Category Archives: Featured Content

DIY Deer On POW

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Photo by Shane Vander Giessen

We’re referring to the November edition of Alaska Sporting Journal as the “DIY Issue”, with seven unguided Alaskan adventures. Our cover story features three Lower 48ers (from Washington) who tackled a deer hunt on Prince of Wales Island. Here’s a little bit from author Shane Vander Giessen, and some bonus photos to whet your appetite for the main story, which should be available for purchase soon, especially in the Northwest:

The rain and fog moved in as we were climbing, but as we reached the top of the mountain, we got a break in the fog within 275 yards of the two bucks. One 4-point with eye guards was already hard-horned, and a smaller buck was with him and still in velvet.
The 4-point was bedded, and once he stood up, I had him down in two shots with a rifle. The smaller buck hung around trying to figure out where the shots came from. We weren’t planning on shooting him at first, but, eventually, Alec decided to take him as well.
We quickly set up camp and looked for one more buck for Brian. We actually saw another 4-point, similar in size to the one I got, but he wasn’t able to connect before the fog moved back in and hindered our visibility.
Then the rain started. And continued. It rained all night and all the next day. Alec and I actually boned out our deer in the vestibules of our backpacking tents. Plus, we had to make our way down the mountain (each carrying our own tents) through some of the muddiest, steepest, nastiest and brush-filled terrain I’ve ever hiked in.
At one point, Brian was climbing up through some cliffs, and we couldn’t see him when he let loose a whole bunch of rocks. I seriously thought for a second that he was a goner. We all said our prayers and made it down safely to the car, but we were drenched to the bone and completely exhausted. It probably rained 1½ inches on us while we were hiking out.

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Photo by Shane Vander Giessen

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Photo by Shane Vander Giessen

 

To read Shane’s complete story, get a copy of Alaska Sporting Journal at several Northwest area airports, or subscribe today and get one full year at just $19.95. Click here for details. Digital subscriptions are also available.

 

 

 

 

Breaking Through The Ice

When Dennis Musgraves of Alaskan Salmon Slayers  approached us about writing a story about ice fishing for sheefish in isolated Northwestern Alaska, I was more than intrigued for two reasons: 1. It was ice fishing. 2. It’s sheefish. Those two factors alone made this a great story to add for our November issue. Dennis really did a good job describing the process of he and his friend, Chris, traveling to Kotzebue in their quest for catching trophy sheefish through the frozen waters of Kotzebue Sound.

Here’s a little sneak peak of the story and a few extra photos to take a look at:

I continued vertically dancing my spoon as I took in the vastness of the sound. The miles of ice-covered water had me feeling like I was fishing for needle in a haystack; and then it happened. It was a definite forceful strike from something below the ice attempting to eat my lure, but I failed to set the hook.                                                   
I yelled with excitement, “I just had a bite!” My volume was probably loud enough to be heard by all the residents 2 miles away in Kotzebue. Anticipation in full throttle, Spiderman senses tingling, I increased focus on my jigging pattern to persuade another bite, and this time I actually set the hook. I imagined myself as the fish, watching the action of the large spoon, took the lure like an offer that could not be refused.
Then it happened again, wham! My instinctive reactions took over pulling up and setting the hook just after feeling the tip of the rod react to the lure getting smashed. With heavy resistance felt and line rolling off the reel I knew it was a positive hook set.  
My adrenaline kicking in now, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Fish On!” in the direction of Chris. The fish took out about 10 yards of line after the initial hook set. As Chris made his way over to me, I reeled down on the fish. My rod flexing as I put pressure on what felt like a decent sheefish, I continued to reel up line and feel strong head shakes. The fish seemed to be easily controlled as I guided the head towards the ice opening to breach the surface. Not a huge by sheefish standards, but a respectable 34-incher, and not too shabby for icing my first one ever. After a couple grin and grip photos and exchanging high-fives, it was back to fishing.
Fishing the rest of the day was slow by any standard. It seemed we needed a new location. I was just about ready to suggest a change when I heard Chris shout, “Fish on!” Looking over to where he was standing and seeing his rod doubled over, I quickly reeled up to go over and see what he had on.                                                                                                                       

Upon walking up and taking a knee beside his hole, I began eagerly watching the opening, jaw wide open, my eyes straining trying to look into the waiter’s shadowy glare. I was attempting to get a glimpse of what was below. His reel sang a chorus as several yards of line was quickly ripped out against the drag. His rod was wildly bent from massive shakes and resistance. With the look of euphoric shock on his face and music coming off the reel I realized he must have one enormous sheefish on the other end of his line.                               
Excitement filled the air, as we began asking ourselves out loud, “Is this fish going to be a 50-incher?” Expectations grew in both of us as the tug of war fight subsided and the fish was coaxed closer to the surface. However, after approximately 10 minutes of unsuccessful attempts guiding the fish up the hole, we both succumbed to the notion that this fish was simply going to be too big for the opening in the ice. Our enthusiasm was totally deflated when the hook was slipped and he reeled it up, his rig void of any signs of a victory. 

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Dennis Musgrave.

Look this and other Alaska adventure stories every month in Alaska Sporting Journal. To subscribe now and get a full year for just $19.95, click here.

Going To The Birds On The Kenai

By Chris Cocoles on Oct. 25

Our DIY man in Alaska, Steve Meyer, wrote a nice piece for hunters (and dog lovers) for our November issue on chasing ptarmigan on the Kenai Mountains of Southcentral Alaska.  It’s a really interesting story in that Steve details how rocky and slippery the terrain can be in that time of year (mid-September) that affected both he and can affect his hunting dog, Winchester. Here’s a sneak peak from the story:

The snow was packed in and yet to melt from the previous winter, and it had a very slippery glaze. We were skirting the edges when Winchester, some 400 yards across the other side, came to another solid point.  Working down to the snow bed to cross, my partner stayed up on more stable ground and had a front row seat when my feet went out from under me. I started sliding down the chute and I tried to dig my heels in to no avail.
My velocity was such that I knew it was going to be bad when I smashed into the large boulders I was headed for. With the 28 cradled in my arms I hit a large rock, my knees unlocked to absorb the impact and I flew chest first into the rock with the 28 smashing my upper lip and nose.
When I hit, a bird flew up from behind the rock and I sat upright and took a shot that I shouldn’t have and cleanly missed. I looked up with blood running down my face to see my hunting partner laughing.  She thought I had done it on purpose.

As someone who has proven to be clumsy on icy ground (that’s a story for another day, but one I’m not proud of telling anyway!), I can relate to Steve taking a tumble. But trooper that he is, Steve was able to laugh it off. Kudos, buddy! Here a few extra pictures from Steve’s report. You can see by the shot of Christine, Steve’s hunting partner in crime, how tricky it must be to navigate the area where these upland birds hide. The ptarmigan are able to blend into the snow very difficult.

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To see Steve’s full adventure, get yourself a subscription to Alaska Sporting Journal. At our special fall rate of just $19.95 for 12 issues, it’s a bargain and a convenient holiday gift for your favorite hunter or angler. Click here for details.

Kayaks On Cochrane

By Chris Cocoles on Oct. 23

One of my favorite stories we’re running for our November issue of Alaska Sporting Journal is Mark Veary’s report of his DIY kayaking journey to Cochrane Bay in Prince William Sound with friends Pam and Dave. I’ve always wanted a kayak and to paddle  – over mostly calm and not so dangerous waters – my way and tote a fishing rod. Not sure if Mark will inspire me to go through with it someday. But I daydreamed a lot about the possibilities. Anyway, Mark’s story should be a fun read. Here are a few of the great photos Mark sent us that didn’t get into the finished product for your enjoyment.

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Subscribe to Alaska Sporting Journal today to read more Alaskan adventures like Mark’s. Click here for details of our fall deal: Get 12 issues for ASJ for just $19.95.

