The following appears in the December issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
BY PAUL D. ATKINS
Depending on how you look at it, November in the Arctic can be a happy time or sad time for most of us. Hunting is done, the berries are picked and it’s time to relax or wonder. For me I’m kind of caught in the middle.
The fishing trip upriver in early August seemed like a long time ago, and the few that we did catch were not nearly enough to make us happy. All those grizzly encounters in September still lingered in our minds as well, especially wandering through the kunnichuk and catching the faint smell of bear hide on just about everything. It was a great time.
However, my mind wandered and I started to think about the moose I didn’t get. It’s depressing, to say the least. But it wasn’t because of not trying. We searched everywhere, but they simply weren’t there.
My freezer was not as full because of it, so my thoughts turned to that “what’s next?” feeling. Luckily for us, the next cycle begins and it’s time to start thinking about the future.
For most of us this is the way it works, but if you’re like me and hunting is truly your passion, then you’re already starting to think about next season, which gives me hope. Everyone needs goals.
For instance, I’ve been thinking about doing something totally different next fall. For sure I’m going to do a DIY flyout caribou, moose and bear hunt with my son Eli, plus take my hunting partner Lew and my good friend Garrett along with me. It will be one for the ages. I also plan to head back to Kodiak for deer and, if everything goes right, Dall sheep will be on the menu. I just need a little luck and time.
FOR MANY OF US,whether we live here in Alaska or in the Lower 48, we find ourselves wanting, or sometimes wishing, we could hunt a particular species in a particular area.
What may be common for some might be a dream for others, whether it’s sheep in the Alaska Range, goats on Kodiak or maybe a coveted brown bear tag down south. All are obtainable with good fortune and some long-term planning. But some of these hunts require a certain tag that can only be obtained through a drawing of some kind.
Each year the state of Alaska has a permit drawing. As in most states, hunters can apply for certain tags to hunt a particular species in a specific area. Some are easy to draw and others downright difficult to get. I personally put in for several hunts each year, hoping chance will find me and I’ll draw that special tag. Then when spring rolls around, I anxiously check the computer to see if I drew it. I’ve been pretty lucky throughout the years, except on a couple.
Here’s how it works: Each year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game makes available a certain number or permits to be applied for and obtained by hunters, both residents and nonresidents. The number of tags allotted is based on animal population surveys that biologists do each year. These surveys determine the number of animals that can be harvested from a certain area. They then allow hunters to apply for these permits through a drawing.
The application period for applying for these hunts started on November 1 and continues through December 16 this year, with the results being posted usually in late February or early March. The drawing is species-specific and unit-specific.
All Alaska species are included, with some of the more coveted tags being Kodiak brown bear, Dall sheep, goat, muskox and – the one that has eluded me for years – buffalo. Moose are also included, with caribou and grizzly tags available in some areas.
Before November 2012, all hunt applications were done via the pen-and-paper route, but these days all applications have to be done online. It’s easy and ADFG’s website is easy to understand and navigate. Each hunt is number specific and hunters can submit up to six different hunt numbers per species.
Each submitter must have a current Alaska hunting license to apply and hunters who are successful may only receive one permit per species, with the hunts all non-transferable. These applications do cost money – ranging from $5 to $20 per hunt number – but it is reasonably cheap compared to most states.
Nonresidents have a few more rules than do residents, particularly when it comes to certain species. Nonresidents must have a guide to hunt brown bear, grizzly, Dall sheep and goats, but moose and caribou do not require a guide – yet.
Here’s something to remember when you start applying for certain tags in some of the more remote country.
It is suggested that if you are applying for a permit that requires a guide, you should get in touch with those who do guide in the area long before the application period begins. This way you can be assured they’re available if you do draw. Hunters should only select reputable guides who are registered with the state.
Hunters who plan to apply for a permit that doesn’t require a guide still need to do their homework. Most of these hunts will require a transporter of some kind. Whether going in by boat or by plane, you’ll need to be in contact with someone who services the area. Most transporters book early and often. If you’re lucky enough to get a permit, you’ll definitely need their help. Remember that a transporter isn’t a guide; their job is to get you safely from point A to point B. Most transporters are great, but not all are created equally, so make sure you do your homework.
Also, don’t forget that if you’re 16 years or older you must have completed a basic hunter education course to hunt in Alaska. Additionally, some areas require a bowhunting education course, which all bowhunters must complete.
LIKE USUAL, MOST WEEKENDS this coming season will still find me chasing caribou and moose, and hopefully I’ll be connecting on one or the other and filling the freezer. More importantly, I’ll get to be with friends and share camps in places that only Alaska can provide. Plus, who knows: I may get that bison tag yet.
To those thinking about the future, I hope you’re successful in drawing the tag or tags you want. Life is too short to just stay home and watch. ASJ
Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He’s had hundreds of articles published on big game hunting throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a regular contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.
Sidebar: QUICK TIPS TO APPLY FOR 2020-21 DRAW HUNTS
Here are a few strategies when it comes to applying:
Look over all the hunt permits offered and find what interests you. You can even look at detailed maps on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website to get a better perspective.
Apply early; if there is a mistake, ADFG will contact you and help you correct it.
Choose a hunt with high permit numbers. It has been my experience that you can’t go wrong with most hunts here in the state. However, some are a lot more challenging than others.
Make sure your application is complete. Getting the correct information in the correct boxes, typing in the correct license number and then paying the fee – all will result in a better chance for being successful.
Choose as many species as you feel comfortable applying for and can afford. I usually apply for several each year and usually draw one, and sometimes none.
Don’t give up. If you don’t draw this year, then try again the next. You never know what can happen. And besides, you won’t get that tag unless you apply.