*Guide Required* The beauty of sheep hunting is definitely in the eye of the beholder. While on one hand, Alaska has endless locations to hunt sheep with a valid tag in hand. The other hand shows the bleak reality that there just might not be a legal ram within walking distance, no matter how in shape you are and how qualified your guide is at hunting sheep. Alaska continues to be home for an overall depressed Dall sheep population. As a non-resident needing to hire a guide to take them on their sheep hunt of a lifetime, the outlook and expectations of the hunt must be modified to fit current conditions. Never before have Dall sheep hunts been as expensive as they are today. Outfitters have struggled to keep up with the sheer demand for sheep hunts as well as offset their hard costs for fuel, travel, insurance, wages, flights, food, and more. This has driven the costs up, on average, 2x what they were just 10 years ago. As you visit with outfitters about booking your own hunt, keep in mind that past success rates and harvest photos of big rams may not be a good judge of the future as many seasoned outfitters have been blindsided by the past few winters and are left with a harsh reality.
It is prudent to understand that an outfitter cannot just move to an area with more sheep or more legal rams. Outfitters are stuck with the cards they have been dealt. So much of the guide industry in Alaska is controlled by Federal land use programs, segmented guide use areas by the Commercial Services Board. It is not like other western states where a guide license and a use permit can allow the guiding of any species statewide. Management at the state level dictates that “full curl” management practices cannot and are not damaging the sheep populations. To close hunting of old-age male sheep would not yield an overall population recovery. This further backs up the true debate at hand with sheep hunting in Alaska, the social acceptance of how permits should be distributed amongst residents and nonresidents, who should be able to sheep hunt and how often, and how many hunters in the field competing for a limited resource should be observed on someone’s hunt.
Dall Sheep season runs from August 10th to September 30th depending on season and location.
The only substantial change from last year’s Board of Game meetings that affected the 2023 season was the closure of all nonresident hunting in subunit 19C for sheep. All resident hunters were still able to hunt the unit. This change was met with very mixed emotions and feelings and further highlights the issues that the state faces in regards to Federal vs. State management, local vs. statewide opinions, guides vs. resident hunters, and basic biological concerns. The Wildlife Special Action Request drama created by the Federal Subsistence Board is most likely far from over in this great state. The overstep by the federal land agencies to circumvent state management practices is considered dangerous by any sane sportsman or woman. The most important part to understand from these actions is that it is moving the hunting pressure to other areas in the state, creating greater chances for in-field conflicts and more pressured sheep populations during the hunt.
Outfitters and residents continue to experience low harvest rates statewide. Non-resident harvest fell again to 45% in the 2022 season, and preliminary reports for 2023 show a similar harvest rate. The resident general season success rate hit 16% for the 2022 season. See the included table for a list of the most popular general season units so you know what to expect as you are shopping for an outfitter and their hunting location. All draw hunts available to non-resident hunters are also included in the following table for your reference. Remember, Alaska limits non-residents to one ram every four regulatory years for all Dall sheep hunts statewide, no matter if you harvested in a draw unit or an over-the-counter harvest ticket area.
Sheep draw hunts are typically conducted to restrict the number of hunters in a specific area rather than to ensure the harvest of larger trophy animals. Alaska only has one designated trophy managed area, the Tok Management Area that sits within units 12, 13C, and 20D. Permits were first cut back in 2021, followed by another extreme cut in permits for 2022 that stretched into 2023 and 2024. Once again, only one Tok permit will be available in the draw this year to guided non-residents. Many hunters hope that the Tok sheep numbers rebound, but it will likely take many years of moderate winters to sustain the growth. The Chugach Mountains found in units 13 and 14 are known for their heavy, deep curl horn characteristics, but harvest reports reveal very few large sheep taken and success rates remain average. All permit holders for the Chugach Mountains should be prepared for extremely rough and steep mountain hunting.
If your goal is just to hunt for a legal ram with an experienced outfitter, there are more than enough hunts with established guides all over Alaska without the need to draw a permit. No matter if you draw a permit or decide to go on an over-the-counter harvest hunt, guided hunts will range from $23,000-$36,000.
For access to all of our research and data we've collected over the last 20+ years, then join today and access the best research tools for hunting Dall Sheep in Alaska including 3D Maps, Draw Odds, Consultations and much more. Go on more hunts with better information!
Alaska’s application deadline is 5 p.m. (akst) on December 15, 2023.
Our online/print magazine has everything in one location: Application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning and much more. If you would like access to all of our research join today!
|Annual Hunting License||$160|
|Application Fee (each choice)||$5|
|LOCKING-TAG FEES (Purchase Before Hunt)|
|Dall Sheep Tag (Guide Required)||$850|
|Brown/Grizzly Bear Tag (Guide Required)||$1,000|
|Black Bear Tag||$450|
Alaska Dall Sheep Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine