Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
Super 7 Big Game Raffle
The hood of my rain jacket rattles against my ears, blocking all other sounds as I climb a soggy mountainside in the Alaska Range on a chilly late-September morning. The ground is a mushy mess, and I’m thankful for the gaiters I pulled on over my hiking boots this morning. I can’t wait to get into the alpine where this mud won’t be as prevalent, but I know it won’t get any easier once we’re exposed. As we pop out of the trees and make our way into the alpine, the rain changes to sleet, and the driving wind stings my face. This is late-September hunting in Alaska, and cold, wet, and windy is just part of the game.
After a successful fall hunting season of my own, I’m out with my husband and two good friends, one of whom is trying to fill his Alaska Range caribou tag. This specific hunt (DC827) is sought-after by caribou hunters. It’s a draw-only hunt, and this barren ground caribou herd boasts some huge bulls that sometimes qualify for the books. Although shooting a nice bull does have some lure, our friends are here for the incredible scenery and, of course, the potential for a freezer full of delicious caribou meat. Most who hunt this specific herd fly in, hike in for multiple days, or ride horseback, but our schedules allowed for only a one-day hunt on foot along the Parks Highway, so that’s what we have to work with.
After a morning of uphill climbing, we reach a good bowl in the alpine to glass for the day. Our friend had success here with his daughter, who shot a beautiful bull caribou here a couple years back when she drew the tag. It doesn’t take us long to find signs of caribou on the landscape. The ground is littered with caribou scat in some areas, and lichen on the mountain peak has clearly been browsed. Although not incredibly fresh, it’s clear that caribou were here within the last few days. As we scan the landscape with our binoculars, our eyes catch movement, and soon we’re all watching a coyote hunt Arctic ground squirrels along the mountainside as a beaver works on its cache in the pond down in the valley.
This Alaska Range Caribou hunt is one of seven featured in the third annual Super 7 Big Game Raffle, running from November 2022- April 2023. Like the other hunts in the raffle, which include Unimak Island brown bear, Kodiak Archipelago elk, Nunivak Island muskox, Chugach Mountains Dall sheep, Chugach Mountains mountain goat, and Koyukuk Controlled Use Area moose, it requires luck of the draw. With many of these hunts in remote areas, expenses can be challenging. However, if you’re lucky enough to win the permit in the Super 7 Raffle, you’ll also receive a cash prize to help pay for the hunt, which could help you get a nice horseback ride or flight into the caribou zone if you so desire, or some really good rain gear- trust me, you’ll need it!
By midday, we all hunker down behind a rock as the wind continues to howl. We dig out our JetBoil and enjoy some coffee and freeze-dried chicken and dumplings as we watch the snow cover the peaks across the river from us. The mountainside is a patchwork of different colors as the landscape transitions from summer to fall. The patches of green grass look out of place, like they didn’t get the memo that winter is coming. The sleet begins its transition to snow, promising to blanket the area by morning. Around 3pm, we decide it’s time to start the hike back down the mountain and call it a day. We return to our cabin with empty packs, but our souls feel full after a day in Alaska’s magnificent backcountry.
If you didn’t put in for the Alaska range caribou permit during the draw hunt application period, you can still try! Grab a Super 7 raffle ticket and try for a hunt of a lifetime, potentially win a monthly raffle prize, and help support wildlife conservation, management and education in Alaska.
Molly McCarthy-Cunfer oversees the Governor’s permit programs for the Division of Wildlife Conservation. She is an avid outdoorswoman and spends much of her summer and fall fishing and hunting with her husband and two Labrador retrievers. She is based in Anchorage, Alaska.
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