One way to turn a hunt into a disaster is by failing to have a good knowledge of the hunting regulations.
Fortunately, the regulations for the Kenai Peninsula haven't changed much since last season, according to Ted Spraker, area biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.
Cow moose hunts in the Skilak Loop and Homer areas were eliminated due to the harsh winters of the past two years, Spraker said.
"As far as hunts go, those were the only changes for the peninsula," he said.
The regulation book does contain some significant changes that apply statewide. The definitions for "bait," "brow tine" and "salvage" have changed, and definitions for "antler" and "antlerless" have been added. Bow hunters will want to review the new archery equipment requirements, because the definitions for archery equipment have been substantially changed.
In the trapping regulations, the lynx season is shorter, Spraker said. Previously open Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, it's now Jan. 15 to Feb. 15. Snowshoe hares are in a downward cycle, and lynx are keyed to that cycle. A couple of years from now, the lynx season probably will be closed, he said. The lynx season and bag limits for lynx taken on a hunting license remain the same as last year (Nov. 10 to Jan. 31, 2 lynx).
The above isn't a complete list of the changes adopted by the Alaska Board of Game during the past year. To be certain you're hunting legally, read the new book before going afield.
Judging from what Spraker says happens in the field, hunters either don't read the regs at all or they don't understand them. Anyone who doesn't understand a regulation can call the local Fish and Game office, he said.
A bull caribou wanders across the tundra.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
One thing some hunters seem to have trouble understanding is the boundaries of the game management sub-units, particularly during archery season, Spraker said.
"We have an archery season (Aug. 10 to 17) in Units 15 A and 15B," he
said. "It's open in Units 15A and 15B, but not in Unit 7 and 15C. Yet, we have hunters wandering down Tustumena Road and Cohoe Loop. Both of those roads are in Unit 15C, south of the Kasilof River. They should be hunting north of the Kasilof River."
An ongoing problem is with hunters failing to leave evidence of the animal's sex naturally attached, Spraker said.
"With bears, they fail to leave external organs -- evidence of sex -- on the hide," he said. "They always like to cut the penis sheath off, or if it's a female, they'll cut the vagina part away. They bring the bears in to have them sealed, or, worse yet, they leave the bear at a taxidermist, and we go to seal this bear and there's no evidence of sex on it."
This is far from a new regulation, Spraker said. Fish and Game has required evidence of sex to be left naturally attached to brown bear hides since the agency first began sealing bears -- brown bears in 1961 and black bears in 1973.
The same problem occurs with moose, deer and other big game, Spraker said. If you're hunting for a species that allows the taking of only one sex, you must keep enough of the sex organs naturally attached to part of a rear quarter to show the animal's sex. Antlers are not considered evidence of sex. The only exception is Dall sheep, for which horns are legal evidence of sex.
If you're hunting in an area where it's legal to take animals of either sex, for caribou for instance, you don't have to worry about having evidence of sex, Spraker said.
The Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna has several videos hunters can check out for free. Some are designed to help hunters identify the sex of animals. One shows caribou at different angles and distances. At the end, there's a pop quiz, Spraker said.
"On the Kenai, we have an area open as cows only, a drawing-permit hunt," Spraker said. "We issued 80 permits for that hunt. The video is a big help to hunters who haven't looked at many caribou. We have another for identifying the sex of brown bears."
Another video available for checking out is "Bear Aware." Spraker highly recommends this one for anyone wanting to know how to act around brown bears.
"It's really well done," he said. "I use it in all my bear talks, when I go somewhere and give a brown bear safety workshop. It's a good educational tape."
Every year, a few hunters mistakenly kill moose that don't fall within the spike-fork/50-inch rule. To help hunters become more adept at identifying legal antlers, Fish and Game produced a video, "Is This Moose Legal?"
Hunting regulation books are available free, wherever licenses are sold, and at the Department of Fish and Game office, at 34828 Kalifornsky Beach Road, in Soldotna. For further information, call the agency at 262-9368.
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