Google Real Alaskan Adventures in the Wild of Alaska: January 2014

Hunting in Alaska-No walk in the Park!

Hunting in Alaska, It's No Walk in the Park!

For all those that don't hunt-It's hard in Alaska and you EARN it! Take for example this Brown Bear hunt.

First you have to get yourself and your gear to a remote location by small plane.

Then you must unpack all the gear and generally hike to a favorable spot with all your gear AND food AND cooking utensils AND camping gear-you need lots of it if you are going to stay comfortable for ten or more days at a time.

Then you must endure days of fowl weather all the while staying warm and dry.(did I mention packing clothing?)

Then there are days of endless hiking and glassing for game. Yes, Alaska has a lot of game, but we also have a LOT of country for game to hide in.

Now, after days upon days of inclement weather you get lucky and bag that trophy of a lifetime more work begins!

In the photo this Brown Bear hide was so heavy it could not be packed out on a frame-I tried and it BROKE the frame, now what? I told the client at the time that I would have to cut his trophy bear hide in half to pack it-he almost fainted! I was of course kidding but the only other option I had was what you see in the next photo. Roll it up in a tarp to protect it and then proceed to drag it three mile back to base camp where the small plane could be used to fly it out.

After all that work, I had to go back to spike camp and get all the gear and get it back to base camp where the plane was to haul all of that back.
Folks, hunting in Alaska is the hardest hunting in the world-bar none! 

You earn everything you get here. We don't have Landrovers like they do in Africa or horses like they do in Montana or pickup trucks like you do in the Lower 48!

If you ever plan to hunt in this Great State, be prepared to WORK HARD-it's no walk in the park!

Caribou-They Appear to Be Dumb!

Caribou seem pretty Dumb

When Brown Bear or Moose hunting in the high country you come across a lot of Caribou. At first, they appear pretty dumb, that's because many of them in the Bush have just not encountered that many hunters in their lifespan. I have seen wolves follow the herd and the wolves can get pretty close(100 yards)  and the herd, although aware of their presence, don't panic yet. They know at that distance they can outrun the pack. If the wolves range narrows much less than that the herd is off and running!

It's common knowledge in Alaska that most anyone can get their Caribou meat-including our neighbor Sarah Palin! They are indeed the easiest species of game meat to acquire here. What makes our Caribou appear so dumb is the fact that like all deer, they are curious-it's that simple!

Alaska has about 32 different herds totaling about 950,000. To see these herds of thousands is something to behold and it is because of our vast amounts of open land we have here. 

Being fortunate to witness this many times over the years makes me thankful that we still have this much vast and wild country available. It is one of the reasons I came to Alaska over 35 years ago.

Alaskans harvest about 23,000 Caribou a year and they also sustain our increasing numbers of wolves and bears. Without these vast numbers of Caribou we would NOT have the population of wolves we do. In the spring and summer Caribou favor the higher ground as there are more breezes associated with these areas and the mosquito's are less of a nuisance. 

Interestingly, Caribou are the only deer species where both the cows and the bulls have antlers. The average bull Caribou will weigh between 350-400 lbs. 

McNeil River Brown Bear Viewing Permits Available!

Applications for McNeil River Bear Viewing Permits Due March 1

Wanna get up close, personal AND safe with Brown Bears? Most of you have seen this place on PBS specials and now's your chance to sit among the mighty carnivores of Alaska and it only comes along once a year!

The application deadline for lottery permits to visit Alaska’s premier brown bear viewing site at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary is fast approaching. Online applications must be submitted by midnight on March 1, or mailed and received by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by March 1, 2014.

Online applications and printable application forms are available at through the “Permits” tab and “Viewing Permits” link. More information about visiting McNeil River is available on the website or by calling (907) 267-2257.

A nonrefundable application fee of $25 per person is required and up to three people may apply together as a group. Applications are entered into a lottery and if drawn, Alaska residents must pay a $150 permit fee and nonresidents $350.

Located 100 air miles west of Homer, the McNeil River hosts the world’s largest known gathering of brown bears; hundreds of people apply each year for permits to watch bears drawn to the river to feed on migrating salmon.

When you look at the map on the left you'll see Homer, Alaska. That would be the least expensive departure point to get to McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge -there are no roads to it.

Homer, Alaska is about a 5 hour drive from Anchorage and it sits in Kachemack Bay-it is BEAUTIFUL! 

Here is a list of Homer Air Taxis that can help with your arrangements:

Bald Mountain Air Service Inc. 
PO Box 3134 (6058 Bald Mt. Ave.) Homer, AK 99603
(907) 235-7969 (800) 478-7969 Fax. (907) 235-6602

Beluga Lake Float Plane 
2886 Bay Vista Place Homer, AK 99603
(907) 235-8256

Homer Air 
Box 302 Homer, AK 99603
(907) 235-8591 (907) 235-2301(fax)
Homer Air

Hughes Air 
PO Box 9 Homer, AK 99603
(907) 235-4229 (907) 235-1803 fax
Hughes Air

Northwind Aviation 
PO Box 646 Homer, AK 99603
(907) 235-7482

This is a remarkable adventure! Good luck with the drawing!

