Alaska hunting: Mat Su area
The Matanuska/Susitna (Mat/Su) Valley consists of Game Management Units (GMU) 14A, 14B, 16A, and 16B. Due to its proximity to Anchorage and the surrounding metropolitan area, the Mat/Su is a very popular hunting destination for local residents. The Mat/Su Valley offers big game hunters the opportunity to harvest moose, caribou, mountain goat, sheep, brown bear, and black bear. Small game includes hares, spruce grouse and ptarmigan. Additionally, waterfowl migrate through the area offing excellent duck hunting opportunities.
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IMPORTANT: Seasons and bag limits for all species are subject to change. Check a current copy of Alaska hunting regulations before finalizing trip plans.
Moose hunting season typically opens in August and closes in late September. Hunting is divided into “open” harvest areas, and “permit” only areas. Open areas allow any hunter with a valid hunting license and moose harvest tag the opportunity to hunt. A hunter must win a tag though a lottery to hunt the permit-only areas.
Open areas within the Mat/Su Valley limit the harvest to one bull with spike fork or 50-inch antlers, or three or more brow tines on one side. Harvest restrictions for the permit hunts vary but typically follow these same harvest guidelines. Some permit hunts allow the harvest of antlerless moose.
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) estimates the moose population in GMU 14A & B is somewhere around 8,000 animals. Annual harvest varies year to year but was around 500 moose per season in the early 2000’s.
Moose numbers in GMU 16 have declined in recent years but are thought to total 6,500 animals. Annual harvest was approximately 388 moose in the first 5 years of the 2000’s. Declining moose populations in GMU 16 are attributed to harsh winters, increase predator populations, and an increase in hunting pressure.
There are two caribou herds located in the Mat/Su Valley: the Nelchina herd and the Rainy Pass herd.
The Nechina herd population was estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 animals in the early 2000’s is distributed throughout several GMU’s. A portion of the herd is located in a remote region of the Talkeetna Mountains in GMU 14B. Access is usually limited to aircraft. Hunting has been by permit only. Approximately 60 tags have been issued annually for this hunt in recent years. Hunters that draw a permit can take either sex. Hunting season opens the second week of August and closes third week of September. Because of limited hunting pressure, the trophy potential for his herd is moderate to high.
The Rainy Pass herd is located in GMU 16B). The herd is estimated at approximately 2,500 caribou. Hunting opens the second week of August and closes the third week of September. The herd is widely dispersed throughout the unit. Hunters have reported it is difficult to locate large groups of caribou at one time. Caribou harvest usually occurs while hunting other species. Despite limited access, the trophy potential for his herd is low.
Mountain goat hunting in GMU 14A is limited to one registration hunt on the south and east side of the Matanuska River. Hunters must register with ADF&G prior to going into the field. The registration hunting season can be closed by emergency order whenever harvest goals are met. Typically the season open in September and closes the end of October. The remainder of GMU 14A & B is closed to mountain goat hunting.
The harvest of male and female goats is permitted. However, the harvest of nannies with kids is prohibited. All non-resident hunters must be accompanied by a licensed big game guide. ADF&G encourages the harvest of billies here as elsewhere in Alaska mountain goat range.
Dall sheep are found in the portion of GMU 14A that lies in the Chugach Mountains. The ADF&G estimated sheep populations at approximately 700-900 animals in this area. Of these animals, approximately 4-9% are full-curl rams. From 1997 to 2001, 146 sheep were harvested in GMU 14A.
Dall sheep are also found in the portion of GMU 16B that lies in the Alaska Range. Historically, the Alaska Range has produced many record book rams and is very popular sheep hunting destination. However, the harvest over the last five years has averaged approximately nine full curl rams.
Sheep hunting season in GMU 14A and 16B begin the second week of August and end the third week of September. The harvest of one ram with full curl horns or larger is permitted. Full curl requirement are described in the ADF&G hunting regulations handbook. All non-resident hunters must be accompanied by a licensed big game guide.
Brown bears are found throughout GMU 14A and 14B. The brown bear population in this area has been estimated at 135-232 bears. Hunting season opens in September and closes the end of May.
ADF&G estimates the brown bear population in GMU 16 is between 600 and 1150 bears. The average annual harvest over the last five years has been approximately 84 bears. Bear season in GMU 16A opens the in September and closes the end of May. Bear hunting in GMU 16B opens the second week of August and closes the end of May.
Hunters can harvest one bear every four regulatory years. Unit 16B allows the harvest of one bear every regulatory year. The harvest of males bears is encouraged by the ADF&G. Evidence of sex must remain attached to the hide and sealed within 30 days by ADF&G. The harvest of cubs and female bears with cubs is prohibited. Non resident hunters must be accompanied by a licensed big game guide.
According to the ADF&G, approximately 500-1,100 black bears inhabit GMU 14. Average annual harvest over the last five yeas is approximately 116 bears. There is no closed season for black bears in GMU 14A & 14B and hunters can harvest one bear per regulatory year. Historically, hunter success rates are higher during the spring season, specifically the month of May. Many bears are harvested over bait.
ADF&G estimate 2,700 black bears inhabit GMU 16. There is no closed season and hunter may harvest three bears per regulatory year. Average annual harvest over the last five years is approximately 167 bears.
The harvest of male and female bears is permitted. However, as with all bear hunting, taking male bears is encouraged. Evidence of sex must remain attached to the hide and the skull must be sealed within 30 days. The harvest of cubs and female bears with cubs is prohibited.
The Mat/Su Valley is a glacially-carved valley comprised of verdant farmlands, low lying river bottoms, and rugged mountains. The Alaska Range, Talkeetna Mountains and Chugach Mountains surround the Mat/Su Valley.
Vegetation is dense in places and consists of alders and willow at lower elevations. Alpine tundra is found at higher elevations. Birch, poplar and spruce forest are found throughout the area.
The coastal area of the Mat/Su Valley consists of low lying marshy wetlands. Small lakes dot the landscape and there are numerous rivers and streams throughout valley. Many of these water bodies receive salmon runs during the summer and fall months. Some of the better known salmon rivers in the Mat/Su Valley include all the Parks Highway streams, Talkeetna River, Susitna River, Deshka River, Yentna Rivers, and the Matanuska River.
Several major metropolitan centers are located in the Mat/Su Valley making access less difficult. Metropolitan areas include Palmer, Wasilla, Willow, and the quaint town of Talkeetna. Highway vehicles are the most common mode of transportation.
Much of the Mat/Su Valley that lies within GMU 14A & 14B is accessible via the Glenn Highway and the George Parks Highway. Most of GMU 16 is only accessible by airplane. Air service is available in Wasilla and Palmer. Because of the close proximity to Anchorage, many hunters access the remote regions of the GMU 14 and 16 from Lake Hood and Merrill Field. Additionally, several air taxis are located in Willow and Talkeetna offering hunters a wide variety of air taxis to choose from.
Much of the Mat/Su Valley is located in the continental climate zone, with long, cold winters and relatively warm summers. Average winter temperatures range from 6° Fahrenheit (F) (-14° Celsius) to 14° (-10° C). Summer temperatures range from 47° F (8° C) to 67° F (19° C). Annual precipitation is around 16.5 inches (42 cm).
Destination Information Resources
Visit the Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitors Bureau
web site for additional information on the "valley". The
Alaska Department of Fish and
Game also has some worthy information about hunting in the Mat/Su
Search Google for hunting information on OutdoorsDirectory.com