This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
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Proxy hunting, established by the state Board of Game in 1993 as a way for hunters to provide traditional meats for others who are elderly, blind or disabled, has proved a valuable program for some but an open door to abuse by others.
The idea speaks to an honorable pursuit by hunters willing to harvest and process an animal, perhaps a second, on behalf of a lesser-abled peer or elder; an honorable notion indeed and one that relies upon the honor of those who seek the responsibility.
Unfortunately, these rules that allow that honor also open the door to the worst kind of greed and the ugliest side of hunting with stories from elders or handicapped people being propositioned by hunters asking if they will sign a proxy for them, stories of hunters advertising in pioneers homes and collecting proxy opportunities. Essentially, stories of hunters taking much more than they need while cheating others out of the opportunity to hunt or to find success.
In January, the Alaska Board of Game, moved by such stories of abuse, cut back on proxy hunting permits, allowing them only in areas where game is most plentiful and where bag limits are most liberal, or where they already allow for the taking of more than one animal.
But the January proposal is back up for public comment, and possible reconsideration, in the board's meeting scheduled for March 10-20 in Fairbanks.
Members of the public should let their feelings be known on the newest proxy hunting rules, and the board should reconsider the situation.
Restricting the hunts to areas where game is most plentiful seems logical from the standpoint of the board's responsibility to protect the most vulnerable populations. However, proxy hunting is less a game management tool and more a people management exercise.
To allow proxy opportunities in areas where game is most plentiful and bag limits liberal seems to allow for just that much more abuse of the system, while restricting the opportunity in areas where there is little game seems an extra burden on families of elderly and disabled people who already suffer because of living in areas where game is scarce.
A clause added in January to prevent a person from being a proxy more than twice per season per species seems adequate to address most concerns.
Likewise, a clause that eliminates proxies in specific hunts where use of the proxy would allow circumvention of harvest restrictions specified by the board seems reasonable. But perhaps that line could be altered to allow for adjustment to proxy rules in situations - such as Tier II or drawing permit hunts - where a person could take a single extra animal per year per species or perhaps just hunt in another's stead and still file only a single tag.
Such a rule would no doubt add to the Department of Fish and Game's paperwork headaches, but headaches are to be expected when managing the habits of people, especially when the honor system, sadly, has failed.