FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Nearly 300 hunters this moose season will head out to the Tanana Flats with permits to shoot a calf moose.
But not all hunters with permits intend to kill a calf. Skip Olsen said he applied for the permit in hopes of saving the moose calves of Tanana Flats.
Olsen is one of a legion of Fairbanks hunters who are upset that the state is instituting moose calf hunts on the Tanana Flats. Drawing a calf permit and not using it is his form of protest.
''I know some other guys that did the same thing,'' Olsen said. ''I think it's an unethical hunt. We're trying to create more moose and calves create the population.''
The Alaska Board of Game established the calf hunts at its March meeting in Fairbanks at the suggestion of the Department of Fish and Game.
State wildlife biologists say the number of bulls in the Tanana Flats is dropping and the number of hunters is increasing. If hunters continue to shoot as many bulls as they have been -- more than 500 a year -- it will drive down the population, which has remained at around 10,000 moose for the last several years.
''It's hard for the bull population to sustain that kind of pressure,'' said state wildlife biologist Don Young.
John Giuchici is another Tanana Flats moose hunter who opposes the calf hunts. ''I've never heard of anybody targeting recruitment in the first year,'' he said. ''You get one bad winter and it wipes out the rest of the calf population. Then you've got one year with absolutely no recruitment.''
The calf hunts also were a way to appease hunters in light of new antler restrictions in Unit 20A this season. Instead of being able to shoot any bull, hunters on the Tanana Flats will only be allowed to shoot moose with spike-fork or 50-inch antlers or antlers with three or four brow tines on at least one side, depending on where they are hunting.
''It was to provide hunters an opportunity to fill their freezers with tighter antler restrictions,'' Young said explaining why Fish and Game proposed the calf hunts.
A 5-month-old moose calf will weigh in the neighborhood of 300 to 350 pounds and will likely yield 100 to 150 pounds of meat, said Young.
While some hunters like Olsen are vehemently opposed to the calf hunts, others don't seem to mind, judging from the demand for permits.
Only two of the eight hunts had leftover permits and most of those were for a hunt on the Wood River that would require flying in.
Fish and Game issued a total of 274 calf permits for eight different hunts. With a success rate in the neighborhood of 50 percent, which is what biologists are figuring, that would mean a harvest of approximately 150 calves.
The mortality rate for moose calves on the Tanana Flats is approximately 50 percent, Young said. That means 1,500 of the estimated 3,000 calves in Unit 20A will die. Most will either starve or be killed by wolves.
''We felt we could harvest these calves and have no effect on the overall stability of the population,'' he said.
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