Alaska offers opportunities to harvest game and fur animals unmatched in any other state.” Those are the words of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the branch of their local government which oversees hunting. And while going through this document, you will indeed notice that there are many unique game species in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
For those interested in hunting in Alaska, this document will give you basic information such as who is eligible for a license, how to obtain one, contacts to guides and outfitters, general regulations, etc. It is not designed to be used in and of itself. Rather it is a condensed, summarized version of the plethora of information the ADF&G has released in regards to hunting, and it is intended to be used in conjunction with their documentation. As such, you will find a number of hyperlinks throughout this text, most of which point to ADF&G websites.
Obtaining an Alaska Hunting License
In the State of Alaska, all resident hunters who are at least 18 years of age must be licensed. However, nonresident hunters of all ages have to be licensed. Resident hunters who are 60 years of age qualify for a Permanent Identification Card, which exempts them from requiring a license to hunt.
Hunting licenses for residents of Alaska are moderately-priced though more expensive than in many other parts of the United States. Alaska is well-known for its hunting opportunities, which may be why nonresident licenses and tags not only cost significantly more than for locals but also are a pretty penny in and of themselves. As such, if a hunter from outside Alaska is going big game hunting, he or she should be prepared financially for such an expedition.
Hunter education is required of those born after 1 January 1986 to hunt in many parts of Alaska. However, if they are doing so under the direct supervision of a hunter born before this date or someone at least 16 years old who have completed hunter education, they are exempt. Alaska’s hunter education certificate is accepted throughout the United States as well as in Canada and even in Mexico. Part of the course can be taken at home either using a workbook or via the internet, and the other part is to be taken on the field.
There are three ways in which an ADF&G-issued hunting license (as well as tags) can be obtained. First is online at the ADF&G Store. As with other States, purchasing an Alaska hunting license online requires the user to create an account and log into the site. However, unlike other parts of the country, they can currently do so with their already-existing Facebook or Google account.
If a hunter decides to go the more traditional route, he or she can apply for a license by mail via the address provided by the ADF&G in their hunting regulations guidebook. Or they can visit a hunting license vendor (of which there are over 1000 in the State) in-person and make the transaction over-the-counter.
Where to Hunt in Alaska
Alaska has the highest percentage of publicly-owned land of any state in America. Accordingly, the entire State is split into over two dozen Game Management Unites (GMUs) which are supervised by the ADF&G, and these include all federal and State-owned lands. The area a hunter decides to utilize will be based on the season as well as the species he or she is pursuing.
Hunters can download maps based on desired species, GMUs, etc. via the ADF&G’s Hunting Maps & Area Information webpage. Visiting this site also gives users the option to create their own customizable maps to further suit their needs.
Despite the fact that only 4% of Alaska is privately-owned, it is still by far the largest State, meaning this small percentage still includes large pieces of land. If a hunter deems it necessary to use an area owned by an individual or corporation, he or she must first obtain permission from the owner or entity.
General Hunting Regulations in Alaska
Below are a few of the laws that govern hunting in Alaska, just to give the reader an idea of how outdoor gaming is enforced in this part of the country. All of the ADF&G’s hunting rules can be downloaded from their Alaska Hunting Regulations webpage. On it they have done a good job of splitting their all-encompassing guidebook down to individual sections based on desired species and areas.
- Big-game species require a physical “locking-tag” to be attached to the carcass, primarily by nonresident hunters, before it is moved from the site of the kill.
- In some areas, the harvesting of certain species requires that the carcass be sealed.
- Wildlife can be killed in defense of a person’s life, property or when they are in emergency need of sustenance.
- Only the meat of hares can be bought and sold.
- In general, motor vehicles cannot be used for hunting unless the motor is off and the vehicle is not in motion.
- The use of Tasers is prohibited unless the hunter is authorized to use such.
- Poisons and other incapacitating substances cannot be used without written consent from the Board of Game.
- The use of machine guns to hunt game in Alaska is prohibited.
- A fleeing animal cannot be pursued with any vehicle.
- Big game cannot be taken with an airbow or sling bow.
- Hunters who use crossbows must complete an approved crossbow certification course.
- Bear baiters must be at least 18 years of age. Moreover, they are required to complete an approved bear baiting clinic.
- Bear baits cannot be established within one mile of an inhabited dwelling.
Hunting Seasons in Alaska
The following season dates were ascertained from the ADF&G’s hunting regulations booklets as well as Hunting Season HQ. Hunters should note that the timeframes listed below are general, and the exact dates of seasons are dependent on the GMU being hunted upon.
In some cases, where the ADF&G deem that there isn’t enough game available, seasons will be restricted. This is done first by barring nonresidents from hunting and then, if necessary, residents also.
- As of the writing of this article, black bears can be hunted year-round, depending on what part of Alaska you find yourself in. In other words, in some areas, there is no closed season to hunt black bears. Grizzly bears can also be hunted throughout most of the year, though not as liberally as their black bear cousins.
- Caribou is a species unique to Alaska, as they are virtually extinct in the continental United States. These animals have one of the longest hunting seasons, from late Summer ’til the beginning of Spring.
- Muskox are only available in a couple of GMUs. They can be hunted from the final weeks of Summer until the beginning of Spring.
- Wolf seasons are from mid-Summer to late Spring.
