Proxy hunters help harvest moose for those who can’t

A moose hunting brochure from the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game. (Photo by Jillian Rogers)

Since Saturday, hunters around Haines have been out in the woods in search of moose. Hunting the large animals is not only good outdoor recreation but a great source of meat to harvest before winter sets in.

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However, the elderly and people with disabilities may have a difficult time taking advantage of the local bounty. Hunting and butchering a moose is no small task. That’s why Alaska Department of Fish & Game sometimes allows people to hunt on behalf of those who may not be physically capable.

Nathanael Motes moved to Haines four years ago from Louisiana. He has been an avid hunter his whole life and was excited to take advantage of the game that Alaska has to offer. He said Alaska presents some unique challenges.

“Man, everything is different here,” Motes said. “You got bears that’ll eat you. You’re walking through the woods and it’s a lot more nerve-wracking. That and the terrain. I thought moving to Alaska there would be vast openness and flatness, but it’s been a surprise how much everything is at an incline here. That and the devil’s club and the impenetrable alders. Hunting in Alaska is definitely a lot tougher than anywhere else I’ve ever hunted. There is a big difference between hunting here and down in the Lower 48.”

Motes said he is particularly keen to hunt moose, but he hasn’t been able to since he arrived.

“I’ve never moose hunted because of the fact that since I’ve been here I haven’t been able to get a moose tag. There’s kind of an algorithm that the Department of Fish and Game run where you get points taken away or points added to you for how long you’ve lived here, how much game you take every year for subsistence living, stuff like that. I haven’t met the criteria mainly because I haven’t been here long enough,” Motes said.

Priority for moose hunting permits is given to hunters who have lived in Alaska for a longer period of time.

But in some cases, someone who has depended on meat from these hunts for years may reach an age where they’re unable to hunt anymore. Haines resident Sally Reno has found herself in that situation.

“Well I’ve been hunting since I was 14 years old, you know. Not just for moose here, I lived in Michigan and hunted deer there and, of course, took home lots of meat. Well, my legs don’t want to do it anymore. This getting older thing,” Reno said.

But Reno has a better chance of getting a moose permit than Motes. She has lived in Alaska for 35 years and applies for a moose permit every year. This racks up points in her favor.

So, Motes is an avid hunter ready for his first Alaskan moose hunt but unable to get a permit. Reno has no problem getting a permit but can’t hunt the way she used to.

Both found a solution through the ADF&G’s proxy hunting system. Alaskans who are over the age of 65, blind or at least 70 percent disabled may find an eligible hunter to hunt for them by proxy.

Carl Koch is the assistant area management biologist for ADF&G’s Douglas Office. He helps manage the Tier II moose hunt for the Upper Lynn Canal.

“This is designed for someone to get meat,” Koch said. “So the proxy has to destroy the antlers of both the beneficiary’s moose and his or her own moose while proxy hunting. So in other words, proxy hunting is not meant to be trophy hunting. It’s meant to help somebody who is unable to get out there get meat in their freezer.”

Koch said both the beneficiary and the proxy hunter must have their own hunting licenses. The proxy must keep both licenses while hunting.

The Tier II moose hunt has strict specifications for the type of moose that can be taken. Hunts are limited to one bull moose with spike-fork antlers, antlers wider than 50 inches or antlers with at least three brow tines on one side. Reno said these characteristics can be difficult to determine while hunting.

“You really have to know what you are doing. It’s like you almost have to go out there and tie it up and measure the antlers and then shoot,” Reno said.

Koch says that is why it is very important to choose a skilled proxy hunter.

“If the beneficiary selects a proxy and that proxy goes out and shoots an illegal animal, that animal is confiscated and the bag limit is filled. That beneficiary cannot go and find some other hunter to go hunt again for them. Their season is over.”

This year Motes will be hunting on behalf of Reno. He said he has been preparing by searching the woods for scat and prints. He’s also set up three stands in the trees to shoot from.

“Pretty much that’s it. Just get in the woods. It’s a numbers game. The more you’re in the woods, the more chances you get of finding a moose. So you just got to get out there and do it,” Motes said.

Tier II moose hunting for the Upper Lynn Canal ends October 7th. So far 11 moose have been taken since the hunt opened on Saturday.