Amid COVID-19 restrictions, far fewer Outside hunters are coming to Alaska

Alaska Wildlife Troopers Kyle Freeberg (left) and Cody Lister (right) tell hunters in Wrangell what they need to know about the nuanced antler restrictions for the month-long moose hunt.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers Kyle Freeberg (left) and Cody Lister (right) tell hunters in 2019 what they need to know about the nuanced antler restrictions for Wrangell’s month-long moose hunt. (2019 Photo by June Leffler/KSTK)

Hunting season draws thousands of Outside tourists to Alaska every year. In 2019, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sold 15,897 non-resident hunting licenses. This year, the department says the coronavirus pandemic has crushed demand for non-resident hunting, and they’ve sold only a quarter of that — 3,594 non-resident licenses as of Aug. 12.

Ryan Scott, an assistant director for Fish and Game, says Outside hunters are still interested in coming to the state, but they have to contend with travel restrictions and local requirements. And some hunters have already decided now it is not a good time for them to travel.

“I think a lot of hunters are having to really think through how to accomplish the hunt that they want to do and do it responsibly,” Scott said. “I talked to a fair number of them at this point, and they are taking it very seriously and they want to do the right thing and they also want to come hunt, so many of them have figured out how to make that work for them.”

Among the factors complicating the season for Outside hunters is the state requirement that travelers be required to have negative tests from their home states before leaving for Alaska or else pay $250 for a test when they land at the airport.

Scott pointed out that the department cannot enforce additional safety regulations for non-resident hunters. Still, he said, they are doing their best to provide information on state health mandates, and they strongly encourage hunters to follow local rules.

“Whether it be a resident hunter or a non-resident hunter that might be traveling to a different community,” he said, “we certainly make them aware of the state travel website so they can see the statewide mandate. We also encourage people to make sure they communicated if they are going into a community, that they’ve looked at their requirements as well.”

Despite the twists and turns of this season, Scott said the department wants to make hunting opportunities available.

“So much time and effort has been put into identifying ways to make these processes work and provide opportunities for hunters to get to the field, and that’s what we want – we want Alaskans to be able to go out and enjoy their hunting seasons and put food in their freezer and spend time in the outdoors,” said Scott.

He said hunters should be cognizant of their home state requirements as well.

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