Category Archives: hunting

‘Among wolves’ offers window to wild — New book profiles enigmatic biologist and his long-term career of field study

Redoubt Reporter file photo by Joseph Robertia. A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve carries a meal from a caribou kill. Wolf sightings have become far less frequent over recent years in the park, from about 44 percent of visitors in 2010 seeing wolves to 4 percent in 2013.

Redoubt Reporter file photo by Joseph Robertia. A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve carries a meal from a caribou kill. Wolf sightings have become far less frequent over recent years in the park, from about 44 percent of visitors in 2010 seeing wolves to 4 percent in 2013.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

To Marybeth Holleman, author of “Among Wolves,” the question she most wanted to answer in writing her book about Alaska wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber wasn’t what sparked his 43-year, single-minded, life-consuming career studying wolves in the wilds of Alaska. That part was obvious from a mere glance at his field notes, which offer a captivating window into the behaviors, adaptations and interactions of these fascinating and controversial creatures.

Haber explains his interest himself in one of the passages of the book, which is a combination of Haber’s research notes, reports and writings compiled and edited by Holleman, and Holleman’s own interviews and research about her subject.

Wolves enhance, “The ability of our surroundings to evoke the sense of wonder that helps us not just to live, but to be alive,” Haber once wrote.

“I was struck not just by his knowledge of wolves but also by his passion for wolves. He had been studying them for so long but he never lost that initial sense of wonder and that passion for his research, and that really struck me,” Holleman said during a presentation about her book at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus on April 2.

That drive struck early. In high school Haber wrote an essay on his life goals, saying, “‘I have decided on one factor, this being that I intend to live a major portion of my life either in or near the outdoors,’” Holleman said. “And that he did.”

Haber began his wolf research in Alaska in 1966 and continued it until his death when his research plane crashed in Denali in 2009. Summer and winter found Haber backpacking into Denali National Park and Preserve, via skis, snowshoes or hiking boots, spending thousands of hours observing his subjects. Once radio collaring began, Haber contracted a pilot and conducted much farther-reaching surveys from above, observing up to 18 wolf groups in the 6-million-acre park and preserve, as well as the Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve, Fortymile region and other areas where the state conducted predator control programs.

All the while he remained an independent scientist with private backers funding his research — such as the Friends of Animals — but eschewing any limitations or directions placed on his work, Holleman said.

“All that time gives him unassailable, experiential authority to tell us something about wolves,” she said.

Colleagues thought him meticulous, with a depth of knowledge to match his wealth of experience — and also enigmatic, being somewhat of a lone wolf himself. When he came to Alaska from Michigan in the 1960s, Haber met with pioneer wolf researcher Adolph Murie, who had turned his studies into the landmark book, “The Wolves of Mount McKinley.” Haber took up observation of the same wolves, the Toklats, that Murie had been studying since the 1920s, creating 70 years of continuous research. That makes the Toklats, along with Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees, the oldest known, longest-studied, large-animal social group in the world, Holleman said.

“Which is, as you can imagine, of inestimable scientific value,” she said.

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Kenai wolves pack ups, downs — Population sees extinction to re-establishment, protection to predator control

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Between poisoning, hunting and trapping pressure and disease, the Kenai Peninsula has not proven a very hospitable home to wolves over the years.

As a companion to Marybeth Holleman’s presentation on her new book, “Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights Into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal,” at KPC on April 2, retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge biologist Ted Bailey gave an overview of the history of wolves on the peninsula.

They’ve had their ups and downs since the late 1800s, with pressure from humans being one through line in their history. When the gold rush hit the Kenai Peninsula in 1885-86, the thousands of prospectors hoping to strike it rich brought a hefty distrust of wolves. Apparently they feared a rabies outbreak like they had seen in the Klondike, Bailey said, so they used poison to reduce the wolf population. Poison also was a method of choice for those wanting to harvest fur-bearers to sell the pelts for money during the winter. By 1915, Bailey said, the wolves of the Kenai Peninsula were gone.

By around 1965 they were returning, thought to have emigrated from the mainland after wolves started receiving protection by the fledgling state government.

“The roles were kind of switched compared to today,” Bailey said. “Back then it was the federal government that was poisoning wolves, and the state of Alaska, at statehood, they changed the outlook on wolves. They made the wolf a big game species and they protected it and developed seasons. Today it is kind of the opposite.”

