Back in June, we told you about Alaska House Bill 211, which would have required nonresidents to be guided when hunting caribou in the four North Slope caribou herds. The bill apparently died in committee during the regular session and does not appear to have been resurrected during any of the three special legislative sessions.
Alaska distinguishes between nonresidents and nonresident aliens (who are not residents of the US). Nonresident aliens are required to have guides for all big game species in Alaska. US citizens who are nonresidents of Alaska are required to be guided for brown and grizzly bear, Dall sheep and mountain goat. As it stands today, nonresidents do not need guides for caribou.
This is especially important this month, as applications for 2018 caribou draw tags are being accepted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15, 2017. Had the bill gone into effect, nonresidents would have needed a signed client-guide contract to apply.
That said, we are digging deeper into worldwide caribou/reindeer options in this issue and note that there are many possible problems with unguided caribou hunts in Alaska. The number of units available to nonresidents continues to shrink and air taxi services are under no obligation to put hunters exactly in the caribou migration. A guided hunt may be well worth the extra time and money, especially considering the shrinking opportunities available.
Die-hards who insist on doing it on their own may be on borrowed time. I would not be surprised to see legislation requiring guides for all Alaska caribou hunts reintroduced in the next legislative session, and it’s often a matter of only a few votes one way or another to pass. If you’re going to do an on-your-own hunt for Alaska caribou, 2018 may be your last chance.