Juneau hunters once again have the chance to appreciate that fowl taste in their mouths.
The waterfowl hunting season began early Thursday morning as hunters swarmed the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge before sunrise.
Henry Jebe, 60, began walking across the flats from Ninemile Creek at about 4:30 a.m. to set up shop in a stand of trees.
"I kind of surprised myself between my walk and everything, because I was kind of ready to hunt at just about legal shooting time. Most of the time I'll wind up running late," he said. "When the first shots were fired I looked at my watch and it was right on time. From my perspective I heard no early shooters."
According to state regulations, migratory bird hunting is permitted one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
The refuge stretches along the shores of Gastineau Channel from the Mendenhall Peninsula to Salmon Creek. Many hunters access the area from the Airport Dike Trail or Sunny Point, a neighborhood across Egan Drive from the Switzer Creek area.
Neil Barten, area wildlife management biologist for Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said hunters using the wetlands refuge must first acquire a permit. He said the permits are designed to inform hunters of boundaries and safety issues and to have contact information for people using the refuge. Permits are available at ADF&G and several sporting good stores.
"There's a lot of people who take advantage of going duck hunting for two hours and still make it to work," said Barten. "I think that's kind of a neat thing as long as we do it the right way."
Hunters should be cognizant of their surroundings and be respectful of the homes and roads that surround the refuge, said Barten.
"It's really quite a treasure for people to hunt so close to a community with such an amazing backdrop," he said.
A 31-year resident of Juneau, Jebe said he goes duck hunting on the season opener and closer, "and some couple of times in between if I squeeze in the time."
Jebe said he doesn't like shooting in the areas by Salmon Creek where hunters can be seen right off the highway.
"In my perspective that's a bad image on hunters, because I've never liked it when I'm driving by and I can see somebody standing right down there in sight of people going to work," he said. "People who don't like hunting to begin with, I don't think they need to see that."
You don't have to bag a bird to have a good time, Jebe said.
"The flats are just a pleasing place to be in the early hours," he said. "As long as you're not getting beat to death by the rain and stuff like that, it's kind of relaxing being out there."
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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