Google Real Alaskan Adventures in the Wild of Alaska: 2012

A Very Special Surprise!

When I was recently in Kentucky on a book signing trip I stopped by my"Mom's"(Doris Mangin) she was always like a Mom to me growing up so I began calling her Mammy. They always took us hunting growing up as we were neighbors on a farm down the road.

As I was saying, I stopped by because she wanted to show me the deer stands both of us would be using on her farm the next morning(opening day).

We started walking toward the woods leaving the wife behind us with a camera. As we turned the first corner, not even out of sight of the house, we saw this huge buck! Mammy grabbed me by the arm and her jaw dropped, as did mine! We froze! It never knew we were there as it was walking along a fence row with it's tail up moving and looking away from us.

When we both got over the shock we decided we had seen enough and not stink up the woods. We went back to the house in amazement!

Sherry caught this unique moment on camera! The snapshot above was the INSTANT we saw this huge buck. This will never happen again in our lifetimes but Mammy, now 85 and I, will cherish it forever!!

Frosty the Moose!

Turning cold in Alaska now but the Moose are fine! Note the frost on their backs and how well they must be insulated for that not to melt from body heat.

Our clothing pails in comparison!

Adult cow with her 1 year old calf.

Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Denny Crum and I at a recent book signing in Louisville, Kentucky. Denny is featured in one of the chapters in my book titled, "Denny Crum-Lord of the Flies".

He is an excellent fly fisherman and great hunter/sportsman. I also write about our Brown Bear hunt I guided him on when we were on the Alaskan Peninsula and the nice bear he took.

The Salmon Nose (knows)!

The Salmon Nose (knows)!

NOW that's a Schnoze!  Proboscus Salmonoid??  No, it's called Oncorhynchus  kisutch, Coho Salmon and the males have these hooked noses.

Unlike Hollywood, Nature constructs for purpose NOT "appearance of purpose". BIG DIFFERENCE!  Not enough is said about the nose of a fish. No one talks about that?  But it is by far, better at smelling particles than anything on the planet- bar or bear none!  
Let me explain...

I'll be as brief as I can, but one thing I learned in Alaska is how prolific everything is with the ever changing seasons (which are HIGHLY visible here) and the fish know it better than we do.

This fish's life began 4-years ago and could have come from any Alaskan river. BUT IT IS the same river he was born in 4-years ago. They leave the rivers and follow them for miles to the ocean water the following spring after they are spawned. Look at the inset map and see where they go-remember the North Pacific Ocean is a BIG POND! They spend 4-years of their life there dodging Killer whales and ALL manner of hungry mouths.

This photo was taken while rafting the Talachalitna River after being flown into Judd Lake. We are many miles from Cook Inlet(Ocean) but large salmon numbers make it back to these pristine rivers and the fishing is Great!

Those Salmon that make it through their 4-year Oceanic cycle, return to the same streams AND SPOT they were spawned in to spawn as their ancestors did- then die!  Many of them travel the ocean shores heading to the spot where the river they were spawned in flows into the Pacific. Then they head up that river to the next one finally arriving at their spawn site. THEY DO ALL THIS by smelling their way home. It can be hundreds of miles! What a Nose!!

We all have a place, purpose and timeframe for our days on Earth. I think the Salmon understand that better than Humans do. WE ALL PALE IN COMPARISON TO THE CREATURES IN NATURE!  


Worried Awareness- Grizzlies are in the Air!

There's a scent floating around the mountainside woods at my place. A scent neither myself nor the Moose have smelled since late last fall. It's early spring now 40's during the day and high 20's at night, that's the first week of April in Alaska. No daffodils yet! We still have 2 feet of snow here on Bald Mountain.
When the snow begins to melt during the day that water can enter some of the bear dens especially the younger ones who have not figured out about dening on the north side of gulley’s so that don't happen. North slopes don't get the sun in early April. The Sun hits those areas later in the month or early May. In my book I speak about these juvenile bears that have much to learn once they are on their own.

To the Moose, a young Grizzly smells just like an old Grizzly and that smells like trouble. As I said before, the Moose have not smelled this scent since last fall and now, SOME of the boys are back in town!
Her "worried awareness" is quite evident by her expression.

Her ears have her back covered (they are both trained in that direction) and her eyes see a little bit ahead of her and she can see good on both sides.  The nose of a Moose is very good too and they can scent things 100's of yards away BUT the Grizzlies is ten times better or more!
The cows with calves are the ones that are nervous all the time about the Grizzlies. Many Moose calves are taken by these bears each year. In fact, there are areas where Grizzlies are prolific and decimating the Moose populations here. Along the corridors of the Chilikadrotna and Mulchatna rivers in western Alaska is one current example. The Moose generally make it though, as long as the wolves don't proliferate to the point they are in the game too! THEN the Moose ARE GONE!

I feel bad for the Moose this year. They had a rough winter this year and now the Grizzlies are in the air...

A Day in the Life of a Brown Bear

ZOOM in on this Google photo and look around first. Look for details,then come back and read on.

Many see a beautiful picture here and get lost in the scenery. I've done it many times sitting in these wild Alaska places. However, there is a MUCH bigger PICTURE here many don't see.

Let me shed a little light on it for you.
The male in the foreground was wandering back to one of his favorite spots just ahead of him. Over the years many bear have used this spot and you can look at the bank and confirm its wear from the bears using it. If you look closer you will see the river dumps into the ocean bay here and that means it is loaded with salmon as the tide comes in- a perfect spot! Generations of these bears know that.
When you look up ahead as he is doing, you'll notice another bear is in his favorite fishing hole. He no doubt spotted that bear back down the river but came on up anyway to size 'em up. Problem is, it's a female and worse yet, she has a cub. You can see his head just to the left of the male's head and the cub already has his eye on the big male too!(Zoom in) These cubs know that males will kill them in order to bring the female back into estrus during the fall mating season. That makes the male something to be feared year round when you are a young bear.
For the male wandering up the river this throws a whole new twist in the mix for him. Males don't go out of their way to pick trouble with the females when cubs are involved. A woman's wrath pales in comparison, if you can believe that!
Females Grizzlies or Brown Bears are unequaled when it comes to ANYTHING threatening their cubs- bar none! I have worked to get close to many big brown bear over the years BUT NEVER females with cubs. That is certain disaster and I am well aware of that. Whenever I am hunting big game in Alaska, my greatest fear was stumbling upon a sow with cubs. Worse yet, stumble upon them and find yourself between the sow and her cubs. YOU'RE in serious trouble when that happens.
So...what is about to happen in the photo?
The male will continue to approach his favorite "occupied" spot and "test" the waters so to speak. He will not be well received, but will try and snag a fish anyway. Then growling and posturing will unfold and escalate to the point the male will retreat to a different spot. After all, there are thousands of fish to choose from this time of the year and it is not worth the WRATH!

Experiencing Nature, the Sooner the Better!

Connecting your children with nature and wildlife at an early age is important. Master Thomas Gardner is pictured here absorbing the sight of his first Moose! 

Alaskans are fortunate to have an "envelope of nature" surrounding us, fortunate indeed! Throughout my book I speak to this importance and its effect on your life. People must free themselves from their cubicles, mundane lifestyles and indoor routines and enjoy the outdoors more wherever they are. MOST are far to removed from the natural world and it’s causing problems. Not only to their mental health, but the environment too! It's a lose, lose situation.
Most Alaskan’s, of all ages, enjoy the outdoors and spend a great deal of time in it. It's healthy for ya! So, get your camp gear ready, pack the right food and don't forget toilet paper! Don't let that deter you ladies...
Take chances now and again and see where it leads you. I think it is good for your brain to go somewhere and not know where until you get there.
When you plant trees, vegetables or even potatoes too close together, none of them do well. People in the city are planted too close to each other, makes them harder to "grow" too!

