The Kotzebue Discussion
Hey I thought the Kotzebue discussion that just started on the old forum brought up some pretty good stuff, and wanted to maybe get it going here.
I spoke to an outfitter who works in GMU 23 at the Sportsman Show in Anchorage recently and he said something rather alarming. It had to do with the local communities in the arctic starting to get their ducks lined up to take some legislative steps in the area to control some of the abuse that's happening up there. He's from the area, but I don't want to use his name (please respect that). Anyway, whether he's correct or not, I've been saying for years that there are problems up there. My biggest issue is with the waste of game meat by nonlocal hunters. Some hunters are barely getting it out of the field before spoilage, they dump it on their air charter to deal with, and it winds up in the dump. This will ultimately cost us the rights to hunt some of those areas.
THE "RIGHTS" DEBATE
I've long held the view that when the argument makes its way around to "it's my right to be there", little progress will be made toward long-term solutions. Insistence on personal rights is not the pathway to take here. Respect for the rights of others is. You can always defer to the other guy, and if you do, he usually backs down and both parties win.
The gentleman who ran out a list of numbers in the other discussion; where did those numbers come from? The first one on the list was $1200 per ticket on Alaska Airlines. Where did THAT come from? I went out to their website and pulled up a random listing for Sept 1-Sept 11, 2006, Boston to Kotzebue, round trip, and came up with prices ranging from $500 to $1064.90! Not the $1200 that was quoted! Besides, he missed the point that this money doesn't stay in Alaska! Sure, Alaska pays employees who work in Kotzebue, and those folks spend money locally, but the ticket revenue goes to corporate headquarters in Seattle!
Folks, if we're going to debate this, we need to use good numbers that can be verified.
A while back I posted on the increased pressure on the WAH, but a few folks took some jabs at me on that, saying that I didn't know what I was talking about. Well, the fact is that pressure IS increasing in the arctic. Look at all the discussion about it here in the hunting forum the last two years. It's there, and it's headed for trouble.
Well, I'll sit and listen to what you folks have on this for a while. I don't know what the solution is, and there are a lot of problems up there. But as I said, my main issue is the meat care thing. No excuse for it.
Since most of the land outsiders are hunting is federal land in that region, there is only so much "legislating" the locals can do. As long as the WACH stays healthy, federal law will protect access to those LANDS....not necessarily to the animals tho. If the WACH crashes, the area will go into subsistence regs at the fed level and only locals will be allowed access to the animals.
A town the size of Kotz (around 3000) can only support so much economic developement. If your only customers are the 3000 folks in the town, your economy stagnantes. The ONLY option available is to bring in others, on a temporary basis, who spend money in your community, and then leave. Sport hunters are one of those type of people. I would say that sport hunters bring in far more money than they cost the community.
I agree, dumpsters full of sour meat, outside the airport area don't do anyone any good.
Local Rights on Federal Lands
You have a point, but look what happened with the "No Fly" zone on the Noatak. That went into effect years ago; just two or three years after I started hunting it. The folks in Noatak were claiming that the airplane traffic bringing in fall hunters was driving the caribou migration away. An absurd, indefensible claim, but one that nonetheless stood and resulted in legislative action that curtailed the rights of nonlocal hunters. It had little to no effect on locals at all, because most of them were accessing the area by boat!
This is but one example of how folks who don't own the land at all can assert themselves over other users who are, in at least the strictest sense, co-owners of the land. Like I said, it's a mess.
My prediction? More restrictions will happen, as a result of increased pressure and abuse by non locals.
Notice I use the term "locals" instead of "native". I do that deliberately because I don't believe this should be a native issue at all. At least not in this situation.
Once again I follow the issue to this new setup. Can you clarify the non-resident argument. How are we screwing up the hunting for the natives?
Are we scaring the caribou? Are we not leaving enough money? Are we taking too many animals. Is this a native vs. white debate? I can't believe but a small percentage are dumping meat into dumpsters.
As I understand it, the majority of the WACH population is on Federal Land.
So someone please list what the problems are as we in the lower 48 are not privy to all the issues.
Response to Bizymocha
I'm no expert on this, but here is what I see.
This is not a racial issue. If it is for some, it shouldn't be. It's about balancing the needs of the local folks who live up there with those of an increasing number of non-locals who want to hunt the area. Locals have, for many years, used the WAH for a food source. Only in recent years have we seen such a huge influx of non-local hunters. Really, the biggest spike happened with the decline of the Mulchatna Herd. The folks who were hunting that area have simply relocated to the north.
The biggest single issue is the numbers of hunters using the area. With increasing numbers of nonlocal hunters comes a corresponding increase of commercial services catering to those hunters, increasing amounts of trash and wasted game meat, etc. etc. These things were happening in the past, but on a smaller scale.
For clarification, I'm not sure exactly who is dumping the meat in the trash up in Kotzebue; the hunters themselves or their air charters who get stuck with it. Either way, we're hearing a lot more about it now than ever before.
It is just a matter of time until the regulations change or the herd crashes. The question is, which will come first. Another is what will be the result? What herd is next?
Trooppers could be the issue...no enforcement...
or maybe the hunters are not breaking any laws just ethics. I would imagine several non-residents are trophy hunters, so maybe meat salvage is secondary. Which is wrong.
Maybe the hunters should have to transport the spoiled meat home instead of giving to the aircharters or maybe if the aircharter takes the meat, they have to transport it out of the villages.
I still prefer the complete salvage and use of game meat, but I do understand that some spoilage will occur.
Maybe their should be a limit on the caribou I guy can shoot in a day up there or something about not taking another until the downed animal is field dressed.
In addition, how about more trooper activity up there? Might discourage the waste. The state should flood the area with trooppers if their is a real problem. This can and has been done before if there is a real issue, but the locals need to know they will be fair game for enforcement as well.
Just a few thoughts Mike.
Kotzebue hunting issues
Originally Posted by calndux
I agree with some of this, but here are some additional comments.
I don't personally know a lot of folks who live in Kotzebue, so I cannot attest to how many of them are (1) trophy hunters who (2) don't care about the meat. I'd bet it is very few. Word would get around (it's not a big town) and the locals would turn up the heat, I think. But that's pure speculation on my part. What I DO know is that I've seen caribou racks scattered around the tundra up there, usually with a few empty beer or soda cans scattered around and maybe a few cigarette butts. Those are from local hunters. Almost ALL non-locals will haul the antlers out. Many locals are just there for the meat. What would they do with the antlers anyway? To outsiders, the antlers are frequently the whole reason for the hunt. To folks who can shoot 30 or 40 head a year, what's the big deal with another caribou rack in the yard? The often leave them.
I agree with you on the meat salvage issue. It is the hunters' responsibility. "Some meat spoilage will occur" is a regrettable truth that, more often than not, is directly attributable to something the hunter did incorrectly, either out of ignorance or neglect. That's why the law holds them accountable for it. I am living proof that it is possible to hunt Alaska for a couple of decades, be responsible for the death of many animals, and never lose a single one to spoilage. It is possible. I have probably been lucky a time or two, but more than that I have paid extra special care to the proper handling of our meat in the field and post-hunt. If I can do it, anyone can. I'm nobody special with this, and that's why I take such a hard line on it. Your comment almost excuses carelessness, though I'm sure that's not what you meant.
I agree that we need more enforcement up there, but resources are already stretched thin. Now we have the added dynamic of the changes within the State Troopers. We now have regular troopers out there, many of whom have no clue about wildlife enforcement, making judgment calls on things for which they are not nearly as qualified as the brown shirts were. Big mistake! We not only need more enforcement, we need better enforcement. Perhaps with Kotzebue being one of the largest blips on the radar screen right now, we'll get both.
