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Sportsmen, -Women Against Bristol Bay Mining Challenge Presidential Nominees

Protecting Wild Alaska 2

 

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

 

BY CHRIS COCOLES

If anything else, the subplots, social media buzz and sidebars defining the 2016 race to the White House have been – what’s the right word choice here? – interesting.

It’s been an eccentric hodgepodge of drama, and, in some cases, comedy. Hillary Clinton and her email scandal and Chris Christie’s rise to GOP frontrunner and fall to disappointing flameout. Bernie Sanders’ cult status as Saturday Night Live’s lovable punchline with his kindred spirit/funny man Larry David making “Bern Your Enthusiasm” a pop culture thing. You have Marco Rubio pissing off Donald Trump, Fox News talking head Megyn Kelly pissing off Donald Trump and Trump pissing off everyone who doesn’t support his unlikely surge. Meanwhile, America is making fun of Ted Cruz every chance it gets, though at press time he was the only remaining viable challenger in The Donald’s path to securing the GOP nomination at the convention in July.

And there you have the major players to succeed Barack Obama. Super Tuesday 2 stamped Clinton and Trump as the runaway leaders and put them on a November collision course, but we digress. Whoever becomes POTUS No. 45, Alaskans would like to know what he or she thinks of the proposed Pebble Mine and the impact it may have on Bristol Bay’s wildlife and the region’s salmon, including the world’s largest run of sockeye.

Obama’s historic trip to Alaska last summer included a quick cameo appearance in Bristol Bay, where a spawning salmon left the president’s shoe with a rather messy souvenir. While the nut of his visit to the Last Frontier was to focus on climate change, Obama acknowledged the need to preserve the fishing industry there.

But it’s his successor who should have a much bigger impact on the region with regards to the Pebble Mine project. So a conglomerate of conservation groups, fishing lodge owners and guides and other companies – referring to itself as Sportsmen For Bristol Bay – sent a letter to all the major 2016 candidates, including Trump and Clinton (see sidebar on p. 48).

In part, the letter read, “We write to ask you simply: Where do you stand on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska?” It seems like an easy question to answer, but given that the Pebble Mine and those concerned about the potential for a spill and the effect on Bristol Bay’s fish and wildlife have clashed for more than a decade now, the response is far more complex.

“Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. Protecting Bristol Bay has a bipartisan support,” Ben Bulis, president and CEO of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, said during a conference call last month. “We’re demanding that those running for president of the United States take a stand on the Pebble Mine.”

 

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BRIAN KRAFT’S OFFICE where he spends every summer is far prettier than your average cubicle or work bench. Kraft and his wife, Serena, operate three Bristol Bay-area fishing lodges, Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge and Bristol Bay Lodge (888-826-7376; fishasl.com). Kraft, who joined Bulis and Dallas Safari Club executive director Ben Carter on the teleconference as the main speakers, has everything at stake if Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. does get the chance to mine Bristol’s rich copper, gold and silver deposits. Kraft said he first heard the words Pebble Mine in summer 2004, when he was first “thrust into battle on Pebble.”

“I noticed a bunch of helicopters flying throughout the area, and one of the locals who lived in a small village asked what was going on. We started asking some questions and discovered that there was a substantial mine (project) going in. I had no idea what mining was or what impact it would be on fisheries. And quite frankly, nobody in Bristol Bay did either.”

They know a lot more now, and a big assist for that should go to Kraft. After that initial understanding of what might be happening, Kraft created the Bristol Bay Alliance  – “an educational effort to learn about mining – what it does and what its impacts are,” he said – and he’s been locked in ever since to help the lead way in the fight against Pebble Mine.

“What the people have discovered is that a mine of this nature cannot coexist with the fragile habitat that sustains the world’s largest wild salmon runs,” Kraft said. “All the things that my friends have talked about have another enormous impact on Alaska, and that’s tourism and the jobs that support the local economy. Twenty-nine thousand fishing trips each year and the wildlife attract (people) from around the world mean jobs in my lodges, jobs for Alaskans, jobs that are here year in and year out. All of that would be wiped away if we had a Pebble Mine.”

