Anyone else catch that?
Hope no one was planning on hunting DS20X or DS10X this season since it'll look to be even tougher to draw than the current near-impossibility.
Delta area reduced from 75 tags per season to 60 (20% reduction) and Tok from 40 to 30 tags (25% reduction). No other draw areas reduced (or I didn't notice anyways).
Total numbers of permits for Tok have been reduced in 2002 and 2010 due to failure to meet management objectives (average 36" ram and 7% harvest >40"). Another permit decrease: continued failure to meet management objectives, overly successful hunters this past season, or disastrous aerial survey results.
DCUA is managed slightly differently: Objectives are restricted accessibility, mean horn length of 36", mean harvested ram age exceeding 8 years and limit harvest to 70 rams annually.
Interesting to note that the sustainable harvest level set for a population of approx 1,800 sheep. However, at the time of the 2011 management report there had not been a full survey of the DCUA since 1995. If 2007 and 2008 surveys are combined (covering west and east DCUA, respectively) the total observed was 1,731. If 2008 and 2009 are compared (east and west again) the total observed was 1,626. There is a correction factor associated with aerial surveys of 1.3 to account for the difficulty of spotting sheep. When applied the population estimates are both over 2,100 sheep. Would be interesting to see if that correction factor is still relevant or correct. The author cites himself in a 1999 management report. One would think that in a dozen years that his efficiency would increase and thus correction factor decrease
It is irrelevant in this case, as hunter harvest from 2000-2013 has not been close to "sustainability" threshold of 70, in fact it is only about 2/3 of that.
Average harvest age objectives of the DCUA have been met, however the ages from the 2011 report say average of 9.3 in 2000 to 8.2 in 2010. Maybe this past season average harvest was less than 8 but still full curl? Hard for me to believe it would be substantially lower than 8 and warrant a permit decrease.
Interestingly enough the average horn size has never been above the management objective of 36" and when controlled for age it appears that the average size at age is relatively stable. Perhaps this is due to the low percentage of hunter success in certain areas of the DCUA that act as a refuge, allowing the 'rapid horn growth" gene to remain in the population. Perhaps the TMA does not have such an area and thus has been more susceptible to growth depression via size selective harvest?
I wish that sheep managers would be more transparent with their management decisions and not release management reports as sporadically. Also, draw results have become increasingly difficult to navigate and less and less transparent. 2011 was an excel sheet - 100% transparent, you could sort by name, residency, tag, etc. 2012 and 2013 were locked PDF which unless you were searching for yourself were next to useless, but if you wanted to scroll through 150 pages you could. Last years results were not even searchable - you had to know the exact last name of everyone and could not look for those who drew the same tag as you (or who drew the tag that I was supposed to get!).
All speculation aside, I am disappointed in the further reduction in opportunities to hunt sheep in some of the most beautiful areas of Alaska.