Category Archives: Featured Content

Trapper Squares Off In Court

Photo by David Duncan

Photo by David Duncan

 

 

Somebody call Judge Judy, or, for older fans of some of the early days of reality TV, this guy. A trapper is facing off in Southeast Alaska court with a woman who allegedly sprung his traps.

The Peninsula Clarionvia the Juneau Empire, with details on the case:

In John Forrest’s eyes, anti-trappers have been springing his traps, stealing his catch, destroying his equipment and generally hindering his livelihood for years. The offenders have always remained faceless, and they’ve always gotten away with it.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” Forrest said of such incidents from the witness stand Monday in Juneau District Court.

Last winter, that changed. Forrest finally found out, through “a number of coincidences” as his attorney put it, who had sprung several of his traps on Davies Creek trail in December 2014: Kathleen K. Turley, whom he sued last month seeking $5,000 worth of damages.

Except Turley — who rescued an eagle ensnared in one of Forrest’s traps that day — isn’t who Forrest thinks she is, her attorney Nicholas Polasky argued before Judge Thomas Nave during a small claims trial Monday. Polasky described his client as a born-and-raised Alaskan who hunts grouse, deer and brown bear, has animal skins and hides on the walls of her house, and raises meat rabbits to butcher and eat.

“She’s a hunter,” Polasky said in opening statements. “She’s a person who’s not against trapping and is not the type of person that we think Mr. Forrest probably thinks that she is.”

‘Dropped’ Survival Show Features New Twist

 

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Last year, we introduced you to the Keefer Brothers of Dropped: Project Alaskaa Sportsman Channel series that saw brothers Chris and Casey Keefer use their outdoor skills and creativity to survive the Alaskan wilderness. The new season of the show is premiering this month a bit of a twist.

A father-and-son team from Fairfield, Utah will appear this season as the show alters its format a bit.

KSL in Salt Lake City had the details:

Kaid Panek said he and his father, RL Panek, both love hunting, camping and spending time in the outdoors. RL Panek always had a life goal of hunting moose in Alaska, but his dream was put on hold when he was diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer in 2011. He underwent radiation and surgery to have the tumor removed and was declared cancer free by the end of the year.

After the near brush with death, Kaid Panek told his father to book an Alaskan moose hunt.

“We told him it was time — that he needed to start chasing some bucket list items,” Kaid Panek said.

In 2013, RL Panek booked a hunt in the Yukon, and while preparing for it, began watching the first season of “Dropped,” a reality TV show featuring two brothers who get dropped into the wilderness and have to hunt for food and survive 28 days in rugged Alaskan terrain.

“He got hooked on the show and loved what they stood for and their mission,” Kaid Panek said. “And it was just kind of a, ‘How cool would that be?’ “

Typically, “Dropped” features brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, but for its fourth season, the producers decided to invite two guests on the show. A video contest was created to select the participants and RL Panek decided to enter with his son. They made a submission video and were shocked when they were contacted by the Keefer brothers.

For Some Reason, The LWCF Is In Jeopardy

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Editor’s note: Andy Walgamott is the executive editor for Alaska Sporting Journal and the editor of our sister magazine, Northwest Sportsman. 

 

Despite a wave of support from Northwest hunters, anglers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the important Land and Water Conservation Fund may not be reauthorized by the deadline to do so, today, Sept. 30.

Supporters are deeply worried that the fund, created in 1965, will for the first time ever not be allocated new revenues.

 

A hugely important funding mechanism — Washington alone has benefited to the tune of $600 million — for setting aside lands to hunt on, access fisheries and provide other outdoor recreation, LWCF has been put on hold by a Utah representative who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Revenues for the fund come from royalties on offshore gas and oil leases and are then disbursed through federal agencies and to the states. Rep. Bob Bishop’s stated beef is that 60 percent of the LWCF is earmarked for stateside programs, but in 2014, only 16 percent was actually sent to them.

He claims he wants to modernize the fund to “(protect) state and local recreational access.”

I don’t really buy that. I think it’s cover for the greater Sagebrush Rebellion II going on in the West, one that is not in the best interests of hunters, anglers or other outdoor users of any political stripe.

LWCF needs to be put above politics. Washington Reps. Dave Reichert (R) and Derek Kilmer (D) have recognized the value of the program. They’ve called on Congress to reauthorize the fund.

(It should be noted that in July, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) teamed up to unveil a bipartisan energy bill to endorse and renew the LWCF before it expires). 

In an urgent email earlier this week, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association director Liz Hamilton pointed out, “LWCF is responsible for hundreds of miles of river access, thousands of acres of land for hunters to enjoy, and numerous national parks.”

“NSIA commissioned study in 2013 which found that more than 7,200 jobs are created due to fishing on public lands in Oregon and more than 10,000 jobs in Washington.  Not surprisingly, 65% of fishing related spending takes place due to public access.  Our access to public lands means that guides, tackle makers, rod builders, etc. have a strong and faithful customer base,” she added, urging readers to email their U.S. Senators.

Though LWCF can disburse up to $900 million, last year it was funded to the tune of $306 million.

But it wasn’t included in Congress’s continuing resolution to keep the government operating for a couple months, so no money may be available for 2016.

This is just dumb.

Flat stupid.

But maybe not the end of the world. The call for permanent reauthorization is going on as I write this.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R) just tweeted out, “HAPPENING NOW: I’m leading a group of Senators in calling for permanent reauthorization of . Watch live:

His counterpart on the other side, Sen. John Tester (D), earlier tweeted, “ is one of the most important conservation tools we have & the majority is letting it expire.

LWCF needs to be above rightwing and leftwing politics. It’s for the good of all. Permanently reauthorize it so we don’t have to go through this BS during hunting season, some of the best fishing of the year, and most scenic hiking weather.

Size Matters: Alaska’s Salmon And Halibut Shrinking?

Aaron Williams with a pink of 5.46 pounds

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

Fascinating report in The Alaska Dispatch analyzing the size of some of Alaska gamefish like salmon and halibut.

Here’s reporter Sean Doogan:

Small fish were also gumming up the top of many of the state’s silver salmon derby leader boards. And fisheries biologists say that red salmon in Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound were noticeably smaller this year, too.

Cook Inlet commercial fisheries biologists are still crunching the numbers from this year’s run, but they’ve already have noticed a trend — shorter, and thinner sockeye salmon.

“That was the attention-grabbing species during course of summer,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Cook Inlet Commercial Fisheries Biologist Pat Shields.

Bristol Bay, which hosts the largest wild run of sockeye in the world, saw reds arrive small and late. According to Fish and Game, the average size of red salmon caught commercially in Bristol Bay in 2015 was the smallest on record: 5.12 pounds — almost 13 percent smaller than the average. By contrast, the average weight for Bristol Bay reds last year was 5.96 pounds.

There were similar stories throughout Alaska.

“The size of sockeye is much smaller than average this year, and we are seeing that around the state,” said Jason Pawluk, a sportfishing biologist with Fish and Game’s Soldotna office.

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Whether or not this is an anomaly or a sign of things to come, it’s something to think about and continue to monitor for sure.

 

 

Brown Bear That Mauled Hunter Found Dead

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale

 

This is a few days old, but a brown bear that mauled a hunter has been found dead close to the original attack site.

From the Associated Press:

The adult female bear was found Wednesday mortally wounded about 100 yards from the attack site in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge after being shot. Officials say two bullet wounds were found in the bear.

There were no signs of her cubs. Game officials said the bear was not actively nursing, suggesting the cubs were at least yearlings and possibly 2- or 3-year-olds old.

Gregory Matthews of Plano (PLAY’-noh), Texas, is recovering at a nearby hospital after being attacked Tuesday while moose hunting.

King Salmon, Alaska Named One Of Top Destinations

The Bristol Bay area was named one of nine destinations to visit in USA Today's fishing and hunting magazine. (BECCA ELLINGSWORTH)

The Bristol Bay area was named one of nine destinations to visit in USA Today’s fishing and hunting magazine. (BECCA ELLINGSWORTH)

 

 

USA Today’s summer/fall fishing and hunting guide is out, and King Salmon, Alaska, made the list of nine top destinations to head to.

Here’s some of the description:

The name says it all — King Salmon, a small town in southwest Alaska that provides access to the Bristol Bay watershed and its run of the five species of Pacific salmon. The fishery hosts more than 37,000 anglers annually, but don’t worry about crowds — we’re talking 40,000 square miles of unspoiled wilderness the size of Wisconsin that encompasses five national parks and streams so numerous many of them aren’t even named.

   Among salmon, kings and silvers draw the most attention from sport anglers; kings arrive mid-June and silvers in August.

   In between, sockeyes, pinks and chums return to their natal waters — the sockeye run can reach 40 million. The Naknek and Nushagak rivers are best for kings but also boast strong runs of silvers, which return to streams distributed throughout the watershed.

  

Evidence Of Ancient Alaska Salmon Fishing Found

 

 

Photo by Thomas Quine/Flickr

Photo by Thomas Quine/Flickr

I’m a big history geek and love stories like this one in the Alaska Dispatch. Evidence has been unearthed linking this state’s dependence and reverence for salmon fishing dates back thousands of years:

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the earliest known evidence Ice Age humans in North America used salmon as a food source. Ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis from salmon vertebrae bones found in Interior Alaska indicate sea-run chum salmon were consumed by North American hunters 11,500 years ago.

 The study notes that the findings are significant because it shows that Ice Age Paleoindians also fished, altering the understanding that the group was focused primarily on hunting big game. The study also notes that the findings at the Upward Sun River site — approximately 1,400 kilometers upriver from the coast — show chum salmon spawning runs were established by the end of the last Ice Age.

 “There’s such economic and cultural importance (of salmon) to Native Alaskans and Native Americans,” said Carrin Halffman, UAF biological anthropologist and lead author of the study. “To find out that salmon fishing has such deep roots in Alaska and North America is very significant.”

 

Dr. Ben Potter, UAF professor of anthropology and project director at the Upward Sun River site, said the findings also have broader implications toward understanding the technology, economy and settlement patterns of early Alaskans.

 

He said the salmon, with their large, annual runs, likely played into how early humans collected the resource and shaped their life patterns.

 

“It’s a very predictable resource, versus going after caribou, which is not quite as predictable,” Potter said.

 The bones were found in a hearth at the Upward Sun River site near the Tanana River located east of Fairbanks. The same site is the location of the oldest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic and subarctic.

 

 

Sportsman Channel Host Faces Poaching Charges

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Clark W. Dixon of Hazelhurts, Miss. has hosted the Sportsman Channel series The Syndicate. But Dixon faces multiple poaching violations in Alaska.

Here’s the Associated Press:

“The charges show five years of documented, illegal take of wildlife involving over two dozen big game animals,” Loeffler said.

There were at least four hunts conducted for the show in Alaska over that time span, said Steven Skrocki, the lead prosecutor.

“All of the Alaska hunts that appeared on his show were conducted illegally,” he said, adding they “were edited to appear not illegal.”

Loeffler noted that various types of hunting, including commercial and subsistence hunting, is allowed in the preserve, north of the Arctic Circle.

“This is an amazing state, and what we have here is very inviting to people from outside and should be,” she said. “We just want people to do it legally.”

Prosecutors charged a host of the show, Clark W. Dixon, 41, of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, with two felony violations of the Lacey Act. The others who were charged, from Alaska, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Nevada, face misdemeanors or ticket offenses.

A message left by The Associated Press at Dixon’s home Monday evening was not immediately returned. Sportsman Channel spokesman Tom Caraccioli said the channel has no comment.

Among those charged is Dixon’s father, Charles W. Dixon, 70, of Brookhaven, Mississippi, and authorities are seeking forfeiture of his aircraft.

 

Lost Hunter Subsisted On Berries, Bird

Photo by Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Photo by Kristine Sowl, USFWS

 

 

Hunters and anglers get lost in Alaska all the time, sometimes with tragic results. But a reported happy ending  for 49-year-old Charlie Hull.

From KTUU:

“Every time [people] come back from moose camp there’s always a different story and that’s what I said before I left. I want my own story,” said Hull. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

The trouble began last Saturday, Hull said, when he told his fellow hunters he was going for a short walk to look for moose around 7 a.m. He quickly became surrounded by fog, he said, and couldn’t see more than 15 feet. 

He was wearing sweatpants beneath neon green rain pants, two layers of shirts, a sweatshirt, a beanie and rain boots at the time. The only other items he had were two guns and a Bowie knife. …

He slept in the cold without a sleeping bag and lived on fresh river water and berries. On Tuesday, the third day of the ordeal, he used a rifle to shoot a spruce hen, he said. 

“Believe it or not but grouse ain’t bad, raw grouse is not bad,” said Hull.

Here are the Alaska State Troopers dispatches on the case:

 

 

 

Protect Tongass NF Steelhead, Salmon

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Here’s a great cause you can get behind: The website American Salmon Forest  has an online petition.

From the website:

The Tongass is America’s salmon forest and one of the few places in the world where wild salmon and trout still thrive.

 The U.S. Forest Service is modifying the Tongass Forest Plan, which provides the management blueprint for the forest. Currently development activities that harm important fish habitat are still allowed in the Tongass National Forest.

Please go to this link and sign the petition.  H/T The Wild Steelheader