Your wrong about the blue shirts in the field, Mike. We DO NOT have blue shirt troopers in the field. What we have is (former) brown shirt troopers doing blue shirt work. The change within DPS did not put blues in the field.........it put browns in the office and on the street. We got WAY less wildlife enforcement with that change. It is a key part of wildlife management problems in this state.
Talk with Sarah Palin about Wildlife Management
I'm not trying to turn this discussion into a debate on the various candidates for governor this year, but I thought I would share a few comments that Sarah Palin made the other day when I called into a local talk radio show. Everyone was talking about the gas-line deal, but I asked her about the practice of legislating game management as some (Ralph Seekins, etc.) try to do. She told me that she was firmly against the practice, and that game management should be left in the hands of trained biologists.
She then went on, without my prodding, to talk about the brown shirt/blue shirt issue. She said that, if elected, she would do whatever she could to reinstitute the split between brown shirts and blue shirts so that wildlife enforcement does not continue to suffer in the way that it has from this shift. I gotta say, I was pretty pleased that she addressed this issue without even being asked.
Thanks for the clarification, MT! Also, thanks for not needlessly beating me up over it!
Originally Posted by martentrapper
I had heard from other sources that blue shirts were indeed in the field doing wildlife enforcement. If not them, then who is doing it?
Since there is only one uniform now, it is true that blue shirts are in the field. However, those are the former WEOs. Regular troopers do not do F&G enforcement unless by chance.
I can't speak for what happens in unbania, but in rural Ak, the WEOs are often busy doing trooper work. Only during busy harvest times, like spring bear hunting now, are the WEOs actually allowed to do their job. Ask a WEO in Anch how much time he spends on F&G enforcement.
Mike, any time I beat you up.............you deserved it :-)
Non-Resy Pt of View
If I am beginning to read this right, the local natives are finding the non-local competition detrimental to their subsistence harvest. This applies to those Alaskans traveling to Kotz and those from the lower 48 coming up to hunt.
I for one, if spending money to hunt a WACH animal would hold out for the very best trophy class animal or two if regs permit. I would be prepared to take out all the meat with the intent of transporting one box home. The remainder would be donated to whatever local tribe/food bank is in place.
So, 400,000 WACH animals aren't enough for the local tribal members? Or, maybe they just don't want to see anyone infringing on "their herd"? The argument seems without merit - in my view.
As far as biologists making game managment recommendations, that is the way it should be!!!! Politicians can and will only screw things up.
Originally Posted by bizymocha
Most nonlocal hunters are trophy hunting, and will shoot only one or two animals, as you stated. There are exceptions of course. The issue doesn't seem to be not having enough caribou to go around; it's more about what happens to the meat afterwards. You mentioned donating the surplus meat locally. In principle this is a good thing, however I have had locals tell me that meat donation in Kotzebue is wearing a little thin. For starters, many of them want to hunt themselves. Ending up with a lot of "extra" meat isn't necessarily a good thing to some of them. Then you have the issue of folks being careless with meat care (since they're giving it away anyway). Who wants a dirty, fly-blown hind quarter? Who wants rutted-up caribou meat? Now, I'm sure most of the outsiders who hunt up there, and who donate meat, take good care of it. But it's the few who don't that are ruining it for everyone else. The locals up there are as guilty of overstating their case as we are. The problem is probably not as big in reality as it sounds like, but news travels quickly in a town of roughly 3,000 people, and seemingly small things become big things quickly.
Finally, your comment about "local tribal members" not wanting anyone infringing on "their herd" might be considered an insult to local folks. I don't think that's an accurate assessment at all. There are some who don't want you there (mostly those who do not benefit from your presence), but not everyone feels that way. I know you didn't mean it that way... The population of Kotzebue is roughly 25% non-native. The remaining 75% are a mostly Inupiat Eskimo, so there are a fair amount of folks up there with no tribal affiliation at all. I prefer to look at people as people, not as a racial group (unless of course they prefer to be identified that way). I don't think there are many folks up there that consider the WAH to "belong" to them at all. But they HAVE been hunting the area for hundreds of years. For most of that time, they had the area to themselves, and now they're being asked to "move over" so non-locals can come in and cherry-pick the big bulls. Most of these non-locals have a lot more resources than the locals do and can afford expensive plane rides into the best areas. So you can see why some of them might not want you there, or would be especially upset if you dropped off unwanted meat on their doorstep. It's complicated.