His lodges attract thrill-seeking outdoorsmen and –women from all over the Lower 48 and beyond, so he interacts with diverse groups with whom he can share his crusade to block mining from the lakes and rivers that are teeming with wild salmon. Of course, there are those dissenters who simply love the outdoors and can’t imagine such a place threatened by mining. But there are other doubters from less likely sectors.

“I have mining engineers who are customers, so there are ironically people from the mining industry that come up,” Kraft said. “And I had a mining engineer who told me, ‘Take me up there; let me see what this Pebble thing’s all about.’ I flew him up there and asked him for his insights and education on it. He got on the ground and kept shaking his head the whole time and just kept saying, ‘Too much water, too much water. It’s going to be a disaster.’”

Kraft reminded about what happened at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia, where in August 2014 millions of gallons of waste seeped into a salmon-rich watershed after a dam collapsed.

Earlier that summer, after the Environmental Protection Agency released a report that all but predicted catastrophe for Bristol Bay if the ecosystem is mined, Northern Dynasty replied, “We continue to believe the project must be developed in a way that protects clean water, healthy fish and wildlife populations.”

But the Mount Polley accident less than a month later raised even more red flags from Dillingham to King Salmon to Iliamna.

“And it can happen here. But it doesn’t have to if we act now,” Kraft said. “That’s why we are making this demand of all the candidates. The EPA now has acknowledged that this critical issue will be inherited by the next administration. So we want to know where the next president stands before they put their right hand on the Bible and take the oath of the office as the 45th president.”

 

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SO WHAT’S NEXT for this issue? How fast will the next man or woman who Obama will pass the baton to act on deciding if mining Bristol Bay will be blocked or Northern Dynasty’s plan will proceed?

Sportsmen For Bristol Bay is adamant that it’s just a nonpartisan and nonprofit group that wasn’t formed to influence the results of what happens on Nov. 8. But as the letter states, it demands that the next POTUS take a stand one way or the other. The growing group includes both hunters and anglers, commercial fishermen and people like Kraft who share the bounty of his backyard salmon and trout bounty, plus the ubiquitous wildlife there.

“Southwest Alaska has been recognized as the top combination area for brown bear, moose and caribou for decades. It’s one of the last places on the face of the Earth with this kind of remote wilderness hunting, and allowing mining on this scale would end that experience forever,” Carter said.

“For a diverse community, we agree on some issues and disagree on some. But one thing that absolutely unites and galvanizes hunters and anglers is opposition to the Pebble Mine.”

Most of the presidential candidates had yet to publicly comment about the mine, but The Alaska Dispatch News reached out to each of the candidates and got a reply from Clinton’s campaign.

“Like President Obama, who protected Bristol Bay itself from consideration for oil and gas drilling, Hillary Clinton recognizes the incredible economic, cultural, and environmental value that Bristol Bay’s fishery and watershed provide to Alaska and the nation,” a Clinton spokesperson told the website. “And she agrees with the need to protect both the fishery and watershed from harmful mining activity.”

But for politicians, particularly in a typically contentious election year, talk is cheap. Northern Dynasty, despite some tumultuous turnover over the last few years, is digging in for a long standoff. Kraft, Bulis, Carter and those they speak for aren’t budging either. Whether Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or whoever’s left among the now longshot opposition can figure out a solution to this fight remains to be seen.

“This is not just an issue about the presidential election,” Bulis said. “Bristol Bay supports the planet’s best remaining wild salmon fishery, producing 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. So this isn’t just about the United States; this is a global issue.”

