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Gift Guide Inside

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AKSPORTINGJOURNAL.COM


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Volume 11 • Issue 6 www.aksportingjournal.com PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles WRITERS Paul D. Atkins, Trevor Embry, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, K.J. Houtman, Mary Catherine Martin SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Mamie Griffin, Jim Klark, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold DESIGNERS Celina Martin, Lesley-Anne Slisko-Cooper DESIGN INTERN Jacob Culver WEB DEVELOPMENT/INBOUND MARKETING Jon Hines PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Kelly Baker ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Katie Aumann INFORMATION SERVICES MANAGER Lois Sanborn ADVERTISING INQUIRIES media@media-inc.com ON THE COVER Alaskan Christine Cunningham is one of 18 women profiled in a new book that celebrates their passion for the outdoors. (STEVE MEYER)

MEDIA INDEX PUBLISHING GROUP WASHINGTON OFFICE 14240 Interurban Ave South • Suite 190 Tukwila, WA 98168 (206) 382-9220 • Fax (206) 382-9437 media@media-inc.com www.media-inc.com CORRESPONDENCE Twitter @AKSportJourn Facebook.com/alaskasportingjournal Email ccocoles@media-inc.com

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 11 • ISSUE 6

FEATURES

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49 GIRL POWER More and more women are purchasing hunting licenses, applying for tags and filling them with successful harvests. K.J. Houtman, herself a diehard hunter and angler, profiled almost 20 badass women as part of her new book, Why Women Hunt. Check out an excerpt from it that profiles our former correspondent, Alaska’s own Christine Cunningham.

REDEMPTION RAM

Trevor Embry is among those zany souls who participate in that ritual from hell known as Alaska Dall sheep hunting. After a ram-less trip in a previous season, Embry vowed to bring home a sheep and prepared to spend another two weeks of ups and downs, of near misses and grueling hikes in search of nothing less than a full-curl Dall.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED Camouflage gear doesn’t have to match. Salmon isn’t the best fish to eat. Every river has its own unique story to tell. These are just some of what Arctic adventurer Paul Atkins has learned chasing big game and fish in the Last Frontier. When you’ve been out as often as Atkins has, you’re bound to gain a lot of perspective. He shares what matters to him.

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THE CASE FOR PREDATOR CONTROL Most hunters long for that great Alaskan experience of harvesting an iconic big game animal like a caribou or moose. But with those animals vulnerable to being overwhelmed by hungry wolves, it’s critical to help control the predator population to ensure healthy game herds, particularly for remote Alaska villagers who rely on subsistence hunts for their food. Scott Haugen is one of those who argues predator hunting is a necessity in Alaska in our From Field to Fire column, which also features a venison breakfast recipe from Tiffany Haugen.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

(TREVOR EMBRY)

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The Editor’s Note The Salmon State: Two billionth sockeye harvested in Bristol Bay Outdoor calendar Holiday Gift Guide The Gear Guy: Food processing gadgets every sportsman needs

Alaska Sporting Journal is published monthly. Call Media Inc. Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Inc. Publishing Group and will not be returned. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues) or $49.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Inc. Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Ave South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168 or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues may be ordered at Media Inc. Publishing Group, subject to availability, at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Copyright © 2019 Media Inc. Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A. 12

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Why Women Hunt author K.J. Houtman captures the spirit of sportswomen from Alaska to the Lower 48 in her new book that celebrates girl power in the outdoors. (WHY WOMEN HUNT)

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EDITOR’S NOTE

I

n my previous career in sports journalism, I worked alongside many talented women. Some were dear friends or respected colleagues, and others were nationally known reporters who didn’t give me the time of day. But I felt honored to share press boxes, interview scrums and locker rooms with these reporters, columnists and photographers. That they thrived in what had been a mostly male-dominated profession only added to the respect I have for women who succeed covering male players, coaches and executives, all while holding their own on the job. So I was pleased that this month we’re featuring an excerpt from K.J. Houtman’s book Why Women Hunt – specifically Houtman’s profile of our former correspondent Christine Cunningham, who shares her welcome-to-hunting story. As with sportswriting and broadcasting, in the past hunting carried the perception of an old boy’s club mentality. But as we’ve featured in previous issues, there are plenty of talented sportswomen who’ve hunted big game throughout Alaska. Our Tiffany Haugen – the “fire” in her and husband Scott’s long-standing From Field to Fire column – is as adept at harvesting critters as she is preparing delicious recipes out of them. Houtman’s book features profiles of hunters from states such as Colorado (Mia Anstine), Kansas (Kelsey Konrade Henderson) and Oregon (Khara Kincaid). They and many others are among a growing trend of women taking up hunting. “For almost a century it was considered socially unacceptable for women to take up gun or bow and pursue wild game,” esteemed hunter Brenda Valentine writes in Why Women Hunt’s foreword. “Thanks, in part, to public acceptance and greater opportunity as well as the many mentoring programs available, the number of women in boots and camouflage is exploding.” And that’s something all of us should be excited about. -Chris Cocoles

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TWO BILLIONTH BRISTOL BAY SOCKEYE IS CAUGHT IN 2019 BY MARY CATHARINE MARTIN

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his year, during the fishery’s second largest harvest on record, Bristol Bay commercial fishermen hit another historic number: the two billionth sockeye salmon caught by commercial fishermen since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast, but the last couple of seasons had huge returns,” said state Nushagak/Togiak Area Management biologist Timothy Sands. This year was the fifth consecutive season that more than 50 million sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay. In

2018, fishermen caught 41.9 million sockeye out of a record overall return of 62.3 million sockeye. In 2019, there were 43 million sockeye caught during a return of 56.5 million sockeye, meaning this year fishermen caught a higher percentage of the total return. (All rivers met their escapement goals – the amount of salmon swimming upriver necessary to ensure healthy future runs.) This year was also the most valuable all-salmon-species harvest. The preliminary exvessel value – or estimated dollar amount the harvest earned fishermen when they sold to a processor – is $306.5 million.

MORE MILESTONES Some may remember Bristol Bay passing another “two billion” marker in 2016. That was the two billionth overall salmon caught in the region. The first billionth sockeye was caught in 1981 – the 98th year of Bristol Bay’s fishery. The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) points out that the two billionth sockeye came just 38 years later, which means that the size of the average harvest has been much bigger in recent years than it was at the start of the fishery. For the first 98 years, up to the first billionth sockeye caught, Bristol Bay’s

As the 2019 commercial salmon season rolled on, the two billionth alltime sockeye salmon was caught. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast, but the last couple of seasons had huge returns,” said state Nushagak/Togiak Area Management biologist Timothy (CHRIS MILLER/CSMPHOTOS.COM) aksportingjournal.com | NOVEMBER 2019 Sands. ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL 21


Workers process Bristol Bay catch. It is one of the world’s most plentiful salmon fisheries. (SALMONSTATE)

average annual catch was a little more than 10 million fish per year. For the last 38 years, it’s been about 27 million sockeye per year. “I think it just speaks to the sustainability of the management system we have in place in Bristol Bay that after 136 years of fishing, we’re still having record runs and we’re able to sustainably harvest two billion sockeye salmon from the systems in Bristol Bay,” Sands said.

QUITE THE ‘PORTFOLIO’ Scientists who study Bristol Bay’s salmon attribute a large part of the area’s productivity to its diverse “portfolio” of salmon systems. Some rivers may do well one year while others do well the next, depending on conditions. Just like an investment portfolio, diversity leads to overall better returns. “Credit healthy habitat and clean water for this remarkable story of sus-

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. CEO Norm Van Vactor says clean and healthy water and habitat play a factor in the sustainability of the Bristol Bay watershed. “That, a strong, science-based state management system, and the cooperation of fishermen and processors accounts for this long-term success,” he said. (SALMONSTATE)

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tainability,” said Norm Van Vactor, CEO of the BBEDC. “That, a strong, science-based state management system, and the cooperation of fishermen and processors accounts for this long-term success.” ASJ Editor’s note: Mary Catharine Martin is the communications director of SalmonState, a nonprofit initiative that works to ensure Alaska remains a place wild salmon thrive. Go to salmonstate.org for more.


