Category Archives: moose

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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Haze beware — Pellet gunshot thought to cause moose death

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Moose are best viewed from a distance but they don’t always observe that rule, sometimes showing up on roads, in parking lots and around homes. But even if they’re the ones getting too close for human comfort, people are still the ones held responsible for managing those interactions.

“A moose that is attacking you — or your family, or your dog — you can defend yourself and kill that moose, but you have to be willing to defend your actions for a DLP (defense of life or property kill),” said Larry Lewis, wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “But, a moose just being in the yard isn’t a justifiable reason to kill it.”

Jimmy Dean Rice, of Soldotna, found this out the hard way after being charged by Alaska Wildlife Troopers for a Class A Misdemeanor for illegally taking a moose during a closed season, after he allegedly shot at a moose with a pellet gun this summer.

With a court case pending, Dean Rice declined to comment on the situation. According to a report filed with the Kenai District Court, at about 11:30 p.m. July 16, Rice used a Beeman Model R9 pellet gun — a .177-caliber firearm that shoots at approximately 1,700 feet per second — to shoot a moose that was acting “weird.”

According to court documents, Rice said he planned to shoot the moose in its “ass” to just scare it away, but after shooting the moose it ran a few yards, fell down and died. Large amounts of blood were reported coming from the moose’s nostril and mouth.

Trooper investigation found the dead moose to be approximately 20 yards from Rice’s residence in the tree line, and according to Rice’s own statement the moose did not pose a threat to life or property at the time of the shooting. Troopers noted that Rice’s yard was well manicured with flowers and bushes, which might have drawn in the animal.

Rice stated to troopers that a number of things could have happened to the moose prior to him shooting at it, but added that, while he had “no intention of killing the moose,” he was likely the “culprit,” and added that killing a moose with one shot from a pellet gun qualified him as either the luckiest or unluckiest person in the world.

Lewis said that this is not the first time he has heard of someone killing a moose with a firearm they thought would only haze the animal.

“I remember taking a pellet out of a moose a few years ago that had bled out on a driveway off of Poppy Lane after it had been hit in the femoral artery,” Lewis said. “People need to understand, anything that comes out of the barrel of a firearm has lethal potential.”

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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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Aww-some sight — Moose calves herald start of summer

Photos by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose nurses her twin newborn calves in a field along Robinson Loop Road in Sterling on Tuesday. Moose calves tend to be born in about a four-week period from mid-May to early June. They can stand soon after being born, and begin to nurse almost immediately. Mother’s milk is their main sustenance for about the first month of life.

Photos by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose nurses her twin newborn calves in a field along Robinson Loop Road in Sterling on Tuesday. Moose calves tend to be born in about a four-week period from mid-May to early June. They can stand soon after being born, and begin to nurse almost immediately. Mother’s milk is their main sustenance for about the first month of life.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Along with the return of salmon to area rivers and the parade of motor homes down the Sterling Highway, the appearance of newborn moose calves is the third sure harbinger of the arrival of the summer season on the Kenai Peninsula. Calves started showing up last week, as they tend to do in a four-week period around mid-May to early June, though some give birth later if they bred later.

An average moose calf weighs about 40 pounds when born, and twins typically weigh a few pounds less than single cows. Calves can stand and take tottering steps on their wobbly legs a few hours after birth. But unlike caribou calves, which must be able to move soon after birth to keep moose calves 4up with their roaming herd, moose cows and calves tend to stay fairly stationary after calving, which is easier for cows to protect their young.

Calves begin nursing soon, almost immediately, after birth. They can start eating vegetation within a few days, but mom’s milk remains their main source of sustenance for about their first month.

Moose calves have a tough go of it, as they are a prime source of prey for bears, wolves and other predators. And humans can be a cause of stress, and even death, this time of year. There are a few things people can do to make help make sure they aren’t an inadvertent contributing cause of calf mortality.

