A Family Goes Caribou Hunting (Pt. 1)

In 2011, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game instated a Tier I program where every household who applied for a caribou permit would be issued one tag.  The stipulation was that no matter what, you absolutely had to hunt both caribou and moose in unit 13 exclusively.  This meant if I saw a legal bull in my back yard, I couldn't shoot it!  Well we got four families together and the thought of having a family caribou hunt with 4 tags in one camp sounded like too much fun, so we went for it.  It was to be our family of five, both sets of grandparents, my cousin, Kara, and her husband, Jeremy. I left early and went in to setup camp on August 7th, thinking we would be elbow to elbow with the other thousands of people with the same tag in their hot little hand.  To my surprise, we didn't see anybody else the entire trip!  What a bonus!  After many headaches, equipment troubles, and a few hairy solo trips across some pretty sketchy terrain, I met up with the whole clan at the trail head on the evening of the 9th.  We left much later than we had anticipated (starting a 2 hour wheeler ride with a 1 year old in tow could've been playing Russian Roulette), but we made our way toward camp. It drizzled off and on for about the first hour into our trek and once the sun made an appearance, the rain didn't see us again for the entire 4 days we were there, so the kids skookum Tuffo Muddy Buddy rainsuits were packed away! [caption id="attachment_784" align="aligncenter" width="491"] The Baby Grabbing Some Grub at the Trail Head[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Cali and I Ready to Go[/caption] We got to bed after midnight and didn't plan on getting an early start. The first morning, Jeremy woke up early because of his sub-standard sleeping bag and started a fire.  He then proceeded to break a cardinal rule of hunting when four massive bulls strolled 40 yards form camp and he didn't....wake...anyone...up!  We now joke about tying a string to my foot so he can pull me out of my sleeping bag if he needs to! Our initial goal was to get all four ladies in camp a caribou, so after we got up, two good bulls were spotted (along with the four camp bulls who were a touch farther away) fairly close to camp.  15 minutes after leaving camp, we had the girls on the animals for a possible 'double' just hours into the opening day. [caption id="attachment_786" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Kara Taking a Bead on the Caribou She Was Slotted to Take[/caption] During the pre-stalk whisperings about which lady was to take which bull, it was now evident that Kara's bull wasn't providing a shot opportunity.  We decided that Nicole should take the shot at her bull since it was cooperating so well! It didn't end up being a double, but one bull down just a few hours after the opener and it was a nice one.  The bull was taken exactly 365 days after her first moose, and almost down to the exact hour! [caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Nicole's Bull Looking Through the Spotter[/caption] [caption id="attachment_788" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Nicole's First Caribou![/caption]

Since we were still fairly close to camp, the Grandparents were able to watch the whole scene unfold through the binoculars.  Before the work began, we snapped a couple of family pics.

[caption id="attachment_791" align="aligncenter" width="472"] YAY MOM!![/caption]

We were enjoying the moment and reveling in the early success while one of the four bulls that strolled through the camp and Jeremy happened to see him crest a ridge adjacent to us.  Jeremy and Kara were quick on their feet headed toward the second bull.  Only about 20 minutes after they left the first kill-site, we heard two shots!

Double first caribou on the opening day of this hunt and it was another good bull!  This 'bou had great character and was all about the massive main beams.  Kara lovingly dubbed this unique critter 'Gnarls Barkley'...and aptly so!

[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Kara's First Caribou![/caption] [caption id="attachment_793" align="aligncenter" width="461"] 'Gnarls Barkley'[/caption]

What a first day!  After much cleaning, the guys got to eat breakfast at about 2:30 and we had two caribou, two very happy ladies, and two very proud husbands in camp!

[caption id="attachment_796" align="aligncenter" width="491"] High Fives for Opening Day Bulls![/caption] Continue reading the rest of the story.  PART TWO!

4 comments

Hey Tommy! Unit 13 is a motorized unit, however there are areas within the unit that are not motorized (e.g. the Clearwater controlled use area). You can see all of this information within the Unit 13 section of the hunting regs. Good luck next year!

Kyle April 17, 2021

Hi Erin! Kara was shooting a Browning rifle chambered in .300WSM and Nicole was shooting a Remington Model 7 in .308WIN. I think any .30 caliber rifle that can shoot reasonably accurate (near MOA would be great) can put meat in the freezer every year. Put some sort of medium quality glass on top of the rifle like Leupold VX-II, Vortex Diamondback, or similar can be a moose killing combo for sure. I hope that helps! —Kyle

Kyle April 17, 2021

hello Kyle,

this up coming hunting session will be my first time hunt in Paxson or unit 13 area. however, i heard that its a non-motorize unit? do you the mile post which is for non-motorize in unit 13. Because i don’t have ATV yet. Reply appreciate.
please email to

tommy April 17, 2021

Hi there! I just found your blog. So glad I did. Im new to Alaska (about 2 years). Ive never been hunting in alaska and only deer hunting as a kid. My fiance is a hunter and is taking me along on a winter caribou hunt this december. Can you tell me what kara and nicole are hunting with and what scopes they use? Any advice/info would be extremely helpful

Erin April 17, 2021

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