It usually happens around the end of July or during the first week in August. You step out the door early in the morning and suddenly the air smells like hunting season. I cannot account for the change, even admitting it may be my imagination, but plenty of hunters I know smell it, too. It’s a fresh, tangy smell that fills the nostrils, and my personal theory is it’s the change in vegetation from growing to dying and starting to deteriorate. I suppose it doesn’t really matter; it’s delightful and it signals that if you weren’t ready for hunting season you better get started.
August 10th in Alaska marks the day of relief for hunters across the state, pent up folks who probably fish too but their first love is the hunting fields. Of course in Alaska we are blessed with year-round hunting seasons for some species, black bear and coyotes come immediately to mind. But for a lot of us, staying out of the hunting fields and letting the young of the year get going without too much interference is important. And there is the fishing.
But on August 10th it’s game on! Dall sheep, mountain goat and caribou seasons open up around the state. Perhaps less important to many but of more significance to those of us who have bird dogs, grouse and ptarmigan season also opens on the 10th. There is nothing quite like going afield with your four-legged hunting partner for the first time after the long hiatus that starts at the end of March. It’s a time to let your hunting buddy work the field and get his or her hunting legs back under them. For most of the upland bird hunters I know it isn’t a time of trying to limit-out. The current year’s hatch is still growing and they aren’t particularly bright, and in the case of spruce grouse, they are really not bright at all. But for big-game hunters it’s an opportunity to take fresh camp meat (which is why the season was started so early in the first place) and it is also a great time to get young hunters afield before they have to go back to the drudgery of the classroom.
I’ve always been a bit befuddled by the disdain many big-game hunters in Alaska have for bird hunting. Perhaps it is because there is so much big-game hunting opportunity here. But realistically, how many big-game hunters bring home meat every time they hunt? It’s a small percentage. Many big-game hunters go several seasons without firing a shot. Turn the page to bird hunting and typically a hunter can go afield close to home, find birds and have more shooting opportunity in a few hours than in an entire season of big-game hunting. Hard to figure, but if you haven’t given it a shot, maybe this is the year to do so.