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FISHING • HUNTING • ADVENTURE

OUTSMART SUMMER SALMON! Early-run Chinook Tips Keeping Gear Scent-Free Angler’s Ode To Kings

Don’t Fret Failure Skunkings Provide Lessons Too!

AKSPORTINGJOURNAL.COM

AK Hunt Planner How, When, Where For Big Bulls

Bear Spray Expert Advice On Use, Safety

A Career For Critters Wildlife Forever CEO’s Long Ride

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Volume 10 • Issue 1 www.aksportingjournal.com PUBLISHER James R. Baker GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak EXECUTIVE EDITOR Andy Walgamott EDITOR Chris Cocoles WRITERS Paul D. Atkins, Scott Haugen, Tiffany Haugen, Jeff Lund, Mike Lunde, Riley Woodford, Dave Workman, Dave Zoby SALES MANAGER Katie Higgins ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rick D’Alessandro, Mamie Griffin, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS Kayla Mehring, Sam Rockwell, Jake Weipert 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 Salmon runs are commencing throughout Alaska’s river systems, and Scott and Tiffany Haugen lead the way as anglers begin making preparations for a fishing trip of a lifetime. (HAUGEN ENTERPRISES) 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 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 CORRESPONDENCE Twitter @AKSportJourn Facebook.com/alaskasportingjournal Email ccocoles@media-inc.com

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 1

PREPARE NOW,

HUNT LATER

83

(PAUL D. ATKINS)

Yes, Alaska is just about set for its summer party, but that doesn’t mean you should be putting off your plans for a fall bull moose, caribou or Dall sheep hunt. Paul Atkins is already getting his gear in order, working out to be in tiptop shape and researching the best bush plane pilots to transport him to prime backcountry land. Take notes as you read Atkins’ checklist for that Last Frontier hunt of a lifetime.

FEATURES 39

65

FISHING FOR ROYALTY Our correspondent Dave Zoby has Virginia and Wyoming roots and has fished throughout North America, and he’s compiled many of his adventures into a new book, Fish Like You Mean It. Zoby, a regular visitor to the Last Frontier, has a deep and emotional connection with king salmon and shares an excerpt from quite the adventure that featured bears, bugs and, of course, salmon. GO SCENTLESS FOR SALMON When you order your favorite meal you wouldn’t find it as appetizing if it came with a peculiar scent. That’s how you should approach rigging up your salmon rod. In their latest Field to Fire column, Scott Haugen reminds you to keep your hands clean and your baits as unsullied by human odor and oils as possible. Once you have that coho or sockeye in the boat, you can start thinking about how to cook it, which Tiffany offers in a healthy yogurt- and leek-based dish.

101 SEE IT, SPRAY IT Any outdoor outing in Alaska means bears might be sharing that river, trail or shoreline you’re enjoying. Carrying bear spray is as important as having a first-aid kit and sunscreen. But unleash-

ing a dose of deterrent to help keep a bruin away also runs the risk of being exposed yourself, so Riley Woodford of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has tips and remedies if you end up getting as much of a whiff of spray as the bear. 115 WHEN IT DOESN’T HAPPEN Jeff Lund had the grouse in his sights and he could see dinner in his future. And then … he missed. Lund’s about a realistic a sportsman as you’ll meet in the Last Frontier and has had plenty of empty trips as tags filled. Get perspective and inspiration from Lund as he remembers good days and bad.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE 53 75 121 126

Early-run Chinook tips Lifestyle vs. logo: Is it all about the branding? Summer chores: Rifle repairs, shotgun servicing Company profile: Layke Tactical, AR-platform maker

DEPARTMENTS 17 21 37 109

The Editor’s Note Protecting Wild Alaska: A career in conservation Outdoor calendar Big Game Focus: Brown bears

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 $39.95 (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 © 2018 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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EDITOR’S NOTE

O

ne of my fondest memories as a kid was going to the San Francisco Zoo with my elementary class. Of all the critters I saw that day, it was the majestic bears – both polar and grizzly – that captured my attention. I loved how they could give off a vibe of both beauty and terror at the same time. One minute the polar bear appeared to be mugging for the crowd outside its enclosure. But then the bruin got more serious, or at least that’s what this little kid’s eyes told me. I knew that bears were bloody dangerous even as I felt protected by the moat separating humanity from Mother Nature. And in Alaska, you better believe that you’ll be sharing the salmon-filled rivers with similarly fish-hungry ursine creatures. It’s important for anyone heading up to the Last Frontier to read this month’s story on bear spray and how to safely use it and prevent yourself from being exposed when trying to keep an aggressive grizzly or black bear at a safe distance. Riley Woodford of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has plenty of good information in his article, and two recent stories only hammer home the point about the dangers bears can pose in Alaska. In Chugiak, just up Alaska Route 1 from Anchorage, a sow brown bear and her three cubs raided a local farm and killed 22 chickens and a goat. The mother bear was shot and killed

Sharing the river with bears is common on Alaska fishing trips. But it’s important to be ready for anything when yours and their worlds collide. (NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

by ADFG officers. And in Southeast Alaska, another brown bear that fatally attacked three dogs was also euthanized by police in Hoonah, a mostly Tlingit community west of Juneau on Chichagof Island. So May was not a good month for bears in the Last Frontier. But these unfortunate incidents are a reminder that while bears are revered and a source of pride in Alaska, it’s important to both respect and be wary of these animals. Hopefully you won’t be in a position where that bear will have to be shot, but remember to keep your bear spray and common sense handy during that dream fishing trip this summer. -Chris Cocoles

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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA

A CAREER IN

CONSERVATION RETIRING WILDLIFE FOREVER CEO REFLECTS ON 25-YEAR RUN, ‘CALL OF THE WILD’

BY CHRIS COCOLES

I

n 1987, a group of conservationists started Wildlife Forever, a nonprofit dedicated, per its website, “To conserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife.”

Even the most optimistic of dreamers couldn’t have predicted such a successful venture. Doug Grann has been the president and CEO of Wildlife Forever and has been with the organization for 25 years. He recently announced he was stepping down as CEO. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with Doug Grann. I have served

Doug Grann served 25 years with the nonprofit conservation organization Wildlife Forever, including turns surveying Alaskan brown bears early in his career, and president and CEO later on in his tenure. He recently announced he was stepping down from that position. (DOUG GRANN/WILDLIFE FOREVER)

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Working for Wildlife forever was “a dream come true” for Grann. He feels good about turning the 30-year-old outfit “over to young blood with new ideas. But it is also time to take the grandkids fishing.” (DOUG GRANN/WILDLIFE FOREVER)

on the board during Doug’s building of the organization and developing programs,” said Scott Grieve, Wildlife Forever’s chairman. “His tireless work on behalf of conservation and education is admired by everyone who knows him. We look forward to his continued leadership and new role as president of the board.” “Wildlife Forever believes conservation education will ultimately determine the future of America’s fish and wildlife heritage. It is only through education and participation that we will pass on the stewardship of our natural resources to the next generation.” Grann’s generation certainly has 22

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made its mark on the ongoing struggle to protect the nation’s natural resources as such factors as climate change and mining are points of contention. “I have heard the ‘cry of the wild’ across this great land. I have heard the bugle of elk amid the foothills of the Western Plains, the shrill of a bald eagle along the banks of the mighty Mississippi; the roar of a brown bear on the windswept tundra of Kodiak; the cackle of a pheasant on a Midwest farm; the gobble of the wild turkey among eastern hardwoods; and the haunting cry of a sandhill crane on the Platte River,” Grann said. “I have been blessed to work for Wildlife Forever.”


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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA We caught up with Grann to get his perspective on conservation as he moves onto the next chapter.

Chris Cocoles Tell me about your experience at Wildlife Forever and after 25 years, why you decided to step away. Doug Grann It has certainly been an honor to work for fish and wildlife conservation over the past 25 years at Wildlife Forever. Stewardship started early for me in Missouri. My family always enjoyed trout fishing at Bennett Springs and years later volunteering with local conservation groups followed. My first advocacy efforts involved securing signatures for the Missouri constitutional amendment “Design for Conservation” back in 1976. It passed and I saw by working together we can make a difference. Wildlife Forever was a dream come true. So why leave after 25 years? It

is time to turn the leadership over to young blood with new ideas. But it is also time to take the grandkids fishing. It is an opportunity to hunt and fish more often. Plus my wife Karen and I love being on the lake at sun-up and casting for bass.

CC How has Wildlife Forever evolved over the years? DG Right from day one I gave money to fund small grassroots conservation challenge grants. When I started Wildlife Forever I had only done a couple of grants for a few thousand dollars. I thought, “Let’s help small groups do good work.” The first thing I did was give all our money away. A nonprofit is not a bank. If you spend donated contributions on the mission, then members develop trust and will give more. Our old saying is “Spend it and they will give.” My first year at Wildlife Forever we gave away $400,000 and $800,000 in year two, followed by millions of dollars every year since.

Wildlife Forever has a 30-year heritage as a national nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to conserving America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and the management of fish and wildlife. My responsibilities included the leadership of Wildlife Forever and management of staff and programs, plus creation and development of national campaigns. Over the years we have had numerous national initiatives that have flourished. I was instrumental in the creation of the State Fish Art Contest, now 20 years old; the Master’s Walleye Circuit and World Walleye Championship; the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance (TRCA); “Racing for Wildlife,” a NASCAR-based conservation effort; and the Clean Drain Dry Initiative, reaching over two billion recreational users. During my tenure, Wildlife Forever received 60 awards and recognition honors. It makes me smile when thinking of all the conservation work accomplished, our many staff and partners

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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA around the country and the lasting results of helping ensure the future of fish and wildlife for our kids to enjoy. I value our long-standing interactions with federal and state agencies, which validates our national objectives. I have made many friends over the years and experienced the wonders of the outdoors with dedicated individuals. Together we are reaching the American public – kids and adults – with conservation education. That has become the core value of Wildlife Forever, building stewardship through conservation education.

CC What was one of the most compelling and significant issues with invasive species that you’ve had to deal with during your tenure? DG Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to our outdoor heritage today. A dozen years ago, a friend with

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the U.S. Forest Service asked if we could place an ad in sportsmen magazines about invasive species. I have to admit I was surprised. Invasive species? Well, we did it and I learned a lot. We labeled the ad, Wanted: Dead, Not Alive. With that ad came a national program, the Clean Drain Dry Initiative. Our focus has always been outreach to hunters, anglers, boaters and all recreational users in the battle to stop invasive species. Over the years, the campaign has successfully reached a targeted outdoors recreational audience with billions of impressions. We created an extraordinary partnership of federal, state, Native American tribes, professional angling circuits, NGOs, many lake associations and corporate partners; all are working together under the leadership of Wildlife Forever. As a group of hunters and anglers, we have fostered communications and coordination through outreach and education among a diverse array of partners. As for the biggest invasive species threat, I feel it is zebra mussels. The

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curse is spreading across America and no cure is known. They affect my fishing, my boat and motor; plus they wreak havoc with gear. Keep in mind that invasive species differ by location, but all are huge threats.

