Caribou are large, stout members of the deer family, with concave hooves that splay to support the animal in snow or soft tundra and which function as paddles in water. Caribou live in the arctic tundra, mountain tundra, and northern forests of North America, Russia, and Scandinavia. Although they are called reindeer in Europe, only domesticated caribou are called reindeer in Alaska and Canada.
Caribou in Alaska are distributed in 32 herds. This includes herds shared with Canada’s Yukon Territory. Many herds winter in the boreal forest, but during the remainder of the year caribou prefer treeless tundra and mountains where they can get relief from biting insects.
Alone among the deer family, caribou of both sexes grow antlers. Antlers of adult bulls are large and massive; those of adult cows are much smaller and more spindly. In late fall, caribou are clove brown-colored with a white neck, rump, and feet, and they often have a whitish flank stripe. Weights of adult bulls average 350 – 400 lbs (159 – 182 kg). Mature females average 175 – 225 lbs (80 – 120 kg).
Identifying a legal Caribou
The caribou bag limit is restricted to one sex for at least a portion of the season in part or all of Units 9,12, 13 and 15-26.
Know your targets - Click here for more information & pictures
1. The best method to identify bulls is to determine the presence of a penis sheath. On young bulls (one to three years old) the sex organs are less apparent. The white rump patch is narrower on bulls than cows.
2. Antlers are well developed (3+ feet) in mature bulls. Young bulls typically have smaller antlers with relatively small brow tine/shovel development, and often cannot be distinguished from a cow using antler development alone.
1. The vaginal opening si apparent when viewed carefully from the rear. The white rump patch is wider on cows than bulls.
2. The antlers of cows are smaller than those of most bulls, with the exception of many yearling bulls and a small percentage of 2-year-old-bulls.
Hunting Tips - Shot placement
The objective of every conscientious hunter is to kill an animal as quickly as possible to avoid its suffering and to insure the highest quality meat. An animal that must be shot several times will have muscles flooded with lactic acid and adrenaline, resulting in poor tasting meat.
Before a hunter takes a shot, it is his or her responsibility to be sure they can make a clean and accurate shot, so use a weapon you can shoot accurately. Alaskan game animals will quickly die when both lungs and/or heart are hit by a bullet or arrow.
Heart & Double Lung Shot
The best shot placement is when the animal is broadside to the hunter or slightly facing away. A heart-lung shot from either position will likely puncture both lungs with the following advantages:
1.When an animal is hit in the heart/lung area, a quick death is certain because an animal cannot function with a loss of both lungs and heart. If the bullet exits, the animal will probably leave a visible blood trail.
2.The heart-lung area is likely to remain stationary. Because an animal’s head and neck frequently move its more difficult to accurately place a shot in those areas.
3.A heart-lung shot minimizes a loss of meat if the bullet enters and exits through the ribs.
Meat salvage requirements:
Edible meat must be salvaged. in addition, caribou taken before October 1 in Unit 9B, 13, 17, 19,and 21A the edible meat of the front quarters and hindquarters must remain naturally attached to the bone until the meat has been transported from the field or is processed for human consumption. In units 13, 23, and 24, the edible meat of the ribs also must remain naturally attached to the bone.
Hunting Tips - Where
Refer back to Alaska Hunting for the map of hunting units. Each unit will give specific information about the area, bag limits and more.
Unit 9 Alaska peninsula
Unit 13 Nelchina - Upper Susitna area
Unit 17 Bristal Bay area
Unit 19 McGrath Area - Unit 19B Nonresident Caribou Hunter Orientation Requirement
A nonresident hunter must attend an ADF&G-approved hunter orientation course or must be accompanied in the field by a registered guide or resident family member within the second-degree of kindred. For futher infofmration, contact ADF&G Fairbanks at (907) 459-7206 or Anchorage at (907) 267-2257.
Unit 21 Middle Yukon
Unit 22 Nome
Unit 20 Fairbanks / Central Tanana area - Fortymile herd -This area in broken into 3 zones, Click here for more information on hunting this area or call the hotline 907-267-2310
Successful caribou hunters are required to report within three (3) days of kill. Reports may be dropped off at the Tok Fish & Game office 24 hour a day. When hunters cannot drop off their reports, they must call the report information in AND mail the report card to the Tok Fish and Game office or file a report online at www.hunt.alaska.gov. Hunters who fail to report will not be eligible to receive draw, tier II or registration permits during the next regulatory year.
Unit 24 Koyukuk - Kanuti River Area
Unit 23 Northwest Alaska - Kotzebue is a small native village with a population around 3000 people, which sits on the tip of the Hotham Peninsula on the shore of the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Arctic Circle - is home to the largest herd of Barren Ground Caribou, called the Western Arctic Herd, with a population of 500,000 animals.
Unit 25 Upper Yukon - Fortymile herd - This area in broken into 3 zones, Click here for more information on hunting this area or call the hotline 907-267-2310
Unit 26 Barrow - Brooks Range - Alaska's Porcupine Caribou herd is one of the state's largest. This is a remote area in Alaska's arctic region.
Having the right or wrong equipment can make or break a Caribou hunt in the artic CLICK HERE - for an Artic Gear Checklist for this type of hunt. This check list can also apply to hunting Polar Bear & Muskox in the artic. Registration permits are available at ADF&G offices in Douglas, Anchorage, Palmer, Fairbanks, Delta Junction, and Tok and at select vendors in Central, Eagle and Tok or online at www.hunt.alaska.gov
This is not a substitute for the Alaska Hunting Regulations. For more complete infomation read the regulations and the permit hunt supplements. They are available at Alaska Department of Fish & Game offices and establishments that sell hunting licenses and tags. Always Check the Alaska Hunting & Trapping Emergency Orders before planning to hunt an area or species as restrictions may apply. Click Here - For more information on hunting the Caribou Click Here - For information on permits for Drawing hunts, Regrestration hunts, or General Season hunts
* Bows, Firearms, Cartridge, and Ammunition for Hunting Alaska:
The rifle you bring hunting should be one with which you are comfortable. many hunters have been convinced that a .300, .338, .375, or .416 magnum is needed for personal protection and to take large Alaska game. This is simply not true.
1.Rifle/handgun: State regulations require that rifles and handguns must fire a 200-grain or larger bullet, which retains at least 2000 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards. A .30-06 with a 220-grain bullet is about the minimal weapon that meets this specification. Please do not bring your favorite firearm and expect to use it if it does not meet the above criteria.
2.Muzzleloader: Muzzle-loading rifles must be .54 caliber or larger, or at least .45 caliber with a 250-grain or larger elongated slug. Further, for safety reasons, those hunting with muzzleloaders must also have within easy reach a smokeless powder rifle meeting the centerfire rifle requirements listed above.
3.Bow: Longbows, recurve bows, or compound bows are permitted, but they must have a peak draw weight of 50 pounds or more. Arrows must be at least 20 inches in overall length, and tipped with unbarbed, fixed or replaceable-blade type broadheads. Arrow and broadhead together must weigh at least 300 grains total weight. As with hunters using muzzleloaders, ADF&G strongly recommends that bowhunters have a rifle close at hand.
* If you are planning on packing out moose meat, caribou meat, or a brown bear hide weighing hundreds of pounds, you can carry a 9- to 11-pound rifle including scope. A rifle of this weight in .300 or .338 magnum can be mastered with a lot of practice.
SUMMERY: You can’t go wrong with a stainless steel bolt-action rifle chambered for a standard cartridge that you are comfortable with and can shoot accurately, loaded with a high quality bullet.