Skip to main content

Your First DIY Alaskan Adventure

The Land of the Midnight Sun offers some of the most dangerous, rigorous, inspiring, grueling, and rewarding hunting opportunities in America. Researching and making a good plan and adequately preparing your gear, your body, and your mind are critical to success and sometimes to survival. Here's where to begin.

Alaska1

PLANNING

Don't just plan to hunt near roads and hope you'll be successful. You'll struggle horribly. Flying into a remote area via bush or float plane is the best way to swing the odds in your favor. For best success, pick a reputable air service that specializes in taxiing hunters to good areas. You'll pay a premium for the years of research such pilots have dedicated to finding areas that consistently produce.


Alternately, research good game populations for whatever species you're dreaming of by calling state biologists, studying big-game records and so forth, then study terrain on Google Earth to pick a likely looking area near a lake. Call air taxi services in the region and book a floatplane flight into your spot. It's a bigger gamble, but less expensive.


Some hunters choose to be flown in and dropped on a river. They then raft their way out to a pickup point near civilization, pausing to hunt along the way. You'll save on round-trip flying fees, but you will need to pay extra to fly in packable rafts.

Logistics are always a challenge in Alaska. Fly to Anchorage or Fairbanks and rent a truck. Give yourself at least a couple of days between your planned extraction from the bush and your flight home in case you get weathered in and the pilot can't get to you.

If you are successful, pack your meat in insulated boxes and check it on as excess baggage on your flight home. Alternatively, leave it in a local cold-storage facility and schedule a refrigerated transport truck such as those run by Alaska Express Trucking through Canada and into the United States.

Or you can donate your meat to a local charity or an individual in Alaska. But moose and caribou are fantastic eating, and you're a ruddy fool if you don't go the extra mile to get your meat home.


Alaska2

GEAR

Only the best-quality gear stands up to the difficult northern elements. Howling winds, eternal drizzling rain, bone-numbing cold, and mud all combine to destroy gear.


If you fly in via Super Cub (the best way to access really remote, unpressured areas), you'll be limited to 55 pounds of gear, not including your rifle. Assuming you're a chap of somewhere between 160 and 210 pounds, you can usually wear your binocular, ammo, hunting knife, camera, raingear, and waders if you need to in order to bring the weight of your pack down.

Pruning your gear (plus, all your food for a 10- to 12-day hunt) down to 55 pounds is incredibly challenging.

Your sleeping bag, paired with a top-shelf pad, is critical. Savvy Alaska hunters recommend a bag rated for zero-degree or lower temps even for late summer hunts, because the weather can turn nasty fast. I use Mountain Hardwear's Wraith, a superb down bag rated at minus 15, and have been grateful to have the warmth even while hunting moose in early September.

A premium tent that combines light weight with wind- and rain-defying design is vital. Choose a four-man tent for a two-person hunt, to provide room for gear and for drying out soggy clothing.

Boots are always a puzzle in Alaska. Some areas call for hip waders while other areas demand durable leather hunting boots. Alaska is never dry, and I tend to pick a boot that shrugs off swampy conditions even when hunting leather-boot country. Good options are Muck rubber boots or top-quality duck boots of the type made legendary by L.L. Bean. Neither offers much ankle support, but they're quiet for stalking and keep your feet dry.

In most of Alaska's units, meat must be left on the bone while packing out. Only a few pack types are capable of hauling 140-pound moose hindquarters whole. It's impossible to beat the Frontier Gear of Alaska Freighter pack frame sold by Barney's Sports Chalet, but the KUIU Icon Pro series comes close.

For safety and security, take a modern emergency communication device. A satellite phone works, but can be pricey. Instead, try Garmin's inReach units which have an SOS button that sends your coordinates to emergency rescue and dispatches the cavalry, and it offers capable GPS features and weather forecasts. Best of all is the satellite texting feature, which enables hunters to communicate with loved ones and bush pilots.

Alaska3

Clothing should be of premium quality. Makers such as KUIU, Sitka, and Browning offer superb options. Go with merino wool base layers as they keep you warm or cool depending on temperature and don't hold odor — a feature you need after 10 days in the backcountry. Be sure your raingear is fishing-boat waterproof. "Water resistant" doesn't cut it.

