For residents of Togiak and other communities in the region, the hunt is a welcome opportunity to harvest a key source of wild meat. For game managers, it's a chance to curtail the booming moose population.
Darryl Thompson has hunted moose for 60 years. He’s the Togiak public works director, and he looks forward to the season opening on Friday.
“There’s a lot of moose in the region, so it’s not usually a hard hunt to do,” he said.
But Thompson said that conditions can be treacherous for hunters on snowgoes, so they usually hunt in groups.
“What we’re worrying about is, we’ve had so much rain and warm weather that ponds or lakes or rivers have a lot of water on top of the ice, so you got to be careful that you don’t get stuck in overflow. Especially with the soft snow,” he said.
The 31-day hunt begins Friday and ends on February 7. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the hunt Tuesday.
Hunters can bag two moose under two different permits — RM575 for an antlered bull and RM576 for an antlerless moose. Those that already harvested a moose in the fall can only take one moose this winter.
Thompson, who is 76, said he didn’t hunt this fall. He and his wife received meat from others in the community. After this hunt, he plans to do the same.
“If I do catch a moose, I would probably donate at least half of it because the two of us can’t eat a whole moose by ourselves,” Thompson said.
The moose population around Togiak is more than 2,000 animals. That’s twice the target set by state biologists While biologists aim for 800-1,200 moose, aerial surveys in 2017 estimated 2,370 animals, numbers that were reinforced by additional surveys in 2019.
One reason for this could be abundant willow trees, which moose like to browse on, said Todd Rinaldi, a Palmer-based management coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Conservation Division.
“As moose are beginning to utilize that really nutritious habitat it’s given them an opportunity to not only produce really good numbers, but also to survive and to produce really big moose as well,” Rinaldi said.
The upcoming hunt is a welcome opportunity for Bristol Bay residents to harvest fresh meat. Caribou hunts last summer on the Nushagak Peninsula were restricted, and last month, Fish and Game did not open its customary December hunt in units 17B and C, citing low populations in other areas of the region.
“It’s the number of hunters, the people, the pressure, the access to the area, and the availability of the habitat between the two areas,” Rinaldi said of the decision not to announce that December hunt.
Registration permits for the upcoming hunt are available at Dillingham’s Fish and Game office and the Togiak Traditional Council office. Moose harvested must be reported to Fish and Game within 24 hours of the kill.
The season closes February 7. All permit reports must be returned to within 15 days of that date, whether or not a hunter made an effort.
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