All posts by Chris Cocoles

Another bear mauling in Alaska

You never know when a wild animal will appear in the wilderness.  But it’s a risk hunters are willing to take. During a bear hunt at Beaver Mountain in the western Alaskan interior, 46-year-old Charlestown, R.I. resident John O. Matson, Jr. was injured by a bear he and his hunting party had shot it 90 minutes earlier. He was listed in fair condition.

From the Associated Press:

“He’s got a hell of a headache,” said his father, John O. Matson Sr. of Hopkinton, R. I., adding that his 46-year-old son was recuperating after head surgery. “His spirits are great.”

The younger Matson was attacked by the bear Monday during a guided bear hunt near Beaver Mountain, about 40 miles southwest of the interior town of McGrath. Bad weather prevented rescuers from quickly reaching Matson’s party of three. Matson was finally rescued from the remote spot on Tuesday.

Matson’s father credits the two other hunters, also from Rhode Island, with saving his son. The guide, Steve Persson of Charlestown, and another man the father wouldn’t identify were packing to leave the hunting camp. They planned to visit their wounded friend later at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

“He’s very grateful to his friends,” the elder Matson said.

His son, a construction contractor, does not want to speak with reporters about his ordeal, but he does want people to know he’s OK, the father said.


Sept. 11 always a surreal anniversary

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 11

It’s strange how days like today sneak up on you until you remember what we should think about.  I would imagine my parents’ generation eventually started to remember but not always deeply reflect on Dec. 7, and how in 1941 how everything changed in Hawaii, let alone America. Sept. 11 will also live in infamy, and during a time when attacks on Syria appear to be imminent, it’s difficult to fathom where we are 12 years later following such a dark chapter in history.

I know that life goes on, but when I stop to think back about that day and really think, it’s just an eerie feeling. I flew on Sept. 10, 2011, from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, where I visited a friend, to Memphis, and then back to my home (at the time) in Los Angeles. Then, you wake up the next day and hear of atrocities and tragedies you never imagined would be possible.

I woke up this morning, walked my dog quickly, and reached my Seattle office navigating congested traffic as I have for last month since starting this new job. Just another typical Wednesday, right? But there’s always a sense of loss on this day. That’s the way it needs to be.

Angler not about to release 231-pound halibut.

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 10, 2013

Give Dirk Whitsitt credit for not losing track of his trophy. It was a struggle for the construction worker from Kansas to land a monster halibut, which weighed in at 231 pounds, during a trip to the Cook Inlet. When Whitsitt, with an assist from the guides he was aboard with, finally landed the massive fish, he was given the option of releasing his catch or getting another free trip. But he chose to take his trophy back to Kansas.
Being so far from home, it had to be tempting to opt for another day on the water in the Cook Inlet. Who knows? Maybe another monster fish would be on the end of his line.
And after all, how often does a Kansan get to fish for free in Alaska? Then again, 231 pounds worth of halibut might neve
r bite Whitsitt’s line again.


Our October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal also features some big halibut caught around the  Sitka area (shown above). To subscribe and get $10 off a full subscription -we’re going monthly in October- click here.

Miss Alaska: A preview

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 9, 2013

Melissa McKinney, Miss Alaska, 2013, who went on to compete for Miss USA in Las Vegas in June, chatted with me for a Q&A session running in the October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. To subscribe, click here:

Much of that interview focuses on the outdoors and how it has shaped Melissa’s life. But she also is proud of her humanitarian contributions.
When she was younger, McKinney spent about a year volunteering in Sudan, which has been ravaged by civil unrest and a genocide that claimed 400,000 lives in the early 2000s. Here is a little bit of my conversation with Melissa describing the horrors and uplifting scenes she witnessed while helping to co-found a school a and support center for local villagers:

“It was incredibly fulfilling that I was there during such a historical time. And I knew when I went there I might have a one-way ticket. We were kind of in the thick of what was going on with the genocide. We started a primary school, a cultural training center that really uplifted the young moms. It was enriching. We had no running water, no electricity. You’re in a very rural area that was populated. That was the irony of it. Just very third world. It was one of those things where you walk into it and know that you’re living history. When the opportunity came I really had to live out that ‘OK, this is one of those things where if I say no I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. If I say yes, I hope I have the rest of my life’.”

I asked Melissa if she experienced both horrible scenes and conversely stirring positive moments:

“There were all kinds of atrocities. There were landmines, and a lot of the kids that we had were orphaned, losing parents due to the war or genocidal issues. You could walk down the street and just see the trauma in some of their faces. But I think the most rewarding and interesting part for me, was walking into a situation and seeing children that were not laughing or would even talk open up and just become kids again. I had a lot of the [United Nations] workers who would stop in and tell us ‘This is a happy place, and you can’t find a lot of happy here’. We created an environment where you can be allowed to be a real person. You could leave your pain behind and do something different.”

Did she shed a lot of tears while there?
“Yes. I’m definitely a strong woman, but I’m human. I buried children that died in my arms. There were a lot of things that go on that change a person for the better. But life is real. The thing that I could walk away from is I made a difference when others ran in the other direction.”

Inspring story for hunter who lived his Alaska dream

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 6, 2013

As someone who has struggled with weight gain after losing pounds off and on, I can relate to this Minnesota hunter. Bob Ball of Albert Lea, Minn. was chronicled in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after he got himself in better shape to prepare for the rigors of a big-game hunt in Alaska. Well done, Bob!

Here’s a link to his story, which included him getting what he really came back to Alaska for: a grizzly bear:



WalMart, Alaska salmon industry at odds

This is Chris Cocoles, working on my first issue as Alaska Sporting Journal editor. My plan is to be more active posting tidbits as I get more accustomed to my duties. But I found this interesting story out of Anchorage regarding WalMart’s possible pulling of Alaska salmon off the retail giant’s shelves. Protests are taking place at stores Alaska, and state officials plan to state their case at the company’s retail headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

Some of the key points in this Anchorage Daily News report:

“There’s tremendous demand for high quality, wild Alaska salmon,” said Tyson Fick, communications director for the state-supported seafood marketing institute. “We absolutely would like to get this behind us. I think we are on the path of getting there.”

Wal-Mart says it wants a solution.

“Let’s be honest. I don’t think Wal-Mart wants demonstrators in front of supercenters. I don’t think we want fisherman upset about what is going on or in the dark about what our policy is or how we’re going to move forward,” said Chris Schraeder, Wal-Mart senior manager for sustainability communications. “As much as it’s in Alaska’s interest to find a resolution to this quickly, it’s in Wal-Mart’s interest to find a resolution to this quickly.”

Wal-Mart won’t say how much Alaska salmon it sells, or how much of its seafood comes from Alaska. But it’s obviously an important line for the world’s biggest retailer. Seafood is the primary protein source for 3 billion people, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for food, Jack Sinclair, wrote on an Aug. 8 blog post addressing the Alaska controversy.

“Our sustainable seafood commitment seems to have made waves recently in Alaska, where the state is proposing an alternative standard for sustainable fisheries management,” his blog post began. “It’s generated a lively debate on how to best ensure sustainable seafood for our customers today and for generations to come.”



Needless to say, whenever locals get involved in a dispute with big corporations like WalMart, it can get pretty heated.

Read more here: