Alaska is the largest state in the United States and one of the most diverse habitats from southern to northern regions. There are many opportunities for harvesting big game in Alaska, such as moose, caribou, bear, and bison. However, deer are not that prevalent and are only found in the extreme southeast counties, near Prince William Sound, and on Kodiak Island.
More specifically, the Sitka black-tailed deer is the only deer species that are common and managed in Alaska. The season for hunting black-tailed deer is generally open from early August until the end of the year. The specific dates depend on the area you plan to hunt in.
In addition, some areas have specific weapon restrictions such as bow and Aarow only or muzzleloader. The bag limits for bucks and does and which you can take also depend on the area and the specific dates.
Since these requirements are not the same across the state, be sure you check the current Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) requirements for area maps, licenses, permits, season dates, and other requirements.
While mule and white-tailed deer are not common in Alaska, they are occasionally found in the southern and eastern areas. These two species are not managed in Alaska, there is no closed season, no permit required, and no limit. You can harvest them anytime, however, you are required to salvage the entire carcass.
The ADF&G requests that the hunter submits specific samples from the deer in order to study them and learn more about these deer that are entering the state. Contact a local ADF&G office for sample requirements or visit www.hunt.alaska.gov.
Hunting License Requirements
To hunt in the state of Alaska, all adults must obtain a hunting license. Residents ages 17 years or younger are not required to purchase a license. All Non-residents, regardless of age, are required to purchase an AK Non-Resident Hunting License, a license from another state is not valid. Everyone must also obtain a Harvest Ticket, which is free of charge, for each deer they plan to harvest.
In addition, non-residents must purchase a big game locking tag (residents are not required to purchase this tag). A locking tag should not be confused with harvest tickets. Locking tags are numbered metal locking tags that must be purchased for a specific big game species. These are attached to the deer at the kill site and must remain on the deer until it is prepared for storage, consumed, or exported.
Keep in mind that these requirements are for hunting Sitka black-tailed deer only. If you plan to harvest mule or white-tailed deer, none of these requirements apply as mentioned above.
In cases where hunter demand is higher than the deer population can sustain, hunting is restricted to permits only. There are six kinds of permit hunts: Targeted, Registration, Drawing, Tier I and Tier II, and Community Subsistence Harvest. In all cases, hunters must apply for these hunts. The application process for these permits is slightly different depending on the permit.
Registration permits are on a first-come, first serve basis. Drawing and Targeted hunts are issued with a random drawing. Tier I and Tier II permits are for residents only and are based on their dependence on game for their livelihood. Community Subsistence Harvest hunts are for groups or communities to apply for a group bag limit instead of individual limits.
Other combination licenses can be purchased if you plan to also fish or trap, for example. Alaska residents over 60 can apply for a free permanent identification card that replaces the licenses. Licenses can be obtained online, at an ADF&G office, or at many sporting goods or hunting supply retailers. There are also many independent guides in Alaska that can assist with obtaining the proper licenses.
Alaska requires that all hunters successfully complete an introductory hunter education course before hunting in most areas. This applies to hunters born after Jan 1, 1986. Hunters under the age of 18 are not required to complete the course. However, an adult over 18 and with a license must supervise them.
Courses from other states may be recognized, so if you have already completed a course somewhere else, check to see if that course is approved. In addition to the introductory hunter education course, hunters wishing to hunt in a weapon-restricted area or season must successfully complete a course for the weapon they plan to hunt with. These include bowhunter, crossbow, and muzzleloader courses.
These courses include an online portion and an in-person field portion. Visit www.huntereducation.alaska.gov for more information.
Deer Season Types
There are no specific seasons in Alaska like in some other states. When deer season opens depends on the area or unit you plan to hunt in. Each unit has specific dates that deer season is open, and the season can be broken down into weapon-restricted hunts such as archery, crossbow, and muzzleloader.
They can also be split only to allow bucks and/or does to be harvested, and the bag limit on the number of deer you can harvest can also vary. Typically, the season starts in early August but may not open until October for some units.
The season usually ends in late December or early January. Make sure to verify the dates for the unit you plan to hunt in to understand whether weapons restrictions or permits are required.
In some units, dates may also be restricted to a youth hunt only. Only hunters that are aged 10-17 may hunt during youth hunts. They must be accompanied by a resident licensed hunter 21 years of age or older. Remember that the bag limits during these hunts count against both the youth and the accompanying adult, and both need to have completed a hunter education course.
These special hunts are a great time to teach children without the added pressure of hunting with other adults in the area.
Season Type Regulations
Deer seasons in Alaska are structured based on units. A unit is a particular area defined in the Alaska hunting guide. Each unit has a table in the guide that describes each big game animal, when the season is open for residents, nonresidents, or both, and what type of hunt it is. Some hunts require a harvest ticket, while others may be restricted to a specific permit.
The table also indicates the hunt bag limit and other special instructions, such as the weapon types that may be used. The sections below describe the weapon types that are allowed.
Bow and Arrow Only
When “Bow and Arrow Only” is indicated for the hunt or area, you may use archery equipment with an arrow as a projectile, such as compound bows, longbows, and recurve bows. Crossbows may not be used. The bow must have a peak draw weight of at least 40 pounds, and the arrows must be at least 20 inches long, tipped with a broadhead.
The broadhead must be fixed, replaceable, or a mechanical/retractable type and not barbed. The arrow must weigh at least 300 grains. Crossbows or other firearms may not be used during this period.
A crossbow is allowed when crossbows are indicated as a particular weapon type for the hunt or area. Crossbows must be shoulder mounted and have at least a 100-pound peak draw weight. The bolt must be at least 16 inches in overall length, tipped with a broadhead that is fixed, replaceable, or a mechanical/retractable type and not barbed. The weight of the bolt must be at least 300 grains.