ADVERTORIAL

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AHTNA, INCORPORATED

htna, Incorporated is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation based in Glennallen, Alaska. Ahtna, Inc. is owned by more than 2,000 shareholders, the majority of whom are of Ahtna Athabascan descent, with many still residing in the Ahtna region, the traditional homeland of the Ahtna people. Located in Alaska’s southcentral interior, Ahtna’s traditional lands encompass an area roughly the size of the state of Ohio and extend from the U.S./Canada border in the east to Denali National Park in the west. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, there are many recreational activities to enjoy in the Ahtna region, such as, fishing for our world-renowned Copper River salmon, hiking, camping, bird watching, ATV riding and snowmobiling. Ahtna operates two RV/tent campgrounds; Sailors Campground located at milepost 129.5 of the

Richardson Highway which offers convenient Gulkana River salmon fishing access and Hilltop Campground located at milepost 3 of McCarthy Road with breathtaking views of the Copper and Chitina Rivers. Ahtna Land Use Permits We welcome visitors and hope you have a safe and wonderful stay; we only ask that you respect this land as it is our home. Ahtna lands are privately-owned and therefor requires a Land Use Permit which can be purchased online at www.ahtna.com/permits. Your permit purchase helps support important programs to help maintain the lands for enjoyment by current and future generations such as: moose management to increase populations and habitat, public-use campgrounds and cabins, public education and outreach on customary and traditional use practices, land pa-

trols to ensure public safety, litter clean up, compliance with land use policies and fish and game harvest regulations. Ahtna Land App We have developed a map app to help visitors to the region determine who owns the land they are exploring. The app clearly shows property boundaries and public and private land ownership in the region. Using the app you can search for locations, view the land ownership legend, measure distances between points and apply map overlays such as topographic and satellite imagery. To download the FREE app, go to the iPhone® App Store or Android™ Google Play Store and search for Ahtna. Once downloaded turn on location services for real-time location-based intelligence*. To learn more about Ahtna please visit www.ahtna.com and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

www.ahtna.com *Cell service is required for real-time location services.

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OUTDOOR CALENDAR Multiple moose seasons get started in November, including a resident hunt in Game Management Unit 14C (Anchorage Management Unit) on Nov. 1.

(DOMINIQUE WATTS/USFWS)

Nov. 1 Nov. 1 Nov. 1 Nov. 1 Nov. 1 Nov. 1

Hunting draw application period for 2019 hunts begins Deer season opens in Game Management Unit 5 (Yakutat) Resident grizzly bear season opens in GMU 9E (all drainages into the Pacific Ocean between Cape Kumliun and border of Unit 9E and 9D) Resident late caribou season opens in GMU 9E (Alaska Peninsula) Resident moose season opens in GMU 14C (Anchorage Management Area) Late resident caribou season opens in GMU 19D (McGrath)

Nov. 1-14 Nov. 1-14 Nov. 1-14 Nov. 15

Deer season opens in GMU 8 (Kodiak-Shelikof) Late goat season in GMU 7 (Seward) Late goat season in GMU 15 (Kenai) Moose season opens in GMU 5 (south of WrangellSt. Elias National Park, north and east of Russell and Nunatak Fjords and the East Nunatak Glacier to the U.S./Canada border) Nov. 15-30 Elk season dates in GMU 3 (Etolin Island) Nov. 21-27 Bow-and-arrow-only moose season in GMU 20B (Fairbanks Management Area) Note: For more specific information on hunting regulations, consult the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Hunting Regulations handbook (adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildliferegulations.hunting)

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HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE CYLINDER STOVES Enjoy all-night wood heat, a flat cooking surface, hot water for a shower and even an oven for baking with a Cylinder Stove. Built in the mountains of central Utah, Cylinder Stoves are crafted by hunting and camping folk who know what is expected of a good camp stove. cylinderstoves.com

NOMAR Nomar’s soft-side, waterproof, floatable gun scabbard is a favorite with Alaskan bush pilots. They do not want bulky, hard gun cases in those little planes. It also ranks high for carrying that gun in a skiff or on the back of a horse. Made in Alaska to stand up to tough conditions. Standard gun scabbard holds a scoped rifle; shotgun-style is also available. nomaralaska.com

BILL SAUNDERS CALLS The latest addition to the Bill Saunders Calls lineup is the Big Spin Goose Call. After taking input from many of the nation’s top guides and callers on their staff, Bill Saunders Calls developed a call that will fill the needs of callers of any skill level and style of calling. Originally designed for creating a wall of sound for calling big wads of lessers, the folks at Bill Saunders Calls quickly realized the Big Spin had incredible range of tone, pitch and volume that would make it a killer big honker call as well. With a shorter mouthpiece for increased speed, larger back bore exhaust for maximum volume, red gut with comp-style reed combination that produces a wide range of tone/pitch, flared lip roll for airtight seal, and their new “guide grip” technology on the insert, the Big Spin isn’t just another call in the lineup – it is a unique addition from a legendary brand. billsaunderscalls.com

ARM CHAPS Soft leather protective sleeves that contour to hands and arms, Arm Chaps are comfortable and very effective at preventing injuries. They are useful in many situations, and provide adjustable airflow. See website for all the benefits! armchaps.com aksportingjournal.com | NOVEMBER 2019

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GIFT GUIDE MICHLITCH COMPANY Newly developed by Michlitch Company, the Brisket and Roast Rub is excellent for grilling, pan-frying or roasting. Rub the spice blend on both sides of a brisket, roast or steak before cooking. Buy at retail online. Commercial bulk pricing is also available on their products. Call (509) 624-1490 for pricing. spokanespice.com

EAT ME LURES

ROUGAROU RODS Rougarou Rods specializes in custom rods, reel servicing and rod-building supplies. They build the rod you want, the way you want, with the products you want. They also keep your reels serviced and in tip-top shape. Rougarou Rods is a West Coast dealer for Alps, Rainshadow, Thrasher, Winn and Fuji products. rougarourods.com

Proudly made in the USA, Eat Me Lures’ swimbaits are designed to bridge the gap between artificial and live bait, giving you a better option while fishing offshore, inshore or on lakes. All of their swimbaits are hand-poured or hand-injected using the finest quality plastic available to create a bait that will hold up to multiple fish strikes when the bite is on. These incredibly effective swimbaits are irresistible to predatory game fish and, when used correctly, a top-secret weapon for tuna, dorado, bass, halibut, redfish, bottomfish and more. eatmelures.com

US MARINE SALES AND SERVICE Now available at US Marine Sales and Service is the Yamaha 2020 EX Sport. Room for up to three on the EX Series means no one misses out on the fun. The tow hook allows for easy, secure towing. Standard dual mirrors provide increased visibility for towing. Reboarding step designed to make it easier to reboard after a swim. Conveniently tucks away when not in use. The 2020 EX Sport is available from US Marine for $7,699 with no dealer fees! For full specs, visit their website. usmarinesales.com 32

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SCAN MARINE The new Wallas Viking Air 3kW forced-air diesel heater is now available at Scan Marine. The Viking Air provides state-of-the-art Bluetooth and WiFi-controlled heating for modern and older boats alike. With up to 105CFM of air volume, quiet operation and super-efficient fuel burn, the Viking Air will maximize your boating season! scanmarineusa.com aksportingjournal.com | MAY 2017

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BOAT REVIEW KingFisher Boats 3125 GFX

SPECIAL ADVERTORIAL PREPARED FOR

WELDED ADVENTURE BOATS

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n years past, choosing a vessel built for rugged open-water meant sacrificing styling, luxury and comfort. Enter the 3125 GFX, for great fishing and exploring. This sister to the 3425 GFX was designed with the adventurer in mind. The coastal waters of Alaska have so much to offer and the 3125 GFX you have the amenities to enjoy it all. KingFisher Boats first became leaders in the offshore aluminum market with their first KingFisher Offshore in 2007. Over the last 12 years, with a keen eye on market trends and a passion for business, the KingFisher Boats design team has developed a vessel to keep you on the water longer. DESIGN The 3125 GFX is built for longer days and comfortable nights. That begins with a spacious cabin and classic design throughout. Sapele wood finishing creates a sense of warmth and luxury. Paired with 6 feet, 10 inch headroom, and a 10 foot beam, Kingleather synthetic upholstery, stylish valances and trendy blue finishing touches the 3125 GFX is in a class of its own. It’s evident that comfort is a top priority

FISHABILITY The large 9 feet, 3 inch cockpit lends plenty of room for passengers and fish alike. The covered rear steering station and wide-formed gunnels create a comfortable navigation experience. The transom and in-floor fish lockers boast 252 USG of space for your great catch. Ultradeck synthetic flooring is comfortable and easy on the knees for those long fights. as well. In addition to the helm, there are dual portside suspension seats and table, with seating for up to six passengers. RIDE KingFisher Boats are known for their performance ride and exclusive Pre-Flex® technology. Trust us, performance is not sacrificed for style with this vessel. Powered with twin 300 Yamaha outboards, the GFX practically leapt out of the water and onto plane. The ease in handling and responsiveness were impressive for a boat of this size. Trimming the motor out we quickly reached the top speed 54 mph; and found the best fuel efficiency at an impressive 31 mph.