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Sign up and fly right — Archery league offers practice, competition

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jaron Swanson, 12, takes aim at a target while his father, Aaron, watches his technique as they practice their archery Saturday at the range in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jaron Swanson, 12, takes aim at a target while his father, Aaron, watches his technique as they practice their archery Saturday at the range in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Jaron Swanson, 12, looked downrange at his target and knew where he wanted to send his arrow. Now he just needs to make it happen. He tried to relax, took a breath and slowly exhaled, drew back on his bow and then held it, and held it — and held it a little too long.

“You don’t want to hold it too long, you’ll eventually start to shake,” said his father, Aaron Swanson.

Jaron took the advice. He drew down, shook his arm out a bit, re-sighted and drew back again, this time letting the arrow loose without much pause. A “thunk” roughly 20 yards away revealed that his dad’s advice had been as good as Jaron’s aim. His arrow was just a hair away from the bull’s-eye.

“That’s it. Good job. Just like that,” the elder Swanson said.

After Jaron had gone, Swanson let a few shafts fly down range, as did his other son, 15-year-old Brady. They were all close to their marks, which Swanson said was the point of being at the archery range, located in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna, early Saturday morning.

“The more arrows you shoot the more comfortable you are,” he said.

Wanting to stay sharp prompted the family to join a six-week archery league offered by the outdoor store.

“We’ve had the range for several years and a lot of people that seemed interested in starting a league, so we decided to give it a try,” said Brian Richards, store owner.

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Moose record shot down — No bull: 75 5/8-inch rack topples Soldotna man’s record after 20 years

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Heinz Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, is one happy hunter these days, what with the bull moose he shot Sept. 22, 2013, along the Yukon River near Stewart Island having recently been certified as the new Boone and Crockett world record.

That’s a feeling few hunters can claim, but it’s one with which John Crouse, of Soldotna, is familiar. His moose, taken in 1994 in the Fortymile River area, was the previous world record-holder, finally dislodged about 20 years later by Naef’s behemoth bull.

Naef was hunting by himself, more interested in winter meat than a trophy, according to the Boone and Crockett Club. He removed the antlers from the skull with a chainsaw, nicking them in the process, but they remained intact to measure 75 5/8 inches at the widest point — about the width of a king-sized bed. The left side had 17 points and a palm measuring 17 5/8 inches wide by 51 inches long, which is longer than the average shoulder height of a black bear. The right antler had 19 points and a palm measuring 23 6/8 inches wide by 50 7/8 inches long. The record was certified by a special judges panel convened at the Boone and Crockett Club Wild Sheep Foundation convention Jan. 24 in Reno, Nev. With a final score of 263 5/8 points, the bull has the largest antlers ever recorded for the Alaska-Yukon moose subspecies.

By just the antler spread, Crouse’s moose wouldn’t seem to measure up, at 65 1/8 inches wide. When he first spotted the bull, and even after shooting and butchering it, it didn’t occur to Crouse that he might have a record on his hands.

Crouse, a wildlife biologist, was living and working in Cordova at the time. This bull was by far not the widest antler spread he’d seen.

“The guy I was working for had an 84-inch Copper River rack hanging on the wall in our office,” Crouse said. “And so I walked up to (this moose) very happy thinking, ‘This is a nice, big moose,’ but I was not thinking record book at all because it’s mid-60s. My impression of records at the time was big, wide racks and I wasn’t familiar with the scoring system.”

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Common Ground: Duck, duck, loose terminology

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Scoter? Surf, white-winged or black? Or would that be a yellow nose? Don’t run afoul of waterfowl terminology.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Scoter? Surf, white-winged or black? Or would that be a yellow nose? Don’t run afoul of waterfowl terminology.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

An unquestioned law of the waterfowling world requires that any given duck has more than one name.

The descriptions of a particular duck change not because the duck has changed, but depend on the weather, location, time of day and ancestry of those in proximity. New names are often introduced only when a flock is coming into the blind at 30 or more miles per hour and the bird at issue is in range. For the hunter experiencing any first in the duck-hunting arena, indoctrination in new duck names is part of the initiation ritual.

