Big game winners

Meet local hunting permit awardees, and learn what it takes to bag the big one

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007

A successful hunter in Alaska needs to be lucky, and not just in the field.

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Some of the state's most popular hunts have way more people interested in them than there are opportunities.

To win one of those hunts, for popular quarry such as bear, bison, sheep or moose, it may be necessary to qualify or win a drawing.

The state recently awarded more than 10,000 hunting permits, two-thirds based on a lottery draw, the rest for subsistence.

"When there aren't enough animals to satisfy demand, including sport and subsistence, we take a couple of steps to reduce hunting pressure," said Ron Clarke, assistant director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Apparently, political connections don't help. State records show one of the unsuccessful applicants was Todd Palin of Wasilla, better known as Alaska's first gentleman, husband of Gov. Sarah Palin.

Even the winners aren't always winners. Scott McCasland drew an elk permit, but couldn't afford to go. The hunt was in Afognak, near Kodiak, and on native land that required another permit. Past hunters had a success rate of only 50 percent, and Scott and son David decided they couldn't afford to go.

Others can increase their odds of success, or at least their consistency.

Juneau's George Campbell regularly hunts in one of the Tier II subsistence hunts with a group of people that take from one to three animals each year, and divide up the meat.

"We're usually pretty successful, and we spread it around," he said.

That's the way many do it, said Clarke, especially in family groups.

"They're designed to meet the subsistence needs of subsistence users," Clarke said.

To determine qualifications for a Tier II permit, applicants have to fill out a questionnaire.

"We'll ask if you have eaten meat from a certain basin in the past year, and where you buy your groceries and where you buy your gas," he said.

Those who are paying eight bucks a gallon for gas or milk in rural areas are more likely to qualify for as Tier II hunt than Juneau or Anchorage residents, he said.

The Tier II hunts are mostly for moose or caribou, but include a few musk ox as well.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

Big Game Winner Profiles

Name: Grey Mitchell

Residence: Douglas

Age: 41

Hunt Type: Drawing

Quarry: Musk Ox

Hunt Location: Shishmaref

How long in Alaska: Born and raised

How long hunting: 30 years

Job: State of Alaska Department of Labor employee

Story: While hunting last year, he and his partners got caught in November's snowstorm on a logging road between Hoonah and Freshwater Bay. They got his brother-in-law's truck stuck and had to hire a D-9 Cat to get the truck out, or it would have been there until June.

Name: Sandy Bartness

Residence: Ninnis Drive, Juneau

Age: 67

Hunt Type: Drawing

Quarry: Moose

Hunt Location: West of Excursion Inlet

How long in Alaska: 48 years

Hunting experience: Several years, has taken deer and one moose before

Job: Retired state employee, charter operator

Story: Sandy and her husband, Ole, a long-time hunter, apply for hunts every year. This year both Sandy and Ole got moose permits. The only time either won was in 2003, and both were successful then as well.

Name: William Schlueter

Residence: Dredge Lake Road

Age: 57

Hunt Type: Tier II

Quarry: Caribou

Hunt Location: Nelchina

How Long in Alaska: Since 1980

How Long Hunting: 25-30 years

Story: This is his first time as a Tier II hunt winner. "It's the first year I've qualified, and I probably won't qualify again."

Name: George Campbell

Residence: Auke Bay

Age: 40

Hunt Type: Tier II

Quarry: Moose

Hunt Location: Haines Borough

How long in Alaska: Born and raised

How long hunting: "As soon as I could walk on my own."

Job: Landscaping business, pilot for Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Sitka

Story: The group we hunt with usually has four to six permits among them and share meat. "We normally feed about 10 households."

All photos chris miller / juneau empire

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