*Guide Required* Dall sheep hunting in Alaska seems to be carrying around more drama with it than we are used to in recent years. Hunters should keep in mind that most surveys are done post-season in the winter whereas most winter-kill events happened in late winter/early spring before the season began. This often creates impossible situations for outfitters to know the effect of winter kill on their huntable populations until it’s too late and their August sheep season is scheduled and everyone is booked. The 2020 season was nothing short of a mess for most outfitters in the Alaska Range and other central Alaska mountain ranges. Covid-19 created travel issues and extra requirements for all non-residents heading on their dream hunts to Alaska and many arrived in the field to find out that sheep populations of older-age class rams were down and their hunt would likely have a much lower expectation of success. Dozens of guided hunters have reported to Huntin’ Fool that they did not see any legal rams on their hunts and their outfitters had success rates well below average. As you visit with outfitters about booking your own hunt, keep in mind that success is never guaranteed and outfitters may have been blindsided by the 2020 season.
The Department of Fish and Game announced in 2018 that the M. Ovi bacteria had been found in wild sheep and mountain goats in Alaska. As of the 2019 results taken from harvested rams, the spread of M. Ovi does not seem to be too prevalent, but more findings will hopefully shed some additional light on the situation.
Dall sheep hunts continue to be managed through a mixture of draw, registration, and general season hunts. The vast majority of these hunts start on August 10th and run through September 20th during the general season. The exceptions to this are the resident-only youth season August 1-5 and the two archery-only hunts running September and into October. Specific units and subunits may be broken down into as many as three different season dates and hunt options within that particular region of the draw to spread out pressure on the population. See the new tables to understand true harvest success rates and the non-resident vs. resident hunting pressure. New this year, we have included a table of popular general season units that receive most of the non-resident hunting pressure. Reference this table as you shop for available hunts from various outfitters. Be informed and ask better questions from your potential guide-outfitter. All draw hunts available to guided non-resident hunters are also included in the following table for your reference. Remember that Alaska currently limits non-residents to one ram every four regulatory years for all Dall sheep hunts statewide.
Dall Sheep season runs from August 10th to September 20th.
The common mindset many hunters accustom themselves to is that a draw hunt will ensure higher success rates or better trophy potential when compared to a general season hunt. This is not necessarily true for Dall sheep in Alaska. Much like the mountain goat and moose hunts, draw hunts often occur to limit the number of hunters accessing a particular unit, not to produce larger trophies. Alaska only has one designated Dall sheep trophy managed unit. The Tok Management Area (TMA) that lies within units 12, 20D, and 13C was established in 1974 to provide Dall sheep hunters with an opportunity to harvest mature trophy class rams. Prior to the winter of 2019/2020, the TMA seemed to be doing well and hunter satisfaction was high. The hunt season of 2020 showed its ugly side and most tag holders reported very few ram sightings. A 40% reduction in permits for 2021 is to hopefully help the experience for future hunters. Only 10% of the permits are allocated to non-residents.
The Chugach Mountains found in units 13 and 14 are still on the radar of most hunters chasing a chance at a higher scoring ram. These two units are famous for their heavy, deep curl horn characteristics. Be advised that the Chugach Mountains are steep, nasty, and one of the toughest mountain ranges in the state.
Each season, a top end ram can be harvested almost anywhere in the state. If your goal is just to harvest a legal ram with a great experience, there are more than enough opportunities with established guides all over Alaska without the need to draw a permit. Be advised that whether you draw a Dall sheep permit or you decide to go on an open harvest hunt, hunts with quality outfitters are pushing $20,000-$25,000 or more.
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Alaska’s 2021-2022 application deadline is 5 p.m. (akst) on December 15, 2020.
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|Annual Hunting License||$160|
|Application Fee (each choice)||$5|
|Application Fee (each choice, bison and muskox)||$10|
|LOCKING-TAG FEES (Purchase Before Hunt)|
|Dall Sheep Tag (Guide Required)||$850|
|Brown/Grizzly Bear Tag (Guide Required)||$1,000|
|Mountain Goat Tag (Guide Required)||$600|
|Black Bear Tag||$450|
Alaska Dall Sheep Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine