Fall: It's the season for hunting
The game is on for moose, brown bear, goat, deer and waterfowl, and Haines hunters are heading out into the forests, rivers, lakes and mountaintops of the Chilkat Valley to find and take their quarry.
The Tier II subsistence moose hunt opened Sept. 15, and seven legal bulls had been taken through Wednesday morning. Three met the spike-fork requirement, and the other four had at least three brow tines. Bulls with an antler rack of over 50 inches are also legal.
Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Stephanie Sell said the target for this season is 20 moose, though that number is liable to change as the season goes on. “As we start to approach those 20 bulls, we’ll kind of decide what we’re going to do then.”
The season ends Oct. 7, but even though it’s off to a hot start, Sell and local moose hunters don’t believe it will reach the target before its scheduled end.
Good weather and the fact that the season opened on Sunday likely contributed to the initial bump, said Donnie Turner, a moose hunter here for 35 years. “That’s the way the season is designed, to self-limit. The hunt starts to get slower and slower, and there will be three or four days without seeing any legal animals.”
Turner headed out to 8 Mile for the opener with four other hunters, but didn’t see any legal bulls.
Al Badgley, who hunts about eight miles up the Kelsall River, has seen 11 moose so far, only one of which was legal. Badgley spotted the animal from about a half-mile away with his scope. “Somebody shot it before I could,” he said.
Badgley hunts with Don Braaten and John Newton, and if any of the three bag a moose, they split it three ways. “If one moose is taken, you get one-third of a moose. If two moose are taken, you get two-thirds of a moose, because for most families, a whole moose is a lot of meat,” he said.
Badgley said the early harvest doesn’t mean there won’t be enough moose for the rest of the hunters. The season usually starts off with an early bump and then moves to a slow trickle, he said.
“There are a lot of people that scout and a lot of moose come in right off the bat, because people have seen the moose and they know it’s legal, so they follow it and get it,” he said.
Moose hunters aren’t the only ones trekking into the backcountry. Goat hunting season in the Takshanuk Range and along Haines Highway opened Sept. 15.
Resident Erik Stevens, who is participating in his second hunt this year, said running along the ridges after the white, bearded creatures appeals to his mountain-climbing side.
“It’s a difficult hunt, which I appreciate. You have to run up the mountain and chase after these goats and really put some work in,” Stevens said.
Stevens and friends Spencer Douthit and Jeff Moskowitz went goat hunting above 13 Mile recently and saw a couple of nannies with kids and only one billy.
“We came back goatless. We had a good little adventure and had a lot of fun. I had a good shot at a goat at one point, but I wasn’t able to take the shot because Spencer had the gun,” Stevens said.
Stevens said he hopes to head out again in a couple weeks, but will likely try another location. “Everyone has their secret spots they don’t want to reveal.”
The Haines-Skagway area is divided into three sub-units, and smaller areas within those, each with its own “point system.” Nannies count as two points, and billies count as one. Once a point quota is reached in an area, Fish and Game closes it, as it did Sept. 17 for a small southern portion of the Takshanuk Mountains after one billy was shot there.
The closed area ranges from 10 Mile to town.
“We only allow one point out of there. It’s really low because it’s so close to town and it’s an easily targeted area. Those goats are at a high risk of being depleted severely,” said wildlife biologist Sell.
The area west of the Chilkat River and south of the Klehini closes to goat hunting Dec. 31, while the east side of the Chilkat River is open until Nov. 15 or Nov. 30, depending on how far north or south hunters go.
Sell said out of 10 points along the highway above 10 Mile, eight are still available.
Waterfowl season opened Sept. 16. Hunters should check limits on ducks, geese, cranes and other species of waterfowl, as the bag limits vary. Swans are off-limits.
Brian Clay, who has been hunting waterfowl for 35 years, said his favorite spot is Mosquito Lake, where he takes his boat and Labrador-malamute mix Tipper out to enjoy the scenery and look for mallards.
“It’s fun. You’re out there and you get to see all kinds of neat things,” Clay said.
Clay, who usually harvests more than 10 birds in a season, said he enjoys preparing them in a Louisiana-style jambalaya.
Waterfowl season closes Dec. 31.
Brown bear hunting also opened Sept. 15 and closes Dec. 31. Hunters Badgley and Turner said many people around here don’t hunt for brown bear, as the meat isn’t good eating.
Hunting for Sitka black-tailed deer, which occurs on Sullivan Island and areas farther south, opened Sept. 15 and closes Dec. 31.
Black bear hunting season opened Sept. 1 and closes June 30. Residents can take two black bears, and non-residents can take one if led by a licensed big game guide.
For more information on hunts, call the Haines Fish and Game office at 766-2830.