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Starters by Mike Strahan

By: Michael Strahan

Alaska is without question the most expensive place to hunt in the entire
country- and one of the most expensive in the world. There are several
reasons for this, not the least of which is having to fly everything out to
the field in light aircraft. A typical hourly charter rate for a
DeHavilland Beaver on floats is $400 to $450 / hour. Charter rates are high
because the charters have huge overhead costs- including insurance rates
that are through the roof. At any rate, here are some things you should
account for.

1. Transportation costs to and from Alaska.

Look for cheap fares that offer an open return at the end of your trip. It’
s possible that you could be delayed in the field because of bad weather,
and may not make it back to "civilization" in time to catch your flight. An
open return ticket lets you fly on another date without incurring additional
fees. Compare this cost with a standard ticket plus a change fee, to see
which is the better deal.

2. Air transport within Alaska.

Assuming you’re going to fly to your hunt location, there are basically two
ways to do this. You can charter directly out of Anchorage or Fairbanks, or
you can charter out of a village in the Bush. There are pros and cons to
each. Generally, if you charter out of Anchorage or Fairbanks, the
logistics will be much simpler, but your chances of losing hunting time will
be much greater. This is because you will usually have to fly through the
mountains to get to the hunting area- and the mountains are the first place
where the weather goes down. Fall brings changing weather patterns all
across the state. Put this together with high mountain passes that
frequently lie between Anchorage and the better hunting areas, and you have
a situation where you may not be able to fly out for a day or three. The
same holds true on the other end of your hunt. You will be ready to fly
home, but the charter may not be able to fly out to get you. Once the
charter is delayed, it sets a snowball in motion and the charter will be
playing catch-up for a few days. Many charters operate on full schedules
and a weather delay usually causes a series of delays in picking up hunters.
Parenthetically, I might add here a suggestion to keep a cool head during
weather delays. Nobody likes to lose hunting time- but at the same time, we
all like to survive the trip out and back. If the charter cannot fly you on
schedule, it’s usually for a good reason that has to do with safety. So
relax and enjoy the delay. If you’re in town, go to a movie or pick up a
souvenir for someone back home. If you’re in the field, you won’t know if
the charter is coming or not, and will have to stay in camp all day- unless
you were one of the smart fellers who brought along a satellite phone so you
could call and find out what’s happening. In this case, your phone may have
bought you some extra hunting time!

In many cases, chartering directly out of a village makes more sense. The
flight time is usually less and the operator knows the area well- it’s his
back yard! If you charter out of a village, you’ll have to add in the costs
of commercial transport from Anchorage or Fairbanks to the Bush, plus
possibly meals and lodging in the village. Even with the additional costs,
you can still save money. I recall one year when our charter costs directly
out of Anchorage would have been in excess of $7,000 for a hunt out in GMU
21- but our costs out of McGrath were about half that amount.

3. Lodging, meals and ground transportation within Alaska.

An overnight stay on each or both ends of your hunt can really help you
regroup before you fly out. The extra time on the front side of the trip
allows you to pick up perishable food items, take care of last minute
shopping needs, etc. The extra time at the end of the hunt gives you time
to have bear hides sealed, get meat and trophies taken care of, and get
cleaned up for the trip home.

4. Gear, meat and trophy transportation costs to and within Alaska.

You’ll need to check air freight costs for shipping your meat, trophies and
gear to and within Alaska- this is especially true if you’re flying out of a
village, because you’ll have to ship your gear and food to the field before
you fly out. Otherwise, you may get there before your gear!

5. Special equipment purchases.

Rugged gear is essential on an Alaska hunt, and you’ll probably be giving
the Cabela’s catalog a workout before your hunt. Plan for these extra
expenses. Some essential items include hip boots, good rain gear, a water
filter, a sturdy 4-season tent, a synthetic-fill mummy bag and pad, and
non-cotton clothing.

6. Gear rental costs.

Many hunters opt to rent their complete camp from an outfitter. Some places
rent out camp packages that include stoves, lanterns, tents, and all the
stuff you need. Go over their lists thoroughly to make sure you’re not
missing a critical item- and if possible, inspect it yourself to be certain.
If you wait until you arrive in the field, you may discover that a critical
item, such as a propane hose, is missing! Float hunters will frequently
rent their boats from a rental outfit in Alaska. Same holds true here- make
sure you know what you’re getting! Raft rentals currently run around $90 /
day for catarafts and about $80 / day for round rafts. The best place in
the state to rent boats (and complete camps for that matter) is Alaska Raft
and Kayak in Anchorage. You can find them at
http://www.alaskaraftandkayak.com

7. Air charter fees.

Air charter rates are typically calculated one of two ways: Trip rate, or
Tach time. The trip rate is a flat fee the charter charges for accessing
certain known locations. The tach time rate is an hourly charge. You pay
for the whole time the prop is turning- so don’t forget that you’re paying
for the plane to take you to the hunt area, and you’re also paying to get
the empty plane back to base! Both rate structures need to be examined
before you will know which is the better deal. Not every charter offers
both rate structures. Generally, if you’ve researched a specific location
and want to go to that exact spot, you will probably pay tach time unless
the charter knows that area and will agree to a trip rate.

8. License and tag fees.

Nonresident license and tag fees can be expensive- especially for non-US
citizens. Moose is currently $400, for example. Remember that you have to
have a registered guide or a relative "within the second degree of kindred"
with you on the hunt if you’re a nonresident hunting brown / grizzly bear,
goat, or Dall sheep.


Well, that’s a pretty long post, but I hope it helps!

Best of luck!

-Mike

This link (http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/directory/ )is a list of guides and transporters in Alaska. I have not used any of them so I can not recommend anyone. On the same site you can ask questions and people will respond to you via email with the information concerning specific guides. Let me know what else you need.

Dave
 

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Guides in Alaska

Marv: Here is a URL that will allow you to check up on guides up here or anywhere for that fact. Just remember that what one person expects on a trip that next one might not. And that with caribou it depends on the herd movement. I have been to my favorite place and seen only a few hundred animals and then on a good trip seen the earth move like it was alive. Moose too: the story in Campfire Tales, we had seen nothing on that river all fall, a few tracks only. And then in two evenings shot 2 moose. Go figure!

http://www.huntinfo.com/reviews/outfitter_reviews.php3?outfitter_search=&state_filter=ak&submit_action=Go
 
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