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Application Strategy 2020: Alaska

2020 Alaska application strategy article

Jump to: State Information Tag System Draw System General vs. Draw

While every single person in the world has their own dreams and aspirations, it’s a fair assumption to assume that nearly every hunter has dreamed about Alaska. The Last Frontier represents many things for many hunters, but the allure of pristine wilderness and grandeur adventures is enough to stoke the internal fires of anyone. Planning a hunt in the lower 48 is a daunting task and planning one for the great north can be downright intimidating. 

The many implications and roadblocks one may encounter while planning a trip to Alaska can be frustrating and we are excited to begin breaking down the barriers to show hunters just how readily available opportunities can be. To begin understanding Alaska, first, it’s important to take a look at their tag and draw system. By understanding this, hunters will have a more clear picture of where to focus their efforts on turning their dream hunt into a reality. 

Note: The application deadline for all Alaska big game permits is Dec. 16, 2019 at 5 p.m. (AKST). Applications can be completed online here.

State information

View important information and an overview of the Alaska rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Alaska species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas. Below are links to the Alaska state profile and all species profiles.

Alaska State Profile Sitka Blacktail Dall Sheep Mountain Goat Alaskan/Yukon Moose Caribou Bison Muskox Grizzly/Brown Bear Black Bear Wolf Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • The draw application period opens Nov. 1, 2019.
  • The draw deadline is Dec. 16, 2019, at 5 p.m. (AKST).
  • Draw results are available Feb. 21, 2020.
  • Applications can be submitted online here.
  • Up to two hunters can apply on a single party application.
  • Leftover permits will be distributed by an area biologist at their discretion. All permits are available on a first come, first served basis and a list can be found here.

The Alaska tag system

Before really diving into the intricacies of the Alaska draw system and how it works, it makes more sense to take a look at what tags and options are available for hunters. Alaska offers three primary types of licenses/permits: the draw permit, registration permits and general tags. All three of these can offer incredible opportunities and the idea of which one to pursue will be based on what animal you plan to pursue. 

Draw permits

Draw permits are the tags that are distributed through Alaska’s random drawing. There are generally only a limited number of tags available and are not guaranteed. See Draw Odds here.

Registration permits

Registration permits are largely used as population control tools by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (AKDFG). Essentially, if the state is looking to up the harvest rate in a particular unit or area they may implement a registration hunt. Registration permits generally do not limit the number of tags that can be sold; however, seasons are subject to immediate closure by AKDFG when quotas have been met or due to other environmental instances. Some registration permits are available on a first come, first served basis. 

General hunts

General hunts are available as over-the-counter (OTC) options for nearly every species and will be the general drawing point for most hunters. These tags can generally be had year after year, although some exceptions do exist. 

Harvest tickets

Harvest tickets act as your license for most general season hunts in Alaska. Harvest tickets are available for free for license vendors and, in many cases, are the only thing required for residents to hunt a multitude of species in many units. 

Alaska locking tag prices

Locking tagResident costNonresident cost
Black bearN/A$450
Brown/grizzly bear$25$1,000
Dall sheepN/A$850
Sitka blacktail deerN/A$300
Roosevelt elkN/A$600
Alaskan/Yukon mooseN/A$800
Rocky Mountain goatN/A$600

Locking tags are small metal tags that must be attached to animals once killed in Alaska. Nonresidents are required to purchase locking tags for every species they may be hunting, but residents only need to purchase locking tags for brown/grizzly bears and muskox.

Locking tags can also be used for species of an equal or lesser value, but hunters must first possess a harvest ticket for the new species. This can be an excellent quirk to take advantage of when planning your hunt. For instance, if you are primarily going to Alaska to hunt moose you may also find yourself in an area that has additional opportunities for caribou or black bear. Purchasing a caribou locking tag would open up the additional opportunity to take a bull if encountered or a black bear.

The Alaska draw system

In a world of point creep and premium tags, Alaska is one of the few states that runs an extremely fair draw system that works for everyone. One important thing to keep in mind is that, with Alaska, draw permits are used in both highly coveted areas as well as areas where the state may simply want to reduce pressure. What this means for applications in simple terms is that just because there is a permit doesn’t mean it’s a good hunt to draw. In fact, many permits will go undersubscribed every year. In fact, many hunters would likely be shocked to find that the general hunt tags are the true gem of the state

How does the draw work?

Alaska uses a very fair system for distributing permits where every applicant—nonresident or resident—has an equal chance. No form of bonus or preference points are used here and the draw system is a true lottery. Unlike many of the other western states, Alaska does not have nonresident tag quotas and those applicants have the exact same chance of drawing as residents.

Applicants can apply for every species available every year and can submit up to six hunt choices per species. Additionally, all six of an applicant’s allowed choices can be put on the same hunt code or split at their discretion. A few exclusions do apply to this rule.

Nonresident guide-client contract

Some—but not all—permits require that a hunter first secure a client-guide contract before applying. This contract would essentially tie a hunter into a specific outfitter for the particular species they are applying for. These hunts are specially called out in the Alaska draw supplements and hunters need to pay close attention to these. 

Species requiring guides

Out of all of the species available to hunt in Alaska, all nonresidents who want to pursue brown/grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain goats or Dall sheep must use an outfitter. This unfortunate side effect does generally add a big cost to any hunt, but is understandable. Alongside this rule, hunters do have a small, albeit limited, workaround to the guide rule. Alaska allows hunters to also utilize a resident with a second degree of kindred to be used in place of a guide outfitter.  

By definition, the second degree of kindred would include a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, brother- or sister-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, father- or mother-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepsister, stepbrother, stepson, or stepdaughter (5 AAC 92.990).

Party applications

Party sizes are restricted to two hunters. If a party is chosen for a hunt and only one permit is remaining the party will be skipped.

General hunts versus draw permits

As we talked about earlier, not all draw hunts will guarantee quality hunting and very few will offer better hunting conditions than what can be found with the general hunts. While some outfitters do offer special experiences for certain permit hunts, the vast majority of them are operating with the general hunt system. This creates more return business, easier planning and logistics and a more dependable income. 

General hunts can be found for nearly every species in every unit and hunters will generally have no problem in locating a unit to hunt. Really, deciding which tag and, even, which unit to hunt is the easiest part of planning an Alaskan adventure with far more of the detail being found within the logistics of simply reaching and hunting the area. See Filtering 2.0 to start your Alaska research.

The units in Alaska are large, the average size of each Game Management Unit is just over 9,000 square miles! With that, trophy potentials are great for every species throughout the state and hunt opportunities exist everywhere. In the future, we will be providing some excellent articles on planning your own Alaskan adventure and hope to be the first step in making your dream hunt come true!


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