Category Archives: Featured Content

Illegal Walrus Hunting Suspects Sentenced

Photo by USFWS

The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska Region: 

Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that four Point Hope residents were sentenced in United States Magistrate Court in Fairbanks, for charges stemming from their involvement in the illegal taking of walruses near Cape Lisburne, Alaska in September of 2015. The court accepted sentencing recommendations from the tribal government, Native Village of Point Hope, with concurrence of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of Law Enforcement for the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Adam T. Sage, 24, Michael R. Tuzroyluk Jr., 21, Guy S. Tuzroyluk, 27, and Jacob Lane, 24 residents of Point Hope, Alaska pleaded guilty in federal court in Fairbanks, Alaska for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The men were charged for two separate 2015 incidents at Cape Lisburne, Alaska, on the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, in which several walruses were shot and only the ivory was salvaged. In addition, the actions of the men caused stampedes which killed or injured up to two dozen or more additional walruses.

The Office of Law Enforcement for the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked closely with the Native Village of Point Hope and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fairbanks resolve this case.  The sentencing recommendations developed collaboratively by the three parties include each defendant paying $1000 restitution to be used for walrus conservation projects on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, 500 hours community service in Point Hope, apologizing in public to the Native Village of Point Hope and the Point Hope whaling captains, hunting for Point Hope elders subsistence needs, and a restriction on walrus hunting for one year. The defendants are on federal probation for three years, and must complete the above tasks as well as comply with the standard conditions of federal probation.

“The Native Village of Point Hope tribal government considers this a serious offense to our cultural way of life and we are pleased our recommendations have been accepted,” said James Nash, Tribal Council President.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends its law enforcement and conservation partners in aiding with this  investigation and prosecution. The village of Point Hope has a long tradition of subsistence hunting and fishing and plays an important leadership role in stewardship of our Pacific walrus in Alaska,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge, Ryan Noel. “We are pleased with the sentence developed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tribe and are hopeful that it will deter future disturbances to sensitive walrus haulouts.

“The probationary sentence in this case, specifically the jointly recommended special conditions of probation, represent a unique and culturally informed resolution to serious marine mammal violations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Schroder. “It is appropriate to work with the Native Village of Point Hope and its Council to further the goals of resource protection on which the applicable laws are grounded.”

This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Marine Mammals Management Office, the North Slope Borough Police Department, the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, the Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General Digital Forensic Lab, and the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska.

 

Surviving The Unforgiving Alaskan Wilderness

The following appears in the April issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY PAUL D. ATKINS 

I’ve been in all kinds of survival situations – actually, more than I like to remember. There was the time I went through the ice on my snowmachine, stopping only as the cowling started to go under the slush. And the time I was hunting moose and slipped and fell, tearing my MCL on the first day. I was in extreme pain and hobbled back to camp using my bow as a crutch. Another time, when I was hunting muskox at minus 40 degrees, my snowmachine wouldn’t start – and I was 90 miles from the nearest shelter.

One of the most serious situations revolved around a fly-out, do-it-yourself caribou hunt here in the Arctic. The hunt started on a Friday and I was scheduled for pickup by the transporter the following Thursday. The weather forecast was iffy that week – rain and fog were on the menu – but it was great to be out and September meant the bulls would likely be cruising across the tundra.

The first day was fine and on the second we were lucky enough to take a nice bull. After a couple of packing trips we had it all back to camp, and that was when it happened. I knew I didn’t feel well; I was sick to my stomach, and with a severe pain in my side I went to bed early thinking, What could this be? I thought maybe the water we filtered from the small pool we found might have been the culprit. “Beaver fever,” or giardia, is not to be messed with, but I also knew it usually takes a few days to kick in.

At 2:30 a.m., I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand it. I crawled out of the tent and began vomiting uncontrollably. My hunting partner, Marcus, was awake too and crawled outside with me. I told him this was serious and to get on the satellite phone and call somebody immediately. I dug my phone out of the pack and he found the list of numbers and instructions that I always keep with it.

Marcus unsuccessfully tried several times but was finally able to reach the Alaska State Troopers stationed in Kotzebue. I also had my GPS, another life-saving device that allowed Marcus to tell the troopers our position. They said they would be there, but it would have to wait until morning. The fog had rolled in and they couldn’t leave until daylight, or at least until they could see.

It was a long night of extreme pain, so much so that it got to the point where I couldn’t walk. I was flat down in the tent trying not to move and prayed for the sound of a Super Cub overhead. Finally, at 6 a.m. we heard an approaching plane, which landed gracefully next to our camp. Marcus and the trooper ushered me to the plane, and in minutes we were off to town. Once we got to the tarmac an ambulance was there and I was in the hospital before I knew it.

The diagnosis was kidney stones and dehydration that actually had started long before the hunt. After a couple of days in the hospital I was back to normal. The trooper told me later that I was so lucky to have had a sat phone. No communication meant I would have spent another five days on the tundra. It saved my life.

There are many situations like this where having the right equipment and following a certain set of rules will save your life if you happen to need them. Let’s first start with these variables:

Survival tools.

SURVIVING THE EXTREME 

The most important aspect of any survival situation is to use common sense. Never lose your head; think things through if the situation calls for it. Before leaving the house the first and foremost thing to do is tell someone where you’re going or planning to hunt. Here in the far north, where I do most of my hunting, letting someone know where I plan to be is a ritual.

I actually have a laminated map on the back of our door that I mark each and every time I go out. I mark the map to let my wife and at least a couple of hunting buddies know exactly where I’ll be. I also let them know the time to expect me back, and if I’m not back, give or take a few hours or a day, to then start searching. It’s not something I do; it’s something I live by. Alaska is big and very unforgiving, and if possible I never go alone. I know this isn’t always the case, and for some of us going solo is what the experience is all about, but in the Arctic having a second set of hands, eyes and brains can and will save your life.

I’ve had a ton of situations where trouble arose and I’ve had to go from hunting mode to survival mode in an instant. I would not have survived if wasn’t for my gear and the survival kit that never leaves my pack.

CARIBOU AND MOOSE HUNTS 

Let’s start with a caribou/moose scenario. I hunt these species of big game each and every year in Alaska. These hunts are usually a week to 10 days deep in the bush surrounded by miles and miles of tundra without people or any sign of civilization. Being able to take care of yourself and camp is a constant; you never know when an accident may occur or a grizzly might show up. You must be prepared and always ready for any situation that might occur.

