All posts by Chris Cocoles

Avian Flu Discovered In Wild Birds Shouldn’t Affect Alaska Hunts

Photo by Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by Yukon National Wildlife Refuge

 As our Northwest Sportsman editor du jour Andy Walgamott pointed out, birds in Washington and Oregon have been diagnosed as carrying avian flu and for hunters there to err on the side of caution when it comes to handling birds. Alaska Department of Fish and Game sent out a release stating hunting will likely not be affected by the outbreak. Here’s the release:

Avian influenza has been confirmed recently in wild birds in northwestern Washington and southwestern Oregon, but risks are negligible to waterfowl and waterfowl hunters in Alaska where hunting seasons remain open in some regions.

“This is primarily a waterfowl issue in Washington and Oregon, but can be a threat to domestic poultry,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen. “It’s unlikely to pose any threat to Alaska’s waterfowl populations and these strains have never been found to infect humans.”

Two strains of highly pathogenic H5 virus – H5N2 and H5N8 – were found earlier this month in Whatcom County, Washington. The H5N2 strain was confirmed in a northern pintail duck, while the H5N8 virus was verified in a captive gyrfalcon that had been fed hunter-killed wild birds. In Winston, Oregon, the H5N8 avian influenza was identified in a small backyard poultry flock that had open access to a pond and marsh that wild waterfowl commonly use.

“The term ‘highly pathogenic’ means it is highly pathogenic to domestic poultry and says nothing about its potential impacts on wild birds or pets or humans,” said Dr. Beckmen. Outbreaks of H5N8 have occurred in domestic fowl across Europe and Asia over the last year with no associated cases in humans.

Avian flu concerns have prompted increased surveillance of wild birds in Alaska in the past. Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 57,000 birds were tested for H5N1, and none tested positive for the virus. The Alaska Departments of Fish and Game, Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Geological Survey are performing surveillance testing for avian influenza.

“Neither H5N2 nor H5N8 have been found in Alaska,” said DEC State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach.

Alaska waterfowl hunting seasons remain open through December 31 in Southeast and through January 22, 2015, around Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Chain. While no public health concerns have been associated with either H5N2 or H5N8 avian influenza strains, these cases serve as reminders that wildlife can carry pathogens of many kinds. As always, Alaska hunters should practice routine hygiene when handling, cleaning and cooking wild game. The Department of Fish and Game recommends the following:

  • Do not handle or eat obviously sick game.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • Wash hands and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come into contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked (meat internal temperature of 165 °F).

Poultry owners can protect backyard flocks by taking measures to prevent them from interacting with wild birds. Neither H5N2 nor H5N8 have been found in any commercial poultry flocks.

Dead or sick domestic birds should be reported to the DEC at (907) 375-8215; for more information, contact Dr. Bob Gerlach in Anchorage at 375-8214. Dead or sick wild birds should be reported to ADF&G Wildlife Health and Disease Surveillance Program, phone: (907) 328-8354, email:; or to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Avian Disease Hotline at 1-866-527-3358.

Husky Liners Protect Your Vehicle

Winfield, KS – 12/17/14 – Husky Liners, a leading manufacturer of aftermarket products designed to protect a vehicle’s interior and exterior, has re-launched their premier line of vehicle floor liners; the X-act Contour.


Blind research was conducted in early 2014 putting four floor liners in front of 43 consumers and asking them to choose which liner they preferred. Of the four liners reviewed, two were top competitor liners, one was the Husky Liners WeatherBeater™ and one was the Husky Liners X-act Contour. After examining each liner and their advertised features, the research revealed that nearly 65 percent of consumers chose the X-act Contour as their top choice. When asked why, participants of the study noted the rubberized texture felt richer, softer, and more likely to settle into the contours of the vehicle than the more rigid, plastic liners.


