All indications point to a good season for deer hunters in the Juneau area, wildlife biologists say.
Deer season opened on Aug. 1 for bucks and will be extended to does on Douglas, Shelter, Lincoln and Sullivan islands after Sept. 15. Hunting on the mainland is limited to bucks all year to protect populations.
Biologists count “pellet groups” — piles of droppings — to assess the health of deer populations in different areas around Southeast. The amount of pellet groups can’t be directly tied to a number of deer, as “one deer can leave a lot of poop,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor Ryan Scott said, but it does tend to correlate with the number of deer hunters shoot.
During surveys this spring, biologists on Douglas counted an increase in pellets, and as such, they’re expecting an increase in successful hunts.
“We had a significant increase in pellet groups on Douglas, when we went out and took a look at those places, which suggests there are more deer on the ground,” Scott said. “Bottom line is I am very optimistic for the deer season. That doesn’t mean there will be a deer behind every tree, but it should be a very successful season for hunters.”
A series of low-snow winters in Southeast also bodes well for deer and their hunters, ADF&G biologist Stephanie Sell explained.
There are two reasons for this. For one, deer are easier for hunters to spot and kill on the beach.
“Winter snowfall basically drives deer out of the alpine and into lower elevations. And so what happens is most of our people around here hunt later in the fall because they see deer around the beach line,” Sell said. “So certainly when we get a lot of snow, deer come down to the beaches and people kind of slaughter them.”
Sell wanted to remind hunters that it is illegal to hunt from a boat in the Juneau area. One of the reasons for this rule, Sell said, is that you can’t track a wounded deer from a boat; hunters have to be on the ground to finish a kill.
Large amounts of snow can also cover up food sources for deer, leaving them to subsist on seaweed and old grass, Sell said. They can survive on this diet, but won’t be able to grow.
This year, late winter and spring did bring a lot of snow to Juneau, but by that time hunting season was over and deer already had a good amount of time to forage.
Douglas Island sees a majority of hunting pressure in the Juneau area, Sell said, as hunters have ample access to hunting grounds from North Douglas Highway and Eagle Crest Road.
Accessing hunting grounds will be even easier this year, as a new, 2.5-mile pioneer road, which starts past False Outer Point, heading across the island to West Douglas, will open up more area for hunters. The road, the first step in the development of West Douglas, is open to walking and biking, but not motor vehicle use.
A locked gate will keep ATVs and trucks from accessing the road.
Local hunter Elias Daugherty said he expects it to be a good season. He sticks to the mainland where he says he regularly sees about 20 does to one buck.
“I think the deer are doing great around Juneau. I mean every year you see fawns, so that’s a good deal,” Daugherty said.
Deer hunting on Douglas, Sullivan, Lincoln and Shelter islands runs through Dec. 31 and is limited to four deer per hunter. Different rules apply on the mainland and vary depending on the area around Juneau.
Hunters can find full hunting regulations for the 2017-2018 season at www.adfg.alaska.gov or pick up free hard copies at many grocery stores and sports equipment suppliers around Juneau.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.