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Give Alaska hunters a head start? Board of Game says no.

Craig Medred

The Alaska Boards of Fish and Game have always been big believers in Alaska for Alaskans. Where else do residents get special, personal-use dipnet fisheries that allow them to go down to a river with nets and scoop out a winter supply of salmon for the family -- while non-residents are only allowed to watch?

But it seems there are limits for even state agencies that set fishing and hunting rules.

Meeting in Sitka last week, the state Board of Game rejected the idea of giving residents another benny by providing them earlier opening dates for big-game hunting seasons than non-residents. The thinking is that an early opener would give Alaskans a better chance to shoot something before the dumb animals die and the rest smarten up.

Some areas of the state already have an early season for local subsistence hunts or archers. Archers need to get closer to their targets than rifle hunters, and it is pretty well documented that animals learn quickly once the guns start going off.

Board members, according to KCAW public radio in Sitka, said they were sympathetic to giving Alaska residents the first shot at big game, but they thought a statewide preference went too far.

Board member Nathan Turner from Nenana, a rural community in Interior Alaska, observed that there are significant parts of the state where non-residents are about the only hunters. Those hunters, he added, help support jobs in the Alaska guide businesses and provide the state a big chunk of change for wildlife conservation in the form of high fees paid for non-resident tags and permits.

Further discriminating against them, he argued, might encourage some to stay home, or hunt in other states, and that could be “a devastating blow to wildlife conservation.”