That's A Lot of Bull!

This photo was taken yesterday of one of my neighbors.  This 4-year old bull has had a rough winter. The snow has been exceptionally deep and that forced more moose down from the mountains concentrating them in pockets with less snow. This created high numbers foraging in close proximity to each other- pickins’ got slim! So good luck to him, the first signs of spring are finally upon us.

 BUT, the Grizzlies are waking up hungry after a long winters sleep. The moose’s struggle never ends-we have that in common!
That protrusion above his eye was left when his antlers dropped in late January and now they are beginning to start growing again through the summer. They are very proud of that armament all summer and fall, and then in late winter it falls off!  Hey guys aren’t we Lucky!!
As I mentioned earlier the moose have concentrated in areas with less snow or areas that are cleared like highways and railroad tracks. The Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game has created feeding stations for them recently to draw them away from cleared highways and railroad tracks and they issued this report, “We are authorizing this extraordinary step due to public safety concerns. We hope the diversionary feeding stations will lure moose away from roads and will reduce moose-vehicle collisions and other dangerous encounters,” said Tony Kavalok, Assistant Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation. This diversionary feeding permit allows the permit holder, not the general public, to feed moose. “This program is warranted only under exceptional circumstances such as has been created by this year’s snow conditions,” said Kavalok.”
Moose favor areas with less snow including plowed roads, railways, and driveways. This year’s heavy snowfall has resulted in increased moose related vehicle accidents(TOTALS THE CAR!) and antagonistic encounters. Diversionary feeding, along with packing down trails leading away from roads to feeding stations and areas with natural foods, can reduce conflicts between moose and people.
Speaking about antagonistic encounters- moose and people don’t mix! They are nobody’s pet and can/have seriously injured and killed people here in Alaska. The adult cows weigh about 800 lbs. and the bulls can weigh up to 1600 lbs. That’s A LOT OF BULL!

The Piper Super Cub- Alaska's Pick-Up Truck

Most all of us have seen pick-up trucks with gun racks in them. Well, we do things a bit different here in Alaska sometimes. In the photo, you see the struts of a Super Cub aircraft, our "pick-up" truck. Without question, one of the best bush planes around to get you to extremely remote places. They will haul anything and as much as you can put in them, this flight was full so the gun gets tied to the struts this trip.  That is it's only flaw, they don't have much room!  (They don't have a horn either)

Super Cubs have room for two people and they sit in tandem(one behind the other). There's a little storage behind you but not a lot and your shoulders touch each side of the Cub. BUT, this lightweight aircraft can get you in some pretty tight and EDGY places!  What's the reward? There's nobody else for many miles.

I write a great deal about those "EDGY" places in my upcoming book "Chance is the Providence of Adventurers". You will not believe some of the places we have landed and lived!  After having a rough landing with a client years back he ask me, "Did we just land or were we shot down?"

In the coming months I have footage of many of these "Edgy" landings. Additionally, I plan to put mpegs on my blog to share with you. It will be a front row seat with the camera rolling. It'll be fun and you'll get the "picture"!
Note:In the photo, we are flying over the area where the TV Series "Deadliest Catch" is filmed. It was a nice day in Bristol Bay. Ahhh... Winganaprayer

Bush Pilots are not often found in Church BUT pray more than most of You!

WinganaPrayer is an old Bush Pilot term. Not found in any of Webster's Dictionary verions. In this photo I gotta go east(left) pass looks closed-in and there's no turning back and no place to land(I'm on floats). I'm cruising along about 800'. I need that much time to properly panic if something sputters!

 Times like this you dig deep, pucker up a little in various places and hope for the best. THAT'S Winganaprayer at its finest!
Did I mention how much fuel I was burning? Did I mention headwinds?

