FAIRBANKS - There's only been one year of the 23 years Darvil West has been hunting moose on the Tanana Flats that he hasn't come home with a moose.
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"It was 1997, I think," he said.
Asked what happened that year, the 67-year-old supervisor at Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole grinned and replied, "I just didn't run into one."
Standing next to his airboat Friday at the Chena Pump wayside as he prepared to head down the Tanana River to his moose hunting camp for today's opening of the 2007 moose season, West was hoping that wouldn't be the case this year. He sounded confident.
"I went out the other day to drop some stuff off (at camp) and I could have shot two cows, but I didn't," said West, referring to the antlerless hunt already under way in game management unit 20A south of Fairbanks. "I'd rather have a bull than a cow.
"I don't agree with shooting all these cows, that's how we beget more moose," he added, offering his unsolicited biological perspective on the large-scale antlerless hunts the Department of Fish and Game has held the last four years in unit 20A.
Nonetheless, West confessed that he was armed with a permit to shoot a cow if he had to.
"If I have to shoot a cow, it will be at the end of the bull season," he said.
His hunting partner, Andre Sanders, however, was just looking for some meat to put in the freezer.
"I eat nothing but moose in the wintertime; I don't buy beef," said Sanders, who was also driving an airboat. "I'm strictly a meat hunter."
The Interior is the moose basket of Alaska, and nowhere is that more true than the Tanana Flats, the most productive moose-hunting area in the state.
Hunters kill in the neighborhood of 6,500 moose in Alaska each year, and about one-third of that total comes from game management unit 20 surrounding Fairbanks. This year, state game managers are hoping for a harvest of approximately 1,000 antlerless moose and 1,500 bulls in unit 20. The majority of those moose will come from unit 20A, which covers the Tanana Flats and Alaska Range foothills south of Fairbanks, and unit 20B, which encompasses most of the road system north and east of town.