With the advance of technology, many would say that having a satellite phone and a GPS is must, and I would agree. These two items are always in my pack, although even with these devices you are still not safe from the many forms of disaster that can come your way.

Weather is the biggest killer here in Alaska and a phone can only do so much. On fly-in drop hunts you are totally dependent on the pilot being able to fly and the GPS serves only as a marker where you might be in case someone needs to get to you. Weather can prevent any type of rescue.

My survival kit for caribou includes not only the phone and GPS but also more practical gear that will keep me alive. Weight isn’t usually a problem on a caribou hunt and your kit can contain a few more necessities versus a backpack hunt in the mountains. Besides the sat phone and GPS here’s a list of what I take in order to survive:

Water purifier and bottle. I use the pump-type purifier on these hunts versus the tablets, only because I have the room and they weigh very little. I also prefer a bottle to a bladder, only because a bottle won’t break and or leak due to a hole that sometimes can happen with a bladder.

Headlamp or small flashlight with extra batteries. Nothing worse than roaming around in the dark in bear country without a light.

Fire starter. When it’s cold you need a fire, even more so if you get wet, either from rain and snow or, in a worst-case scenario, you fall into a river or creek. I pack matches in a double ziplock bag and also carry butane lighters of some kind, usually two or three. They also sell different fire starters in many forms. Those bonded sawdust cakes soaked in lighter fluid are some of my favorites.

Duct tape. Duct tape is a cure-all and can be used in a lot of different situations. I was once skinning a moose that we took right at dark. My knife slipped and I nearly cut my middle finger off. With a little care, I was able to apply duct tape to my index finger and injured finger so I could finish the hunt. The bleeding stopped and the tape formed a somewhat crude splint. Duct tape can also be used to stabilize a broken leg or busted knee. Simply cut a couple of willow branches and form a splint. Securely tape them to the leg and you’re good to go; if not, get back to camp and call for help.

Plastic tarp. I carry along a small 8-by-10-foot tarp all the time. They are small, light and can keep you warm. If you get caught in the dark far from camp or need to get warm fast, a tarp makes a great lean-to or can serve as a blanket.

Rope. I carry along 100 feet of parachute cord, as rope can serve so many purposes, from making slings to tying splints to helping secure your make shift shelter.

Food. I always carry enough to survive for three days. My food cache includes meat sticks, energy bars and gorp (a nut, raisin, candy mix). These are high in energy, with lots of protein and carbohydrates and take up little room in your pack. I also pack a few of the emergency drink mixes that you can buy over the counter. These powder mixes can be combined with water and provide you with the extra electrolytes that are needed in case of a survival situation.

Protection. If I’m bowhunting, I always carry my pistol for bear protection. There have been many instances where I have had to fire at a grizzly from close range. If I’m rifle hunting, well, I’m rifle hunting and the pistol isn’t needed, but I do take extra ammo for both. Bear spray would be useful, but not so much on tundra hunts.

First-aid kit. I carry a small kit with the basic necessities, usually containing a small amount of painkiller, tape and bandages. I also add a tourniquet just in case.

Multi-tool or army knife complete with knife, saw and tweezers. I also carry a small folding saw.

Extra pair of socks and gloves. Mine are usually wool.

Last, but not least, toilet paper. You don’t need a whole roll, just enough in a ziplock to get the job done.

As far as packing these items, I usually haul them to camp in a waterproof bag and then each day carefully take out what I’ll need in case I don’t make it back to camp for a few days. I pack these items in a large plastic ziplock bag; that way they stay dry in case it rains, or worse.

If I were caribou/moose hunting, I would list these as the top five survival priorities:

* Being able to purify water with either a pump or tablets.

* I would have a space blanket or a tarp for protection from the elements.

* Fire starter.

* Energy bars.

* Satellite phone.

Finding water sources is critical to help improve your chances of survival.

MOUNTAIN HUNTS 

If I’m heading to the mountains to hunt sheep or goats, the items in my kit may not differ from the caribou/moose kit, but they will be much smaller and lighter. As most mountain hunters know, being as light as possible is what it’s all about, but remember that being safe and surviving has no weight restriction.

My typical mountain survival kit holds water tablets (iodine) instead of a pump and a bladder instead of bottles. Again, the reasoning is that tablets are small and light and will give me a little more room in my pack. Plus, most expedition-type packs have a very reliable H20 compartment, and since you have all your gear on your back anyway it’s much easier to just carry it in a bladder.

Moleskin is another item that I always pack. Even most well-worn hunting boots can and will form blisters on your feet. When your feet are done, the hunt is over.

I would include a small first-aid kit, space blanket, protein bars, a knife and extra socks. Duct tape would be included as well for cuts and sprains. And even though they are not a part of a survival kit, two good trekking poles can be used for not only walking but in case of a break they can be combined with the tape to form a splint.

I also pack a signal flare or two. Unlike hunting on the tundra, where you usually can get from point A to point B, if you are stuck on the side of a mountain and need rescue, being able to precisely pinpoint your location is a great help to rescuers.

If I had to choose three must-haves, again it would be a way to purify water, food for energy and something for shelter in case you’re stuck on the slopes of a mountain. I usually stuff my kit in a plastic trash bag and place it at the very top of my backpack for easy access.

HUNTER SAFETY COURSE 

Everyone who hunts or ventures into the backcountry should take a hunter’s safety course. Most of us have, but it may have been many years ago. A good refresher, no matter your age or how much you think you know, should be a priority if you plan to go on any excursion.

One of the first things you learn in the class is that it all starts with physical and mental conditioning, since hunters must know their limits and their capabilities. Depending on the amount of exertion required for a particular outing, you need to prepare for it, whether that means regular exercise and getting into shape to eating the right foods to preparing your mind for what looms ahead.

Other reminders are proper clothing choices and knowing how to dress for success. There is nothing worse than being cold and wet and not being able to do anything about it. When it comes to clothes, remember this: Cotton is bad and synthetic is good.

Safety courses also remind us of how to build a shelter, start a fire or find water from what you have or see around you. Look for natural shelters, build a lean-to and always make sure you have matches or other fire-starting material on your person. These will all save your life.

The biggest points, however, go back to what I first mentioned: Don’t panic, and use your senses. ASJ

Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on big game hunting and fishing throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal. 

Bill Introduced To Help Youngsters Into Fishing Industry


Two young people fish on the F/V I Gotta as part of ALFA’s deckhand apprenticeship program. Similar mentorship and and training opportunities would be funded across the country under the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. Photo by Eric Jordan

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:

Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) have introduced the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 2079), a bill that would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry. The bipartisan, bicoastal bill, which would provide grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program, marks a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s (FCC) push to launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen.
“Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before,” said Rep. Young (AK). “This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods that support entire fishing communities in Alaska and around the country. I am extremely proud to stand up with them.”
Despite daunting challenges that have made it harder than ever for young men and women to start a career in commercial fishing – including the high cost of entry, financial risks and limited entry-level opportunities – there is not a single federal program dedicated to training, educating and assisting young people starting their careers in commercial fishing. The legislation introduced in Congress is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture.
 “Congressman Young understands the challenges young fishermen face, and we thank him for his strong leadership on this vital issue,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of young fishermen is essential to economic opportunity, food security and our way of life.”
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed initial support for the legislation, as dozens of FCC members, including commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast, have met with them to promote this and other priorities of small-boat community-based commercial fishermen.
“Representatives Moulton and Young understand that the success of young fishermen is vital to the survival of fishing communities in New England and across the country,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We look forward to working with them on this important effort to ensure the next generation of commercial fishermen are on the water and ready to sustainably harvest America’s seafood.”
“The fishing industry is vital to the Sixth District and to our entire region, but we’re at a crossroads,” said Rep. Moulton (MA). “This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy. I’m grateful to Congressman Young for his collaboration on this bill and broader efforts to support our young fishermen.”
At the end of the month, young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast will travel to Washington to encourage Congress to pass this important legislation.
 
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The Fishing Communities Coalition is the united voice for small-boat, community-focused, commercial fishermen from around the country who strive to bring their stewardship vision to bear on national issues. We believe that together, fishermen from around the United States who believe in community-focused ideals, science-based management and forward-looking policies can build a national movement that protects fish, fishermen and fishing communities for this and future generations.

Netting Goals, Fish Shaped Nate Thompson’s Alaskan Identity

Thompson was just as comfortable wading a river in the summer as he was skating on sheets of ice winter. (PHOTO BY NATE THOMPSON)

Thompson and the Anaheim Ducks open the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday hosting a quarterfinal series against the Calgary Flames. (PHOTO BY MARK MAUNO/WIKIMEDIA)

The following appears in the April issue of Alaska Sporting Journal: 

BY CHRIS COCOLES

NHL player Nate Thompson is so in love with hockey he’d probably play it for peanuts, and he’s equally passionate about fishing thanks to an early assist from Snoopy.

An Alaskan in the truest sense of the word, Thompson’s first fishing memory included using a toy rod of the adorable beagle from Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip franchise. And good grief, Charlie Brown, did that Snoopy pole ever do its job.

Thompson, who grew up in Anchorage, was just 2 years old when he and his dad, Robert, went fishing down on the Kenai Peninsula, and young Nate wasn’t exactly using state-of-the-art gear. Back in the day, Zebco manufactured a packaged “Catch ‘Em Kit,”  complete with a ready-to-fish rod and reel, and the container it came in featured the canine himself fishing from his doghouse. It’s a good bet the gear wasn’t designed to catch an Alaskan salmon. But the following is a true story.  

“It was by complete accident. I was just throwing my line in the water and my dad was fishing next to me,” says the 32-year-old Thompson, an Anaheim Ducks center whose team opens the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday in Game 1 against the Calgary Flames. “He looked over and saw the pole was bending and almost to the point where it was snapping. He managed to either jump on the line or jump on the pole. He pretty much tackled the fish in the water.”

And with that, the youngster had his welcome-to-Alaska-fishing moment. “After that, my dad said I was hooked,” he recalls during a phone interview.

Only in this case the hooking didn’t result in a two-minute stay inside the penalty box. Thompson had two undisputed hobbies growing up in Alaska: the outdoors and hockey; or perhaps it was hockey and the outdoors. But he’s made a living with one and enjoyed life from the other.

And while he understandably stays busy with his job in Southern California and now has an infant son to raise, Thompson’s affinity for hunting and especially fishing is the same as it was when his Snoopy gear fooled that salmon 30 years ago.

“Pretty much every fishing trip after that, when I knew (my dad) was going, I’d be running out of the house and chasing him to make sure he wouldn’t leave without me,” Thompson says. “He said it was a given when he went fishing he had to take me with him.”

Thompson’s hockey career has sent him on a coast-to-coast tour across the continent, but it’s impossible to take the Alaskan out of his identity. In a state where winters feature frozen ponds and summers salmon runs, it’s not uncommon for skates, pucks and sticks or rods, reels and flies to define who you are.

“I look back now and whenever I go home, I kind of take for granted realizing that, ‘Wow! I grew up here.’ I know not a lot of kids get to experience what I did,” he says. “So it was a special place, remains a special place and is a cool place to call home.”

Thompson’s dad Robert and mom Cathy t were typically dedicated  hockey parents as Nate played throughout the winter growing up in Anchorage. (NATE THOMPSON)

SOME ALASKANS WEREN’T BORN in Alaska. But so many times you can find yourself there and never want to leave again.

The oil boom in Alaska helped Thompson’s parents get there. Robert is from Ohio and Nate’s mom Cathy hails from the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Cathy’s parents moved north as part of the industry, and after she and Robert met in California they joined them.

Robert wasn’t much of an outdoorsman in the Lower 48, but living in our 49th state has a way of sucking you in – your kids too. Robert now lives around the salmon-filled Kenai Peninsula and fishes whenever possible. Young Nate and his sister, Tiffany, were introduced to the flora and fauna, even living in urban Anchorage.

“It really is the Last Frontier,” Nate says. “To be able to drive a half hour out of Anchorage, you can be in the middle of nowhere. Or you can drive to a place in Anchorage, go on a hike and next thing you know, you’re in the wilderness. There’s no place like that.”

Fly fishing became part of the father-son bonding process. They took local classes in how to tie flies and it soon became the Thompsons’ favorite outdoor pastime. Catching a hard-fighting salmon on a fly rod was a challenge Nate couldn’t get enough of.

When he got older, the endless sunlight of Alaskan summers allowed Thompson and his friends to do a “suicide run” down to the Kenai, which is a lot less sinister than it sounds.

“You leave your house at, say, 8 or 8:30 (p.m.), then drive about an hour and 45 minutes to the Russian River,” he says. “You fish and catch your limit and finish – depending on how fast – and whether it’s midnight, 1 or 2 in the morning, you then drive back home. The benefit of that is still mostly light outside. You don’t have to worry about it getting dark on you.”

“That’s one of the perks of being in Alaska in the summertime.”

Happy days back home in Alaska. (NATE THOMPSON)

IF SUMMER WAS A time for using a net to secure a salmon or trout, winter meant nets of a different kind. Thompson would lace up his skates and never be far away from a frozen pond.

“I think that’s where I improved the most as a player, playing hockey outside,” he says. “We would have practice (indoors) at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, and there was an outdoor rink right next door. We’d take all our gear off and put on our hats and gloves and walk to the outdoor rink.”

Thompson and the other kids in the neighborhood spent the available daylight hours to hit the Mother Nature-created playing surfaces.

“All day, every day, whether it was playing for whatever club team I was with, or me just skating outside with my buddies,” Thompson says. “And then when it started to get warm outside, the hockey gear went away … Every weekend we’d go fishing.”

But since this is Alaska, winters are looonnnggg, so all that time on the ice would pay off for Thompson, who joined future National Hockey League players Matt Carle (Alaska Sporting Journal, January 2015) and Tim Wallace and played together for a local youth team, the Alaska Stars.

At his side for all the games was his family. Sarah Palin might be the state’s “celebrity” hockey mom, but Cathy is one of many unsung matriarchs shuttling their sons and daughters to 6 a.m. practices and tournaments in far-flung cities and towns all over North America.

“Talking about the games, the practices, the big fish that we caught – those are the things that you just never forget,” Thompson says of his parents. “They were a team and my mom was definitely a hockey mom and my dad too was a (hockey dad). We’d have games on Saturdays and they’d be in the stands freezing their butts off bundled up in a parka jacket with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. My poor sister had to be dragged to the games. I still hear about that from her. But they were great and very supportive.”

Remember all those pickup games Thompson and friends would play? Dad would frequently be waiting in the car, heater blasting, with lunch from McDonald’s once they took a break, after which they’d head back out for another four hours of skating. Cathy wasn’t sure what to make of her young son’s proclamation that he’d be a professional someday, but clearly the kid was onto something.

It’s no wonder that all the practicing helped Thompson excel at Anchorage’s Dimond High School, and then in the major junior hockey circuit with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, with whom he was selected 183rd overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2003 NHL Draft.

Thompson made his Boston debut in the 2006-07 season and has enjoyed a solid career, playing for the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning before getting to Anaheim. It was in Florida where he got the chance to play with his childhood friend Carle, who’s also part of a close-knit fraternity of Alaskans in pro hockey.

“We probably had played together for six or seven years growing up all over on youth hockey teams,” Carle says. “It was a cool experience, because Nate and I kind of went different ways. We got drafted in the same year and I went to go to college (University of Denver) and he went into the Western Hockey League (Seattle Thunderbirds). So we kind of came full circle. We played against each other a lot in the NHL, but that opportunity to be on the same team was pretty special for those two years, and it will be memorable when we look back on our careers.”

They’d been friends and teammates since boyhood. Sleepovers at each other’s houses usually involved hockey talk or makeshift games of some kind.  

“We started playing together when we were 6, 7 years old and played together on every team, but when we went different routes we stayed in touch, and have been close ever since,” Thompson says of Carle. “He was the best man at my wedding, and to be able to later on play for the same NHL team – as best friends growing up – is something I’ll never forget.”

(Tampa Bay became even more nostalgic for Thompson since Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman was hired as the Lightning’s general manager during Thompson’s four-plus seasons there. His favorite player and team growing up was Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. “He was the ultimate pro and ultimate leader who did everything right,” Thompson says of Yzerman.)

Thompson (left) returned from offseason Achilles surgery and centers the Pacific Division champions’ fourth line. (JOHN CORDES/ICON SPORTS MEDIA)

The Lightning traded him to Anaheim in the summer before the 2014-15 season, where he’s been a valuable contributor to a perennial postseason team. Only injuries have slowed him down. Thompson missed the first 25 games in 2015-16 after undergoing offseason left shoulder surgery. Then last summer, while working out he ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right foot. Another operation shut him down until he was able to return to the Ducks’ lineup on Jan. 31 against Colorado, which – even as a player in a sport known for toughness – has been a remarkable recovery timeline.

“I feel really good. During the time when I was injured and rehabbing, I think the biggest thing in why I’ve been feeling so good on the ice is I didn’t waste any time,” he says. “Even when I was in a walking boot I was working extremely hard off the ice. I made sure I was ready to go when I hit the ice.”

When Thompson returned and seemed to make a seamless transition back into the lineup, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register that Thompson was a “glue guy” on the team.  

And sure enough, while he’s not the prolific goal scorer as hotshot youngster Rickard Rakell or Anaheim mainstays like captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Thompson nonetheless is the kind of player who endears himself to coaches for understanding his role. Thompson fits nicely as the Ducks’ fourth-line center (teams run four forward lines). That fourth unit traditionally isn’t expected to produce a lot of goals – Thompson has 48 career goals (with 63 assists) in 550 total games – but instead establish a physical forecheck – applying pressure along the boards in the offensive zone – and occasionally generate scoring chances. In his injury-limited season, he picked up an assist late in the season and scored a huge goal in Sunday’s season finale against the Southland rival L.A. Kings that clinched the Pacific Division title.

As a center, Thompson also takes a lot of faceoffs and helps out on the Ducks’ penalty kill when the team is shorthanded.

“He’s someone we needed. He’s a specialty player – blocks shots, plays his role,” veteran Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano told the Los Angeles Times when asked about Thompson. “All the teams that win Stanley Cups, they have those guys, and those guys are big parts because they do the right things and all they worry about is doing the little things. They don’t get credit, but the guys in the room give ’em credit.”

And he’s skilled enough to chip in with goals when needed, scoring twice in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs series with Nashville. Not that Thompson or his teammates have a lot of memories from that postseason. The Ducks lost in seven games, which has become a trend for one of the NHL’s best teams of the past few years but lost in a seventh and deciding home game of a series for four consecutive seasons, two with Thompson on the team.

So there’s a sense of unfinished business with these Ducks, who feature a nice blend of established veterans (Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan Kesler and Cam Fowler) mixed with some young emerging talent (Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and John Gibson). Anaheim’s dressing room is well aware that the players will be judged on what happens in this month’s postseason starting with the Calgary series.

“I feel like we have a team that’s built to win now and I think we have everything to win a championship,” he says. “Hopefully we can go on a nice run and I can bring the (Stanley Cup) back to Alaska.”

Thompson (far right) has joined childhood friends like Tim Wallace (far left), Matt Carle (second from left) and Joey Crabb (third from right), all former NHL players on summer fishing adventures for years, with Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge owner Brian Kraft (second from right). Another former Anchorage hockey player, Peter Cartwright, is also pictured. (MATT CARLE)

Thompson’s team off the ice includes his 2-year-old son Teague and yellow Lab Eddie. (NATE THOMPSON)

WHEN THEIR FAMILY COMMITMENTS and other circumstances allow it, the Alaska hockey gang reunites in the summer and goes on a fishing trip. Former college and pro hockey player Brian Kraft, who operates the Bristol Bay-based Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge (fishasl.com), hosts a bunch of puckheads. The group includes Thompson, Carle, Wallace, ex-NHLer Joey Crabb and others.

“(Kraft) can usually book out a weekend for all of us yahoos and we get to fish for a couple days,” Thompson says. “Just a good couple days since we’ve known each other for just about our whole lives.”

He’s also shared so many wonderful days in the field with not just family and friends but his beloved black Lab, Diesel, who loved to swim the same waters his owner/dogfather fished in.  

“I’ve been always been a dog lover, and my dad had three Labs. I first had Diesel when I was 20 and he went through a lot of cities with me,” says Nate, who lost Diesel at 11 years old last June. “He was my first dog, and it was tough. Losing a dog is losing a family member.”

But a new four-legged son, yellow Lab Eddie, joined Thompson’s growing family, which also includes son Teague, who turns 2 in May (Nate is now a single dad). For obvious reasons, Teague takes up a lot of possible fishing time, but someday Dad will introduce the next generation to Alaska’s fishing waters. Snoopy rods might not be Teague’s first piece of gear, but it’s the spirit of the Last Frontier that will be part of Teague’s legacy in the future.

Just like his father. ASJ

“I look back now and whenever I go home, I kind of take for granted realizing that, ‘Wow! I grew up here.’ I know not a lot of kids get to experience what I did,” Thompson says. “So it was a special place, remains a special place and is a cool place to call home.” (NATE THOMPSON)

Sidebar

QUEST FOR 30-INCH TROUT DRIVES CHILDHOOD HOCKEY BUDS  

Thompson (middle) and former NHLer and close friend Matt Carle (right)  show off their nearly 30-inch dueling rainbows. (MATT CARLE)

In hockey lingo, they call it “lighting the lamp” when a player scores a goal. Childhood Alaskan fishing and hockey bros Nate Thompson and Matt Carle are on a personal quest to turn on the red light.

This is a story of two Alaskans in search of the holy grail. But this doesn’t involve a goblet and Indiana Jones’ last crusade to find it, but instead it’s a 30-inch rainbow trout they have vowed to land during their return trips to the Last Frontier.  

Carle, the same age as the 32-year-old Thompson and a longtime NHL veteran who is also from Anchorage, remembers one trip to the Bristol Bay area where both anglers came agonizingly close to beating each other to the punch.

“It was the last day, our last chance that we’d have at a fish,” Carle remembers. “And I caught mine and it (measured out at around) 29½. And then within an hour or two Nate caught a 29½-incher. That was probably one of the most fun days I’ve had while fishing.”

It was breathtaking for each to witness the other’s rod bend heavily upon the strike and see that gorgeous trout leaping from the river’s surface.

“You think, ‘Wow, this could be it,’” Carle says. “We get both the fish and you measure them but they’re a little bit short. Of course, that’s always going to keep us coming back.”

They were even in the same boat when it happened, though Thompson says his was closer to 29 inches.

“We were both so close,” Thompson says. “I think he still got me by half an inch. Someday we’ll both do it; it’s just a question of who gets the bigger one.”

“It’s an excuse to go back up to try and go up and catch one,” adds Carle, who began his career with the San Jose Sharks. “So when I do actually catch one, I guess the next thing will be to try and top it. I certainly have a place on my wall for that fish to get mounted.”

On a different trip, the guys were able to get to Alaska in the fall, when they’re usually busy with their jobs. But the league endured a lockout that delayed the start of the 2012-13 season until January.  

“I thought that was going to be my opportunity because I able to go to the lodge when we could close it down; it was the first week of October, and as long as I was playing, it was going to be the latest I could get up there and get an opportunity,” Carle says.

But that late into the fall, the Kvichak River, which flows from Lake Iliamna to Bristol Bay, was flooding, creating a murky mess and tougher fishing than anticipated. It was unfortunate timing, given that the work stoppage allowed the guys a rare opportunity to fish when they normally were starting their seasons.

“We still had a great time and caught some nice fish,” Carle says. “But nothing over the 30-inch mark.”

Carle, after being traded by San Jose, went onto a nice career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers (reaching the Stanley Cup Final with both teams before falling short against the Chicago Blackhawks both times). Carle retired during the 2016-17 season and may have the leg up on his buddy with more chances to fish as Thompson continues his hockey career. But the guys are rooting for each other in this quest.

Whenever Carle and Thompson can get away with their families, they head back home and join other friends to fish at Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, where they know the trout – especially the ones over the magic 30-inch plateau – are waiting.

“I think (lodge owner) Brian Kraft has it rigged,” Carle jokes. “That way we’re always coming back.”

Thompson doesn’t expect any trash talk if he or Carle reach the milestone length before the other.

“I think it’s just going to be two guys looking at the fish and then looking at each other,” he says. “Besides, we’re both competitive and there doesn’t have to be much said.”

A holy grail of a trout speaks for itself. CC

Sidebar

THESE ARE NOT THE BOSTON BRUINS

As you might expect, Nate Thompson has a lot of stories from fishing in Alaska. This is just one that came to mind:

“If you’ve seen those postcards of the bear catching a salmon jumping up a waterfall, we went to that area, Brooks River Falls in Katmai National Park. And we were fishing there for rainbow trout, and the bears are just there to look for salmon, but they’re all around you. At this park you can’t even bring ChapStick because the bears can smell it.”

“But we’re fishing there with the bears, and we had an indicator on the end of the line, an orange bobber. And one of the bears was kind of behind and was moving back and forth and would get out of the way as we were walking. The bear saw the orange bobber at the end of the line and started charging at the line. The bears, when they’re in that water, will cut through the river like butter, and one of the guys with us wasn’t from Alaska and thought the bear was charging him and not the line. He basically jumped on the end of his line, dove in there and kept swimming across the river. He had to check his shorts after that.” ASJ

 

Southeast Alaska Chinook All-Gear Harvest Limits Set

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

Under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announces that the preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska in 2017 is 209,700 fish. This year’s all-gear harvest limit is 146,000 fish lower than the preseason limit available in 2016.

