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Summer Salmon Slammin’ In Alaska

Thanks to Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait for submitting these great shots via guide Mike Kelly (360-269-7628.)


Zack Yebury with his first king salmon his dad Bob is holding. The Yebury's are from Tacoma Wash. The Hawg Nose FlatFish is what's working and limiting my boat every day.

Zack Yebury with his first king salmon his dad Bob is holding. The Yebury’s are from Tacoma Wash. The Hawg Nose FlatFish is what’s working and limiting my boat every day.

Tim Wilkins of Spanaway Washington with a chinook  he took from the Kenai River.  Jeff was back-trolling a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook grabbed it and ran.

Tim Wilkins of Spanaway Washington with a chinook
he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was back-trolling a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook grabbed it and ran.

Jeff Woolf of Portland, Ore. with a Chinook he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was using a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook hit.

Jeff Woolf of Portland, Ore. with a Chinook he took from the Kenai River. Jeff was using a silver and blue colored Hawg Nose FlatFish when the Chinook hit.


Don Calkins of Anchorage, Alaska holding a chinook he caught while  back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the Kenai River.

Don Calkins of Anchorage, Alaska holding a chinook he caught while
back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the Kenai River.

“Larry from New York” holding a Kenai River  chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish.

“Larry from New York” holding a Kenai River
chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish.


 Dwight DeForest of Tacoma Wash. holding a Chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the double trouble finish.

Dwight DeForest of Tacoma Wash. holding a Chinook he caught while back trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish in the double trouble finish.




the Russian House Of Fish

Russian River 2


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


 As I slid into my waders and strapped on a pair of studded boots, the nearly vacant campground parking lot was a good indicator that we would find few fellow anglers riverside.

My friends and I have had banner days at the location we were preparing to fish, and this day looked as if we might have most of the water all to ourselves. Anxious at the prospect, we quickly assembled fly rods, shouldered daypacks and began our hike.

After a short jaunt from the parking area, my angling cohorts Chris Cox and Paul Ferreira and I descended a steep stairway switchback to the river’s edge, standing briefly to survey the rushing water.

It was obvious fish were present. More than three dozen fire engine-red salmon were finning just under the surface, holding at midriver. The once-silver-sided sockeye were in full spawning regalia and stacked like bricks. However, they were not exactly what we were looking for.

Our interest was focused on the subtle motion of a dorsal fin or tail sweep by a hungry trout or Dolly Varden utilizing cover and concealment of the riverbed, while hovering close behind the colorful sockeye and waiting to pounce on wayward salmon eggs in the current.

I was peering through my polarized lenses and not seeing any movement, so I asked, “You guys see anything besides those
fire trucks?”

“No, but they’re there,” Chris replied with confidence.

Actually, seeing a trout is not required to catch one, though it does lend a degree of confidence. The correct placement of a cast and drift of an offering is more important than actually seeing a fish. After all, it’s pretty much a dead giveaway where the locals hang out: the trout lay right behind the ripe salmon, taking advantage of any stray eggs.

The three of us entered the hip-deep water in stages, leaving plenty of room between each other to work particular sections of water with our fly rods without crossing over each other. Chris went in first, then Paul and finally me. Not unexpectedly, the action began immediately with my first drift behind the salmon. And it did not take much work before all of our fly rods began bending over almost simultaneously.

Yelling out “Fish on!” to let my friends know I’d hooked up with a leaping rainbow trout was rather pointless – the high-flying fish was evidence enough. Nonetheless, each of us echoed the same words in verbal confirmation that our fishing adventure had begun.

Russian River 1 Russian River 3



ALONG WITH THE GLORIOUS salmon fishing Alaska provides every summer, I often take advantage of casting a line for resident trout species. Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden are abundant  and can be found in nearly every flowing waterway where salmon are present. Although there are many streams and creeks to choose from in the Southcentral region of the state, the Sterling Highway just past Cooper Landing leads to one of my favorite places to go fishing for trout. The Russian River has great access, provides a scenic setting and is normally full of active fish.

The stream is most notable for its iconic red salmon fishery; the clear-flowing water annually attracts thousands of anglers eager to harvest sockeye. A smaller run of silvers also makes a return to the river following the reds. Trout seem to garner second-class rating from most visitors when compared to salmon, but I suggest you not overlook the opportunity.

The Russian’s usual moderate flow rate and narrowness make it a great river for wading anglers, even for the novice fisherman. The water twists through a thickly forested landscape of spruce trees, cascading over a bed of rocky boulders for about 13 miles. The rippled shallows, deep pockets and undercut banks provide ideal conditions for resident fish to thrive.

You can be successful catching trout from the beginning of spring and throughout the open-water period since the fish make the river a year-round home. Dry fly and nymphing is popular in the spring before the salmon arrive. Subsurface streamers, flesh patterns and imitation bead attractants become the choices of most seasoned anglers later in the season when salmon are present.

The presence of all the salmon (in various stages of decay or spawning) also make it prime time with regular bruin encounters. Bears are routinely present along the length of the Russian River and its confluence with the emerald Kenai River for good reason: They’re fishing also. Anxiety over bumping into a bear won’t stop us from our pursuit, but it certainly encourages us to stay alert in the wild.

