2. What is the problem you would like the Board to address?
The sheep population in Alaska is at an all time low. Before we mandate a draw statewide for sheep, I think we should try other means to increase our sheep population. I believe aircraft should only be used to transport hunters to/from the field during sheep hunting season. During hunting season aircraft are being used by ‘all users groups” to assist them in making their hunt easier and more successful.
Here are several problems that may occur by allowing aircraft to fly into hunting areas during hunting season.
1) Sheep are being harassed. I have had aircraft harass sheep that I was in the process of hunting. One time it was done on purpose, but other I am sure were just tourist taking a local flight seeing tour. Either case my hunting experience was diminished.
2) It is unethical in my opinion to spot game via aircraft. Aircraft owners/users have an unfair advantage over those that don’t have access to an airplane.
3) Sheep hunters currently in the field may have an advantage when an aircraft are flying. What happens when an airplane spots a sheep? They circle to get a better view. What does the hunter do when seeing this? They stop what they are doing and head to the area where the aircraft was circling. This could result in the hunter tagging a sheep he may not have seen.
3. What will happen if this problem is not solved?
More and more of our Alaskan recourse (Dall sheep) are being harvest by guided non-resident sheep hunters. I believe one of the major reasons behind this extremely high success rate is due to the fact that their guides are flying many hours looking for sheep prior to and during sheep season. The result of this advantage is one reason the Non-resident sheep hunters success rate is 80% or more and resident hunter’s success rate is below 20%.
The population of sheep in both Units 13 and 14 are very low, I contribute this low population is due to the high success rate of non-resident hunters. Resident hunters are seeing our sheep hunting opportunities diminished each year due to this exceedingly high success rate. Many of our Game Management Unit has already gone to “draw only” and many more will in the near future if something is not done soon!
If aircraft where unable to fly into these units, except for dropping of hunters, I believe you would see an increase in the population of sheep, due to the fact, success rates would be lower. High sheep number means more hunting opportunities for everyone, including us Alaskans.
Game will continue to be harassed by these aircraft. Once these so called hunters leave the hunting area or areas, they have harassed more game then the animal they just harvested. Game that has been harassed are much harder, if not impossible, to hunt. This makes it harder for honest hardworking hunters to fill their tags.
4. What solution do you prefer?
For Sheep Hunts that occur in Units 13 and 14 - All airplane usage be restricted to only allow for the transportation of hunters to and from the field. I further suggest that this ban starts 5 days before hunting season and ends at midnight of the last day.
Below is a rule that is currently being used in Nevada.
A person shall not, for the purpose of hunting, locate or observe, or assist a person in locating or observing, any big game mammal in a management unit during the period beginning 48 hours before a big game hunting season opens until the close of the season in that management unit with the use of:
a) An aircraft, including, without limitation, any device that is used for navigation of, or flight in, the air;
b) A hot air balloon or any other device that is lighter than air;
c) A satellite or any other device that orbits the earth and is equipped to produce images.
5. Does your proposal address improving the quality of the resource harvested or products produced? If so, how?
No, it does not improve the quality of the resource, but it will preserve the ethical standard of fair case that all of us should have while hunting.
6. Solutions to difficult problems benefit some people and hurt others:
A. who is likely to benefit if your solution is adopted?
All sheep hunters that don’t use an airplane as a means to make their hunt easier. All current and future resident sheep hunters would benefit by having the success rates of the non-resident sheep hunters decrease. This means more sheep tags would become available for the draw. The sheep that are being harassed by all this airplane traffic. All sheep hunters both resident and non-resident would benefit if both of these units had more sheep in them. ADF&G would benefit greatly, if the Governor’s sheep tag would reach the $100,000 it once did, when the quality of the rams harvested where of trophy status.
B. Who is likely to suffer if your solution is adopted?
Guides may not be able to brag about having a 80% success rate on Dall sheep. All sheep hunters that are seeking an easier more successful hunt. Anyone that uses an airplane for sight seeing tours from Aug 10th - Sept 20th would have to sight see somewhere else. Taxidermist and butcher shops may suffer a little since less sheep would be harvested.
7. List any other solutions you considered and why you rejected them.
Ban all flying in Units 13 and 14 for sheep hunting until the sheep numbers recover. I have not rejected this solution; I just believe the one list above has a better chance of being implemented.
Close Unit 14 to all sheep hunting for the next 5 years. Sheep numbers need to be increased to a point where we are offering a high quality and successful sheep hunts. This is another option that I would agree with and again I have not rejected it, but if you feel it makes more since then lets go with it.