One of the best moose-hunting areas in the Interior can be found on a military training range near Fort Greely. But a busy Army and Air Force training schedule is limiting hunters’ ability to get back into the area.
Alaskan hunters know they stand a pretty chance of filling their freezers if they hunt moose in the Donnelly Training Area near Fort Greely. That’s why the annual Delta Junction Management Area drawing-permit moose hunt is one of the state’s most sought-after.
“That’s a very highly desired drawing permit. Moose hunters tend to have a pretty high success rate in there,” said Steve DuBois, a retired state Fish and Game wildlife biologist who spent most of his career in the Delta area. DuBois says the hunting areas on military-training lands near Fort Greely are considered some of the better moose-hunting spots in the Interior.
“Oh yeah, there’s hunters coming from all over the state, particularly for the drawing permit hunt,” he said. “It has a kind of statewide reputation as being a desirable moose hunt.”
But this year, Army and Air Force exercises on the Donnelly Training Area have made it tough for hunters to gain access.
Darren Bruning, who took DuBois’s place at the Delta-area Fish and Game Office, says that’s why he’s talked with a couple of dozen hunters recently about restrictions on access into the Donnelly Training Area.
“We have been contacted by hunters who expressed concern or had questions about the military training closures,” Bruning said.
Fort Wainwright spokesman Allen Shaw confirms the busy schedule of training on the ground and in the air has made it necessary for the Army to limit hunters’ access into the Donnelly Training Area.
“This is a crucial time of the year,” Shaw said. “We do have more aircraft that are flying this year.”
Ranges around the Interior have been busier overall this year, since the Army and Air Force expanded the number and tempo of exercises in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, or JPARC.
Shaw says U.S. Army-Alaska, or USARAK, which manages the ranges in consultation with the Air Force, has set a heavy training schedule for the fall. He says that’s because soldiers and pilots must take the opportunity to train in as many different conditions as possible – including at night, which isn’t possible during the summer.
“We’ve got a lot of soldiers, we’ve got a lot of airmen that are home and training for upcoming exercises," he said. “So, their time is limited, as far as being able to get out to train in different conditions.”
Shaw says Army officials regret that that presents difficulties for hunters. But he says those areas serve a higher-priority need.
“It’s an unfortunate situation during hunting season,” he said. “But training and readiness – that has to be our Number 1 concern.”
Shaw says Fort Wainwright will make maps and schedules available as soon as possible for hunters, to help them plan where and when they can access the training ranges. He says that information is available online or by calling the post Public Affairs Office.