CC You’ve preached to anglers and hunters to take such precautions as washing down boats and checking boots and other articles of clothing when leaving a lake or wilderness area. How critical is it of us as anglers and hunters to practice that? DG Invasive species may be the No. 1 threat of our outdoor heritage. The silent invaders are damaging fishing, destroying habitat, devastating the aquatic food chain, impeding navigation, and costing the American public millions of dollars annually. I have seen zebra mussels clear lake water and alter the food web, other lakes with major algae blooms, mats of hydrilla so thick you cannot launch your boat and, perhaps worst, the closure of public access. Wildlife Forever has been leading the charge to stop the spread of invasive species for 12 years now. Everyone is


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continues to grow and grow.

PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA learning that invasive species wreak havoc on our equipment and gear and reduce fish populations. It is simple to do your part. Remember to clean, drain, dry, every time.

CC Is there one issue or a specific invasive pest that’s most important for Wildlife Forever to keep an eye on? DG That’s a hard question. Every year new invasive species arrive in our country. They arrive by ship ballast, released from aquariums, escape from water gardens or released as unwanted bait. A few on my hit list include zebra mussel and quagga mussel; hydrilla, watermilfoil and purple loosestrife; plus the Asian carp. I was almost knocked out of the boat while running up the Illinois River by a 20-pound bighead carp. We collected 23 big carp on a 20-minute voyage. The problem is the list of invasive species

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CC What advice have or will you give to successor Pat Conzemius as the crusade to stop invasive species continues? DG I shared with Pat the concept of taking time out and seeing the wonders of the wild. I suggested when he travels, to take an extra vacation day and go sightseeing, shooting or fishing in that area, to see first-hand the habitat we conserve and experience fish and wildlife. I remember that old John Denver lyric, “You’re a richer man to see an eagle fly.” I have always believed we must enjoy the outdoors and experience the bounty of nature. And I hope that same opportunity will enrich Pat’s life and drive him to many conservation successes. We are blessed to live in an America that is full of public land and rich in natural resources. When you work hard with passion to accomplish conservation goals, you need to recharge by playing hard. For me that was hunting and fishing. A few years ago my wife and I

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started hosting a staff meeting/fishing trip every Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. Staff had to be at the ramp or be in the office. We fished till 10 a.m., then went to work. The fun, laughter and bragging rights were contagious. We introduced several staffers to fishing who caught their first fish, all while building teamwork. I wish much success for Pat and his team. And most of all I hope he hears the call of the wild along his journey in helping fish and wildlife and educating our kids and grandchildren. I have no doubt he will be a ridge runner with much success.

CC What’s your favorite achievement or top accomplishment in your career? DG My goal at Wildlife Forever was to always spend donated member funds wisely. I believed a good nonprofit organization should always have a minimum of 80 percent of all funds going to mission. I also believed Wildlife Forever should have an independent audit annually. I am proud to say we have always met both goals.


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PROTECTING

WILD ALASKA In the early years it was difficult to have 80-plus percent in conservation while also working hard to grow. But we did it, and today we have 94 percent of every dollar raised going to conservation. In fact, for the past five years we have reached or exceeded 94 percent. That is hard to do in the nonprofit world and I am proud of our legacy. Thank you, donors, for making Wildlife Forever successful.

CC Do you have any other thoughts on your career? DG Over the years I have learned many life lessons. My dad always told me success is getting paid to do what you love, and would do anyway even if unpaid. Years ago I had found myself on Kodiak Island helping with a research project on brown bears. Wildlife Forever had funded research on these huge giants for over 10 years.

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“Together we are reaching the American public – kids and adults – with conservation education,” Grann says. “That has become the core value of Wildlife Forever, building stewardship through conservation education.” (DOUG GRANN/WILDLIFE FOREVER)

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One phase of our work was coming to an end, so I went to help capture and remove the radio collars from our study animals, something that had never been done before. It was no small task. The brown bears of Kodiak can weigh over 1,500 pounds. There is nothing ordinary about Kodiak Island, Alaska. It is a remarkable and beautiful place that is still very wild. We headed for the remote interior of the island in search of our radio-collared bears. The area is so remote and rugged that we had to use a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. Using an additional fixed-winged aircraft, a Super Cub, equipped with telemetry equipment we could zero in on the collar’s radio signal. Here is where it got tricky. I was in the copilot seat of the helicopter with a sharpshooter behind me with a specially designed tranquilizer rifle. We would zoom in, dart the bear, back off and once the bear was immobilized (it took about 3 minutes) we could move in, land and remove the collar and make a final inspection of the bear before it woke up (we had 35 minutes to do the work). We had a large female bear spotted (Number 23) and as we approached to fire the dart, I noticed the winds were building from the mountain updrafts. At times the mountain winds can be very dangerous. Our helicopter was becoming unstable. We were moving straight up this wall of solid granite, tracking the bear for the shot, when the pilot hollowed over the headsets, “Abort, Abort.” The gusting winds were driving our rotor blades into the side of the mountain. Our approach had been risky at best and we had to back away for safety. It was decided we could lighten the load of the helicopter and try again. We landed on the very top of a mountain across from the bear. We removed the doors of the chopper, all but two seats and all the unnecessary gear, including myself. I will never forget watching that helicopter leave me on the mountaintop. I sure hoped they could find me later. I don’t know if it was fear or doubt or simply excitement from the adventure, but I was shaking all over. I was 32

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sitting on top of the world, a place where no man had ever set foot. It was a wonderful feeling, kind of an explorer sensation. All around me the view was extraordinary. I saw eagles soaring below me, small veins of rushing water draining from the valleys to the ocean full of bright red salmon. I took a peek over the edge and was filled with wonder. It was magical. I soon discovered an ancestral trail where brown bears roam. It is said the giants walk in their forefathers’ footsteps. I could see century-old depressions in the tundra of individual footsteps placed year after year by generation after generation of Kodiak bears. It was a little overwhelming. I found I was shaking again. I hoped a bear would not lumber over the top of the mountain just then. I sat down to collect myself and I noticed hundreds of small red wildflowers. Here blooming where no one would ever see them were wildflowers, tundra delights that only the wild could appreciate. This ordinary day of doing bear research in an extraordinary place was turning into an extraordinary experience. I reflected on the magnificent view and the rare chance that had allowed me to touch the ground. I wondered about what would happen to me if the helicopter did not return. What if something happened to them on the other side of the mountain? No one – no one – knew where I was. I realized if God placed flowers on the top of a mountain on Kodiak Island and if the salmon below me continued to run up streams to spawn year after year and if brown bears have prospered for centuries here, then there was order in this world. I felt really small and unimportant, but I also felt warm and comfortable. I was no longer shaking. Something bigger than me was in charge and I was given a glimpse of the magic of life on that mountain in Alaska. That is the power of the wild. It changed my life and that is why I worked for Wildlife Forever. ASJ Editor’s note: Check out wildlifeforever.org and like at facebook.com/Wildlifeforever for more information.

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OUTDOOR CALENDAR

It will be a busy summer in the port of Valdez with several fishing derbies, starting with June’s Halibut Hullabaloo. (VALDEZ CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU)

June 1-30 Seward Halibut Tourney; seward.com/welcome-toseward-alaska/halibut-tournament-june June 8-17 Valdez Halibut Hullabaloo Derby; valdezfishderbies.com June 8-17 Slam’n Salm’n Derby, Ship Creek, Anchorage; anchorage.net/events/salmon-derby July 4 Mount Marathon Race, Seward; mmr.seward.com July 21-Sept. 2 Valdez Silver Salmon Derby; valdezfishderbies.com

July 21 Valdez Kids Silver Salmon Derby July 27 First Valdez Big Prize Friday King Salmon Tournament; valdezfishderbies.com/silver-derby/big-prize-fridays Aug. 11-19; Seward Silver Salmon Derby; seward.com/welcome-to-seward-alaska/seward-silver-salmon-derby-august Aug. 17-19 Golden North Salmon Derby, Juneau; goldennorthsalmonderby.com Aug. 18-19 First weekend of Ketchikan Charr King Salmon Tournament; ketchikancharrsalmonderby.com

Editor’s note: For more specific information on hunting regulations, refer to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s handbook (adfg.alaska.gov).

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ODE TO THE KINGS

For Dave Zoby, whose new book details fishing adventures all over the country, Alaska’s king salmon are the “fish that you dream about.” (DAVE ZOBY)

NEW BOOK CHRONICLES AN ANGLER’S LOVE OF SALMON FISHING Editor’s note: Freelance writer Dave Zoby is not above sleeping in the bed of his truck with his two dogs, Henry and Rocket, to get a good story. A lifelong bird hunter and fisherman, Dave is the first to admit that he’s better at writing than he is at catching fish or bagging a limit of blue grouse. He is a frequent contributor to Gray’s Sporting Journal, Wyoming Wildlife, and The Flyfish Journal. Dave contributes to Alaska Sporting Journal and you may have seen his articles about halibut fishing, do-it-yourself adventures for Chinook and other Alaskan topics. Fish Like You Mean It (Pearl Button Press, 2018) is a collection of Dave’s finest musings on waterdogs, fishing, and the inner drive that makes us suffer to make opening day each season. Here is an excerpt reprinted with the permission of the author:

BY DAVE ZOBY

O

urs was a small river – so small you could wade across most sections. Sweepers made some places frightening: Their branches trembled in the current, and you could see twists of monofilament and tackle abandoned to the swirling force where the river and the dead trees collided. Deep coal seams and sharp turnouts gave the salmon places to rest and lurk. We could see them, their

dorsal fins cutting the surface as they flirted and futzed over each other like newlyweds. It was the summer solstice, bear season, and the peak of the king run simultaneously. The hunters, who shared our Spartan lodge, were off in the woods poised in their stands over a mixture of Purina and molasses, so it appeared that we had the river to ourselves.

