Wolf Song of Alaska News


Board of Game Nixes Extending Season for Local Sheep Hunters

Fairbanks hunting guide Virgil Umphenour, who baits wolves while guiding moose hunters on the Koyukuk River, is happy the season will open in unit 24 on Sept. 1 instead of Nov. 10

Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 4, 2008

Alaska Board of Game members Ben Grussendorf, middle, of Sitka, Craig Fleener, left, of Fort Yukon and Dick Burley of Fairbanks follow along as proposals are submitted during their meeting Monday, March. 3, 2008, at Pike Waterfront Lodge. The Game Board, made up of seven persons, is in the midst of an 11-day meeting in Fairbanks to make hunting and trapping regulations in Alaksa. The meeting started on Friday and will run through Monday.

The state Board of Game on Monday shot down a proposal that would have given Alaska sheep hunters a leg up on their out-of-state competition.

The game board rejected a proposal to open the sheep hunting season for resident hunters on Aug. 8, two days earlier than current regulations allow, and close it on Sept. 25, which would have added another five days to the season for Alaska hunters.

Board member Ted Spraker from Soldotna said the regulation should be applied on a statewide, not regional, basis. Even on a statewide basis, Spraker said he probably wouldn't support it.

"It extends the season when we're looking at declines across portions of sheep country around the state," he said. "If you add seven days to a 41-day season I think you're going to have more harvest."

After spending 2 1/2 days listening to public testimony, the seven-person board that makes hunting and trapping regulations in Alaska got down to the meat of the matter by beginning deliberations on specific proposals that have been submitted to change hunting and trapping regulations in Interior game management units.

The game board is in the midst of an 11-day meeting in Fairbanks. The meeting started on Friday and will run through Monday.

The proposal to extend the sheep hunting season for resident hunters was submitted by Tom Lamal of Fairbanks, who told the board it would give Alaska hunters a better chance to bag their trophy ram before guides - non-resident hunters must hire a guide to hunt sheep - can begin hunting. Guided non-resident sheep hunters have a much higher success rate than Alaskan sheep hunters, he noted.

While he is a strong advocate of providing as much hunting opportunity as possible, board member Craig Fleener from Fort Yukon pointed out that the sheep hunting season is already 41 days.

"That's a pretty long season," he said.

Using a graph that detailed sheep harvest around the state by week by week during the hunting season, wildlife biologist Doreen Parker-McNeil from the Department of Fish and Game told the board that most of the sheep harvest occurs in the first week of the season. The average harvest for the first week of the season is 245 sheep, while the average harvest for the remaining five weeks is 83, 92, 53, 43 and 40, respectively.

"In general, most of the effort is concentrated at the beginning of the season," she said.

It was the earlier opening that Lamal, who submitted the proposal, said would benefit hunters most because they wouldn't have to compete with guides. But some board members questioned that premise. Guides are typically in the field with their clients before the season opens, it was noted.

"The guides are going to come in when they normally do and set up camp to protect their turf," Bob Bell of Anchorage said.

An earlier opening could also potentially increase user conflicts, Spraker noted.

"I can guarantee you there's going to be guides flying around searching for sheep while those residents hunt," Spraker said.

Some board members also were concerned about adding five days to the end of the season. In the event of an early snowfall, sheep would move to lower elevations where they would be more available to hunters.

"There could be some good hunting at the end of the season if we have some bad weather," said Spraker.

New board member Lew Bradley of Wasilla was the only board member to vote for the proposal, though he said it wouldn't be a good idea this year because guides already have their clients booked.

"I'd like to see it in the future," said Bradley, himself an avid sheep hunter.

The Game Board will continue deliberations on proposals today concerning hunting along the Dalton Highway and in the McGrath area.

In other action on Monday, the board:

* Rejected a proposal to allow the use of scent lures for black bear baiting from a boat.

* Passed a proposal to liberalize and align beaver trapping seasons and methods in the Interior by making a Sept. 1-June 10 season in most areas, except in Units 20B and 20D surrounding Fairbanks and Delta Junction, where the season will be Sept. 25-May 31.

There will no longer be a bag limit on beaver, and firearms and bows will be allowed to take beaver under a trapping license in several additional units - though not in the Fairbanks or Delta urban areas.

Anyone who shoots a beaver must salvage the meat or the hide of the animal for human use - defined as bait, dog food, human food or fur. The proposal also makes trapping beaver legal in Badger Slough, where local residents have experienced flooding problems due to the work of beavers.

Fairbanks hunting guide Virgil Umphenour, who baits wolves while guiding moose hunters on the Koyukuk River, is happy the season will open in unit 24 on Sept. 1 instead of Nov. 10.

"I usually fly 100 pounds of dog food to Huslia to bait wolves," he said. "Now I can use beaver. It's the best bait there is for wolves."

Contact staff Writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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