View Full Version : Might be going on my first Caribou hunt, What rifle to use???

April 3, 2002, 10:22 PM
I am looking into going on my first caribou hunt in the fall of 2003. I am not sure what to expect as far as range, altitude, and the size of the beast. It will be up by the Arctic circle, I was looking at the Rem. titanium mountian rifle in .338 saum, or is this an overkill? Has anyone used a Shepard Scope??:confused:

April 4, 2002, 01:06 AM
A few bulleted items:

1-I have no experience caribou hunting

2-I know next to nothing about caribou hunting

3-I'd like to caribou hunt so badly I can taste it

4-I think you are a mighty lucky man

I would like to offer to join you on your hunt. I have a strong back and speck good english.

Obviously you'd be a fool not to take me up on that!

Good luck!


I've seen the Shepard Scopes and the gunsmith I use swears by them. He's a dealer for them so feel free to drop a note if you want to call him to compare prices. I haven't used one and am not too sure what I think.
Is there any possiblity that I could win an award for this post as being the least useful response ever given?

Al Thompson
April 4, 2002, 05:54 AM
I went in 2000. The .338 is never a bad choice, but anything from the 6.5 Swede and up is fine. The herd we were waiting on was not wary - ranges could be very short. Generally the comfort zone on the animals was a standing human at about 40 yards. If you got closer, they moved enough to acheive that 40 yard space...

There were black bear in the area - I had a tag but never connected.

I would use premium bullets. The combination of close range to long range and bear leads me to think that a good tough bullet would be ideal.

Waterproof boots are essential, at least mid-calf height.


April 7, 2002, 12:05 AM
Having lived in AK and having been a bush pilot up there and having killed dozens of Caribou i have to agree with gizmo 100%. Depending on where your going depends on the perfect rifle. Anything that will kill a Mule Deer will handle a Bou just fine . the variable in the equation is depending on where your hunting you may well have a big bear encounter which is why I tend to use .338's and .375's anytime I'm hunting in big Bear country.

Where are you going to hunt and with who I might be able to offer some valuble advice about some of the Caribou huntng packages available in Ak right now.

Good Luck and good hunting.:)

April 7, 2002, 01:15 AM
Jack O'Conner said the caribou is a really dumb animal, easy to hunt. He reported that Eskimos and Indians hunted them with .22 Hornet, .218 Bee and .222. He says that "a rifle of the .270-.30/06 class is more than adequate". So if I were hunting with his advice I would probably use a .270 with a 150 gr bullet and save my shoulder from the trauma.

Keith Rogan
April 7, 2002, 01:32 PM
I've had caribou approach to within 20 yards, and I've seen them spook at ranges of 250 yards. I think it all depends on how experienced the lead animal is. A lot of times I think they're spooky because they've been hit hard by wolves and are just jumpy.
All in all though, they're not a tough animal to hunt, it's just that the terrain they live in can be incredibly tough. Most tundra is basically a swamp interspersed with knee high tussocks that can break your leg if you're not careful. Packing out meat can be incredibly difficult.
Probably the best caribou hunting on earth right now, is the Mulchatna herd in Alaska. This particular herd is on average the largest caribou on earth, both in body weight and antler size. And to put the frosting on the cake, it has enjoyed a tremendous growth spurt over the last dozen years and they now number somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 animals.
A good mulchatna bull can top 600 pounds, which is approaching elk size... however..., in my experience, a caribou tends to go down a lot easier than an elk, so you don't really need a heavy rifle.
You can access the Mulchatna herd by chartering out of the Anchorage area which means it's relatively inexpensive to hunt them. Buyer beware when looking for air charters. There are a number of outfits in Anchorage who will do nothing more than dump you on the first big lake across the range, whether caribou are in the area or not. Avoid the larger outfits and ask for references!
If the name "Whitefish Lake" comes up in your conversation, hang up the phone immediately! Whitefish Lake is the first large lake just over the range and several outfits run a shell game where they dump hundreds of hunters into the area and ferry them back and forth.
For the money you're paying, look for an outfit that will put you on a lake of your own (there's a 1/4 million lakes in SW Alaska) AND that will give you some kind of scout flight around the area so you can see there are caribou moving through. Caribou are herd animals and you either see them in hundreds/thousands or not at all.


April 7, 2002, 06:11 PM
My dealing with Bou is that they rank up there with domestic cattle as the stupidest animal on the planet. Should be able to get close to them really easily. 270 or 30-06 would be fine; but if in Griz country some heavier firepower may be better, like a 300 or 338 Win Mag with 200 grain bullets and up. Where are you hunting anyways?

April 7, 2002, 10:15 PM
If these things really are that stupid, maybe I will just bring my Ghille suit and a ballpeen hammer:D Would a 308 scout rifle or 450 marlin work? I guess I am a little worried about the possable longer shot.

April 7, 2002, 10:57 PM
Snoman, You laugh but the suit and hammer might just work. The thing I noticed about bou is that they are animals of habit.
I killed a decent bull one year and as I'm cutting it up, another bull literally walked on top of me. I couldnt resist, I put my knife down and picked up my rifle and dropped it. The 2nd bull I shot was walking on trail it has probably used before.
On other hunts we would watch the herds and they seem to always come over the same ridge along the same trails, so we just set up an ambush.
The closest was about 7 yards I shot and the farthest was about 250yards.
Also bou are very curious. I've lured them into handgun range by just standing there and using my arms as antlers and waving them as if they were antlers.
My buddy was running parralel to a herd hunched over at the waist as he ran. the lead bou seen him and actually turned the herd towards him. He stood up with a look of wonder and the herd stopped. we got a chuckle out of that one.
The bigger bulls are more cautious but its nothing to worry over.
Also bou dont run that far when spooked, they usually stop and start coming back to see what spooked them.

I use a 270 with 150gr Speer SP spitzers.

April 8, 2002, 04:36 AM
I used a Shepard Scope. My opinion, didn't like it one bit! While the optics were clear the duel retical precluded precise shot placement (@100 yard from a rest) (parrelex problem).

Also, the ranging circles, while a good concept, do not offer appropriate aiming points (nor rangeing for that matter) at anything in between 100 yard increments. While not a problem at short range the problem componds itself as the distance increases.

IMO your money would be better spent buying a "standard" scope (you can "range" with a standard scope rectical) and additional quantities of the ammo you are going to hunt with. Then practice with that combination.

April 8, 2002, 11:09 AM
Snowman 45.
Any of the large charter operators in Anchorage are more than willing to rip you off. Every one take note of this, RUSTS flying service at Lake Hood is the primary ripp joint in Anchorage they are also one of the largest. I've done a detailed posting in the past on what to whatch out for. the primary warning sign are these package caribou deals for $1350 a person. Once these guys have your money they are going to do as little flying as humanly possible so that they can increase there profit margins as much as possible. The only way to do charter filghts in AK is on a dollars per flight hour basis. This gives the Charter company the incentive to actually find you a good spot. Of course Buyer beware on that one too. But never NEVER use RUSTS flying service and one of there prepriced hunting deals!!!! Not only is it a rip off for partical purposes if you have several people in your party all paying $1350 bucks you've just tripled what it would have cost if you'd just chartered the airplane by the hour. A real good deal for RUSTS a real bad deal for the customer.
Listen to the guys with AK hunting experience do not use a sub caliber light weight rifle anywhere in grizz country. There has been more than one person killed trying to stop a grizz with a .7MM or .270. I believe that it was 3 or 4 years ago that a Moose hunter using a .284 was killed on the Kenai by a bear that attacked him he shot it three or four times and it was finaly finished off a week later. two of the bullets were stopped on the shoulder blade.Grizz encounters are not garuntied but they do occur more than you think. The .338 is the prmiere AK hunting round. You just can't go wrong with a .338 in AK. All apologies to Mr. O'Conner but he recomended the .270 for everything. the man was on a mission to sell the .270 to the general public. In private he freely admitted that the .30/06 was a better more versitile round. I'd take a .30/06 shooting heavy bullets over a .270 in AK 10,000 times over and thats to light if you get into trouble with Urses Horibles.
just my 2 cents but I've been there done that.