 

WalMart Vs. Salmon Anglers Update

By Chris Ccooles on Oct. 22

Not a ton of new news in this ongoing tug-of-war, but a well-written update on the WalMart battle with the Alaskan salmon fishing industry.

This is probably the most newsworthy section of the story since we last had an update on this situation, which doesn’t exactly endear corporate giant WalMart to the blue collar workers of Alaska:

Last week, the salmon industry essentially declared victory, saying it would move forward with its own labeling efforts. In a clear swipe at WalMart, the salmon industry urged “the few remaining buyers with M.S.C.-only buying policies to stop swimming against the tide.”

“Alaska has the idea of sustainability built into its constitution,” Senator Begich said in an interview, referring to a provision in the state charter, which says natural resources must be managed on the “sustained yield principle.”

He dismissed the idea that the industry needed more outside oversight, noting that the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, closely monitors American fisheries.

Makes you wonder how ugly the sparring will get to here. Stubbornness on both sides will likely rule the day.

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It’s hard to believe we’re a little more than a week away from hitting November. The holidays are rapidly approaching, so why not simplify your gift list and order subscriptions of Alaska Sporting Journal. Order today and get one year (12 issues, in full color) for just $19.95. Click here for details.

Alaska Strikes Back

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has had enough with his state’s public lands, used so heavily by hunters and anglers, closed by the ongoing government  shutdown which seems to be going on indefinitely. Parnell is threatening legal action now.

From the Associated Press report:

Parnell, in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, said the state would sue unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed its shutdown of federal refuges in Alaska by the close of business Tuesday.

“With everything else that is going on, litigation between our respective principals should be avoided,” he wrote. “However, the financial impact and inconvenience to Alaskans can no longer be ignored, and we will seek to reopen these refuges based on the USFWS’ failure to follow its own closure regulations and other inconsistent positions adopted by DOI which have been repeatedly brought to your attention.” DOI is the Department of Interior.

Interior spokesman Blake Androff said in an email to The Associated Press, “We have extremely limited staff and resources during the government shutdown, but we continue to explore potential options to re-open National Wildlife Refuges using donated funds.”

In other words: This situation is getting downright nasty.

Subscribe to Alaska Sporting Journal today and get one year for just $19.95. Click here for details.

Gun-Toting Hunters Headed Onto Federal Lands

Dave Workman, who’s a regular contributing columnist to our magazines, weighs in on how the federal government shutdown could affect hunters in several states, including Alaska. Thanks to a tip from our Western Shooting editor, Rachel Alexander,  I wanted to share this link with you even though it’s not a 100 percent Alaska-impacting story.

There’s a lot of interesting information in Dave’s piece, so I encourage you to read it in its entirety. But here is a snippet of the Alaska angle:

A brouhaha is erupting in Alaska, however, where 49th state lawmakers are angry at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for allegedly violating a 1980 federal law by preventing hunting on public land under its control while the government shutdown continues. The Washington Times quotes Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) saying, “It seems that agencies are working harder to keep people off federal lands than they have ever worked before to get them to visit federal lands.”

 

Subscribe to Alaska Sporting Journal today, or as we get a little closer to the holiday season, purchase a one-year subscription for just $19.95. Click here for details.

 

Float-hunting North Of The Arctic Circle For Moose

 

A big assist to my executive editor, Andy Walgamott, for compiling this report by Eric Spiegel of his trip way north to an area north of the Arctic Circle.

by Eric Spiegel

Just got back from our first float hunt which was down the XXXX river in Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle. Eric Simon, my brother Kurt and myself were on the trip.

No guides, outfitters, or persons with any knowledge were involved!

Had a great time and scored a moose and a black bear.