SPECIFICATIONS Length: Beam: Bottom Width: Side Height: Cockpit: Cabin Length: Cabin Headroom: Transom Fish Locker: Cockpit Floor Fish Locker: Approx Dry Weight: Deadrise: Maximum HP: Fuel Capacity:

www.kingfisherboats.com

31’ 6” 10’ 7’ 6” 3’ 5” 9’ 3”L x 7’ 10”W 10’ 6” 6’ 10” 52 USG 200 USG 7880 lbs Variable 18° 700 HP 200 USG / 747 L


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MOTION DUCKS The Ultimate Spreader System from Motion Ducks creates the most realistic and natural decoy movement that will pull in even the most educated birds. motionducks.com

SEAL 1 CDNN SPORTS, INC. Now available from CDNN Sports is the DPMS AR-15 Upper M4 16-inch chromelined barrel with extended quad rail with an MSRP of $189.99. Specifications and features include: Barrel length: 16-inch M4 DPMS marked chrome-lined barrel; Barrel thread pitch: ½x28; Chamber: 5.56 NATO; Twist rate: 1:9 inches; Gas system: Carbine length direct impingement with A2 front sight gas block and bayonet lug; Muzzle device: A2 Flash Hider; Handguard: 11.75-inch anodized aluminum quad rail with T-markings. cdnnsports.com

PrOlix will get a new look for the holidays and a new easy-to-handle 16-ounce size with their three-way adjustable nozzle Pro Trigger Sprayer! PrOlix made no changes to their great formula, even with their gun-oil and grease replacer, Xtra-T Lube. prolixlubricant.com ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL

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The Seal 1 Complete Tactical Gun Care Kit includes: 4-ounce container of their multipurpose CLP Plus Gun Care Paste; 4-ounce container of their multipurpose CLP Plus Gun Care Liquid ; Seal 1 CLP Plus Pre-Saturated EZ-Cloth; 12-inch by 12-inch square microfiber cloth; double-ended nylon utility brush; and two 6-inch hardwood cotton swabs. seal1.net

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The Xtreme Defender has an optimized nose flute, total weight and velocity to achieve a penetration depth up to 18 inches (falling within FBI guidelines) with a permanent wound cavity that is simply enormous. No other expanding hollowpoint comes close to achieving anywhere near this diameter and volume. underwoodammo.com

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Owner BJ Cross first started working on outboard engines in a small Yamaha dealership, rebuilding carbs and installing impellers. Years later The Boat Doc, LLC was opened and specializes in Engines and Drive systems small and large and electronics. All makes of Inboard / outboard, Inboard V-drive and direct drive, Jet drive, Outboards of all makes both prop lowers and jet pumps. We offer a full service repair shop from a simple impeller swap to a complete repowers. We have the latest versions of tech scan equipment and on-site test tank so all jobs are done right the first time. We back up our work 100% and strive for customer satisfaction. The Boat Doc, LLC has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been an accredited business for over 6 years. You can find me on Google, Dex and Yellowbook.

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SALTWATER SPORTSMeN’S SHOW 2020 Presented by OCEAN - Oregon Coalition for Educating Anglers Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem Oregon February 22nd and 23rd, 2020

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MAKING THEIR OWN OUTDOORS HER-STORIES NEW BOOK FEATURES PROFILES OF ALASKAN CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM, 17 OTHER BADASS HUNTRESSES

Editor’s note: As a whole, hunting participation has declined, but don’t discount the ladies who are taking to the great outdoors in increasing numbers. More and more women and girls are hunting and thriving while doing it, and that can’t be ignored when the perception of sexism is alive and well from Hollywood to Washington DC. And these sportswomen have earned their place among the guys in the shooting sports community. Writer K.J. Houtman, herself an avid outdoors lover, interviewed 17 women who hunt (there’s a also a chapter profiling the author). The group includes the cover subject, our own former correspondent and Alaskan Christine Cunningham, in a new book that proclaims on its cover, “Today’s female hunters are smart, savvy and very real.” We agree wholeheartedly. The following is excerpted from Why Women Hunt, by K.J. Houtman and published by Wild River Press. For more info, go to whywomenhunt.com. You can also order the book at wildriverpress.com. BY K.J. HOUTMAN Christine Cunningham Kenai, Alaska Started hunting in 2005

W

hat’s the worst that can happen?” Christine Cunningham wondered as she and her partner, Steven Meyer, talked over the decision to breed their hunting dog, Winchester, and keep two pups from the litter.

Christine Cunningham is a proud Alaska native, but it wasn’t until later in life that she found her true calling as a hunter. Cunningham graces the cover of a new book, Why Women Hunt, with author K.J. Houtman profiling several female hunters across the country. (STEVE MEYER) aksportingjournal.com | NOVEMBER 2019

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Sure, some people could get so caught up in the dog-side of the equation it might turn into less hunting and more training, running dog trials, and even pursuing the art of the shotgun. But that wasn’t where Christine Cunningham’s head was at. A native Alaskan, Christine’s family benefited from game meat from family and friends, but she and her immediate family never hunted. It was Steven’s brush with a life-threatening injury that forced her to have an intellectually honest conversation. She was active in yoga and looked at life from an Eastern perspective. While she’d toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, she hadn’t done it, and she needed to reconcile her role as a meat eater. Kenai is notably famous as one of the finest fishing villages in the world, so the fishing life was one she understood. “All I knew about hunters was Elmer Fudd,” Christine said, thinking of the Bugs Bunny cartoon character.

As Steven recuperated, all he could focus on was getting back to duck hunting – his first love. And when the timing and opportunity all came together, Christine, as a 27-year-old at the time, joined him on her first hunt. She borrowed a shotgun. They would venture into the Kenai River Flats, but it was raining. “Do we still go in the rain?” she asked. Steven laughed and replied in the affirmative. She borrowed rain gear, too. Eventually as they approached the coastline, Steven dropped down on his knees. He gestured for Christine to do likewise. They inched along on the ground with spider webs, shrews, and rotting salmon. Then he wanted to Army crawl and Christine thought, “Are you kidding me?” She was tempted to leave but decided to get this over with. She tucked in her shirt and it was as if a starting gun launched an official diaper derby. She crawled fast. “What are you doing?” Steven asked

Christine said. his “I was in love with it.” as while shaking head. Miraculously, Something else stole herwigeons heart, too. they crested the view the were North DakotaSteven she fell in to love stillInthere. “Shoot!” said her.with hunting with apulled skilled bird dog. They Christine up and shot huntonce ed father’s friend and he andwith theySteve’s all flew away.best But Steven didn’t hunted his English cocker spaniel, scold herwith or launch on a pedantic lecture. named “Wedown would have Instead,Windsor. he reached to never the marsh done as wellup without Windsor and the reand picked her spent shotgun shell. lationship Windsor and his huHe smelledbetween it and gave it to Christine to man something smell.was “This is whatto fallbehold,” smellsChristine like,” he said. “I’d had yard dogs and family dogs, but the working dog relationship and mutualITrespect wasSO new forand me.”much bigger WAS ALL cool “That is aperson. cute little dog,” wanted Christine than any one Christine to said to the man complimenting Windsor. become better at this fascinating sport you afield hear that, Windsor?” the and“Did journey as often as possible. man asked his four-legged partShe took a hiatus from yogahunting and bought ner. “She called a dog.” a shotgun. She’dyou venture outHe forlaughed. first light about ofbeing afieldeach as andThey grab talked every lumen last light hunter and dog. “I don’t really care to weekend in Alaska. hunt anymore; I go for he said. The pair traveled to Windsor,” North Dakota and OnceatSteve anddad’s Christine back hunted Steven’s placewere for waterhunting Alaska, where tidal sloughs fowl andinpheasant. The contrast of the can undergo a 24-foot change a short flat lands of North Dakota andinAlaska’s majestic elevations showcased a surprisingly vast life. “It took me by surprise,”