April 8, 2002, 11:40 AM
I was thinking of using a .338, but a friend turned me on to a
.30-06. Depending where you are hunting, I think a 180 grain bullet in .30-06 will suit you just fine. The .300 win mag is also a great choice. It is very flat shooting, and both can handle any North American species, given the wide bullet weight that is available.

All in all, the .338 is a good choice, but it will really whack you. If you decide on this, wear many layers of clothing, because the shot will kill your shoulder. For recoil dampening, nothing comes closer to the Kick-eez recoil pad. I have that, and I really can't feel the kick at all. It doesn't jerk me the way the gun would have otherwise.

Good luck and have fun on your hunt.


April 8, 2002, 09:01 PM
I have to assume these are the big caribou (Barren I believe they are called?) We have mountain caribou here in northern BC, and they don't get much bigger than a mulie. Meat tastes like gasoline, at least the one I had. Won't ever hunt them for that fact alone. 30-06 would be plenty.

April 9, 2002, 12:46 AM
You got hold of a rotten Bou. Most of the Bou that I've harvested have been Barren ground they are with out a doubt the some of the mildest tenderest game meat on the planet. Sounds like maybe your bou was contaminated with gas.
Guys as far as the .338 and recoil. I find it to be pretty mild. But then again I've already explained my theory on recoil several times. It's all in your head recoil is a mind set. I shoot my .375 all the time when wearing only a T-shirt and it has yet to smack, thump or otherwise do any perminant damage to me or anyone else whose fired it. I find the .338 to be in the same if not a little less the recoil of the .375. The .300 win mag is a good choice and the felt recoil is nearly identical to a .338.

April 9, 2002, 04:48 PM
My .02 cents, although most has already been said.
The waterproof boots with good ankle support a must. Heed what Keith says about traveling on the tundra.
Good bug spray a must.
I have hunted caribou when I couldnt get within 600 yards and I have shot caribou at 40 yards and then thrown rocks at his buddy to get him to leave, so you never know. I say be prepared to take a longer shot. Leave the .450 at home. Are you going to be doing more Alaska hunting in the future? If so, the .338 is probably a good choice. If not I would use a .300 mag. You would probably get more service out of the .300 back home. Bears are always a concern but if you are hunting the arctic circle, the interior grizzly tends to be several hundred pounds smaller than the coastal variety due to diet. Your talking open tundra with lots of visibility and the chances of walking up on a bear exist but are not as bad as hunting wooded or brushy areas. I assume/hope you will have a trusted hunting buddy going with you.
If you really need a graduated reticle scope, you can purchase a Leupold and using your drop measurements or bullet coeffient have horizintal crosshairs installed for whatever range you desire. probably spendy though and not neccesary. With practice you can learn how high to hold for different ranges. One thing I personally do not leave home without for tundra hunting is a range finder. Without trees and such for comparison I have a very hard time estimating range. At long range, 75 yards makes a lot of difference in bullet drop.

April 9, 2002, 07:12 PM
How about a Muzzle-Loading rifle?

.54 Caliber Hawins rifle would get the job done, as a bonus you get the one shot challenge.

April 9, 2002, 09:36 PM
I've entertained the idea of bringing my .54 or .58 Bou hunting the main reason that I don't is that I hunt out of Kotzebue and the airlines do not permitt you to bring Black powder on board or Pyrodex and you can't find it up in Kotz anywhere. Any suggestions?

