Google Real Alaskan Adventures in the Wild of Alaska: December 2013

No Small Encounter

No Small Encounter

The vehicle pictured here is a Dodge Durango no small SUV by any means. This photo gives you a better idea of the damaged/deaths that can occur here in Alaska in the winter when vehicles collide with our Moose. Winters are the worst as the Moose are down from the mountains where deep snow has accumulated and browse is much easier to find. This also puts them on a collision course with our vehicles.

About 600 are killed on Alaska's roads each year and the number killed by the railroad generally doubles that! Needless to say most of the vehicles are totaled...

Some Alaska Lakes Explode!

Alaska-Some of Our Lakes Explode!

In this photo we are flying out of the small coastal community of Cordova. Cordova is a beautiful fishing community that sits east of Valdez and ESE of Anchorage about 150 air miles. It's best to get to Cordova by one of our ferries the State operates. You can load your pickup, drive on the ferry with your truck and gear then head upstairs for a beer during the 4 hour ride(maybe 6, it depends on the ocean-not always the way to go for those that are apt to get seasick).

The gravel road you see out the airplane window(DeHaviland Beaver) is the end of the line.  All our gear is headed to the Bering River about another 100 miles to the east. This is some of the most demanding and "mean" country  in Alaska, second only to my adventures on the Alaska Peninsula. We'll be landing on Kushtaka Lake. The early natives gave this Lake its name- it means devil's lake. That was their early take on it anyway. It would explode they said! 

Truth be told, in the winter this land and all it's Lakes freeze up. When you fly over these Lakes they are covered with snow and are generally considered big flat spots, great place to land on ski's if needed. I made a flight over this Lake one winter and on the way out saw Kushtaka all covered with snow and frozen.

We went on without thinking any more of it. 

When we flew back over Kushtaka several days later it was wide open with chunks of ice in it everywhere.  You could see the dark blue water???

As time went by and I did a little research I came to understand what happened that day and why the natives called it a devil's lake. In this photo background you can see the southern tip of the Wrangell Mt's. and Copper River lies just out of sight here. Point being, this is copper and coal country. Coal beds produce methane gas and when it is released in a lake bed and the winter ice freezes over the top, something is eventually going to give- "It Explodes"

There are so many unique things about Alaska... been here 35 years and expect to discover more!

Lady Alaska!

Lady Alaska, She's Deadly Beautiful!

In Alaska, when you fly out to hunt or fish you land and unload the plane. After you unload everything and the plane leaves, you realize you are out in the middle of nowhere and ALONE. Better not forget anything! At the same time you can't take everything as there is only so much room in the bush plane. Careful planning, when in the Alaskan Bush, can mean the difference between life or death.

Cold weather, freezing rain, raging or flooding rivers, mountain slides, mad Moose or worse, a Grizzly/Brown bear can all play havoc on your expedition. Granted, you can't "plan"or "pack" to ward off a bear, but knowing them and understanding their body language can help. More about that in another post.

In the photo below you will see the result of flying in a Zodiac raft which had no top. During this trip is rained, and rained, and rained!! So I made one! I used Alder poles(only thing I know that Alders are good for, except smoking Salmon) and a tarp I had brought. I knew it might be necessary but the mfg. poles for the roof of the Zodiac and its small tarp took up valuable space and weighed more than my small tarp. I knew I would be able to make a top if I needed to.

Most folks don't realize how difficult it is to hunt Alaska. We don't have roads to good hunting areas. In fact, we only have three main highways in the entire State of Alaska. We don't have feed plots, tree stands and all those aids that are used by most Lower 48 sportsmen. If you want to get to the best hunting and fishing here, you must fly out to it, along with your gear and food.

I am sometimes envious of the ease by which Lower 48 hunters go about their hunting and fishing. But I know this wild and vast land has had far more adventure to offer as a result its hardships. The fact that you could get hurt out there and no one could help, makes for some hair-raising thoughts alone! What would you do?

Many of my hair-raising adventures were outlined in my first book. Many more will come in my next book and I will post some more of them from time to time here.

Alaska is a grand, beautiful and deadly place...