Cunningham, a former correspondent for this publication, and Winchester take in the scene on a successful opening day of ptarmigan season. Woman and dog have had a profound impact on each other. “If I hiked 6 miles, Winchester covered 26 miles,” she says. “He taught us to see things we weren’t capable of seeing before.” (STEVE MEYER) 50

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IN HER OWN WORDS CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM ON …

FAVORITE EQUIPMENT? Shotgun for sure. Over/under preferably wood stock. The first gun I bought for myself was the CZ Redhead in 20 gauge and it was durable. Then I fell in love with a 28-gauge Beretta, which is actually how we talked ourselves into getting Winchester. Steve told me, “If you’re going to have a proper upland gun, you need a proper upland dog.” Next, I had a Syren Elso Venti by Caesar Guerini in 20 gauge, and I felt it was a historic gun, being the first line for women and representing a beautiful and authentic offering. Now, I carry a Blaser F3 in 12 gauge from the Intuition line, and it is like the Jackie O of guns to me. It is precision-built for women with clean lines and has an integrity I love, which is hard to define in wood and metal, but when you look at the gun you know it’s there.

PERSON (OR ENTITY) YOU WISH KNEW AND RESPECTED YOUR HUNTING WORLD BETTER? Moms. I think moms are really inspiring for me when I talked to moms who hunt. They bring their kids into it – and extended dinner conversation. The hunt is involved in family and food is a sacrament at the dinner table. I love having moms embrace learning more about that and connecting it to their dinner table. It can be so inspiring in a family aspect having a role in home and hearth.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT IN TODAY’S HUNTING ENVIRONMENT? We don’t spend more time in hunters’ education courses on ethics. We spend so much on safety and firearms, but we should help understand why it is moral for all hunters and nonhunters. Not sure we’re preparing hunters for what they’ll experience critically from nonhunters. Fair chase can be limiting for meat hunters. We can be adaptable and relevant. This opportunity is for us to be the best interpreters and position ourselves that way.

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FAVORITE SOUND IN THE WOODS OR ON A HUNT? The wing beats of any bird. It’s like a secret on the wind.

FAVORITE SMELL IN THE WOODS? I like the smell of pine needles, wet earth. I love the smell of alpine flowers, especially in the fall when the sun is sort of burning them. There’s a sort of offering in the air.

ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD BE THE MOST SURPRISED OF THE LIFE YOU LEAD NOW? My grandfather who passed away. He always saw me as an adorable but squeamish girl; he’d be surprised to see me hunting. He’d say, “You’re hunting? You don’t like to get dirty and you curl your nose up at everything.”

MEAT OR TROPHY OR “EXPERIENCE?” Meat. Even though I want to say experience, for ethical reasons you have to be after the meat. The trophy is a bonus. The experience is necessary for each hunt.

ONE OR TWO BUCKET LIST HUNTS FOR YOU TO STILL DO? Love to hunt the uplands in Scotland – the Highlands. It would be cool if I could go with my own dogs. I’d love to get to a place where I was familiar enough to hunt in Africa. I have a lot to learn.

CONQUER FEAR, MEET FEAR HEAD ON … OR WHAT FEAR? I think fear is natural and healthy and you want to meet it. But I like the idea of conquer best because I don’t want to give it too much attention. It’s there to move through.

BIGGEST OBSTACLE FOR GETTING STARTED IN HUNTING (PARTICULARLY WOMEN)? I think there’s the possibility that it crosses gender lines; they see new experiences as a threat. Men are more typical to see a new experience as a challenge. To change the paradigm to see it as a new challenge and they’ll be more open to it. ASJ


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period of time, they realized their duck hunting would be better with a good hunting dog, too. “We’ll need a Lab with a double coat up here,” Steve thought, thinking of the extreme temperatures. They rescued one Labrador retriever, then another. But eventually Christine got a little more focused on a finesse hunting dog; she got a running and pointing English setter from North Dakota and named him Winchester. “We were really lucky that this dog was born knowing what he was doing,” she said. It wouldn’t take long and the drastic differences between Labs and English setters became evident. “This one was hyper-sensitive; a hard word would put him in a mood.” By now it had been a solid five years of waterfowl hunting and every Sunday at the range to perfect shooting doubles. Confidence grew with more experience but with Winchester in the picture, everything changed. “If I hiked 6 miles, Winchester covered 26 miles,” she said. “He taught us to see things we weren’t capable of seeing before.” With snow fresh on the rocks of the

mountain, Christine heard a cluck. Winchester, the English setter, was on point; the Lab nearby and confused. At first Cunningham didn’t see anything, but like the Appaloosa emerging from a Bev Doolittle painting, suddenly there were chestnut-and-white-flecked ptarmigan everywhere. They lifted en masse, and she shot a couple. That shifted Christine’s attention, and she and Steven continued to get out as often as possible behind Winchester. They enjoyed their time hunting – especially hunting with Winchester. Christine Cunningham received the coveted Prois Huntress award in 2014 and soon after Winchester started slowing down a little bit at 9 years old. “Maybe we should get a female and breed her with Winchester?” Christine asked Steven. They certainly weren’t going to be backyard breeders, but the pair loved Winchester and they were excited about keeping two pups sired from him. “We could work two dogs and rest two dogs each day,” she said. “It sounded like such a good idea in theory.” In a few months, they found their female in a difficult whelping stage. “She

Cunningham’s relationship with her partner, fellow ASJ correspondent Steve Meyer (right), influenced her career as a hunter. (STEVE MEYER)

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gave us 11 puppies over the course of 2½ days,” Christine said. “It was traumatic for her and for me.” The vet helped, but the trauma unfolded as Momma wouldn’t feed any new pups until she was done whelping this big litter. “That meant we had to hand-feed the pups,” Christine said. A couple pups were crushed during the labor process and died. That forced Christine into hyper-vigilance. She stayed at the dog’s side without any sleep, but at 72 hours even Christine nodded off. “When I awoke she had another puppy pinned under her leg,” Christine said. “It was still alive, but …”

THE VET DIAGNOSED THE latest injured

pup with severe head wounds. Christine thought it would be her disabled, special-ed dog. “It’ll be OK, just a little different,” she told Steven. Then they lost another puppy that Steven had become attached to and, then the special-ed puppy. They’d loved them and named them and buried them next to the others from the days prior – it was a week of heartbreak and sadness. “The sky was gray, and I was totally


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crushed,” Christine said. Eventually, there were only five puppies left to care for, and Christine was so attached to them by now there was no way she would let a single one go. And keep them they did: Colt, Hugo, Cogswell, Purdey and Boss. “It’s not advisable to have two dogs from the same litter, let alone five,” Christine said. “They bond with each other instead of you. They were like a super pack. Any crime against one was a crime against all.” Potty mistakes were, “Who?” With nine dogs (the older Labs, the two English setter parents and the five puppies), Christine would look at her life and wonder, “How did I become this cat lady that’s the dog lady?” She’d never had children of her own – but this new life created an almost sacred family of four-legged love and purpose.

