Draw Permits for Hunting in Alaska
Blog by Marcus Weiner
Drawing Hunting Permits in Alaska
Unlike many western states that have a points system to allow hunters to accrue preference points for coveted draws, in Alaska, everyone has an equal chance every year of drawing a permit.
To understand more about how the draw permits process works, visit here.
Case in point, Rick Birch, our longtime national sales manager, drew a coveted bison tag the first time he put in. Many hunters can share stories of putting in for hard-to-get tags for 30+ years without success. You just never know, so it makes sense to maximize your draw application each year.
What is a GMU or Game Management Unit?
Alaska is broken down into 26 GMUs (Game Management Units). Here’s a good place to start to get a general idea of the GMU landscape in Alaska.
Each GMU has its own set of rules on which hunts require draw permits and which ones require over-the-counter harvest tickets that anyone can get. For example, there are no draw hunts for Sitka blacktail deer in Alaska. Anyone can hunt them, and the only differences are seasons, bag limits, and legal animals, as well as different rules and fees for residents versus nonresidents.
Draw permits for moose
Species like moose offer both over-the-counter harvest ticket GMUs, as well as draw permits. Most of these units mandate that a legal moose is a bull with an antler spread of 50 inches or larger, or a minimum number of brow tines (three or four depending on GMU) on one of the brow palms. Rules are different for nonresident hunters versus resident hunters, so in many of those places, residents could harvest any bull. In some rare GMUs, where access is challenging and moose populations are healthy, then both resident and nonresident hunters can harvest any bull. There are even some antlerless-moose draw permits handed out, but these are for residents only.
In the end, it comes down to what you are looking for and can afford. Roadside moose hunts in Southcentral in Units 13 and 14 require less money and logistics than a remote drop-off hunt, and can often be made physically easier if you have an ATV of some kind. The downside of such a hunt is the pressure from other hunters and greater challenge in finding a legal moose. Conversely hunting in Unit 21 would put you in prime moose country, but leave you with a far larger bill and greater logistical challenges, in addition to hauling the moose out without aid of an ATV. Determine what you are after, if you can afford to wait until you draw a coveted tag, and then set your plans in motion.
Do you need draw permits to hunt big game in Alaska?
Many hunters target caribou each year, and DIY drop-off hunts are popular across Alaska. If you want to hunt the western Arctic herd, the largest in the state and numbering around 250,000 animals, then all that is required is an over-the-counter harvest ticket, hunting license and a locking tag if you are a non-resident hunter. However, if you want to hunt most of the other 30+ herds across Alaska, then you will need to draw a permit first.
Highly sought-after species like Dall sheep, bison, muskox, mountain goat, elk, emperor geese, etc., usually have a fair amount of competition for draw permits. To see a full listing of the 2020 draws and the number of permits to be given out for each, go here.
On the last page, there’s a breakdown on how many people applied for 2019 permits and how many were awarded. You will see that many popular, highly sought-after species receive a lot of applications for a limited number of permits. In 2018, according to ADF&G, 321,126 applications were received for drawing hunts.
How to apply for hunting draw permits in Alaska
- Figure out which permits, up to six, that you want to apply for. If you want to increase your odds of winning a permit, apply for the same one multiple times.
- Buy a hunting license if you don’t have one.
- Apply online during the application period. For 2020 hunts, the period was 11/01/2019 through 12/16/2019. Each permit costs $5 or $10 depending on which one it is. Results are announced online on 02/21/2020.
Click here to get a feel on costs for licenses and tags. Our general advice is to apply for several permits for species that are on your bucket list, and then focus the other permits on areas that warrant the extra expense.
Do your homework to figure out where some of the best moose, caribou, bear, goat and sheep units reside in Alaska and then put in for draw permits in those places. Or, if you want to really up the odds, apply many times for the same draw, and while you may limit your species selection, you may end up hunting for a prized species in a productive area.
For most of us, the backup plan is hunting in areas that don’t require a draw permit, or for species like blacktail deer, which are both abundant and delicious.
Marcus Weiner is Publisher of Fish Alaska and Hunt Alaska magazines.