The all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska is determined by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission, and is based on the forecast of an aggregate abundance of Pacific Coast Chinook salmon stocks subject to management under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit is allocated among sport and commercial troll and net fisheries under management plans specified by the Alaska Board of Fisheries as follows:

2017 Treaty Chinook Allocations Number of Chinook Salmon
Purse seine (4.3% of all-gear) 9,020
Drift gillnet (2.9% of all-gear) 6,080
Set gillnet (1,000) 1,000
Troll (80% after net gear subtracted) 154,880
Sport (20% after net gear subtracted) 38,720
Total all-gear harvest limit 209,700

Information on allocations and regulations that will be in place for the 2017 season can be found in news releases from the ADF&G Division of Sport Fish and Division of Commercial Fisheries. Links to these releases are below:

Sportsmen’s Alliance To Trump: Include National Preserves

The following press release is courtesy of the Sportsmen’s Alliance:

In response to the U.S. Senate’s passage of H.J. Res 69 recently, which rightfully returned game management on National Wildlife Refuge System lands in Alaska to state biologists, the Sportsmen’s Alliance is now calling on President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to apply the same sound scientific management principles to National Preserves in the state.

The rule changes recently reversed by Congress with the passage of H.J. Res 69, and signed by President Trump this week, only applied to refuge lands. Similar misguided management rules were also enacted by the Department of the Interior for preserves, which are managed by the National Parks Service, on October 23, 2015. This is too long ago for Congress to overturn with a simple majority vote in the Senate. Instead, it would require 60 votes in the Senate, which is too many to realistically expect (52 Senators voted to overturn the Refuge rule).

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with the Alaska Professional Hunter’s Association, filed suit in February to negate the rules changes and return wildlife management decisions to wildlife biologists in the state. With the Senate’s vote, and without further administrative action by the Trump Administration, the lawsuit will continue to move forward, but will be narrowed to only challenge the rules limiting state management of hunting on National Preserves in Alaska.

“The North American model of wildlife conservation has resulted in the proliferation of wildlife and wildlands nationwide for more than a century. With such proven and positive results for entire ecosystems, it only makes sense to continue using the same model on Alaska’s preserves, too,” said Sportsmen’s Alliance President and CEO, Evan Heusinkveld. “The Sportsmen’s Alliance and our members hope President Trump and Secretary Zinke will keep their promises to hunters, anglers and trappers by reversing these capricious rules and avoiding costly litigation.”

The rule changes on wildlife refuges, which were adopted in August, 2016, expanded the definition of predator control so that state management decisions (season dates, bag limits, methods of take, etc.) fell within the expanded definition and under federal jurisdiction on refuge property. This overreaching federal action banned the most reasonable and restrained means of controlling wolf, black bear and grizzly bear populations.

Controlling apex predator populations is necessary to maintain sustainable populations of prey species such as caribou, moose and other ungulates, as well as the overall balance of the ecosystem. The changes handcuffed wildlife biologists and land managers, and usurped Alaska’s right to manage game species in accordance with state goals and traditions.

Anti-hunting and animal-rights organizations applauded the rule changes when officially adopted by the Department of Interior. Now that Congress has overturned the rules, these same groups are lining up to intervene in the lawsuit as defendants and to apply social and political pressure to keep the misguided rules in place on preserves.

A look at the list of those opposing proven scientific management reads like a who’s who of big-money animal-rights organizations: Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Society and others. Combined, these groups have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend to advance their agenda of ending hunting, trapping and other scientific wildlife management practices.

Pushing anti-hunting legislation in statehouses nationwide, bankrolling ballot-box initiatives from beginning to end and litigating in courtrooms at the state and federal levels, these organizations are shaping wildlife management policy and practice in the 21st Century.

For more than 100 years, conservation, wildlife management and sportsmen have gone hand in hand. The hunter, the angler and the trapper are at the forefront of proper scientific management today and have been the backbone of conservation and the proliferation of wildlife and wildlands since America’s hunting President, Theodore Roosevelt, took office, created the National Wildlife Refuge System and revolutionized hunting into the regulated tool it is currently.

If sportsmen are to remain an effective part and parcel of proactive wildlife management, and not relegated to observers of reactive management policies, we must unite across differences, protect lesser-practiced methods and fight for wildlife rules that have successfully worked for more than a century.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance is taking the largest, richest and most vocal animal-rights organizations on headfirst. We’re outgunned when we face off against the deep pockets and 150-million-dollar budgets which are used to support legal fees and court cases, ability to purchase air time during ballot-box battles, as well as reach within mainstream and social media. But we know how to win. We do 95-percent of the time.

For more on the Sportsmen’s Alliance, click here. 

ADFG: Early-Run Kenai King Salmon Projections Look ‘Optimal’

Kenai River photo by Randy King

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

The 2017 Kenai River early-run king salmon preseason projection is for 6,500 large (> 34 inches) king salmon. This projection falls within the optimal escapement goal (OEG) of 3,900 to 6,600 large king salmon. In February, the Alaska Board of Fisheries amended 5 AAC 57.160 Kenai River and Kasilof River Early-run King Salmon Management Plan such that if the Kenai River early run king salmon preseason projection falls within or above the OEG, the early-run king salmon sport fishery may start under general regulations for the Kenai River (5 AAC 57.120) until an inseason projection is available (see below).

Kenai River king salmon sport angling regulations for January 1 through June 30, 2017 in Kenai River waters below Skilak Lake are as follows:

  • Bait is prohibited, and only one single–hook, artificial lure may be used.
  • The bag and possession limit for king salmon 20 inches or greater in length is one king salmon. Only king salmon 36 inches or less may be retained. King salmon greater than 36 inches in length may not be removed from the water and must be released.
  • There is a five fish annual limit for king salmon over 20 inches from all Cook Inlet Drainage waters in combination, which includes only two fish per year over 20 inches can come from the Kenai River, except fish under 28 inches in length caught in the Kenai River prior to July 1 do not count towards the annual limit. All harvested fish that count towards an annual limit must be recorded on a harvest record or your license.
  • The bag and possession limit for king salmon less than 20 inches (jacks), is ten fish.

