July 24th, 2013

Think About It………                                                                                                                        July 24, 2013

If you’re a moose hunter on our Kenai Peninsula you should be wondering why the harvest of a trophy Moose…..one of the really big guys…. is extremely rare these days. One would think that just a little common sense would tell you that when the Board of Game wants us to “go out and kill every little spike and fork moose you can find” you will probably have many fewer Bull Moose growing those big 60 and 70 inch antlers we used to have. But this year….here we go again. Killing the little spike and fork antlered bulls is the order of the day.

The philosophy of killing the young non-breeding male Moose can be laid right at the feet of biologist Ted Spraker.  He is one of the good guys who has done a lot to maintain game populations in our state. Ted is our Kenai Peninsula representative on the Board of Game. He promoted and worked, with great success, to bring his philosophy of killing the young male moose into our Hunting Regulations for many years.

Basically, Spraker makes a very good argument when he says that we have a very limited amount of habitat for moose, particularly in GMU 15A. He believes it is a waste of limited moose browse, when it is consumed by young non-breeding male moose. Spraker is, of course, referring to the thousands of acres of old growth spruce, where the small bushes and shrubs simply no longer grow in cold shaded areas. Without that moose browse, large numbers of moose cannot survive. That means,  because breeding four to six year old males can each service a large number of herd cows, those are the moose that need to have access to what little browse remains in the area.

With regard to habitat, Spraker appears to be on the right track, wanting to kill the very young male moose, but his ideas are only a band-aid for the real problem.  The real problem is the limited and decreasing habitat we have now on the Kenai Peninsula. That means that biologists and all of us need to work to seriously reduce the thousands of acres of old growth spruce all across our Peninsula.

Controlled forest burns are the most efficient way to create healthy moose browse. The huge machines we used years ago to smash down old growth spruce works well, but is very expensive.

Remember the great moose hunting days after the widespread fires of 1948 and the big fires of 1969. Five years, and more, after those fires we had lots of moose browse and were harvesting many huge trophy Bull Moose every year. Remember when we used to have the Kenai National Moose Range and we managed it for sustained yield of trophy Bull Moose and some of the best hunting in Alaska. Those were the days.

Then, Congress changed it all by making our Moose Range the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Now, the goal is to have every lightening caused fire put out immediately.  No controlled burns are allowed.  Then on top of that, the folks in Anchorage scream to high heaven when there is a little smoke in their town.

It’s a mess out there in the woods for our moose. It will, no doubt, be that way for a long time to come. With out natural fires being left to burn, in uninhabited areas, or some extensive logging or way of destroying old grown spruce, our moose population will continue to slide. There is, really, nothing anyone can or will do about it.

Think About It!      John C. Davis

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