Christine has learned that even though they all came from the same good hunting genetics, and all were trained by the same methods – each getting turns individually to see how they’d handle their outdoor adventures, all had their own level of interest in being a working hunting dog. “Hugo was skittish and timid in the house but an Olympian in the field,” she said. Each dog had individual flyouts with overnight hikes in the mountains. “Just like people, I learned that not everyone is a hunter.” One female pup was sketchy and rowdy – another was like a little old man. Boss was – and still is – a lover. “They’re animal enough to go the distance, but they aren’t limited by the life preservation of a truly wild animal like a wolf.” With the use of GPS tracking collars,

Hugo, one of Winchester’s pups, feels at ease when in the field chasing birds. “Hugo was skittish and timid in the house but an Olympian in the field,” Cunningham says. (STEVE MEYER) 56

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it is factually evident that Hugo and Winchester will put 26 miles of hard work to find birds, while the other dogs might only get in 12 or 14 miles. Some dogs want help and others don’t want any help. “I delight in learning who they are and what they’re good at.” Winchester is no father of the year. “I thought Winchester would teach the puppies to hunt and he doesn’t want anything to do with them,” Christine said. What happened to their plan to hunt two dogs and rest two dogs so they have on-off day schedules? “We do rotate them, but it is overwhelming,” Christine said. “With all the responsibility of caring for them, we don’t get to hunt as much as we thought. It’s kind of a romance breaker.” The human hunters are worn out. “We are such poor predictors of reality,” Christine said. It’s different than what


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she thought – still interesting though, and she’s amazed how much she’s learned from the “pups” – now 4 years old. These dogs live in their home (yes, all nine!) and crawl up on the furniture like card-carrying members of the family. “They’ve taught me the joy of the present moment,” Christine said. They’ve even helped her get back to yoga as they wake up and stretch in the morning. Her blog website is yogaforduckhunters.com. “They go through their day and are grateful for everything. Gratitude is their first response.” More than a dozen years ago, Cunningham found the special place that transports her from the ordinary, civilized daily life through hunting. She described it as “the back of beyond” or “Neverland” and she found it by physically going there and partaking. The thrill of the hunt opened the door to the thrill of being fully alive. “Often, I was outside my comfort zone,” she said, admitting she was formerly squeamish and bookish. “Hunting brought out my true grit and good character traits I didn’t know I had.” It was something about the mountains and the tidal flats being bigger than she and it left her with an experience to remember and game to eat. She escaped indebted to nature and grateful – wanting to go again. She’s learned to follow a bird dog. Cunningham revels with Winchester’s puppies she and Meyer decided to keep. “Probably the happiest moment of my life,” she says. (STEVE MEYER)

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“Watching Winchester course the mountainsides is like watching the paintbrush of an artist on fire,” she said. “Then he stops and that’s where our work to find his birds begins.” The friend in North Dakota hunted for his dog, Windsor, and Christine Cunningham has learned the same. “It’s for the love of the dogs now,” she said.

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HUNTING ETHICS IS A topic near to Cun-

ningham’s heart, and she’s spoken about it publicly and has experienced being the subject highlighted in a worldwide platform with BBC News on several occasions. She feels called to have a conversation with nature as if it were “a conversation with our own death,” she said, borrowing the quote from another hunter. We have a spiritual need for freedom and to be in the wild, and it’s true some have lost a connection to nature. A hunter hunts with compassion according to Cunningham. “We have a civic duty and obligation because wildlife is held in the public trust,” she said. “We can’t shirk it – the future of hunting relies on our ability to show this connection, and it isn’t about being badass, elite, athletic, or even entitled because of our conservation dollars.” There is a spiritual side for Cunningham, and she’s happiest when that spiritual connection is walking behind a hunting dog. ASJ

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THE REDEMPTION

RAM

A SOLO SHEEP HUNTER ON A QUEST FOR HIS FIRST DALL SHEEP BY TREVOR EMBRY

I

f it can go wrong, it will. That had become my mantra for sheep hunting over the past several years. My first sheep endeavor with a tag in my pocket took place in 2016. A good friend and I set aside two weeks for what was sure to be an epic adventure, only to see it spiral into two weeks of fog, flight delays and less than eight

hours of actual glassing visibility in the mountains. Not to be deterred, I planned my second trip in 2017, but later found out that spring that I’d struck gold and drew a rare nonresident archery bighorn tag. I took off from work for the entire season and traveled south in pursuit of the wrong color sheep. It took 19 days to even lay eyes on my first legal ram, narrowly missing and shaving hair off

his back with a deflected arrow that will haunt me until the day I die. I traveled back to Alaska with my tail between my legs after 24 days of giving it my all. Call it stubbornness or call me a glutton for punishment, but I was already looking ahead to the next sheep adventure. I had paid my dues and put in my time, and 2018 would be the year of redemption. I could tell a lie here and say that I

For one dedicated, if somewhat delirious, Dall sheep hunter, a return to Alaska after a disappointing previous experience would be another challenge. And as the stone suggests, sometimes “sheep hunting sucks.” (TREVOR EMBRY)

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spent the entire year training for my epic adventure that awaited me. Except I was far too preoccupied catching salmon, running bear baits and enjoying everything the Alaska life has to offer. In reality, sheep season crept up on me like a cat on its unknowing prey. I found myself in early August gathering gear with overbearing thoughts about

my lack of physical preparedness. As I’d later prove, you don’t have to be akin to a buffed Greek statue to kill a sheep. You simply have to have the mental fortitude to not give up, ever. I may not find myself the first one up the mountain, but I simply wouldn’t come back down until I was in danger of losing employment or I had finally taken a sheep.

While checking out the terrain, the author initially spied a lot of ewes and lambs. (TREVOR EMBRY)

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I DROVE TO MY hunting area, gathered

12 days of food rations and took off for the mountains. I had some generic intel from friends about a drainage to explore and had mapped out a large loop through the mountains to continue from there if I couldn’t turn up a sheep. Several hours and 8 or 9 miles later up the main access from the trailhead,


No matter how grueling these hunts can be, you’re likely to enjoy quite the great view from camp. (TREVOR EMBRY)

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I passed four hunting groups and had yet to see a sheep. Two full days before the season even began and I was being reminded quite literally by the other groups that I was simply too late. My hardheaded mentality set in and I pushed beyond to carve out my own place in the mountains and find a band of rams. This was an exploratory trip for me, and if nothing else I’d get some epic views and a lot of miles on the boots. I spent the following day glassing the far ridges from the saddle I camped on trying to figure out which direction to head next, only to turn up some small banana-horn rams and bands of ewes and lambs. Time to move on to plan C. Towards last light I wrapped around the backside of the mountain I was on and finally spotted a band of eight rams that included two or three worth a closer look. I retreated back to my sheltered camp to feast on a Mountain House and begin to pour over the maps and formulate a plan.

ON OPENING MORNING I awoke early to

the sound of hooves and tumbling rocks


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right outside my tarp. I eagerly peeked out while hoping my curse had been lifted and I would be gifted with the sight of an easy ram nearly in camp. Instead I was greeted by a new band of ewes and lambs making their way from one drain to another. I sat and had breakfast with my new friends before breaking camp and dropping into the valley below. I later got back in sight of the band of rams and was able to study them from a different angle than from the evening before. I had ruled out one of the three potential shooters, but this still left me hopeful. After they fed up behind a glacier crossing into another drain, I continued on towards the base of the glacier to find a camping spot for the evening. I set camp, turned on some podcasts and again began glassing after deciding to give my legs a rest. About halfway through a Randy Newberg podcast, I looked up to see three hunters walking into my camp to talk. I greeted them to find out one was a guide, another a cameraman

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This kind of hunting requires physical will and a strong mental state of mind. “This was an exploratory trip for me,” Embry writes, “and if nothing else I’d get some epic views and a lot of miles on the boots.” (TREVOR EMBRY)

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and the third a humble tag holder. fro. We exchanged thoughts on the rams’ potential in the group and wished each other good luck in the coming days. To ensure I wasn’t hallucinating, I asked the hunter his name as they were leaving. Randy Newberg.

It’s not exactly glamping, but it’s a lot better if you can score a sheep …

THE FOLLOWING DAY, THE rams showed back up in a drain outside the guideuse area the other hunters could legally hunt, leaving them to me for a closer study. I waited for the winds to settle and moved into a glassing vantagepoint about 400 yards away and watched them for the rest of the day. Being a new sheep hunter, the last thing I want to do is to shoot a sublegal ram. While fairly confident the biggest of the group was an 8-year-old, I had made a rule for myself before the season: I’d only shoot one that was for sure full curl or that I aged at 9 or older. After literally days of watching them, none of those eight rams fit those expectations. I retired to camp and decided at first light I’d move on to greener pastures.