“We were blown away by the response to the X-act Contour.” Stated Doug Johnson, Sr. Design Engineer at Husky Liners. “We’d had great performance from our Thermo-Formed WeatherBeater liners, but were not initially quite sure how to position the X-act Contour. Based on the results of this study, we feel very confident in our re-launch strategy.”


As a result of the key findings from the market research, Husky Liners made some improvements to the X-act Contour product line and created new packaging that encourages consumers to “feel the liner” through a hole that was die cut into the box. Also, Husky Liners commissioned a new advertising campaign. The campaign has already been launched in print, digital and in-store marketing. One of the most notable pieces is a tongue in cheek product demonstration video called “Comparison”.  The video focuses on four unique selling propositions of the X-act Contour; The premium look and feel of the product, the FormFit Edge™, the StayPut Cleats™, and Husky Liners’ Lifetime Guarantee.

The 4-minute Comparison video features two fictitious engineering “nerds” named Patrick and Shannon who take the viewer through a series of four tests. Husky Liners VP of Global Strategies Dan Beaulaurier stated, “We had a lot of fun making this video. Even though there’s a strong comedic aspect, the video works to educate consumers on the top four selling features that set this product apart from the competition. After watching the video, I think most would agree that choosing the X-act Contour is a no-brainer.”


Here is a link to the video:

About Husky Liners®
For over 25 years Husky Liners has proudly made products that protect your Truck or SUV both inside and out. Designed and manufactured right here in the U.S.A., nearly all of our products come with an unlimited Lifetime Guarantee. We stand behind our products so that our customers can have the peace of mind to pioneer on.

Bristol Bay Spared From Oil, But What About Mining?


We’ve been on deadline for the last few days, so apologies for just getting to this, but President Obama announced Bristol Bay, which has been in the news from an environmental standpoint for a while now, will be spared of any oil and gas drilling, but what this means for the proposed Pebble Mine?


The resource of Bristol Bay is “too precious to be put out to the highest bidder,” said the President.  The Obama order applies to the bay, and not to the multi-billion-dollar proposed Pebble Mine, which would be located between two of Bristol Bay’s most productive salmon spawning streams.

“This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the fishing and tourism economy and to native communities,” said the President.

The news was applauded by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a longtime opponent of both oil and gas leasing in Bristol Bay, and a critic who helped persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study impacts of the Pebble Mine.

“This decision affirms that we will not put fishing jobs at risk in the home of the nation’s most productive commercial fishery,” said Cantwell.




ASJ Correspondent Wins Award


Apologies for not getting this out yesterday, but a hearty congratulations are in order for our correspondent Christine Cunningham.

From the Kenai Peninsula Clarion: 

Kenai resident Christine Cunningham was still unable to process the announcement that she was the 2014 winner of the Prois Award hours after receiving the news Monday.

The Prois Award celebrates female hunters who are passionate about hunting and dedicated to their community, conservation and the betterment of hunting in the future, according to the Prois website. Cunningham will receive Prois hunting apparel, boots, game bags, packs and spend a five-day, two-species hunt in Namibia, Africa with Mogwadiri Safaris.

Longtime hunting partner and close friend Steve Meyer said when he introduced Cunningham to the sport in 2006, she immediately showed some natural skill.

“It was like creating a monster,” Meyer said. “She just fell in love with it.”




Alaska River Adventures: Enjoying Alaska’s Outdoors

Alaska River Adventures Offers Legendary Sport Fishing Trips in 2015

Reservations are Now Open to Book Float Fishing Adventures on Wild Alaskan Rivers and All-Inclusive weeks at the lodge



COOPER LANDING, Alaska – Put a distinct Alaskan spin on your fishing in 2015. Alaska River Adventures, one of Alaska’s oldest and most respected companies, invites groups to join us in the raw beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. Located in Cooper Landing, just a 90-minute drive from Anchorage, Alaska River Adventures offers guided float fishing trips on wilderness rivers and full-service packages at our riverfront lodge just above the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Both options translate into an inspirational event for family adventures, executive retreats, corporate events and incentive trips for top performers.

Reservations are now available for the 2015 season, May 16 – October 17, 2015.

Ideal for both novice and experienced anglers alike, Alaska River Adventures’ knowledgeable staff and expert guides take guests on fishing excursions where they’ll land king, red or silver Salmon, trophy-sized rainbow trout and sea run Dolly Varden. For the lodge based trips, forays onto the ocean add halibut, lingcod, red snapper and rockfish. Wildlife viewings include moose, bald eagles and both brown and black Bears. Following a day on the water, guests unwind and recount the day’s adventures around the campfire or at the lodge, and experience freshly prepared Alaskan cuisine.


Alaska River Adventures’ all-inclusive packages include:

  • Riverfront accommodations
  • Full service guided sport fishing on 16- to 20-foot boats
  • All meals – hearty all-you-can-eat Alaskan fare
  • Use of all fishing equipment, including chest waders, high-end rods, reels and all-weather gear
  • Professional fish cleaning, cutting, vacuum-packing and freezing
  • Alaska state fishing license and king salmon stamp
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi & satellite TV at the lodge

Established in 1977, Alaska River Adventures is known for their friendly customer service, expert crew and close proximity to the best sport fishing in Alaska. Welcoming more than 20,000 guests over the years, Alaska River Adventures boasts an impressive guest return rate that includes multiple generations.


George Heim


Wolverines: An Alaskan Icon Among Wildlife

(Photo by National Park Service)

(Photo by National Park Service)


When I was growing up, about all I knew about wolverines came from the movie, Red Dawn, and that the Wolverines played football on Saturdays in Ann Arbor, Mich.

But the real wolverines, those fierce carnivores that are officially members of the weasel family but far more befitting of a big cat or wolf, are mythical creatures in places like Alaska.

Riley Woodford of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game paid homage to the wolverine with a profile worth the read.  

Here’s an excerpt:

Wolverines are weasels, Golden said, and have the weasel nature. “That whole family is pretty similar, just the size is different. Ermine can be bold; weasels are an intelligent family of animals and they know how to survive.”

While wolverines are usually solitary, the “bad tempered loner” stereotype gives the impression they are downright antisocial. Golden visited a facility in Washington that’s home to about 40 wolverines. They shared a large common area and he said they were quite tolerant and social with each other.

“If resources are limited that can cause conflict, but they can be social,” Golden said. “If food is plentiful, they’ve got no reason to worry about each other. We’ve seen them in April from the air wrestling and playing with each other, they weren’t fighting, they’re socializing.”

They are territorial, in the general sense of the word, but Harrington and Golden use the term “home use area” to describe the area they favor. “They pick areas they maintain and keep to themselves, males will overlap with females, but males don’t overlap much with males, or females with females,” Harrington said. “They need resources, and they pick an area where they can make a living and survive.”

They have scent glands, a ventral gland near the belly button, anal glands, and they also have little scent glands on the bottom of the pads of their feet, and when they walk they leave scent. They also scent-mark through urination. “They basically maintain territory this way through active marking,” Golden said. “We have found some that have been in fights and are scarred up, they do get into tussles. “

He said a wolverine can defend itself pretty well, but it’s no match for larger predators.  “Two wolves can kill one,” he said. “You hear stories about them chasing bears off, I’ve never seen that happen, or known anyone who has.”

caption follows

Mike Harrington holds a young female wolverine. Wolverines are sexually dimorphic; males are about 30 percent larger than females – 30 to 40 pounds compared to females in the 20 to 25 pound range. This female, CWF006 has a blue ear tag and was pregnant when she was caught on March 7, 2012. In this picture she had just been recaptured to retrieve her collar and is about to be released. 


“They’ve got a pretty good set of tools on them; a really good nose, they can smell food over long distances or buried well under the snow,” Golden said. “They can climb trees. They have a really warm coat. They’ve got strong claws for digging and defense, and incredibly strong jaws for biting and crushing bone and frozen meat – not the same crushing power as a wolf, but they’re not as big, a big wolverine is 40 pounds and small wolf is 60 pounds.”

“You look at them, they’re mostly built for scavenging,” Golden said. “But they’re very opportunistic and regularly kill small game. They’re not as fast as wolves, and they don’t work in packs, but they can be more predator than scavenger if the situation allows for it.”

Holiday Greetings, Alaska Style

Photo by Steve Meyer

Photo by Steve Meyer

I’ve been mostly living away from my family ever since college,  and while I come home a few times a year, I usually enjoy my time most visiting the homestead around Thanksgiving. It’s simply a superior holiday to the chaos of Christmas. The traditional feast, the football and no Christmas gift drama to fret about (I don’t plan a Black Friday shopping excursion either; I’ll give up a few bargains to take care of my presents on another day).

So it’s not surprising that one of my favorite stories that ran in this month’s Alaska Sporting Journal was correspondent Steve Meyer’s homage to how Alaskans might spend their Thanksgiving (spoiler alert: it involves getting outside).

Here’s Steve’s story and Happy Thanksgiving!

By Steve Meyer 

Where are you going for Thanksgiving,” someone asked. “The mountains,” I replied.

“Who lives there?” They genuinely wanted to know why. In reality it was ptarmigan that lived there. Since childhood the Thanksgiving holiday has only meant one thing to me, hunting. Before reaching the age when carrying a gun was allowed, hunting was a mainstay of the Thanksgiving holiday in my family.

The game we went for was always of the small variety as big game hunting seasons were closed by then. Pheasants, ducks, geese, and sometimes rabbits would fill the game bags

A tradition of hunting, gathering

The first Thanksgiving, in 1621, was one of game taken and provided by the hunters in the group, plus fruits and vegetables provided by the gatherers. There was no turkey, at least according to the history of that first feast. Now, if those folks could have gone to the grocery store and bought a couple of frozen birds for the event, even odds say they may have done just that.

Nevertheless, the symbolism of Thanksgiving was a celebration of all that the New World provided. It was a place where individuals could go forth and provide for themselves and share in the takings to provide a feast. It’s now a rare and precious commodity in today’s world – one that has become unique or even antiquated or simply unknown to many.

Times change and the common denominators for the Thanksgiving Day celebration are football, turkey and a whole lot of guilty pleasures to gorge on for one glorious November Thursday.

And there are a lot of families across the country that honor the day of giving thanks with a hunt before the festivities begin. For many that also include wild game taken before Thanksgiving – wild turkey, venison, duck, goose and pheasant roasting in the oven while the family takes in a morning hunt.

The hunting tradition, with some exceptions, has been primarily fathers, uncles and granddads taking sons, nephews and grandsons out into the field and enjoying the outdoors.

Times are changing and not only for the better; personally, I believe that the changes will be critical factors in the future of our hunting heritage.

Not just the guys 

Female hunters are embracing the hunting lifestyle as the largest growing segment of the hunting population. They are doing it in ways that the nonhunting public embraces. This isn’t always the case with their male counterparts.

The primary reason females are taking to the hunting fields is harvesting healthy, sustainable food for their family. They also view it as an opportunity to share the clean air, the exercise and the relationship with nature that only hunting allows with their families.

What better time to engage the entire family than the Thanksgiving holiday? Kids are out of school and most folks at least have the day off and in many cases a long and leisurely weekend. The shorter daylight hours don’t demand the intensity of 4 a.m. wakeup calls and 16 hours of light to hunt.

Small game is going to be the primary quarry on the menu and does not require much in the way of travel to get to a choice hunting spot. Practically anywhere in rural Alaska houses rabbits, grouse or ptarmigan.

On the other hand, a long holiday weekend can allow for a Sitka blacktail hunt or a serious waterfowl trip to some of the really productive areas throughout Alaska.