Surprise At Close Range!

Surprise at Close Range!

First of all-this photo was not taken with a zoom lens!

At this close range-30 feet, this could have been a very bad encounter especially if this was a sow with cubs. Fortunately, it was a boar and it did not yet know how close I was. Had the wind direction been at my back this close encounter would have never happened. He would have been long gone.

I have spent a lot of time in the Alaskan Bush and encounters with bears, in my case, have been frequent. I never run from one and in fact, I make certain that I impose a bigger threat to him than the reverse. I do go to great lengths to make sure I am never this close to a sow with cubs-that is certain disaster for me and the bear.

The bear pictured here had been visible to me for some time and I kept the wind in "my" favorable direction so I could get this close. Testing skills I suppose, but to get this close to a Grizzly or Brown bear without them knowing it has always been a thrill like no other. We both knew we were there but only one of us, at this point, knows where the other is.

I do not recommend anyone attempt such encounters as it would probably not turn out well for one of you. I've just had lots of practice and know both of our limits and this photo is pushing that envelope, but it's damned exciting!
If you do encounter one of these bruins while in Alaska:

Don't run or turn your back!

If a boar charges, hold your ground. 90% of the time they'll stop and turn away.

Make lots of noise-before hand(unless of course, you are hunting them) If you are, don't wait to get this close and fire!

If you are not hunting and find yourself in bear country there is no need to be sneaking around. Make lots of noise, sound like a marching band, they'll avoid you.

ALWAYS remember, Surprising bears, any species, is always a bad idea!

Bull Crossing...

Bull on the Bridge!

It's almost mid January and this young bull Moose still has his antlers. That is typical for them although it is about time for them to shred their antlers and begin growing them again. Alaskan Moose are the largest member of the deer family in the world and their antlers can weigh up to 60 pounds, that's a lot of weight to pack around-and to pack out of the bush!

They will produce trophy class antlers by the time they are about 6-7 years old but the largest racks, when their diet is good, will be produced when they are about 10-12 years old. After that the racks become somewhat smaller as they continue to age.

This Moose is browsing on Birch limbs and their typical winter browse line is usually 6-8 feet high! The bull pictured here weighs around 800 lbs. now and he will continue to put on weight as the year progresses. Adult bulls can weight up to 1,600 lbs. That's a lotta Bull!

All hunters both resident and non-residents alike are required, by law, to pack out all the meat from the moose they harvest. If you don't, not only is that unethical but it is also called wanton waste here and there is a healthy fine for that-as it should be!

Alaskan and non-residents harvest about 6000-8000 Moose annually. Given the fact that a healthy full-grown moose will have about 600-800 lbs. of edible meat on it means Alaskans eat very well. Moose meat is delicious and does not have a "gamey" taste to it at all.

P.S. I built this bridge on my homestead several years ago. It took over 300 spruce logs to construct it and it spans some 50 feet. A word to the wise, don't burn bridges, they are too hard to build!

Mountain Monarchs

The State of Alaska has recorded 745 glaciers in Alaska. 

BUT that is nowhere close to the actual numbers of them. For example, the photo of this one I took in Lake Clark Pass-it does not have a name because it is so small. There are thousands of these small glaciers that have no names. Are they melting, of course. Each year they melt some and then gain some during the winter. That has been their annual cycle for thousands of years.

One thing I know for sure, they are beautiful to be around and DANGEROUS to be near. Whenever I camp near them you can hear them rumbling during the night as they freeze/thaw in the mountains. It is an amazing and erie thing to witness. Laying in your sleeping bag hearing these massive things moving a mountain is indeed, something to behold. It has always reminded me of how small and insignificant humans are. Not to mention our frailty!

Did I mention ice worms? Yes, we have ice worms that live in glaciers surviving temperatures that humans cannot. Hard to believe, but it is true. Worms are a hardy bunch it seems, found in geothermal vents on the ocean floor all the way to our glacial ice fields. They are not found in all of our glaciers just a few of them, no one knows why. Amazing creature. Our ice worms are not poisonous, but they can crawl up your butt and freeze you to death-just kidding.

This is just a few of the things a hunter can discover when he ventures out in this vast and wild country. Being a hunter has its advantages and provides for an understanding of the natural world non-hunters have no idea about-they just think we want to kill everything. Hunting in Alaska can kill you just as quick as having the ability to kill something yourself.

First of all you'll have to land in a place like the pictured at the left. Pack all your gear to a safe base camp spot and then hunt from there-not an easy thing to do!