Kraft, who has so much on the line if Pebble Mine becomes a reality and a Mount Polley-like disaster threatens what he has fought to preserve, and his colleagues have taken a positive approach to winning this stalemate. It comforts Kraft to host guests at his lodges who can’t believe the state of Alaska and federal government would permit mining in such a place (the letter references the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ comment about the idea of Pebble being “the wrong mine in the wrong place”).

“It reassures us that we are doing the right thing,” Kraft said. “It has been a long battle. We’ve been at this since 2004 and there have been many times when we’ve been down in Juneau and were in disbelief of some of the positions of our state politicians on this issue. But the (Native) people who live there, the people who have had thousands of years of heritage, understand better than anybody how dependent everything is on an intact ecosystem. They went to the federal government and said, ‘You’ve got to help us.’ Since that day happened, I’ve been on the side of, we are going to prevail.” ASJ

 

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Sportsmen For Bristol Bay, which includes several fishing and hunting organizations, conservation groups and outdoor-related companies, penned this open letter on Feb. 25 to all the major 2016 presidential candidates, regardless of political party:

Dear Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump,

As organizations and companies that represent millions of sportsmen and -women and outdoor enthusiasts across all 50 states we write to ask you simply: Where do you stand on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska?

For most of us, for most of the last 10 years it has been one of our organization’s and its membership or customer’s top-tier causes: stopping the Pebble Mine.

The late Sen. Ted Stevens called this project “the wrong mine in the wrong place.” For the last 10 years an unprecedented coalition of native tribes, commercial fishermen, anglers and hunters, conservationists, religious groups, restaurateurs and outdoor enthusiasts have been fighting this foreign-owned mine proposal trying to gain protections for the Bristol Bay region and millions of Americans who cherish eating, fishing for or making their livelihood off of wild salmon.

Our voices have been and will continue to be heard on this. Over 1,150 sport fishing and hunting groups and businesses have asked for Bristol Bay to be protected. Hunters and anglers were strongly represented in the over 1.5 million public comments supporting protection for Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine.

Bristol Bay supports one of the planet’s best remaining salmon fisheries, which at an average run of 37.5 million fish, produces 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. On top of the incredible number of sockeye salmon, the watershed supports Chinook salmon, coho salmon, rainbow trout, grayling, and char, all of which are prized sportfish that result in more than 29,000 fishing trips per year. In addition to world-class fisheries, the area is also home to high densities of brown bear, moose, caribou, waterfowl, and ptarmigan that attract hunters from around the world.

From an economic perspective, sportfishing, hunting, and eco-tourism alone generate more than $160 million in local economic activity, creating nearly 2,500 local, sustainable jobs. The proposed Pebble Mine would create only about 1,000 temporary mining jobs while threatening 14,000 commercial and recreational fishery jobs in a $1.5-billion annual salmon fishery that can last indefinitely.

Pebble Mine will wipe this all away.

Simply put, places like Bristol Bay are extremely rare and extremely valuable. Millions of our members and customers across this country are asking you to stand with us in stopping this mine in this place.

Where do you stand?

Sincerely,

Sportsmen for Bristol Bay

Have Your Opinion Heard On Potential Changes

Photo by Paiul Atkins

Photo by Paiul Atkins

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

(Juneau) — The Alaska Board of Game reminds Alaskans that the April 29 deadline is fast approaching for proposed regulations changes pertaining to hunting, trapping, and the use of game for Interior, Arctic and Western regions.

The board issued its 2016/2017 Call for Proposals on February 12, 2016, for game management units 18, 22, 23, and 26A, in the Arctic and Western Region, and for GMUs 12, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26B, and 26C, in the Interior and Northeast Arctic Region. Proposals may be submitted online, or by mail or fax at:

Online: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=process.proposal&board=game

Mail :ADF&G, Boards Support Section P.O. Box 115526 Juneau, AK 99811-5526

Fax: (907) 465-6094

Completed proposal forms must contain a contact telephone number and address. Email addresses are appreciated. Please print or type the individual’s or organization’s name as appropriate.The Call for Proposals, proposal forms, and the board’s meeting schedule are available on the Board of Game website at: www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov or at any Boards Support office. Responsive proposals received by the proposal deadline will be considered by the board at the regional meetings scheduled for January and February 2017. Final proposals will be available for the public on the board’s website by September 2016.Proposals must be received by 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 29, 2016, at the Boards Support Section office in Juneau. A postmark is NOT sufficient for timely receipt.

For further information, contact the Boards Support Section at 465-4110, or ADF&G Boards Support regional offices. To receive email notices for upcoming Board of Game meetings, proposed regulatory changes, and other announcements, sign up online at www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov.

 

Have A Ball On The Dall

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

BY DENNIS MUSGRAVES 

Sportfishing road trips in Alaska are a must for most residents. My home in the Fairbanks North Star Borough sits hundreds of miles away from the fabulous freshwater salmon and trout streams of the Southcentral region, and is even further away from saltwater destinations.

Although the majority of my angling adventures unfold many mile markers south from where I live, I’m not ready to permanently pack up and migrate from the Interior just yet.

I hold an enduring appreciation for the fantastic sportfishing found only in the northern reaches of the 49th state. Living north of the Alaska Range provides opportunity for some very unique fishing escapades, and most fishing trips can be made in a single day. The far north regions host a variety of sportfish species, both stocked and wild, and there are plenty of lakes and river systems I have not conquered.

One very special location which should be considered by highway anglers departing from the Fairbanks area is the Yukon River system. Fishermen eager to target northern pike won’t be disappointed. Accessing the famed river can be done be taking the James W. Dalton Highway to the only bridge spanning the waterway and dropping a boat in at the nearby launch. Numerous clearwater tributaries that feed the muddy giant can be found both upstream and downstream, and typically they hold good populations of pike. What’s even better is the relative close proximity of the bridge crossing to Fairbanks, so a successful outing can be accomplished in just a single day.

That’s exactly how I made the trip with fellow fishing buff JR Merritt and his uncle, Joe Michalsky. Our plan was hatched after several visits to JR’s work – Big Ray’s Fly Shop (bigrays.com) in downtown Fairbanks. Northern pike fishing always seems to be the topic of discussion when I stop by the local store. One location I had never been to but that JR said has been very productive for him is the Dall River.

It took little convincing when JR finally extended an invite to join he and Joe for a day trip to the Dall in their boat.

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OUR EARLY-MORNING RENDEZVOUS at JR’s house to hitch up the boat trailer and load up gear went off without issue. All of us were excited about the prospects of catching a big pike. Leaving before 6 a.m. gave us plenty of time to safely make the trek to the Yukon River and still have a full day of fishing before making the return trip home. After a final load check the three of us buckled our seat belts and hit the road.

Out of Fairbanks, we headed north via the Elliot Highway for about 80 miles to an intersection where the Dalton Highway officially begins. From the start of the Haul Road it was an additional 55 miles to the Yukon River Bridge. We arrived at river’s edge and it took little time to launch the boat and begin zooming up the river.

I felt tiny sitting in the 16-foot-long aluminum boat as it cut a wake against the quick-flowing, monstrous river. Joe wisely kept us on a course nearly centered in the half-mile width of the roaring chocolate-colored water. Keeping the boat in the deepest part of the main channel helped to avoid submerged timber and prevented running aground inadvertently on any of the numerous shallow sandbars hidden below the surface.

Joe’s focus remained sharp on the tiller throughout our journey as the 90hp outboard powered us effortlessly upstream. Our route was short, covering only 15 river miles of the Yukon. I sat near the bow, giving me an unobstructed panoramic view of the historic waterway and scenic surroundings. I was enthralled by the seemingly endless wilderness along the riverbanks as we traveled towards our final destination, the Dall River.

The Dall flows into the Yukon from the north a few miles downstream of the small community of Stevens Village. As with many other tributaries of the Yukon, an abundant number of pike are present near the confluence and further up the narrow, clear-running Dall since it provides ideal habitat for the fish to thrive.

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JR ENTHUSIASTICALLY POINTED OUT the Dall. “There’s the river!” he shouted over the noise of the outboard. He eased up on the throttle, turning us from the stained Yukon towards the mouth of the Dall. As the boat glided through the confluence, we passed over a distinct silt line, which marked and created a separation of the two bodies of water.

The clear water of the Dall mixed with the dirty and turbulent Yukon not only provides a natural boundary; it is also a great location to catch fish because pike suspend near the silt line waiting for easy meals exiting the murky Yukon.

We anchored the boat near the confluence, perfect for casting past the silt line and swimming lures back into the clear tributary to imitate prey fish. With the vessel secured, all of us could safely stand and cast our lines from the platform the boat provided. Fishing at the river mouth was almost automatic; just about everything we threw in the direction of the silt line produced a catch.

My first cast enticed an aggressive northern that went just over 2 feet in length. JR and Joe managed to hook up immediately also, each catching some very respectable fish. JR harnessed a very nice pike that pushed close to 3 feet long and weighed well over 10 pounds.

Action eventually slowed down and we repositioned the boat to locate fresh takers. The process of maneuvering the boat to locate a fresh bite was simply repeated as the catching dictated. My fishing highlight on the trip was a sheefish, a rare catch. A member of the whitefish family, the meat is similar to the flavor of Pacific halibut – I was quick to dispatch the tasty fish for harvest.

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FISHING AT THE DALL River was rewardingly fun, living up to all the hype. We were fortunate to have great weather and catch many northern pike on the short one-day adventure. As we pulled anchor to head back to the bridge, I appreciated the moment and thought about how these good times solidify my decision to remain rooted in the Interior.

Yes, the turn-and-burn fishing excursion from Fairbanks to the Yukon River had depleted my energy level by the time we returned to the Golden Heart City. But being exhausted was only a temporary condition; memories of the unique outing would definitely outlast the fatigue.

Taking a scenic road trip 150 miles north along the famous Haul Road and navigating Alaska’s iconic Yukon River for sport fishing in a single day reminds me of how lucky I am to live smack in the middle of the Great Land.

Freshly cooked sheefish has a particular way of recharging one’s battery rather quickly too! ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on Dennis Musgraves’ adventures fishing the Last Frontier, check out alaskansalmonslayers.com.

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.

Combining Alaska’s Outdoors With Expert Wellness Medicine

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All Alaska Outdoors Lodge was established in 1996 and has been providing the most versatile array of outdoor excursions available on the Kenai Peninsula. Our lodge is based on Longmere Lake, a road accessible float plane lake 6 miles from the town of Soldotna. We offer local river fishing on the Upper and Lower Kenai River targeting King, Sockeye and Silver Salmon and Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. We also guide fly anglers on the Russian River for trout and salmon. Target Halibut, Seabass, Ling cod and Kings and Silvers on our Saltwater fishing out of Homer and Seward. Our available array of fly out fishing trips is more comprehensive than any other road based Lodge. Our Ultimate Expedition is the premier Alaska Outdoor Experience. This fully guided all day fly in fishing trip is conducted in our own private Beaver. The trip departs from the lodge Dock. This nine- to 10- hour excursion will take you over hundreds of miles of Alaska wilderness, stopping in multiple places to fish for a variety of freshwater fish, in remote areas, most of which receive little or no other fishing pressure. The only way to begin to grasp the enormous value of this trip is to take a peak at our YouTube channel and sit back and watch in amazement (Search YouTube for All Alaska Outdoors Lodge). In the fall we also offer expertly guided waterfowl hunts and upland bird hunts for grouse and ptarmigan. Our 4 acre complex has full suite accommodations complete with satellite TV and high-speed wireless Internet. All fish processing is included when you stay with All Alaska Outdoors Lodge.

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All Alaska Outdoors Lodge was conceived by Dr. Bob Ledda, an Emergency Physician in Soldotna serving the Kenai Peninsula’s medical needs since 1993. In 2013 Dr. Ledda became certified in Age Management Medicine. After 20 years of practicing the disease model of medicine he concluded that there had to be a better approach. Beginning in 2016 Dr. Ledda is offering the unique opportunity to combine a week long Alaskan Outdoor Vacation with a week of intensive wellness training and a comprehensive medical evaluation. He has built a State of the Art Medical Center, on the Lodge property with sophisticated equipment designed to thoroughly evaluate your personal health and wellness.

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A Special Wellness Week will include the thorough health assessment that we provide including our comprehensive laboratory workup, full history and physical annual examination, fitness testing, body composition analysis by DEXA Scanning, carotid doppler vascular evaluation and cognitive testing on one day while the guest is at the lodge.  At the end of this evaluation Dr. Ledda will have special insight into your unique disease risks and predispositions and can help you to design a lifestyle personalized for your preventive care.

All six  evenings paleo meals will be provided during a Power Point Lecture.  The topics will be:

Day One:  Chronic Disease
Day Two: Nutrition for Health
Day Three:  Exercise science and program design
Day Four:  Hormone Optimization
Day Five: Supplements, Vitamins and Homeopathy
Day Six:  Tying it All Together

Emphasis will be creating conviction that your behavior has a profound effect on your health and well being, and exposing you to the science that supports all of the current expert recommendations.

If you would like to see how Dr. Ledda transformed his own well-being applying the science of age management medicine to his life, go to the website, allalaska.com and here’s  the link to his Age Management Medicine site. You can read all about everything that All Alaska Outdoors offers their guests.

(907) 953-0186

allalaska.com

 

 

A New Paddling Toy: Gullwing

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Gullwing Ergonomic Kayak Paddle Creates Hand Paddle Conversion Kit

—Gullwing Paddles is proud to announce their new product, the Gullwing Hand Paddle conversion kit. New to the market, this conversion kit allows you to transform our lightweight nylon and fiberglass blades into powerful hand paddles. By removing the blade from the aluminum shaft, you can simply attach the PVC grip by snapping it onto the blade. The hand paddle’s unique design allows you to navigate through tough spots like under hanging trees, rocky shores, and narrow waterways. This hand paddle easily cuts through water creating substantial improvement in power allowing you to maneuver easily while fishing.
For over 10 years Arthur Carlow, creator of Gullwing Paddles, has made a mission out of creating a unique, ergonomic kayak paddle here in the U.S.A.. Based on a revolutionary patented design, it’s become the most efficient and ergonomic paddle on the market today. Positively buoyant, lightweight and durable are only a few of the facets that make this the ultimate kayak fishing paddle. The blades are made of reinforced nylon and angle forward to offer the paddler maximum surface area, which translates into more efficient power.
Gullwing Paddles currently make two models, the 230 and 215. For fishing the Gullwing 230 is longer than the typical kayak paddle and better accommodates the fishing kayak’s wider shape. The paddle itself is uniquely designed to balance across the kayak’s prow or fit snugly along the gunwale, thus eliminating awkward coping with a paddle when the fisherman’s attention needs to be on the cast or the catch. The Gullwing 215 is a standard paddle designed for stress-free, recreational kayaking.
Both models feature the unique forward-angled and asymmetrical blade design which allows the user to glide on the water instead of digging through it. The nylon/fiberglass-reinforced blades can be easily changed. The ergonomic contoured and bowed handles of Gullwing paddles are made of powder-coated aluminum alloy T-832 ALUMINUM, and are also hard-coated to produce a tough abrasive-resistant surface that delivers improved durability and resistance to corrosion.
The paddles are so unique, easy to use, and low impact, that they are a great accessory to a large variety of kayak enthusiasts. Additional information on the versatile Gullwing line is available on its website, gullwingpaddles.com.

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.