Big Game Hunting on Horseback in Alaska

Have you ever been on a horseback hunt? Do you understand what this really entails? We are going to talk about that today because of a conversation I recently had with a client. Hunting on horseback, even for an animal like a Dall Sheep, means you will be riding, every day.

Hunting on Horseback

Hunting on Horseback

We are Professional Big Game Hunting Guides (as well as so much more!) and we are horse-outfitters. Pioneer Outfitters operates year-round as an Outdoor Recreation business and all of our Adventures and Big Game Hunts (with very few exceptions) are conducted on horseback.

During the Winter months and into the Spring, from December through April, we operate our different Excursions on sno-gos (that is “snowmobiles” for you non-Alaskan-type humans). These Winter Excursions are sight-seeing, photography, sledding, snow-shoeing, ice-fishing Adventures. We also offer Winter Trap Lines and Predator Hunts for the folks more inclined to experience a winter-time hunt.

As Spring takes a good grip on Alaska and the Grizzly and Black Bears begin to wake up from their Winter’s snooze, we saddle the horses back up and begin our Spring Grizzly & Black Bear Hunts.

As horse-outfitters in the remote Alaskan mountains, deep inside the Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve, we tend to forget that people may not completely understand what hunting on horseback really entails when booking and scheduling their Big Game Hunt.

Our horses are range horses. Which more plainly simply means that when they are not working (being ridden or packed), they are free to roam and graze as wild horses. They are wrangled into the corrals when they are wanted or needed. We check on them and keep track of where they were seen last, which groups of horses and when.

During the winter months we spend a lot of time keeping a closer watch over them, to make sure that they aren’t loosing too much weight. During the early Spring months, as the sun begins to shine a little brighter, longer and warmer, they tend to drop more weight, sunning themselves. Once they begin to need attention, we begin supplementing their range diet with hay and grains. If a particular horse needs more than just a little help, we put special ice shoes on and walk him home to Chisana so that he can be watched over even more closely, from our own corrals and barns.

Pioneer Outfitters uses horses to ride and they allow us to pack comfortable camps with wonderful food (no freeze dried stuff) and simple luxuries that would be senseless if one was packing it all into backpacks. The horses make traveling many miles over the Alaska terrain, across icy waters and through boggy valley bottoms much easier than by foot.

Hunting on Horseback

Hunting on Horseback

During a Big Game Hunt with Pioneer Outfitters, a client can expect to ride between 3.5 to 11 hours to the camp (we have a great many camps) he or she will hunt out of. Once there, the daily riding time to expect can be same, as you will be traveling to either spot and stalk or to a known particular place that your guide has enjoyed spotting the game that is being pursued from.

Yes, even on a Dall Sheep Hunt.

When hunting Dall Sheep, you may ride to the spot your Professional Guide decides is a good place to leave the horses and begin your climb from there or you may stop in many spots along the way to glass the mountain sides, crags and tops to take a closer look with a spotting scope before you begin to climb.

If we are hunting Grizzly Bear or Alaska-Yukon Moose, we may ride and stop many times a day then too, to glass and search. Or you may simply spot the animal you want as you ride. Another benefit to hunting on horseback is that your profile is no longer a foreign being to the critters you seek. With the horse carrying you, you now have four legs, as do the other critters in their world.

Hunting on Horseback

Hunting on Horseback

There are some important and helpful tips to remember when you are planning to be hunting on horseback. These will help you to be more comfortable as well as safer and will do the same for your horse.

The weather. Again, keep in mind that when you are hunting on horseback with Pioneer Outfitters, it is Alaska and the weather can change often and very quickly. It can be deceptive, as you ride and enjoy the spectacular wilderness that you will be traveling and a breeze can easily become bone chilling. Layers, that can be taken off and put on as you need them, tied to the back of your saddle, can help you stay much more comfortable. A knit cap and a warmer set of gloves are also an added comfort and can easily be put in your saddlebags or your backpack. Rain gear (which can also block the wind coming straight off the glaciers) are also on the gear list that we send all potential clients and guests.

Your backpack. It must be supported on your back, not ever resting on the back of your saddle. This extra weight on the back of the saddle can cause kidney sores and will put a horse out of working condition immediately for an entire season.

Physical conditioning. Horseback riding is a fantastic form of exercise and it works on your entire body. The absolute best way to get in shape for hunting on horseback is to ride. A sure way to help yourself if your knees or butt start to hurt is to simply get off a walk a bit. It will also warm you up! Now, I know that when you (anyone, even me) start aching and paining, the last thing you want to do is dismount, and glory-be! Not get on!! Yes, yes, yes. You will feel better, looser, and warmer and yes it really will be easier than you might believe to get back up. If not? Hey! That’s what we are here for! To help you!! It really does make all the difference.

Extra gear. By “extra gear” I mean, we are asked more often than one may suspect ~ “Can I bring my own saddle?” Yes! Certainly! You may either bring it or mail it ahead of time, as you would your other gear. It will be waiting for you in your cabin for your arrival in Chisana. Another HUGE plus when riding (even if you only wear them to and from camp) are chaps. They help. They help keep you warm and dry and they help keep your pants from being tortured by the brush and branches when you are following your guide through tight spots.

Remember! When you are hunting on horseback, you have many advantages that you wouldn’t have otherwise but it is best to be prepared. If you think of any questions that I haven’t answered, please ask them below in the comments.


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