Black and brown bears can appear docile, but they are unpredictable and very large wild creatures. Keeping your distance and making noise is prudent. We always do our best to give them plenty of room and the right of way, since neither my friends nor I ever want to become the next bear mauling headline in Alaska.

If you make a trip for trout just after the sockeye fishing closure, which we did for this particular outing, you will find that most fishermen have left in a mass exodus from the Russian River campground. It’s a perfect time to go, with big stretches of the river often unoccupied but plenty of willing trout waiting for your cast.

Russian River 5 Russian River 4 Russian River 7

I QUICKLY REELED THAT FIRST fish towards my open hand. As it lay in the cold water of the Russian, I took a moment to admire the pattern of small dark spots decorating its olive-green skin. The fish’s blushed-pink gill plate extended the length of its body in vibrant display, the unmistakable mark of a rainbow. I removed the hook from the corner of its mouth, opened my palm and the trout energetically swam back behind the suspended spawning salmon.

Paul and Chris managed to land and release their catches also. Paul’s fish was an equally dynamic rainbow like mine. Chris managed to tail a very respectable silver-sided, pink polka-dotted Dolly Varden, a 20-incher. Our trout trifecta was just the beginning of another memorable adventure, catching fish with friends and enjoying good times wading a classic trout fishery in Alaska.



Russian River 8


As I often tell others inquiring about rainbow trout and Dolly Varden fishing, traveling great lengths is not required in order to take in the fantastic freshwater fishery in Alaska. Self-guided outings can be had along the road system at plenty of locations, and are easy day trips.

Arguably, no better example can be found than that of the flowing waters of the Russian River. Catching a spirited rainbow trout or a colorful Dolly Varden should be part of any visiting or local angler’s agenda. The two species represent all that is beautiful and wild about the 49th state. ASJ

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



The Homestead Whisperer

Marty Raney holding a chainsaw withMatt Raney Misty Bilodeau near the Russell Family Homestead in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Marty Raney holding a chainsaw withMatt Raney Misty Bilodeau near the Russell Family Homestead in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

The following report appears in the July issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:



Marty Raney’s first view of Alaska was from high above the ground, and it almost felt like it was from the heavens.

In the 1970s, a then-teenaged Raney, who grew up exploring the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle but longed for evenmore wide-open spaces, was flying to Ketchikan from the Emerald City and ran into a friend who worked for Alaska Airlines, Duane Tibbles.

“He told me, ‘Wait until we fly and I’ll have a surprise for you.’ I was just sitting there in the tarmac and, sure enough, he came back, pulled me away from my seat and let me ride in the cockpit of the 737,” Raney says. “To this day, I certainly have never forgotten his role in inspiring me to pursue the Alaskan lifestyle.”

Raney didn’t need to spy the terrain from the cockpit to know the Last Frontier would become his most hallowed ground. He conquered Alaska as mountain climber – he’s reached the summit of Denali multiple times and guides on North America’s tallest peak – logger, musician, survival specialist and homesteader.

The latter two traits have made Raney a somewhat reluctant TV personality after he was a regular contestant in the National Geographic Channel series Ultimate Survival Alaska. This summer, he and two of his four children put their off-the-grid skills to good use by helping struggling families on Discovery Channel’s rookie show, Homestead Rescue.

“Coming off 35 episodes (of Ultimate Survival Alaska), I watched and listened and learned, and now I’m at a point where I know what type of show I want to be involved in,” he says. “It was going to be real and if everyone wasn’t on board we would just stop dialogue right then.”

Raney, who turns 60 on July 28, appears to have gotten the series he signed up to star in. It’s real people facing real problems in really remote spots from Pennsylvania to Montana to, naturally, Alaska, where those who dream of tall mountains, pristine lakes and the wilderness – like Raney himself did – migrate.

Marty Raney sitting on top on the greenhouse build on a log at the Garcia Homestead in Fort Garland, Colorado.

Marty Raney sitting on top on the greenhouse build on a log at the Garcia Homestead in Fort Garland, Colorado.

Marty, Misty and Matt talking at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Marty, Misty and Matt talking at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.


MAKEOVER SHOWS ARE SOME of reality TV’s founding fathers as the genre evolved. Have a problem with your wardrobe closet? You can’t get your house decorated? Your dog growls at the neighbors? Never fear; the experts are here to solve your tales of woe.

“Discovery is calling me an expert, but I’m not an expert in anything and I told them that,” Raney says. “(But) if anybody is going to look me in the eye and call me out for being on this show, I want to know who it is. I’ve had to this day a hard life.”

Still, when Raney and his daughter Misty and son Matt agreed to makeover the homesteads of off-the-grid residents for the Discovery Channel project, the family patriarch was adamant there would be no forced drama, no showmanship and, most importantly, no scripted material.

Raney, who said he was presented with multiple show pitches and nearly agreed to a deal with the History Channel, praised Discovery and Homestead Rescue’s production company, Raw Productions and producers Sam Maynard and Mike Griffiths, for adhering to his wishes for a show without an agenda.

“They basically found real people who lived off-grid for a variety of reasons. There were no camouflage-wearing, gun-toting, government-hating doomsday types on this show,” Raney says. “I really have to tip my hat to Discovery for hitting the ball with the big end of the bat and finding real people for me to visit and help.”

In one episode the Raneys went to Montana’s Wolf Creek area to assist a couple with no water source, no livestock or garden and suspicions of a mountain lion lurking close to their dwelling (evidence of the cat walking on the roof was visible). Marty goes to work on finding water so the husband can stop making daily trips to and from town; Misty, an established farmer, helps develop a system for growing crops; Matt, whose expertise is hunting and tracking, becomes a sleuth to help detect the likely appearance of a mountain lion. It’s safe to say that with every homesteader who takes on the challenge of living far from civilization, predators pose one of the most concerning safety threats.

“There are definitely coyotes and fox, and definitely, which shocked me, an amazing amount of bird predators, and you can’t kill them because they’re all protected. They’re rampant,” Marty Raney says. “We looked up during filming on location in Pennsylvania, on camera, and I counted 20 vultures, hawks and bald eagles circling the homestead at one time. Crazy.”

Raney didn’t want to give too much away about what he, Misty and Matt encountered on their wilderness home improvement tour, but he couldn’t resist teasing one memorable moment.

“We drilled a well in Nevada and the drill owner told me, ‘Yeah, Marty, I’ll take your money. I’ll drill 500 feet and it’s going to be dry; 500 feet and dust is going to fly out of this hole,’” Raney says. “I told him to drill that hole anyway. And I’m going to tell you right now that the hole wasn’t dry. What happened was a miracle.”

Hyperoble? You don’t get that sense when chatting with Marty Raney. He’s convincing when he tells you that no, none of what you see with he, his kids and those they try and help is contrived once the cameras are rolling. Marty is the epitome of a no-nonsense Alaskan. Roll the camera and let’s see what happens is the mantra of his vision for Homestead Rescue.

In another moment at the 9,000-foot level in Colorado, a trail cam looking out for predators revealed something Raney says will “blow peoples’ minds.”

“They’re going to think it was scripted and hopefully they’ll know by then that we don’t script that stuff. You can’t get off-grid and leave civilization for the wilderness and be at the top of the food chain anymore,” he says. “You move into the predators’ neighborhood and are gonna have to deal with the problems because he’s not the best neighbor.”

Raney could relate from his early days in bear-infested Alaska.

Marty at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Marty at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Misty holding equipment at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Misty holding equipment at the Deeters Homestead in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Misty Bilodeau, Matt Raney and Marty Raney with the completed wood sculpture at the Russell Family Homestead in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Misty Bilodeau, Matt Raney and Marty Raney with the completed wood sculpture at the Russell Family Homestead in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

NORTH BEND, WASH., HAS a TV claim to fame beyond native son Marty Raney’s ties to the Seattle suburb about 30 miles east of the Space Needle. Many of the filming locations for the 1990s cult hit Twin Peaks were shot in North Bend. The city is also known for the surrounding foothills of the Cascades as Interstate 90 begins its climb to Snoqualmie Pass.

Raney grew up “in the last house on Mount Si Road.” The nearest neighbor was about a mile away. He took advantage of the country framing his rural Washington home.

“I think when I was 12 or 13 I went up the Mount Si Road to Goldmeyer Hot Springs and basically hiked from there to Stevens Pass, 35 miles through the Cascades,” he says. “I lived at the base of Mount Teneriffe behind Mount Si. I’d climb that a lot and didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really have any technical skills but definitely scrambled a lot through the Cascades. I just loved the outdoors. And obviously, I ratcheted that love for the outdoors and mountains to a place more wild and where the mountains were bigger, and that was Alaska.”

By the time he was 16 in the early 1970s he was ready to quit school, which eventually led him north. Raney’s welcome-to-Alaska moment came as a logger on Prince of Wales Island, where his home was a floating logging camp.

“I was on the tail end of a romantic, beautiful but hard lifestyle of logging. Those trees were so big they would cut them down to about 40 feet long, tie them together and have a massive float that you could put anything on. You could build a skyscraper on them,” Raney says. “So they built houses and fourplexes and they dragged trailers onto them. And they would just tow these rafts – floating camps, if you will – from bay to bay.”

After he married his girlfriend, Mollee Roestel, they longed to get further away from civilization and built a home near the shores of Chilkoot Lake, 30 miles north of the city of Haines. Nearby streams teemed with spawning salmon, providing the couple with a convenient food source. But where there’s a salmon run there are also hungry bears seeking fresh fish.

“It was crazy,” Raney says of the bruins that shared the land and competed for the watershed’s coho.

Raney finds the irony now that his life experiences make him an off-the-grid guru. In reality, in his younger days Raney struggled to keep Mollee and their newborn oldest daughter, Melanee, fed. And there were other challenges: Mollee went into labor on the homestead, and when complications arose, Melanee was delivered after an emergency plane ride to Whitehorse, Canada, in the Yukon Territory.

“Even though my Haines homesteading days were long ago, I was taken back there constantly when I saw how hard it is just to get water,” Raney says of filming Homestead Rescue. “When I saw there’s no refrigeration and there’s no power, I realize how hard my life was.”