Choosing an appropriate rifle is both fun and challenging. Accuracy is important, as is reliability, and you'll want it to be corrosion resistant. Pick a Winchester Model 70 or similar action of controlled-feed design, in stainless steel, preferably finished in Cerakote or a similar super-finish that shrugs off rust. Go with a premium composite stock. Wood stocks warp in eternal moisture, and plastic, injection-molded stocks become brittle in extreme cold.

For game up to and including caribou, any good deer cartridge will serve. However, moose are a different story. They have slow nervous systems and a tremendous capacity to soak up bullets. A mature bull weighs double that of a big bull elk, putting the term "adequate cartridge" in a new light. You need 30 to 50 inches of penetration from your cartridge.

Personally, I believe most 7mm cartridges are the minimum for moose. Medium-bore .30s are adequate, and the magnum .30s quite good. Bigger is even better. There's a good reason the .338 Win. Mag. is so incredibly popular in Alaska.

If you're hunting an area infested with brown or grizzly bears, it behooves you to carry something with authority. My favorite do-everything Alaskan gun is a Rifle's Inc. Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 H&H.

As for an appropriate bullet, choose a controlled-expansion projectile in a heavy-for-caliber weight. Hornady's 300-grain DGX Bonded is good for close-and-personal work around big bears, and Hornady's 250-grain GMX is perfect for reaching out on caribou, wolves, and black bears.

Whittle your miscellaneous gear to a minimum and choose mountaineering quality to keep weight down. Tent, waterproof matches, paracord, backpacking stove and fuel, water purifier, knife sharpener, packable saw, solar charger, compass, batteries, camera, and so forth must all fit inside the few remaining pounds of leeway left after your other gear weighs in.

PHYSICAL FITNESS

Whether traversing tundra — which is like a three-foot-deep, waterlogged, Swiss-cheese sponge — in pursuit of caribou, packing out moose quarters, or breaking down a giant bull knee-deep in an Arctic lake, your body will need to be in tip-top shape.

Plan on shedding a few pounds. Every pound you get rid of makes carrying a heavy pack a lot easier. Walk at least two miles a day for three months prior to your hunt to get your joints and sinews lubed up and working. Focus weight training on strengthening your core. Controlling a 140-pound pack on treacherous, soggy terrain calls for a strong trunk.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Best Whitetail Shot Placement with a Rifle

Craig Boddington breaks down where hunters should aim on a whitetail that provides the best possible margin for error.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

These trail cameras feature the latest wireless technology.The Best Cellular Trail Cameras for 2020 Optics

The Best Cellular Trail Cameras for 2020

Tony J. Peterson - July 09, 2020

These trail cameras feature the latest wireless technology.

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians; learn more about this tick-transmitted problem.Ticks Making People Allergic to Meat News

Ticks Making People Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians; learn more about this...

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills.4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter How-To

4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter

Jeff Johnston

Practice under pressure with these high-intensity drills.

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled venison loin in this recipe.Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe Recipes

Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled...

See More Trending Articles

More Adventure

America's Last Frontier still provides hard-core wilderness opportunities. Here's how to get started on your first DIY Alaskan adventure.Your First DIY Alaskan Adventure Adventure

Your First DIY Alaskan Adventure

Joseph von Benedikt - January 05, 2018

America's Last Frontier still provides hard-core wilderness opportunities. Here's how to get...

Over the years I've become known as an Alaska vs. Africa: Which is Your Ultimate Hunting Adventure? Adventure

Alaska vs. Africa: Which is Your Ultimate Hunting Adventure?

Craig Boddington - December 11, 2014

Over the years I've become known as an "Africa guy." Yes, I've been there a lot, but over the...

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list.5 Bucket List DIY Hunts Adventure

5 Bucket List DIY Hunts

Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list.

 (Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson)

Two hours after I had settled into my stand, I caught a glimpseThe Hunt for Manitoba's Big Bruins Adventure

The Hunt for Manitoba's Big Bruins

Brad Fenson - January 22, 2018

(Photo courtesy of Brad Fenson) Two hours after I had settled into my stand, I caught a...

See More Adventure

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now