No electronic devices may be attached to the crossbow except scopes or sights that do not project light externally. Firearms may not be used during this period. However, other Archery equipment usually is allowed at the same time.
Muzzleloaders are a firearm in which the firing components (powder and projectile) are loaded into the muzzle end of the firearm. These must be a shoulder-mounted long gun at least .45 caliber or larger with a barrel that is either rifled or smooth bore and fires a single projectile.
Muzzleloaders may not be equipped with a scope or use smokeless powder. Typically Archery equipment and crossbows are allowed simultaneously but always check the hunting guide first. Other types of modern firearms are not allowed during these hunts.
If the hunt or area you are hunting does not have special weapon restrictions, then modern firearms may be used in addition to archery equipment, crossbows, and muzzleloaders. Firearms include centerfire rifles, shotguns, centerfire pistols, and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air guns.
PCP air guns must be at least .35 caliber or larger, and arrow shooting air guns must be capable of producing 250 feet per second with broadheads 7/8 inch or larger.
Overall Regulations and Safety
Some of the critical hunting restrictions are listed below. This is certainly not a complete list but rather some basic rules to keep in mind. Other regulations may apply to your unique scenario. Be sure to review the ADF&G hunting guide before heading to the field.
- Shooting across a constructed road or highway is not allowed. Also, shooting on any drivable road surface is not allowed.
- Hunting from a motorized vehicle or boat that is in motion, in general, is prohibited, the motor must be shut off, and the forward progress stopped. There are some exceptions to this rule in specific areas using snow machines.
- Deer can not be chased, harassed, or herded with a motorized vehicle such as an aircraft, boat, snowmachine, or aircraft.
- Wireless communication with others to assist in taking deer is not allowed. You can not take a deer until after 3 am the following day after using the device.
- Having possession of urine from any species in the Cervidae family while hunting is not allowed. This includes any type of scent lure.
- Hunting deer with the aid or use of dogs is not allowed. Taking a deer being pursued by dogs, even if they are not your dogs, is not allowed. If you think a dog is pursuing a deer, do not take the risk and attempt to shoot at the deer.
- Deer can not be taken while they are swimming.
When using any type of weapon for hunting, safety should always be the priority. Always treat the weapon with respect and be sure of your target. Also, be sure what is beyond your target. If you are only allowed to take one deer, and your projectile goes through one deer and into another, you are suddenly violating the regulations by taking deer over your limit.
If you are using a tree stand or are on an elevated area, be sure to use it safely and use a safety strap. This simple precaution could prevent serious injury from falling if you lose your balance.
Chronic Wasting Disease Concerns in Alaska
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. It is of no risk to humans. Infected deer will show extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling, and tremors. CWD is present in the continental United States. However, it has not been detected in free-ranging wildlife in Alaska. If you think you have seen or taken a deer that may have CWD, report it to ADF&G.
What to do After a Deer is Harvested?
Once you have taken a deer, you must validate your Harvest ticket by notching the month and day on the paper ticket. The harvest ticket must stay in your possession until the deer has been delivered to the location it will be processed for human consumption.
You must also report your harvest to the ADF&G. The paper report is attached to your harvest ticket when you purchase it. It must be filled out and returned within 15 days of your bag limit or 15 days after the season’s close, even if you did not hunt or take a deer.
This can also be done online at www.hunt.alaska.gov. When you fill out the report online, you will immediately receive a confirmation number, proof that you have filled out a report.
This makes it easy to keep track of your reports with no risk of them being lost in the mail. If you are hunting with a special permit, the permit takes the place of the harvest ticket.
Alaska is a large, vast state with many remote areas. This can present a challenge in caring for the meat of your harvested deer. Make sure you understand how to field dress your deer correctly. Remember to keep the meat cool, clean, and dry. Heat is the biggest threat to meat. The warmer the weather is when you take your deer, the more urgent it becomes to keep the meat cool.
Field dress and remove the hide as quickly as possible if you are in a remote area far from refrigeration. You may want to quarter and remove the edible meat in the field if you are in a very remote area and plan to continue to hunt. The meat around the hind quarters spoils the quickest.
If the weather is warmer than 60 degrees, you may need to place the meat in cool water for 30 minutes or so to cool it down. If you are camping, place the meat in cotton game bags. They allow air to circulate but are sturdy enough to carry a heavy load and keep the meat clean. Hang the bags off the ground and use a tarp to keep the rain off.
Once the meat is hung, spray the meat with a citric acid/water mixture. The citric acid will slow down the bacterial growth that spoils the meat. It also creates a dark outer crust that makes it difficult for flies to lay eggs on the meat.
Fines for Not Following Regulations
If you are convicted of illegally killing deer, sentencing can include fines, jail time, and loss of hunting privileges. In 2018 a man was convicted of taking 4 deer illegally and was fined $3,500, had to pay the state $1,600, was put on probation for one year, and lost his hunting privileges for two years.
In addition, he had to pay his court costs and lawyer fees. Alaska has many regulations, and these can change depending on the area you are hunting in. Be sure to understand the regulations before you hunt; not knowing entirely is not an excuse. Contact the ADF&G if you are not sure or have any questions about the regulations.
- Deer Season In Florida: Everything You Need To Know To Be Prepared
- Deer Season In Tennessee: Everything You Need To Know To Be Prepared
- Discover The Largest Whitetail Deer Ever Recorded
The photo featured at the top of this post is © CSDigitalMedia/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- Alaska State, Available here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/
- Alaska State, Available here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/applications/web/nocache/regulations/wildliferegulations/pdfs/regulations_complete.pdf1D3BCA4315BECF595B79F92305E70C68/regulations_complete.pdf