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November 2018
Author: Robert Hanneman

With the rapid price increase of guided Alaska moose hunts over the last 10 years, there is getting to be a lot more interest in hunters going on self-guided moose hunts in Alaska. Every year, a lot of Huntin’ Fool members go to Alaska on different types of self-guided moose hunts. It seems like the average success rate from the Huntin’ Fool members I’ve talked to in the last six years was about 50%. I have always dreamed of doing a self-guided Alaska moose hunt, but I am waiting a few more years for my boys to get older and then I plan on taking them to Alaska on a hunt. I think it will be a grand adventure for Amy and me to take our trio of boys to float 100 miles on an Alaska river.

During my research on self-guided Alaska moose hunts, I have talked to many biologists, Alaska residents, guides, pilots, and taxidermists. What I have learned is that it is tougher to kill a bull than most people think.

We all know that there are plenty of residents who harvest moose every year, but when you add up all of the resident hunters, the average statewide success rate is usually around 20%. One thing to remember is that the moose density in Alaska is nowhere near the deer or elk densities found in the lower 48. A lot of areas average about one moose per square mile.

For a self-guided hunter, there are four good options for hunting moose – float hunt on a river, fly into a lake or ridgetop, hunt off of ATVs in areas where they are allowed, or purchase a Hunt Planner kit with detailed information on where to hunt. Each of these hunts have positives and negatives, but if you are toying with the idea of a self-guided hunt, this article should at least start you down the right path. If you want to hunt moose in Alaska but only want to do a guided hunt, I would invite you to call Isaiah, our Outfitter Specialist. He can help you find the right guided hunt for you.

River float hunting can be a great way to experience Alaska. It allows you to cover a lot of country, and you can venture as far off the river day hunting as you want. This is the most popular method of hunting moose for a nonresident. There are countless rivers that can be floated and provide good moose hunting. If you are traveling up from the lower 48, you can bring or ship your own raft, but a lot of hunters rent rafts once they get to Alaska. There are many reputable companies you can rent a raft from. Once you have the raft figured out, you need to decide on how you are going to access the river you have selected. Some guys will have all of their gear and raft flown in and then they will have another plane pick them up at the takeout. This method is usually the most expensive as it requires two or more air charter flights. Others will be flown in and then float out to a road or float from a road and then be flown out. There are other rivers where you can put in at a road and then float out to a road. Those rivers can sometimes be more crowded as it is a logistically easier hunt.

The key to float hunting is get up on the high bluffs along the river and glass as far as you can see. During the rut, the bulls will be traveling along the river, but they usually stay just inside the timber. This is a good reason to call as you are floating down the river. Another tactic that has intrigued me is the new, small backpackable raft. When I do my float hunt, I am planning on taking a small backpackable raft to hunt the smaller streams that run into the main river. These streams are too small to take a full-size raft, but I could hunt on foot a couple miles up them and then if I kill a bull I can use the backpack raft to float him down to the main river and our main raft.

A fly-in lake or ridgetop hunt can be a great way to get away from hunting pressure. A big cost is paying for an air charter in and out, and if you are lucky enough to harvest a moose or two, you may need a couple extra air charters to get all the meat out. Another downside is that you are limited to a smaller area to hunt as you are going to have to pack your moose back to the ridgetop or lake. If you do find a bull that is a couple miles from your camp, you are not going to be able to harvest him unless he happens to be in an area they can get a plane into. A moose is an extremely large animal, and you want to be sure it is in an area where you can recover all the meat before you pull the trigger. Another challenge for fly-in hunts can be booking an air charter. A lot of the better air charter services can be booked out one to two years.

A lot of the ATV hunting is done north of Fairbanks. There are quite a few trails that lead deep into the public land. Some of these trails can get you 50+ miles from the paved roads. These trails are made for an ATV or Argo. They can be very technical, so you need to be prepared for anything with extra supplies, a winch, and a chainsaw. If you are planning on day hunting this area, you are going to experience a lot of hunting pressure from all of the hunters out of Fairbanks. For the best success, you need to pack up a camp and get as far away from other hunters as possible. Once you get away from the hunting pressure, you want to get to a high point and glass as much country as you can. It is not uncommon to be glassing three to six miles when trying to spot a moose. The biggest expense on these hunts is going to be hauling your ATVs to Alaska. For more information on hunting the ATV trail system north of Fairbanks, call a moose biologist in the Fairbanks office.

Hunt planning packages are becoming more popular. They are typically going to be the most expensive method for a self-guided hunt, but they usually have a higher success rate. These are sold by Alaska companies that put together an entire Hunt Planner kit, which typically includes lining out air charters, raft rentals, gear rentals, and any other assistance with the hunt you need. Most of these companies are usually booked a year or so out and only take a handful of clients each year. If you have any questions about purchasing a Hunt Planner kit, give us a call.

The Alaska Game and Fish moose biologists can be extremely helpful. Just like the biologists in the lower 48, they can be tough to get a hold of, but I would keep trying as the information they have can be very helpful. They do a lot of aerial surveys, so they can help steer you to the right area for your adventure.

Depending on the weight of your gear and what size of plane they can land in your area, you can expect to pay $1,300- $2,300 per flight. These are not round-trip flights. Most of these planes will take at least two hunters, so you can usually split the cost if you are going with someone else. If you kill a moose, you may need an additional flight to get it out if they are using a smaller plane. If you use a Hunt Planner, you can expect to pay $2,500-$3,750. These are detailed Hunt Planner kits, but you are still going to have to pay for everything else. For more information about the cost of a self-guided moose hunt, check out the list included in this article.

Here is a general idea of what you can expect to pay for an Alaska self-guided moose hunt:

  • Round-trip flight to Alask - $600-$1,200
  • Alaska hunting license - $160
  • Moose tag - $800
  • Raft rental - $500
  • Camp rental - $400-$500
  • Food - $300
Also, if you are like me and you love to research hunting Alaska, here are a couple of books that I recommend you add to your personal library:
• Float Draggin’ Alaska: The Expert’s Guide to Float Hunting Alaska’s Rivers by Larry Bartlett
• Float Hunting Alaska’s Wild Rivers by Michael Strahan
• Hunt Alaska Now; Self-Guiding for Trophy Moose and Caribou by Dennis Confer