Alaska Hunting Seasons
A successful Alaska big game hunt will be the result of understanding the targeted species, from the best seasons to the best locations.
Alaska is a state rich in animal and therefore, hunting, diversity. Most Alaska state and federal land, military land, state and federal parks, and state refuges are open to hunting, with the exception of national parks and monuments. Hunters should obtain permission before hunting on private lands or on regional native corporation lands.
While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game organizes hunting grounds into 26 Game Management Units, the main big game hunting regions follow the main geographic and climate regions in Alaska.
The North Slope or Arctic region and Western Alaska are known for their moose, caribou, bison, wolf, musk ox, and some bear hunting possibilities.
The Interior has moose, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, wolves and bears to a lesser degree.
Southcentral Alaska has many of the others previously listed, in addition to mountain goat and wolverine.
Southeast Alaska has populations of the previously listed species with excellent Sitka blacktailed deer hunting opportunities.
Detailed information for the Game Management Units in Alaska will be useful when hunting.
Alaska is home to ten types or species of big game animals, each with unique hunting situations.
The black bear is widely distributed in Alaska, with over 100,000 present throughout the state. The are most common in the forested areas, but not on the Seward Peninsula, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, north of the Brooks Range or Kodiak Island. The annual statewide harvest in 2007 was 3,250 bears.
In addition to color, the grizzly or brown bear is much larger than the black bear. While there are only about one-third as many brown bears as black, the 2007 harvest still numbered nearly 2,000. They can be found throughout the state except for several island chains, including many of the Aleutians and those in the Bering Sea. Bear hunting seasons occur in the spring and the fall in most GMU's.
Kodiak Island brown bears can be hunted in the spring or fall. Spring brings longer days for more time to hunt, but many hunters prize their fabulous coat color in fall.
The most popular Alaska big game animal is the moose, with nearly 8,000 harvested every year. They range from the Sikine River in southeast Alaska all the way north to the Colville River on the Arctic Slope, living along major river systems and shrub-filled areas.
Approximately 22,000 caribou are harvested each year in Alaska. That number pales in comparison to the total population that approaches one million spread out over 32 herds across the state. Caribou hunting season begins in August, with most of the hunting occurring then and in September.
Another type of big game, and popular hunting target, is the Dall sheep. Only mature rams can be taken, and only in August and September, for recreational hunting. In 2007, over 900 sheep were harvested. Hunting for Dall sheep is quite a privilege. For example, in the Tok Management Area, approximately 2,500 hunters apply for Dall sheep permits each year, but only around 100 or so are awarded one.
Sitka black-tailed deer are the most popular big game species in southeast Alaska. Over 12,000 are harvested each year. Hunting season occurs in the spring and fall, with greatest harvest amount during the fall rut periods, which can extend through December 31.
Mountain goats inhabit the most difficult terrain of all Alaska's big game animals. They occupy the higher altitude portions across southeast and southcentral Alaska, as well as Kodiak Island. 518 mountain goats were harvested in 2007.
Roosevelt Elk are another non-native species to Alaska, transplanted from Washington in 1928. They can be found on several islands, including Afognak, Raspberry, Etolin and Zarembo.
The plains bison were introduced to Alaska in 1928 from Montana. They number over 900 in four herds that range freely, with the largest herd centered on Delta Junction. Hunting for bison is necessary to control their numbers and managed through a draw system. The draw for the Delta bison averages about 15,000 applicants for 100 permits. Statewide, approximately 92 bison are taken each year.
One big game animal often overlooked is the musk ox due to its location. But over 3,000 of the huge creatures live in Alaska, most in the Arctic region. Over 250 musk ox were harvested in 2007.