By Jenny Neyman
Though the 2015-2016 hunting season doesn’t really start until fall, the third Friday in February is an important precursor for hunters who hope to bag a big game animal in Alaska. It was drawing permit hunt announcement day — otherwise known as Christmas for sportsmen.
“Well for everybody but me, apparently, I didn’t even get coal this year,” said Ken Marsh, wildlife information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
He, along with tens of thousands of other hopefuls, applied for the limited number of drawing permits allocated to hunt big game animals in Alaska for the 2015-2016 season. Unlike general hunts, in which any eligible hunter can participate, many big game species in many game management units of the state are only huntable by those lucky enough to win a randomized computer lottery drawing for the scant number of permits available. The number of permits up for draw each year depends on the numbers and health of the targeted wildlife populations, as determined by Fish and Game surveys. It’s a way to provide harvest opportunities on stocks that can’t support a lot of hunting pressure.
“It’s a sustainability thing. When you have a population of wildlife but it’s not big enough to basically satisfy a general hunt where everybody can go out. Say we can only allow 25 antlerless moose to be taken in a certain area to maintain sustainability of the animals in that area, we would have a draw hunt for 25, rather than just open it to everybody and go over our quota and have some sustainability issues,” Marsh said.
The application period was open from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, and applications could only be submitted online. There’s a nonrefundable fee to apply for each hunt, in most cases $5, but that can vary depending on the hunt. The money supports the state’s wildlife management operations.
“Those go to the Fish and Game fund and that helps us manage the critters, and do our jobs,” Marsh said.
The first step in applying for drawing permit hunts is to study up on the rules and regulations. There’s a lot of fine print that requires a fine-tooth comb. All required licenses and fees must be taken care of, which vary depending on whether a hunter is an Alaska resident. Applicants may only put in for three hunt numbers per species, or six hunt numbers for moose, though only three may be antlerless. A hunter can only get one drawing permit per species per regulatory year. If you are drawn for a hunt, you’re ineligible to be drawn for it the next year. Confused? You’d better not be, or your application will be disqualified. Six percent of the applications submitted last year were disqualified out for errors.
Success at drawing a permit does not guarantee success at the hunt. If you don’t get your animal, you’re out of luck. Permits are nontransferable, so if you’re drawn for a permit and end up not being able to hunt it, you’re also out of luck. And if you fail to turn in your required hunt report one year, you’re severely out of luck the next.
“Well, you’d shoot yourself in the foot by failing to return a hunt report. So say I got a permit this year to hunt moose and for whatever reason I don’t turn in my hunt report I be would be ineligible the next year to draw for any,” Marsh said. Continue reading