Sunday, April 15, 2012

Alaska Big Game Hunting - Guide Services, Hunting Licenses and Regulations

Alaska is a big state with a big reputation to uphold when it comes to big game hunting. With 350,000,000 acres, Alaska alone is one-fifth the size of the entire United States, making finding and taking big game a challenge. Hunting in Alaska offers many challenges that hunting in the lower 48 does not - lower game density, seasonal movement of game and the distances of movement. Careful consideration of seasons and species is the key to a successful trip. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Conservation have put together a "Plan Your Hunt Workbook" that is available on their website as a downloadable PDF. This document encourages you to think your adventure through, then gives you the tools to organize and choose the options to make the most of your trip whether this is a guided adventure or a lone venture.
Below is additional information essential to the success of your trip:

In Alaska, there are two types of hunts:
- General season hunts - the type of hunts most people are familiar with. Purchase a license, get tags or harvest tickets for big game, and follow the general season dates and bags limits.
- Permit hunts - Harvest is restricted by permit when hunter demand is higher than game population can sustain.
Three kinds of permit hunts

1. Drawing hunts
-Available to residents and nonresidents
-Require an application fee and awarded by lottery
-Two lotteries each year - winter and spring
-ADF&G publishes supplements outlining hunt opportunities and hunt boundaries

2. Registration hunts
-Most available to residents and nonresidents
-Generally do not limit the number of registrations
-Seasons are closed by emergency order is harvest quota is met

3. Tier II hunts
-Subsistence hunts available only to residents
Details for permit hunts are available on the ADF&G web site

A nonresident who hunts brown/grizzly bear, Dall sheep, or mountain goat must be accompanied by a licensed guide OR by an Alaska resident over 19 years of age who is within the "second degree of kindred" (which means a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, brother- or sister-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, father- or mother-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepsister, stepbrother, stepson, or stepdaughter who ARE residents). Nonresident aliens (someone who is not a resident of Alaska NOR a US citizen) must have a guide for hunting all species of big game.

-References. Ask friends, colleagues, acquaintances about their experiences.
-Trade shows in the lower 48 during the winter. Many guide services are represented at these shows. Ask them for references and follow up on the references offered.
-Advertising sections in the back of outdoor magazines.
-Web sites.
-Obtain a list of big game guide-outfitters that provide services for a particular species. This is available from ADF&G, Wildlife Conservation (907-465-2376).

Licenses, big game tags, duck stamps and hunting permits are available from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Conservation and are obtainable online. Purchase ahead of time and bring them with you. Licenses are good from the date of purchase through December 31 of the license year. Big game tags are necessary for nonresidents if you plan to hunt brown/grizzly bear, black bear, bison, caribou, deer, elk, goat, moose, bull musk ox, sheep, wolf or wolverine.

Alaska's 350,000,000 acres are broken up into 26 Game Management Units (GMUs). Each unit sets its own seasons for the various species of big game. A map of these units and the regulations pertaining to them can be found on the web. Click on the GMU of interest and a document defining the seasons will open. A complete copy of the Alaska Hunting Regulations can also be downloaded at the ADF&G site.
A general calendar for hunting seasons is as follows:
April - Most spring bear seasons open
May - Many spring bear seasons close
August - Some Dall sheep, caribou, deer, and moose seasons open.
September - Most fall seasons open, include moose
November - Some last winter moose hunts open

If you are a nonresident alien (meaning you are not a resident of Alaska NOR a U.S. citizen, some restrictions exist on bringing your own gun into Alaska. Regulations require a filled out form and a hunting license. Details are available from The U.S. Department of Justice/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at 202-927-8320 or from their website.
If you're going to Alaska to hunt then make the absolute most of it. One key to a memorable trip is having the right guide. Review a directory of Alaska guide services and conduct solid homework beyond that. Get references. On Mark Allen's hunting and fishing website you'll learn not just about hunting but also about Alaska fly fishing and the different regions most popular with sportsmen.
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