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...And here’s the reward for all the hard work. The author shows off his “redemption ram.” (TREVOR EMBRY)

Fast forward to 3 a.m. and I woke up to a torrential downpour and shifting winds that made me quickly gather my belongings and break camp in the dark. I was out of water and the descent out of the drain was too dangerous to attempt in the dark. So I instead climbed up to a glacial seep to drink water and wait for first light. The rain broke right as the sun began to lighten the field of view just enough for glassing. I decided to look over the rams one last time while having breakfast before moving on. I finished 74

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my meal, bid the rams farewell and strapped on my pack. Finally, the sheep hunting gods smiled on me for making the right decision. I noticed a lone ram coming around the peak of a mountain some 2 miles off in my direction. I broke out the spotting scope, and realized he was definitely worth a closer look. I avoided the temptation to move in closer for an ambush, nervous that the other rams would almost certainly bust me and alert their incoming friend. I instead stayed in the cliffs and watched

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for two hours as this ram fed his way up the drain and made a direct line for me. As he got to 300 yards I had made up my mind: I was looking at my first ram. I traded the spotting scope for a riflescope and followed him along the shale path he took up towards the cliffs I was hiding in. He paused at 150 yards and a moment later he was mine. I dropped down to size him up, nervously covering the 150 yards as quickly as I could without losing footing. I’m fairly certain I went a solid two minutes without


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breathing until I could confirm what I already knew. I had killed my first full-curl ram.

SEVERAL CURSE WORDS, ONE near-death

experience and several heavy miles later, I made it back to the truck a full week ahead of schedule. I had finally accomplished a three-yearw mission. Solo sheep hunts are by no means easy, and often by no means even enjoyable. It takes a strange breed of man to so willingly punish himself. Most seasoned sheep hunters up here kept telling me it’s the greatest type of hunt one can embark on. I’m not sure I’m sold on the theory just yet, but I can’t wait to go collect more memories next August as I make my mind up. Be safe and shoot straight. ASJ

Editor’s note: Trevor Embry lives in Anchorage and is “a pharmacist by trade and a bowhunter by heart.” “It takes a strange breed of a man to so willingly punish himself,” Embry writes. “Most seasoned sheep hunters up here kept telling me it’s the greatest type of hunt one can embark on.” (TREVOR EMBRY)

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED A HUNTER BREAKS DOWN ALL THE GOOD AND BAD HE’S EXPERIENCED IN THE WILDS OF ARCTIC ALASKA

BY PAUL D. ATKINS

I

’ve learned many things during my time in Alaska – some good and some not so good. There have been events and attitudes that have shaped my way of thinking, or at least made me stop and wonder. For the most part they’re true – to me anyway. I’m always amazed at the outcomes and thoughts of others. As you can imagine, they all relate to hunting in some way, and I’m guessing many think the same as I do, but if you don’t, that’s OK too. To each their own.

I DON’T CARE ABOUT CAMO FASHION Let’s start with camouflage. There are many brands out there and everyone has their own preferences and choices. What to wear while out hunting has a lot to do – or should anyway – with the surroundings or the environment you will be in. Camouflage is meant to do just that, which is conceal, cover and screen you from the When you’ve hunted the beautiful but rugged corners of Arctic Alaska like author Paul Atkins has, you learn a lot of valuable lessons to pass along. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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careful and watchful eyes of the animals you’re pursuing. Long before camo became fashionable, there was only one type available and it usually had to do with the military. Growing up with my father, who hunted practically all the time, camo wasn’t a big deal. I remember vividly that a hunt out West or even near home in the Midwest would consist of Levi jeans, a red shirt and a brown coat, topped off with lacedup boots and, of course, an orange vest. Obviously none of it matched, especially the orange part. But he was very successful in that attire. Nowadays, it’s the high-dollar stuff you see just about everywhere you go. To some, if you don’t have it, then you’re not quite doing it right – or so they think. I’m no different when it comes to the big-money part, as I surely do love my Sitka gear. If I’m not wearing that, then I’m probably adorned in the latest and greatest Cabela’s has to offer. However, if you’re not wearing that stuff it hardly has anything to do with your hunting skills. What gets me, though, is that many hunters, including myself, don’t always wear the same pattern from top to bottom. I’ve been known to dress in a mix of

camos, a different coat with a different pair of pants – heck, even different gloves and an off-colored cap. If you’ve seen any of my photos lately, you’ll notice it too. Those who disapprove are constantly giving me a hard time. For some reason they just can’t see how I can chase critters when my clothes don’t match. Many of those same people wouldn’t step out of the tent if they didn’t match. I’ll go so far to say that many would probably even stay home. All I can say is the proof is in the result. If you’re more worried about what you look like while trying to enjoy the outdoors, then you are probably missing the whole point.

HUNTERS VERSUS PEOPLE WHO HUNT This isn’t something new, but it’s so true. To quote the late great writer Patrick McManus: “Hunters think of themselves only as hunters. People who hunt, or PWHs, hunt too, but (they) may have other hobbies, like playing golf or woodworking.” I’ve met plenty of both and there is nothing wrong with either. If you’re a true hunter, though, then hunting is all you think about, 24/7. You’re either planning a hunting trip or you’re on a hunting trip,

Hunting is never a sure thing. “I’ve been as unsuccessful as successful on most of my hunts, but you can’t stop,” Atkins says. “You have to continue the voyage and try to make each day count.” (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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or you’re probably thinking about your next trip. That’s what hunters do. “Hunters work in order to hunt and only see themselves as hunters,” according to Mr. McManus. I guess the big thing that I’ve seen is that a hunter will look at each outing as an opportunity, no matter whether he or she is successful or not. I’ve watched and actually have been with many a PWH. If they don’t shoot something or bring something back, they feel as if they’ve failed and most times will go into some kind of funk while blaming everything and everybody. On the other hand, hunters will take it as a reason to go do it again. They’ll try to understand what they could have done better, all in the hopes that next time will end in success. If you’re a PWH, don’t fret; it’s still a worthy title. Remember that without PWHs, or even hunters themselves, we’d all be a lot worse off.

RIFLE CALIBER ISN’T THAT BIG OF A DEAL “Use enough gun,” another great writer once said, but Robert Ruark probably wasn’t a gun snob and he only chose those calibers that he needed in order to


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Atkins doesn’t worry about wearing matching camo, even though he dons some of the best gear available. The ptarmigan he was hunting weren’t concerned if his apparel clashed. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

get the job done. I feel kind of the same way and choose calibers more on what I had versus what was expected. For years I’ve used my 7mm Magnum on most of my hunts. I’ve killed everything on Earth with it – from moose to coyotes – and it has performed extremely well. Some critics look down on you be-

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cause of your rifle selection. If you don’t believe me, then just finger through a few social media pages that deal with hunting sometime. I know there are those who are passionate about rifles, calibers and ammunition, and I applaud them. Gun writers have been helping us understand trajec-

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tory, loads and everything else for years, but for those who say that this caliber won’t work or that won’t happen, they need to keep that to themselves. It actually amazes me to read and see some of the stuff. Realistically, most of these people probably haven’t hunted or even seen the species we’re talking about. I’ve seen moose taken with a .223, and the same with caribou. I have a good friend who hunts here in Alaska with a classic .30-30 and is very successful. I asked him why one day and he said, “Because I like it and I shoot it well.” Don’t get me wrong: Don’t go looking for elephants with a popgun. Just make sure that whatever caliber you’re shooting, you can shoot it well and it performs when that moment arrives.

SALMON SUCKS I don’t like salmon. There, I said it. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in the South. We don’t have salmon down there, unless you go to the store and buy it. The rough freshwater fish I grew up on were not red. The meat was white and


Sometimes you work so hard to fill a tag that if it doesn’t happen, you get discouraged and downright upset. Don’t; it’s all part of a plan. “If hunting was easy, then we probably wouldn’t like it as much,” Atkins says. “I know true hunters feel that way.” (PAUL D. ATKINS)

most of it, healthy or not, was rolled in cornmeal and cooked in grease. My father didn’t eat salmon and maybe that’s why I don’t, I guess. The rest of my family loves it and most of my friends do too, but I don’t. I’ve tried it many times, hoping each time that I’ll find the taste and texture palatable. But it hasn’t happened yet. I love to catch them, as there is noth-

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ing like hooking into a big chum upriver, but that is as far as it goes for me. I like filleting and packaging and bringing them home and even handing them out to friends, but I just don’t eat them. Please don’t judge me.

