Dall sheep hunting in Alaska continues to draw high interest from sportsmen from around the world. And while there aren't many secrets in terms of where the best sheep hunting can be found in the state today, there is a new development on that front you may not have heard about - namely, the re-opening of the De Long Mountains in Game Management Unit 23-01 and 23-02 near the northern town of Kotzebue. Although sheep season here is supposed to run from August 10 to September 20, sheep hunting in the entire unit was closed to sport hunters in 1991 for August, and open only in September from 1991 through 1994. Following the close of the season in 1994, the entire unit was closed to all sheep hunting, including subsistence hunting by local residents, due to depressed sheep numbers caused primarily by wolf predation. During those closed years - 1994 to 1997 - the state game regulation booklet listed an open sheep season in the entire unit, with a kicker stating sheep hunting could be shortened or closed by emergency order at any time, something the Alaska game department chose to do each year before the seasons ever opened.
This year, the Alaska State Game Board has decided to allow sport hunters to take up to 11 full-curl rams in the De Long Mountains portion of Unit 23. It is unlikely that the state will close or shorten the season this year, as permits for the hunt will be issued through a drawing, which will strictly limit the number of hunters and potential harvest. Incidentally, this level of harvest is close to the historic level of harvest in prior years, according to long-time Alaskan guide and outfitter Jake Jacobson, who has been guiding in this area since 1968. Jacobson will help interested clients with their controlled-hunt applications, but note that the application period closes on May 31, and that Jacobson requires a 50 percent deposit on the hunt before he'll help with the application process. Of course, that money will be refunded if no permit is drawn.