Hunting is an important way to pass on family traditions and fill our freezers with healthy wild game meat. As we begin the 40-Mile Caribou winter hunt, we want to make sure you are ready to get out and be successful in your harvest. On top of everything that you may have on your typical pre-hunt checklist, you will also need to be aware of any COVID-19 mandates that local communities have put into place.
Knowing who manages the lands on which you will be hunting is important. In some cases, that may influence whether you can legally hunt there. Typically, Alaskans access the backcountry with ATVs, some other form of off-road vehicle, planes, or boats. Sometimes though there are restrictions on how you traverse those lands. For example, the Pinnell Mountain Trail along the Steese National Conservation Area straddles BLM-managed and State lands and each side of the trail has different rules. Contacting local BLM and DNR offices are your best bet to know land status and rules for the areas you plan to travel.
Along with all your usual hunting gear, you will need to make sure you are fully prepared for the frigid temperatures that Interior Alaska is known for. Hypothermia is a very real possibility during a winter hunt and making sure you stay warm and dry is essential. To assist with that, being fully prepared before you leave home is especially important this season as every one of us is having to adapt our lives considering the pandemic. Given the situation at the time you go hunting, some of the local communities you have traditionally passed through for supplies and provisions could have restrictions in place. You need to check ahead of time at https://covid19.alaska.gov/local-borough-resources/ and prepare for limited access to those services.
It may have been a while ago, but we both remember our hunter education class and the things our instructors stressed to us as young hunters. Respect our natural resources, leave the land better than you found it and take care of the meat and carcass properly. The land you hunt on needs to remain viable for future generations of hunters and wildlife. Respect other hunters, follow safe firearm handling and refrain from interfering with another’s hunt. Respect landowners, know whose land you’re hunting on and follow the rules.
We love seeing Alaskans out harvesting our wild game resource and utilizing both our federal and state lands. We as hunters lead by example and Alaskans are an example of those who respect and cherish our wild game and the lands we hunt on. As you plan for your upcoming hunt we ask you to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes and once you’re out there conduct yourselves in a manner that shows a good example to future generations of young Alaskans.
Be safe and we wish you happy hunting!
Doug Vincent-Lang is the Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Chad Padgett is State Director for the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska.