Rayco Sales is doing steady business in deer tags, as hunters prepare for the season opening August 1.
The tags were a little late arriving, but now that they're in they've been selling fast, said Terry Reiger at Rayco, as he rung up another customer Wednesday afternoon.
"People are seeing a lot of deer out hiking and overall we had a pretty mild winter last winter, so there should be good deer," Reiger said.
That's the assessment of the Department of Fish and Game also. The population of deer on Admiralty Island is higher than usual, said Polly Hessing, assistant area wildlife biologist. On Douglas Island, the favorite hunting area for Juneau residents, deer pellet surveys indicate that the population is at moderate levels. Some hunters also go farther afield, to outlying islands, Chichagof, Baranof and toward the coast.
"Local hunters usually have their own little secret slot that they like to hunt year after year," Reiger said.
In the first week of the season, most hunters go above tree-line in search of bucks that still have velvet on their antlers. Later in the season those antlers will be scraped and bloody from going through the trees.
The antlers are only a small part of the harvest, Reiger said.
"The meat is excellent. In fact, the Sitka black tail, which is what we have here, in terms of deer is considered to be one of the best eating anywhere in the world," Reiger said. "It's a very important food supplement for a lot of people, especially low income people."
Hunter effort for deer has decreased slightly in the Southeast region though, Hessing said. Last year the harvest was 1.3 deer per hunter, compared to the long-term average harvest of 1.6 deer per hunter. That could also mean more deer waiting for this year.
Fish and game biologists also spotted enough moose in the Juneau and Haines areas this winter for moose hunts there. An antler-less drawing moose hunt in the Gustavus area has been delayed until next fall in response to community concerns. The Gustavus moose hunt usually ends with an emergency closure after 40 to 50 animals have been harvested.
Mountain goats are managed in smaller hunting areas because they stick to more confined home ranges. A new regulation passed last fall will open the most northern and southern parts of the unit on Aug. 1. Goat hunters should be sure they understand where the hunt area boundaries are before starting their hunt, Hessing said.
Though the deer tags were late, the duck stamps are early and already selling, though the season opens September 1, Reiger said. This year the stamp features a drake American Widgeon, and for the first time it is labeled, Reiger said. Last year more than 80 percent of the hunters buying the unlabeled stamp couldn't identify the Pacific eider on it, Reiger said.
"Most people didn't have a clue," Reiger said. "That's kind of an indication of how it all comes down to education. If people aren't sure what they're shooting you've got a problem."
All hunters need big game tags and those age 16 or over need a hunting license. Hunters shooting for brown bear also need a registration permit, Hessing said. Hessing also reminded hunters that guns should not be fired within half a mile of the road except beyond Peterson Creek or in the Mendenhall Wetlands. For more information call the Department of Fish and Game at 465-4265.
Kristan Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.