Category Archives: Featured Content

Black Bear Burgers For Everyone

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The following story appears in the April edition of Alaska Sporting Journal 

 

BY KRYSTIN AND BIXLER MCCLURE 

“Bear burgers?”

It was a simple text from our friend Keith. He and his pescatarian coworker, Ray, were in route to Seward in mid-May. They have been coming to Seward annually for over 10 years and a few years ago we introduced Keith, who’s from Seattle, to the delicious peppery meat of the black bear in burger form. He has been raving about it since and always asks if we had gotten a bear before boarding the plane. Unfortunately, the last few years we had not been successful for a number of reasons.

“Not yet,” Bixler texted back to Keith.

But we were just getting into the car on a beautiful May day to do a “bear drive” and glass the many mountains around Seward for black bear. All spring long we see hunters along the Seward Highway scanning the easier mountainsides for an opportunistic black bear. We shy away from those spots and focus on a particular mountain, one that we can see from our hot tub.

We pulled to our usual turnout with a full view of the steep mountain. A few years ago we saw the largest black bear we had ever seen on this very mountain, sliding down a snowy avalanche chute. It was also the same day we were scheduled to haul our boat out to paint the bottom and we’ve been kicking ourselves ever since for not pursuing the bear. We learned our lesson.

 

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I GOT OUT OF the car and the first thing I noticed was a moving black dot above the thickets of alder. I pointed to Bixler, who confirmed it was a black bear lazily moving along the mountainside.

“I’m going after it!” Bixler exclaimed and started putting together the hunting pack while I watched the bear. Bixler was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and I was skeptical. I asked him if he wanted to change into pants and he said no, but grabbed his camo long sleeve. I told him there was no way I would climb unless he shot the bear (I hate steep mountains) and he agreed. Thankfully, the mountain was in cell range.

I dropped Bixler off at the edge of the woods and he scampered into the forest. I drove back to our usual turnout and set up the spotting scope. With his legs of steel, Bixler climbed through the forest and skirted the tree line to a rocky outcrop. He peeked his head over the outcrop and saw the black bear asleep below. It was curled in a ball, so Bixler waited for it to move to find the head. The bear perked up and Bixler shot it. With its last rush of adrenaline, it ran into the alders before collapsing.

I heard the shot echo from the mountain and then my phone rang. An excited Bixler told me the entire story in one breath and then explained where he was on the mountain. I looked at the imposing mountainside and sighed – it looked like I would be climbing after all.

Bixler set to work skinning and butchering the bear while I navigated a sea of devil’s club trying to find the game trail Bixler had described on the phone. I found the trail, which ended at a seemingly impenetrable wall of alders. Twice I turned around while Bixler convinced me to keep going. I bushwhacked my way through, periodically calling Bixler to orient me to where he was butchering the bear.

I eventually arrived after a few hours of bushwhacking and endless phone calls and shouting to find Bixler. He had finished butchering the bear and was putting the quarters and ribs into meat bags.

We stuffed the bear into our hunting packs and started our descent. One thing about this particular mountain is that there are some cliffy sections we needed to avoid and I impressed on Bixler that we travel leftwards. Unfortunately, the alder mass made it impossible to travel our desired direction.

Once again we were in thick devil’s club and both of us complained endlessly about the sharp spines penetrating our skin. It was right here that Bixler realized his plan to wear shorts was not the best, as his legs were bleeding from scratches from this spiny plant.

We traversed the devil’s club and then stood at the top of a steep, mossy cliff. A snaking animal trail made its way down and we decided to follow it rather than fight the devil’s club. With each footstep we carefully walked downward, holding on to any branches to ease our descent. After a previous bear hunt I had invested in a pair of rubber-coated gloves that allowed me to grab devil’s club, and I was wearing them this time. Bixler forgot his and tried to avoid grabbing the plant, but I would periodically hear cries of pain as he grabbed one out of necessity.

After a final slide down a mossy slope, we made it back to the road. We emerged from the forest as another group of hunters drove by with looks of jealousy. We loaded up the bear in the car and headed home.

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BIXLER HUNG THE BEAR in the garage while I snapped a picture for Keith. I heard nothing, but soon a truck pulled into our driveway and an excited Keith and Ray stepped out of the vehicle. We told Keith that it would be the freshest black bear he had ever had and we lopped of a piece of the meat and sent it through the grinder for burgers.

Bixler barbecued three bear burgers and one halibut burger for Ray (we have yet to convince him to try bear meat, but we ask every time). The four of us dined on the deliciousness as Bixler and I retold the story.

“So, are you guys going to shoot a fresh bear for me every year?” Keith asked, jokingly.

Bixler was tending to his bandaged legs while I periodically extracted devil’s club spines from my arm. We both looked at each other
and laughed.

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.” ASJ

Sidebar BUILD YOUR OWN BEAR BURGER

Black bear recipe sidebar

 

The blue cheese in this dish adds some needed fat to the black bear meat, and the jalapeno and onion add a kick. By grinding it all together, each bite has a great mix of flavors. This recipe makes at least two burgers, depending on how hungry you are from the hunt.

1 pound black bear meat

Salt and pepper to taste

One jalapeño

Blue cheese to taste

¼ red onion

With a grinder, grind black bear meat, jalapeño, onion, and blue cheese into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and form into patties. Grill normally, but be sure to cook thoroughly since it is black bear meat. Serve with whatever burger toppings you like. –BM

UA Professor Recovering From Bear Attack

 

Forest Watgner photo by Ryan Cortes, University of Alaska Southeast

Forest Watgner photo by Ryan Cortes, University of Alaska Southeast

Another bear attack – this one in Southeast Alaska – has a university professor recovering in an Anchorage hospital.

From the Associated Press via the Juneau Empire:

A sow with two cubs attacked University of Alaska Southeast assistant professor Forest Wagner on Mount Emmerich, near Haines, Alaska, where he was leading 11 students and two teaching assistants Monday, said spokeswoman Katie Bausler. A student hiked down the mountain to get cellphone reception and called for help. No one else was hurt.

Troopers coordinated a helicopter rescue into Haines. Wagner was then flown to Anchorage for treatment. The hospital said Wagner, 35, of Juneau, would not give interviews.

Troopers’ spokeswoman Megan Peters said it wasn’t clear what kind of bear attacked Wagner.

Students were evacuated from the mountain after someone saw the bear in the area, but Peters said that person was too panicked to relay the type of bear.

The students spent the night in Haines with another professor and planned to take a ferry back Tuesday to Juneau, Bausler said.

Meanwhile, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist was seeking information on the attack and planned to interview the students upon their return to Juneau, according to spokesman Ken Marsh.

Young Captain Gets His Shot On Deadliest Catch

 

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From our friends at the Discovery Channel:

EPISODE DESCRIPTION:

Deadliest Catch

Airing Tuesday, April 19 at 9 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel

Josh Harris is forced to take over the Cornelia Marie. Sean Dwyer gets his first taste of the angry sea. Greenhorns on the Cape Caution are slapped to attention. Weather, mechanical failures, and inexperienced crews complicate matters across the fleet.

 

Key Storylines:

  • In the episode airing on Tuesday: After a killer King Crab season, Josh struggles to find any Bairdi Crab. In the midst of pulling empty pots, things get even worse. A nasty flu knocks his co-captain Casey McManus out of the wheelhouse, forcing Josh Harris to take the wheel alone. And he’s not just pulling pots. He has to get out there and find the crab.
  • This season young skipper Josh Harris must step out of the shadows to claim his birthright on the legendary vessel once commanded by his father, the late Captain Phil Harris.
  • The boat has finally gotten an overhaul – complete with new electronics and engine room. But making the boat like new comes with a steep price. To pay for the overhaul, Josh had to sell a majority of the boat to investors meaning if he can’t find crab, the investors will find someone else who can.

 

Sneak preview of Tuesday’s episode:

 

 

 

Q&A With Josh Harris, Deadliest Catch Captain of the Cornelia Marie

 

This season your boat got a complete overhaul.  Are you happy with the changes you made?  Has it made crabbing any easier?

I am happy with the changes. Obviously the boat interior and exterior look much better.  But having new equipment eliminated a lot of the stress worrying about mechanical failures.

 

How often do you think of your dad, the late Captain Phil Harris?  Is there any lesson that he taught you, that you still find useful today?
I think of my dad every single day. His sayings always replay in my mind. On a daily basis I find myself repeating things he used to say. The crew does it, too. I’m always thinking of him. He was the greatest.

 

What do you think is the toughest part of your job? 
The toughest part of the job by far is dealing with mother nature. You never know what she’ll throw at you.


What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the Deadliest Catch crabbing boats in the Bering Sea?

School is incredibly important – you need to stay in school. Anyone who considers fishing should have a backup plan.

JOSH HARRIS:
After a season of late starts and scraping by, Josh is hoping for a big season. Sinking $1 million into the aging Cornelia Marie has turned her into one of the most state-of-the-art boats in the fleet. Thankfully, an increase in quota should help keep the green skipper in the black. It’ll be a busy year and Josh is going to have to step up as a leader to meet his bottom line. Tensions may flare in the wheelhouse as Casey plans to do whatever it takes to keep the boat producing, even if that’s not what Josh wants. We’ll see if Josh remembers how to drive in weather, spot bags at night, and drive fast — and if he can keep a lid on his temper too; a temper flare caused CM loyalist Jake Jolibois to quit last season. But Josh is determined to step up and assert himself as a captain of his family’s boat. He wants to see if he really knows how to fish.

 

Brothers In Arms

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

BY BJORN DIHLE

Last summer, my little brother Reid was faced with a tough decision. His first child’s due date was Aug. 1, which also happened to be opening day for Sitka blacktail deer.

This meant he was going to have to be real tricky and risk his marriage if he wanted to get out after a buck. I suggested sneaking into the mountains for a morning hunt and returning in time to feed his newborn raw-deer heart. He was philosophical, even superstitious about the predicament.

“It will be a boy; I’ll name him Ruger Olaf Dihle and he will become the greatest hunter ever,” Reid said.

The summer passed quickly and his wife Meghan’s belly plumped up like a blueberry. Luke, our older brother, had been dreaming of little other than opening day since he’d finished his hunting season the previous winter. He’s kind of the John Lennon of meat hunters, the sort of guy who dreams big, needs two giant freezers and has a fan base of young girls (his three daughters). His girls are more efficient at butchering and processing fish and game than the majority of outdoorsmen, including me. It’s always a little embarrassing when a 7-year-old shows you up filleting a salmon on the docks.

Generally speaking, Luke can talk Reid into doing anything when it comes to hunting. For example, let’s say there’s a mountain goat three mountains over, a blizzard coming and little chance of the two guys finding their way back to the tent – quite possibly for several days. And throw in a sexually frustrated Sasquatch, a few KGB hitmen and a series of vertical cliffs that would liquefy the bowels of most professional mountaineers. Luke would still want to make the stalk. With a few grunts, he’d convince Reid into going and I’d sit at the tent drinking whiskey, eating Cheez-Its and getting weird.

So, it was a bit of a disturbing surprise when Reid decided not to join us on the annual Aug. 1 foray.

Whatever happened to putting family first?

Luke is obsessed with mountain goats – they’re his favorite animals to hunt. It’s gotten so bad that whenever I walk into his house I feel like I’m entering some sort of pagan ritual. There are horns all over and sometimes he and his wife Trish are dressed up like goats. For years he’s wanted to pull a doubleheader, first making a goat hunt on the mainland south of Juneau. Afterwards, if we had luck, he wanted to put the meat in a tote of ice on his boat and jaunt up a mountain on Admiralty Island for Sitka blacktails. I, as the token fat guy on our hunts, am horrified and exhausted just thinking about this. Under the guise of being a good brother, I suggested we do one or the other hunt, and then try to be back in town for the birth of Reid and Meghan’s baby. I was, after all, Meghan’s substitute birthing coach. I took the job very seriously and had stocked up on 40s of Steele Reserve, barf bags, a mixed CD of meditation music and a variety of Little Debbie tasty snacks, mostly to make the whole process more enjoyable for myself.

 

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IF THE WEATHER WAS good, we’d climb high and try for goats. If the weather was marginal, we’d clamber up a smaller mountain and go after deer. And if we were lucky, the baby would be late and we’d make it back in time to pretend we’re good brothers.

On July 31, after drinking a cup of coffee, I shouldered my pack and walked down to the South Douglas boat launch to meet Luke. Meghan’s contractions were becoming more regular, and I had a suspicion that it would not be long. Nonetheless, we tore off onto a flat ocean.

We were cowboys, maybe even desperadoes – the sort of men who drink kale smoothies and occasionally leave the toilet seat up to spite our ladies. We kept a sharp lookout in the fog and steady rain, as there are plenty of things like icebergs, deadheads, rocks, whales and other boats to run into in Stephens Passage. Humpback whales appeared for a few moments like giant gray ghosts before sounding back into the depths. Loons, surf scoters and Harlequin ducks skimmed over the ocean and then conglomerated in large raucous rafts. Salmon, on their way to spawn in streams and rivers, leapt constantly into the air. Gradually, the fog began to lift, revealing the rainforest and mountains of Admiralty Island.

“Going after a goat would be iffy,” I said, staring up at heavy clouds clinging to the mountains on the mainland. Rain drummed the canvas top of Luke’s skiff.

“Yeah, we might just be sitting in the clouds for days. You want to give Admiralty a try?” Luke asked.

While I enjoy hunting and eating those white monarchs of the mountains, I’d rather chase deer. An August buck, if the meat is properly cared for, is delectable. I’d been drooling for a month or more just thinking about the first venison of the year. I nodded, and we slowly putted past a reef and entered a large bay. Inquisitive harbor seals circled the boat as Luke anchored. I studied brown bear, deer, mink and otter tracks crisscrossing the tidal flats.

The easiest place to hang and stash our gear was in a small stand of spruce trees near a salmon stream. We hoisted our deflated raft as high as we could above a couple well-used bear beds. After pissing around the tree – hoping to discourage any bruins from doing too thorough of a job investigating – we hiked along bear trails through a series of meadows. And we knew there were bears there.

Admiralty Island is the paradigm of Southeast Alaskan wilderness. Its true name is Kootznoowoo, which in Tlingit means something like “fortress of the brown bear.” The Russians called it Fear Island. At 100 miles long by about 25 miles wide, many believe it has the densest population of brown bears in the world, at one per square mile. Annually, around 50 bears are killed on the island by sport hunters. The hunters target big males, which isn’t thought to negatively affect the population. Males kill cubs and subadults to eat and bring females into estrus, so some say it may even help. I’m hesitant to drink that Kool-Aid but will vouch that there definitely appears to be no shortage of bears on the island.

Many people are surprised to learn that Admiralty has only one documented case of a bear killing a person, a timber cruiser in Eliza Harbor in 1929, after he startled and shot it. Nonetheless, Luke and I hollered as we waded through thick brush towards a steep ridge. The blueberries and huckleberries were so thick we kept getting distracted from hiking. Soon, we both had purple mouths. Zigzagging up game trails and through devils club, we eventually crested the ridge and found a nice critter trail to follow.

In the evening, we broke out of tree line and into the disorienting swirl of clouds. Wandering around in the fog on Admiralty is always a little unnerving. It’s easy to get turned around and there’s always the possibility of stepping on a bear – an exciting, but rarely enjoyable phenomenon that often ends with both bear and human unexpectedly having diarrhea. One bear I ran into crapped so much as it ran away, I couldn’t help but think of the words “fecal propulsion.” Personally, I prefer crapping my pants privately. Or in the company of my girlfriend, MC. For some strange reason it brings her no end of joy. She lights up whenever she tells another “and then Bjorn pooped his pants story” at the wine tasting and etiquette parties we frequently attend.

Luke and I bumbled into a doe and then a small spike-fork that stared at us with tragic innocence just 20 yards away.

“Maybe we should set up camp here before we spook the rest of the area,” Luke suggested.

 

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While eating dinner, we watched the small buck and a couple of does come in and out of view as the wind swirled sheets of mist. It was well after dark when I took our food a short ways from camp to hang in a mountain hemlock tree. I was pissing around the area when I heard Luke scream, “No! No! This can’t be happening!”

If he was being mauled by a bear, his aggressor was the quiet type. Maybe a mute bear, or perhaps it was the KGB – or was it perhaps the IRS? I knew those lowlifes would eventually catch up with me. I hustled back to find Luke holding a flashing, beeping gadget that looked like it was thinking about blowing up.

“What the heck?” I asked.

“I accidentally hit the rescue button on my new inReach tracker!” he yelled.

I bellowed with laughter as he cursed and hammered the touch screen. What a funny story! I could tease him forever about this! I could just see the headlines in the newspaper now: “Deer hunter rescued after electronic accident.”

Suddenly, I realized I was with Luke and would suffer the same sort of defamation. Brother Reid would tease us forever about this. We put our heads together and tried to figure out how to turn the thing off. Nothing seemed to work. Soon we were both screaming.

“I’m going to throw it off a cliff!” I yelled. “No, wait! I’m going to shoot it!”

A half-hour of horror later, both of us were still hyperventilating, but we’d finally figured out how to turn the cursed thing off and send a message asking not to be rescued. We rolled into our sleeping bags a bit emotionally exhausted, but looking forward to first light.

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THE BOWL WE CAMPED next to was devoid of deer in the morning, likely a result of our theatrical performance the night before. Glassing with our rifle scopes, we slowly clambered up the ridge and into the clouds. In the far distance we made out three bucks – all looked like nice fork-horns and frying pan trophies.

Southeast Alaska’s deer are a smaller subspecies of blacktails. Their ancestors wandered up the Pacific Northwest coast to Southeast Alaska around 10,000 or so years ago as the massive Cordilleran ice sheet began to melt. They intrepidly made miles-wide ocean crossings and colonized virtually every island. Through time, they grew stockier, smaller and became more accustomed to the rain and darkness. When heavy snows came, most starved to death or died from exposure. Even today, populations vary greatly depending on the winters.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are roughly 200,000 blacktails in Southeast Alaska – give or take quite a few depending on the winter – with hunters annually harvesting around 12,300. Some hunters prefer to go after early-season bucks in the high country; others like to wait for the late season when snows push them down. When the clouds broke, revealing an expanse of mountains and ocean so beautiful that it made me pause, it was a clear reminder why I love hunting in early season the best.

We crept from rock to boulder and spotted another three deer below in a valley some 500 yards away. One was a decent fork, but there was no way to continue without being seen. Luke wanted a bigger buck and suggested hiking, a risk in that it could spook what remained in the area. I’d never passed on shooting a fork-horn and wasn’t about to start, even if there were bigger bucks around.

When the clouds rolled back in and shrouded us, we made a rapid descent into a gorge. I climbed out and spied the buck, but it was a bit far for a shot and I didn’t have a good rest. Mist soon swirled back in and I rapidly crawled another 100 yards to the edge of the valley.

I bundled up my jacket, chambered a round and waited. Minutes later, as the clouds began to thin I made out the shape of deer moving below. Gradually, the buck’s antlers appeared out of the gray. I waited until he turned to the side and fired; he fell over and lay still.

“Well,” Luke said, as the clouds rolled back in, “I think I’ll roll on and try to find that four-by-four.”

We have a long-standing joke about a mythical four-by-four buck. Reid once told Luke he’d retire if Luke ever shot one. Two years prior, I was standing with our older brother when a true monarch popped its head up at dusk just 20 yards away. I’d just taken a fat fork-horn and was about to climb down a steep slope to gut it and splay it open to cool overnight.

Well, that moose of a deer looked up and Luke, without a moment’s hesitation, fired. It tumbled down a slope. After I’d taken care of my deer, I turned on my headlamp and climbed over and found Luke reassembling a giant, broken set of antlers.

“It was at least a four-by-four,” he said, shrugging.

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BACK ON ADMIRALTY, I took every ounce of usable meat off the buck and kept the ribs intact for Luke’s three daughters to gnaw on. For years their favorite meal was deer ribs. Now they’re becoming more sophisticated.

It was a long, slow hike back to the crest of the ridge. Rain and wind buffeted me as I sat above camp looking out on the ocean. Luke emerged from the swirling clouds, I shouldered my pack, we hiked down to the tent and he told me about his hunt. He’d been skirting along the ridge and slowly approaching the three bucks we’d seen earlier; soon a bowl full of deer came into view.

Right off the bat, he noticed three big guys, including a three-by-four, bedded down. He crawled and sneaked from bush to bush until he was almost within range, which for him can be well over 300 yards.

Luke looked to his right and saw two bucks watching and acting like they might spook. If this were to happen, all the deer in the bowl would likely run off. He had a good rest, so he shot the larger of the bucks. Luke then rose to his full height and was greeted with a dozen sets of eyes and antlers. The mountain was so remote that the deer didn’t spook as he walked over to begin working on the downed buck.

We broke camp and began the long slog to the ocean. An hour or so before sunset, we made it to the salmon stream. As we inflated the raft and loaded up our gear, the sound of galloping came echoing down the stream. A bear, preoccupied with the salmon it was chasing, was running at us.

“Hey!” I yelled, and the horrified bear looked up and peeled out of the creek and into the safety of the forest. Aboard Luke’s skiff, we shared a drink with the bugs – we sipped Rainiers while they drank our blood.

A sow and her cub walked along the shore until they disappeared into the gloom. A few deer came out on the tidal flat – we checked for antlers and teased each other about hiking to the top of the mountain when there were deer to shoot on the beach. It was too late to make it back to Juneau, so we elected to spread our sleeping bags out and wake up early to do a little halibut fishing before heading home. “More deer,” I said, gesturing at the beach as we motored up the bay. Luke shook his head.

We dropped our lines baited with chunks of a pink salmon we’d caught that morning off a point. A lot of the time halibut fishing around Juneau can be slow and unproductive, but that day we had hits almost as soon as our leads hit the bottom. Within an hour we had four 25-pounders, the size that makes for some of the best eating.

 

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FOR THE FIRST TIME in several days, the sun burnt through the clouds and we were left with breathtaking vistas on the ride back to Juneau. Humpback whales were everywhere; at one point, a pod of 30 or so killer whales swam past, and some of the more playful and inquisitive ones came for a closer look when Luke put the boat in neutral.

We were eager for news on Reid and Meghan, and we soon found out the baby was indeed born on August 1. The proud parents named her Wren Meadows Dihle, and after a rough start in this world she was doing well.

I processed the fish as fast as I could, cleaned up the ribs for my nieces and, then with MC, headed over to Reid and Meghan’s home. Luke’s girls were sitting outside holding their cousin. Braith, the 7-year-old, showed me how to hold Wren.

“Why didn’t you name her Ruger Olaf?” I asked Reid.

“Don’t worry, she’ll still become the greatest hunter ever,” my little brother said as he proudly looked at his baby girl. ASJ

Editor’s note: Bjorn Dihle lives in Southeast Alaska. His first book, Haunted Inside Passage, will be published in May 2017.

Bears In Mind

As Spring Season and a ‘Fork’ in his Hunting Road Approaches, an Alaskan Bruin Hunter Debates Chasing Brown or Black Bears

BY JEFF LUND

Philosopher and paper salesman Jim Halpert, aka The Office’s John Krasinski, once asked, “Which bear is best?” A member of his enraptured audience opined that  the question was ridiculous, to which Halpert responded,  “False. Black bear.”

The black bear might not carry the same reputation as its more celebrated colleague the brown, but it serves as a motivation for author Jeff Lund to hunt. (JEFF LUND)

It is a little ridiculous because how can one define which bear is best? Is it size? Claws? Best story to tell at a campfire?
If you’re a hunter, once you get a black bear, do you just  move on up to a grizzly, then Kodiak brown? Once you’ve pulled off the trifecta, then what?
Is it about the method? Those who chased blacktail deer with a rifle then tried a bow often say there is no other way in terms of rich adrenaline. But that’s a deer. This is a bear. The oblivious deer on the side of an alpine slope is eating leafy greens.
The oblivious bear on grassy flats is eating grass, but it  could eat you. Shot placement goes from important to absurdly crucial, unless you like walking through thick underbrush after a wounded bear. So maybe black bear is best in that regard.
My high school basketball coach and hunting buddy was  stalked by a brown bear. Well, maybe he wasn’t stalked; maybe the bear that started toward the truck he and his buddies were driving on a hunt on Admiralty Island was just curious. But it’s difficult to interpret intent, and it’s not exactly something on which you can ask for clarity.
I shot a black bear last spring – my first ever. I thought I was pretty cool until the editor and chief of my journalism class said she shot one when she was 10.
“You hadn’t shot a bear yet, Lund?”

“I know I’ll go after another bear but try not to get too caught up in what was best because it’s all about the context of the speci?c adventure,” Lund writes. (JEFF LUND)

“I know I’ll go after another bear but try not to get too caught up in what was best because it’s all about the context of the specific adventure,” Lund writes. (JEFF LUND)Dang. Maybe I’m just a bad Alaskan.

My bear didn’t take a step. I approached the furry heap,  poked it and took a breath. I took the hide to a taxidermist and ground the meat for bear burgers.

SPRING BLACK BEAR season is approaching, and who knows what I’ll do. I feel like I’m at a fork in the hunting road. There are areas of Southeast Alaska I can get an over-the-counter tag for black and brown bear. Last year there were a bunch of bears eating whale carcasses on beaches a short boat ride from town. They were easy prey for hunters. It was like nature’s bait station.
There is the temptation to move on to a brown bear. It sounds a little like the premise for antihunter arguments – the whole kill one thing, then move onto the next – but it’s pretty true.
If you’re passionate about something, there is always a deer level with which you must concern yourself. To  the outsider it seems illogical, irrational, irresponsible or flat out wrong.
The casual runner doesn’t sign up for  an ultramarathon in Death Valley. The passionate – or psychotic, depending on your perspective – do. For the same reason, a passionate hiker must come to terms with the pull of Denali or Everest, a trout fisherman must manage the pang of Patagonia browns or bonefish in Belize.
Do I want to tempt myself with another vortex? Or is experiencing hunting with the depth which I explore fishing just subcategories in a larger passion for the outdoors?
I surely don’t know.

As another season approaches, the author hopes for more such moments of success while hunting bears. (JEFF LUND)

As another season approaches, the author hopes for more such moments of success while hunting bears. (JEFF LUND)

NICK LYONS WROTE, “It’s a challenge for  a lot of us to be content.”
The problem might be the connotation some create for contentment. It can be interpreted as stagnant. It can represent the lack of zeal.
In a world increasingly obsessed with bigger, faster, stronger and more interesting or minimalistic methods of pursuit, it’s hard to settle into a routine without seeing it as a plateau. After all, what’s the point of going down that road? Where does it end? Is it an unquenchable thirst for something that can’t be satisfied with another fish, a bigger fish, another bear, a bigger bear or a bear with a bow?
I have no answers. I guess it’s just a matter of being comfortable with how you put it all together, what you decide to chase and why.
I know I’ll go after another bear but I try not to get too caught up in what’s best because it’s all about the context of the specific adventure. There’s something in there about it being about the process and the individual definition of ambiguous words.
The world of outdoorsy is pretty simple; it just gets muddied up with ridiculous questions with no real answer, and the only one to whom you  really have to answer is yourself.

It’s not the size of the critter, or the particular species; it’s the adventure that matters for the author. (JEFF LUND)

It’s not the size of the critter, or the particular species; it’s the adventure that matters for the author. (JEFF LUND)

Editor’s note: Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about fishing and hunting in Alaska and California. For details, visit JeffLundBooks.com.

Sig’s Crab Jackpot On This Week’s New Deadliest Catch

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From our friends at the Discovery Channel:

Tuesday, April 12
9PM ET/PT – DEADLIEST CATCH
No Good Deed…: Wild Bill risks his biggest lead in history to bail Josh Harris out of trouble. 23-year-old Sean Dwyer finds out if he’s got what it takes. Veteran skipper Johnathan Hillstrand leans on his crew and a little tip from a friend to turn his season around.

Here’s a sneak preview and look for a Q&A with Dwyer in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

Sportsmen’s Alliance Opposes USFWS Plan To Limit Predator Hunting

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS)

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, a nonprofit organization that prides itself on defending the rights of hunters and anglers. issued a press release this week concerning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal that would restrict predator hunting – bears and wolves – on Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges.

Here’s The Guardian with more on the USFWS plan:

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed an overhaul of hunting regulations for Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges, which span nearly 77m acres of wilderness in the state.

The new rules would effectively ban “non-subsistence” slaughter of predators within the refuges without a sound scientific reason. Practices to be outlawed include the killing of bear cubs or their mothers, the controversial practice of bear baiting and the targeting of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season.

Anyone hoping to take a plane or helicopter to shoot a bear will also be unable to do so. These changes have been backed by a group of 31 leading scientists who said the current hunting laws hurt some of the “most iconic yet persecuted species in North America: grizzly bears, black bears and wolves”.

In a letter sent for the USFWS’s public comment process, the biologists and ecologists from across the US point out that research shows that killing the predators of moose and caribou does very little to boost their numbers.

“Alaska’s many-decades program of statewide carnivore persecution has failed to yield more ungulates for human hunters,” the letter states. “Furthermore, the methods of predator persecution are seen as problematic by a clear majority of Alaska’s citizens.”\

And here is a portion of the Sportsmen’s Alliance rebuttal:

On April 7, the Sportsmen’s Alliance submitted comments opposing proposed rule changes concerning U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management of game, in particular predator management and hunting, on National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands in Alaska. The proposed rule would effectively give USFWS primary control of nearly 77 million acres of public land and would grant the agency a massive expansion of power to indefinitely close the areas to hunting.

“We’re talking about an area larger than 45 of our 50 states,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of Sportsmen’s Alliance. “There’s no justification for these new regulations and restrictions. This is just another example of this administration’s desire to circumvent congress and manage by executive whim – this is nothing more than a blatant power grab by the feds.” 

Heusinkveld added that local control is a far sounder practice: state fish and wildlife officials know their states’ particular needs, terrain and climate far better than bureaucrats in Washington. “A one-size-fits-all approach is simply bad policy,” he said.

The proposed changes fly in the face of congressional intent, as well as the precedential and statutory right of states to manage native wildlife on federal lands within their borders. More than any other state, Alaska has firmly spelled out in state and federal law that hunting plays a strong and important role in the state’s heritage and that the state should control season dates, methods of take and bag limits, excepting migratory species and those protected by threatened and endangered status in within the state.

These principles, followed for decades, are enshrined in the Alaska state constitution, in state law and regulation, and in several federal statutes – yet the administration is proposing regulations that turn these sound principles on their head.

You can read more about the USFWS proposal here.

 

Iditarod Musher Says She Was Groped On Course

Sled Dogs 2

 

This has not been a good year for the Iditarod. While our former cover subject, Dallas Seavey, won his third consecutive “Last Great Race On Earth” in a thrilling duel with his dad, Mitch, the dog mushing world’s version of the Super Bowl was also marred by the attack on two mushers that left one dog dead. Now comes a report that an unnamed musher told Alaska State Troopers that she was groped on the race course.

From CBS News:

Alaska State Troopers were looking into the March 13 incident as harassment for now, James Lester said Monday. The 27-year-old rookie musher reported the groping at the checkpoint in the village of Nulato, almost 350 miles from the Nome finish line.

The incident happened a day after a man on a snowmobile intentionally drove into two top Iditarod teams, killing one dog and injuring others, authorities say.

Lester said he has been trying to contact the rookie musher and has not interviewed her yet. The woman, who went on to complete the 1,000-mile race, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Monday.

The AP generally does not name people who may have been a victim of a sex crime.

Lester described the groping as offensive touching on the buttocks.

The Iditarod released a timeline of the incident Friday, saying two men had stopped next to the trail, and the musher thought they wanted to give her a high-five. Race marshal Mark Nordman said in the release that he immediately contacted authorities after a race judge notified him.

New Skipper Takes On Deadliest Catch

Cape Caution and pot of crabs.

Cape Caution and pot of crabs.

Here’s a sneak preview to tonight’s episode of Deadliest Catch:

First Timers: 24-year-old Captain Sean Dwyer and his crew prepare for their first crab season aboard the Brenna A. Jake Anderson fears he made a big mistake. Wild Bill handles a challenging deckhand. Keith gets support from an unlikely counselor, Johnathan Hillstrand.

Discovery Channel Will Honor Gold Rush Patriarch John Schnabel

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I didn’t have much grandpa experience – my mom’s father passed away before I could ever meet him and my paternal grandfather died when I was not quite 6 (but I do have memories of him bouncing me on my knee and eating his homemade Greek fries).

But having watched multiple episodes of Discovery Channel’s hit show Gold Rush and in my chat with one of the show’s stars, Parker Schnabel, his grandfather, John Schnabel, meant the world to young Parker. John Schnabel passed away a couple weeks ago, and tributes have poured in for Parker and his family.

 

 

Sure enough, Discovery announced a special tribute to John Schnabel this Friday:

GOLD RUSH SPECIAL – Remembering John Schnabel
Premiering Friday, April 1 at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel
A special presentation of GOLD RUSH, honoring the life and legacy of Grandpa John Schnabel.

Born in 1920, John was the son of a Kansas wheat farmer. His father brewed bootleg alcohol during prohibition and the family had to leave the farm when the US Marshals came looking for him. At 19 years old, John packed up his possessions and took a steamer north to Haines, Alaska, where he joined his father, who had set up a sawmill.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, John volunteered to join the US Navy, but was placed in the Air Corps. After the war he returned to Haines and in 1946, he bought Porcupine Mill, which, after he renovated it, could produce 10,000 feet of board wood per day. John went on to open a local hardware store and was later elected mayor of Haines.

At 68, John suffered heart problems and underwent a triple bypass. His doctor recommended that he keep active so John bought the Big Nugget mine and started gold mining. He taught his grandsons Payson and Parker how to prospect, pan and operate equipment and passed on to them his passion for gold mining.

On March 18, 2016, John passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 96. A statement from the Schnabel family: “We couldn’t have asked for a better father, grandfather and overall family man. He was a true legend and we appreciate all of your love and support as we celebrate his wonderful life.”

Here’s a a sneak preview: