Unit 23 Hunter Orientation

Fall caribou hunting in Game Management Unit (GMU or Unit) 23 in northwest Alaska has been the subject of conflict since the early 1980s, particularly between local hunters, non-local hunters and commercial operators (e.g., guides, transporters). Currently no conservation concern exists for the area’s wildlife; the caribou population is healthy and hunting regulations have been modified to protect other species such as moose and sheep, which now occur at low densities and cannot sustain liberal hunts. Even so, local hunters and other residents have been concerned about high numbers of visiting hunters, the perception that they may be affecting hunting success in some areas, and the need for visiting hunters to respect traditional values and practices. Non-local hunters want access to public land and to have quality hunting experiences. Meanwhile, commercial guides and transporters want to be able to offer quality experiences to clients and operate profitable businesses.

Over the years, the Alaska Board of Game (Board) and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) listened to concerns from local subsistence hunters about the disruption of customary hunting practices by non-local hunters and associated aircraft activities. Together, these entities have undertaken several actions to try to alleviate conflicts.

The Board supported formation of a multi-stakeholder Unit 23 Working Group and planning process. One result of the process was a Board-passed regulation which requires pilots transporting parts of big game to take a pilot orientation and quiz, and carry a certificate with them while operating in Unit 23.

At the Board’s request, ADF&G provides nonlocal hunters with orientation materials to help them hunt with minimal conflict in Unit 23. One of these is an article describing some of the conflicts and their history. ADF&G also provides a wealth of valuable online information designed to promote safe hunting, an understanding of local access issues, and good meat care for all hunters. Besides this general hunting information, we recommend that you read our additional information specific to hunting in Unit 23.

Our hope is that an informed public and proactive actions by transporter/pilots will reduce tensions, prevent conflicts, and preserve a premier hunting opportunity for all.