Winter moose hunt in unit 17A may open by Thursday
The Department of Fish and Game may open the winter moose season in Unit 17A north of Togiak as soon as Thursday. Unlike Units 17B and C, which run through December, the month-long winter hunt in 17A is managed with more flexibility, said area wildlife management biologist Neil Barten.
"The 31 days can be slid around anytime between Dec. 1 and the end of February. So the folks in Togiak watch the weather and give us a call when they think it's the best opportunity for them to get moose. Right now, they're thinking using skiffs will work pretty well," he said.
He is planning to open the hunt by Thursday, and is working with the Palmer office to get permits generated. Those should be available later this week in Togiak, Dillingham and Manokotak. There will be a bag limit of two moose (for the year), with separate permits for antlered and antler-less moose.
"We're going to allow probably up to 30 cows, and maybe 20 antlered bulls, and see how that goes," Barten said.
The moose population in Unit 17A is healthy, according to the state and federal biologists who monitor the herd. It may actually be a little bigger than the habitat can support. Recent surveys, Barten said, all put the population around 2,000.
"[That's] well above our population objectives, and that's why we do have a more liberal season in the winter with the antler-less harvest, (those will mostly be cows) as well as antlered bull season. Everything's looking really good there, like often happens when moose move into a new area and spread out and become real productive."
Biologists are less confident in the health of the moose herd in Unit 17C, mainly in the hunting areas close to Dillingham. Concerned by the large number of permits issued and the good weather, Barten closed the 17C winter hunt early this month to protect the herd. He knew of 19 bulls taken.
"Which is lower than the average of 28 over the past five years," he said. "But last year we only took 22 for the full season."
The December-long hunt in Unit 17B is still open, but Barten said he did not know of any bulls taken there yet, likely on account of poor winter travel conditions. That hunt closes at midnight on Dec. 31.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game asks all hunters to quickly report their kills, and return the information on their registration permit whether they were successful of not. That can be done in person, by mail, over the phone, or online at: www.adfg.alaska.gov.