On Sunday, it begins. Hunters will be out looking for moose along the Kuskokwim River. In Zone 1 of Unit 18, the season is a week long. It starts Sunday, Sept. 1 and ends Saturday, September 7.
Patrick Jones, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Bethel, says that the hope is to harvest around 180 to 200 bull moose during that time.
“Seven days guaranteed,” Jones promised. “It won’t close early. This is a change from the past. In the past, we did a quota hunt. So when we reached 170 to 180 moose, we would close the season. We’re going to do a seven-day season. That should put us around 200 moose and 180 moose in Zone 1.”
The Department of Fish and Game expects around 1,400 people to be out hunting for moose in Zone 1 of the Kuskokwim during the first week of September.
“This the 11th year of the hunt, and the last 10 years we’ve averaged 1,400 people. That’s a lot of people,” warned Jones. “So it’s really important for us to be careful. Make sure you know what you’re shooting at. Make sure there are no people behind it. Just be aware there are a lot of people out there and be very careful.”
The season for Zone 2 in Unit 18 also has a firm closure date this year. It runs from Sept. 1 to 30. RM16 permits are no longer available at local stores, but are still available online at http://www.hunt.alaska.gov.
You can have a proxy hunter if you are 65 or older or can’t hunt because of a physical disability, but that requires additional paperwork. In addition to getting a hunting license and a permit, you will also have to get a proxy form. That can be done online, or by calling the Fish and Game office in Bethel at 907-543-2433. And to hunt legally, Jones says, the person proxy hunting for you will have to carry all that paperwork in addition to their own permit and license.
“You can hunt for yourself, and you can proxy hunt for one person at a time,” explained Jones. “If you finish that hunt you can go get another proxy and hunt for somebody else.”
On the federal side, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a more flexible system where there are no age limits. It’s called a “designated hunter,” and you can contact them at their office to find out how to fill out that paperwork by calling 907-543-3151.
Moose hunting in the Kuskokwim area should be good this year. There are more moose than ever. Jones thinks that the moratorium years back seems to have helped grow moose numbers in the area.
“Before we started the moratorium, we counted all the moose on the Kuskokwim and we counted 60. Now we’re probably getting close to 3,000 moose in the Kuskokwim, so we’ve really grown. We’re about halfway towards where we could probably have. We could probably have about 40 percent more moose out there, so we’re still trying to grow it. As long as people leave the cows alone on the Kuskokwim, there’s good things in our future,” Jones said.
Over on the Yukon River, in the area known as the Unit 18 remainder, there are so many moose and so few people hunting them that it’s open season on cow moose.
“We’re really trying to slow down the growth or stop the growth,” said Jones, “And so we’re encouraging cow harvest. That’s really what we’re doing. And we do that by only letting people shoot a max of one bull. We would prefer people to shoot two cows, but you can shoot one antlered bull and a cow or two cows, but shooting cows with calves and calves is not allowed in those hunts.”
Also, unlike the Kuskokwim where you have to be an Alaskan to hunt the moose, outsiders can get a license to shoot moose on the Yukon. Jones says that the department needs the extra help to bring moose numbers down. The season along the Yukon is longer too. It opened in August, and with some changes in the rules, the season there will continue through March 15, 2020 on state lands and April 30, 2020 on federal lands.