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North of 67's picture
Location: Gakona Alaska
Joined: 03/27/2012
Posts: 11
Western Arctic Hunt Planner

Planning a DYI float hunting?

Hi guys:

I get lots of contacts from guys all over the country who want to put together the Float Hunt of a lifetime.

So… Lets do a Float Hunting planner.

Believe it or not this is the time of year that you should start planning your 2013 hunt. It is very important you start early and ask lots of questions so you can become as informed as possible and have a great hunt. The key to a great hunt is information. Learning everything you can about the drainage that you are hunting puts you in the drivers seat and allows you to plan for all of those unexpected things will pop up when you get out there. Ask questions, lots of questions. Read everything. Strahan’s is a great resource and finding some one who is a local resource is also as important. It is tough to go it alone so information is the difference between a 9-day hunt of a lifetime and a great camping trip!


Get ahold of a USGS Topo of your area. I often times send out maps to my clients so they can find likely camping and glassing spots. Any time I am going into a new area that I cannot scout ahead of time the Topo map makes the difference between knowing the area before you arrive and just arriving. Here is the link of the USGS map store in Anchorage and they do sell maps via the Internet.

Flight Service:

This is the most important aspect of your hunt. The difference between flight services can be stark. Safety and service is the hallmark of a good flight service so take your time and don’t lay a deposit down without researching one. The guy behind the controls has your life in his hands and he had better be good! Search the forum and don’t accept that the service you are considering is safe because they may have a poor reputation and some do. There are services that I just don’t send my clients out with because they have had some spooky experiences.

You are going to find 2 types of flight services and you need to consider what you’re looking for so you make the best decision possible.

Package Hunts: These types of services charge you a flat rate to drop you off and pick you up. In Kotzebue the going rate is about $2,200 per hunter. These services make their profit from higher volume and the quicker they drop you off the faster they can get to the next group. Do the math with package hunts and you may find that they are not such a bargain. If you have 3 guys in your group you are looking at $6,600 for your flight and it may not be very far out side of town. Make sure you know where you are being dropped before the wheels leave the ground. If the service is not willing to show you on a map where your going that is a RED FLAG. Ask how many other groups are in that area. If it is close to town you can bet you will be hunting close to other groups. A hunt to NW Alaska should be a great experience and I would not want to be on top of other groups is at all possible.

Hourly Services: These type of services charge an hourly rate and will fly you about where ever you want. Currently in Kotz the going rate for a 185/206 is between $600-700 per hour. A 185 can handle about 700 pounds and a 206 is right at 900 pounds. Keep in mind that if you are flying a longer distance the weight of the added fuel will reduce that capacity. You are going to pay for the flight up and back so if your drop location is 45 minutes out you are going to pay for 1.5 hours for the drop and the pick up so at least 3 hours of fly time. Remember you are buying the entire plane not per head like a package hunt. Also remember that it you made it up in 1 flight it will be 2 flights back because of the meat and racks. So the flight listed above will be 3 to 4 flights because of the meat so you can expect between 4.5-6 hours of flight time at $700 an hour for a total of $3,100-$4,200 divided by 3 guys comes to about $1,400 per hunter. These are rough numbers to be used for comparison. Each flight service will give you exact numbers.

I like the hourly services for a number of reasons.
1-It forces you to be involved in the hunt. You need to do some research on possible rivers you would like to hunt.
2-You have more control of where you hunt.
3-You are only buying what you need and it can control costs.

Ask the pilot to make a quick loop around the drop site. This is important for a number of reasons.
*You can see how many other groups are in that drop area.
*You can locate your water source.
*You can see game movement. Remember that no hunting the day you fly.
*You get a feel or lay of the land.
*Have a back up drop site.
If your pilot balks about doing a quick circle….Well that’s a Red Flag. If there are lots of other groups camping around that drop site be concerned.

Gear: You have a number of options regarding your float gear and your camp package.

1st. You can ship your gear. Alaska Air fly’s straight to Kotzebue and offers freight from the lower 48, I will use Denver as an example.

Raft package will weigh about 160 pounds, camping gear about 85-100 pounds for a total of 300 pounds at $1.73 per pound for about $520 up and don’t forget you will need to ship it home. There are other freight services from Anchorage to Kotz and that may be a cheaper price but the logistics can be daunting. Keep in mind that once it gets to Kotz you will need to transport your gear from Alaska Airlines to your flight service and they do not deliver and the flight services are close to Alaska Air but not next door.

Rental Services: I am the only outfitter who offers a full service Raft and Camp rentals. Contact me for rates per group not per hunter. A number of the Package Hunt services do rent camps but it is per hunter and the 2012 rates are right at $1,000 per hunter for a drop camp on top of your flight, or about $3,200 per hunter.

My service: We offer 14 and 15 foot raft packages and SOAR hunting canoes as well as Drop Camps. Our rates are pre package not per hunter so you can control your costs. I also offer trip-planning services on where to hunt and what type of hunt is best for your group.

Hunting Licenses: Here is your link for AF&G and you can buy your hunting/fishing licenses in Kotz as well.

Food: All of my camp packages have complete kitchens with Coleman cook stoves. You can ship dry goods up and buy fresh foods in Kotz, which has a large modern grocery store, but keep in mind that weight is a real cost concern. Call me or drop me an e-mail and I can answer any questions you may have.

Hunting in unit 23 can be a daunting task with out time and advice. Time is on your side when you begin this task early. There are many ways to trip costs from your hunt but keep in mind that a hunt in NW Alaska is a great experience and it should not be about pinching pennies at the expense of a great hunt. Everything in NW Alaska is expensive! We have no road connection to the rest of the state so everything comes in on 2 barges a year or on an airplane.

Hunting WACH is a dream come true. Currently WACH is 400,000+ animals and the largest caribou herd in the country. Unit 23 offers the best chance to see big animals and lots of them. Unit 23 currently allows Alaska residents 5 animal bag limits per year and non-residents are allowed 2 animals per year. Moose hunting is also good but not over the counter. You will need to apply for moose tags in the fall and the tags are drawn around February 15th each year.

There are many great resources available right here on the Forum. I am sure that I have left lots of things out of this planner and hopefully others will add to this long-winded thread. Ask questions and let’s start planning!

Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals
Gulkana River Raft Rentals

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