Before I went on my first sea duck hunt, I consulted my bird identification book and waterfowl regulations for the area. I was going to be hunting, among other sea ducks, a large, stocky diving duck commonly called a surf scoter and less commonly called perspicillata.

The still photos were easy to identify. But the real skill in identification of waterfowl comes from boat men who are experienced at shooting drakes only on the wing. These same men are also experts at a game old duck hunters like to play on the book-learned sportsman.

My partner was throwing out a gang line of mallards that were hand-painted by our captain to look like surf scoters and long-tailed ducks. Since I could identify the decoys, I figured I could probably identify the live bird. My hunting partners were seasoned waterfowl veterans who might be happy to fill in the gaps in my understanding. What I should have done, in hindsight, was take my bird identification book with me and agree upon a vocabulary before I became part of a high-seas Abbott and Costello routine.

When we were set up in the boat blind, I could see a flock of black birds coming our way through a screen of camouflage.

“Scoters?” I whispered.

“Those are yellow noses.”

They were getting within range so I mounted my shotgun.

“You don’t want to shoot those,” the captain said.

“We don’t shoot yellow noses?” I asked. But before I could get clarification another group of three black ducks were coming in.

“Yellow noses,” the captain whispered. I didn’t mount my gun.

“Why didn’t you shoot?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Are we not shooting yellow noses?”

“Yeah, but those were drakes,” he said.

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No refuge for bear hunt — Public fired up about bear hunting closure

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It’s been more than a month since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency closure of brown bear sport hunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Oct. 26, but debate continues over whether this decision was reached for biological or philosophical reasons.

On Nov. 25 nearly 100 people — federal and state employees, representatives of conservation and pro-hunting organizations, as well as members of the general public for and against the closure — had an opportunity to share their views during a public hearing in Soldotna pursuant to the federal regulations with the emergency closure.

The refuge opened with a presentation by John Morton, supervisory wildlife biologist at the refuge, which detailed that the known human-caused mortality of brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula in 2013 was at least 70 bruins, of which 24 were adult females. This included a minimum of 43 bruins taken during spring and fall hunting seasons, 23 bears killed in defense-of-life-and-property shootings, and bears killed by agency actions, illegal takes or vehicle collisions. Of the 70, 38 were killed on federal lands.

“The total mortalities now represent more than 10 percent of the best available estimate of a total Kenai Peninsula brown bear population, numbering 624 bears,” Morton said.

This is a significant jump in recorded mortalities when compared to the past three decades of known data. While the legal harvest of brown bears has varied from year to year, in part due to changing hunting regulations, from 1973 to 2011 — which includes 34 years of open seasons — the average legal harvest of bruins was 11.3.

The 24 human-caused adult female mortalities in 2013 were focused on as an aspect of concern for a species deemed “a population of special concern” by the state in 1998, and one that DNA analysis has proven is genetically less diverse than mainland Alaska brown bears.

Also, Morton said, while the brown bear population estimate of 624 — up from the previous 250-to-300 estimate in place since 1993 — was determined by the refuge after an extensive, DNA-based, mark-recapture project conducted in 2010, that higher population estimate was essentially a snapshot in time, not one showing whether the population was stable, increasing or declining.

Morton said that a small proportion of subadult (2- to 6-year-old) females in the age distribution, as well as known low rates of yearling survivorship, suggested low recruitment into the overpopulation.

“Survivorship of adult female bears has been shown to be the primary driver of brown bear population dynamics,” Morton said. “Losing so many adult females will have immediate negative impacts on this population.”

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When eating game, beware the worm — Hunter sickened by undercooked bear

Photo courtesy of Sullivan family. Sully Sullivan was featured in a TV show after surviving a bout of trichinosis.

Photo courtesy of Sullivan family. Sully Sullivan was featured in a TV show after surviving a bout of trichinosis.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

For a hunter, having a taxidermal display of the hide of the head of an animal can bring back fond memories of the hunt. But for the family of Sully Sullivan, these recollections are not always as enjoyable.

“The hide is here on the floor and it’s an awful-looking thing,” said Joy Sullivan, of Nikiski, of black bear her husband, Sully, shot in July in a remote area near McGrath while rebuilding a burned-down hunting camp.