KINGS ARE FISH YOU dream about. As fry, they live for one year in their birth

stream, their home gravel. Then, all at once, they head seaward, out over the tidal flats, past the bobbing strings of duck decoys and rough-hewn shanties, through the boreal tides and into the Bering Sea. Most are eaten by birds and other fish, or they’re lost to the churning currents and broken shoals of faraway coasts. Some end up strung in the high offices of commercial nets, bound for a Japanese sushi bar with a puzzled look. The ones which return represent the impossibility of life, the

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A Lower 48er, Zoby’s trips to Alaska mean a chance to land a coveted Chinook on his favorite rivers. (DAVE ZOBY)

long odds of restoring Eden. Before I was overcome with adulation at the sight of Chinook preparing a redd, the scene was broken by the chop of helicopter blades. Entrepreneurs from the Kenai Peninsula had been selling guided day trips for $475 per angler. Descending from heaven, the aircraft surveyed the stream, spotted salmon, and then landed on a nearby gravel bar. The princelings who emerged from the helicopters almost always wore guns: Huge chrome pistols strapped to the hip, ostensibly so that we knew that they meant business. They all wore dark fishing glasses. The guide, who stood off a few pac40

ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL

es and surveyed the forest-line while the others fished, carried a mean-looking carbine with a lever action. My fishing partner Brian and I shared a can of bear spray, a purchase we had made in a sporting goods store in Anchorage. The clerk smirked as we dug for cash. Our lone can of bear mace made me feel vulnerable – especially vulnerable among the constant jokes told around the lodge. Secretly, I hoped that if I did have a bear encounter, I could trust the bear to recognize my lack of confidence, my never-ending self-doubt, and, so, let me pass by unmolested. A bear might pause over a salmon carcass, notice my tattered clothes, my unkempt hair, and decide that I’d al-

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

ready had enough.

WE WALKED DOWNSTREAM A mile. Drizzle and the briny mist blowing in off Cook Inlet made everything wet. The bowling-ball-sized stones seemed greased as we stumbled over them. The Deet didn’t work at all. Instead, it seemed to encourage the swaths of mosquitoes. An hour later, we found a group of undisturbed Chinook. Their great tails lightly pushed the current. Heads fixed upstream, they ignored us. After an hour of casting and dragging our flies across their noses, it was plain to see that they did not want to eat. In fact, when my fly glanced off of their sides, or brushed their fins, they bolted away.


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There’s something about casting on a lonely Alaska river – bears and all, which happened on this Kenai excursion – that brings some clarity and peace for an angler. (DAVE ZOBY)

Adding a bit more weight to my leader, my fly drifted into the face of a large hen. She inhaled it. The huge fish leapt once from the pool, showering Brian and me with 10 gallons of river water. She made haste to the opposite bank, where a log juggernaut the size of a PTA meeting extended from the river current. So this is paradise, I thought. My reel protested and shuttered, giving all the signs of poor workmanship. The fish leapt up into the logjam, crashed and struggled among the dead trees, and snapped my 20-pound leader as if it were a spider web. She fell back into the river, unharmed. Suddenly, at my 42

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feet, she zoomed up beside her mate and resumed her upstream gaze. My poorly tied fly was in her lip. I said to no one in particular that I could not envision how we’d ever land on fly tackle a fish that strong. My fly reel was busted. Small bits of cork from the drag system crumbled out of the reel case like freckles. Brian rebuked me for buying a cheap reel, and then set hook on his own fish. When it breeched, I heard the sickening sound of graphite giving way. His new Sage rod snapped and fell into the river. The fish, with Brian’s fly in its lip, leapt a half dozen times as it raced up the river and around the bend. We

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

gathered our broken gear and headed back to the lodge. Halfway back, I saw what looked like rags rippling in the current. It was the carcass of a dead king strung on a log snag, her roe and flesh striped away with a filet knife. Her stare caught me, tugged at my innermost ideals of justice and fair play. A closer inspection revealed thousands of parr swarming about, pecking on the dead fish. Huffing up the trail, we made the gravel logging road without being attacked by bears, but our faces sung with mosquitoes. Our host, driving back from the hunting stands, pulled alongside in his rusted-out Suburban


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and asked about the fishing. He had recently survived a thrashing from a cow moose, and he was still too bruised to go fishing himself. Impressed by our busted tackle, he shut the truck’s engine off, and we stood around in the light rain talking about salmon and bears. He said that there was nothing better than canned salmon and he could live on it all year long if the run was strong. He complained about the choppers, the price of prescription drugs and gill nets. He complained about the native corporation that surrounded his lodge, how they had grown tired of him and tried to oust him. Oddly, he had nothing but praise for moose. Mosquitoes feasted on his face; he didn’t notice. He warned us more than once that we should find a guy with a pistol to go along with us for protection. “Remember,” he said, “toss the carcasses back in the river when you’ve got em cleaned. There’s bears around.” “Blacks mostly?” Brian asked, playing along. “Hell no, browns. There’s a 10-footer around Lone Creek and one’s been up here in camp eating out of the trash barrels.”

DINNER AT THE LODGE was served buffet style – all you could eat if you showed up early. In the brochures they showed long rows of tables, bowls heaped with fresh salads, trays of newly baked breads and wine glasses waiting by for a touch of red or white. But the main lodge was a dumpy, a slanted affair strung with visqueen to keep the bugs out. The brochure had said that there were fish processing facilities where your catch would be “flash frozen and prepared for your journey home.” But I saw none of this. There were Ziplocs handed out in the morning by the beer-bellied cook. “Put the meat in these,” he said. “If you keep any.” My fellow sportsmen didn’t dwell on these discrepancies. They returned from the woods smelling of bug dope and dog food. Brian and I got our plates and sat off to the side by the woodstove as the hardiest among them regaled one another with bear lore. The 44

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shine off their pistols was dazzling. One yarn being spun involved a waggish fellow from Springfield, Missouri, and how he had missed, or slightly grazed, a 400-pound boar at the bait barrel. They even had a video of the event, which they set up and played for us. It was evident that the man did not miss the bear at all. I looked at Brian who had become distant and morose. Somewhere out beyond the halo of lights from the lodge, there was a 400-pound bear dying in the rain. Or maybe he had crawled down to the river to soothe his wounds and would be there seeking revenge. Before lights out, Brian dug up all his tying gear and proceeded to twist some flies for the next day. The generator thumped and sputtered as I complained about bear baiting and how, as a practice, it hurts the reputation of all hunters. Brian grunted a few “uhs” and “hmmms.” He would not join me.

FISHING PARTNERS, IF THE truth be known, are oftentimes civilized enemies. Try as I might, I could not feel glad for him on the Henrys Fork when he hooked his sixth fish of the day and I had none. Nor could I help from being privately delighted when he lost footing and plunged into the icy currents of Wyoming’s North Platte. Years ago, we decided to take up fly fishing together. As I sped toward mediocrity, Brian mastered all the casting skills on his front lawn, developing the ability to tie perfect flies from even the most obscure manuals. My flies never looked right and I was losing interest in, for example, standing on the banks of the Miracle Mile in a November snow squall, my fingers useless and red beyond belief. I liked getting there, reading Roderick Haig-Brown stories about rivers and wild fish. Brian liked folding his waders perfectly back into their carrying case, fooling around with reels and lines, cleaning out his fly vest, doing all things with grace. We were essentially opposites, though we shared a lot of surface traits, one being our love of Irish whiskey, which we fished out of my carry-on luggage and pulled at bitterly. All night a cold rain fell on the tar-

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

paper roof of our cabin. I got up to pee, but I could not venture out into the rain by myself with all the hubbub about bears. Luckily, Brian had to go as well, and so we both stood shirtless, pissing in the underbrush. We constantly looked over our shoulders to the dense forest where the bear trails converged and ran amuck like a child’s doodling. At breakfast the next morning, we were the first to arrive. We ate quickly, avoided swapping pleasantries with the others, and set out to catch some salmon. With the steady rain, the helicopters were temporarily grounded. We passed what must have been Lone Creek, so choked with salmon that it seemed unfair to fish for them. Here, I saw my first grizzly track, deep in the fine black sand, with distinguishable points over each toe where the claws just touched. A Native guide from a nearby village stood with a .30-30 over one pool of salmon. His client, a portly Oklahoman, thrashed the water with ripping casts. The guide was smoking and he nodded at us as we passed. “Do the bear trust you?” he said. I heard him clearly, but asked him to repeat. “Do he trust you, the old Lone Creek?” He pointed to the heavy tracks in the sand and the bits of chewed upon salmon. “We haven’t been formally introduced,” said Brian. “He’s a 10-footer. Likes to sneak up and breathe on your neck,” said the guide. There was no sign that he was kidding. “Well, if you hear screaming, call Brian’s wife and tell her he won’t be home to paint the fence,” I said. The Oklahoman chuckled and then whooped as he butt-snagged a king and watched as she made quick work of his leader. The flies we selected were flies in name only. Actually, they were thumbsized hooks, weighted with lead wire and wrapped in generous amounts of fuchsia bunny fur. The idea was to aggravate the fish into striking our offerings. The Native downstream told us to fish “the waist” of the river where the kings held. Indeed, the river was shaped like a woman’s hips, flaring out in voluptuous curves. There were pools


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where fish could sulk until their next push upstream. After a while, I caught a salmon. She took off downstream and I had to follow, but after a brave struggle, she beached herself at my feet. She then began to writhe and roll with tremendous power, fouling my leader and bending my fly into a useless piece of wire. Brian was around the bend, so I was alone. I selected a rock the size of a sweet potato and cracked the salmon twice on the skull. Her eye turned and gave me that deep-sea gaze; her tail fins fluttered and went still. She gulped once, and then a necklace of orange roe spurted from her, and another, and another. Thousands of eggs glistened in the sand. I filleted her on a piece of driftwood. Her flanks were latticed with net scars, her flesh the hue of mango – the firm meat spilling out of my hands. I rummaged through my backpack and pulled out a freezer bag. Heaving the carcass into the river, I felt anew that pang of self-doubt that was my bear repellant. I washed the fillets off in the river and packed them away, then walked back to find Brian. “Did you kill her?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, “I did.” “I guess I’d like one to take back home too.”

WITH THE FIRM WEIGHT of a salmon in my backpack, I sat on a log and smoked as Brian fished, his perfect loops swinging out over the pool, the fly making a dimple in the far current. He caught his salmon and landed him just where the current began to back eddy. His fly, too, was ruined. He selected a rock, brought it down on the fish and went to work with his beak-shaped knife. Bursts of milt ran back into the river and I wondered if the two salmon we had killed were lovers, or siblings, or both. In five minutes there was another fleshless carcass in the current, sinking among the vibrant survivors, and a few grilse flashing at the loose meat. ASJ Editor’s note: You can buy Dave Zoby’s Fish Like You Mean It by visiting his website at davezoby.com, or order it online at Amazon.com. 46

ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL

“She took off downstream and I had to follow, but after a brave struggle, she beached herself at my feet.” Zoby writes of his king. “She then began to writhe and roll with tremendous power.” (DAVE ZOBY)

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com


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JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com


BECOME FIT FOR KINGS HOW TO CATCH EARLY-RUN CHINOOK

BY MIKE LUNDE

A

s the remnants of another long Alaska winter faded into the hands of time, king salmon anglers statewide could reclaim their Chinook love affair. Not long after river systems go icefree, early-run kings departed the saltwater during late April and entered their natal freshwater rivers in early May. Fishing pressure was relatively nonexistent last month, making the experience quite peaceful, as the bulk of the Alaskan summer tourism industry doesn’t begin its peak until June. Still, it is time to get those rods out of offseason hibernation and journey towards the coast, where dime-bright warriors fresh from the sea will test your tackle and fish-fighting skills.