“And at times we were hardscrabble. I’d come home after a hard day of logging skinny and hungry. I would fish for salmon just on the edge of Chilkoot Lake. And hopefully I’d catch something for food for my wife and me. So I could relate to a hard life; trust me.”

But that’s exactly what makes this family what it is. The four kids, Melanee, Miles, Misty and Matt, are chips off the old block (see sidebar). When Marty was traversing the Cascades as a young boy looking for more, he found it on the floating logging camps or dodging the brown bears while subsistence fishing and hunting in around Chilkoot. And he’s never regretted the choices he’s made to live off the land.

“I don’t know if I’m special in any way, but I certainly like adventure and I live in Alaska, where adventure abounds and it calls. So it seems incessant – sometimes loud and sometimes quiet – but certainly a ubiquitous call from the wilderness to explore – to climb that mountain and ask, ‘What’s on the other side of that ridge?’” Raney says.

“Just in the subsistence lifestyle in Alaska, you’re going to have an adventure. You can’t dipnet the Copper River without an adventure; you can’t moose hunt without an adventure. And for much of the subsistence lifestyle – I don’t know the percentage and it’s probably more than I want to admit – that it isn’t so much about the fish or the meat, but it’s about the experience and the unknown and unpredictability of each and every moment.”

One of the themes that will resonate for viewers of Homestead Rescue is this: If you aspire to abandon city life to live like our forefathers, be prepared for some of the most difficult times of your life or risk the consequences.

“I think every family didn’t realize how hard it was going to be – the lack of electricity, the lack of water, the lack of modern conveniences, and the problems you were going to have from rattlesnakes to bears – because now you have moved to the country,” Raney says. “But what I think was something that I never predicted was that I would be emotionally impacted by these peoples’ reasons for being off the grid.”

Don’t let the cowboy hat, the stern grimace and the walrus-style mustache fool you. If Raney’s appearance screams gruff and tough, he’s anything but.

“I cried like a baby on this show because I got emotionally involved with (the homesteader’s) stories. I became empathetic with their struggles,” he says. “I don’t think any of these homesteaders went out there totally prepared, and certainly unforeseen circumstances happened, sometimes daily, that compounded the challenges of making such a life-changing move to the country.”

The Raney family arrival at the Zabecs Homestead in Kinsale, Virginia.

The Raney family arrival at the Zabecs Homestead in Kinsale, Virginia.

RANEY FIRST CLIMBED DENALI, all 20,308 feet worth of North America’s highest point, in 1986. Every member of his family has also reached the top. He’s hit the summit in all its glory in his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. “And I’ll climb it in my 60s,” he predicts.

These days, when he finishes the journey up “the high one,” Raney will sometimes break out his guitar – he strums one that’s shaped like an Alaska state map – and play one of the tunes he’s written. (He released an iTunes album,
If That Bus Could Talk, with Raney recreating the iconic photo of Into The Wild subject Christopher McCandless.)

The trek up what was formerly known officially as Mount McKinley is now a routine part of this Alaskan’s journey from a restless youth seeking an escape hatch from civilization to a go-to source for how to survive and thrive in the desolate backcountry. But ask him about his first successful ascent at Denali in 1986 and Raney’s emotions get him again.

“As I approached that last 20 feet to the top of Denali, I was crying and the tears were freezing …” Raney recalls, his voice trailing off before pausing to collect himself. “The tears were freezing in my face. And when I got to the top I remember being ever aware that I was standing on the top of the continent and that there was no place higher than this point. And I had never felt so small and insignificant in my life.”

“It wasn’t about jumping up and down or taking the photos or stabbing the flag (in the ground). I never felt so insignificant looking at 360 degrees of foreboding, wild, jagged ridges and glaciers. It was the most scary terrain as far as the eye can see in any direction.”

It was a view not unlike the one he had from the cockpit of that 737 years before, the world he longed for in front of him – the best view in the world.  ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on Marty Raney, check out his website at martyraney.com. New episodes of Homestead Rescue can be seen on Fridays on the Discovery Channel. Like the show at facebook.com/HomesteadRescue.


Marty Raney’s kids are just like him in that they are constantly seeking something to push them.

“It’s just been recently that National Geographic and others have found out about us and want to sing our praises and make money off us. But I’ve never answered a casting call,” Raney says. “National Geographic knocked on my door. I don’t watch TV. (But) I think about the fact that I probably take for granted what people like about our family.”

Marty’s and wife Mollee’s oldest daughter, Melanee, owns and operates an Alaskan whitewater rafting guide service, Chugach Adventures (alaskanrafting.com). Mindy and the family’s youngest, Matt Raney, who appear with their dad on Homestead Rescue, are accomplished in the outdoors. And then there’s their brother Miles, who might be this adrenaline-seeking clan’s biggest badass.

The bio on martyraney.com states that Miles “may be the most traveled human being in the world.”

Marty Raney admits that is “a boisterous, bombastic and arrogant statement, perhaps. But what I really mean is that it’s inarguable. Some of the trips he’s done he should have been killed on.”

Miles’ passion is mountain biking solo across entire nations – and a few years back he took perhaps his most daunting trip on two wheels. Miles biked from Madrid, Spain, eventually crossing between the European and African continents into Morocco and continuing all the way down to the west coast of Africa before ending his journey in Cape Town, South Africa.