Joy is not opposed to seeing mounts around her house. Rather, her reasons for not liking to look at this particular hide are twofold. One, the bear was still shedding its winter coat, so the fur on the hide is a bit patchy and mealy. Two, the bruin nearly killed her husband, though it wasn’t through a mauling or any other near-death encounter with the bear’s sharp claws and gnashing teeth. It was a much more subtle threat than that.

Sully didn’t begin to understand the trouble he was in until nearly six weeks afterward.

“He started getting really sick,” Joy said. “He’s an extreme guy, so he doesn’t complain or get thrown off by little aches and pains, but he was really sore, to the point he was having trouble moving, and he had severe headaches.”

The symptoms continued for days and finally came to a head when Sully’s stiffness got so bad that he couldn’t even turn his head left or right without being in unbearable pain. Joy recommended he take a hot soak in an Epsom salt bath, but that only exasperated his symptoms.

“He became delirious, hallucinating and totally noncoherent,” Joy said.

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Outdoors great for kids, too

Photos by Joseph and Colleen Robertia. Grace, 10, and Billy, 12, Morrow, of Kenai, survey Resurrection Pass Trail on a bird-hunting through-hike over the weekend.

Photos by Joseph and Colleen Robertia. Grace, 10, and Billy, 12, Morrow, of Kenai, survey Resurrection Pass Trail on a bird-hunting through-hike over the weekend.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

On paper, the idea sounded like an exercise in masochism — my wife and I taking two dogs and three kids ages 12 and 10 years and one 6-month-old baby, on a four-day, three-night, 40-mile backpacking/hunting trip along the entire Resurrection Pass Trail, which runs about 33 miles from Hope to Cooper Landing.

As if this wasn’t crazy enough, we weren’t thinking of doing the trip in June or July when the weather is mild. We did it in October, last weekend, leaving our daily lives and all modern luxuries for a long weekend in what was predicted to be four days of freezing rain and possibly snow at the higher elevations.

Grace and Billy warm up in their sleeping bags in one of the many public-use cabins available to rent along Resurrection Pass Trail.

Grace and Billy warm up in their sleeping bags in one of the many public-use cabins available to rent along Resurrection Pass Trail.

Despite that the mountain tops along the way were already white as we were making the drive to be dropped off in Hope, I held faith in my belief that Alaska weather reports are about as dependable as a politician’s promise. Prepare for the worst, and you’ll generally experience far less than that.

Sure enough, we were ready for the worst, with food, clothing and gear suitable for a wintery pursuit, because preparation often is the difference between success and failure in any outdoors endeavor. But we did get lucky and enjoyed weather that was sunny to fair during most of the trip.

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Common Ground: Call of the mild — Summoning ducks not as easy as it sounds

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham, Luckily, there are other elements of duck hunting to enjoy, such as working with a canine companion, while mastering the finer points of duck calls.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham, Luckily, there are other elements of duck hunting to enjoy, such as working with a canine companion, while mastering the finer points of duck calls.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

Learning how to call ducks seems fairly simple. Like the harmonica, the duck call is a wind instrument that is said to be easy, cheap and sound great. When I heard the first sounds that came out of my finely tuned duck call, it sounded like drunkards retching in an alleyway.

“That doesn’t sound like a duck,” my friend said.

If there was ever a duck that needed the Heimlich maneuver, it just might come into my call. My calling repertoire included the whooping cough, the croup (a loud brassy barking cough that sounds like a seal), and the hurling BLARGH. After a few weeks of practicing my duck call, my skills had not improved, and there were seven seals, a walrus and a Coors truck in my driveway.

I decided to seek professional help. The call I used was a secondhand gift from a friend, who had used it successfully for many years. But when I presented my call to the master caller, his nose curled.

“What is that?” he said.

“It’s my duck call,” I said.

“What’s that green screw-in thing on the end?”

My call was manufactured in LaSalle, Ill., in the mid-1960s. The green knob on the end was used to adjust the pitch.

“Well, let’s hear it,” he said.

I put the call on my bottom lip like I was going to take a sip from a bottle and blew three times into the call, “Teh, teh, teh.”

The nose curled up again.

“That don’t sound like a duck,” he said.

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Brown bear hunt makes grisly scene — Hunters shoot, harvest bruins in closed Russian River area

File photo. Brown bears frequent the confluence of the upper Kenai River and the Russian River in the summer and fall. The area is closed to the discharge of firearms, but that didn’t stop hunters Sept. 5 from shooting and harvesting two brown bears in the area, in view of anglers and other people in the area.

File photo. Brown bears frequent the confluence of the upper Kenai River and the Russian River in the summer and fall. The area is closed to the discharge of firearms, but that didn’t stop hunters Sept. 5 from shooting and harvesting two brown bears in the area, in view of anglers and other people in the area.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It can be picturesque — the golden leaves of the trees bordering the fast-flowing waters of the Russian River, that is itself teeming with crimson-bodied sockeye drawing brown bears there to feed on the spawning salmon.

However, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and tourists alike were treated to anything but an aesthetic spectacle earlier this month when a few hunters shot the bears that have been frequenting the waterway for weeks, and then proceeded to gut, butcher and skin the animals on site.

On Sept. 5, U.S. Forest Service technicians observed two bears being taken by hunters within the developed recreation site, and within an hour of each other, said Bobbi Jo Kolodziejski, Russian River Inter-Agency Coordinator for the Chugach National Forest.

Kolodziejski’s office received several angry calls and emails from people who witnessed the bears being shot in what some of the callers knew was a closed area. Brown bear hunting on the peninsula opened Sept. 1 by state regulations, but the north side of the Russian River falls under Chugach Forest Service regulations, while the south side falls under Kenai National Wildlife Refuge regulations.

“Additional regulations apply on federal lands in the vicinity of the Russian and upper Kenai Rivers,” Kolodziejski said.

Discharging a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury or damaging property, is prohibited in or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area. It is also prohibited across, on or adjacent to a National Forest-system road or a body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.

“The developed recreation site in the Russian River area includes all boardwalks, access points and platforms along the Russian River Angler Trail,” Kolodziejski said.

That includes the portion of the Russian Lakes Trail that extends to the Russian River Falls viewing platform. Hunters should also be aware that these restrictions apply broadly to all National Forest System lands of the Chugach National Forest.

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Opening shot — Hunter finds success at home: 1st moose, 1st hour, 1st day

Photo courtesy of James Banks. James Banks, of Kasilof, makes burger out of a moose he shot on the opening day of moose season, within miles and minutes of leaving the house.

Photo courtesy of James Banks. James Banks, of Kasilof, makes burger out of a moose he shot on the opening day of moose season, within miles and minutes of leaving the house.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Opening day of moose hunting season is practically a holiday in Alaska, and just like there are sweet treats at Halloween or presents at Christmas, so does hunting bring rewards for those who have waited months, scouted for weeks and got up early on the opener to successfully set the crosshairs of their rifle scope on a bull.

James Banks, of Kasilof, left the house at 5:45 a.m. Aug. 20. Within minutes he did what many hunters are unlucky enough not to do all season — bag a bull.

Banks, a transplant to Alaska from Minnesota in 2006, grew up hunting in his home state, and said he has spent every fall since he arrived in Alaska pursuing game species.

“I have hunted all over the Cohoe-Kasilof area, and I hunt in the Kenai Mountains for black bear and sheep. I hunted last year but never saw any legal bulls. Saw a lot of moose, just no big guys,” he said.

Following research into moose population trends relating to the low ratio of bulls to cows, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game changed hunting regulations in 2011 so that spike-fork bulls were not allowed to be harvested. The legal bull size was also changed from having a 50-inch spread of three brow tines on at least on one side, to 50 inches and four brow tines.

But for this season, while the 50-and-four regulation still is in effect, bulls with a spike on at least one side are again legal to harvest. Banks said he was thankful for the regulation change.

“Last year was the first time in seven years I bought meat at the store, so I’m glad they brought back the spike rule,” he said.

Banks does his best to live off the land, catching salmon in summer and hunting various species in fall. When he hasn’t found hunting success, he said that helping successful friends pack out or process their meat has always been a fair trade to gain a little bit of wild game for his own freezer.

Moose have always eluded him, though, and as one of the most iconic species to hunt in Alaska, Banks said that he was determined not to have another season pass by without bringing down a bull.

