There is less than a week left to hunt moose such as this young spike-antlered animal seen feeding in the Mystery Creek area recently. Wildlife authorities say there have been few hunting violations this year.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
With less than a week left to the Kenai Peninsula's moose hunting general season, wildlife authorities are remaining vigilant in their efforts to ensure that hunting regulations are being followed.
"It's been a pretty quite year with the exception of just a few incidents, but we have to wait until the last week," said Lt. Glenn Godfrey with the Alaska State Troopers Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement in Soldotna.
While a few permit and special hunts will run later into the year, the general season for moose closes Thursday, and Godfrey said this last week is typically when some hunters get desperate to down a bull and violate the rules.
"At the end of the season people are more apt to shoot without taking a second look at an animal, then when they get up to it, they see what they did, which was shoot a sub-legal animal," he said.
Legal bull moose have either a rack with a 50-inch spread or more between the antlers, or at least three brow tines on either side or one antler on either side that is a spike (one point) or a fork (two points). In the case of the spike-forks, the antler on the other side can be any configuration.
Godfrey said three-quarters of the moose taken illegally are the result of hunters who didn't evaluate the animal long enough before taking their shot.
"People will often rush their shot, especially near dark, but the best thing to do is take your time and look at the animal from the side and head-on," he said.
Godfrey said, an animal that looks like it has three brow tines in a profile due to an overlap in the field of view, may only have two or even one tine on each side when viewed from the front, so it's worth waiting to see the animal from enough sides to ensure a shot will be legal.
Already this season, several hunters have found this out the hard way, with one of the most recent incidents occurring last Wednesday when a hunter in the Funny River area shot a bull that ended up having only a 48-inch antler spread and two brow tines on each side.
Godfrey said rather than turning himself in, the hunter salvaged the meat and antlers from the carcass and proceeded to keep them as though it were a legal animal, but someone that saw the wrong-doing reported it to wildlife authorities.
"Someone got his license plate number, and we were able to follow up on it," he said.
As opposed to self turn-ins, which Godfrey said there are typically six to 12 of a year, those who are caught for taking sub-legal animals without stepping forward to admit their mistake can face much stiffer penalties, such as higher fines, more jail time and more seizures of hunting weapons, to name just a few possibilities.
"If someone makes a mistake and turns themselves in we're much more lenient than if we find out about it from other means," Godfrey said.
There are many other violations that occur each year but with less frequency, of which the most serious of all game offenses is to waste the edible meat of a big game animal, Godfrey said. Often called "wanton waste," this is an A misdemeanor offense and carries a minimum penalty of seven days in jail and a $2,500 fine.
"There have been two moose shot and wasted, both about two weeks ago. One was found in the Mystery Creek area (in Sterling), and the other was off of Escape Route," he said, the later location referring to the rural road that runs from Kenai to Nikiski.
Godfrey said while it was a shame these two moose one cow and one small male with the antlers sawed off were shot illegally, he said the bigger shame was that the meat from these animals was wasted.
Any game animal taken illegally remains the property of the state, and while hunters are required to salvage the meat and antlers of moose and transport them immediately to the nearest Alaska Department of Fish and Game or Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement for surrender, the meat of these animals often is given to the needy.
"If we know about it right away we can give the meat to charity, but finding out about it days later is no good because it's spoiled or covered in maggots," Godfrey said.
In the hopes of preventing illegal hunting activity, the Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement composed a list of common hunting violations, that in addition to taking sub-legal game and wanton waste, also includes failure to validate the harvest ticket immediately after taking a big game animal; failure to have a valid hunting license in actual possession while hunting; shooting from, on, or across a roadway; and exceeding the bag limit (typically done by taking an animal for another member of the family or hunting party).
Other less common, but still serious, offenses include violating the "Same Day Airborne" law, which requires a hunter to wait until 3 a.m. of the following day from when they last flew before continuing to hunt.
This regulation ensures some ethical standards for "fair chase," since it is believed by waiting until the next day, an animal has a chance to move from its last known location.
Trespassing also is an issue during hunting season, according to wildlife authorities, and hunters are encouraged to know the boundaries of state land so they do not trespass on private property.
For more information on hunting legally and ethically, copies of the current hunting rules and regulations can be obtain from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna.
To report illegal hunting activity, call troopers at 262-4453 or the statewide hot line at (800) 478-3377.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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