As all hunters are probably aware, the 2019 Alaska general hunting season started Aug. 10, and will continue, depending on species, well into next year. I got caught up in this whole “mass shooting” debate and failed to mention the opening of hunting season in last week’s column, so let’s look at things now.
There aren’t many changes in local regulations and most of them involve bears in Game Management Unit 14C. Bait is now legal in specific areas of 14C and one drawing hunt for black bears had the season lengthened. The bag limit for brown bears in 14C has been increased to one bear every regulatory year.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Unit 14C, now requires hunter education for small game hunting and a year-around season for unclassified game has been established. Also, in 14C, the opening dates for all hunts which used to specify “the day after Labor Day” now begin on Sept. 1.
Probably the biggest change, new this year, and for reasons I’ll mention in a moment, involves allowing crossbows for use in hunts where a shotgun and/or muzzleloading long gun, and bow and arrow are all currently legal. These hunts are usually so-called “weapons restricted” hunts occurring in specific areas in Units 6-8, 14C and 15.
I wrote the original proposal to allow crossbows in these type hunts and submitted it to the Board of Game about four years ago. I submitted it as a statewide proposal, but ADF&G decided they wanted the BOG to address it on a region-by-region basis. As a result, the proposal has appeared as a regional proposal over the last three years in regions having the type of hunt the proposal was looking to change.
I’m happy to say the change allowing crossbow use passed in every region having the “weapons restricted” specific hunts for which the change was proposed. My shoulder replacement surgery a few years ago has limited my “vertical” bow hunting and I didn’t have the state exemption allowing use of a crossbow in bow-and-arrow only hunts at the time. I since have been granted a permanent crossbow use exemption, but the addition of crossbows to the list of allowable hunting tools in these type hunts gives more opportunity for everyone to participate.
Keep in mind that permit hunting seasons can be and often are different from the general season hunting period for a specific species. I’m only addressing general season hunts in the Valley area, which encompass Units 13, 14A, 14B, and 16. Some of the species don’t have a closed season, like brown bear in the bulk of Unit 13, but do have a defined season in a section of the hunting unit. In this case, Unit 13E within Denali State Park, the brown bear season runs Aug. 10 to June 15.
The seasons of most interest to the greatest number of hunters involve caribou, moose, and Dall’s sheep. The general hunting season for sheep universally opened on Aug.10 in the units listed. If a general caribou season is in place in the listed hunting units, it also started on Aug. 10th. Note that Unit 16 caribou are limited to bulls only. Again, special permit hunts for these two species exist in the listed units and the dates and bag limits are separate from, but similar to the general season requirements.
Moose is the species of greatest interest to local Valley hunters. In Units 14A, 14B, and 16, the archery only moose hunting season began on Aug. 10 and runs for one week, closing on Aug. 17. In Unit 16, the general firearms season opens on Aug. 20. In Units 14A and 14B, the firearms season opens on Aug. 25. In Unit 13, the general firearms season opens on Sept.1.
If you’re into small game as a targeted hunt or only interested in incidental taking while hunting other animals, note that both the grouse and ptarmigan seasons opened on Aug. 10. For snowshoe hares, there is no closed season in Units 13, 14A, 14B, and 16, however, 14A has a specific bag limit per day while the other units don’t.
I specifically didn’t mention a lot of detail because there is a lot of difference in seasons for specific species, bag limits and other factors, even within a game management unit. Pick up a copy of the 2019-2020 Alaska Hunting Regulations and study the information for the specific area and species you are interested in hunting. Knowing the law will keep you out of trouble!