For all those sportsmen out there that have pursued Mountain Goat or Dall Sheep, you know exactly what I am talking about here. It's extremely hard work and takes a great deal of luck.

Take chances and discover things generally and otherwise not possible to most folks.

Among and Above the Glaciers

Climbing in Alaskan glacier country can take you breath away- Permanently!

Indeed the views are spectacular with nothing but mountains around you. You may be on a hunt for Dall Sheep or Mountain Goat or just out for a grueling climb. Whatever the reason, climbing in this country can be breathtaking-in more ways than one! 

The right gear is imperative. Throwing on an old pair of hiking boots on that have worn soles is a great way to die at these altitudes.  Not being in top physical shape is another way to "loose your breath"- permanently.

The right backpack is imperative! One that fits snugly across the shoulders and a good waist belt are must haves. Loose backpacks can shift creating a slight tug on you at the wrong moment and there goes your balance creating life-threatening problems for you.

 Lose shale rock can create an unrecoverable slide and if your shoes are worn and you have an improperly balanced backpack bouncing around is not good at these altitudes either.

Imagine all this with a rifle slung over your shoulder at the same time. I have had clients over the years that refused to go any further because of their lack of preparedness-which they were told before they arrived! If you plan to hunt in these conditions you MUST BE in top physical shape-no way around it!

As I have said before-Lady Alaska, She's Deadly Beautiful!

A Wing and A Prayer


WinganaPrayer is an old Bush Pilot term. It's not found in any of Webster's Dictionary versions. In this photo we gotta go east (left) and the pass looks like it might be closed-in around the far corner and there's no turning back and no place to land(we are on floats). We are cruising along about 800'. WE need that much time to properly panic if something sputters!

Times like this you make 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 we were burning? Did I mention headwinds? These thoughts and many more go through your head as you fly in this country. The only weather reports you get are from other pilots that recently went through these passes and that can all change in a flash! Mountain flying and flying in Alaska are true tests of one's flying skills and for those that do not develop them and continually hone them- well, lets just say they don't last too long here.

That ole Winganaprayer has worked for me for years.

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!

Who's Watching Who?

When I came across these Grizzly tracks on a recent hunt on the Bering River I could not help but wonder, "Am I looking at where he was or is he looking at where I am?"

I made tracks to Alaska 30 years ago to escape the Lower 48. To run from pre-conceived notions as to what my life should be and how I should live it. It was strange to me that people picture "what to do with my life" as if it's some plateau you reach and you can stop worrying about it after that. BULLBUTTER!

I think everyone goes through this and I think it has to do with how poorly our education system is structured to ensure children know themselves, their strengths, weaknesses, and Passions. In an attempt to prepare everyone for the "real world", a disconnect forms because they get us ready for what the work force and American government needs from us and not what WE need from LIFE!

I escaped to Alaska to live a life of adventure and after 30 years here, many of those spent as a professional hunting guide, I truly found my "brass ring". I might add, that it took brass balls to do it!

It's now 35 years later, boy do I have some stories to tell. These are stories you won't find in my book, you can read those separately. I want to use this forum to inspire people to be themselves and pursue their dreams. I want to answer questions about Alaska you won't find answers to in the tourists pamphlets.

ALASKAN Hunting, Fishing, Bush life, Sea Life, Survival skills, Bush flying, Whitewater Rafting, Flora, Fauna, Wildlife, Minerals, politics/Outhouses and more are all interesting subject matter that will be discussed. (the outhouse and politics belong as far from the cabin as a cold, dark, freezing night permits!) The gap between smart ass and visionary has narrowed. It takes a certain amount of colorful brevity to get your point across these days. I have no problem doing that!

Your destiny is your duty to yourself!

Two Degrees Above Dead

Bears hibernate and remain in a state about 2 degrees above dead!

These two young Grizzly are no doubt a little late getting to the den this past year but the photo illustrates why they need to!

They head into their dens for months at a time, then they come out in the spring looking a whole lot thinner and hungry for sure! 
They do this because of the scarcity of food all winter. In Alaska our snows are deep and last for many months. The ONLY way they survive is hibernating. Look at all the money we could save on food and diet loss programs if we could do this! We are pretty sure this is true by studying smaller mammals that hibernate because waking sleeping bears to study this is not a good idea!

They do wake occasionally to move around but quickly head back into a deep sleep.

During hibernation, Bears reduce their body temperature to a point that approaches or even falls below the freezing point of water. (Salty body fluids have lower freezing thresholds that keep tissues from freezing) Overall metabolism drops to about 98% — just 2 degrees above dead.

Runways Are For Sissies...

Asphalt runways are not for the Faint-Hearted! 

This is a photo of the Chilikadrotna River in western Alaska. It is designated as one of Alaska's Wild and Scenic rivers and flows out of Twin Lakes.

I see two places I can get the Super Cub down in this photo. (the Cub is on wheels not floats)Wind direction being critical of course. Can you spot them?