The Caribou of Alaska

hunt&fishCaribou are very large members of the deer family and are typically found in northern climes. Their hooves are specially useful for navigating through snow, and even function as a paddles when swimming across water. Between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon territory, their population is upwards of around 950,000. The caribou is an active animal, moving to different terrains depending on what suits them. For example, they may spend the winter in the boreal forest, while retreating to tundras the rest of the time in order to avoid insects.

An interesting fact about Caribous, something that separates them from the rest of the deer family, is that both sexes grow antlers. Adult bull’s horns are large and hulking, while an adult cow’s antlers are smaller. You can also differentiate the two sexes by track sizes, as males typically have larger hooves. The scat of a caribou can take on two different forms, willing the animal’s diet has not been sullied. In the winter, when they have been feeding on frozen, high-fiber shrubberies, the stool will typically be small, concave pellets. In the summer, where lush vegetation is wet and plentiful, the scat can be softer clumps.

Different zones of the Fortymile Caribou hunts offer different hunting experiences. While most can be reached by highway, hunters will generally fly or boat in to zone 2. You will need the proper permits that allow hunting within certain times of the year, and should know that these zones are subject to sudden closures upon harvesting quotas being reached. Each permit, a RC860, and a RC867, both allow for winter and fall hunting, and have a bag limit of one bull or one caribou. Notification of a a successful hunt must be made within three days.

Hunting for caribou can be tricky, as they migrate seasonally and where one area may have a great population of caribou in August, that same place may be completed deserted of the deer come September. Some species of bear may be taken in either in fall or spring, and most waterfowl leave Alaska early fall. The elements of Alaska are varying and are heavily depending on location and season. Here are a few examples of regional features depending on season.


  • Southcentral: During August and September, the temperatures are normally mild in the day but cold at night, snow being possible in October. In April and May, snow is possible during early April. Typically sunny but rain is possible. It’s a hilly, mountainous region with a number of rivers. Vegetation includes heavy forests and river valleys.
  •  Southwest: During August and September weather is cool, wet and windy. Storms in October. Spring time brings about warmer temperature but more cool, wet wind. Forest cover is minimal in this region, as most of it is low-growing plants. Typically low rolling hills with small points of mountain ranges.
  •  Arctic: August and September are cool and cold. Even April and March will be cold, snowy weather. Come May the weather will cool down. Little amounts of forest are in the arctic. Mostly we get low-growing shrubs and grasses. The terrain consists mostly of low hills and small lakes.


Sources: ADFG Life History, ADFG Caribou Hunting in Alaska, ADFG When & Where