Outta Nowhere!

You just never know when.

Our bears can appear out of nowhere. YOU NEVER expect it, at least most chichakos(Alaskas newbies) don't. But a sourdough is always thinking about it when he is out in the bush-hell in a lot of suburban Alaska too!!

If it is a bear by itself it is generally one on a mission- such as the young Grizzly in this picture. He did not care what was on the bank when he sprang from the brush. He knew there were salmon in the water and little else mattered! Including ME!

I was thankful that it was not a Grizzly cub that darted out with a sow close behind only to realize I was there. Had that been the case, this close, I would have been charged and mauled. Little could stop the rage of a Grizzly sow that close!  Humans risk severe injury or death when they run into grizzlies in the wild AND urban Alaska.

We Got Fish!

Dreaming about an Alaskan Fishing Adventure?

Fishing in Alaska comes in multiple flavors-literally! Tens of thousands of people from all parts of the world harvest and feast on salmon, halibut, crab, trout, and other varieties of finfish and shellfish under subsistence, personal use, and sport fishing regulations. Many of anglers try their skills in both wilderness and urban settings. Guides, lodges and charter operators provide residents and visitors with memorable fishing experiences and contribute significantly to our tourism industry and economy. Subsistence and personal use fishing support a traditional way of life for many Alaskans. Subsistence fishing for those that qualify, provides wild harvests worth hundreds of pounds and thousands of dollars in replacement value at the supermarket. And with the price of seafood rising that saves a local guy like me a lot of "supermarket" money.

Alaska’s commercial fisheries are the most productive and valuable in the nation, with a wholesale value of over $3 billion. Recent studies put the combined economic impact of commercial and sport fishing at $7.4 billion and 89,915 full-time-equivalent jobs.

All of Alaska’s fisheries are managed by a science-based system that is widely regarded as among the best in the world, ensuring these living resources remain available for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Alaska offers four types of fishing. Sport fishing is open to anyone in virtually everyone, while commercial, subsistence, and personal use fishing are limited to certain areas, certain types of gear, or just to Alaska residents.

Once you have determined the kind of fishing you would like to do,  review the regulations for the specific area and species you want to catch. (Click on my Fish and Game link on this page for specific regulations) Seasons, bag limits, methods and means, permitting, and reporting requirements vary widely across the state and can be found by clicking on the link.

If you need more information about the ins and outs of traveling around Alaska and pursuing your dream here contact me and I will customize a response for you.

Mother Nature & Grandfathers...

Mother Nature and Grandfathers are the greatest teachers of all!

Today we find that fewer and fewer children are involved in the hunting process.  Many people, only 1  generation ago had ready access to land, as they had close relatives who still farmed and welcomed them to their places to hunt.  What will the next several generations be doing regarding the care and maintenance of our wildlife treasures?  Will they care? Will they even know or understand the enjoyment and thrill of hunting?  Not just the harvesting part, but the whole outdoor experience?  Who is going to teach them?  How are they going to learn patience, respect, resourcefulness and a sense of sharing with those less fortunate?

The main objective that you, as an adult should have is to allow your children to experience the pleasant aspects of hunting.  Don’t push them, or force them to do something that they are not enjoying.  Taking them on a 4 hour forced march in bad weather is surely not going to be a good experience for them.  Take them to a target range for an hour or let them try shooting trap once every 2 weeks.  This is a great way to introduce children to the gun and to hitting moving targets, while at the same time teaching them about gun handling and safety.

Fathers and grandfathers used to take their children out to hunt with them in order to teach them how, where and when to hunt.  The care and preparation of the kill in the field, dressing, skinning and butchering were all part of the teaching/learning process.  These experiences taught future generations the skills needed to provide food for their families.  They also taught many other lessons, those of patience, respect, resourcefulness and a sense of sharing with others who perhaps did not have good luck in their pursuit of needed food.
We need to start at home, introducing our young people to the safe practice of gun handling, shooting and the ethical requirements needed to have a successful hunt or to have success in life.

