If you've ever considered going on an Alaskan moose hunt, you're not alone. Here's how to get it done.
Alaska is the largest state in the union and for many, a visit there is a sportsman's dream come true. Both for its legendary fishing and big game hunting opportunities. Some of which cannot be found literally anywhere else on the planet. Which is why hunting Alaska is often on many a hunter's bucket list.
Sure, there is some cost involved if you're not a resident of the Last Frontier State. However, the fact is that it can be done, especially a moose hunt. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, "Alaskans and nonresidents annually harvest 6,000 to 8,000 moose" meaning that there is ample opportunity to harvest a bull or a cow moose.
Since a trophy bull moose can have its largest antlers when they reach the ripe old age of around eight years old, (and they rarely live past 12) the time is now for those who have often wondered what an Alaskan moose hunt is all about.
When To Go
The Alaska moose season is short and sweet. Depending on the GMU, (Game Management Unit) non-resident hunters can expect to begin their chase for a moose in the early part of September to around the beginning of the second week. One hunt in GMU 20E is listed as September 8 to September 17, while another hunt north of the Dillingham, Alaska area is said to be from September 5 to September 15 making it an 11-day hunt. Make sure to check out Alaska's regulations book closely for more information on seasons and areas to hunt.
Keep in mind that non-residents are allowed one bull moose with antlers that have four or more brow tines, or a 50-inch spread. Be sure to research on field judging of moose before you go. For most larger specimens it may seem obvious, but if you've never seen a moose in person before, the tremendous size of these animals may surprise you.
Licensing Price Point
According to the ADFG, a non-resident moose hunting tag is $800. If you compare that to the non-resident muskox bull tag, which is $2,200, the moose tag may seem like a bargain. The non-resident fee for an annual hunting license in Alaska is $160. So, you're looking at a minimum of $960 just for your tags. That's no small chunk of change, but it's also probably the easiest bull moose tag to get in North America. Most moose hunts in the lower 48 are strict draw-only tags, and your odds of getting one are not good. Some hunters have been waiting decades in their home states with no success. Canadian moose hunting trips are often extremely expensive for non-residents.
Aside from the costs of the tags, airfare, transportation, lodging and meals, there is one other cost to keep in mind with Alaska. All hunters are responsible for shipping their hard-earned wild game back to their home state which can run as much as $500 per animal.
Using a Guide Service
This is by far the recommended way to hunt moose in the frontier of Alaska. Non-citizens of the U.S. don't have a choice, and MUST be accompanied by a licensed guide to hunt bull moose in the last frontier. Sorry Canadians. The Alaska Guides and outfitters in the state have been helping hunters to fill their tags for generations and with great success. They are more than able and willing to help anyone from anywhere to have the best hunt of their lives and return home safely with tremendous memories.
The fact is that the price paid to the outfitters does not include your licensing or the tags necessary, nor the airfare to your destination. On the other hand, most will include bush flights and sometimes the licensing (for sale) to their customers. Make sure you are booking early to ensure you get the GMU you want, and the right guide. Many will book extremely far in advance. Although it's worth keeping an eye on the social media channels of many guides and outfitters. Many will have at least one cancellation or two a season with an open window for an opportunistic hunter.
If you've never hunted Alaska before, we highly recommend the guided moose hunt anyway. This is a huge state with some wild, untamed country. It's easy to get lost and hurt if you don't know what you're doing out there. So, it's not a bad idea even if you only hire one from a safety standpoint. Although they will help making finding the bulls much easier than if you travel there blind and try to do all the work on your own.
Unguided Moose Hunts
Self-guided hunts can still be done under the supervision of an outfitter since many of them offer it in their hunting plan to a group of at least three hunters. You should still be able to take advantage of the guide's base camp, but may have to provide your own GPS and pack. Read the fine print on an outfitter's website carefully. And be ready to call them and ask additional questions on the logistics of the trip. Most are going to be happy to help because they deal with this kind of stuff all the time.
You'll still have to buy a non-resident tag and hunting license at the same cost, but an unguided hunt means you will have to find your own moose. The advantage of using an outfitter to have a unguided hunt is just the knowledge most veteran moose hunters provide. They understand the terrain and the animals. They will be able to give you some important tips that may up your odds of success.
Another thing that's nice about guides is they can give great tips on other animals in the area. Remember, hunting moose in Alaska comes with certain inherent dangers such as brown bears and wolves. Your outfitter will usually know what's in the area, and they'll be able to give some tips to help avoid an unwanted encounter with one.
Book early to get the Game Management Unit you want.
As in any state for any game animal, the success rates vary from GMU to GMU. The fact is that the reported harvest statistics show an incredible 50 to 60 percent of hunters in some of the hunting areas listed tagged out on their moose! Those are some darn good odds for any hunting scenario.
Sure, other units showed that 30 percent and less were successful, but that's hunting in a nutshell. Remember that the best moose hunting in the world comes from Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and the Northwest Territories of Canada, but only Alaska is a part of the United States. Most of the time, Alaska is going to be a better option for American citizens than the Canadian provinces. Just in logistics and costs.
The state of Alaska watches their moose population closely which ranges from 175,000 to 200,000 animals. With those numbers in mind, it's no wonder why a moose hunting excursion is more than just a bucket list item for many hunters.
Getting a head start on a Alaska moose hunt is simply a matter of making your reservation now.
Please check out my book "The Hunter's Way" from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube. Go to Rack Hub and use the coupon code Craiger for a new way to display those antler sheds!
NEXT: WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER AN ELK, MOOSE, OR OTHER LARGE HOOFED ANIMAL