June represents a much-needed warmup for Alaskans. It also means some great king salmon fishing in the state’s rivers during the early portion of the spawning run. (MIKE LUNDE)

RIVER SELECTION Alaska rivers are highly dynamic. Unseasonably warm winter temperatures have contributed to earlier springs over the past decade. Earlier springs have accelerated the run timing of early-moving fish, as well as impacted hydrology, water temperature, current flow and other variables. This is a reminder of the important concept that

river conditions change annually. Water temperature is one of the most important indicators of daily fish behavior, as king salmon swim a given distance throughout the course of the day with periodic times to rest in deeper pools, where the current is also substantially slower. Kings often migrate during the day

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Glacial systems such as the Susitna River can be very productive early in the fishing season because water clarity is typically clearer than during the heat of summer. (MIKE LUNDE)

during overcast conditions and typically at night to avoid certain hazards such as predation. Selecting a variety of rivers is an important strategy due to seasonal changes based primarily on the spring thaw and amount of snow accumulation in the headwaters downstream towards their mouths. Glacial river systems can be very productive early in the fishing season because water clarity is typically clearer than later in the summer. A reason for this is the magnitude of melting glaciers. Less glacial melting occurs now than later in summer, making these river systems excellent fishing candidates. Also, if clear river systems are blown out to due to heavy rain, then selecting a glacial river system is the preferred strategy. Some major glacial river systems – Copper, Susitna, Yetna and others – feature secondary spawning tributaries that are characterized by clear water. At the mouths of these tributaries, clear water empties into the silted glacial water to form a silt-line transitional zone. These silt lines are essentially “habitat hotspots” for early-run fish. 54

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Early kings, which are typically headwater spawners, hold here because they are trying to irrigate and remove silt particles from their gills. Clear river systems are also worth targeting. Fed by groundwater, rain and non-glacial snowfields, these waters will typically hold early-run kings in midchannel portions of runs, tailouts of runs and pools, and outside bends of pools. Boulders or structure that emerge above surface should be considered hotspots. Kings rest here to seek slower current flow. Also concentrate your efforts in the lower regions of mainstem rivers, say, 2 to 8 miles from the intertidal area, as fish migrate through. They are very aggressive fresh off the tides. Examples of exceptional clear systems to target are tributaries of the Susitna, Talachulitna, Deshka, Gulkana and Anchor Rivers, and Deep Creek. Popular remote systems include the Kanektok, Hoodoo, Sandy and other rivers in Bristol Bay.

TRACKING THROUGH ARCHIVED DATA The winter climate throughout Alaska

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

has substantially warmed in the past decade, and that seems to have triggered earlier run timing than in years past. During the offseason, longterm weather information including average high and low temperatures, snow accumulation and the dates of the thaw, is a significant component to go over. If you lack access to angling journals of any kind, it is rather simple to browse weather and climate data from agencies such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Geological Survey. These agencies have gauges installed on most roadside and select remote rivers throughout Alaska. Ultimately, this planning allows king anglers to have an idea when early-run fish may first arrive.

FLY TACTICS Fly fishing for early-run kings can be one of the most effective techniques. As the fish migrate upstream, it’s often assumed that they use the middle of the river channel, where the current speed is typically the fastest. But it’s actually not so much the case, as the fish


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Fisheries biologist Jeff Falke preps an East Fork Chulitna River king salmon for release. (MIKE LUNDE)

are more likely to migrate within casting distance of shoreline, making them easier targets for fly fishermen. While multiple techniques can work to entice aggressive and nonaggressive fish into striking, a simple concept called “the wet fly swing” can work really well. The technique itself is pretty straightforward. Cast the fly the desired distance and give it a brief moment to settle in the water before engaging the pullback mend. Lift the rod, literally pulling the sink-tip to get the Skagithead out of the water. To prolong this presentation, lower the rod tip to just inches above the surface of the water with the current carrying the fly. As the fly swings it achieves maximum depth, so refrain from multiple mending attempts in order to let it swing. At the same time pay close attention to rod positioning. The tip should be close to the water’s surface. Multiple mends tend to kill off the presentation. Preferences on how high to hold the rod tip vary, from just above the surface to a little higher in the air to 56

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A variety of offerings in multiple colors will take down a Chinook. Slow presentations seem to work best. (MIKE LUNDE)

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com


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Author Jeff Lunde holds a Chinook. Salmon will attract a lot more anglers later in summer, so now’s a good time to get out for early-run kings. (MIKE LUNDE)

reduce surface drag, which slows the speed of the presentation. A poor versus perfected swing presentation can be dictated by speed. A fast, out-of-control fly swung across the current results in little or no interest from kings since they like the slow presentation. Effective fly patterns vary from angler to angler, but the length of any pattern should range from 3 to 6 inches. Color selection for early-run kings is dependent on river type, distance upstream from saltwater and weather conditions, among other factors. Early-run kings are absolute suckers for blue/chartreuse and pink/orange flies. Dark-colored combinations like black/blue, black/purple, and purple/ blue are ideal for glacial river systems. Effective fly patterns include Intruder and Intruder-style flies, Prom Dresses, Jumbo Critters, Bjorn Superprawns, and MOAL Leeches.

CONVENTIONAL TACTICS Conventional anglers can be successful from either bank or boat, but if using 58

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JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com


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bait, pay close attention to the annual regulations released by ADFG, as some streams allow the use of eggs and other meaty enticements while others do not. When bait is allowed, a traditional West Coast tactic that works very effectively is to back-troll bait-wrapped plugs in a deep pool or moderate- to long-sized run just downstream from the tailout section of a riffle. Shore anglers can benefit when bait regulations are allowed on their favorite stream. Out of all the shoreline tactics available, simply using a large slip float attached to a 2- to 3-foot dropper with a glob of eggs on a large 5/0 octopus hook is almost irresistible to kings. Another popular bait tactic for early-run kings is plunking. If crowds are sparse, then a large cannonball sinker hanging on the bottom with a trailering Spin-N-Glo attracts incoming or stationary kings. Popular color choices for Spin-N-Glos include blue/chartreuse, chartreuse/silver, black/blue and hues of pink and orange. Where bait is not allowed, try a jig under a float. Marabou jigs dressed with sparse flash are excellent for kings in June, especially when they hunker down in deep holes on bright days. Jighead size should vary from ⅓ to 1 ounce, depending on depth and current speed. Plugs can be very effective even without a wrap. Traditional favorites include Kwikfishes, Hawg Nose FlatFishes and Storm Mag Wiggle Warts. They can be either back-trolled from boat or casted and retrieved moderately-slow from shore.

THE TIME IS NOW As Chinook and their chrome counterparts depart their marine homes in search of natal freshwater streams, they are destined to partake in one of the greatest journeys witnessed in nature. Mile by mile, as these early-run leviathans migrate upstream, they become highly susceptible to the techniques discussed above. With king season here, now is the time to get those rods out of hibernation and journey towards the coast where the opportunity for the angler to be crowned king of the 2018 season begins. ASJ


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ON THE NOSE

WITH HOW POWERFUL SALMON SNIFFERS ARE, THE BETTER YOU CONTROL UNWANTED SCENTS, THE MORE FISH YOU'LL CATCH BY SCOTT HAUGEN

Keeping your gear as clean as possible, including your boat, can be the key to catching more salmon. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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s we enter prime salmon fishing season, stop and think about where you’re targeting these fish and how they got there. Most salmon have been swimming in the ocean for the last one, two or three years – even more if it’s a king salmon. So how do they find their way back to the rivers where we’re now fishing for them? Smell. They make it back to where they were born by smelling their way there, often to the same exact spot they hatched.

KNOW THEIR NOSE Knowing a salmon’s sense of smell is so good, take the time to think about how you’re fishing. While anglers have been using bait and scents for years to attract and catch salmon – when and where legal in Alaska – be sure to know current bait and scent-use regulations wherever you fish. But what about other scents? I’m talking about intrusive smells that can repel salmon and keep them from biting the best of presentations. You’ll often see salmon anglers wearing rubber gloves. This isn’t because they want to keep their hands clean of smelly baits, fish slime or blood. It’s because they want to prevent getting their scent on the baits, lures or plugs being used to catch salmon. A lot of oils are excreted from the palms of human hands, and if these come in contact with baits, lures, lines and even swivels, it can deter a salmon from chomping the bait. Some people excrete more oils than others, and those folks may not catch as many fish for this reason. aksportingjournal.com | JUNE 2018

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FIELD

When you have a salmon fillet, chances are it will taste good. But kicking up your recipe with yogurt and leeks will only add to the deliciousness. (TIFFANY HAUGEN)

TRY A TASTY AND NUTRITIONAL ADDITION FOR SALMON BY TIFFANY HAUGEN

T

his time of year salmon can make it to the table three to four times a week. Although there’s nothing like a fresh fillet of salmon grilled simply with a bit of salt and lemon pepper, we like to kick up the flavor game in order to fend off boredom. The addition of yogurt and leeks not only creates a flavorful dish but they both increase the nutritional value of the entree. If you happen to make your own kefir, substitute it for the yogurt. (Curious about kefir? Check out my blog post on it at tiffanyhaugen.com/ kefir-adventures.) If you can’t find leeks caramelized onions are a good option, and feel free to add in any other fresh herbs you might have on hand.

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1 salmon fillet 1 cup thinly sliced, chopped leeks ⅔ cup plain yogurt ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, optional 2 tablespoons lime juice 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley ½ tablespoon olive oil ¼ teaspoon pepper ¼ teaspoon salt Red chili flakes, optional Fresh or dried dill for garnish Remove any pin bones from fish. This may tear up the fillet a bit, but it doesn’t matter since it will be covered by the yogurt mixture. In a small skillet, sauté leeks in olive oil on medium-high heat until softened. Add parsley and set aside. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, Parmesan cheese, lime juice, mustard, honey, salt

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

and pepper until thoroughly combined. Fold leek mixture into yogurt mixture. Place fish in a roasting pan or a foil pouch if grilling and cover with yogurt mixture. Sprinkle chili flakes over yogurt mixture. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven or in a medium-hot grill until fish reaches at least 135 degrees or desired doneness. Garnish with fresh or dried dill. Editor’s note: For signed copies of Tiffany’s popular book Cooking Seafood, send a check for $20 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This and other cookbooks can also be ordered at tiffanyhaugen.com. Tiffany is a full-time author and part of the online series, Cook With Cabela’s. Also, watch for her on The Sporting Chef and The Hunt, on Netflix.


