Sitka blacktail deer lure hunters to the alpine

Southeast Alaska hunters face changes in deer regulations

Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2005

Early August isn't every hunter's deer paradise.

Sitka blacktail deer lurk in the alpine, far above most roads around Juneau.

But the season opener on Aug. 1 is a rite of passage for local hunters who don't mind a stiff climb followed by a steep descent - with bags full of raw meat.

"In August, I've seen as many as 60 or 70 deer in a day. I try to shoot just one. One is enough," said Ed Torgerson, a Juneau resident who has hunted the opening of the Sitka blacktail season for a decade.

The season opened Monday and Torgerson was ready for it at 3:20 a.m., perched on a Douglas Island ridge at 3,100 feet, having camped nearby on Sunday night.

He ended up shooting a deer in about an hour and it took him about five hours to bring down 85 pounds of meat.

It was worth the alpine trip, Torgerson said.

"It's more work (than hunting in the fall when deer come lower) but the weather is nicer," he said.

"The deer are certainly fatter and they haven't been chased around as much, Torgerson said.

"Once you are up in the alpine, there's an opportunity to spot and stalk, as opposed to later in the season, when it's spot and shoot. There's an appeal to that kind of hunting," said Doug Larsen, regional supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's division of wildlife conservation.

Deer hunters in Southeast Alaska should be aware that they face some regulation changes in the 2005 season, Larsen said.

First, deer harvest tickets will be numbered and hunters must carry all of their unvalidated tickets with them while they are hunting. The tickets must be used in numerical order, Larsen said.

The reason for the change is that some game management districts, called units, in Southeast have smaller bag limits. Fish and Game wants to prevent hunters who visit multiple game units from bagging more deer than allowable in a unit with the lower bag limit, Larsen said.

The second change will affect hunters who visit Prince of Wales Island. They will be required to pick up and complete a written report with their deer tickets, Larsen said.

The reports are a way for Fish and Game to get a better handle on the island's deer harvest and population. Subsistence hunters claim they are not able to get the number of deer they need, he said.

The deer population around Juneau appears to be very healthy, said Juneau area game management biologist Neil Barten.

The size of the herds around Juneau was not available but roughly 20,000 are harvested in Southeast Alaska each year. Most of the hunting in the game unit that includes Juneau occurs on Douglas Island, Larsen said.

A series of mild winters has apparently reduced winter-related deer mortality in the Juneau area. Plenty of deer have been spotted around Tee Harbor and on Douglas Island, Barten said.

Rayco Sales, a gun shop in the Mendenhall Valley, has sold about 150 to 200 deer tags over the last five days, said sales clerk Paul Rodriguez.

"The deer population (in Juneau) has been climbing over the last three years, I think," Rodriguez said.

The deer season ends Dec. 31.



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