“I had been driving around Cohoe and Kasilof for a week before hunting season. I also did recon in the woods and swamps in those areas. I had seen a lot of moose in that time, but I never saw any legal bulls until opening day,” he said.

In an odd turn of events, Banks spotted a spike just a few miles from his home on Cohoe Loop Road.

“I turned onto South Cohoe looking for a legal bull. I drove slowly, saw a cow, stopped and waited,” he said, hoping a rutting bull would be in tow, but it was not to be.

“Seeing nothing, I drove about five miles farther, then I saw him standing in the power easement,” he said.

It wasn’t a behemoth of a bull, like those seen on postcards with massive antlers of palms and a dozen brow tines protruding forward. But the chocolate-colored animal looked legal — as Banks spotted spike antlers on both sides. He had to be sure, though.

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Avoid fines, know the tines

Photos courtesy of Larry Lewis, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Changes to hunting regulations this season mean that a bull moose with three brow tines on one side, above, is illegal. A bull with a spike on one side, below, is legal.

Photos courtesy of Larry Lewis, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Changes to hunting regulations this season mean that a bull moose seen above is illegal. A bull with a spike on one side, below, is legal.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As hunting season progresses, so does the count of illegal moose killed on the Kenai Peninsula, either from hunters not making themselves aware of new regulations or not taking the time to be sure a moose meets the known requirements.

“The total is at 10 right now,” said Lt. Jon Streifel with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Soldotna, referring to bulls taken illegally in Game Management Units 7 and 15.

“Some were by hunters who misunderstood the regulations and thought forks were legal. Others were hunters who thought they had a spike, then got up on it and saw it was actually a fork, and some were bulls not quite at 50 inches,” he said.

The harvest of spike-fork bulls used to be legal, but out of concern for skewed bull-to-cow ratios, hunters were not allowed to harvest spike-fork bulls in 2011 or 2012. The legal bull size also was changed from having a 50-inch antler spread or three brow tines on at least one side to 50 inches or four brown tines on at least one side.

After the Alaska Board of Game met last winter, the 50-and-four regulation remained in effect for the current hunting season, but it was decided that bulls with a spike on at least one side would again be legal to harvest. Forks-only bulls would not, though.

“As long as it has a spike on one side, it can have anything on the other, including a fork,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“It can be difficult in velvet to tell,” Lewis added. “But the bottom line is, if you’re not sure of what you’ve got, you shouldn’t pull the trigger.”

Jeff Selinger said that the regulation change to add spikes but not the forks goes back to managing the bull-to-cow ratio. According to Fish and Game data, while diet and genetics both play a factor, it seems that roughly half of all yearling bulls will develop only spikes and half will develop forks.

“Prior to the elimination of the spike-forks, we saw a high percentage of yearling animals being taken as a fork on one side and a fork-or-larger on the other, especially in GMU 15C where we were seeing as much as 60 to 70 percent of the harvest was forked bulls,” he said.

hunt regs Spike possible fork on one sideDropping the forked bulls from being legal forces hunters to concentrate on the spike bulls, and allows forked bulls to enter the population and remain there for a few more years.

“We’re trying to manage for 20 bulls to every 100 cows,” Selinger said. “So, while it’s nice for hunters to bring home meat, if they’re not sure a bull is legal, they’re better off letting it go, because if this gets out of hand and illegal takes get excessive, we could see our ratio slip again, which could lead to ramifications or restrictions to future moose-hunting opportunities.”

Most of the hunters who made mistakes turned themselves in, according to Streifel.

“And we really encourage people to come forward if they’ve taken a sublegal animal. Action will still be taken, but it will be greatly tempered,” Streifel said.

Streifel said that authorities are not as understanding of those who fail to report their mistake.

“We will look at those as much more serious offenses,” he said.

Streifel added that meat harvested from moose taken illegally is forfeited by the hunter and given to charity, which is another reason troopers encourage self reporting.

Troopers are investigating one wanton-waste kill so far this season. At Mile 108 of the Sterling Highway, an illegal moose was found shot and left at the side of the road.

“It looks like someone shot it, saw it was illegal, and just walked away, which is repulsive,” Streifel said.

Troopers believe the kill happened on Aug. 28 and are asking the public for information about the incident. Those with information can all Fish and Wildlife Safeguard at 800-478-3377.

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