This year the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will use a drawing system to allocate black bear bait sites. In the past, black bear bait permits were issued on a first-come basis. Interested parties would wait in line at the Refuge headquarters office to select a site. Many eager hunters would camp out at the Refuge headquarters parking lot for two or three days before permits would be issued, just to increase the likelihood of getting their desired site. In some years, the parking lot resembled a pre-game tailgate party.
In an effort to provide all hunters a fair opportunity, the Refuge is now using a random drawing process to determine the selection of bait cells. Individuals will be allowed to submit a special use permit application from March 12 to April 6, which will then be entered into a drawing to be held April 7 at the Refuge headquarters. The season will open on May 1 and go through June 30. Applications are available at the Refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road or can be downloaded online at http://go.usa.gov/QdT. Applications must be submitted by the filing deadline in person, by mail, or by fax (907-262-3599). Applicants must be present during the drawing to immediately select a bait cell. The remaining unselected bait cells will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis after the drawing process.
Under a special use permit, bear baiting on the Refuge is only allowed in the area west of the Swanson River Road, and north of Swan Lake Road to Paddle Lake. Refuge maps with areas open to black bear baiting and boundaries will be available at the Refuge headquarters. The permit is free and is non-transferable, but requires that the applicant possess a valid Alaska State hunting license and has completed a black bear baiting clinic sponsored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Contact ADF&G directly for times and dates of bear baiting clinics, or visit their web site for a schedule of online classes.
With a Refuge black bear bait permit, individuals are permitted to bear bait "exclusively" in a pre-designated, one square-mile area with no more than two bait stations. A Refuge permit only gives an individual the "exclusive rights" to hunt over bait, not for general hunting in the area. Individuals wanting to hunt over another person's bait station must have the consent of the permit holder, and must have their name and hunting license number added to the special use permit before hunting that bait station. All bait stations must be clearly posted and marked with a warning sign that includes the permittee's hunting license number and all individuals authorized to hunt over the station, as well as the ADF&G and Refuge black bear bait station numbers. Bait stations may only be maintained and baited by the person who registers the site.
Here are a few common violations that can be avoided. First, the Refuge requires that all black bear bait permittees submit a harvest report to the Refuge by July 15th, whether they hunted over bait or not. Cutting down green trees for a desired shooting lane is prohibited, as well as the construction of permanent tree stands with the use of nails, screws, or bolts attached to trees. In Game Management Unit 15, fish or fish parts may not be used as bear bait. Failure to remove all equipment, bait and litter at the end of the baiting season is also a common violation. Finally, it should be mentioned that there is no "defense of life or property" justification for shooting a brown bear that comes to your bait station. Be prepared to stay in your tree stand for a while and have an additional deterrent source with you such as pepper spray. Please refer to the ADF&G hunting regulations for additional bear baiting regulations.
Why hunt black bears over a bait station? Bear baiting allows a hunter to observe a bear first and decide whether or not it is the animal he or she wants to harvest.
This should reduce the likelihood of sows with cubs or juvenile bears being harvested unintentionally. Bear baiting can also be beneficial to hunters of all ages. Youth hunters, as well as individuals new to the sport of hunting, have the opportunity to observe and learn subtle differences in characteristics between boars, sows and juvenile bears.
Finally, black bear bait stations allow an individual to make a well thought-out, clean and humane shot. I encourage all bear baiters to extend an invitation to a young person or non-hunter to accompany them to view and observe some of the bears that may visit their bait station.
It's a chance to get up close and personal with a bear in the wild!
Joe Williams is a law enforcement officer at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. You can find more information about the Refuge at http://kenai.fws.gov or http://www.facebook.com/kenainationalwildliferefuge.