Regulations may be liberalized or restricted inseason by emergency order if subsequent inseason projections, based on the sonar counts at river mile 14, suggest that the king salmon OEG may not be achieved. Sufficient inseason information is typically available by ~ June 15. Regardless of projected run size during the early or late king salmon runs, possible liberalizations to the king salmon sport fishery through July 31, can only occur below Slikok Creek (5 AAC 57.160).

Pick up a 2017 regulation booklet or see below web site for more information

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=ByAreaSouthcentralUpperKenai.main

Chuitna River Coal Mining Project Scrapped

In our April issue, our correspondent Michael Lunde wrote a piece on what was a controversial coal mining project on Southcentral Alaska’s salmon spawning Chuitna River.

Well, timing is everything, and the Alaska Dispatch-News has a report coming out that the project has been shelved for now.

Here’s more from ADN:

The company behind a large and contentious coal mine proposed for the west side of Cook Inlet is suspending all permitting efforts, suddenly putting the Chuitna Coal Project in limbo.

Dan Graham, project manager for PacRim Coal, told officials at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources about the company’s decision late last week. DNR posted an update on its website Friday.

Graham told state coal regulatory program manager Russell Kirkham that the owners “decided to shelve the project” after an investment fell through, Kirkham said Monday.

The company also issued a statement last week: “Following several months of internal review and discussions, the partners in PacRim Coal, LP have decided to suspend pursuit of permitting efforts on the Chuitna Coal Project.”

Graham couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

The project as planned would sit about 45 miles west of Anchorage near the small community of Beluga and the Native Village of Tyonek.

 

 

Answering A Higher Calling

The following appears in the March issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY CHRISTOPHER BATIN

The historical feud between the Hatfields and McCoys can’t compare to the squabble in Alaska between the Shooters and the Callers.

The Shooters take moose at 275 yards because the only sporting aspect of game meat is eating it in meatballs and sausage during MLB or NFL games. Once a moose is down, they round up the four-wheelers to haul it back to camp, hang it, and start their card-playing marathon of all-you-can-eat moose steaks and free-flowing beer, whiskey, and man-cave talk. The shot and celebration is what they like most about moose hunting.

Their claim in the feud is that Callers are no-good, sneaky bandits who enjoy courtin’ their big bull moose away from them. Callers argue that it takes a variety of skills to harvest a moose, which is why they prefer the heady, thrill-seeking indulgence of enticing big bulls to come a callin’.

After four decades of hunting Alaska moose, I side with the Callers.

CALLING IN TROPHY MOOSE is not a sport for the faint of heart. It begins with a quest to learn the necessary skills while simultaneously acquiring enough toughness to embark on big game hunting’s most exciting rite of passage, in which hunters go head to head against the largest deer in the world. And what a deer! Big bull moose stand up to 7 feet tall at the shoulder, can weigh up to 1,800 pounds and sport racks that are wider than most men are tall.

The north’s fiercest predators – grizzly bears and wolves – are fearful of a prime bull. No predator in its right mind would challenge, face to face, a 70-inch, 50-pound rack with 28 palmed spear-points and two, massive, brow-tine shields. This headgear is supported by 80 pounds of intimidating neck and powered by two wilderness-toughened, 150-pound rear legs that push, gore and chase off similar, massive-bodied bulls. During Alaska’s moose wars, dominance is the reason for the rut.  

Additional moose deterrents include two rear hooves, a single kick from which can smash skulls and break bones. When moose rear up on their hind legs for an aggressive frontal attack, the two front hooves become angled ax heads that slam down with guillotine force that can slice, dice and tear apart any aggressor. Cow moose use their hooves to defend their newborn calves each spring. Despite such a formidable deterrent, cows lose up to 50 percent of their newborns to hungry bears. 

Standing face to face at 15 yards with an enraged, rutting bull – with nothing more than a moose call and rifle – is what separates the men from the boys in North America’s ultimate deer hunting experience. While whitetails, elk, mulies and blacktails are challenging to hunt, they can’t compare to a do-or-die challenge with a battle-ready moose in full rut.

The danger aspect is only one of the draws. Moose calling is the language of warriors. It takes skill to embrace the mindset of a challenger herd bull, and good hunters learn to become a dominant bull in thought and action. A dominant bull hunter uses scraping sounds and grunts as a taunt to challenge a bull into a showdown, or evokes a lonely, amorous cow call to fool the bull into thinking the hunter is a bull enticing cows away from the harem. And, of course, territorial calls announce you are the meanest, most virile bull in the wilderness. 

Whatever call you use, you best have the guts and stamina to follow through with the challenge.

I REMEMBER A FLY-OUT drop-off moose hunt in Alaska’s remote Mulchatna River country. Using a variety of calls and challenges, I coaxed a 61-inch bull to leave his harem and meet me in a nearby valley to “teach me a lesson.” At 70 yards, the bull let out a roar that shattered the wilderness silence and raised my arm hairs to full mast. I responded with name-calling thrashes and grunts.

The bull swayed side to side, like a high-seas navy destroyer, its multi-tined rack zeroing in on me in a visual challenge to spar. The antlers on the rut-swollen neck twisted and yanked a 10-foot sapling out of the ground and flung it into the air as easily as if it were a blade of grass. Hail-like dirt clods pelted me as I stared him down. His eyes were now bloodshot orbs that bulged out of his skull and rolled wildly as he grunted his disdain.

I scraped again and grunted, “Wauuuggh! Waaauggh!” and pawed the ground. A snotty shower burst out of his nose and long ribbons of drool and saliva bubbled from his mouth. At 15 yards, pungent tarsal and urine scents stung my nostrils, which served to both simultaneously intimidate yet embolden me. It’s a hunting scenario where one can reach maximum heart rate by being absolutely still.

Images from previous moose hunts flashed through my mind, especially the hunter who faced a similar, 62-inch moose that we had called to within 12 yards. He missed the first shot, and then couldn’t shoot again because his leg was shaking out of control.

The adrenaline and euphoric rush often makes the details of these final moments a blur in the retelling, but my actions are predictable. Training kicks in, and I see myself not as a hunter but rather the dominant bull. I forget English. My mind is all moose. I become a rutting bull and gradually feel the rut pulse in my veins. Thoughts and feelings become guttural disdains, grunts, and roars. I stomp my legs and scrape a scapula on a branch; the taunts emphasize, “Leave now, or your hindquarter is mine!” 

As a challenger bull, I am battling for dominance until either the bull attacks or bolts first, ’cause it sure won’t be me goin’ anywhere.  

