Sunday 6 November 2016
After a fairly long day, mostly in the air, I arrived, via Denver, in Anchorage Alaska. Steve and Chantel met me at the airport.
Steve has been down to NZ a few times, both visiting and hunting. My friend Ross and I visited Steve just over three years ago and had a great time out hunting with him and his friends. (That story is in a 2013 blog)
An hour’s drive north and we were at Wasilla, where Steve runs an aviation business training mainly military pilots in bush and mountain flying skills. After a tasty meal of caribou I headed to bed. At this time of the year it is dark at 5pm and light at 8.30am.
Monday 7 November 2016
After Steve and Chantel had been to cast their vote (apparently Trump is the best of the bad choices in this part of the world given their passion for their outdoor lifestyle and hunting…) Steve and I headed to down to see Larry, the local taxidermist, to buy a lynx skin.
Larry is a keen hunter with a huge trophy collection. I am sure Noah would have been envious.
Next was a quick visit to the Bass Pro store. Something that intrigues me about Alaska is with only six hundred thousand people in the whole state they are able to support huge Bass Pro, Cabelas, Walmarts, and several sporting stores and supermarkets which all sell hunting and fishing gear to a greater or lesser extent.
We then headed to the Alaskan Fur Exchange. I am on a mission this trip to get hold of a bear skin we can get mounted back home for my friends, who have a lounge called the hunting lodge. The entrance has a display of game harvested by the owner over many years.
Luck was with us; we scored a good sized, mountable bear skin with a thick spring coat. I also picked up a few fox skins and Steve had got me a good deal on a bear skin rug.
Now the fun begins. All game in the US is managed to ensure numbers stay such that each species doesn’t become over or under populated. Both bears and lynx require CITES certificates to prove that they have been harvested legally. We went to the local Game Management office and picked up the forms. They are, to say the least, complicated. It took us three days and lots of phone calls to get them filled out and sent away.
That evening Barry, who we hunted with three years ago, and his wife Marleen, who runs the local Walmart with four hundred staff, came over for dinner. We had a good catch up over a tasty meal of moose and spaghetti.
Tuesday 8 November 2016
Steve and I headed up the north side of the Knik Valley where we dropped into a local range to zero a rifle. Up on the hill behind Dall sheep, one of Alaska’s most prized trophies grazed. These can only be hunted by locals who draw a tag or by visitors from out of state with an outfitter (guide) at a price of $20k. Rifle zeroed we took a stroll around the edge of a small lake. Steve set up a fake rabbit that toggled around along with a speaker to add the sound, in the hope of attracting a coyote.
No coyotes were coming to check us out today. We did however see a dozen or so bald eagles sitting in in a tree. They seemed to be flying out onto the lake digging up the salmon that had dies after spawning and were frozen in the ice.
Most of the birds were young as they don’t develop the white head until they are five.
On the way home Steve bought some semi-automatic rifles “just in cast crooked Hillary became president” and tried to take away all their guns. That night a sigh of relief came from my hosts – as they put it the best of two bad choices won.
Wednesday 9 November 2016
At daylight we took off in the Piper Super Cub (one of four they have here).
We flew east over Palmer and up the Knik valley landing beside the glacier, just across the river from where we had camped three years ago. We strolled up onto the moraine, sitting in cover and calling again for coyote. Every half hour we moved to a new location but the coyote weren’t playing today.
Soon bad weather started to roll in so we flew home.
The latter part of the afternoon we spent hanging some trophies that Steve and his dad Jay had harvested in Africa last year. Unfortunately Jay was killed last year when struck by the prop of an aircraft. An ex USAF fighter pilot, keen hunter and aviator, he had been a great host to us during our last visit. Jay’s name is now on a plaque at a local memorial for the many pilots who die flying in this rugged and rough terrain.
Thursday 10 November 2016
Most of the day was spent running errands and finally sending off the CITES papers. I finally got the freight sorted. Quotes had varied from over two thousand to two hundred and fifty dollars.
On the way to the airport we stopped to see Steve’s friend John and his family. John took us through his house and down some stairs into a hanger which opened up onto a small air strip. There he had an experimental Piper Super Cub; with a bigger engine, wings and flaps this plane can fly as slow as 25mph and up to 130mph. Most Cubs are able to fly between 40 and 90mph.
Cubs are very popular in Alaska because with the tail wheel keeping the back of the plane low it means that the wings are already at a good attack angle as soon as the plane starts moving. This enables the plane to take off in much shorter distances than tricycle planes, which have to gain a lot of speed to lift the wings to the same attack angle. I understand the tail draggers are much harder to fly. You are not allowed to use helicopters for hunting at all up here – even for transport in and out – hence the shorter take-off distance for the Cubs is very handy.
As we were leaving John’s wife had just finished cooking some Dall sheep steaks. Very tasty it was too. John had recently harvested this and had it mounted.
I must say I have been rather spoilt this week feasting on Dall sheep, mountain goat, caribou, moose sockeye salmon and Chantel’s cookies.