Alaska Project: A Yukon River Adventure To Cherish
The following appears in the October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:
BY LAUREN SILVERS
Over a year and a half of planning went into assembling a powerhouse team of creatives excited to collaborate and bring an Alaska adventure story to fruition.
Six outdoor enthusiasts at all levels of experience and with greatly varied areas of expertise and backgrounds came together from all parts of the U.S. to join forces with two expert Yukon River navigators, Jim Clark and Jared Dye, with the intent to experience a place none of them had ever ventured before – roughly 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
The group went about as deep into Alaska as you can go for a hunting, fishing and culinary adventure. They entered as humble visitors in leaving their preconceived ideas and expectations on the airport tarmac in Fairbanks. They would learn everything they could from each other and the people they met along the way – native Alaskans who call this beautiful part of the world home and know this land better than anyone.
The goal of the trip was to film from hunt prep to dinner prep the harvests of a bear and fish in the Alaskan wilderness in an easy-to- follow style that was entertaining and informative – even to those relatively new to hunting and fishing.
Jared and Jim had many experience-based lessons for their visitors. They both encouraged everyone to be very aware of their surroundings. Jared told us about how long it had taken him to learn what to watch for as he navigates up and down the mighty Yukon River, things like how the contours of the silt and the curves of the riverbanks can change daily.
Jared’s boat is designed to run in 5 inches of water when on plane – or, as the locals say, “on step” – which helps to maximize the boat’s gas mileage when the boat has the proper weight distribution. He has lived to experience just how fast water levels can change from feet to inches. As a truck driver on the infamous Ice Road, he learned to
concentrate on the path before him and to always look out for others, as their life, and his, could depend on it. At his day job as a mortician, Jared has seen more than his share of people who have died on a day no one expected. So he’s well aware of the dangers in the Alaska wild.
LAUNCHING ON THE YUKON
As the team set up camp and camera equipment on its first day, after a three- hour drive from Fairbanks and an additional three hours by boat from the loading dock, they were keenly aware that they only had
what they brought with them and that the bears knew they had arrived.
Day two began with packing up to head to Jim’s regulation bear bait site. Baiting bears is legal in 10 of the 28 states that permit bear hunting. With food in ample supply throughout the forest and along the river, it was still more than a fair fight.
These bears are smart, they watch the hunters and know their patterns. The same things that get people in trouble get bears in trouble – eating the “easy” food, having predictable patterns of behavior, stubborn and comfortable everyday habits.
Jim considers his bait site to be like a “garden” and that hunters need to tend to their garden and only take what they need. Jared was able to shoot a bear and the entire extraction, skinning and processing of the animal was filmed and explained. That evening, chef Jeremiah Doughty prepared a dinner of caribou and green beans for the hungry crew.
FORAGING, HUNTING FOR DELICACIES
On day three, Jamie Ivins and Dallas Eberly got a lesson from Jared on hunting for edible mushrooms in the woods surrounding camp. Meanwhile, Jeremiah detailed the process of cleaning the bear skull for the cameras. Later that afternoon, Jeremiah harvested a bear from the bait site. (He’ll chronicle the harvest from gunshot to meat preparation for an upcoming documentary from the trip.)
For Jeremiah, the kill was not the highlight of his journey. He was very mindful of harvesting to feed himself and others, and he was grateful for the opportunity and careful to utilize the entire animal and honor the sacrifice.
TIME TO FISH
The next day started with a delicious breakfast of donuts fried in bear fat for the team. The carbs fueled the hike to the first fishing outing for Bryan Harris, Jim, Jared, Dallas, Jeremiah and Clint Easley.
They set burbot traps in the Dall River – part of the Yukon drainage – and Jared caught several fish with a traditional rod and reel. Burbot, a member of the freshwater cod family, is a very tasty mild white fish, especially when fried.
The group ate really well on this trip!
A GAME OF CARDS
The nearly 22 hours of daylight a day during this trip made sleeping even more challenging. When “evening” came, the team would wind down with a game of Gutpile, a hunting card game developed by Jim Clark.
This game has many inspired parallels drawn from the adventurer’s life and is infused with feedback from fellow hunting and angling professionals.
All the players are dealt cards, and through the process of taking turns, choosing and discarding cards, one gathers enough cards of a certain type to start a hunting or fishing adventure. Then it’s roll the dice and take your chances.
After breaking down camp and loading the boats on the fifth day, Jeremiah grilled the fish from the previous day. Bryan caught a beautiful pike while fly fishing and released it back into the river. It was an experience they’d never forget.
EXPERIENCE ALASKA CULTURE
In the days that followed the documentary crew’s extraction from the campsite, the entire group prepared meals from their harvest and shared it with others who weren’t there. Jared’s wife, a native Alaskan and Yupik speaker, was able to share a meal that only her native Alaskan people are able to prepare.
The entire team was able to taste bowhead whale, beluga fin, bearded seal, fry bread and “Akutaq” – Alaskan ice cream – for dessert.
They capped the trip with one last incredible bear stew dinner, with Jeremiah leading some community-style cooking lessons back at Jim’s house. They invited local carnivores to indulge in the team’s successful harvests.
MEMORIES OF A LIFETIME
As our friends from Washington state’s backcountry say, “Mentorship is conservation.” Both of the crew’s river navigators, as well as Jeremiah, Clint and Jamie, all have young children, which inspired many wonderful conversations about mentored hunting, family traditions and wildlife education.
Those on the journey without previous experience were able to walk away with a vast amount of new knowledge and respect for the outdoors.
Since returning home from this adventure, Jim and his daughter went on their first bear hunt together, and Jeremiah’s eldest daughter just passed her hunter’s safety course (answering 99 of 100 questions correctly). There are some next-generation hunters in the making and they are absolutely thrilled about it.
Those who decided to take this journey took over a year to plan and prepare and then – like in Jim’s card game – rolled the dice. They took the chance on a trip to a place they had never been before and experienced the value of camaraderie and conservation through “primal adventure,” as The Soulful Hunter podcaster Johnny Mack says.
This documentary and film (coming soon) is an incredibly fun reality adventure story. It will be infused with hunting, fishing, forged friendships and wilderness food prep demonstrations from start to finish through the cooperation of some very unique people, who all have something valuable to contribute to the story. ASJ
Editor’s note: The documentary, titled Alaska Project, is expected to be released for film festivals in early 2021. For more info, go to revolentertainment.com.
ALASKA PROJECT CREW
Clint Easley, TV producer, pro- fessional photographer and filmmaker (founder of REVOL Entertainment)
Instagram: @revolentertainment Dallas Eberly, editor, photographer and cameraman (Mane Creative).
Jamie Ivins, professional photojour-nalist (Jamie Ivins Photography)
Jeremiah Doughty, wild game chef, professional hunter, butcher, blogger, social influencer, and podcaster (From Field to Plate) Instagram: @fromfieldtoplate
Bryan Harris, producer, professional fisherman, digital marketing maven (COCO Media) Instagram: @bryan_patrick_harris
Alexandra Willis, blogger, hunter and journalist (Dabbling Wild) Instagram: @dabblingwild
Jim Clark, professional hunter, site scout and expert navigator; creator of Gutpile Card Game (gutpilegames.com) Instagram: @gutpilegame
Jared Dye, professional hunter, transportation support, morti- cian, owner of Legacy Funeral Homes (legacyalaska.com) and JKDYE Heavy Towing Instagram: @jaredkyle.dye
OTHER CREW MEMBERS
Lauren Silvers, writer, producer, travel coordinator (partner at REVOL Entertainment; Instagram: @larlas94
James Kolstad, expert marketing strategist and creative director (On-Point Marketing & Con- sulting)
Instagram: @j3kolstad Taylor Widmann, editor (COCO Media)