KURT SPIEGEL BAGGED THIS BIG OL' BULL WELL NORTH OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE DURING A RECENT FLOAT-HUNT. HE WAS OUT WITH HIS BROTHER, ERIC SPIEGEL OF SEABECK, WASH. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

KURT SPIEGEL BAGGED THIS BIG OL’ BULL WELL NORTH OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE DURING A RECENT FLOAT-HUNT. HE WAS OUT WITH HIS BROTHER, ERIC SPIEGEL OF SEABECK, WASH. AFTER DRIVING NORTH ON THE DALTON HIGHWAY, THEY WERE FLOWN TO A REMOTE LAKE AND BEGAN THEIR TRIP DOWN AN UNDISCLOSED RIVER, ALONG WHICH KURT SHOT THE 51-INCH-WIDE MOOSE. THE ANIMAL YIELDED 700 POUNDS OF MEAT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Water levels were very low and the first two days were tough as we had to drag the rafts a lot, only making about 4 miles the first two days. Had to portage several times because in some places there wasn’t even enough water to drag the boats. It was very discouraging. Day three and four were a little better as we were able to actually get in the rafts for short stretches.

We had a good hunt plan, and when we finally got to a good looking area, we were able to stop for a couple of days.

Temps started out in the mid 40s for the first couple days, but dropped to midteens and snowing.

My brother shot the moose in the late afternoon on about day 6, about 1/2 mile from camp. After processing we moved all the meat (moose weighed about 1,400 pounds) about 100 yards from the kill site to minimize bear encounters, and started packing the meat to the river with the plan of dragging the raft upriver to load.

After stumbling through the willows and beaver ponds in the dark, we decided it would be safer to stash our first load (rear quarter, front shoulder, and ribs) at the river’s edge and drag the raft upriver in the morning to load it all.

We dragged the boat upriver in the morning and discovered that a bear had gotten into it. The three bags had been tore up, moved around, and partially buried. Very little of it had actually been eaten.

While we were cleaning it up, the bear came back and wouldn’t scare off. It was only a 5-foot black bear, but he obviously had a death wish. We were waving our arms and yelling to get him to turn away but he kept coming — until I shot him at 10 yards.

(ERIC SPIEGEL)

ERIC SPIEGEL TOOK ABOUT 50 HOURS OF GOPRO FOOTAGE DURING THE HUNT AND CONDENSED IT DOWN TO A VERY SCENIC 9-MINUTE VIDEO. IT TOOK THE HUNTERS 10 DAYS TO COVER 65 MILES OF RIVER. (ERIC SPIEGEL)

For our first float hunt (zero experience with rafting), it was great. An incredible amount of work in dragging the rafts, packing the moose, and rowing 10 hours a day for several days to make the take-out ( river was very slow) but I loved it and can’t wait to do it again.

We only got one moose and the small bear, but that was enough. We had to drag the rafts quite a bit even in the last 5 miles of the river, and with two moose we would have had to portage most of that.

We had started planning this trip last October and there were a lot of logistics involved.  Surprisingly everything went as planned, no one got hurt, and we are looking forward to our next adventure.

Government shutdown affects Alaska outdoors agencies

By Chris Cocoles on Oct. 2, 2013

It’s now day two of the shutting down of the federal government here in the good ole U.S.A. And I don’t know what to make of this mess right now, and frankly, you probably wouldn’t care what I think anyway! And I’m too embarrassed to even want to rip on both Republicans and Democrats for failing us right now.

But this is an outdoors blog, so here’s a story about how Alaska’s government agencies involving the state’s critical natural resources are handling the national crisis.

A couple of highlights (lowlights?) from the report:

The National Park Service closed up shop in Fairbanks and Denali Park for the most part on Tuesday, as did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There were a handful of “essential” employees at each agency still on the job to make sure buildings don’t freeze up and to respond in the event of any emergencies on federal lands.

Managers at all 14 national wildlife refuges in Alaska, including four in Fairbanks, remained on the job Monday but most other refuge workers stayed home.

Visitors to web sites for the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were either re-routed or directed to the Department of the Interior web site where they could read a message from President Barrack Obama regarding the government shutdown. All social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook were also shut down on Monday.

In other words, or in this instance, one word: CHAOS!