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JUNEAU -- A Fairbanks Republican has introduced a bill aimed at creating special hunting seasons before the start of the school year so children can join adults in pursuit of big game.
Sen. Pete Kelly said hunting seasons used to be longer and that parents and children were able to go out hunting together. Moose hunting in most of the Interior now starts Sept. 1 while school begins in the Fairbanks North Star Borough on Aug. 20. Some big game seasons elsewhere in the state open before school starts.
"I want to just kind of make it a part of the growing up in Alaska experience like it was when I was a kid," Kelly said.
Senate Bill 72 drew an enthusiastic response when Kelly filed it this week. Half of the 20-member Senate signed up as co-sponsors.
Participation in the special season would be restricted to Alaska children who are accompanied by an Alaska adult. The bill does require the two to be related.
"There are a lot of important lessons for young people to learn when they go hunting. They learn that food doesn't grow at the supermarket," Kelly said.
"They learn to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, not only in obtaining their own food, but also in simply surviving the Alaska outdoors."
The bill directs the Board of Game to establish annual hunting seasons in appropriate areas of the state for big game, other than bison or musk ox, that are open before schools start in the fall and before regular hunting seasons begin.
Kelly said he is fine-tuning the bill, including the age requirements. He also wants to ensure that the board of game has as much leeway as possible.
Game board member Mike Fleagle of McGrath, said he was interested in learning about the bill but had not seen it and therefore could not comment.
Wayne Regelin, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation, said state game officials like the basic concept.
"We've thought it was a good idea for a long time, but we haven't seen what the bill says," Regelin said.