Teaching young children, say age 7 or 8, about gun safety can begin with the purchase of a BB gun.  Set up a safe target shooting range in the basement of your home.  This can be easily done and can provide the basis for hours of fun and practice in becoming a safe and proficient shooter.  Taking kids out to the field when they are small for a short hunt, only an hour or two will help in getting them interested in the sport of hunting and the outdoors.  Let them take their BB gun and plink at safe paper targets or cans put on a log against a backstop.

Mother Nature is a great teacher and getting kids outside to learn and play is good for their brains and their bodies.

Alaska's Tundra Turkey!

Sandhill Cranes Flying in Kentucky and One Landing in Alaska! 

Of course, they are from a different flyway but they seem to be found everywhere now!

The sandhill crane  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.

Cranes breeding and migrating in Alaska are part of a complex of lesser sandhill cranes found from Siberia across northern Canada. They are considered a separate subspecies from greater sandhill cranes found in southern Canada and the lower 48 states. There is considerable variation in size among cranes, and their taxonomy has not been studied in detail.

Cranes have very powerful, unmistakable voices. The windpipe of cranes (and also trumpeter swans) forms a loop within the breastbone, producing the great resonance of their voices. Their cry has been described as a loud, rolling, musical rattle.

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.

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.

Bull of the Woods-today...

Young Bull Moose at My Homestead

The Alaska-Yukon race (Alces alces gigas) is the largest of all the moose. Adult males are larger than the females and in prime condition weigh from 1,200 to 1,600 pounds. Adult females weigh 800 to 1,300 pounds.

Only the males or “bulls” have antlers. Most male calves develop a hair-covered, bony protuberance by the end of summer that persists through their first year. Following this initial development, antlers are grown each summer and shed during winter throughout the bull’s life. The largest moose antlers in North America come from Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and the Northwest Territories of Canada. Trophy age class bulls with antlers 50 inches  in spread or larger are found throughout Alaska. Moose occasionally produce trophy-size antlers when they are 6 or 7 years old, with the largest antlers grown at approximately 10 to 12 years of age.  Moose rarely live more than 16 years.

Growth patterns, age at sexual maturity, and production of offspring are closely tied to range conditions. Female or “cow” moose generally breed at 28 months, though some may breed as young as 16 months. Calves are born any time from mid-May to early June after a gestation period of about 230 days. A cow moose defends her newborn calf vigorously. Cows give birth to twins  20-45 percent of the time, and triplets may occur. Newborn calves generally weigh 28 to 35 pounds and rarely as much as 45 pounds. Calves begin nursing within the first few hours following birth and take solid food a few days later. During their first 5 months, while suckling and foraging, calves will grow to more than 10 times their birth mass; occasionally weighing more than 500 pounds. Calves are generally weaned in the fall at the time the mother is breeding again.

The maternal bond is generally maintained until calves are 12 months old at which time the mother aggressively chases her offspring from the immediate area just before she gives birth. Moose breed in the fall with the peak of the “rut” activities coming in late September and early October. Adult males joust during the rut by bringing their antlers together and pushing. Serious battles are rare, but bulls regularly receive a few punctures, sometimes break ribs, and occasionally die from their wounds. The winner usually mates with several females.

By late October, adult males have exhausted their summer accumulation of fat and their desire for female company. Once again they begin feeding. Antlers from mature bulls are shed as early as November, but mostly in December and January. Young bulls may be seen with their antlers as late as April. Most moose make seasonal movements to calving, rutting, and wintering areas. They travel anywhere from only a few miles to as many as 60 miles during these transitions.

Moose have a high reproductive potential and can quickly overpopulate a range if not limited by predation, hunting, and severe weather. Deep crusted snow can lead to malnutrition and subsequent death of hundreds of moose and decrease the survival of the succeeding year's calves.

Moose are killed by wolves, black and brown bears. Black bears take moose calves in May and June. Brown bears kill calves and adults the entire time the bears are out of their winter dens. Wolves kill moose throughout the year. Predation limits the growth of many moose populations in Alaska.

Frosty Track

This is detectable evidence  that a Moose has passed during a frost. It also shows us the course along which it moved. To the sharper eye, it is a sign that shows where it has gone...