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Waterfowl Hunting in Alaska
Learn About Duck Stamps
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Proof of HIP Enrollment
All migratory bird hunters that are required to have a state duck stamp are also required to enroll in the Harvest Information Program (HIP) and must carry proof of enrollment while hunting—the serial number on the back of state duck stamps is the HIP number. Hunters who are not required to have a state stamp need not enroll in HIP, but are encouraged to do so voluntarily.
License Fees at Work
The Alaska Waterfowl Conservation Stamp program was authorized by the 1984 Alaska State Legislature to manage and enhance Alaska’s waterfowl and their habitats and to provide public appreciation and benefits of waterfowl as national and international resources. Since 1985, the Alaska duck stamp program has raised over $3 million.
Hunting license and state duck stamp fees are contributed to the state’s Fish and Game Fund, reserved for the management of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources. Royalties from the sale of duck stamp art prints, posters, and other products are considered General Fund revenue, allocated to the department by the Alaska Legislature for the Waterfowl Conservation and Enhancement Program. Your duck stamp license fees and other stamp revenues provide all of the funding for the state’s waterfowl management program and may not be used for other purposes.
Duck stamp funding allows the department to attract partner organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for cooperative projects. To date, duck stamp dollars and cooperative funds have been used to acquire and improve valuable waterfowl habitat and public access sites, produce educational materials for schools and hunters, and develop interpretive facilities at major viewing areas.
The Solution to Lead Poisoning in Waterfowl
Nontoxic shot is required for hunting waterfowl, sandhill cranes and snipe in Alaska. It is a violation to have shells loaded with lead shot in personal possession while hunting migratory birds. Shot sizes larger than T (0.20" diameter) are prohibited. Nontoxic shot also is required for muzzleloading shotguns. Current federally approved nontoxic shot types include: steel, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron, tungsten polymer, tungsten matrix and tin. Steel shot remains the most widely used nontoxic shot and the only type tested extensively to determine its effectiveness in the field.
Shooting Steel Shot
There are two major differences between steel and lead shot: steel is LIGHTER and HARDER than lead shot. These characteristics affect both the size of the shot cloud (string) needed to intercept birds and the energy for penetrating birds down range.
Steel is Lighter
Steel pellets weigh about one-third less than lead pellets of the same size. Hunters need to learn which loads help compensate for lower retained energy down range. Hunters also need to consider that there are more pellets per ounce and a larger capacity for shot in steel shot shells, compared to lead loads. Loads with 1 1/4 oz or less of steel shot are effective and economical.
Use a Larger Shot Size
To compensate for weight differences between lead and steel, and improve downrange energy, use steel shot one or two sizes larger than the usual lead load. Remember it is critical to have both enough pellets in the load to adequately cover the target at a given distance, and to have adequate retained pellet energy to penetrate the vital organs of the bird. Selecting overly large shot sizes will create problems in hitting birds.
Steel is Harder
Soft lead shot is deformed during firing and passage through the barrel, forming longer and wider shot strings of irregular pellets. Annealed (softened) iron used in “steel” shotshells is about three times harder than lead pellets. Steel shot is nearly round and does not deform in the shotgun or when it strikes birds. Steel’s more aerodynamic shape than lead shot creates shot strings that are smaller in length and diameter, delivering more dense patterns. However, the shorter narrower shot string will make it more difficult to intercept moving birds--there is less margin for error in gun handling and trigger timing skills.
Use a More Open Choke
To compensate for steel’s tighter patterns and shorter shot strings, use more open chokes. Try using Improved Cylinder and/or Modified chokes rather than Full, especially for targets at less than 50 yards. Even with more open chokes, steel shot strings will be smaller than many lead loads, requiring more accurate shooting. The answer is PRACTICE-PRACTICE-PRACTICE.
If you need or want more information on waterfowl hunting in alaska CLICK HERE
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If you are new to the state or a non-resident, you may feel that hiring a Migratory Bird Hunting Guide would be a good way to go. Sea duck hunters may wish to visit the Sea Duck Joint Venture website to learn about sea duck biology and management throughout North America. Goose hunters may wish to visit the Arctic Goose Joint Venture website to learn about the current status of goose populations. Migratory birds are often banded or collared for scientific studies. They are legal game. However, if you take a marked animal, you must notify either the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or the USFWS. Reporting a bird band is easy and informative. Bird bands furnish valuable data on the origin, movements and ages of ducks and geese. You may keep the bands and you will receive a certificate noting the date and location each bird was originally banded.
Waterfowl hunting requires more gear than almost any other type of hunting. A little pre-season preparation can prevent a frustrating opening day: Touch up those decoys and rig them for the type of water body you’ll be hunting. Inspect and test your boat and motor well before heading out to the field. Shooting several rounds of trap or skeet will sharpen your skills and, especially when combined with using a well trained retriever, will reduce your crippling loss. Above all else know your birds. Shooting a non-target or illegal species is not only embarrassing, but it may also lead to fines, and loss of equipment and hunting privileges.
License and Duck Stamp Requirements
All Alaska residents age 16 or older must possess a hunting license to hunt in Alaska and must carry it while hunting. Resident hunters 60 years old or older may obtain a free, permanent identification card issued by the Department. This card replaces the sport fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses. Disabled veterans qualified under AS 16.05.341 may receive a free hunting license. Residents with an annual family income below $8,200 (before taxes) may buy a low income license.
Nonresident and Alien Hunters.
All nonresident hunters, regardless of age, must possess the appropriate nonresident or nonresident alien hunting license. Nonresidents may buy a small game license.
Nonresident Military Personnel
Members of the military service on active duty who are permanently stationed in the state, and their dependents who are living in the state, and are not yet Alaska residents under AS 16.05.940(24), may buy a special nonresident military small game license or a non-resident small game license.
State and Federal Duck Stamps
All waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older must have a current federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp. An Alaska Waterfowl Conservation Stamp is also required unless you:
* are an Alaska resident under the age of 16;
* are an Alaska resident 60 years old or older;
* are a disabled veteran eligible for free license; or
* qualify for a low income license.
State and Federal stamps must be signed in ink and must be carried at all times while hunting waterfowl. Stamps do not have to be attached to a hunting license. State and federal stamps are not required if hunting only snipe and cranes.
Migratory bird hunters in Alaska have numerous opportunities to harvest waterfowl, sandhill cranes, and snipe. Whether decoying brant over eel grass beds at Cold Bay, jump-shooting dabblers on Minto Flats, or waiting in a pit blind for a crack at speckle bellies in Delta, the variety of bird species hunted and the diversity of hunting venues are unique to the state. Alaska’s marine and freshwater wetlands produce a fall flight of about 12 million ducks and over one million geese to all four North American flyways and neighboring countries. They also provide vital staging habitat for migrants that breed in Canada and Russia. Approximately 8,800 waterfowl hunters in Alaska can expect to harvest close to 70,000 ducks and 7,000 geese per hunting season.
The annual process for setting migratory bird hunting regulations begins in January and ends in September. For management and regulations purposes, Alaska is divided into 26 migratory bird hunting zones. The first thing to do before going afield is to determine what zone you will be hunting. Become familiar with the regulations and shooting times for that area, and purchase appropriate stamps and licenses. Special permits may be required to hunt certain species (e.g., swans), or in particular areas. Be aware of special restrictions and legal methods of take. Remember that nontoxic shot is required for hunting waterfowl, sandhill cranes, and snipe; you cannot carry lead shot in the field while hunting migratory birds. Also, know the federal regulations regarding transport and shipping, possession and tagging, and additional methods of take. All of these are outlined in the Alaska Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations. For complete federal hunting rules, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Law Enforcement, 1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503, phone (907) 786-3311. Dog trainers and hunting dog clubs should be aware of the regulations for using birds for training purposes.