That ole Winganaprayer has worked for me for years since I left Meade Co. Ky!  Somebody call Webster, the word WinganaPrayer needs to be there!

            Bush Pilots are not often found in Church BUT pray more than most of You!

Alaska's "Sunday Turkey"

The sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is Alaska's largest game bird. Residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta have affectionately nicknamed it the “Sunday turkey.” In some ways, cranes are birds of great contrasts. They are one of the most stately and dignified birds in flight, but they can also be one of the most comical when doing their famous “mating dance.” They come together in great flocks during migrations but are wary and scatter widely in their breeding and nesting areas.

Sandhill cranes are wading birds that have long black legs, long necks, and black chisel-shaped bills. Adults stand almost 3 feet tall and have a wing span of 6 feet or more. Mature birds are an ash-gray color with a bright red forehead. Immature birds are quite mottled with coppery or rusty feathers and lack the red forehead of adults. Adult plumage is attained at 2½ years. In the past, the sandhill cranes in Alaska were called “little brown” cranes and were thought to be a separate species based on their color. It is now known that the brownish-rust coloration of these northern birds is iron stain picked up in the peat bogs and muskegs of their breeding grounds.

The dance of the sandhills may be one of the strangest breeding displays on the tundra. Often called a mating dance, display activity reaches a peak in late winter and early spring, but it has also been seen at other times of the year when two cranes meet. The ritual starts with a deep bow followed by great leaps, hops, skips, turns, and more bows. This dance can go on for many minutes. Cranes are extremely wary birds and hard to approach. Their long legs enable them to easily outdistance a person walking on the uneven tundra, but they will take flight if closely approached. Except for the nesting season, cranes are social birds that feed together and occupy safe communal roosts at night.

Omnivorous ground feeders, cranes eat frogs, rodents, insects, bulbs, seeds, and berries as well as occasional seashore delicacies. They have adapted well to agriculture and during the winter and on migration, feed largely on waste grain and small animals associated with farm fields.

Moose, My Constant Companions

Winter of 2011-2012 has been extremely difficult for the critters here in Alaska. Many areas of the State had record snowfall. This depth of snow has reached over 250" for the season for many areas of Alaska. It has been tough on the critters as I said earlier but imagine keeping a path to the outhouse cleared! But, that's another story.

I have included a few photos of Moose that have came down from the mountains to get to less amounts of snow to live and feed. That puts them in constant contact with us and a part of everyday life-it's a good thing!

This unusal amount of heavy snowfall has put the moose in areas that have roadways or trails plowed that makes it easier for them to get around to browse on the tree buds. I guess they get lazy now and again too...

This little guy thinks he is hidden behind that stick!

In the spring Moose are very nervous as hungry Grizzlies are coming out of their winter dens.

Eat Well, Sleep Well- Enjoy the Hunt!

I see a lot of folks head out into Alaska's backcountry with all sorts of gadgets and types of food. Food is one of the most important areas of your trip. A well planned daily menu can make for a more enjoyable expedition. The nice thing about rafting in Alaska's backcountry is the fact that you have more room and space for the nicer things in life-food, cots and chairs.

When you work all day at a hunt in Alaska you are dead-bone tired by the end of the day. Nothing can perk you up like a great meal, a chair by the campfire and a comfortable cot at night. When I say great meal I am not talking about somethinmg out of a bag or can(trash). I am talking about food from scratch!
Breakfast should include buscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage, potatoes with garlic and juice/coffee. These type foods stick to your ribs and stay with you the whole day. Lunch can be light such as sandwiches and for dinner, go all out! Take frozen meats, steaks, frozen crab etc. These things will last the first half of your trip before they begin to go bad. Toward the end of your trip you will have found fresh fish and hopefully a little fresh game meat to get you through the rest of the expedition. I sometimes will take ice cream for a treat!