As far as open tundra country and bears I always seem to find myself sneaking up some alder brush choked draw or hill side with about 6" of visability and tons of fresh bear sign no matter how far North I'm hunting. Including North of the Brooks range. In unit 23 where I tend to hunt every year a guy got whacked not 5 miles from my camp just last year. Unit 23 is serious tundra.

the 2 Bulls I shot last year were both at over 200 yds and that was after a good sneak. Sometimes you can get close and sometimes you can't. Alot depends on if they've started thier migration or not. A migrating bou is a stupid Bou. just put yourself in there line of travel.

April 9, 2002, 10:48 PM
Maybe where it was a Mountain Bou that I ate, and not a Barren , could be that the diets of these animals are so different as to make the meat taste wierd. Our mountain bou here in Northern BC don't have the lush tundra edibles (summer of course), but live on lichens and scrub bush in the high elevation rocks and ravines...don't get anywhere near the shovel/palm/main beam size on these little bou either. So, to sum it up, our cariboo are WAY inferior to their Alaskan/Yukon brethren, 'cept in their ability to be stupid:D

April 11, 2002, 02:18 AM
H&H Hunter,

Perhaps you can have some powder shipped up there. Otherwise I don't know.

As far as bear, maybe pack a .44 revolver as backup.

Keith Rogan
April 12, 2002, 04:04 PM
I don't want to open up the "gamey meat" can of worms, but caribou CAN be nasty during the rut. They will roll in pools of urine and the "musk" oil they exude during the rut is worse than any other critter I've been exposed to. You can smell caribou bulls for some distance downwind after the rut starts. If that stuff gets on your knife or onto the meat, forget it - sausage is the only solution - sausage with plenty of spices.
Most people here hunt caribou in August and September for that reason. Caribou are as delicious as any other member of the deer family if harvested prior to ... maybe 1 October?

Anyway, if you shot your BC/Yukon Caribu late in the season, that is probably why it tasted bad.


Keith Rogan
April 12, 2002, 04:27 PM
H&H Hunter,

The flying service you name is one of the outfits I was thinking of when I said "beware". I'm a little leery of getting nasty letters from attorneys, so I won't name any more of the bad apples in the barrel there. Suffice it to say that (in MY opinion), any of the large charter outfits in Anchorage probably suck. A hunter would do better to look at some of the small outfits after checking references.
I'm sure you know all this, but for those who haven't dealt with air charters: Planes are chartered by the hour, and that hour counts both ways - if you fly one hour out into the bush, you have to pay the additional hour the plane takes to get back to its base - you pay for two hours. The best bang for the buck is three guys chartering a Beaver. A Beaver holds 1200-1500 pounds of people, gear and meat, which is what you'll need to get out in one trip figuring two caribou for each member of the party. If you go with more people, you have to take less game. If you take a smaller plane, you'll have to take fewer people (less to split the cost) or pay for additional trips to get your gear and meat out.
With all things considered, the best buy is three guys, a Beaver and two Boo each. You just pick a locale maybe 45 minutes out (after asking around and finding out where the bulk of the herd is) and just fly into the area with a little time left on the clock for scouting. When you spot the caribou, you just get put down on the nearest lake. You hunt and your guy comes back in a week and takes you out.
OR, you can take advantage of one of these package deals and just put your trust in the outfitter. This is risky because some (not most) of these guys are *******s who will dump you anywhere if it saves fuel and flying time.
One outfit that I can recommend personally is Talon Air down in Kenai/Soldotna. It might be a hassle getting down there for an out-of-stater - 100 miles (?) from Anchorage - but, they are an excellent outfit with a good reputation, and the price for their package hunts is right. They have a web site somewhere if someone wants to look for it.


April 12, 2002, 11:05 PM
I'm gonna second what Keith and H&H said about anchorage air taxis for bou. I wouldnt trust them for a decent hunt, although I'm sure some folks did have a good hunt.

I've used Talon a number of times and I highly recommend them to everybody. There addy is