Don’t discount angling. By late November, many of the lakes are frozen enough to allow ice fishing. Fish is certainly a mainstay of an Alaskan’s diet and offers the same opportunities to share the outdoors and the honest utilization of renewable food sources with the family.

For the youngsters  

Much is written about introducing kids to hunting, with one of the primary issues being the outing must be successful (something successfully shot) to keep the youngster’s interest.

Even when hunting was a necessity for survival, and in the days when game was much more plentiful, there was still only a bit over 10 percent of the population that hunted. That number had been in fairly steady decline in recent years, though women are hunting more than they once did.

That said, kids may or may not gravitate to hunting, but the absolute best shot a hunting family has at keeping the children interested into the future is getting them out there immediately. The salient point of early involvement is they still want to be with the family. It doesn’t really matter what the activity, they just want to go and be a part of it.

This is one area where female hunting involvement will make a difference in the future. Alaskans like Becky Swanke of Tuff Kids Outdoors took her son, Caden, on his first moose hunt at age eight months! Heather Wilson, a biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Alaska, shot a moose with her 1½-year-old son, Coal, in the backpack she carried (see Alaska Sporting Journal, Issue 1, 2013).

Most moms will go the extra mile to keep the children close and have a much better record of patience in everything that child-rearing involves, than fathers do. No slam on dads, it’s just the nature of things.

Photo by Steve Meyer

Photo by Steve Meyer

A day of fun 

What’s in store for Thanksgiving in our part of the world? Since the setters get more time in the field, the Labs will be hunting mallards and goldeneyes on the upper Kenai River. This area is tough to hunt during most of the season since so many anglers are working the rainbows there. By Thanksgiving weekend the crowd has thinned some, and finding a cove to tuck into and throw out a few decoys is feasible.

We typically don’t hunt spruce grouse in November – by then we have enough for the freezer and they are settling in with a diet of pine needles for the winter  (When peeling the breast skin back on a late-November spruce grouse prepare to be assaulted with a scent reminiscent of a freshly cut Christmas tree. It’s edible with some doctoring, but not the best table fare).

If there has been a decent snowfall the willow ptarmigan will be down lower in the willow and alder patches. Just be careful of avalanche danger; moderate temperatures and periods of rain in Southcentral Alaska can make the steep, upper reaches treacherous for the hunter. Rabbits are always a mainstay; just look for tracks, as where there are tracks there are rabbits.

Preserving a legacy

Perhaps at no point in history have there been more threats to our hunting heritage. The importance of involving families and continually involving future generations of hunters cannot be overstressed in preserving our hunting traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Bristol Bay’s Expected Big Sockeye Run In 2015




Photo by Katrina Mueller/USFWS)

Photo by Katrina Mueller/USFWS)


Hey, here’s some Bristol Bay news that isn’t centered around the Pebble Mine controversy (but if you, like, here’s this to peruse).

The 2015 sockeye salmon forecast is projected to be one for the books: 

From the Alaska Dispatch:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game last weekforecast a Bristol Bay run of 54 million sockeye. That’s up by more than 50 percent over the long-term average of 32 million, biologists said.

 “Bring them on!” one man posted on a Bristol Bay commercial fishing Facebook page. 

A group that represents the Bristol Bay driftnet fleet,Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, linked to the forecast on its website.

“Spoiler alert: It’s big,” the association said.

 If the forecast is borne out, next year’s return of one of Alaska’s most lucrative fisheries will be the biggest since 1995. Bristol Bay’s red salmon runs are the biggest in the world. Protecting them has been a central theme in the fight against the Pebble prospect, the massive gold and copper mine proposed for the region.

 The exciting prospect of a huge fishing season is tempered by the reality that it hasn’t happened yet.