Point is, don't skimp on your food items, they are too important. Anyone who has hunted Alaska with me knows they are in for a real meal treat! Pouring boiling water in a plastic bag for a meal is no way to eat out here! Sure you can take some for backup, that's always a good idea, but they won't do much for hard working bellies!

I always use cots too. If you can't sleep well at night you can't hunt well by day. Lack of a comfortable nights rest makes for a pretty miserable day and I have seen many a traveler here have a horrible time of it because they did not prepare for a good nights sleep. Don't skimp on the bedding!
Lightweight chairs and cots are worth their weight in gold in the bush. Being able to sit down and lean back against something takes away a lot of the aches and pains you acquired all day.

Bears Can Fish!

This Brown Bear was having a field day on a river in the Cordova District here in Alaska. This time of year the rivers swell with thousands of fish which makes for easy pickins!

Alaskan fisherman are accustomed to bears after fish in the same fishing hole. A bit of the nerves are twitching but given their space they generally will go about their business. UNLESS it is a sow with cubs, in that case it is best to reel in and go to another spot. CUBS cause trouble wherever they are as the sow will generally not tolerate any disturbance to them.

Excitement is Building!

As you can see from this native New Yorker's (Pat) expression the adventure is about to begin! He was a bit apprehensive as he had never used a raft before but it did not stop any one of them from trying-a prerequisite for any adventurer!
Bruice, Pat and Tommy have hunted the western states of the Lower 48 but they were in awe of the sheer size and magnitude of Alaska.

They had read my blog and listened to my advise via several phone converstions before they came and it proved to make a big difference in the quality of their trip. After we had loaded the rafts and headed down river a few miles it was time to set up camp, go through all there gear in order to know where everything was and then relax for the first night. Pat is in the background and fellow Alaskan Mike Heinz in the foreground. He is a retired surveyor and taught all the guys how to use there GPS's. A must if you are trying to get to a pick-up point 80 miles downriver by a certain date to get picked by by the planes.

If you do this sort of thing as long as I have it becomes second nature to have comfortable camps and eat right. What was for dinner that first night?
Fresh Tossed Salad/w croutons, sour cream potatoes and FRESH Dungeness Crab! Now, how can you go wrong on a remote Alaskan trip with meals like that! They were GLAD I came along!


What it must feel like to these guys to have flown all the way from New York to end up landing on Twin Lakes in remote Alaska, then unload all their gear only to have the float planes leave you in the middle of nowhere! No help, no stores if you forgot something, no medical help or town within hundreds of miles if you get hurt. That's Alaska-you gotta love it!
It takes several hours to blow up the rafts and load your gear before you head down the Chilikadrotna River which flows out of Twin Lakes just a few yards from where native New Yorker, Bruice Sermonis is standing in this photo.
It's white water but relatively tame-one I thought would suit these guys who were new to the Alaskan Bush. Rafts are by far one of the best ways to see wild Alaska and the Chilikadrotna on listed as one of Alaska's Wild and Scenic rivers. LOTS of good fishing too! 

They Followed My Advice and Took the Plunge to ALASKA!

Three fellows who read my blogspot decided to take the plunge! All tolled they spent about $3000.00 each to make the trip to Alaska but they went first class most of the way. They rented two rafts-the first time they had ever used rafts I might add. MORE about that later!

All great trips to the Alaskan bush require using float planes or small planes on wheels. As you can see from the photo it took three aircraft to get all their gear flown in. There is just no other way to get to the pristine Alaskan wilderness you all dream of.
Usually I have other plans during the fall hunting season but one of the men from New York was an old friend of mine so I decided it best to tag along and keep these guys out of trouble. For the most part, it helped!
I'll be adding more to this story soon but remember these guys started at home in NY, read all they could from my blog and other places and took the plunge to Alaska. I am sure they will see the blog and add their own comments about the trip but they made it very clear that it was indeed a trip of a lifetime...stay tuned.  Scotty  

It's Only 210 miles to camp! As the Raven Flies

210 miles to most folks don't sound like much. Let me tell you how "close" that really isn't in Alaska. I left my home on Bald Mountain and headed for Moose/Brown Bear camp on the Bering River that lies east of Copper River Delta country. In Alaska, that also means you are close to Yukon Territory and in the middle of nowhere!