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FIELD

Many foods contain a lot of oil that can contaminate terminal gear when being handled. Some potato chips contain so much oil, they make a great fire starter. Be wary about what you’re eating as you handle any gear. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

lures or plugs, have the person with gloved hands take care of it. You can also eliminate eating oily foods while fishing – foods that are likely to add off-putting odors to your hands, which can then be transferred to fishing gear. Fried chicken, leftover pizza and potato chips are often eaten while fishing. These are some of the oiliest foods there are. (By the way, if you’re ever in need of an emergency fire starter, use a potato chip; that’s how much oil is in one chip.) If you do eat these or other oily foods, hold them with a napkin, or rubber gloves. But before handling your gear, put on a fresh set of gloves – ones that don’t have those odors on them.

DON’T TOUCH!

WATCH THOSE SNACKS In addition to wearing gloves, there are other things you can do to prevent foul odors from contaminating your salmon gear. If not everyone fishing wants to

wear rubber gloves, have one person who is willing to wear them be the designated bait handler. In waters where bait can be fished or in situations where you need to clean or change

One guide buddy of mine is so convinced of how powerful a salmon’s sense of smell is that he won’t let clients handle anything but the rods and reels when in his boat. He doesn’t want them touching bait, lures or even the line for fear of transferring odors. If they have to let out more line, like when plugging or back-trolling diver and bait, he has them do it by operating the reel, not handling the line. His reasoning is that even when they touch the line, that’s enough odor to make fish turn away. Overkill? Maybe, but he’s one of the best salmon anglers I know and is booked up years in advance. So I heed his advice.

HITTING CLEANUP Make sure that your gear is also clean. The handles of knives, scissors and hook files should be clean and free of blood and fish slime. When wiping your hands on towels, make sure they are fresh and not reeking of slime and rotten blood. If fishing from a boat, make sure the motor’s handle is clean, as should be the case with oar handles in a driftboat. Keep those rod handles clean and free of blood, slime and other odors that can be picked up and transferred to terminal gear. At the end of the day, wash all your gear, including the boat. Scrub out the inside of your boat with hot, soapy water. This will ensure it stays clean, for simply laying a bait, lure or any termi68

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THEY WRITE COUNTRY SONGS ABOUT MORNINGS LIKE THIS.

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nal gear on the bottom of a smelly boat can taint the presentation. As water temperatures warm and slime begins to build up on the outside of your boat, wash it every time you get home. This scum line can contain bacteria and other foul odors that can curtail a salmon bite, especially in shallow-water fisheries. This season, don’t underestimate the power of a salmon’s nose. Imagine having a sense of smell so good that you could smell your way back to the exact place you were born by deciphering air particles. With sniffers that good, it’s in the best interest of salmon anglers to do the best they can to keep clean. The result will be more of these great-eating, hard-fighting salmon in the boat. ASJ

FIELD

Salmon have a sense of smell measured in parts per billion, something anglers need to stop and think about. Keeping things clean paid off for authors Scott and Tiffany Haugen with this nice pair of Nushagak River kings. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

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Editor’s note: Signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book Bank Fishing For Salmon & Steelhead, can be obtained by sending $15 to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489 or from scotthaugen.com.


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LIFESTYLE, NOT LOGO

NAVIGATING SPORTING WORLD’S MYRIAD BRAND CHOICES

BY JEFF LUND

S

tereotypes are based on some sort of observable truth, then exaggerated to insensitive or hurtful levels. Those who spend time recreating outdoors are not immune. What you do or wear makes you a type. You think sleeping in a RV is camping? You fly fish with a bobber? You think you need heads on your wall to validate yourself? One of my journalism students is a hunter and often times during the season he will ask how I did or where I went over the weekend. I ask him the same. When mired in a writer’s block, I suggested he write an article on his favorite type of camo or whether he was a Sitka or Kuiu guy. He’s neither. He doesn’t own waterproof camo. He doesn’t have a favorite brand. In that moment, I became that guy the guy who has Sitka gear and Vortex optics and was inquiring if the kid had made the all-important (not really) allin decision regarding a particular brand. I admired the purity of the young man. He had yet to be corrupted by the categories of hunters identified by camo pattern, optics, rifle, bow, boots, socks and skivvies. One day he would have to choose a faction. Bow or rifle. Fly rod or spinning. Under Armour or Cabela’s. Simms or whatever waders the local outdoor store has in your size. Most of the times the choice is nothing more than availability, but the stereotype is applied anyway. I’m a Sage guy, mostly because it’s too expensive to be more than one guy in the fly fishing world. I have a 7-weight Sage for steelhead and salmon, so I can’t afford a 7-weight Winston too. However, if I meet a dude on the river and he knows the Sage Method is $850, he might say, “Oh, I can’t afford that.” I could respond with, “Neither can I, but thank goodness for the Perm Fund check.” But it won’t matter. No matter

Jeff Lund looks the part when he heads afield, but does it matter whose gear he’s wearing? Any hunting pic can look like a posed brand advertisement in the spirit of NASCAR, but the bear, deer, steelhead, etc., just don’t care, meaning it’s more for us than them. (JEFF LUND)

how much I might try to explain it’s not what it looks like, I’m one of those guys who thinks he needs an expensive rod to make up for fishing deficiencies or because I want to look cool. If you borrow a second premium rod, you know that it’s borrowed. If you get one used, it’s, well, already been used. You have to start from scratch with a fly rod or at least get one that is gently used. That way you’re learning togeth-

er in a poetic sort of way. The rod has been tested then mass produced. Now, it gets its time on your specific rivers with your capable, or incapable, hands. How you use it, how you care for it, and the memories you have together can enhance the relationship with a brand when really it’s just something in the deep recesses of your brain validating your decision to spend $850 on a fly rod after you spent $1,000 the previous

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Mixing brands can sometimes pose problems because of sizing, so it can make sense to commit to one. (JEFF LUND)

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fall on cool hunting gear. However, you do start to recognize some of the specifics that make things premium. If you’re chucking heavy flies, you don’t need rotator cuff, Tommy John or any other surgery at the end of the day. Once you figure out how to cast the rod, and assuming it fits your casting style, the activity is so much more efficient than using a bargain rod that seems apathetic to the whole thing. You also start to understand quality of components when you’re breaking ice from the guides, after you drop it, or have the barbell eyes glance off the ferrules on a forward cast in the wind.

SO, LIKE I SAID, I’m a Sage guy, not because I think it’s the best; it’s because I had to make a choice. In that moment, when I upgraded from Bang-for-yourBuck to Affordable Premium it happened to be the now-discontinued Sage VT2 looking right at me in a sexy blue. The same can be said for every bit of gear I have for every Alaskan season. I bought a pair of Danner boots for


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A good pair of optics – regardless of the make – is a critical tool for hunters. (JEFF LUND)

deer hunting in the alpine because a hunting buddy wore them and said he liked them. I bought two layers of Sitka gear because, again, a buddy of mine seemed to like is. Another buddy of mine really likes his Kuiu, and famous dudes on TV wear First Lite, so it can’t be a bad choice. I’ve been tempted to stray from Sitka, but what will people think when I’m wearing a Sitka jacket and First Lite pants? A spring black bear will surely not respect me enough to give its life for my freezer, but if it does, how am I supposed to negotiate the hashtags on Instagram? I have a Jetboil, but I liked the MSR Pocket Rocket 2. So, I bought it. I liked the Jetboil pan and pot, so I’m a Jetboil guy, except for the heating mechanism. The pan doesn’t care that the heat comes from an MSR product, so I shouldn’t either. The most important label of a hunter or angler are those exact, all-encompassing words. In a world that is increasingly judging and threatening our way of life because of the cruel, murderous stereotypes, it’s vital to keep what’s most important in mind and afford individuality because we, of all people, should know it’s not about the brand, it’s about the lifestyle. ASJ 78

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JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com


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BE A LEGEND OF THE FALL THE TIME TO START PREPARING FOR AN AUTUMN HUNT STARTS NOW BY PAUL D. ATKINS

T

here is not a day that goes by that my phone doesn’t remind me, either with a text message or a call, that fall is just around the corner. April and May are notorious for these alerts, as hunters start getting the fever of coming to Alaska. They usually want to know the what, where and how information. “I want to come to Alaska and hunt

caribou or moose,” they’ll say. “So what do I need to do?” “Where do I go?” And lastly, “Will you go with me?” Ha-ha. I’d love too, but can’t; I’ve got too many irons in the fire as it is. But I can give you the basics and point you in the right direction.

WHERE DO I GO? Depending on the species you plan to pursue in Alaska, you will first have to decide where to go. While many tags

Now’s the time to start prepping for a fall hunting adventure in the Last Frontier. While good raingear, boots and wool socks are a must, author Paul Atkins highly recommends a good pair of optics. You will be glassing constantly while searching the terrain for the slightest movement or a place to ambush game. (PAUL D. ATKINS) aksportingjournal.com | JUNE 2018

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Transportation is one of the most overlooked aspects of any do-it-yourself hunt in Alaska. To find the right transporter, you must do your research and plan early. Services are not cheap, but nothing worth the money is. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

can be bought over the counter, others are available through draws only. For example, caribou permits can be purchased online or at the point of origin, but it depends greatly on where you plan to hunt. Also, in some units you can take more than one bull, while others only allow one. But getting a moose tag has become much harder than just a few years ago. For the most part they are draw only for nonresidents, meaning that you have to apply during the November application period. Times have changed and so do the number of animals in a particular unit, so the particulars of where and when to go become very important. Moose numbers are down across the state. If nothing else moose have become a very valued commodity. Caribou and moose hunts, however, can be done without a guide, so if you’re looking for a cheaper hunt, then a do-it-yourself drop camp is the way to go. But if sheep and bear are your 84

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quarry, you must not only draw a tag but also hire a guide. This can get quite expensive, but well worth it if planning a hunt of a lifetime. First and foremost, you should contact wildlife managers who work at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as it’s called here, and ask about the area, animal populations and bag limits. Local biologists constantly survey the country and know what the animals are doing in terms of not only numbers but also track their migration patterns. Secondly, check out record books to see where the big bulls are coming from or if you can contact people who have hunted in a particular area before. This kind of information is invaluable when it comes to the logistics of the hunt, while also helping a first-timer know what to expect. Most areas in Alaska are public, while others belong to native corporations. Be sure to know where you can hunt and also if there might be a trespass fee. Some native land managers

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

charge a fee to hunt, with others only requiring you to get a permit. There’s also federal land, but that is under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has its own restrictions and many of those areas are strictly for the residents of that area. There is also National Park Service land, but it too is usually for subsistence hunts. Be sure and check all regulations. Unlike the Lower 48, scouting will be out of the question, so ask a lot of questions and research the area long before you go. Once dropped off in an area, you will be left with what you’ve learned through your question-and-answer sessions. By gaining as much knowledge as possible you will be better prepared and probably a lot more successful.

HOW DO I GET THERE? Even though I wish we could, you can’t drive to most of the really good hunting places, but you need to get there somehow. For most of Alaska it’s either by boat or by plane. If your plans


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If you plan on bowhunting, you may need to adjust your strategy. The area you hunt may need to include more cover, ambush points and better access. These factors need to be considered during the research phase of your planning. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

include hunting by boat, then you will either need to know or hire somebody who specializes in that area. Most boat hunters usually cater to locals or those who live in the state. Boat hunting is fun, as it allows the hunter to move to

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a variety of areas along the many rivers and lakes that cover pretty much the entire state. However, for most transportation by boat isn’t in the cards and you will have to hire a transporter and go by air.

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

Transporters are pilots who get you from point A to point B and are probably the most overlooked and expensive aspect of any Alaskan hunt. Once you’ve done your research and know the area you plan to hunt, you will need


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to hire a transporter. You will need to do this long before your hunt starts, as most of the good pilots are booked years in advance. You shouldn’t take this lightly if you’re serious about hunting up here, so check as many references as possible. Remember, your life is in their hands from the moment you leave town until you return.

WHAT GEAR DO I NEED? After you’ve chosen what animal you want to hunt, researched the many great areas Alaska has to offer, decided on the unit you plan to hunt, picked your dates and hired a transporter, it’s time to select the proper gear to get it all done. You should make sure that whatever gear you decide on works properly and is capable of getting the job done. Once out on the tundra or in the mountains it will just be you and maybe a partner or two for the weeklong or 10-day hunt. You don’t want to be carrying something that doesn’t work and is thus worthless and possibly pre-

Water is one of your biggest concerns, so a good filtration device should be at the top of your list. Water is mostly plentiful here in Alaska, but sometimes can be hard to find. However, you should be OK if you do your research for an area that is close to a river or stream. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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Contact state biologists to figure out the seasonal migration routes of species like caribou. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

vents you from taking that bull, bear or ram of a lifetime. First, you need to think about weather. It will vary depending on where you are in the state, but the one thing you can count on is rain. It will rain, I promise! The key to staying dry and comfortable is to make sure you have a set of high-quality rain gear. I’ve found that anything with the word “Gore-Tex” on

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it works perfectly for a September trip. Getting wet on that first day will make for a miserable hunt, unless you can get things to dry out, which most times you can’t. My advice is to buy the best rain gear you can afford. You should also dress in layers. Fleece works best, as it dries out easily and quickly. Also pack four or five pairs of wool socks with cushioned soles. We

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

all know how miserable wet socks can be, and if you’re in waders all day they will be soaked from sweating. After a hard day of hunting change into a dry pair and hang the used socks in the tent or somewhere out of the weather. Your hunting partner may not like it, but you will be able to wear them again in a couple of days. There’s nothing better than putting on a dry pair of socks at the end


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Great planning produces great results. The author’s good friend Whitney took this incredible bull with his bow, which was achieved after months of planning and preparing himself both physically and mentally. (WHITNEY FREEMAN)

of the day. Indeed, those socks and the proper footgear may be the most important tools you bring on an Alaskan hunt. Choosing the right boot is a top priority and should be taken seriously. Leather hunting boots work great when hunting deer and elk, but when things

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get wet and sloppy you’ll wish you had something else. I recommend bringing hip waders; even though they’re cumbersome and not the most comfortable, you’ll be glad you have them for crossing rivers. I also recommend insulated knee-high rubber boots. Depending on the number of hunt-

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

A lot of hunters who come to Alaska arrive expecting it to be easy, but it is not. Atkins suggests working on cardio and strength training a few months before your hunt to get in better shape for chores like packing your kill back to camp. (LEW PAGEL)


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There is nothing finer than being in the bush and cruising the tundra in search of big game. The solitude is why most hunters come to Alaska, and proper planning and preparation make it that much more enjoyable and successful. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

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them to. Good binoculars are also a big plus on any Alaskan hunt. Binos in the 10-power range work great and if you do have to buy a new pair, get the best you can afford. Whether you are trying to determine the antler configuration on a caribou bull or if the moose that is just ahead is legal or not, quality optics are worth their weight in gold. Other than your rifle/bow and the abovementioned items, you’ll need a headlamp, matches, GPS, satellite phone and water filtration device. Also make sure you have a good sleeping bag and a comfortable sleeping pad. Bring along dry bags to haul your gear in, a good Coleman stove with fuel, cooking utensils and a food list that works for everybody. Whatever you choose for equipment, you have to be very familiar with it and make sure you know how each piece works.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD DO BEFORE I LEAVE FOR ALASKA? Yes, practice and exercise! For most of us serious hunters, practice is pretty much a constant, whether it be with a

bow or rifle. Long before you go trekking through the tundra, you need to be sure you can effectively hit what you are shooting at. This comes with practice in a variety of situations and knowing for certain what your “effective” range is. Most shots on caribou, moose or even sheep will seldom be from a standing upright position. It has been my experience that you are usually on your knees or sitting flat on the ground with the wind and rain blowing up your backside. Practice from these positions as much as possible, and do it while wearing the same gear you will be hunting in. This means a full pack, rain gear and waders. This will give you a better feeling of what to expect when the moment of truth arrives. You also need to exercise. Often as not, most of us are out of shape but still believe we can take on anything the great outdoors has to offer. If you are planning a trip to the Alaskan wilderness, whether it’s mountains or even on the tundra for that matter, you will definitely need to be in shape. Most people show up not knowing

what to expect. Sheep hunting is about as tough as it gets, and even if you are in shape it can be very, very demanding. On the other hand, if your hunt plans include only caribou, you still have to be able to navigate long distances through some pretty rough country.

GET ON IT NOW! If an Alaskan hunt is in your future or maybe as early as this fall, now is the time to start planning. It’s an adventure of a lifetime, and will create memories that you’ll cherish forever. The feel of the tundra, the smell of camp smoke and that long, hard stalk that produced the big bull that now hangs on your wall and filled up your freezer were all made possible due to good planning Make yours today! 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.

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Bear spray can be an effective tool to help keep dangerous bruins away while enjoying the Alaskan outdoors, but it’s important to be careful when using it, so get plenty of practice and know how to treat yourself if exposed. (RILEY WOODFORD)

SPRAYED AND WASH SAFETY FIRST IS THE NAME OF THE GAME WHEN HANDLING BEAR SPRAY

BY RILEY WOODFORD

F

or many years I treated bear spray like a first-aid kit – it went in the pack on day hikes and camping trips and I never used it. Over time I learned to actually wear the can of spray so I could grab it quickly, and I practiced with inert spray to get a feel for using it. People who had sprayed bears assured me it works, but I also learned things that changed the way I thought about it. Blowback is one aspect I never considered. As a state wildlife biologist, Dave Battle has pepper-sprayed black bears dozens of times in hazing situations. A few years ago he found himself on the receiving end. Battle was called to deal with a problem bear, a young black bear, at a home in a wooded Anchorage neighborhood. It’s a situation he’s

familiar with and he had a good idea how things would play out. “I figured I’d spray it and it would run off into the woods,” he said. “It climbed up a tree, and it was just about 3 feet off the ground. The wind felt calm. I sprayed it and it got down and started to run off, and there must have been a light breeze because the spray came back on me. For about 20 seconds I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t see. I couldn’t open my eyes at all. I knew it would pass, so I just sat down.” He said it passed quickly and in a few minutes he could see again and breathe normally. That’s a far cry from a direct hit. Jenny Twito, a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, said emergency room staff treat people who have gotten a face-full of pepper spray.

FIRST AID AND TREATMENT At Bartlett they keep milk and oil on hand. Emergency Department Director Kimberley McDowell wrote, “We use cooking oil and milk for exterior surfaces, for eye exposures we irrigate with copious amounts of normal saline … The last exposure I took care of I used milk and it worked great, but again milk is not the course of treatment for eye exposure.” The spray is oily, and cool water is not very effective in removing oil. Dish soap works, but at Bartlett they’ve found it helps to add oil first. Nurse Twito said she applies vegetable oil or olive oil to the area to bind with the capsaicin oil in the spray, and then uses Dawn dish soap to wash it off. She uses milk to soothe the skin after washing. “For sensitive areas flushing with lukewarm clean water for 15 to 20 min-

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Black bears can be a problem when they roam into cities. ADFG biologist Dave Battle has needed spray to subdue to several bruins in Anchorage. One on occasion, Battle got a big whiff of the spray as he dealt with a pesky urban bear. (J. MILLS/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE)

utes is the best practice,” she wrote. Safeguard Self Defense in Rocklin, California, provides a wide range of pepper sprays, and the website for their online outlet, the Pepper Spray Store, offers detailed advice for first aid. Mike Davis granted permission to reprint sections. The first rule is do not rub your face st this urge as much as or eyes. “Resist possible … It won’t help, and … the inhis the burning sensation stant you do this en-fold and will increase ten-fold it will spread.” act difPeople react d some ferently, and tter to respond better egardless, treatment. Regardless, it’s going to burn for a while. If you are sprayed nd you wear in the face and contacts, takee them out as ssible. Throw soon as possible. hey’re ruined. them away, they’re They recommend ommend first le milk to the applying whole affected area. a. It can be splashed on, a clean towel can be saturated ated with milk and laid overr the affected area, or the affected area can be submerged rged in milk. It will help take away the burning sensation, but it will not remove the oils in the spray. That is step two. They recommend a solution of 25 percent Dawn dishwashing soap and 75 percent water. “Use cold water and make up at least a gallon because you 102

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are going to have to wash the affected area at least seven or eight times. If your face is contaminated, mix the detergent in a bowl that is deep enough to immerse your face in for 10 or 15 seconds at a time. Let the detergent start to do its job of breaking down the oils. “ Do not wipe, just let the cool, a few minutes soapy water sit. After A towel can be a solution-saturated solution-saturat gently wipe the skin, used to dab or gen although it may burn. bu “This is normal so try to remain calm and patient. Decontaminating Decontaminatin yourself from

Several bear sprays on the market can be effective for deterring aggressive bears when you’re fishing, hunting or hiking in the Last Frontier. The key is to have them accessible. (ARNE NORDMANN/WIKIPEDIA; COUNTER ASSAULT)


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Bear-viewing guide Jason Rupp has had to resort to spraying several brown bears. “He ran like a bat out of hell, like he’d gotten an electric shock,” Rupp said of one's reaction. (LISA HUPP/USFWS)

pepper spray can take as little as 15 minutes to as much as 45 minutes before symptoms subside. Recovery depends greatly on your skin type. Once you can readily touch your face without too much discomfort you can use a little more pressure to work the solution in. At this point rinse your face between the applications.”

GETTING SPRAYED Chad Rice works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and oversees operations at the bear viewing area at Pack Creek south of Juneau. The U.S. Forest Service also shares management of the area. Rice received training in the use of bear spray as part of broader law enforcement training, and said he was in the last class where volunteers could opt to get sprayed as part of the training. He wrote: “I have experienced a full dose. The reason was to show participants that if you remain calm and breathe, you can still function so as not to be fully incapacitated. We don’t do this anymore. For me, it made the prospect of experiencing blowback or residual spray less worrisome. After the class I knew that it would be uncomfortable but manageable.” “… I learned to concentrate on breathing and force yourself to open your eyes. Do not rub your eyes as much as you 104

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will want to, it will only make it worse. As soon as practical flush your face and eyes with cold, fresh water. Do the same for clothes or other exposed skin as it is easy to re-expose yourself.” Pete Schneider is a USFS natural resource specialist in Juneau. He trains Forest Service staff in the use of bear spray, and has also had first-hand experience with a face full of bear spray. While it was “horribly unpleasant,” it was a valuable experience, he said. It provided some insight into what could happen in a real self-defense situation. “If you need to use bear spray, there is a high chance you will get some on you,” he said. “The odds are good you will be affected directly or indirectly, and you may still need to function. In the bestcase scenario the bear runs away, but it might not – it could be really distracted by the spray, but it’s still there, and you might need to make an exit. And even if your eyes are barely working, your arms and legs will still work.” In his experience, the most dramatic effect was on his breathing. He was gasping and felt like he was getting about 10 or 20 percent of a breath. “It was really hard work to breathe, just to take shallow breaths,” he said. “My throat closed up. My sinuses ran uncontrollably and I had to pretty much hold my eyes open to see. My skin felt like it was burning.”

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

He jumped in a cold shower, which helped, but he said he soon got an “ice cream headache” from the cold water. “I tried to get it a little less cold, closer to lukewarm and it was horrible. The warm water will open your pores and send you through the roof.” He said that shampoo and bar soap weren’t really working, so he got out and grabbed liquid dish soap from the kitchen. It worked better, and he actually washed his eyes with it. The effects diminished over about two hours. “Bears are way tougher than we can even imagine, but their sense of smell is so acute,” he said. “I think that’s why pepper spray has carved out a niche over the years as such an effective tool. You spray a bear and you have created a new number-one concern for the bear; it’s not you anymore.”

HOW TO USE SPRAY Most brands of bear spray note that they will spray continuously for seven or eight seconds (some brands say about five seconds), but short blasts are recommended. The cloud appears to spray out 15 or 20 feet, but that cloud is still pretty potent even when it’s not visible. Schneider recommends a blast of two seconds or less, getting a cloud of spray between you and the bear. If you get the bear in the face, don’t keep spraying; just leave. You want to get away from the bear and the spray in the air. (Don’t run – walk away and keep an eye on the bear as you go.) He said during training, he’ll demonstrate with cans of expired spray. He’s careful about the wind direction and where students are located, but the spray can carry. “It’ll carry over 100 yards,” he said. “Not the oil so much as the smell. I’ve sprayed it and 30 seconds later a little pocket will swirl around and you get the smell, which affects your breathing, like tear gas.” The inert spray has a distinct, harmless odor. I’ve smelled the inert spray many times when I’ve practiced with it or demonstrated, and I realize that’s what he’s talking about. With real pepper spray, that smell would likely have me tearing up and gasping. Schneider said it’s unpleasant, but it passes


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quickly and it’s nothing compared to actually getting the spray on you. “I got a full-on shot in the face,” he said. “Most people won’t be hit like that, but with cross-contamination.” Terry Schwarz once sprayed a persistent black bear on his porch and got a surprise. He opened the door, reached out, and gave the bear a quick blast of spray. “I pulled my arm back in and when I shut the door, it created a draft that pulled some spray into the house. My wife immediately reacted, she was choking and threw up a little bit and her eyes were tearing. It didn’t affect me quite as much, but it was bad. We just washed our faces with cold water and it passed in a few minutes.” The bear was gone for good.

FLYING WITH BEAR SPRAY Bear spray is not allowed on commercial flights. If you need bear spray, the TSA suggests you buy it at your destination and leave it behind when your trip is over. But what about that last leg – the flight out to the backcountry in a small plane?

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You can take bear spray, but you must tell the carrier and the pilot must know. It requires special handling. Carl Ramseth is with Alaska Seaplanes, a Southeast Alaska regional service, which has planes on both floats and wheels. Bear spray is defined as a hazardous material, he said. “You can fly with it, but it needs to be declared,” he said. “We ask passengers as they check in – people on scheduled flights as well as people going to remote locations. People don’t realize it could be a problem, so we always ask. There is paperwork filled out. We transport it in a sealed can, stored in a part of the aircraft that is not in the main cabin, so there is no risk of it going off in the cabin. Or it goes in the float compartment of a float plane.” Some carriers use a length of heavy-duty black PVC sewer pipe, 4 inches in diameter and threaded with caps at both ends. Several cans can be stacked and sealed in the tube for transport.

CARRYING THE SPRAY Jason Rupp is a bear-viewing guide

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

at Lake Clark. He has never sprayed a charging bear, but he has sprayed brown bears that have persistently and repeatedly investigated the camp. “Subadults can get pretty rowdy,” he said, “and last year we had one that was getting worse and worse.” The bear was about 30 feet away when he sprayed it, and he said it took about a second for the spray to reach the bear. “He snorted, and then it was like he had been kicked by a horse. He ran like a bat out of hell, like he’d gotten an electric shock. I don’t think they understand what happened when they get sprayed.” Battle said he has never had a bear not run when sprayed. “They’ve always taken off,” he said. He added that as a state biologist, hazing a bear also involves dealing with whatever is attracting the bear, and that sometimes means a citation to a homeowner. Battle and Rupp both emphasized the importance of wearing the can of spray on your person. Rupp prefers a holster attached with Velcro to the strap of his daypack, so it’s right on his chest. Chad Rice prefers a belt harness. He said he


knows some people who clip the can to the outside of their pack, and he’s seen this lead to accidental discharge. “I try to use that as reinforcement to carry it at their side,” Rice wrote. “... The other point I talk with them about is checking that the safety operates effectively and is attached to the can with a lanyard. If the safety is too loose, the can should be retired to avoid accidental discharge. The lanyard is important so the safety is not lost if removed. We follow expiration dates strictly. If there isn’t an expiration date (and some don’t have them), we generally retire after two field seasons. Oh, one more last tip: Write the expiration date on the bottom of the can with a Sharpie as the label will be unreadable in short order after getting wet and dirty. Any doubt, retire the can.” Battle said he’s amazed at how many people he encounters on trails who are carrying bear spray in an inaccessible location. “I can’t tell you how many people I meet on the trail, and if we start talking, I ask them, ‘You carry bear spray?’ And they say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got it,’ and I say, ‘I can’t see it,’ and it’s buried down in their pack. I’ve given people holsters on the trail and put my spray in my pocket.” Schneider said if you don’t carry your bear spray where you can get to it immediately, you might as well not bother bringing it. He carries his spray in a big cargo pocket in his pants. “Every time people talk about a bear event, they say, ‘My God, it happened so fast.’ It always happens fast – if it didn’t happen fast, you probably wouldn’t be in the situation at all,” he said. “You’d have made a different decision and avoided the encounter.” Battle said his brief exposure would not discourage him from using bear spray for self-defense. “Don’t let fear of bear spray prevent you from using bear spray,” he said. “Better to get some spray than to get mauled by a bear.” ASJ Editor’s note: Riley Woodford is the editor of Alaska Fish and Wildlife News and is a producer information officer for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This story was reprinted with permission from the author.

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Brown bears are Alaska’s apex predator and hunting one is one of the most thrilling and chilling adventures the Last Frontier offers. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

ALASKA BIG GAME FOCUS

ALASKA BIG GAME FOCUS:

BROWN AND GRIZZLY BEARS BY PAUL D. ATKINS

I

t was pitch dark and the big grizzly was rushing full speed towards our tent. With a flashlight in one hand and a .44 in the other, all I could think was, here he comes and this time I don’t think he is going to stop! This was like a bad dream.

ALASKA HAS ABOUT 30,000 brown

bears statewide, with residents and nonresidents taking close to 2,000 a year. Bear hunts are held during both spring and fall in some units, while in others permits are only available for fall. It’s illegal to kill a sow with cubs and if you’re a nonresident, you’re required to have a guide or be accompanied by an Alaska resident who is a relative. Brown and grizzly bears are clas-

sified as the same species, Ursus arctos. Brown bears on Kodiak Island are classified as a distinct subspecies from those on the mainland because they are genetically and physically isolated and they can get big! The term brown bear commonly refers to animals found in coastal areas, and brown bears found inland and in northern habitats are often called grizzlies, such as those we have here in the Arctic,

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sometimes called tundra grizzlies. Like black bears, brown bears vary widely in color and can range from dark brown to a light blond. Bear hides, and skulls are prized by hunters, but the meat of brown bears is generally considered unpalatable and hunters rarely eat it. However, in some units, depending on the season, location or what parcel of land you happen to be on, you must take the meat. A lot of people don’t care for the meat for a variety of reasons, but I find it good to eat, especially if it’s prepared properly.

Author Paul Atkins (left) and hunting partner Lew Pagel after a successful brown bear hunt. (PAUL D. ATKINS)

THE BEAR THAT NIGHT did charge, but at the last moment turned and ran off into the darkness. It was a close call and we didn’t sleep the rest of the night, especially my friend from the Lower 48. Brown bears are the pinnacle for some hunters and when they do see one, they’re usually struck with awe. They can be dangerous, and precautions must be taken in bear country, but they truly are one of Alaska’s great treasures! ASJ

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The author – clad in his self-described “white wool socks don’t look cool” hunting getup – glasses for spring bears in Southeast Alaska. He’s had just as many empty hunting trips as tags filled that he has perspective. (JEFF LUND)

TAG SOUP’S NOT SO BAD

EVEN WHEN A HUNT FAILS, EXPERIENCE MAKE SUCCESS MORE LIKELY NEXT TIME

BY JEFF LUND

M

y first buck was a two-by-two, or fork, or forkie, or forked horn or fork-in-horn, depending on your chosen semantics. It’s never a four-point, though, because that is specifically reserved for a buck with four points on each side. To use “four-point” in Southeast Alaska would be to intentionally mislead the listener because zero percent of the population here refer to deer with two points (not including eye guards) on each side as a four-pointer. Anyway, at the time of my shot the fork was surrounded by three threepoint bucks, but I was so flustered by the velvety racks I just picked a body

and shot. I’m glad it worked out the way it did because if my first ever deer had been a four-point, I would have had nowhere to go. You earn a four-point, you don’t get one on day one. I like having success proportional to time and effort, though it is nice to catch a break once in a while.

IF YOU GET TO THINKING that everything is easy and is just a matter of enthusiasm, you’re bound to be let down on a much more intense level. You can be really stoked for a big buck and be ready, but if you’re on the wrong mountain, it doesn’t matter how excited you are. Of course, it’s very difficult to keep from imagining yourself successful.

You’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy the process, but you still imagine everything leading to success. You imagine a deer hunt ending in a deer, sending flies through the cold air ending in a steelhead, glassing grassy beaches ending up in a big black bear. But it doesn’t always happen. It can’t. Lately, grouse have been pecking at my confidence. Last August I killed my first two grouse and developed a taste. I looked forward to spring, when males perched high in trees make a loud hooting sound to call in prospective mates, which also entices people with guns. Since mating season started, I’ve been going almost crazy staring up at trees and trying to follow the sound. The thing about this whole process

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is that when you first hear the hoot, it’s a long way away. The sound carries so far that you think you are close, but you aren’t. You keep walking in what would look on your GPS like a drunk navigating a maze. I knew I was really close when I could almost feel the sound, but that only got me to the general vicinity. I had it down to about 10 trees, then five. Each time I moved to get a better look to glass the top, the sound changed directions. I figured that if it did that, I should move to the other side of the tree. So I exposed myself to the sound as much as I could and looked from there. I picked a tree. Had to be there. I raised my binoculars and the entire glass was filled with bird. It was right now or never. When I put the binos down I couldn’t find the bird, so I worked my way up the tree and found it. I had a shot and took it. I missed. I’d spent a lot of time and energy to just flat-out miss an easy shot. I had a good rest and all the time I could want. I just missed. I let out a breath, looked around a bit to see where it may have flown, then

We’ll score it as a draw – Lund missed his shot but had also found a needle in a haystack, or forest as it were. (JEFF LUND)

started down. I wasn’t too upset. This sort of thing is going to happen again. Maybe in spring with bear; perhaps this summer with a salmon; or possibly in August with deer.

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Sometimes it all comes together and you’ll fill that buck tag, like this beauty, Lund’s first. “I like having success proportional to time and effort,” he writes, “though it is nice to catch a break once in a while.” (JEFF LUND)

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I found a specific bird in a forest. I had done enough right to put myself in a position to be successful. If nothing ever goes wrong you can start to think that it’s all just about deciding to do something, and because you want something to happen, it will. Sometime around middle school it becomes terribly clear that not everyone can win and that life takes work, and even then things don’t work out. You fail math tests, lose basketball games, and never get the shot with the girl of your dreams. You don’t want it to go down like that, but it does. But along with that comes the lesson that that’s how it goes. You learn. You have only a certain amount of control over life and everything else is reacting to it. When I woke up that morning, I would have classified myself as someone who didn’t really know what he was doing. Now I know what I am doing, and merely lack depth of experience. Sure, you can’t eat an experience, but as Rinella said, experiences aren’t just about filling your stomach. You can do that by going to the store. ASJ Editor’s note: Jeff Lund is the author of Going Home, a memoir about fishing and hunting in Alaska and California. Buy it at amazon.com.


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Summer is the time for mounting new recoil pads on your rifles or shotguns. Author Dave Workman uses neutral shoe wax to buff up the stocks of his rifles and polish away any tiny scratches that might linger from buffing down a new recoil pad. (KICK-EEZ)

TIME FOR RIFLE REPAIRS, SHOTGUN SERVICING SUMMER’S WHEN TO WORK ON YOUR HUNTING GUNS

BY DAVE WORKMAN

S

ummer is the time of year I prefer to do any kind of upgrades to my hunting rifles and shotguns, whether it involves a major task like replacing a stock or trying a new load, mounting a scope or even replacing a recoil pad.

I’VE NEVER BEEN FOND of recoil, and

that’s why a few years ago I took the time to replace the factory pads on a few of my rifles and on two shotguns. Older rubber, whether of the solid or ventilated variety, just never made it for me. But since they once were about the only thing available, they spent years on a couple of my favorite guns. But then came modern materials such

as Sorbothane. Whatever else they do, today’s recoil pads truly suck up the “kick” and make shooting more comfortable. I checked with Cheryl Poppe at Kick-EEZ to learn that Sorbothane is a “visto-elastic polymer.” The company, based in the southwest Washington town of Woodland, has been using this material since the mid-1980s, which has been plenty of time to discover any drawbacks, but as far as I can tell, there have been none. While such recoil pads – another

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Ruger has announced two new chamberings of its No. 1 Single Shot, .308 Winchester and .450 Marlin. Lipseys.com is also carrying two exclusive models in .30-30 Winchester and .257 Roberts. (LIPSEYS)

example is the neoprene Pachmayr Decelerator – may seem soft, they are pretty tough and can take the rigors of the field in stride. They mount easily but some people have a bit of trouble doing the grind to make them conform to the angle and profile of the stock. There are various videos online that offer tips on how to fit a new recoil pad to a stock. You’ll probably want a disk or belt sander to do most of the work, and be sure to wrap the buttstock wood in a couple of layers of heavy tape. Now, if you’re refinishing the entire stock, it’s wise to fit the pad to

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the bare stock before adding the finish. There are lots of finishes available these days, but I prefer a 50-50 mix of warm linseed and tung oil, after taking the wood down to a fine, smooth finish. In my teens, I learned a trick from a neighbor called “whiskering.” When you think the wood is smooth enough to finish, wipe it down with a damp cloth and pass the wood over a stove burner. This will cause little whiskers of wood to stand up and you can take those down with 400- to 800-grit sandpaper. Some folks even finish after that with very fine steel wool.

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

To strip an old finish out of checkering, get some stripper and brush it in with a fine toothbrush. Be sure to allow the refinished stock a couple of days to dry and then wipe it down with a clean, soft cloth. Some people will even finish off by rubbing the stock with furniture wax or neutral shoe wax. I’ve done that with two rifle stocks, including one on a Lyman muzzleloader, and the result was very pleasing.

IF FIREARM FUNCTION PROBLEMS hit your fowling or hunting pieces last season, now is the time to be work-


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ing on that, not the day before fall’s openers. New scope? Summer provides the daylight hours to install your glass and head to the range to zero. Need to fix some rust spots? Pull the stock, check the underside of your barrel, take some fine steel wool to any problems you find and then touch it up with cold blue. Use steel wool to remove the rust spot and buff up the metal. Apply a degreaser to remove any surface oil. Apply the blue, wait half a minute or so, rinse with cold water, dab it dry and then buff it up with very fine steel wool. Apply gun oil. If you have a leather rifle sling, now is a good time to give it a treatment of neatsfoot oil or a fresh application of saddle soap and/or neutral shoe wax.

SUMMER IS ALSO A good time as any to learn about new guns and ammo, and Ruger recently noted that it has expanded its legendary No. 1 single-shot rifle by adding two chamberings: .308 Winchester and .450 Marlin.

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At the same time, Lipsey’s has added two exclusive No. 1 models, one in .30-30 Winchester and one of my favorite cartridges, the .257 Roberts. The latter is offered with a fulllength stock. The Ruger No. 1 single-shot is and always has been handsome, functional and – in my experience – remarkably accurate. Some years ago in South Dakota on a prairie dog hunt with Ruger’s then-public relations stalwart Ken Jorgensen, I used a No. 1 in .204 Ruger to cap the little buggers out to 350 yards more than once. This new batch of rifles feature American walnut stocks and satin blue finishes. The .308 wears a 22inch barrel cut with a 1:10-inch righthand twist, the same twist rate found in the .30-30 and .257. Meanwhile, the .450 has a 20-inch barrel with a 1:16-inch twist.

ON THE AMMUNITION SIDE, Speer has some pretty good timing. They’ve just added three new projectiles, including

JUNE 2018 | aksportingjournal.com

one for the .257 Roberts that ought to turn in a good performance out of the aforementioned Ruger No. 1 from Lipsey’s chambered for that round. The .257-caliber pill is a 120-Grand Slam, as are the other two bullets, one in 6.5mm/.264 caliber weighing 140 grains and a .243 weighing 100 grains. All three are packaged in 50-count boxes. These Grand Slams feature a tapered, precision-drawn jacket with internal flutes and longer front-end profile for a flatter trajectory. All three calibers are widely known for their flat trajectories, which makes them good choices for game out on the plains. Of the trio, the .257 Roberts has earned a special place. It’s the caliber I used to conk a couple of deer many years ago in eastern Washington. I shot a fat three-point whitetail during the late season, and two years later, I toppled a spike muley – the last year it was legal for anything under three points. Both were one-shot stops using 100-grain bullets. The whitetail fell to a Speer boattail, the mule deer a Nosler Ballistic Tip. ASJ


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AEROSPACE INNOVATION LAYKE TACTICAL REACHES FOR THE STARS AIMS HIGH WITH AR-PLATFORM RIFLES

Layke Tactical found its roots in the aerospace industry. A group of engineers and a few others came together to use their expertise to create highly innovative AR-platform rifles. (KELLY ENTREKIN)

COMPANY NAME Layke Tactical CONTACT INFO layketactical.com; (602) 272-2654

E

rnest Apodaca is the owner of Layke Tactical, manufacturer of precise and high-end AR-platform rifles. Having come from an aerospace background, he and his team have focused their expertise on making a diverse array of ARs that are unique in look and feel to any shooter.

Alaska

Sporting

Journal

How

did

Layke

Tactical

get started?

Ernest Apodaca A group of people and I expressed a desire to make our own firearm brand. An opportunity arose to buy out a small and local AR-platform business, so we did. We applied our aerospace machining and inspection principles and started making a top-quality gun that we could offer with a lifetime warranty. ASJ Where did the name Layke come from? EA Layke Tool was originally established in Meadville, Pennsylvania, back in 1953. The name “Layke” was the middle name of one of the original owners. Layke Incorporated, started in 1955 in Phoenix, Arizona, manufacturing aerospace components. Layke Tactical started in February 2013 as a separate division manufacturing firearms components and finished assemblies. Layke Tactical is made up of just three people; however, Layke Incorporated, a much larger organization, supports Layke Tactical with the use of our engineering, quality control, programming and personnel. ASJ What was the inspiration to start manufacturing firearms? 126

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EA The idea came at a time when the aerospace manufacturing industry was down, which is common in that field. ASJ What was the most difficult aspect of starting Layke Tactical? EA Finding product liability insurance for firearms, credit card processing for firearms and getting name recognition in the firearms industry.   ASJ What makes the effort all worthwhile? EA The response we have received from our customers about the accuracy and quality of our firearms.   ASJ What is Layke’s next milestone? EA Innovations with new components and designing and producing AR platforms in 9mm and other calibers.   ASJ Do you support any charities or organizations? EA Organizations? Yes! The National Rifle Association, Arizona Elk Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Society Of Manufacturing Engineering, National Tool And Machine Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. ASJ What is your personal motto or creed? EA Quality in all the products we produce! I also believe that keeping jobs in America, especially in Phoenix, using skilled men and woman is contributing to the health and well being of our country. ASJ


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