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Thread: 14A/13D Sheep Going to Drawing Hunts

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    Default 14A/13D Sheep Going to Drawing Hunts

    I've enjoyed hunting sheep in 13D for the past 13 years or so and am very disappointed that it's going to draw. Even if the claims that there are fewer rams is true, which is questionable (see below), going to draw and instituting an area to kill immature (<full curl & <8 years old) is not the solution. People will naturally kill the largest ram they're able to, but if a large one doesn't present itself, most people will surely settle for any legal ram over going home without sheep meet. This will leave fewer legal rams on the mountain, upset the breeding/social structure, and potentially lead to the ewes reproducing every other year (See Heimer's 1980s research comparing the Dry Creek population to the Robertson River population). In short, upsetting the social structure and allowing younger rams to participate in breeding leads to higher ram mortality and FEWER SHEEP ON THE MOUNTAIN.

    In June, I called the biologist in Glennallen and was told that 13D was becoming a drawing area for several reasons. I've since learned that many of these reasons are not factual, and going to draw WILL NOT SOLVE the "perceived problem" that sheep numbers are declining in the area. Here were her reasons (they're paraphrased):

    1) Guides are saturating the area and are taking rams throughout the season while resident hunters are taking a smaller fraction of the harvest. (Not true... see next post).

    2) Greater numbers of young rams with fast-growing horns (e.g., 6 year olds with full curl) are being harvested so that as soon as the most desirable rams are reaching full curl, they're being harvested. (Again, not true... see next post).

    3) The population is declining. (Possibly true, but there aren't recent surveys/censuses to validate this claim, and there are other plausible, and even likely explanations for the reduced harvest).

    4) Very few truely large rams are now available. (Again, not true... see next post).

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    Seems to me your claims have no data to back them up
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Funny, I heard some of the very same things from a pilot that flies those hunt areas and has been for over 25 years. I have to agree with AkPM, without facts to back up your claims it seems that you are just venting, not that there's anything wrong with that but the proof is in the pudding.

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    Default 14A/13D Sheep Going to Drawing Hunts

    The following facts only apply to Subunit 13D. I don't know (and haven't looked at what's going on in 14A). I've used the past 10 years worth of ADF&G's data (1997-2006) to analyze ADF&G's rationale for changing 13D to a drawing area. The following four items are in response to the four claims listed above.

    1) I didn't have access to the historical number of guides in the area, so I can't say whether there are currently more guides in 13D. I can, however, say that both resident and non-resident hunting effort has DECLINED in the past two years, not increased. Instead of looking at the number of guides, I used the number of non-residents who hunted sheep in that subunit as a surrogate for guide use.

    According to ADF&G's non-resident data, 24-32&#37; of hunters over the past 10 years have been nonresidents (i.e. those using guides). In 2006, non-residents only comprised 26% of the hunters, which is on the low end of the 10-year range. Therefore guided non-residents are not responsible for the perceived decline in sheep numbers. I was also surprised to learn that guided sheep hunters typically have about a 50% success rate in that area.

    2) In 2006, three rams (9%) less than 8 yrs old were taken. Meanwhile, three (9%) old rams (>10 years old) were taken. This compares to a 10-year range of 6.8% to 21.2% of the harvest being rams less than 8 years old and 1.4 to 18.5% for rams over 10 years of age. Therefore, both the number and percentage of young and old rams is within the norm. What you don't see, is that the percentage of old rams taken is rarely so high, even though it falls within the 10-year range.

    3) In 2005, there was a major landslide in 13D that cut off easy access into one of the major areas of sheep harvest. The area remained closed to hunters without plane access for all but a week of the 2005 season and all of the 2006 season. Not surprisingly, hunter effort and harvest numbers fell. Since ADF&G places so much weight on harvest trends as a surrogate for population abundance, it appeared as if the population was declining and in serious trouble. The options for serious sheep hunters were to stop hunting sheep during the years of impaired access, charter an aircraft and compete with everyone else who has landed in the same spot, or hunt in a different unit/subunit.

    On an absolute basis, yes... fewer rams were taken in both 2005 and 2006. Only 51 and 33 rams were taken in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The next lowest harvests occurred in 2001 when only 47 rams were taken and in 2000 when only 52 rams were taken.

    However, harvest success as a percentage of hunting pressure may or may not show a decline. The 2006 data show that 22.4% of hunters were successful. The 10-year range is from 26.2% to 37.8%. Thus the percentage of hunters taking rams was 4% below the 10 year average. The question is why? Did seasoned sheep hunters look elsewhere while access was impaired? I did.

    4) In 2005, there were 7 rams harvested with horns equal to or greater than 40" long. In 2006, there were four, including a 44 3/5" monster that was the largest in the 10-year history. The 10-year range was between 1 & 10 rams greater that or equal to 40" long being taken (Average = 4.9 rams). As a percentage of total rams harvested, the number of large rams is way up.

    How about age structure?
    In 2006, three (9%) old rams (>10 years old) were taken. This compares to a 10-year range of 1.4 to 18.5% of the harvest being for rams over 10 years old. Therefore, the percentage of old rams being harvested is well within the 10-year average.

    If one only looks at the number of rams being harvested, there has been a recent trend for decline, but the question is whether this is merely statistically significant or actually biologically significant. A similar trend occurred in 2000 and 2001, followed by a dramatic increase in '03 and '04. In my mind, this year's harvest will be critical to determine if there is an actual trend underway, or if the declining harvest are merely correlated with impaired access.

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    Default The facts

    Sorry that I couldn't post the facts instantaneously, but they took a while to articulate. I'm sure that you now understand what I meant by, "see next post."

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    Default 13D statistics

    Cazador,
    It looks like you spend as much time as I do pouring over sheep size and harvest statistics.

    One thing this data set fails to recognize, especially for the pre-sealing years, is untruthful hunter harvest data about unit/subunit and size and age of sheep that are harvested. I think there was a high harvest of 15/16th rams that were only 7 years old that never got reported. I noticed a large drop off in number of rams reported the year that sealing was mandated.

    Also, in the raw data for this sub-unit, I know of several rams that were taken by guided hunters that do not even show up on the data. This is because of the guide/hunters reporting their harvest from a different area!

    I would guess 15-20% of successful sheep hunters in this area give a completely different location of harvest, because they think they are in someway keeping their "secret" hunting location. It is harder to fudge the age and size of their sheep though, given the sealing mandate.

    Anyone have any other thoughts about this?

    Sincerely,
    Chris

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    According to ADF&G's non-resident data, 24-32&#37; of hunters over the past 10 years have been nonresidents (i.e. those using guides). In 2006, non-residents only comprised 26% of the hunters, which is on the low end of the 10-year range. Therefore guided non-residents are not responsible for the perceived decline in sheep numbers. I was also surprised to learn that guided sheep hunters typically have about a 50% success rate in that area.

    And what was the resident success rate? I think you will find it is much lower than 50%, which leads me to believe that guides are partly responsible for the decline in mature full curl rams.

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    Default More thoughts on 13D

    It also seems to me that on this forum, other forums, and on Guide/Outfitter websites, that there are a lot of 7/8ths and 15/16th rams being taken that have been "aged" and harvested from this subunit. Some of these rams are truly remarkable, 40", 8 y.o. but not quite full curl. When I see pictures and stories, all I can think of is "man, they killed that ram 2 years too soon." I think the guides and guided hunters in this unit have trememdous pressure to produce a ram, any ram, that these 8 year old, under-full-curl rams are being taken that have the potential to be much larger, and more of a trophy.

    This is just an obervation, not a bash on anyone (especially guides, since I am an asst. guide), and is substantiated only by photos and stories of rams and hunts that I seen and listened to over the last 20 years. Anyone else have this same experience and/or data to prove this theory?

    -Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by sheepshape365 View Post
    Cazador,
    One thing this data set fails to recognize, especially for the pre-sealing years, is untruthful hunter harvest data about unit/subunit and size and age of sheep that are harvested.

    Also, in the raw data for this sub-unit, I know of several rams that were taken by guided hunters that do not even show up on the data. This is because of the guide/hunters reporting their harvest from a different area!

    I would guess 15-20&#37; of successful sheep hunters in this area give a completely different location of harvest, because they think they are in someway keeping their "secret" hunting location. It is harder to fudge the age and size of their sheep though, given the sealing mandate.
    Chris,
    Thanks for putting thought into your reply. You're right about not being able to "divine" the truthful harvest size/number/location, but these are the same data that ADF&G uses to make management decisions. If people are reporting that their Subunit 13D harvest actually occurred elswhere, it suggests that the population is in even better shape than the data shows. It means that there are more sheep being pulled out of 13D than reported. If this is true, which I don't doubt, untruthful reporting worked against them to change "their" area into a drawing hunt rather than to "protect" it for them. Perhaps, it's a good lesson.

    AKhunter45,
    Yes, the resident success rate (as a percentage... not raw values) is much lower than 50% ;-). I concede that guides are partially responsible for overall harvest, but their impact isn't as great as most people believe. They have to make a living, too. However, changing the area to drawing doesn't excludes guides. If ADF&G wants to exclude guides, they should simply exclude guides. There are plenty of places in Alaska where guides are prohibited. The point is that "more guides" (if even a true statement) with their limited success rates, only account for a fraction of the total harvest, and changing the area to a drawing hunt doesn't do anything to solve the perceived problem that there may be less sheep on the mountain. Unfortunately, opening up an "any ram" hunt actually works against the goal.


    My somewhat pointed question is, "what's in it for ADF&G to change it to a drawing hunt?" After all, they just raised the price of licenses/tags. Was it simply a failure to properly analyze the data? Are these even fair questions?

  10. #10

    Default interesting

    Interesting info. Without starting any non-resident bashing, I'm bothered by the fact that 24-32% of total sheep hunters in that area are not residents of Alaska. In my opinion, this is a large reason the draw is now going into effect. I feel that there is some political "pull" with the money in the guided, non-resident pool. People complained about seeing more hunters than legal rams, and unfortunately, the resident hunter lost out. Thousands of non-resys can flood our applicant pool (as I've heard a certain nation-wide outdoor company does with hundreds of employees) if so desired. With no limit on non-res, and a lot of guides (many who are not even Alaskans), it doesn't seem right. Personally, I feel that if non-residents were limited to 10%, there would be fewer hunters and fewer guides (which would allow for resident Alaskan guides to do what they do best). I wonder if this had been in effect if we would be going to a draw now? It makes me wonder if the decision was based on hard facts or an "agenda."

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    What landslide are you refering to?

    Is F&G trying to head off a catastrophic decline in sheep numbers before it takes hold? example: unchecked wolf population in 13D and a suspected disease going around.

    Why did we not band together last winter and fight this proposal if their reasons for going draw are all lies?

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    Chris, I agree with what you are saying about the 8 yr old, near 40", sub full curl rams. I've seen the pictures and have seen at least one like that on the hoof in 13D. Those are B&C rams if they live another two years. I don't know if the new drawing hunt will allow these guys to live longer or improve the hunting, but I hope so.

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    Default Cazador...

    Cazador,

    The logic behind the "any ram" change is imo valid and sound. It has to do with maintaining sheep genetics over the long term. I recall writing to Val Geist on this when it came up on a past thread, and he agreed. If you want to wade through that whole thread, HERE IT IS

    At the tail end of that thread, politicalbio chimed in and I was glad of that. I am going to copy/paste some of those comments below, as I think they are pertinent. We've gone round and round on this before; the bottom line is we should do what's best for the sheep population over the long term. Our org opposed the proposal to make this a draw-only area for residents, but we agreed with the bios about the genetic concerns. Best way to really get good info is to call and talk to the area bios; they are honest hardworking folk and ain't out to screw sheep hunters or sheep management.