MY ARMS AND LEGS went numb, not from fear, but rather from the euphoria of battle with no safety switch, no end-game button, no wife calling me to dinner. I was in a place where even the brave dare not go, a metaphysical portal where courage is but a stepping stone to that higher platonic realm of absolutes, where the hunter becomes the hunt of pure energy that ebbs and flows with every breath.

Pressing against a tree to avoid detection, I reached out with a battle-worn scapula and scraped it against the tree, ripping and peeling bark to eke out “The Call.” I had issued an auditory and visual challenge to spar. The mud-caked hair on the bull’s back bristled to attention, and after pawing the ground a few times, he swung his rack back and forth like a sword-wielding samurai.

It was truly David versus Goliath: me with a 13-inch-wide scapula and rifle, challenging a rut-crazed bull that could trample, maim and kill me. It was time. I grunted once again, and the bull busted through some brush to my left. I bolted through the brush after him, weaving and darting like a heat-seeking missile. We both burst into a small clearing and stood in a face-off. I took the shot, and the warrior dropped. Our predator-prey dance was complete.

Learning to call moose effectively can take years of practice, and is perhaps the most dangerous time to interact with moose. But even when you botch a call, as I did the first time I tried talking dirty to a cow moose, the excitement can be electrifying.

My brother Bill and I were hiding near a lone spruce in an open field in the Alaska Range. In the distance, we watched a bull with 55-plus-inch antlers disappear into the brush. I moaned a lovesick cow call to draw him out. The brush exploded in a cacophony of snaps and crackles. I flipped off the safety on my .338 Ruger. Suddenly, an enraged cow moose charged out of the brush and made a beeline straight for us. A 6-foot-long ridge of erect back hair made her 7-foot height intimidating.

Bill and I bolted upright and pressed our backs against the small black spruce. The ground shook as muscular, stilt-like legs braked her to a stop. Her bulging eyes were blinded with jealousy, and her normally cautious nature and brain were temporarily disengaged. We faced extreme danger. She darted around wildly and reared up on her hind legs. I watched her axe-head-like hooves impact the ground with a thud, and slice size 14 craters into the tundra. Seeing that we were no threat, she ran off, not wanting another amorous cow to entice her lover bull. The experience left us thoroughly intimidated and a bit wiser.

Even after the bull drops, use caution. After taking a nice bull with her 7mm Remington Magnum, one hunting partner approached her downed trophy with me at her side. Her exuberance overpowered her sense of caution as she walked up to the bull. I caught a glimpse of the bull’s eyes looking back. I reacted by quickly grabbing her by the collar and snatching her back, just as the bull’s antlers slashed the air, missing her midsection and a possible disembowelment by inches. A single shot from my .338 finished off the ol’ boy, which was the lesson here. Learn to shoot a .338 or larger rifle and leave the lightweight firesticks for coyotes and blacktails. 

Once your moose is dead, you can return to being human and unpack the whisky flask for a swig to calm the nerves, vomit, defecate or clean your pants. There is no shame in the aftermath, because if you have what it takes to successfully entice moose to come a callin’, you’ll have graduated from the most intense, big game hunting interaction that any North American hunter can experience.

BUT HERE’S AN ADMONITION: If rutting bulls are dangerous, Alaska weather can be even more unpredictable. After a week of blue skies and cool temperatures, I watched the alpine sky blacken over the Alaska Range. The temperature plummeted, and the wind screamed its icy fury. I finished the meat-bagging chores from a moose and caribou that I had bagged earlier in the hunt and scurried across the tundra to my two-man tent for warmth and protection. 

Little did I know that I was about to experience what philosophers call “The long night of the soul.”

For the next eight hours, I used my back as a brace to keep the tent from becoming a suffocating shroud. Severe gusts bullied me to the tent’s center, and I kicked back repeatedly to anchor myself. A tent pole dislodged and sliced open the outer fly but I could do nothing. My back shivered against the onslaught of freezing rain and sleet. I dared not light my stove for heat, for fear the billowing tent would erupt in flames. On the open tundra, there are neither gullies nor forests in which to seek refuge.

Keeping my back rigid against such force exhausted me, and I finally gave in to the sleep of exhaustion. Hours later I awoke, startled to find myself at the center of the tent floor. The silence was eerie. I pushed out of the collapsed tent. A foot of snow had fallen and the wind had died. The radio reported that a severe Arctic storm had blown through Southcentral Alaska. Its 90 mph winds generated 20- to 40-foot seas that had sunk boats and kept a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in a Kodiak Island port.

My caribou and moose meat had frozen solid, and took days to unthaw.

I climbed out of my tent and stood amid the silence. My emotions boiled victorious for having toughed it out, but I soon settled into a simmering peace.

I had a chore to finish.

At the moose kill site, I honored the bull by placing his head to face the rising sun, a shared symbolism of life after death. I placed a few strands of grass in his mouth to signify his last meal, and to serve as a reminder that all creatures live, die and become nutrients for life to renew itself again.

I thought about the bull and made my promise. When having moose steaks, roast or stew, I will recall my interaction with him. Yet the bittersweet twin of this euphoria is the sadness I feel for the millions of people who know nothing about the personality of the faceless factory animals they eat each day. The only interaction with them is the blood money paid for a portion of their butchered carcasses.

I’m also guilty of such sins, and yet, find partial redemption in interacting with the animals I hunt so I can feed my family, and embrace the wisdom learned from each trophy. Each meal teaches me lessons that embolden me to meet the challenges of everyday life head on.

If I’m knocked down, I’ll have what it takes to get back up and win, no matter the outcome. It is the way of the moose, and the way I must be in life, and in the wilderness.      

I returned to my tent, confident that the warrior spirit of the moose and I would meet again one day in the vast wilderness arena among the stars. When that day arrives, the reunion of our two warrior spirits will be so grandiose that it will defy human comprehension. 

Such an experience might even prompt a Shooter to reconsider his hunting style and become a Caller, because in the scheme of things, it’s the right and proper thing to do.  ASJ

Editor’s note: Chris Batin is a 42-year Alaska resident, and wrote the foreword for and is featured in the new book, Alaska’s Greatest Outdoor Legends. He is also the editor of Alaska Hunter Publications and author of the award-winning, 416-page book, Hunting in Alaska: A Comprehensive Guide, which includes a detailed chapter on hunting and calling trophy moose. Alaska Sporting Journal readers can receive an autographed copy of these books from the author, with free shipping, by ordering online at AlaskaHunter.com, promo code ASJ.