Caribou highway hunting banned

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Archers no longer will be allowed to hunt caribou from the roadway along the Dalton Highway Corridor.

The Alaska Board of Game voted Thursday to prohibit all hunting within a quarter-mile of the road north of Fairbanks. In making its decision, the board cited growing concerns about road-hunting archers on the highway.

''I've heard a lot about people just jumping out of their cars and launching arrows,'' board chairman Ben Grussendorf said. ''I don't want people shooting from the road.''

The corridor is a 250-mile swath of the Dalton Highway from the Yukon River to the Arctic Ocean. It sits in the middle of the Central Arctic Caribou Herd's range.

The area is a magnet for archers because rifles are prohibited on each side of the highway for five miles while bowhunting has not been restricted. Bowhunters, however, must pass a proficiency shooting test before getting a permit to hunt the herd.

The restriction was narrowly adopted by a 4-3 vote during day seven of the game board's 10-day meeting in Fairbanks to consider changes to hunting and trapping regulations in the Interior.

The Central Arctic Caribou Herd numbers about 27,000 animals. It is one of the state's most heavily hunted herds because it is so accessible for bowhunters. It is not uncommon for archers to step off the road to shoot at caribou or to spot hunters dressing out caribou shot near the road.

Last year, archers reported taking 215 caribou in the corridor.

Biologist Bob Stephenson with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said he's fielded dozens of complaints from other hunters and tourists about unethical and irresponsible bowhunters in the corridor.

''Having a lot of people in competition using vehicles on a road is not a good type of hunting in the eyes of some people,'' Stephenson told the board.

Fairbanks bowhunter Rob Sylvester is the one who proposed the restriction to help preserve the image of archers and improve the quality of the hunt.

''It will help but we still need to work on educating hunters,'' Sylvester said.

Board member Caleb Pungowiyi of Kotzebue was one of the dissenters. He noted that there was no biological reason for closing the area.

''I don't think we should do this just because some tour bus goes by,'' he said.

Archers in the Dalton Highway Corridor also will be required to mark their arrows this year after the game board passed a proposal submitted by the Alaska Bowhunters Association. Bowhunters must now mark arrows with their bowhunter education certification card number.

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