From the rod bending excitement of catching king salmon on the Kenai River, to the satisfaction of stalking a bull moose through the thick brush and trees around Tustumena Lake, Alaska abounds with outdoor activities.
However, as fishermen and hunters start to slow down as they grow old, they may find it is much more difficult to secure the wild fish and game that has been their regular table fare for years.
That’s where the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Proxy Fishing and Hunting programs come in.
“When used properly it’s a good system that benefits all parties involved without the resource suffering,” said Jeff Selinger, area manager for Fish and Game in Soldotna.
These programs allow a person, the proxy, to harvest fish and game for another person, the beneficiary, who is unable to harvest meat for themselves.
“It’s relatively common here,” Selinger said. “Our Soldotna office fills out hundreds of proxy forms each year, and there’s probably slightly higher numbers for fishing proxies, over hunting proxies.”
State regulations are specific as to who may qualify to have a proxy. Beneficiaries, by law, are either: blind; 65 years of age or older; or are 70 percent or more disabled.
“Beneficiaries we’ve seen in the past have been disabled veterans, people that have been in car accidents, people in wheel chairs, and people that have multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy,” Selinger said.
He added that not everyone that applies will be granted a proxy, since several people try to take advantage of the programs annually.
“People try to abuse the program. We’ll get calls from folks that say, ‘I’ve got a halibut charter booked this weekend and my 2-year-old son can’t reel one in yet. Can I get a proxy to fish for him?’ and that’s just not what the program was designed for,” Selinger said.
While the law is specific in who may be a beneficiary, Selinger said that proxy fishermen and hunters are made up of a wide variety of people.
They share a common love for fishing and hunting that may go beyond what their own game limits will allow for, so they opt to help others, both as a good deed but also to satisfy their desire to catch a few more fish or bag an additional bull or buck.
“The proxies represent a good cross section of the community, although 35- to 45-year-olds are probably the most representative group since they’ve got parents that are reaching 65 years of age or older,” he said.
Proxy fishermen can sportfish, personal-use fish, subsistence finfish or subsistence shellfish for a beneficiary, but must deliver fish or shellfish before fishing again and they are limited to two bag limits per day. Because halibut fisheries fall under federal management, anglers still are limited to one bag limit per day.
“Just because someone is elderly or disabled and can’t catch wild salmon, that doesn’t mean they still don’t like wild salmon. This program ensures that they don’t have to go without or eat purchased, farm-raised substitutes,” Selinger said.
Proxy fishermen also must have in their possession: their sportfishing license and the license or Fish and Game card of the beneficiary; all applicable permits for both the proxy and beneficiary; and the completed Proxy Fishing Information Form, signed by Fish and Game.
Proxy hunters must follow similar guidelines. They are subject to all hunt conditions and requirements that would apply to the beneficiary if they hunted or killed the game personally, and must deliver all parts of harvested game to the beneficiary within 30 days after harvesting.
“Moose, caribou and deer are the species you can proxy hunt, but not sheep and goat since this species tends to be more sought after more for trophies than for subsistence,” Selinger said.
Proxy hunters must have in their immediate possession: Their own hunting license as well as the beneficiary’s license, harvest ticket, drawing registration and-or tier permit for the species being hunted; and the completed Proxy Hunting Authorization Form, signed by Fish and Game.
Proxies may fish or hunt for one beneficiary at a time, and only Alaska residents may participate in the proxy programs.
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