Muskox Hunting in Alaska
Nunivak Island Muskox Hunting
Nunivak Island is located in the Bering Sea about 135 miles west of Bethel. This remote island is home to approximately 200 people and 500-550 muskoxen.
Muskox hunting season is divided into two time periods: a fall hunt that runs from September 1 - 30 and a winter/spring hunt which occurs Feb 1 - March 15. The fall hunt can be wet and windy and tranportation is usually by boat or quadrunner. The winter/spring hunt can be cold with wind and blowing snow. You should be prepared for inclement weather in either season.
Currently 10 permits are awarded by lottery for the fall season and up to 40 permits are awarded for the winter/spring hunt. Managing the Nunivak muskox hunt requires our careful attention to the number of hunters afield and animals harvested. For this reason, permittees are required to contact the Bethel ADF&G office at least 15 days prior to the season to confirm their intent to hunt (call 1-800-425-2979 from within Alaska or 907-543-2839 from outside Alaska.) Hunters who fail to contact ADF&G will forfeit their permits. Forfeited permits will be reassigned to other hunters.
Hunters lucky enough to be drawn for a permit have a nearly 100% success rate. Almost every year, however, at least one hunter comes away with bad memories instead of the hunt of a lifetime. Hunter mistakes include:
- shooting a cow instead of a bull
- follow-up shots on the wrong animal resulting in having two muskox on the ground from the same group
- shooting through one animal and hitting a second
- improper shot placement on these animals whose shaggy coat obscures their actual body contours
- failure to use all the meat (among the finest meat on this planet)
- failure to get a metal locking tag (NOT the same as a permit) before hunting
- failure to check out with a department representative
If you are an inexperienced muskox hunter, we highly recommend taking the muskox hunter orientation.
Getting there and going afield
Most access is through Mekoryuk, the only village on the island. Transportation to Mekoryuk is by regularly scheduled commercial airlines from Bethel (Hageland Aviation 907-543-3800 or Grant Aviation 907-543-2000).
Below is a list of guides and transporters who have taken hunters out in the past. Hunters are not required to use commercial services and ADF&G makes no comments concerning the quality or competency of the people on the list. It is only provided as a convenience to you to help gather information.
- Abe David 907-545-8333
- Ed Kiokun 907-827-2302
- Ishmil Smith 907-827-2082
- James Whitman 907-827-8620
If awarded a permit, plan on paying $4,000 – $10,000 for all your expenses. An approximate price breakdown is as follows:
- $3,000 - $6,000 transporter/guide fees
- $500-$3,000 metal locking tag (price varies with residency - see below)
- $100 Posable land use fee to hunt on the island
- Flights to and from Bethel
- Round trip flights from Bethel to Mekoryuk
- Excess baggage fees for transporting animal home
You are required to have the following in your possession while hunting:
- Current hunting license
- Hunting permit
- Metal locking tag (fees based on residency)
- $500 residents
- $2,200 nonresident
- $3,000 nonresident alien
- You are required to file a hunt report (online or via US mail) - whether or not you were successful in taking an animal. If you fail to report, you will be ineligible for any drawing, Targeted, Tier II, registration (including Tier I, Nelchina caribou) permits in Alaska the following season.
In addition to your personal hunting equipment, you might also consider bringing the following items:
- Game bags (4-6 total)
- Waxed "fish boxes" (4-6 total) for shipping meat
- Packing tape
- A leak-proof container for shipping the hide and skull