  • Keep your distance. Few things rank higher on the cute meter than newborn animals, and moose calves are a particularly endearing sight — with ears, eyes and legs out of proportion to their downy bodies. But view them from a respectable distance. Getting too close could cause calves and cows stress, or could even cause them to flee — potentially across a road or away from the relative safety of the calving spot the cow has chosen. Also, if cows and calves are already moving, don’t block their path, with yourself or your vehicle.
  • Don’t assume a calf is lost or orphaned just because you see it alone. The cow might be unseen nearby, and could reunite with its calf even after a seemingly long absence of a day or more. Interfering with a calf might only interfere with its mother rejoining it. Even if a calf is alone, the harsh reality of nature is that calves have their place in the wild food chain. Calf survivability is important for the health of the moose population, but reality is that the majority will not survive the summer.
  • Be safe driving. That’s a good rule any time of year, and it remains true in calving season. Always drive with lights on and be extra vigilant at twilight and in the evening. Watch not only the road but the sides of the road, as moose can be difficult to spot when standing camouflaged against vegetation, and can choose to cross a road with no apparent reason or warning.
  • Restrain your pets. Newborn moose calves aren’t able to defend themselves and are particularly susceptible to injury and death from other animals. Moose cows are particularly protective of their new young and will be more aggressive than usual this time of year, meaning even a merely curious dog could get stomped if it gets too close.
  • Reduce attractants. Moose are meant to eat natural browse — the young trees that are sprouting as we speak. But they sample garbage, pet food, garden growth and other items inadvertently provided by humanity. Don’t let them. Non-natural foods can be difficult for moose to digest, causing sickness and even death. All the rules for reducing bear attractants around a home hold true for moose, as well.

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On the hunt — Game board loosens bear, wolf, moose restrictions

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Moose numbers may not be what they once were on the Kenai Peninsula, but hunting regulations moved a small, spiked step closer to what they have been in the past, as the Alaska Board of Game enacted measures liberalizing harvest opportunities for several species and extending predator control measures on the Kenai Peninsula, during its Southcentral Region meeting March 15 to 19 in Kenai.

Moose

The board passed several measures relating to moose hunting, meant to balance harvest opportunity while protecting the diminished population.

Moose numbers in Units 15A and 15C have fluctuated over the decades but have shown consistent decline since the 1980s, largely due to limited habitat availability — particularly in 15A in the northwestern central peninsula, and also predation, road kills and hunting pressure. Two years ago the board enacted strict hunting regulations to limit the moose harvest and improve the ratios of bulls and calves to cows, with only bulls with a 50-inch-or-greater antler spread or four brow tines on one side being eligible for harvest. According to ongoing studies done by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, moose are still struggling in 15A.

“To me the most telling statistic is the declining moose abundance trend we are seeing. Not only are we well below our intensive management objective, but our population is declining annually with no sign of stabilization or growth,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation.

There’s better news in Unit 15C, south of Tustumena Lake, where moose numbers are higher and the bull-to-cow ratio has improved since 2011.

“We have information that suggests habitat is not limiting moose production in this unit to the extent that it is in 15A. Bottom line is that we’re below harvest goals but within population goals,” Vincent-Lang said.

Proposal 143 suggested loosening the hunting restriction to bulls with a 50-inch or greater antler spread, or four brow tines or a spike on one side — essentially moving some of the wiggle room in the rebuilding moose population to potential harvest.

“It’s been stated that you can’t bank moose, and I think that’s very true, particularly in 15A,” said Jeff Selinger, Kenai area wildlife manager for Fish and Game. The department recommended adoption of the amended Proposal 143.

Not all hunters want the extra wiggle room in harvest, however. Several members of the public and representatives of area Fish and Game Advisory Committees requested that the board leave the 2011 restriction in place to help the moose population continue to rebound.

“An overwhelming majority of the moose-hunting public supports leaving the restriction as it is. They’ve seen it has had a positive impact. Let’s leave it in place a good four to five years to make a big impact,” said Bob Ermold, with the Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Committee.

Board members, rather, saw the population as stable enough to support additional harvest.

“There has been public testimony asking us to retain (the current regulation). That being said, I think it’s important to retain the structure but allow opportunity to harvest a few more moose. I think that’s an appropriate step for now,” said Nate Turner, vice chair.

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Board seeks moose boost — Few solutions seen to declining browse habitat

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A Kenai Peninsula hunter testifies Friday to the Alaska Board of Game during its Southcentral Region meeting held Friday through Tuesday in Kenai.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A Kenai Peninsula hunter testifies Friday to the Alaska Board of Game during its Southcentral Region meeting held Friday through Tuesday in Kenai.

The Alaska Board of Game worked its way through the Kenai Peninsula portion of its agenda Tuesday, liberalizing hunting and trapping opportunities on moose, wolves and bears.

The following are measures regarding moose adopted at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Proposal 143 — Modify the bag limit for moose to one bull per year with an antler spread of 50 inches or greater, or a spike or four brow tines on one side in Game Management Units 7 and 15. The season will stay the same — Aug. 10 to 17 for bow hunting and Aug. 20 to Sept. 20 for the general hunt. The requirement that antlers be sealed by a department representative within 10 days also is retained, except in the Placer River/Placer Creek permit hunt, which is open to retention of any bulls. The proposal also adds a definition of a spike as “antlers of a bull moose with only one tine on at least one side; male calves are not spike bulls.”
  • Proposal 147 was adopted, lowering the intensive management population objective for moose in Unit 15A from a range of 3,000 to 3,500 to a range of 2,000 to 2,900, and lowering the intensive management harvest objective for moose in 15A from a range of 180 to 350 to a range of 120 to 290. The proposal retains Fish and Game’s ability to conduct aerial shooting of wolves in Units 15A and 15C as a measure of predator control to benefit moose populations, although this has not been implemented since the board first OK’d aerial wolf kills at its meeting in 2011. This proposal also approves allowing Fish and Game to employ or contract with trappers to target wolves and increase their harvest within the established wolf-trapping season and related regulations, as another measure of predator control.
  • Proposal 148 reauthorizes the antlerless moose season in a portion of Unit 15C — the roughly 100-square-mile bench area around Homer.
  • Proposal 150 failed. It would have allowed the use of motorized vehicles to retrieve harvested moose meat during certain hours — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and during the “dark of night” — in the Lower Kenai Controlled Use Area.
  • Proposal 151 failed. It would have reinstituted a closure of the Palmer Creek/Lower Resurrection Creek areas in Unit 7 to moose hunting. The area, near Hope, will remain open to moose hunting.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Thirty years ago, moose on the Kenai Peninsula were legendary for their size and abundance. Now, however, it appears increasingly likely that those historic days are, indeed, history, as land and wildlife managers wrestle with measures to boost the dwindled ungulate population.

In the halcyon days, the peninsula’s moose population was estimated at around 4,000. Nowadays, it’s far less than that. A recent census, conducted just a few weeks ago by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, estimates 1,600 moose in Game Management Unit 15A, covering 1,300 square miles of the northwestern Kenai Peninsula. That’s down from about 2,000 in 2008, and that, in turn, is about 40 percent less than census estimates in the 1990s. Just four moose were harvested by hunters in 15A last year, and just four the previous year, down from the once-typical 350 to 360 a year. That’s in part due to the smaller population, and in part due to decreased hunter participation after the Alaska Board of Game enacted stepped-up hunting restrictions in 2011 to protect the population.

The Board of Game met in Kenai from Friday through Tuesday to consider proposals covering Game Management Units in Southeast, Cordova, Kodiak, the Anchorage area and the Kenai Peninsula. Nine proposals were submitted regarding moose on the peninsula, aimed at finding a balance between bolstering the population with the hope of increasing hunter opportunity.

The proposed changes are largely incremental — measured tweaks to conditions and regulations, which, if results come as intended, would effect incremental changes to the population. But the biggest contributing factor to the decline in moose population is far more substantial, than incremental, in scale.

Moose are not werewolves, yet there is believed to be a silver-bullet solution to the most significant problem of their decline. What’s needed, say land and wildlife managers, is fire, but not just any fire. This would be the Goldilocks of wildland fire — hot enough to burn down to mineral soil but not too hot so as to burn out of control, widespread enough to regenerate tens of thousands of acres of forest that has matured beyond the point of providing good moose browse, yet not so big that it poses too big a threat to human health, habitation, development and transportation, and occurring under just the right conditions and timing so as to not overtax available firefighting resources.

That solution is proving to be as mythical as werewolves.

“The Kenai has had harvest well in excess of 1,200 moose alone, historically, and you’re going to hear from a lot of folks who have been here a long time and remember the good old days and want those days back,” said Ted Spraker, chair of the Board of Game and retired Kenai-area Fish and Game wildlife biologist, in starting off the meeting Friday.

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