I'm not suggesting that nobody should go up there; just that we take some time to learn about the area, learn about the people, and conduct ourselves in a manner respectful of the local folks. Ask your air charter in advance about donating meat, and be sure to take good care of it. But be mindful that a lot of folks up there, just like you, want to hunt for themselves. Be prepared to haul it all home.
Just my two cents. There are folks on this board who live up there and could offer better insights than mine. I apologize in advance for any errors, over-simplifications or unintentional offenses. I'm a big believer in showing respect when you find yourself in someone else's backyard, and that's what I'm trying to encourage folks to do.
Last edited by Michael Strahan; 05-08-2006 at 07:09.
All we hear is how game meat is being wasted in Kotzebue, did this not happen in King Salmon, Dillingham, or Illiamna?? I find it very hard to believe that this problem just started happening. Why are we now talking about it when it should have been addressed years ago. By the time this solve this prblem they'll be moving on to the next caribou herd. Calndux said that maybe the problem is with hunter ethics with the game meat waste issue, it's state law that all the meat be taken out, ethics has nothing to do with it. If the only thing these hunters care about is antlers then maybe we should take them way, if their caught wasting meat or don't bring it all out of the field then they lose their antlers, maybe that will slow down the waste thats going on. As for wildlife enforcement, in 13 years of hunting Alaska, i have been checked twice and both times i was hunting areas accessible from the highways, I think they can do a little better than that.
Did i read that right?? You are prepared to take "one" box of meat home? What if nobody wants the meat, then what are you going to do with it? If your flying up there to hunt caribou you should be prepared to take ALL the meat home, I don't know about you but I don't hunt for antlers. I hunt for meat and hope that maybe I can get lucky and bag an animal big enough to put antlers on the wall and meat in the freezer.
Originally Posted by bizymocha
Accountability for meat care-
Originally Posted by AkHunter45
I agree. This problem has been around a long time, but this time the dynamics are a little different. When people were hunting the Mulchatna Herd, most of them chartered out of Anchorage. When the charter picked them up, they hauled hunters, gear, meat and trophies directly back to Anchorage. I know for a fact that a LOT of meat ended up in the dumpster in Anchorage too. It's just that in such a large city, it didn't stand out as much. There were stories though... In Kotzebue, hunters have to charter out and back out of Kotz, but then they have to ship meat, trophies and gear south on commercial carriers, which they didn't always have with the Mulchatna situation. This makes hunting the Arctic more expensive; fewer people want to pay the freight to ship it home from there. I would say (I have no numbers to back this up, it's just an educated guess) that, for this reason, there is a LOT more meat left in Kotzebue on the average than there was in other places. The dynamics are different.
I like your idea of confiscation of the trophy if the meat is wasted or missing without proper documentation. The hunters themselves need to be responsible for this. Of course, the problem there is enforcement. The troopers know that a lot of folks are hunting the Arctic though, so perhaps their efforts will shift north during hunting season...
Last edited by Michael Strahan; 05-08-2006 at 07:24.
Everyone knows that during the hunting season that Kotzebue will be jam packed full of hunters, post a trooper or 2 there and have them check hunters as they get off the plane, not that difficult really. I know they are underfunded and under staffed but who isn't these days. I hunt for meat and though i love a nice set of horns on the wall, for me the meat is more important cause antlers don't make for a good roast or burger. We shouldn't have to make a hunter take care of his meat or bring it all home, they should want to do that all on their own. I hunting moose this fall with an old hunting buddy of mine that now lives in Georgia and I know he will want to take as much of the meat home as possible and what he can't take, I will and if I see a shootable moose, I will take one as well. I've stated this before, I have no problem sharing meat with friends and family so finding someone to take the meat is never an issue for me.
