Point blank, the best way to say what needs said is that Alaska is a wild place. In fact, it is known as the "last frontier," or "the land of the midnight sun," among other names. I don't know about you, but in a wild place where the sun doesn't fully set for as many as 84 days (Barrow, AK), that is a lot of daylight in which to play. The only down side is that at some point you have to sleep...otherwise I would hunt and fish for as many days straight as possible!
|A nice Caribou shed I found hanging in a pine bough this year while wandering |
the tundra in search of the beautiful Willow Ptarmigan.
After my second trip to Alaska in 2011, I was moved deeply by the raw, wild expanse and made a proclamation. That proclamation was this...."I swear I will never return to the great state of Alaska again without a gun!" Don't take this to mean that I was fearful of large carnivores or the unknown of an untainted wilderness, because nothing could be further from the truth. I am an outdoorsman at heart and knew full well that there was more than fishing to be had in Alaska thus the reason I made my proclamation. I just couldn't settle for only fishing in Alaska...hunting must come into play!
Roughly one year later, I was curbside at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on my way to Alaska for trip number three. This time I had more than just fly rods and waders! You guessed it...This time I had a travel case complete with 12 gauge, ammunition, and duck calls and I intended to put them all to good use!
|A very nice bull Moose taken just outside of camp a day before my arrival this year. There is more to do in Alaska than any visitor has time to do!|
So, since this blog series is titled "Jet Lagged Confessions," let me get to it. My confession for this last blog on my Alaska trip in 2012 is that my passion for hunting birds (both upland and waterfowl) run as deep as do my passions for fishing on the fly! I have a feeling that many others would confess to this same love if given the chance. It seems that bird hunting and fly fishing go together like a hand in a glove and because of this, they have received my attention for many years now.
My earliest memories with my father were in duck blinds on the great Mississippi River hunting ducks. These memories are ones I will cherish for the rest of my life and have been told in story form on many occasions and in varying formats. I suppose that my love for bird hunting grew out of these world-class experiences and is what has drawn me back to the great sport for time with my own friends and families in recent years.
|My oldest son holds his first mallards from late October 2012 |
just before hurricane Sandy moved through.
|A hen Northern Shoveler killed a couple of weeks ago in northeast Ohio. Cool birds for sure!|
|A nice bag of Black Ducks and Mallards for a three man crew earlier in the season.|
Out of this love for waterfowl came my desire for upland birds and buying my first pointing breed as well. So, you may be asking what does all this bird talk have to do with Steelhead Alley Outfitters? Well, when I headed to Naknek River Camp in September of 2012, it was to explore not only more water, but also to explore the Alaskan world of bird hunting (both waterfowl and upland).
I am happy to say that what I found while there in the Bristol Bay region was absolutely world-class and we hope to begin sharing these experience with our Alaska clientele starting in September of 2013.
Here is a selection of photos from my time afield following my week with clients this past trip.
|Willow Ptarmigan are plentiful in the area as are Spruce Grouse. This was my |
first bird taken while walking the Tundra of the Alaskan Peninsula.
I didn't get near the time I wanted to chase the upland birds but know that there are plenty around. I have seen covey after covey of both Ptarmigan and Grouse in different areas and as long as you can walk some tundra or alder groves you are bound to find some players to put a smile on your face. If you go to the "Hosted Trips" page and watch the Contact Creek short film, you will see a covey of Ptarmigan get flushed.
Moving onto waterfowl....this fall Ben Barger and I spent four days chasing ducks on Alaskan water. It was an amazing time and a great, new Alaskan experience! Here are some highlights...
|Patrick "High Balls" birds at a distance to get their attention. These birds are at the top of their migration route and thus have not seen much pressure! That means birds are very receptive to the call which in my opinion adds to the experience!|
|SAO Guide Ben Barger and NRC Guide Miles Kluesing enjoy |
a Saturday morning hunt from our makeshift duck blind.
|My first Alaskan duck. A drake Northern Pintail. Most of the birds killed |
were in what is called "eclipse plumage." That means that they are in the process of
losing feathers and gaining their mating plumage which is the prettiest of the year.
|Another drake Northern Pintail comes to hand...this time for Ben Barger.|
|An American Wigeon - Northern Pintail double comes to hand on day one.|
|A beautiful drake American Wigeon...my first of the trip.|
|A day one bag of 20 birds for three of us. That was just 4 birds shy of a bag limit.|
|A look at part of our decoy spread. The hole to the upper left of the photo is where |
most of our birds would decoy...it was a simple spread that did the job well!
|My first Wigeon trifecta...3 shots, 3 birds down...got lucky enough to do this twice in one day.|
|Ben Barger hammered this Mallard on a beautiful afternoon hunt.|
|The crew with a full four man bag limit of ducks...32 birds. Mixed bag of Mallards, Northern Pintails, American Wigeon, Northern Shovelers, and a couple of Green-Wing Teal.|