 “They are paper fish until they show up,” said Robert Heyano of Dillingham, who has fished Bristol Bay since he was a boy at Ekuk Beach, helping work his family’s anchored-down setnets along shore. Since 1972, he’s fished with driftnets from his boat and now is president of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents more than 1,800 fishermen who driftnet in Bristol Bay. About half live in Alaska.



TrackingPoint Firearms’ Black Friday Contest


Pflugerville, TEXAS (November 28, 2014)—TrackingPoint™, creator of the world’s first and only Precision-Guided Firearm systems, today announced it will gift customers a free 3-day trip to Las Vegas with select Precision-Guided Firearms purchased between Black Friday (November 28th) and December 8th. The Trip will include free tactical training at the renowned Front Sight Firearms Training Institute.

Elite Experience Las Vegas is a 2-night, 3-day bonus gift that includes airfare, hotel and meals all covered by TrackingPoint. All TrackingPoint Precision-Guided Firearm models qualify for the gift except the Semi-Auto 5.56.

For more information about the Las Vegas Elite Experience, starting Black Friday (November 28th) visit:

About TrackingPoint:
TrackingPoint, based in Austin, Texas, created the first Precision-Guided Firearm, a revolutionary new shooting system that puts fighter jet lock-and-launch technology in rifles, enabling anyone to make extraordinary shots on moving targets at extreme distances.




Statistics show that number of anglers in the country is growing at a slow-but-steady rate. These new fishermen need help and guidance from experienced anglers to make the jump from enthusiast to full-fledged angler, but one look at “kid-friendly” fishing equipment shows a big lack of quality. Cartoon character rods and low-quality lures with dull hooks don’t win over many hearts.

Ever inspect the “soft” plastic grubs that come in the “Free Tackle Pack!” that comes with those cartoon rods? They’re so stiff they don’t even swim. Many fishing gear companies talk a good game about reaching young anglers, but when time comes to put up or shut up, all you hear is crickets.



Rebel Lures knows kids, and crickets, too, for that matter. The company has long manufactured lures that kids naturally gravitate to, like little crawfish and amphibian floater/divers, small minnow imitations and assorted insect baits, including crickets.



So it’s a natural that Rebel takes the first serious step to creating an industry niche for kids’ tackle. Unlike what’s currently available, though, Rebel’s new kids’ line of lures is not just cheap, downsized versions of larger baits. Rebel engineers looked at the problems kids face when making the transition from worm-and-bobber to artificial lures, and corrected those issues with the creation of the new Rebel MicroCritter lineup.



“Young anglers need lures that are safe for them to use by themselves. That’s what we made with the MicroCritter series – a high-quality line of lures that are fun for kids to use and safer than what’s on the market,” said Rebel Lures general manager Bruce Stanton. “And, they catch plenty of fish.”

The MicroCritter series consists of a tiny MicroCrawfish, MicroMinnow, MicroHopper and a MicroPop-R. One problem with most ultralight lures is the tiny treble hooks, which often require needle-nose pliers to remove from the fish, and can end a trip in a hurry if one sticks in the angler’s skin past the barb. Rebel replaced these barbed treble hooks with a single, barbless hook. Many youngsters want to unhook the fish themselves, and a slippery, flopping fish with multiple treble hooks thrashing back and forth can be dangerous.



“Kids love these baits because they look just like little insects and fish, and adults appreciate how we made them safer,” Stanton said. “The single barbless hook gives anglers an easier hookset, easier hook removal, and no emergency room visits to get hooks unstuck from a youngster’s skin. With barbless, the hook pulls right out. Kids catch more fish, and in a safer manner, all by themselves.”

Rebel’s Micro Critters series catch almost all species of fish, another plus for young anglers who don’t care if it’s a bass or a bluegill. These super-realistic mimics of crawfish, grasshoppers and minnows represent common forage for fish everywhere they swim.

“We talk about these lures being safer for kids to use, but they’re also better for the fish, too,” said Stanton. “With easier hook removal, a youngster can get the fish back into the water faster, ensuring it’s there to help create another angler in the future.”