    Do you all realize that 14A and 13D have actual 80-95% harvest rates of full-curl rams? Do you realize that some of 13D is looking at over 100% harvest rates? (mostly due to a large harvest of age-legal sub full-curl rams). These are the highest harvest rates in the state, and probably in the world for Dall's Sheep. Do you realize that non-residents take 65% of the rams out of some of these areas? Do you realize that more non-residents hunt these areas than any other area of the state? Do you realize that in 13D west, residents only had a 7% success rate this year? Do you realize that residents are hunting these areas less and less because of the intense competition? Do you realize that average base measurements have dropped by over an inch the last few years (not related to sealing)? Do you realize that this proposal originated as concern from members of the public, and other proposals were put in by the public on the same issue? Do you realize that the Dept. gave considerable thought to no-aircraft hunt areas in 13D? Do you realize that rams have declined much faster than ewes across these areas?


    P.S. For the record, in the end, the Board did NOT pass a 25% cap on the harvest. When they passed the proposal as written, they followed their own Board policy, which stated permits had to be allocated based on the 10 year history of hunter participation (this will likely be done separately for the 3 drawing blocks). Then both groups will be reduced somewhat. The Dept. supported on the record, a limited open season for resident hunters at the end of the drawing hunt, and stated that we could still maintain the 10 year average split among hunters (mostly my desire, because they were not responsible for the current problems in these areas). This did not work out, and the areas are now on draw.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    Cazador,

    Do you all realize that 14A and 13D have actual 80-95&#37; harvest rates of full-curl rams? Do you realize that some of 13D is looking at over 100% harvest rates? (mostly due to a large harvest of age-legal sub full-curl rams). These are the highest harvest rates in the state, and probably in the world for Dall's Sheep. Do you realize that non-residents take 65% of the rams out of some of these areas? Do you realize that more non-residents hunt these areas than any other area of the state? Do you realize that in 13D west, residents only had a 7% success rate this year? Do you realize that residents are hunting these areas less and less because of the intense competition? Do you realize that average base measurements have dropped by over an inch the last few years (not related to sealing)? Do you realize that this proposal originated as concern from members of the public, and other proposals were put in by the public on the same issue? Do you realize that the Dept. gave considerable thought to no-aircraft hunt areas in 13D? Do you realize that rams have declined much faster than ewes across these areas?

    Mark,
    First, I haven't spent much time on this forum in quite a while, but it's good to see that you're still online. I always enjoyed your thoughful posts.

    Second, the quote above is impossible to make/validate because it implies that we/ADF&G knows what the true abundance of legal rams is within the entire subunit. I see many other claims in there that are impossible to substantiate. While there may be an element of truth in the above interrogation, there are many falsehoods. For example, how could there every be, "over 100% harvest" in some areas of 13D? There is only 100%... there cannot ever be over 100%. 100% means 100%. It means all! I could use hard data to disprove other claims, but I think I've made my point. I know you're aware of this, but cencuses only cover small portions of a subunit, then the percentage of animals within a particular category (i.e. full curl) are extrapolated as if the observation in that particular area remains uniform throughout the entire unit/subunit.

    Third, and I realize it will draw fire for even questioning Valerius Geist's opinion, but his era of expertise came well before the age of genetic research. I don't mean to discredit his work in the least because he was a true pioneer in sheep research, but our understanding of genetics was just beginning during his era. When one harvests a ram, however, it is done based on phenotype... not genotype or genetic potential. In truth, when one sees a 40" ram, one takes it. I don't know of anybody that has enough 40 inchers on the wall that they would turn it down if it is only 8 years old and "might have better potential next year IF it manages to survive to next season."

