Moose Calf Hunts Endorsed

GAME BOARD: Members agree with biologist that plan is sound game management

The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / March 5, 2004

FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Board of Game has lifted the prohibition on calf hunts in areas with stable moose populations.

State wildlife biologist Don Young lobbied for legalized moose calf hunts, calling them a game management tool as well as a hunting opportunity.

Young made his pitch to the Alaska Board of Game Wednesday, the seventh day of a 14-day meeting in Fairbanks to consider changes to state hunting and trapping regulations.

"I feel we need to move forward with this and get hunters used to shooting calves," Young said.

Board member Cliff Judkins of Wasilla said he supported "the necessity" of calf hunts in some areas.

"If you can put it in the freezer instead of let it starve to death, we might as well put in the freezer," Judkins said.

The board adopted a prohibition on calf hunts two years ago but gave the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the latitude to institute calf hunts in certain areas or include calves in antlerless hunts around the state. But the prohibition sends the wrong message to hunters and the public, Young told the board.

Calf hunts emulate nature more than bull and cow hunts, he said. About half of the moose calves born on the Tanana Flats die in the first year, many of them during the winter.

"If you have three moose -- a bull, a cow and a calf -- which one are you going to shoot?" he said. "You're going to shoot the calf because if you shoot the bull, you don't have a breeder for the cow, and if you shoot the cow, you're going to have to wait three or four years before the calf is big enough to breed. If you shoot the calf you can have another calf the next year."

Shooting calves and fawns is common in the Lower 48, Young said. Last year in Pennsylvania, for example, hunters killed 160,000 deer fawns. In Colorado, 4,000 elk calves were harvested. All the Lower 48 states that have moose hunts allow hunters to shoot calves, he said.

"Shooting calves and fawns is a widely accepted by hunters but not necessarily in Alaska," Young said. "Someday we're going to be shooting calves here. It just takes time to get people used to it."

Board member Ted Spraker said the public "will think we're shooting ourselves in the foot" by lifting the prohibition on calf hunts. But Spraker, a retired state wildlife biologist, said the biology behind the hunts is "overwhelming" and the board's support may make calf hunts more palatable to the public.
Some hunters say there isn't enough meat on a calf moose to make calf hunts worthwhile. But Young said a moose calf is about the same size as an adult caribou and will produce about 100 pounds of meat. --

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