- Wolverines’ are from early Fall to late Winter.
- Deer and elk season is from the late Summer all the way ’til the end of the year.
- Goat seasons start around late Summer. They usually end later into the new year, at the beginning of Spring.
In some areas in Alaska, beavers can’t be hunted at all. In others, they can be hunted year-round. And yet in a couple more, they can be hunted throughout most of the year, from late Summer ’til late Spring.
Coyotes and Foxes
Coyotes and foxes (arctic and red) have their seasons from later Summer until Spring, with artic fox seasons (in some areas) lasting the longest, ’til the middle of Spring.
In a few areas lynxes can’t be hunted at all, but in most GMUs, their seasons are from late Fall ’til about mid-Winter.
- The season for grouses and ptarmigans generally span from late Summer ’til shortly after the advent of Spring. And some GMUs ptarmigans can be hunted virtually year-round, from late Summer ’til the beginning of the next summer season.
- There is no closed season on squirrels, and they can also be hunted statewide.
- Hares can be hunted year-round in many areas, but in others their seasons spans from early Fall ’til mid-Spring.
There is no part of Alaska where hunting seasons on these small game species are outright closed.
Below are species who don’t fall into any particular category with the ADF&G:
- Shrew, mice, porcupines, pika and wild non-native birds (chukar , partridges, pheasants, quails, and wild turkeys) can be hunted statewide, and they do not have any closed season.
- Cormorants and snowy owls can be hunted in less than half of the GMUs from Fall to Spring.
- There are even fewer areas where crows have an open season, but for those who are interested in pursuing them, it can be done so for most of the Fall and approximately the first half of Spring.
Waterfowl seasons last throughout the last couple of weeks of Summer and the entirety of Fall, and in some GMUs it also extends into the early part of Winter. Waterfowl game animals available in Alaska are ducks (including sea ducks), geese (Canada, emperor, white and white-fronted), brant, tundra swans, snipes and sandhill cranes.
Deleterious Exotic Wildlife
These are animals that are considered a nuisance (if they are unconfined or unrestrained) by the ADF&G. As such, they can be hunted throughout the year with no bag limits. These animals include the following: Belgian hares, English sparrows, Eurasian collared doves, pigeons, raccoons, starlings, various species of rodents (gerbils, “true mice”, rats, etc.), feral ferrets and feral swine.
Hunting Guides & Outfitters in Alaska
In a state with as many intricate, zone-specific regulations as Alaska, it would be in a hunter’s best interest to hire the services of a sound guide or outfitter. Moreover, no one needs to be told that the Alaskan environment and terrain can be fatally dangerous. Below are some professionals who can help ensure that while gaming in Alaska hunters remain safe and within the boundaries of the law.
It should be noted that while pursuing some species (grizzly bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats) it is mandatory for nonresident hunters to hire a hunting guide.
- Alaska Wilderness Enterprises
- Arctic Alaska Guide Service
- Arctic North Guides
- Denali Guides & Outfitters
- Interior Alaska Guides and Outfitters
- Max Schwab Master Guide
- Midnight Sun Safaris
- Mountain Monarchs of Alaska
- Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service
- Westwind Guide Service
There is also an independent Alaska Professional Hunters Association that can help direct interested parties to hunting guides and outfitters registered with their organization.
Hunting Lodges in Alaska
A hunting expedition in Alaska may carry you to a place where you have to use unconventional accommodations. Below are some establishments that specialize in providing housing for Alaskan hunters while they’re out on the field.
Reporting Hunting Harvests in Alaska
If you are hunting a species (i.e. caribou, deer, moose, sheep, black bear) during a season or in a GMU in which a harvest ticket is required, there will be a harvest report attached to it that must be submitted to the ADF&G. This is also the case when it comes to hunters pursuing game on permits, which are issued when hunts are allowed on a limited basis.
Moreover, as with other parts of the United States, hunters of waterfowl are required to enroll in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) before hitting the field.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What qualifies an applicant for a hunting license as a resident of Alaska?
A. A resident is someone who has lived in Alaska for at least 12 consecutive months just prior to applying for the license. Furthermore, if someone is an established resident yet travels outside the State, so long as he or she has not claimed residency in another state or country, he or she can apply as a resident of Alaska. Also, the active military personnel who are permanently stationed in Alaska, as well as their dependents, qualify as residents.
Q. Is the collection of grouse and ptarmigan wings by hunters who have harvested those species mandatory?
A. No. However, for surveying purposes, the ADF&G requests that hunters collect the wings, tails, and heads of these species once harvested. These parts can be deposited at an ADF&G office, but the wings can also be mailed in using an address provided by the ADF&G.
Q. Which species must resident hunters buy locking tags for?
A. As aforementioned, all nonresident hunters are required to buy locking tags for big game hunts. Residents are exempt in most cases. However, resident hunters must use this procedure for grizzly bears and muskox.
Anyone looking for a place to hunt exotic, trophy-level animals is not going to be disappointed with Alaska. That goes without being said. Nonetheless, before embarking on a hunting expedition in the Land of the Midnight Sun, hunters need to be cognizant of the relatively-complex rules that govern the sport there. Also, considering how dangerous the terrain and indeed some of the game species may be, it’s also not a bad idea to consider hiring the services of a hunting professional (i.e. guide) to assist you while afield.
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