    Fourth, I don't want to lose sight of the overall goal... to show that the total numbers of harvests have declined, but other parameters suggest that the herd is in good shape and that the decline may be due to other factors that were overlooked. The age and size of rams in that area are as good now as they have ever been (if not better). If it were being overhunted, one would expect to find that there are no more (or substantially fewer) exceptionally large rams, but this is not the case at all. I've also shown that hunting pressure (both as a percentage and as raw values) has declined in the past few years... without the need for it going to a drawing hunt. Best regards,
    Rick

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    Stop looking at records and talk to the old guides that use to hunt 13d,they we tell you a different story, they would tell you that they never had to fly to look for sheep, they didn't have to put assistance guides in tents 3 to 5 days before season so they could hold that ram for a client, and this just didn't start last year,it's be going on far to long,competions is way high for sheep in 13 and 14. I'd like to bring to point another sore subject,why do we not have a allocation for non-residents???? My main concern is that 14C is starting to look like the lower 48 play ground,more and more non-residents are getting those permits every year, why because guides are putting there names in the hat? with a quota this would stop,i have no beef with non-residents hunting alaska,i just don't think it's fair that residents are getting bumped out because there's more and more non-residents applying every year. And don't think for a minute that this wont happen in 13d and the rest of 14... , I started hunting sheep in 78 and from my seeing it then to now is just over whelming....It sorta reminds me of what happening on the kenai river......sick

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    Default Good points

    I agree. Residents have taken and will take the hit more and more if there is no non-resident allocation.

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    Default Pressure increase

    Wow, Good work you guys. I don't hunt in 13d, but I'm passionate about sheep hunting. What scares me (and should anyone else that doesn't hunt 13d) is regulating these 2 areas to drawings is only going put more pressure on other parts of the state. IMO a very large part of the state will become drawing only in the near future. I am not blaming anyone that hunts these 2 areas for finding a different spot because they didn't "draw" a tag. I would certainly not want to miss a sheep hunting season. Those that are turned down in their area have no choice but to find another one. Unfortunately these hunters are going to pressure other areas into drawings too:-(. Just my 2cents

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    Default Absolutely

    Sheepman is absolutely correct. Talk to most people that have hunted sheep in our state for over 20 years and they will tell you what has led to the decline in big ram numbers-it is almost entirely pressure- and most of that is from one source...guides!!!! Until there is a quota of non-resident hunters applied, residents will continue to get pushed out by money and numbers. Here's an idea...how about we shut down entire units to resident only hunting...like moose in unit 13, it would just be sheep

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    I hunted 13D this year, Hallet River. Granted it's a big subunit and it was my first time there so my experience is more of a snapshot. I put eyes on miles of mountainside in 3 major drainages and saw 1 mature ram (my partner saw the other) for about 30 seconds. We did see a 7/8 and several 3/4 rams and a large band of ewes. We were there late so that band could have lost a mature ram earlier in the season.

    Those mountains are beautiful sheep habitat--comparable habitat in Chugach State Park has sheep in virtually every drainage.

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    Default spot on.

    Quote Originally Posted by sheepshape365 View Post
    It also seems to me that on this forum, other forums, and on Guide/Outfitter websites, that there are a lot of 7/8ths and 15/16th rams being taken that have been "aged" and harvested from this subunit. Some of these rams are truly remarkable, 40", 8 y.o. but not quite full curl. When I see pictures and stories, all I can think of is "man, they killed that ram 2 years too soon." I think the guides and guided hunters in this unit have trememdous pressure to produce a ram, any ram, that these 8 year old, under-full-curl rams are being taken that have the potential to be much larger, and more of a trophy.

    This is just an obervation, not a bash on anyone (especially guides, since I am an asst. guide), and is substantiated only by photos and stories of rams and hunts that I seen and listened to over the last 20 years. Anyone else have this same experience and/or data to prove this theory?

    -Chris

    Great post, Chris.

    I agree with everything you wrote, and have opined such in the past.
    I'm thinking of a guide in that area who made a career of promoting the harvest of these potential monsters. There was nothing illegal about it. But unfortunately those rams never reached near their potential. Hunter expectation and money was the bottom line.


    Frank

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