Small Game Hunting in Alaska

Group of kids outside a lodge holding up hares Small game hunting provides a wonderful opportunity to introduce young and new hunters to the heritage of hunting. It offers an easy, cost effective, and accessible opportunity to begin a friendship, tradition, and outdoor activity that can last a lifetime. Small game hunting tends to be much more casual than big game hunting, does not require special permits, tags, or stamps, and a group can enjoy a midday hunt and be home for dinner. A child introduced to hunting through flushing hares out of a local willow draw or walking a gravel road for spruce grouse will become hooked on the tradition and friendship that going outdoors with friends and family provides. Small game hunting in Alaska offers abundant opportunities to work with or train a hunting dog and experience the thrill of watching your dog hold a point on a resting grouse.

In Alaska, small game includes hares, grouse and ptarmigan. We are extremely fortunate to have diverse and abundant small game populations throughout the state. Alaska has four species of grouse (ruffed, sharp-tailed, spruce, and sooty), all three world-wide species of ptarmigan (willow, rock, and white-tailed), and two species of hare (snowshoe and Alaska). All of these species are native to Alaska and can be legally hunted by both residents and non-residents under liberal season dates and bag limits. A hunter can travel anywhere in the state and have an opportunity to observe and harvest at least one if not four or five of these species in one location.

ADF&G Small Game Program

The Department's Small Game Program was created to promote the conservation of Alaska's small game resources for future generations. Biologists are not only working to study and understand the grouse, ptarmigan, and hares of Alaska but also develop educational opportunities through courses and seminars for interested individuals to become better informed on the hunting opportunities that are available. There are also numerous handouts and even a poster to help identify and understand these dynamic animals.

A number of short video clips are available under the Small Game Species tab showing grouse and ptarmigan in action, as well as ptarmigan capture, processing and radio collaring.

Get Involved

Are you interested in getting involved and helping small game biologists? Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Wing Collections from hunter harvested grouse and ptarmigan: We are looking for volunteers statewide to provide one wing and tail from each harvested grouse or ptarmigan. Biologists use these samples to determine the age and sex of the bird. Read more about age and sex determination for grouse and ptarmigan (PDF 1,520 kB). These data are critical in understanding the population productivity of game birds throughout the state. Please consider donating your harvested grouse and ptarmigan wings — it is often the only way the Small Game Program can gather this important biological information across our large state. Wing envelopes are available at the Anchorage, Palmer, Fairbanks, and Juneau offices. You can also record date and location of harvest, place the wing in an individual bag, and drop it off at your local ADF&G office or mail it to either Palmer or Fairbanks. Postage paid envelopes are available in both Palmer and Fairbanks. See below for contact information.

    Read More About Donating Wings and Tails
    Palmer Fairbanks
    ADF&G Wing Collections
    Rick Merizon
    1801 South Margaret Drive
    Palmer, AK. 99645
    ADF&G Wing Collections
    Cameron Carroll
    1300 College Road
    Fairbanks, AK. 99701
    After biologists examine each wing, you’ll receive the results of your samples and a summary report of the statewide results.
  2. Small Game Hunter Survey: Periodically the Small Game Program conducts small game hunter surveys. These surveys request hunters to report their household hunting effort, harvest, and general observations. The latest survey was completed in the spring/summer 2014 reporting on the previous hunting season. All small game hunter survey reports are available on the Research and Reports tab. These surveys allow ADF&G to better tailor future research and habitat enhancement projects. In the future, if you are asked to participate in this survey your participation is greatly appreciated and you will receive a copy of the summary report upon its completion.
  3. Suggestions: Please e-mail your suggestions, field observations, delicious recipes, or great hunting tales to Biologists will read these e-mails and respond if requested.


Rick Merizon is the statewide Small Game Coordinator based in Palmer and can be reached at 907-746-6333. Cameron Carroll is the small game biologist in Fairbanks and can be reached at 907-459-7237. They or your local ADF&G biologist can help you interpret the regulations, answer hunting questions, identify small game species, or answer other small game related questions you may have.

Visit the contacts section of the website for more information.