Refuge Hunting Briefs

Posted: Friday, August 09, 2002

Rules for using aircraft to hunt

With the big-game hunting season beginning soon, pilots are reminded that the Federal Aviation Administration has established a 2,000-foot-above-ground-level-minimum-altitude advisory for aircraft flying over Kenai National Wildlife Refuge lands. Operation of aircraft that results in harassment of wildlife or hunters is a violation. Certain wildlife such as Dall sheep, mountain goats and migratory birds are particularly sensitive to low flying aircraft and should be avoided.

In recent years numerous complaints regarding low flying aircraft have been received by Refuge officials, particularly in Game Management Unit 15A and 15C. Federal Aviation Administration Regulation 91.79(c), regarding safe altitudes, requires aircraft, (except when landing or taking off) to maintain an altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.

Hunters traveling into remote areas are reminded that air drops of equipment are not authorized. Refuge lakes with nesting Trumpeter swans present are not authorized for aircraft landings until Sept. 30 unless otherwise noted. However, aircraft may land on Harvey Lake and Beaver Lake after Sept. 11, even if swans are present. Prior to Sept. 11, and as an alternative to Harvey Lake, pilots may land on any of the three nearby lakes in Sections 29, 30, or 31.

In addition, several lakes and rivers within the refuge are closed to aircraft landings, as are most nonwater areas of the refuge. A brochure is available at the Refuge Headquarters showing areas of the refuge open to aircraft landings. Also, within Game Management Unit 15A, state hunting regulations do not allow moose hunters to be aided in any way by aircraft until 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 11. The aircraft restriction within Game Management Unit 15A includes transport of moose hunters, moose meat, equipment and moose spotting.

For information on aircraft regulations, hunting seasons and general refuge regulations, contact Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters at 262-7021.

Refuge waterfowl and small-game hunting

Small-game hunting opens on most areas of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area opens to archery hunting only for small game on Oct. 1. Hunters are reminded that discharge of firearms is not authorized within 1/4 mile of refuge campgrounds, trail heads or other developed facilities, and that target shooting is not authorized anywhere on the refuge. State regulations also prohibit discharge of firearms from or across roads.

Snowshoe hare populations continue to decline at many refuge locations and the hunting prospects are only fair. Spruce grouse and ptarmigan hunting prospects are only fair. Spruce grouse and ptarmigan hunting should be good during 2002 at many locations.

Waterfowl hunting season begins on Sept. 1, and hunters are reminded that both a federal and state migratory bird hunting stamp are required, in addition to a state hunting license.

The outlook for waterfowl hunting for fall 2002 is good, with above average numbers of ducks and geese being produced the past several years.

Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to carefully review Southcentral Alaska sunrise and sunset tables, shooting laws, bag limits and migratory bird-hunting regulations prior to hunting. Hunters are reminded that the Chickaloon Bay estuary, a popular waterfowl hunting area, is within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Aircraft are required to land within designated areas and all-terrain vehicles are prohibited on all refuge lands including tidally influenced areas within the Chickaloon Bay area. ATVs may not travel further east than the western most beach located along Turnagain Arm. ATVs traveling on the critical habitat of the estuary are subject to seizure and appropriate legal action.

For persons seeking alternatives to fall hunting season, try hiking one of several refuge trails. Most trails, including Hideout, Hidden Creek, Fuller Lakes, Skyline, Seven Lakes, Kenai River Trail and the Swan Lake/Swanson River Canoe Portages are in good to excellent condition.

Visitors hiking or berry-picking during September are encouraged to wear bright color clothing to enhance their visibility to hunters.

For information on various hunting regulations, refuge access regulations or fall outdoor recreation opportunities, contact Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters at 262-7021.

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