The Alaska Board of Game wrapped up its spring meeting in Fairbanks on Sunday on its ninth day, after tackling hundreds of proposals and, apparently, doing its best to maintain game populations, while providing opportunities for people to hunt--and for the state to stay out of court.
The board was wise to delay decisions on predator control until game managers can provide sufficient documentation so future plans do not go the way of the existing program, which was stalled by a court action earlier this year but reinstated days later after paperwork was put in order.
Proxy hunting arose as an issue illustrating how complicated the board's role can become.
The practice was established by the board in 1993 as a way for hunters to provide for others who are elderly, blind or disabled. Relatively few permits were issued.
But flags were raised as the number of proxy hunters climbed, especially in Game Management Unit 13, where a Tier II hunting permit system awards points based on longevity and experience hunting in the area. In the past six years, about 700 Nelchina caribou have been harvested with proxy permits.
While the majority of those hunters came from urban areas like Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Kenai and Fairbanks, that doesn't mean that all from urban areas abused the system. Most likely, it is simply reflective of the state's population centers, where most hunters live, and where elderly and disabled people would move to be closer to health care.
However, there were undoubtedly cases of abuse and the board did well to tighten the restrictions by allowing proxy hunters to hunt only during antlerless or any-bull hunts and Tier II hunts. Key provisions also have proxy hunters destroy the trophy value of the antlers on animals taken by proxy and those on any animals taken for themselves on the same hunt. Also, a person is allowed to serve as a proxy for only one species per season in Unit 13.
Another provision that likely will be filed in the "nice try" category, would demand a proxy hunter in Unit 13 be eligible for the Tier II Nelchina Caribou hunt or be a relative of at least second-degree kindred to the proxy.
The board's attorney advised the second-degree kindred rule likely would not hold up in court, but the board made its intent clear.
Proxy hunting is meant to help those families who truly need the assistance. It is not to be used as a means to find loopholes in hunting regulations or to establish individuals as community hunters for neighborhoods or villages.