The Tier II moose hunt is closing early for hunters in the Chilkat Valley. The season was set to end Oct. 7, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order for the closure at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 3.
“Well we always like to let it go as long as we can for the hunters,” says Carl Koch, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game. “But we’ve met the upper end of our management objective. So we’re pretty happy about that. A lot of meat for the community, a lot of hunters have been pretty successful.”
This is the third year in a row the Chilkat Valley hunt has closed before the cutoff date. It was an especially rapid harvest last year, closing after about a week.
Koch says this year there are a couple reasons for the emergency order. One, he already mentioned. Fish and Game set a harvest limit of 20-25 bulls. That’s been met and exceeded.
Koch says the low number of spike-fork moose harvested also factored into his decision. Only one spike-fork animal was harvested near Haines this year.
“If you assume that the harvest is an index of what’s actually going on with the population, meaning that the number of spike-forks in the harvest is similar to the number of spike-forks running around out there, then that’s a little bit important because spike-forks are yearling bulls,” says Koch. “So it could indicate that there are fewer yearling bulls out there.”
Koch says this is one of the lowest harvests of spike-forks Fish and Game has seen since implementing antler restrictions.
Since Sept. 15, hunters harvested one spike-fork, four 50-plus inch and 18 three-brow tine bulls. Three sublegal moose were taken. Koch says, though they aim for no sublegal animals, three is about average.
The harvest started fast this year. Fourteen moose were taken during the first few days of the hunt. Koch says that has a lot to do with weather.
“Obviously weather played a role,” says Koch. “We had a fast beginning and then that second weekend the weather was nasty and everything kind of slowed down. And then this last weekend weather got improved again and we had three more come in over the weekend and one yesterday.”
Overall, Koch says the season went well. Fish and Game will do its annual aerial survey to count Haines-area moose when snow starts falling in the Chilkat Valley. Last year’s count was reassuring, it was the highest number of moose tallied in 10 years, indicating a stable population.