When the hunting season on the Kenai Peninsula opens for moose on Aug. 20, hunters should expect things to be fairly similar to the way they've been for the past few years.
"Everything is going to be really similar. The one thing we're anticipating is going to happen is, there will probably not be a brown bear season this year," said wildlife area biologist Jeff Selinger of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"Brown bears are on a point scheme, and the annual harvest (on the Kenai Peninsula) is six sows. At last count, we're real close to reaching that six. What that means is that the season could potentially open, but if, before next June 30, we lost another sow, we'd be over our quota. Me being new, I'm going to err on the side of caution."
Five bears were killed during the month of July, both in defense of life and property and in traffic accidents.
Fish and Game reported that approximately 600 moose were taken on the peninsula last year, and the slight decreases in harvest numbers from year to year since 1996 coincides with some tough winters and some changes in habitat.
Selinger said that Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis reported a high calf mortality rate, particularly in Game Management Unit 15A.
"That's where most of the (population) downswing has come from," Selinger said. "There's been a loss of hardwood regeneration. Willow is a mainstay for moose. As the forest matures, and disturbances are minimal, there's less and less willow. As willow's mature, their digestibility decreases."
Selinger said that spruce bark beetle activity and some logging practices have affected moose habitat.
The caribou season on the Kenai Peninsula opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 20. Last year, hunters took nine bulls and 43 cows from the Killey River herd, but with a substantial increase in the size of the herd, Fish and Game earlier this year expanded the Killey River hunt to the portion of Game Management Unit 15B that is within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, combining the Killey River herd with the Twin Lakes herd for management purposes.
Other animals targeted by hunters on the Kenai Peninsula include black bears, mountain goats and sheep as well as small game and fowl.
Before targeting an animal, hunters should read regulations. Hunting isn't as simple as it once was. Take a look, for example, at the moose hunting regulations on the Kenai Peninsula. There are four distinct geographic divisions of Game Management Unit 15. In subunit 15A alone, there are five different moose hunts, each with their own rules and opening and closing dates.
However, if you read only what's appropriate for your hunt, you generally don't have to read more than a half dozen sentences
Hunts are classified by harvest ticket designations such as Registration Permit hunts, Drawing Permit hunts, Tier II Permit hunts and Harvest Ticket hunts. Harvest ticket hunts are further subdivided by the Resident and Nonresident or subsistence and no-subsistence designations.
In all, the Kenai Peninsula (GMU15) has seven geographic subunits containing 11 different seasons for five separate classifications of hunters, pursuing five different configurations of moose.
In GMU 15C, the Goat hunt in the western peninsula, there are five seasons listed for five separate classes of hunters.
n Be prepared: Make a checklist for packing before departing for the woods. Include appropriate survival gear, camping equipment and all the equipment needed to field dress your kill.
Before packing anything, know how to use it, and make sure the item is in usable condition -- things have a tendency to break down after a year in storage.
Selinger had one more piece of advice.
"When you're out there, be safe and have fun," Selinger said.
Clarion file reports were used in this report.
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