Game Board Gets Rid of Season for Young Hunters

Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 5, 2004

The Alaska Board of Game gutted the Take A Child Hunting season on Thursday.

The game board voted to kill the special youth hunting season for moose around Fairbanks because it was restricted to an isolated area and had lost the support of a local advisory committee.

Thursday's gathering was the eighth day of a two-week meeting by the game board, which is convening to discuss changes to hunting and trapping regulations around the state.

"It's the same old thing, people don't want it in their back yard," said board member Cliff Judkins of Wasilla.

The hunt, which allowed children ages 8 to 17 to hunt moose for four days in early August as long as they were accompanied by an adult with a license, was created three years ago as a result of a bill by former Fairbanks state Sen. Pete Kelly and passed by the Alaska Legislature. The idea was that it would encourage more youth hunting because parents wouldn't have to take their kids out of school to go hunting.

While the board agreed the concept is a good one, the hunt raised the hackles of local moose hunters who didn't appreciate hunters coming from other parts of the state to shoot moose in their back yard.

"There's probably nobody in this room who is against the concept of taking kids hunting," said Fairbanks board member Pete Buist. "At the same time I don't think everybody agrees this is the way to do it.

"Senator Kelly may have created more discontent than satisfaction with this thing," he said.

During public testimony over the weekend, several Fairbanks hunters complained to the board about the youth hunt.

"It's the only kids hunt in the state and we don't feel it should be concentrated in one spot in the state," said Dave Miller, one of several cabin owners on the Salcha River who spoke out against the special season.

The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee supported the hunt two years ago because members thought there would be similar hunts in other parts of the state, said committee chairman Mike Tinker.

"We stuck ourselves on a spear and got hung there," he said.

But Tinker told the board on Thursday that the only way the committee would support another Take A Child Hunting season would be if similar hunts were enacted in at least five other units around the state.

That's the reason board member Ron Somerville of Juneau voted to kill the hunt.

"I don't think it's fair that this portion of the state takes the brunt of this special hunt," he said.

But according to statistics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, most of the moose shot during the four-day hunt were taken by local hunters.

In 2002, the state issued about 225 permits and youth hunters shot 51 bulls. Last year, 250 hunters took 39 bulls. Of the bulls taken, only a handful were taken by out-of-area hunters, said area management biologist Don Young.

Still, board members couldn't ignore public testimony opposing the hunt.

"Based on what I heard, it appears to have caused a lot of unrest," said board chairman Mike Fleagle of McGrath. "The way it's set up basically anybody can grab a kid and take advantage of an early season.

"I'm convinced this hunt hasn't turned out appropriate," he said.

Board member Ben Grussendorf of Sitka, a former legislator, said he fought the Take A Child Hunting bill "tooth and nail" when he was in Juneau. He said it should be up to local advisory committees to determine if they want a youth hunt in their area.

Despite killing the youth hunt, board members expressed support for youth hunting and instructed the Department of Fish and Game to come up with more youth hunts in the future. Both Judkins and fellow board member Ted Spraker raised the possibility of creating permit hunts for children in the future.

"Hopefully the department will find places and talk to advisory committees and put together some of these types of hunts," said Ted Spraker of Kenai, who admitted to missing a lot of school to go hunting as a child. "We need to expand these, not cut them out."
Buist, who was the lone board member who voted to keep the hunt, pointed out that parents don't need a special season or a law passed by the Legislature to take their kids hunting.

"If we do squash this whole thing it doesn't mean kids can't go hunting," said Buist. "My son managed to get a moose when he was 12 because I jerked him out of school and took him moose hunting."

Young, the biologist, also noted that there are opportunities to take kids hunting during the regular season.

"If you add one day to Labor Day weekend you've got the same exact hunt," he said. "Most people felt it was unnecessary."

News-Miner outdoors editor Tim Mowry can be reached via e-mail at or at 459-7587

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