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Juneau hunters can expect some changes this season to moose hunting in northern Southeast Alaska. The biggest changes affect the popular bull moose hunt in the Gustavus area.
Changes were made to make the hunt safer and more manageable, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Neil Barten, and were encouraged by the department, the Board of Game and the Icy Strait Advisory Council.
This year, hunters pursuing bull moose under the registration permit hunt must choose between hunting at Gustavus or hunting in other areas in Unit 1C, such as the Taku River, St. James Bay, or Couverden. Game Management Unit 1C is the area surrounding Juneau that most affects Juneau hunters. In the past, the permit allowed hunters to hunt throughout 1C.
"People are starting to come in for permits, and I think they're going to be storming us pretty soon. I want to reinforce to them that they can only hunt one area or the other," Barten said.
The proposal was discussed in a public forum during the fall 2004 Board of Game meeting in Juneau, but Barten said it will still come as a surprise to some hunters.
Unlike deer hunting, moose hunting in Southeast Alaska is a bit more restrictive so that Fish and Game can better manage the activity. Hunters must register with Fish and Game to hunt moose (a registration permit hunt), and in the case of the Berners Bay area, a limited number of permits are issued (a drawing permit hunt). Permits are available at the regional Fish and Game office in Douglas.
"We want to know how many hunters are out there and be sure those hunters know what's required of them," Barten said.
Successful Southeast Alaska moose hunters must bring the lower jaw to the local Fish and Game office and supply some information about their moose hunt. Some restrictions are applied to motorized access at Gustavus, and hunters must report their success within a certain time period.
Barten said there is a guideline harvest of 40 bulls at Gustavus, about the same as last year. During the past four years, almost 200 hunters have taken to the Gustavus forelands for the hunt, and in each successive year the harvest guideline was reached earlier in the hunt. Last year the season in Gustavus lasted only three days.
"There are so many hunters on the ground at the same time - last year they took 29 bulls the first day," Barten said.
Last year, hunters were required to report their success within 48 hours, but even this was too much time to allow effective hunt management. This year, Barten has an 800-number hotline for hunters to call. Successful hunters must report their moose by 11:59 p.m. on the day of harvest by calling 866-956-6673 (866-95MOOSE). This number can also be called for an update on the harvest to date, as well as emergency closure information.
There are several additional changes to the Gustavus area moose hunt.
Hunting will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 20, rather than on Sept. 15 as in past years.
Hunting will be allowed only Tuesday through Friday each week, for four consecutive weeks (the season will end on Oct. 15, unless closed earlier by emergency order).
Hunters with even-numbered permits can hunt only on even-numbered calendar days; hunters with odd-numbered permits can hunt only on odd-numbered calendar days.
The remainder of Unit 1C, except Berners Bay and that area south of Pt. Hobart, will be managed with a registration permit (available only at Fish and Game). Outside the Gustavus hunt area, the moose hunting season will be from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, as in the past.
Barten said the Berners Bay area has been a draw hunt since the 1970s.
"It would impossible for us to keep the harvest at a level we'd be comfortable with using a registration hunt," Barten said. "Eight permits were issued this year, and usually about 800 or 900 people apply - it's very popular."
Moose are relatively new colonists to many areas in northern Southeast Alaska, and the animals are not as abundant as they are in many parts of Interior Alaska.
Moose are good swimmers. Barten said he received credible reports just a few weeks ago that a particular cow moose was seen on Benjamin Island north of Juneau, and later on Lincoln Island - a four-and-a-half-mile swim across Favorite Channel.
"I would guess it was same moose," he said. "It probably came down the pike from Berners Bay, then swam out Benjamin. It would be pretty cool to see a cow moose on the shore of Benjamin Island."
Moose in Southeast Alaska tend to inhabit the river valleys such as the Taku or Endicott, and these areas receive some hunting pressure.
"In the past five years, St. James Bay has averaged about six to eight bulls each year," Barten said. "Couverden averages just one or two, although in 2003, 10 were taken in the Couverden area. The Upper Endicott is good for five or six a year and the lower Endicott two or three. The Taku River, all the way up the border, yields a dozen to 20."
The other popular moose hunting opportunity in Southeast Alaska is the Gustavus cow hunt. Hunters apply for the opportunity to hunt and a limited number of permits are drawn. There are a few changes to this hunt as well.
Instead of the whole Gustavus area being open, there are now three separate drawing hunts for cow moose at Gustavus. The Gustavus area has been divided into three subunits. Each hunt area has specific boundaries, and hunters with permits must stay within their designated hunt area (descriptions of the hunt area will be mailed out with the permit). Maps are available on the Fish and Game Web site, at the Fish and Game office in Douglas and Gusto Hardware in Gustavus. Drawing-permit winners will receive their permit in the mail in late July.
The season for cow moose will run from Nov. 15 through Nov. 30 as in past years. Fish and Game will again be roaming the woods at Gustavus and asking hunters to notify them for the collection of reproductive tracts and rump fat information. All permitees will receive a packet of information regarding this data collection.
For more information see wildlife.alaska.gov.
Riley Woodford is a writer with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation.