The Dall sheep hunting season opened earlier this week, on Wednesday, August 10, and the season runs until September 20, so there’s plenty of time to harvest. However, for successful sheep hunting, hunters must plan ahead of time.
Dall sheep are found in mountain ranges – an alpine habitat that requires hunters to navigate steep, technical slopes. Given the added challenge, sheep hunting requires additional preparation for new and experienced hunters alike, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A statement on the ADF&G sheep page reads, “Sheep hunting tends to be practiced primarily by a few intrepid individuals who are more interested in the challenge and satisfaction of mountain hunting and the alpine experience than having food in the freezer.”
Therefore, the ADF&G recommends that hunters research in advance not only what is considered a qualified sheep but also the area and terrain in which they will hunt.
The first step for fishermen is to decide where to fish and how to get to the area. Some areas can be reached on foot or with an ATV, but are often heavily hunted. To avoid competition, some fishermen choose to charter a plane to a remote area, but this is expensive – anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per person.
There is also the option of guided sheep hunting; Non-resident hunters must have a guide. Hiring a guide requires a lot of planning pressure on the angler, but it can also be costly.
When planning a trip, ADF&G encourages anglers to consider their fitness and experience levels. “Be realistic about your fitness level and conditioning program,” reads a statement from ADF & G. The statement continues: “Many sheep hunting operations require carrying 50- to 100-pound packages 20 to 50 miles, with altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. vertical”.
Some mountain ranges are famous for being steeper and more technical, while others are easier to walk but hunters have to travel farther.
Hunters should also determine if they plan to fish early or late in the season. The trade-off is that the weather is warmer during August and early September, but the sheep are often higher in the mountains and therefore require more hiking to reach. Later in the season, sheep are likely to be low and easy to reach, but the weather is less favorable for camping, especially at higher elevations.
Understand the fishing regulations
Hunters should familiarize themselves with how to spot a legal ram before heading out into the field and should also carefully evaluate the ram before shooting. According to ADF&G’s management strategy, only full-horned rams can be hunted legally. Full-horned rams indicate that the animal is about seven or eight years old.
Last season saw an increase in the number of Dall sheep that were harvested, according to the department. This is partly because there are fewer full rams overall – a trend that is expected to continue this year. The ADF&G statement explained that heavy snow and thaw in late spring resulted in higher pregnancy mortality and lower production in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Animals born in these years are now 8 to 10 years old, the age group with the most eligible harvests .
Poachers harvesting semi-legal sheep are cited by Alaska State Forces.
Submit a trip plan, and carry a GPS device
The last step before leaving on a hunting trip is to provide a road trip plan, which is useful in situations where rescue is necessary. Available through the Alaska State Troopers website, hunters must leave the plan with a trusted person who can give the plan to soldiers in case they do not return on schedule.
Besides providing a trip report, it’s also useful for anglers—and anyone traveling in the backcountry—to carry a GPS device, such as the Garmin InReach. The device can be used to send messages and has an SOS function that can be activated in an emergency.
ADF&G also recommends calling their office in the location closest to your hunting grounds to learn more about sheep and the area from local biologists and technicians.
The road trip plan can be downloaded from the following link: bit.ly/3Ah2Jxo.