The first leg of the trip is the easiest; you drive to Whittier, Alaska. It is a beautiful drive along the Turnagain Arm with 10-12,000 ft mountains out the driver's side window and the ocean out the passenger's side. then arrive at the Anton Anderson tunnel in Portage. Once there, we wait for clearance to drive through the tunnel. It's the longest highway tunnel in North America (13,300' or 2.5 miles). Which a train also uses, you definitely want to WAIT! Visit the tunnel site for more details and take a virtual drive at

Coming out the other side you find yourself in Resurrection Bay and Whittier Alaska. A fishing community and also where the road ends. Now we must wait for the Alaska ferry to arrive. It is scheduled to leave Whittier tomorrow morning at 5am and arrive in Cordova. Our progress and the time it takes begin to leave our control at this point, that's Alaska!

While we wait for the ferry, Ill explain why we need one to start with. Normally I load up everything in the back of a plane and fly wherever. When you can use the ferry system on any part of an adventure you use it. It's much cheaper and always a scenic ride. The ferry ride from Whittier to Cordova takes 6 hours and covers about 100 miles by water. No only that you take your vehicle along too! They are parked in the bottom of the boat. Great way to go. Check them out at

Photos above show the clustered, twisted mess the vehicles parked in the bottom of the boat were. It was amazing that not even a bumper was touched-during loading or offloading. This time of year all the tourists have left so it was mostly seasoned locals that are used to doing this.

We arrived in Cordova, day two and only 150 miles into the trip. Now we load up the airplane and continue on with the last leg of the trip to camp. When we load the plane that includes an Achilles 13' inflatable along with 20hp motor and all our camp gear and food. But wait, the weather is not good at Kushtaka Lake; our landing site yet another delay... this could take a while. It's all par for the course when it comes to getting around Alaska.

By noon things are looking better and we are off airborne at last! The only thing that will stop us now, is a sudden one!

We fly over some of the most beautiful, vast and human less country in the world. It's real beauty lies in human less! Nature owns this land and you are always at peril-damn I like that!!!

On our approach to Kushtaka Lake we notice there is no wind at all. Some might say good. Not true. In a DeHavilland Beaver floatplane you sit about 6-7 feet above the floats. When there is no wind or breeze the water is like glass and you cannot tell how close the floats are to the water as you touch down. YOU MUST KNOW THAT!!!! Just getting to camp in Alaska is risky, damn risky. Lower 48 take note' this ain't no pony ride!

Fortunately, Kushtaka Lake is large and we were able to feather the Beaver in ever so gently. We taxied up to the bank and began unloading our gear. Better have those waders already on cause you can't get as close to the shore as you would like with a heavy load. There were Brown Bear tracks everywhere! Looks like a good spot. However, we are still not all the way to camp.

We blow up our raft, load all our gear and motor over to the mouth of Stillwater River which spills out of Kushtaka Lake. About 5 miles down the Stillwater you hit the Bering River. We had to use our oars to navigate the swift Stillwater River; it was flooding and anything but "Still". It's also shallow with large boulders everywhere, which meant no motor! Two hours later and right at sunset we finally arrived at our camp. It was a LONG 210 mile journey, but quite typical in terms of traveling about the A

First Go at Rafting in Alaska

Some folks from New York State followed my blog and advice! This is Bruice Sermonis from Campbell, New York giving it his all as he begins his first rafting trip down the Chilikadrotna River in Alaska. His traveling buddies, Pat and Tom are at his left and behind him. All three are attempting, for the first time, to use this type of raft. Pat and Tom seem to go about the river much like a pin ball does but they all three soon got the hang of it.

Kudos for all three! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!