Caribou are native to North America and are known for making one of the largest migrations on the planet. These animals typically average around 400 pounds for a large adult male, called a bull, and around 250 pounds for females, called cows. They are also the only deer species where both males and females grow antlers, and have the largest antler to body size ratio of any deer species. They are typically brown colored with light patches around their neck and rump, with massive antlers covered in crazy tines.
Where To Hunt Caribou
Caribou are spread throughout the arctic tundra, mountain tundra, and northern forest areas of Alaska, as well as Canada’s northern provinces, and Siberia. Some of the largest herds in the world are found in northwest Alaska and northern Quebec. These herds are often hunted during their migration between summer and winter ranges, with tens of thousands of animals often traveling over a thousand kilometers between destinations.
Caribou Hunting Techniques
The nature of the Caribou’s migration provides some of the greatest hunting available. If timed correctly, hunters will often see hundreds, if not thousands of animals on a trip, and, because they generally prefer open, barren country, they are usually not too difficult to find. When hunting a migrating herd, the name of the game is to set up on a high spot and glass until you find a bull you would like to shoot. Once a bull is spotted, hunters attempt to get ahead of the animal and set up an ambush. Unfortunately, the timing of these migrations can be difficult to pinpoint, and, if timed incorrectly, you will likely come up empty handed. However, it is possible to hunt smaller residential herds and remove some of the chance involved with hunting the migrating herds. These resident animals are hunted via spot-and-stalk as well, with hunters glassing expanses of country from high points and then attempting to stalk the animal.
Due to the open nature of caribou country, it is recommended that hunters carry a rifle they are comfortable shooting a good distance. Caribou are not as tough as an elk or a bear, so most flat shooting calibers around the 7mm class will have more than enough power to get the job done.
Caribou Hunting Regulations
Caribou are one of the few big game animals in Alaska that a non-resident can hunt without a guide, providing a less expensive opportunity for non-residents to experience an Alaskan hunt. However, there are some regulations that make a hunt more difficult without a guide. For example, after harvesting an animal, there are a series of meat salvage requirements that, if not followed, can result in up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. In addition to trimming all meat from the bones, hunters must pack out their antlers with the last load of meat. In addition to these regulations, simply getting to the animals can be difficult, as a bush plane is often required to get to the hunting grounds. Unless you are very experienced and have a good idea of where to find the caribou, it is highly recommended that you hunt with an outfitter.
Alaska offers both limited draw and over the counter options for caribou. The tags are expensive, but success rates are frequently very high. Season dates vary depending on the area, but opportunities for both late summer, fall, and spring hunts are available.
The actual cost of tags is much cheaper in Canada, but non-residents are again required to hunt with a licensed outfitter, thus evening out the cost of a trip.
Caribou Food Quality
Caribou have very high quality game meat and are said to have a similar texture and taste to veal and antelope. However, some hunters say that Caribou can develop a strong taste during the rut, so keep that in mind when planning your Caribou hunting trip.