As a hunting consultant in the industry for over 20 years, I have seen a lot of hunting patterns change. Unfortunately, one of the biggest changes has been in caribou hunting across North America. Call it what you want, global warming, predation, over hunting, government politics, special interest groups, migration shifts, hunting regulations etc. The list goes on and on. One thing we can all agree on, is that it’s not the same as it was 20+ years ago. That being said, I’m happy to report that there is still a region in one of Alaska’s most remote areas that hasn’t changed in 20+ years and today is consistently producing trophy class game. In fact, the hunting is getting better due to game management.
This past fall, I was fortunate enough to travel to Alaska’s Umnak Island in search of the majestic reindeer. Unmak Island is one of the Fox Islands on Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain. It is approximately a 3.5 hour charter flight from Anchorage. This 686 plus square mile island is surrounded by the Bering Sea to the North and Pacific Ocean to the south. It is said that the island has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. The village of Nikolski has approximately 25 residents that live there year round, and an air strip to service the village. This is one of the most scenically breathtaking areas I have visited in my career as a consultant. It has active volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, ancient lava river beds, rock cliffs at the oceans edge as well as a wide variety of marine life and waterfowl to be observed. It is truly an amazing place that words cannot describe.
Reindeer vs Caribou; I’m often asked what is the difference? It’s a great question, they actually are the same species “Ragnifer tarandus” however their characteristics will vary depending on the geographic location. As it relates to Umnak Island, the animals are owned by the Native Corporation thus called “Reindeer” as opposed to the neighboring Aleutian Island, “Adak Island”, where they are state owned and considered “Barren Ground Caribou”.
These reindeer were introduced to the island in the early 1900’s as a food source for the residents. Since their introduction, the herd has exploded to over 7,000 + in count today. The reindeer patterns on the Island are similar to that of the Barren Ground caribou on the mainland. Each year, the herd migrates from the north end of the island to the south throughout the late summer and fall. One of the most unique characteristics that attract sportsmen is their antler growth. They are enormous and are known for their abnormal horn growth. Average bulls on the island will score in the upper 300’s” to over 450” SCI.
There is one outfitter on the island offering first class trophy and management hunts for reindeer. They are absolutely first class. They are there every step of the way to assure you a successful and memorable trip. Due to the vastness of the island, guides utilize UTV’s on the extensive trail system throughout the southern portion of the Island. This enables the guides to provide near 100% opportunities to all ages and hunter physical levels. Hunters will spend a great deal of time glassing the herds and trying to locate the bull of choice. The backdrop of this hunt is like no other and is simply amazing. The reindeer herds are continuously migrating around the volcanoes and every day is a new day with the potential of seeing that bull of your dreams.
In addition to the outstanding hunting, the deluxe lodge accommodations are absolutely first class. There are 3 spacious bedrooms available to hunters, double occupancy, with 2 shared bathrooms. The views off the lodge deck are amazing. With clear views of the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean and volcano as the back drop. It is not uncommon to spot numerous migrating groups of reindeer daily from the lodge’s great room. The home cooked meals served daily are outstanding and some of the best I have had anywhere in the world.
All in all, if you are looking for the opportunity to hunt Alaska. I would highly recommend considering reindeer hunting in the Aleutian Islands! I assure you, this adventure will be one that you will never forget.
For more information on this hunt or other hunting opportunities all over the world give WTA a call at 1-800-346-8747