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By Dan Rudy 

Despite bounteous start, moose season set for average


Submitted Photo

In the Stikine River area, 14-year-old hunter Hank Voltz shows off the moose he shot on opening day, Sept. 15. It was the boy's first ever.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported the first half of the moose season has generally been going well for the Petersburg-Wrangell-Kake area.

ADFG wildlife biologist Rich Lowell reported a total of 54 bull moose had been checked in by the end of week two, on Sept. 28. The hottest spots have been on Kupreanof Island, where 17 moose have been harvested. Eight of those were taken in the Kake area. Hunters in the Stikine River area had 15 confirmed harvested by the halfway point; Mitkof Island, 10; Thomas Bay, seven; and one each at Kuiu Island, Farragut Bay, Virginia Lake and Woewodski Island.

An additional moose was reported taken during the second week since the initial report, but the location was unavailable. Hunters have five days from the date of kill to present antlers from harvested moose to ADFG, and so may not show up in the results until the next week of reporting.

The total compares favorably to the mid-point of last year's season, when some 51 moose had been reported killed. That season went on to be the second-highest recorded harvest on record-106 moose- after the 109 taken in 2009. However, initial reports of week three for this year put the total at around 77, which puts the season on track to be at the better end of average.

Lowell explained that harvest chronology for the moose hunt varies from year to year, but generally most bulls are killed during the first half of the season, with the success rate declining during the second.

While numbers are good, of continuing concern to state officials is the number of moose taken which do not comply with local antler restrictions. A high harvest of seven illegal moose in the first week was proportionally double what is expected, and though there were no illegally taken moose during week two, Lowell reported five more have been killed during week three. In Wrangell itself one was reported killed last Thursday, but by the season's mid-point most have been taken on Mitkof Island.

Lowell hypothesized the uptick in illegal harvests may be due to Southeast's rising renown for its yearly moose hunt. By now one of the largest such hunts in the southeastern panhandle, he said the season has started to draw the attention of hunters from further afield who may be unfamiliar with local restrictions.

The antlers of area moose also vary in complexity, with a number of factors-genetic, nutritional, environmental-contributing to a higher number of deformities. Regulations specify that a bull must have a spike or forked antler, a 50-inch-or-greater antler spread, and either three or more brow tines on one antler or two or more tines on both antlers.

To accurately identify and count brow tines, ADFG literature recommends bulls be viewed from the front. A hunter viewing a bull from the side runs the risk of counting main palm points as brow tines. Brow tines emerge from the brow palm or near the base of the antler and typically project forward, according to ADFG.

While the proportion of illegally harvested moose has been higher than desired, Lowell said incidences have been somewhat evenly distributed around the district. If it deems it necessary, ADFG may close the season for some sections before closing day on Oct. 15.

"There will be at least some advance notice," Lowell added.

The department encourages those hunters who have already taken a moose, and those who do not intend to hunt during the remainder of the season, to turn in their hunt reports while the information is still fresh in their mind.


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