Where are your facts?
I was told by an operator that has worked up in Kotzebue for over 20 years that there are basically the same amount of people coming up hunting that there has been for the past 10 - 15 years. He said the only difference is that there more visible now since they are not hid in Jim Roods Hangar or Mike Spisak's Hangar. He said between the two of them, Arctic Air Guides and one other operator that they use to take 500 people every year. I've read recently that 500 people or there about hunted out of Kotzebue in 2005.
People are stating Wanton and waste is up? How do you know? what's the numbers from the fish and game or State Troopers? What about the 5 or 6 musk Ox that were slaughtered last year on the Wulik river and left to rote there by a resident of Kivialina (75 miles northwest of Kotzebue)?
Everytime I have hunted up there we have been checked by a State trooper in a super cub or a Park Service ranger in a Scout or even now they are checking us with a helicopter. Don't forget the wildlife refugee brown shirts guys that are flying a super cub, cessna 206 and cessna 185. Our camp has had more aircraft traffic flying over, landing and talking then birds flying over.
I think people need to keep to the facts. How many people were cited for wanton waste last year? I bet its not many. I bet that 90% of the camps though were checked by some sort of law enforcement during their hunt though.
As far as leaving meat in Kotzebue, there isn't a need if people don't want it. The food bank on the other hand in Anchorage will take all you can give them and they process it and have it ready for neady families that actually appreciate it. Don't worrry about thinking it will cost alot of money to send it because Northern Air Cargo sends it for free to them.
As far as the dumpster of meat goes, check with the state troopers in Kotzebue and find out if it happened and how many times and who if anyone was cited. If they weren't cited maybe it was just a bunch of bloody bones and unsalvagable meat?
As far as Caribou in the rut up in Kotzebue. I have hunted there many times with the latest being October 5th and have never had one in rut yet.
I looked at the caribou migration pattern from satelite tracking and it shows for the past 15 -20 years (I believe) and low and behold it doesn't look like the non resident hunters are changing the path but Red Dog Mine. It appears they are avoiding that area like the plague.
I hunted on the Kelly one time, which is a short ways from Red Dog mine and all I heard for 5 days there was dynamite blowing up.
Get the actual factual numbers before you whine to much. The numbers don't lie. You might not like what you actually see.
Flying makes some good points. While Alaska Air usually leaves Kotz with a load of Passengers, both Everts, and NAC, leave fairly empty. Their back haul rates are pretty cheap too. Sending meat to the food bank in Anch sounds good.
Here's some advice for WACH hunters. You can usually access the herd from Bettles. Book your hunt out of there. It may cost more, but you'll very likely see less crowds in Bettles. Transporters out of Bettles can access country farther east than ones out of Kotz. Check it out.
Keeping informed on issues
I don't have much time, but wanted to post a link to the discussion in the Alaska House on HB 464, Eric Croft's bill that sought to make enforcement of wanton waste easier, penalties clear. If this bill were to pass, if you showed up with less than half the meat from a game animal, your antlers or horns would be confiscated. It is nearly verbatim what AKhunter45 proposed a few posts ago.
This bill deals specifically with the region being discussed. It's something I've been keeping a close eye on. Here's an excerpt from the minutes that the above link takes you to:
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT said he wants the board to make regulations
where appropriate. He said without the required meat, no one
will need to hear any excuses. He said he has hunted all his
life and only once did a grizzly bear get part of an elk.
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT spoke of four hunters coming into Kivalina
with 5 antlers from caribou and moose, and they had two medium-
sized game bags of meat. Villagers stopped them. The hunters
obviously didn't eat it on the way down, and the villagers were
mad. There was almost a fight. He said it happens over and
over in the Kotzebue area and elsewhere. He said he would like
a concept of developing a concept of using the desire for the
trophy as a tool for less wanton waste.