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2023 Alaska Big Game Application Overview

Photo credit: Dreamstime

It’s hard to believe we are at the beginning of yet another application season! The first application to hit us for the 2023 season is the Alaska draw. Alaska is a state of great mystery, adventure, and allure and is sure to be at the heart of any hunter’s dream.

The Alaska application period for big game animals is far earlier than most but is thankfully about as straightforward as it gets, which, ultimately, makes planning that much easier. To begin understanding Alaska, first, it’s important to take a look at their tag and draw system. By doing this, hunters will have a clearer picture of where to focus their efforts on turning their dream hunt into a reality. 

Note: The application deadline for all Alaska big game permits is Dec. 15, 2022, at 5 p.m. (AKST). 

State Information

View important information and an overview of the Alaska rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees, and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Alaska species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas. Below are links to the Alaska state profile and all species profiles.

Important dates and information

  • The draw application period opens on Nov. 1, 2022.
  • The draw deadline is Dec. 15, 2022, at 5 p.m. (AKST).
  • Draw results are available on Feb. 17, 2023.
  • Up to two hunters can apply on a single-party application.
  • Hunters must purchase a hunting license before applying, but do not need to purchase locking tags prior.

Leftover permits will be distributed by an area biologist at their discretion. All leftover permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and a list can be found here.

The Alaska Tag System

Before really diving into the intricacies of the Alaska draw system and how it works, it makes sense to take a look at what tags and options are available for hunters. Alaska offers three primary types of licenses/permits: the draw permit, registration permits and general tags. All three of these can offer incredible opportunities and the idea of which one to pursue will be based on what animal you plan to hunt and the potential areas you wish to hunt them in.

Draw permits

Draw permits are the tags that are distributed through Alaska’s random drawing. There are generally only a limited number of tags available and they are not guaranteed.

Registration permits

Registration permits are largely used as population control tools by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (AKDFG). Essentially, if the state is looking to up the harvest rate in a particular unit or area they may implement a registration hunt. Registration permits generally do not limit the number of tags that can be sold; however, seasons are subject to immediate closure by AKDFG when quotas have been met or due to other environmental instances. Some registration permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

General hunts

General hunts are available as over-the-counter (OTC) options for nearly every species and will be the general drawing point for most hunters. These tags can generally be had year after year, although some exceptions do exist. 

Harvest tickets and locking tags

Harvest tickets act as your license for most general season hunts in Alaska. Harvest tickets are available for free from licensed vendors and, in many cases, are the only thing required for residents to hunt a multitude of species in many units. Harvest tickets must be accompanied by a locking tag in many instances to legalize a harvest.

Locking tags are small metal tags that must be attached to animals once killed in Alaska. Nonresidents are required to purchase locking tags for every species they may be hunting, but residents only need to purchase locking tags for brown/grizzly bears and muskox.

License/ Locking tagResidentNonresident

Sitka blacktail deer



Roosevelt elk



Dall sheep



Rocky Mountain goat



Alaskan/Yukon moose












Brown/grizzly bear



Black bear






Locking tags can also be used for species of equal or lesser value; however, hunters must first possess a harvest ticket for the second species. This can be an excellent quirk to take advantage of when planning your hunt. For instance, if you are primarily going to Alaska to hunt moose, you may also find yourself in an area that has additional opportunities for caribou or black bear. Purchasing a caribou locking tag would open up the additional opportunity to take a bull if encountered or a black bear. Keep in mind that, in this case, the hunter must also possess harvest tickets for both of the species.

The Alaska Draw System

In a world of point creep and premium tags, Alaska is one of the few states that runs an extremely fair draw system that works for everyone. One important thing to keep in mind is that, with Alaska, draw permits are used in both highly coveted areas as well as areas where the state may simply want to reduce pressure. What this means for applications in simple terms is that just because there is a draw permit available, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good hunt to draw. In fact, many permits will go undersubscribed every year and most hunters would likely be shocked to find that the general hunt tags are the true gems of the state. 

How does the draw work?

Alaska uses a very fair system for distributing permits where every applicant—nonresident or resident—has an equal chance. No form of bonus or preference points are used here and the draw system is a true lottery. Unlike many of the other western states, Alaska does not have nonresident tag quotas and those applicants have the exact same chance of drawing as residents.

Applicants can apply for every species available every year and can submit up to six hunt choices per species. Additionally, all six of an applicant’s allowed choices can be put on the same hunt code or split at their discretion. A few exclusions do apply to this rule.

Nonresident guide-client contract

Some—but not all—permits require that a hunter first secure a client-guide contract before applying. This contract would essentially tie a hunter into a specific outfitter for the particular species they are applying for. These hunts are specially called out in the Alaska draw supplements and hunters need to pay close attention to these. 

Species requiring guides

Out of all of the species available to hunt in Alaska, all nonresidents who want to pursue brown/grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain goats or Dall sheep must use an outfitter. This unfortunate side effect does generally add a big cost to any hunt but is understandable. Alongside this rule, hunters do have a small (albeit limited) workaround to the guiding rule. Alaska allows hunters to also utilize a resident with a second degree of kindred to be used in place of a guide outfitter.  

By definition, the second degree of kindred includes a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, brother- or sister-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, father- or mother-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepsister, stepbrother, stepson or stepdaughter (5 AAC 92.990).

Party applications

Party sizes are restricted to two hunters. If a party is chosen for a hunt and only one permit  remains, the party will be skipped.

General Hunts Versus Draw Permits

As we mentioned earlier, not all draw hunts will guarantee quality hunting and very few will offer better hunting conditions than what can be found with the general hunts. While some outfitters do offer special experiences for certain permit hunts, the vast majority of them are operating with the general hunt system. This creates more return business, easier planning and logistics and a more dependable income. 

General hunts can be found for nearly every species in every unit and hunters will generally have no problem locating a unit to hunt. Really, deciding which tag and even which unit to hunt is the easiest part of planning an Alaskan adventure with far more of the details being found within the logistics of simply reaching and hunting the area. Check out Filtering 2.0 to start your Alaska research!

The units in Alaska are large and the average size of each Game Management Unit is just over 9,000 square miles! With that, trophy potentials are great for every species throughout the state and hunt opportunities exist everywhere.



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