on short day-only hunts with the transporter as their snowmobile guide. All prices are subject to change and negotiable, but most transporters will charge between $3,500 - $5,000 for a transported only hunt for one hunter. Additional non-hunter fees may range from $1,000 - $1,500 depending on the arrangements. Do not expect to have a structured contract with arrival and departure dates, etc. I would focus the most on your hunt start/intended arrival date and “wing it” from there. You will not want to be on the island longer than needed and generally a good weather day or two will be more than sufficient to kill a trophy ox.
All of the transporters I have spoke with and met in person on the island are down to earth, sincere people. I would feel confident in staying with any of them. Keep in mind that most of them do not have websites, in-home computers, printers, etc. and are lucky to live a simple life in a very tough environment. Go into the booking process with an open mind and clear communication and you will have a great experience. I also recommend enjoying the journey and getting a look into their native, true Alaskan lifestyle. Since the season dates were extended by a few weeks starting with the winter 2021 season, this will cut down on the crowded transporter housing issues that we have had in the past. Make sure your transporter is spreading out his hunters across the season dates.
Abraham “Abe” David
Mekoryuk, AK resident
Licensed Transporter: Nunivak Island Experiences
Edward “Ed” Kiokun
Mekoryuk, AK resident
Ishmael & Viva Smith
Mekoryuk, AK resident
Licensed Transporter: I & V Transporters
|Annual Hunt License||$160||Purchase and print anytime online (non-resident price)|
|Annual Muskox Locking Tag||$2,200||Purchase online in advance or at vendor in-state (non-resident price)|
|Alaska Muskox Draw Permit||$0||Receive in the mail mid-July from ADF&G after drawing the permit|
|Transporter Fee - 1 hunter||$4,500||Payable directly to licensed transporter|
|Transporter Fee - 1 non-hunter||$500||Negotiable with transporter|
|NIMA Native Corp Trespass Fee - 1 hunter||$100||Paper access permit available from your transporter upon arrival in Mekoryuk|
|NIMA Native Corp Trespass Fee - 1 non-hunter||$100||Paper access permit available from your transporter upon arrival in Mekoryuk|
|Alaska Airline Tickets - 1 hunter||$610||Roundtrip example from lower 48 to Bethel|
|Alaska Airline Tickets - 1 non-hunter||$610||Roundtrip example from lower 48 to Bethel|
|Extra Baggage Fees - Airlines||$200||Always takes us a lot of gear|
|Grant Aviation Airline Tickets - 1 hunter||$550||Roundtrip from Bethel to Mekoryuk|
|Grant Aviation Airline Tickets - 1 non-hunter||$550||Roundtrip from Bethel to Mekoryuk|
|Hotels in Bethel (2 nights)||$500||Not the cheapest or best hotel you'll ever stay in, but it should be warm|
|Food in Bethel||$110||Good pizza and chinese options|
|Fresh Food in ANC to take to Island||$150||The local families will love some fresh fruit, vegetables, candy, etc.|
|Extra Fees to Ship Meat Home||$300||Recommend large hard-sided totes to transport meat home|
|Trophy Expediting/Shipping Home||$300||Either in the form of frozen baggage fees or expediting services in Bethel/Anchorage|
|Total||$11,440||Total cost of unguided Muskox hunt for 1 hunter + 1 non-hunter|