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Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Small Game Hunting in Alaska
Getting Started

Hunter Education

Are you just getting started or have you just moved to the area and aren’t sure where or how to begin? Visit the ADF&G Hunter Education page for information on basic hunter certification, educational opportunities for women and youth, as well as learning about local shooting ranges, and class schedules.

Small Game Hunting Tips

Camouflage is important to small game survival – it’s possible to look right at an animal and not see it. Study pictures of game in books and make the most of wildlife watching opportunities. Most hunters are also avid wildlife watchers. Watching wildlife during the off-season is one of the best things a beginning hunter can do. Developing a keen eye for game animals in the field, and learning their habits, is critical for a hunter.

The search image is a mental picture of the shape, size and color of the quarry. Ideally, the search image can be just a part of the animal, since animals are often partially obscured by brush. Hares may be white against snow, but there’s some contrast to look for – the dark beady eye or the black rim of the ear.

It’s also important to be sensitive to motion. As mammalian predators, we are keyed into movement, and movement gives animals away. Because they are well camouflaged, grouse, ptarmigan and hares will often freeze in place rather than run. Move slowly, stop periodically and listen. It’s also helpful to change your point of view, crouch down and look at the ground level. You’re not looking through as much brush that way.

Hunting with a partner provides an extra set of eyes and ears, and improves your chances of finding game. Hunters moving in parallel have a better chance of flushing game. Specific patches of cover can be worked strategically with the help of a partner.

If hares or birds are in a patch of brush, one hunter can be ‘the dog,’ and move into the brush and flush them out to the waiting hunter. The location of the hunter in the brush must be clear at all times. Some hunters tie a bit of orange flagging tape to the gun barrel and raise it periodically. You can even talk while you’re doing it, since the idea is to flush the game.

Hunters moving parallel through the forest should stay 25 to 100 feet apart, depending on the density of the brush. In promising habitat, hunters can move in an alternating stop and go pattern, with one hunter walking slowly while the other stops to watch. Game animals often focus on the moving hunter and overlook the still hunter.