The most dangerous part of the ride was through the nation of Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast.

“You tell me right now: Can someone bike from Madrid to Morocco, and Morocco down through Ivory Coast to Cape Town and survive, alone? (Ivory Coast) is teeming with
al-Qaida and tribal factions of people who hate Americans.”

“There was a dark cloud over my presence when my son biked Africa; it was 25,000 kilometers (about 15,500 miles). There were weeks at a time where we never heard from him. And I constantly watched the news wherever he was and I wouldn’t have been surprised had we never heard from him again. I was almost preparing for myself for that.”

But Miles made it back after 10 months in Africa, and he’s biked throughout China, Australia and New Zealand, among other places. Melanee, Misty and Matt have also pushed the limit at various levels throughout their lives. But considering how often their dad has climbed Denali, which per the National Park Service has officially claimed at least 120 deaths since 1932, the apples haven’t fallen far from the tree in this family, which is very tight-knit, Marty Raney says. And its zest for life made creating a series centered around three members a no-brainer to pursue.

“Discovery really liked that they came across an Alaskan family. You don’t have to climb Denali to be a real Alaskan – but you certainly have to love Alaska and have to live an Alaskan lifestyle,” Raney says. “Everyone gets along and I’ve never seen my kids fight. We’re just not that type of people and everyone’s pretty mellow and easy-going. But when it comes to adventure or a task, they’re incredibly intense.” CC




12-year-old hunter 2


The following appears in the July issue of Alaska Sporting Journal

Editor’s note: Our correspondent Bjorn Dihle recently pitched a story to us, but in this case Dihle wasn’t going to pen it; his niece, 12-year-old Kiah Dihle, would be the author of this piece. “She’s a talented and thoughtful writer and her article about her dad teaching her to hunt will resonate strongly with your readers,” Bjorn wrote. We agreed with that sentiment, so enjoy Kiah’s point-of-view on her introduction to hunting with her family. 


As a kid growing up in Alaska, I am fortunate enough to have a seemingly never-ending supply of wild game and salmon end up on my plate.

I’ve never really paid attention to the steaming venison roast or halibut casserole on the table. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of what Alaska has to offer; it’s just that I have always taken for granted the food that has been at every family dinner. It always seems to be there – never asking for anything in return – and so far, I have never given it anything.

I embarked on my first deer hunt at the age of 11 (I just recently turned 12). I found myself panting and wiping perspiration from my forehead as we trekked up one of the many mountains on Admiralty Island, near Juneau and well-known for its dense brown bear population. The funny thing is, our bear trouble that hunting season didn’t happen on the island that has so many of them; it happened on another island that is much less likely to have bruins.

12-year-old hunter 1

I WAS WITH MY dad and grandfather as we squatted on the rocky cliffs looking at the alpine below for deer. The prickly plants dug into my backside and my eyes were nearly closed, as we had been waiting there for several hours.

While my grandfather and dad looked and as the wind gently caressed my face, I dozed off for a short time. By the time my dad prodded me awake, I had 32 mosquito bites on one hand and multiple bites all over my face.

“Hey,” my dad whispered, nodding to a minuscule brown spot in the distance, “you see that buck over there?”

I squinted. “Yeah,” I mumbled groggily and stretched. I had a feeling that he would want me to go after it, so I stood up readily.

“Do you want to go get it?” he whispered excitedly.

I frowned at him, failing to see his enthusiasm at hiking a half-mile and attempting to make a nearly impossible shot at a deer half concealed by brush. But I shrugged anyway, and said, “Sure, let’s go!”

My dad and grandfather stared at me in disbelief. I felt a certain excitement about making an attempt to get the blacktail that made me forget the difficult climb down. I already had my pack on and was reaching for my gun, ready to go, when my grandfather said to my dad, “Luke, that looks to be a long shot and a steep climb. I think maybe you should do it before the buck runs away.”

I looked at him and was disappointed, but, after some thought, I agreed and watched my dad race across the ground, stopping behind trees every now and then. I memorized how he did it – the way he stayed low to the ground and concealed himself at every chance he got.

Soon I heard a shot and watched the buck tumble to the ground. My grandfather and I met my dad to gut the deer and put the meat in game bags. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I walked up to my dad, who was holding the deer by its antlers. The animal was indescribably beautiful; its brown coat shone in the sun, and its eyes, glazed over, still held intelligence that gave me yet another reason to respect this great beast and ask questions about it.

I wondered why someone would kill an animal as beautiful as this one. Was it because they wanted a trophy, something to show off to others? Or was it because they wished to have the experience or because they needed the food? I don’t know what I would have felt if I had shot that deer, but I think it would have bettered my understanding of each piece of meat I eat at dinner.

With every bite of any animal I have, I am taking a bit of that animal’s life. As I looked at the deer my dad held, I decided to fully appreciate every spoonful of deer stew I ate and every piece of grilled salmon on my fork.

My uncles still tease my dad about this hunt, saying that he pushed me out of the way to get the nice-sized buck, and although I laugh along with them, I have a feeling I would have never been able to make that shot.

12-year-old hunter 4

ABOUT A MONTH AFTERWARDS, my dad and I climbed through the woods of a mountain on Douglas Island, searching for another deer. We finished the hike through the treacherous, slippery vegetation and continued on to the alpine where the deer usually lay hidden.

We scoured the trees and rocks that dotted the side of the mountain, but with no luck. As we sat concealed by a blueberry bush to watch for deer and enjoy a Clif Bar, I lightly punched my dad’s shoulder and said, “Are you going to push me out of the way this time?” Unfortunately, we were not successful that day, and as we got situated for the night, I became determined to get a shot at a blacktail the next day.

As dull morning light seeped through our orange tent walls, my dad and I opened our eyes to an overcast sky and left camp to go hunt for half a day.

We came back empty-handed after I spooked a doe, and though disappointment snaked through the air, the excitement of the hunt remained. We began to pack our sleeping bags and mats in our backpacks. As we began to take down the tent, my dad reached down to one of the corners.

“Kiah,” he whispered.

His fingers ran along a 5-inch-long tear in the orange fabric. “Look at this.”

“How did that happen?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. As we headed up to get our cooking gear, I stopped and bent down.

“Dad,” I whispered, confused, “what’s this?”

He came to my side to examine the object in my grime-covered hand. A lemon-lime sparkling water can sat staring back at us, drops of moisture running down its aluminum sides. Water leaked out of five punctured holes in the can: four at the top and one at the bottom.

I gave my dad a confused look, and he pointed to another object half covered in a chunk of dirt 5 feet away from where we stood. A nearly identical can sat lopsided in the same condition as the first. Truly puzzled, I packed the cans in my bag, and my dad and I continued down the mountain, every now and then whispering about the sparkling water cans and keeping an eye out for any movement that would indicate a deer.

We got back down the mountain and walked to the road. My dad went to get our truck while I waited quietly, enjoying the crisp fall air. When he returned, I got into the truck and unloaded my gear. Dad called my mom to tell her that we were back. Once he got off the phone, he smiled at me.

“Guess who those sparkling water cans were from?”
he asked.

I shrugged and laughed. “Did Mom know where they
came from?”

12-year-old hunter 3 12-year-old hunter 5

 “Yes!” he replied. “Bjorn and Reid [my uncles] hiked up to our camp spot and left sparkling water cans for us to drink.”

“As they turned around after setting the cans by our tent, they saw a massive black bear across the tent from them. They said it was one of the biggest black bears they had ever seen. Reid said he debated shooting it because it didn’t act scared of them and he didn’t want us stumbling onto it, but in the end, they managed to push it off.”

“Wow,” I laughed. “That’s crazy! I guess the bear came back and tried to take our sparkling water cans. He must have been the one to rip our tent too!”

We drove home and I turned on the radio, switching it often. As X Ambassadors’ song “Renegades” played on our speakers, I thought about the question that I had asked my dad and uncles multiple times before I’d gone hunting: “What is it you love about hunting?”

What I really wanted to know is why they would take a two-week-long hunting trip in locations ranging from the bitter-cold Brooks Range to the incredibly wet mountains of Southeast Alaska.

They all replied somewhat differently, but they had a few things in common. All of them said, “I do it for the adventure.” They also agreed that they did it for their bellies.

I’m sure that is why many of you reading this article hunt: the peace and the solitude, the adrenaline and the pain, the gunshot and the animal; they’re all reasons that we go hunting.

So I encourage those reading these words who haven’t tried hunting to try it. Explore! Instead of coming home in your car listening to Justin Bieber and worrying about all of the problems going on in life, escape the chaos and get out into the wilderness.

I certainly haven’t done much hunting, but from the five experiences I have had, I can say that it will change your life for the better. ASJ

Mendenhall Glacier Park Rangers Save A Life

Kudos to the above park rangers at Mendenhall Glacier for their quick thinking that saved a life in Southeast Alaska.

Here’s the Juneau Empire with more:

Schneider, along with six other park rangers, an out-of-state visitor with EMT training and a 911 dispatcher were all part of the life-saving event that took place July 12 near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center when a 60-year-old man visiting with his wife and daughter collapsed from a heart attack. Capital City Fire/Rescue Fire Chief Richard Etheridge visited the center Tuesday to present everyone involved (minus the person from out of state) with life-saving certificates and Chain of Survival medals in appreciation of their life-saving efforts.

“When I joined the fire department … it was rare to have a CPR save. Some of us were told you’d be lucky to see one in an entire career,” Ethridge told the group in front of a glacier lookout point. “You guys all chose to make a difference that day, and because you made the decision to get involved and get active, this person’s alive and with their family and doing well again.”

It was the first time the team of seven rangers met the 911 dispatcher, Sayde Ridling, who fielded the call and who communicated with the rangers as a CCFR ambulance was en route. It all happened within a matter of minutes, but they all said it felt like much longer as it unfolded.

One ranger, Anne McLean, called on another, Melissa Baechle, to call 911 while EMT-trained ranger Janet Anderson headed to the scene. Ranger Clint Augustson rushed to the area with an automatic external defibrillator (AED) for Anderson to begin shocks and CPR.

“We knew our resources, how to use them and were able to act confidently,” Anderson said.

Well done, everyone!



Positive Projections For Late Run Kenai Kings


 Ryan Hanson of Olympia, Wash. caught this Chinook from the Kenai River while fishing with guide Mike Kelly (360-269-7628). The fish fell for a Hawg Nose FlatFish back trolled in the lower Kenai.

Ryan Hanson of Olympia, Wash. caught this Chinook from the Kenai River while fishing with guide Mike Kelly (360-269-7628). The fish fell for a Hawg Nose FlatFish back trolled in the lower Kenai.

The Reyes group from North Carolina fished with guide Mike Kelly and took home trophy kings from the Kenai.

The Reyes group from North Carolina fished with guide Mike Kelly and took home trophy kings from the Kenai.

Lyman Lyman was back-trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish when the fish hit.

Lyman Lyman was back-trolling a Hawg Nose FlatFish when the fish hit.

Jim Robinson from Arizona took this 40- plus-pound Chinook salmon from the Kenai River.

Jim Robinson from Arizona took this 40- plus-pound Chinook salmon from the Kenai River.

Thanks to occasional ASJ contributor and regular Northwest Sportsman correspondent Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company for sharing these Kenai River king salmon photos via guide Mike Kelly of Fish Reaper Guide Service (360-269-7628).

These photos could be a sign of things to come on the Kenai for trophy Chinook later this summer for the late run. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting a count of 30,000 late-run Chinook.

Location: Kenai River (Chinook)
Species: Chinook – Late Run
Method: Sonar
The selected years are color-coded in the graphs below:

  • 2016 (red)
  • 2015 (black) 
  • 2014 (blue)
  • 2013 (green)
Daily Counts



As you can see from the chart above created by ADFG, a goal of 30,000 kings would be a dramatic rebound from recent years,. though the black line representing 2015 did show an increase in 2015.

Still, as this Alaska Journal of Commerce report from DJ Summers states, the projections would represent a major surge on the embattled Kenai:

As the state’s largest salmon fishery waits for its midpoint, managers of the state’s most popular river are expanding opportunities for both recreational and commercial fishermen.

An improving run of king salmon on the Kenai River has prompted fisheries managers to loosen the lynchpin of the area’s commercial sockeye management, which ties king sport fishing to commercial sockeye.

Beginning on July 9, ADFG allowed the use of bait in the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek. ADFG managers have typically left such restrictions in the last few years until later in the season in the face of statewide dwindling chinook production. 

Paired restrictions between the king sport fishery and the commercial sockeye fishery require sockeye fishermen to have limited hours when kings are closed to bait. Managers place a no bait restriction on Kenai kings when it is projected fewer than 22,500 kings total will return to the river.

This year, ADFG has forecast 30,000 kings in the late run, about half the average over the last 30 years but at the top end of the escapement goal of 15,000 to 30,000 fish.

So far, the late run Kenai kings in 2016 have outperformed the last three years. As of July 11, 6,419 kings have passed ADFG sonar counters. The preceding three years produced an average passage of 3,262 by the same date.


RH Aluminum Boats and Fish Rite join Forces with Canada’s M&P Mercury

The following is a press relase


Canada’s No. 1 ranked boat dealer, M&P Mercury, has signed an exclusive marketing agreement with US boat manufacturer Ameriflex Engineering LLC, maker of RH Aluminum Boats and Fish Rite Boats lines.

“After investigating and evaluating the heavy-gauge all-welded aluminum boat segment market for the last couple years we have chosen to align the M&P Mercury brand with RH Aluminum Boats and Fish Rite Boat brands,” said M&P Mercury president, Mr. Bob Pappajohn. “We feel the RH Aluminum lineup will segue nicely for our clientele into the heavy-gauge aluminum market segment. The features and benefits of RH Aluminum exclusive ‘Stress Tech’ engineering process is a key factor in communicating the exceptional strength and durability of the RH hull design.”

“As a sales staff we are already very familiar with the superior performance and handling benefits of a hull that is engineered with a full-length reverse chine.  Any glass boat manufactured today from $15,000 to $15 million has full-length reverse chines engineered into the bottom the boat. RH Aluminum Boats practically stands alone in the heavy-gauge aluminum market with full-length reverse chine engineering. Simply stated, RH Aluminum Boats plane faster, turn sharper and are much less affected by side-to-side weight distribution.”

“The Fish Rite aluminum boats brand, established in 1978, is also built with exceptional engineering, with a fit and finish that our staff is looking forward to, and inviting all comparisons with all other “extruded” heavy-gauge aluminum fishing boats.  We think the brand says it all — Fish Rite,” said Pappajohn.

“We are very excited to offer and advance our brands through the No. 1 marine dealer in Canada,” says Phillip A. Cam, president and CEO of Ameriflex Engineering LLC, maker of RH Aluminum Boats and Fish Rite Boats in White City, Ore. “Both RH Aluminum and Fish Rite brands offered in tandem provide an outstanding vertical product mix to interface to arguably one of the most desirable boating consumer demographics availed today in the entire marine industry.”

“When you take that perspective in conjunction with M&P Mercury as the West Coast’s only marine-industry five-star certified marine dealer, we know that consumers can feel confident they are choosing a business that is committed to their satisfaction. It would be an understatement to say we are looking forward to the opportunity and the partnership!”

Bristol Bay Reaches 2 Billion Harvested Salmon



Remember when McDonald’s first began putting up those marquee signs at its restaurants (millions and millions – now billions – served)?

Of course, we’re not advocating for anyone in Bristol Bay to put up any signs, but this is a pretty cool story: the famous salmon fishery reached quite the milestone: two billion salmon harvested, which appeared to be reached earlier this week.

Here’s Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s message:

This July, a commercial fisherman will land the 2 billionth salmon caught in Bristol Bay’s 133-year fishing history. Since the inception of Bristol Bay’s canned salmon industry in 1884, its fishermen have landed 1.99 billion salmon, 93% of which were sockeye. Fishermen will achieve the 2-billion-salmon milestone when 2016 total harvest reaches 10,033,455 million salmon. This is an opportunity to reflect on Bristol Bay’s salmon resources, their value to fisherman and the state, and the reasons for their health. The success of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery can be attributed to the region’s tremendously productive natural habitat, the science-based management of the resource, and the shared commitment to stewardship by the state, fishermen, and seafood processors. The 1 billionth salmon was caught on the afternoon of June 28, 1978 in the Nushagak River district. Two billion is just around the corner and every fisherman should claim credit for catching the two billionth salmon.

KTOO had more last summer:

Catching the 2 billionth salmon is an opportunity to reflect on Bristol Bay’s salmon resources, their value to fishermen and the state, and the reasons for their health.

Two billion salmon is about 12 billion pounds of high-quality protein that is in demand around the world. Fishermen earned $5 billion from that catch, and its wholesale value is two or three times that. It is the product of a fishery that is healthy and sustainable.

The success of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery can be attributed to the region’s tremendously productive natural habitat, the science-based management of the resource, and the shared commitment to stewardship by the state, fishermen, and seafood processors.

Salmon elsewhere around the world have not fared as well. On the Atlantic Coast and in the Pacific Northwest, salmon stocks have suffered from overfishing, dams, loss of habitat and pollution.

Bristol Bay wasn’t immune from such threats. Stocks were overfished in the early years and hammered by foreign high-seas fleets. In the 1950s, Bristol Bay catches sank.

Then came Alaska statehood, bringing a constitutionally mandated commitment to sustainability. Fish and Game took that charge seriously, applying new science and management tools.

Congratulations on the 2 billion plateau!



Alaskan Bush People Family Member Talks About Addiction


Photo by Discovery Channel

Regular readers to ASJ know we have written a lot of profiles on Alaska-based “nonscripted” shows. And it makes sense that networks like Discovery, National Geographic and the History Channel would be attracted to the Last Frontier’s open spaces and major characters.

In our May 2015 issue we did a profile of Alaskan Bush People that you can read here.  The show has been one of the most polarizing among the genre of Alaska-centric programming. Controversy has followed the Brown family throughout their time on TV.

But there is reality TV and then there is reality, and People Magazine is profiling the alcohol addiction issues that oldest son Matt Brown has suffered from.

Here’s a sample from People:


Matt Brown didn’t like the man he was becoming.
“I could see myself spiraling,” the Alaskan Bush People star says exclusively in the current issue of PEOPLE.
Once he began spending more and more time drinking with friends “in town” over the past year, Brown admits, “I was more withdrawn. I was slower. Things didn’t excite me the way they used to.” Brown, 33, says he first started drinking a few years ago when his family‘s boat broke down and they began spending time in nearby Juneau.
“I’ve always been able to handle city life, no problem.” says Brown. “But I started hanging out with people who drank. They didn’t have a problem with it so while I was around them, I started drinking.” The eldest Brown child says he began to make “bad choices”; he chose to stop drinking but picked up the habit again in the past year. “I started drinking lightly and then it got to be more and more,” he says. “That’s when I saw the problem around the corner, and I didn’t want to be one of those guys.”

However you feel about the Brown family – and despite all the skeptics who question the Browns’ authenticity, they have their loyal fans and defenders, let’s hope Matt gets the help he needs.


Landslide In Glacier Bay NP

Photo  by Paul Swanstrom

Photo by Paul Swanstrom

The photo above depicts a rather extraordinary aftermath of a masssive landslide at Glacier Bay National Park.

Here’s the Alaska Disppatch-News with more:

It’s unclear what exactly caused the 4,000-foot-high mountainside to collapse northwest of Juneau in Glacier Bay National Park, but the mountains in the area are generally young, unstable and eroding quickly, said Colin Stark, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

“It rivals anything we’ve had in several years,” Stark said Saturday.

Stark said he plans to spend several days in Alaska during the coming week to study the landslide and collect photographs and samples.

Stark studies the physics of landslides and described the one Tuesday as “exceptionally large.” His team at Columbia discovered the landslide through seismic recordings.

According to their preliminary analysis of the seismograms and available imagery, the landslide started at 8:21 a.m. Tuesday when the rock face collapsed on a high, steep slope. For nearly a minute the debris accelerated down the mountain, hitting the ice on Lamplugh Glacier and pushing up snow and ice as it continued across the glacier, Stark said.

He said rough estimates put the size of the slide at about 130 million tons, comparable to roughly 60 million medium-size SUVs tumbling down the mountainside.