Amid COVID-19 restrictions, far fewer Outside hunters are coming to Alaska

Aug 14, 2020

“I think a lot of hunters are having to really think through how to accomplish the hunt that they want to do and do it responsibly," says a Fish and Game official. So far, the department has sold only a quarter as many non-resident licenses as last year.

 

A brown bear.
Credit Allen Miller/USFWS

Hunting season draws thousands of Outside tourists to Alaska every year. In 2019, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game sold 15,897 non-resident hunting licenses. The department says the coronavirus pandemic has crushed demand for non-resident hunting. So far, the department has sold only a quarter of that. As of August 12, the number of non-resident licenses was at just 3,594.  

Ryan Scott, an assistant director for Fish and Game, says Outside hunters are still interested in coming to the state, but have to contend with travel restrictions and local requirements. And some hunters have already decided now it is not a good time for them to travel.

“I think a lot of hunters are having to really think through how to accomplish the hunt that they want to do and do it responsibly,” Scott explains, “I talked to a fair number of them at this point and they are taking it very seriously and they want to do the right thing and they also want to come hunt so many of them have figured out how to make that work for them.”

Among the factors complicating the season for Outside hunters is the state requirement that travelers be required to have negative tests from their home states before leaving for Alaska, or they will be required to pay $250 for a test when they land at the airport. 

Scott pointed out that the department cannot enforce additional safety regulations for non-resident hunters. Still, he says, they are doing their best to provide information on state health mandates, and they strongly encourage hunters to follow local rules.

“Whether it be a resident hunter or a non-resident hunter that might be travelling to a different community,” he said. “We certainly make them aware of the state travel website so they can see the statewide mandate. We also encourage people to make sure they communicated if they are going into a community that they’ve looked at their requirements as well”

Despite the twists and turns of this season, Scott says the department wants to make hunting opportunities available.

“This year is different for us all and there’s lots of concerns out there. So much time and effort has been put into identifying ways to make these processes work and provide opportunities for hunters to get to the field and that’s what we want – we want Alaskans to be able to go out and enjoy their hunting seasons and put food in their freezer and spend time in the outdoors,” says Scott. 

He says hunters should be cognisant of their home state requirements as well.

Alaska's health mandates are available on the state’s COVID-19 page.

 Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.