ANY BEAR IS A GOOD BEAR If you’ve been reading ASJ lately, you’ve seen that bear hunting has been really

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good up here. Check that. It’s actually been great. Many who’ve read the stories and those on social media have sent congratulations no matter the size, the when, the what or how we took them. But there are those who have condemned my exploits. Believe it or not, I can understand that bear hunting isn’t for everyone. Those who don’t approve of it can’t figure out why I hunt and kill such beautiful creatures that are doing nothing but minding their own business. For many of the people, of course they don’t live here and will never see what bears do to destroy the game populations we depend on to feed our families and the surrounding communities. However, there are those who do understand it but can never be satisfied with the size. What I mean is the size of the bear. I post most everything online or put it in a magazine, not to brag or get likes but to illustrate my lifestyle and let my friends and family know what I’ve been up too. In most cases, I try to tell a story. But they’ll criticize me or my buddy Lew if the bear doesn’t meet their size standards. That’s a “small one,” they’ll


Some hunts don’t end like you want them to. You either missed or the game just wasn’t there, or maybe the weather got you. Don’t look at it as a failure; look at it as a great time spent outdoors or a learning experience, so you’ll be ready the next time. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

Atkins loves to catch but not really eat salmon. But because his family loves a good fillet, he’ll catch a few to take home for dinner. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

say when, of course, they probably have never seen one, let alone pulled the trigger or squeezed a release at a bear. It’s mostly jealously and I’ve learned to live with it, but what they don’t get is that any bear is a good bear. I’m guessing if they could trade places with me, they would.

ALL RIVERS AREN’T THE SAME Alaska is big; super big. The vastness of this country has always amazed me, especially here where I live. The Arctic region, which is sometimes referred to as the Northwest Arctic – or from the hunting standpoint, Game Management Unit 23 – is about the size of Indiana. That’s a lot of country to call your backyard. Even though I’ve lived here for over 20 years I still haven’t seen it all. Mountains, hills, tundra and the many rivers that flow in and out of the region are all special and important in their own way. Many who don’t live here and/or those who like to look at maps may think that the country is all the same. It isn’t. More than anything else it’s like a small country, with a population of people who call this place their home. It is apparent in other parts of the state too, but here in the Arctic it truly is. Rivers are a constant up here, and most any conversation on any given day will include a question or a comment about one. Sounds crazy, but it’s just a part of our life and culture up here. The big two are the Noatak and the Kobuk. The former goes north to the mountains, 88

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up where the tundra gives way to gravel and eventually rock, with big canyons and granite walls. The latter goes east, where the flat land creates swamps full of muck and soft ground and eventually a plethora of lakes and tributaries. From a hunting standpoint they are two different animals, especially when it comes to choosing your quarry. Each week I’ll get asked which direction I’m going for the weekend. Many of those who ask me don’t even speak; they’ll just point and I’ll point back. Or if they do speak, they’ll just ask me, “Bear or moose?” All rivers aren’t the same, even though some may think so. They’re not. It sure used to be, but time combined with differences in game numbers and patterns have changed that. Some of the lesser-known rivers seldom get hunted anymore, unless you have a plane or hire someone to get you there. For example, the Wulik River is one of those. In my early days here I discovered it and hunted there just about every year. It was relatively cheap to get there back then, when the game was plentiful. Those were great days, but like many it became very popular and it wasn’t long before it was somewhat played out. The Omar, Anasak and Kugururok are others, but they are seldom hunted anymore due to the high cost of getting there. All are pristine places that I would like to visit again someday. To be a hunter and hunt that land is legendary, where I’m still guessing you could find animals that have never seen humans.

HUNTING PARTNERS ARE EVERYTHING I’ve written about hunting partners before and how choosing the right one makes all the difference, especially up here when life-and-death situations are almost constant. Most hunting trips, whether by boat or using a transporter for a DIY drop-off hunt, depend a great deal on who you’re with. You have to work as a team in order to be successful. If something goes wrong you must rely on them to help make it right. You have to remember that you’re a long way from home and help. Having the right person with you is indeed important. I’ve had all sorts of hunting partners in


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“There have been events and attitudes that have shaped my way of thinking, or at least made me stop and wonder,” Atkins writes. “I’m always amazed at the outcomes.” (PAUL D. ATKINS)

my time, but I can’t say enough about my good friend Lew. He’s a true hunter and not just a PWH, but more importantly it’s Lew’s patience that I appreciate the most. He never gets crazy when a bear walks in or when I freak out when it’s time to pull the trigger on a muskox. He’s always cool, calm and collected

at the moment of truth, and he’s constantly telling me if it happens, it happens. I wish I could be more like him; I need to be more patient sometimes.

DO NOT ASSUME Last, but not least, is that you should never assume something based on what you

see or read or have been told. Weather comes to mind more than anything else. With everything I’ve written about in the piece, it’s the weather that dictates it all. I guess that it’s the same everywhere else, but here even more so. What you read on Weather Underground or weather.com may not be entirely true. It can change in an instant and leave you in a situation you don’t want to be in. Whether it’s during fall, when the wind can rip you a new one and leave you soaked, or the winter, when the wind chill can leave you frozen solid, it is best to walk outside, look around and see it for yourself. It’s always a good rule of thumb. I’m guessing there are a few other things I’ve learned during my time here, and there will probably be many more, or I hope it’s the case. Either way, it has been fun sharing these adventures and the experiences that only the Arctic can offer. ASJ Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on big game hunting and fishing throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.

Even though each is beautiful and mystical in its own way, not all rivers are created equal. Many who live in the Last Frontier will follow one for a specific purpose or sometimes because weather prevents them from going up the other. There are times when you’ll get lucky and be able to choose based on the weather. (PAUL D. ATKINS) 90

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FIELD

When hunters and wildlife managers allow emotions to override scientific proof and cloud what’s actually happening in the wild, sound wildlife management ceases to exist. This is why hunters, particularly predator hunters, are valued conservationists. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

HUNTING FOR CONSERVATION

CONSIDER THE FACT THAT PREDATOR CONTROL HELPS ALL OTHER GAME SPECIES BY SCOTT HAUGEN

I

started running my own trapline in fourth grade. After graduating from college with a degree in the sciences, I moved to Arctic Alaska. Here, my wife Tiffany and I worked as schoolteachers, where we lived a somewhat subsistence lifestyle. I’ve been hunting and trapping for over 40 years, and doing it in Alaska catapulted me to a whole new level. During our time in the Arctic, I took what I learned from my years of trapping in Oregon and applied it. There I trapped fox for three years on my own,

then ended up running a 200-mile wolf trapline with an Inupiat Eskimo man in the remote village of Anaktuvuk Pass, in the heart of the Brooks Range. I’ll never forget what I learned from the late Ben Hopson, as he taught me how to consistently catch wolves, wolverine and lynx. Red fox and Arctic fox were much easier. What I’ve learned from trappers and predator callers over the years has been eye-opening, and it confirms why I rank these folks as not only some of the best hunters and outdoorsmen I’ve ever spent time with, but some of the best conservationists. They understand the predator-prey balance on so many levels. They

know what has to be done in order to keep predator numbers in-check. They know predators are not the fluffy zoo animals commonly humanized on TV or in children’s books. Predators are opportunistic animals that will do what’s necessary to survive and propagate their species, period. WHILE CHECKING MY TRAPS in Alaska one day, a buddy and I came across a wolf pack. My friend shot a black wolf up on a hill. Since it was too icy to walk up the open hillside, we went around the backside. An hour later we reached where he’d shot the wolf, but it was gone. Only tufts of black

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FIELD

Big game meat can lend itself to an outside-thenorm version of hash that’s sure to be a hit at breakfast. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

HASHING OUT A WILD GAME BREAKFAST BY TIFFANY HAUGEN

W

hether you’re coming home with a fresh and tasty Sitka blacktail or looking to put something together with that moose or caribou in the freezer, this is a recipe you’re sure to enjoy. From rump and neck roasts to a slow cooker full of shanks, ground or shredded cuts of any kind, versatile venison can be easily added to breakfast, lunch or dinner. A favorite in our house for a quick breakfast is venison hash. Keep it simple for the plain palate or jazz it up for the more adventurous. This hash is tasty, healthy and incredibly filling. When cooking up large quantities of meat, it’s important to look ahead and do a little meal planning. If you don’t want to plan for the week yet want to have cooked meat on-hand, vacuum-seal and freeze 2- to 4-cup portions of meat from this recipe for up to four months. Shredded, ground in a food processor or finely chopped meat can be frozen with or without seasonings. The key to keeping things organized

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is in the labeling. Be specific when labeling what you put in the freezer to remind yourself of your future intentions. Consider potential dishes when labeling them like “ground moose for hash,” “already seasoned (barbecue),” “pulled deer: salt and pepper for breakfast burritos,” or “spicy curry caribou (add to fried rice).” Also, put a date on these packages and keep them at the front of the freezer so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

VENISON HASH

Four medium precooked potatoes, cubed 2 to 3 cups precooked ground venison (any big game works) 3 tablespoons coconut or olive oil 1 tablespoon butter (optional) ½ cup onion, minced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon smoked paprika ½ teaspoon black pepper Salt to taste ½ to 1 cup beef broth if needed Four eggs Additional oil/butter to fry eggs One avocado Hot sauce

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Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish if desired In a large skillet heat oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent. Move onions and garlic to the edge of the pan and add potatoes. Fry potatoes until they begin to brown. Add cooked venison and smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste. (If your cooked meat was already seasoned, be careful not to oversalt.) If the mixture is dry, add up to 1 cup beef broth. Fry eggs to serve atop each serving of hash along with avocado slices. Sprinkle with a few dashes of hot sauce and chopped parsley or cilantro. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany’s popular book, Cooking Big Game, visit tiffanyhaugen.com. Follow Tiffany on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and watch for her on the online series Cook With Cabela’s and The Sporting Chef TV show.


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FIELD fur could be seen in the blood-saturated snow, as the entire pack came back and consumed it before we could get there. Routinely, I’d find only a wolf leg in a trap as the rest of the carcass had been clearly eaten by the rest of the pack. I once watched a pack of wolves from a distance as they took down and devoured an entire caribou in a matter of minutes, bones, hooves and all. In one valley near where we lived in Alaska, the moose season experienced an emergency closure due to overpredation by wolves. This hurt the meat supply for the subsistence families who couldn’t afford expensive food to be flown in. Controlling wolf numbers by aircraft was forbidden at the time, and during these years big game numbers felt the wrath in so many corners of Alaska. One year a small village to the south of

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As wolves continue to expand their range, efficient management of them and big game will be critical. Chris Stewart took this wolf near Egegik, Alaska. (SCOTT HAUGEN)


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FIELD where we lived got a special order pushed through that the governor of Alaska put his stamp of approval on. Wolfpacks had surrounded the tiny village, decimating the caribou that lived there. These were caribou the people depended on for food. No caribou meant no food for them. So special permission was granted to come in with a bush plane and take out the problem wolves. Before the planes could get off the ground anti-hunters based in California stopped the project. They found loopholes in legislation that allowed them to shut it down. Soon after, every caribou was dead and the wolves moved on. The Native villagers had no food with still three months of winter remaining.

GROWING UP, THERE WERE many trappers

near my home in Oregon. Money was

good for pelts back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, very few people trap there, with bobcat and coyote populations decimating deer, turkey and other upland bird populations. It’s a common story – predators claiming wildlife – that’s seen and shared by hunters around the country. In the U.S., nearly 10 percent of the population hunts; roughly 10 percent never will. The other 80 percent are on the fence, looking closely at views presented by hunters and anti-hunters. Every time they see or hear something conveyed by a hunter that’s inaccurate, false and based on emotion and not scientific fact, they likely don’t know it. Regardless, it impacts the thought process of those looking for guidance. Predator hunters are among the nation’s leading hunting conservationists. They help maintain the balance between game animals and the many predator species. Whether you realize it or not, if you’re a predator hunter, you could be the biggest key to hunting’s future. That’s be-

cause you get it. You see predator control from a realistic view attained by spending time in the woods. You understand the delicate balance based on science and realistic observation, not what’s spewed out based on emotion.

PREDATOR HUNTERS CAN DIRECTLY impact

hunting’s future because they help manage wildlife based on reality, not biased feelings. The day hunters, biologists and the nonhunting public govern predator management by emotion is the day proper wildlife management ceases to exist. It can quite possibly mark the demise of all hunting as we know it. For this reason, it’s important for predator hunters to keep doing what they do. If you’re not a predator hunter, now is the time to start. Alaska has plenty of such opportunities for everyone. ASJ

Editor’s note: Scott Haugen has authored many popular hunting books, and now lives in Hyder, Alaska. Learn more at scotthaugen.com.

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FIELD TO FORK: TOP FOOD PROCESSING GADGETS BY PAUL D. ATKINS • ILLUSTRATION BY JOSEPH FRUEAUF

W

e all hunt for different reasons. Some hunt for the sheer pleasure of being in the outdoors, others to be with family. And yes, there are those who are looking for the biggest and the widest the tundra has to offer. Whatever the reason might be, the end result, if successful, will be what many of us are actually after, which is to fill our freezer each year. Remember, whether you’re a looking for a big set of horns or something that’ll look great on

the grill, or maybe both, it’s all a trophy, from head to tail. For many us here in the Last Frontier, especially in rural Alaska, processing our game meat is pretty much our only choice. It has to be done as soon as we return each time out, with no excuses. I imagine it can be said about other places as well, and probably even in places where a local butcher can process meat. Bottom line is that many hunters and fishermen like to process their own

game meat. It’s part of the deal, not to mention very rewarding. I enjoy “cutting meat.” Over the years it has become a family affair, which makes the entire process that more rewarding, especially for my boy Eli; he loves it. One of extra joys is having the right equipment in order to get the job done in a clean, quick and precise fashion. Here are some of the items we have waiting us if we happen to come home lucky.

It takes a lot to field dress a moose. Since you went through all the time and expense, you may as well enjoy the eating aspects as much as you can and get the best tools on the market to have the meat processed. (PAUL D. ATKINS)


(CABELA'S)

VACUUM SEALER

GRINDER

(CABELA'S)

Compared to the old days, when having to grind everything by hand took forever (especially on a big moose), we now have electric grinders that make life much easier and it's actually quite fun to use. I personally use the big Cabela’s Carnivore commercial grinder. It’s incredible! It can grind 14 to 18 pounds per minute, keeps cool and is quiet. Zipping through a big moose takes no time!

Back in the old days we used a “food saver.” It worked most of the time, but not always. Packages would not quite seal and freezer burn would ensue. Not anymore with some of these new vacuum sealers. I personally use the new Cabela’s 12-inch model. It’s fast, efficient and will keep your food fresher for up to five times longer.

TRAGER GRILL DEHYDRATOR

(CABELA'S)

If you’re not making your own jerky, then you really are missing out. This stuff is like gold and if you’ve been to the store lately to buy some, then you know what I mean. It’s a great snack while hunting, fishing or just because, and your family and friends (if you choose to share) will be eternally grateful. I recently purchased Cabela’s 10-tray Deluxe hydrator. It is simple to use with its adjustable thermostat and consistent drying from top to bottom. And the best thing is that it is easy to clean, which is a big deal to me.

(TRAGER)

Last but not least, you should have something good to cook your meat on. I don’t know what I can say about these new pellet grills, but if you haven’t tried one, then you need too. They are incredible, bringing cooking meat outside to a whole other level. Trager Grills need no introduction and, in my opinion, they are simply the best. With set-itand-forget-it technology, these grills cook meat evenly and the taste is out of this world. They come with plenty of accessories as well.

(PAUL D. ATKINS)

From the field to fork is important to many people, and for most of us it's a big reason why we hunt. In the end, whether you process it yourself or send it to a local butcher, it doesn’t matter; just enjoy it. The hard part will be making it last the rest of the year. ASJ

(PAUL D. ATKINS)

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