FAIRBANKS (AP) -- For serious moose hunters, the season starts long before the Sept. 1 opening.
''People who put their time in and are out scouting around before the season are more successful than people who say, 'It's September 1. I'm going moose hunting,''' said assistant area management biologist Jeff Sellinger at Fish and Game in Fairbanks. ''The more preliminary work you can do the better.''
Besides poring over topographical maps of the area you plan to hunt, Sellinger advised going to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and looking at aerial photos of the area.
''On aerial photos you can pick out a stand of aspen or birch as opposed to a spruce stand,'' Sellinger said. ''The topo map will just show you a big green area and you don't know what it is.
''The more you can do before the season the better. If you've got an idea where you want to hunt just get out there and look around a little bit.''
All that takes is some time, which is free. You don't have to own an airplane, riverboat or four-wheeler to scout for moose before the season.
''Even if you're just out picking berries, keep your eye out for moose,'' Sellinger said. ''Get out on trails and look for tracks and droppings. By late August you'll start seeing some (tree) scrapes around.
''You don't need to be a biologist to get to know a critter. It's how much time you put in to studying the animal. There's a lot of information and resources available to hunters, especially with the Internet these days.''
Experts agree that the biggest thing you can do to boost your chances of getting a moose is avoid the crowds, which isn't necessarily difficult.
''Instead of driving up and down Chena Hot Springs Road, get off the road a bit and poke around,'' Sellinger said.
Someone using a square-stern canoe to get up smaller river tributaries like the Chena, Chatanika and Salcha can find bulls that hunters who stay on the main channels miss. Likewise, using a four-wheeler to tour trails off the Elliott and Steese highways is better than driving up and down the road. Just hiking a half-mile off the road sometimes is enough to separate you from the crowd.
''Most people are unwillling to go half a mile from their access point,'' said biologist Bob Hunter. ''It's just a matter of becoming creative.
''There are areas like the upper Chena River where, if a person was willing to put effort into it, he could get into some real nice moose in pockets that generally don't get hunted,'' Hunter said.
Likewise, if you're floating down a river, check topographical maps and aerial photos to find pothole lakes and sloughs and take the time to stop and prowl around. If there's a ridge nearby, go climb it and glass for moose.
''When the leaves are still on the trees a moose can be 30 yards off the river and you'll never see it,'' Sellinger said.
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