The growing popularity of the fall moose hunt in Gustavus likely will result in a shorter reporting window next year in an effort to maintain Department of Fish and Game harvest levels.
This year's hunt, Sept. 15-17, was the shortest yet due to the large number of hunters and small number of moose available, said Neil Barten, a Fish and Game wildlife biologist.
Barten said the department limited the hunt to 35-40 bulls this year. As the hunt gets more popular the harvest levels are being reached in a shorter amount of time. He said 200 hunters or more participated this year.
"Most of us expected it to last a week or longer, and it ended in three days," Barten said.
With its growing popularity, the hunt is becoming increasingly competitive he said. One hunter was cited for using night vision binoculars.
Barten said the hunt lasted about 20 days in the late 1990s. Hunters were given five days to report the number of moose shot. The reporting window has dropped to 48 hours, because the longer window makes it more difficult for wildlife biologists to decide when to end the hunt.
Barten said 43 bulls and two cows were killed this year, even though it should have ended after 40 bulls were shot.
"Next year there will be a 24-hour reporting period or less, because I don't want this to get out of hand," Barten said. "By making people report earlier, I will have a better idea of how many animals are down at any given time."
He said the Alaska Board of Game will meet Nov. 2-5 in Juneau to discuss issues related to wildlife management, including the moose in Gustavus.
Brian Lieb of Juneau, a harvest programmer who tracks statewide hunts for Fish and Game, shot a bull with a 28-inch rack in Gustavus. It was the first time he attended the event, and he said he was surprised at how quickly it ended.
He said 20 were shot on the first day - half of the allowable harvest.
The advantage of the Gustavus hunt is there are a lot of moose in the area, he said, but it also draws a lot of people. Barten said there are about 400 to 500 moose in the Gustavus area.
"When I go moose hunting I prefer not to be around so many people," Lieb said. "But that's not to say that I won't go again."
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.