Blacktail Bucks – Born a Hunter


As we closed in on the beach all I could see was boiling brown. It looked like there we deer everywhere on the beach. The first thing I remember about hunting was Dad telling me “keep the barrel in a safe direction and follow me”…. Couldn’t believe he trusted me with a rifle at 8 years old and to hold it on my own. Respect was given at an early age. He looked me in the face and told me, “shoot the biggest one you see.” I nodded, put the cross hairs on the buck and let that 6mm get vocal.

That moment changed my life forever, at first I was a fishermen, then immediately became a hunter, its only now that I’ve realized what being a true sportsman is. 20 years later I find myself sitting on a plane en-route to Kodiak, a famous Sitka blacktail deer location known for it’s big bears and buff beach dwelling bucks. Jumping on the bush plane at the seaside docks I knew I was in for a treat. Late season hunting can produce some of the best bucks on Kodiak aka “The Rock”. Winter weather and colder temps bring on the rut, snow fall covers herbaceous alpine food and forces the deer into lower country concentrating them to elevations more suitable for day trips from base camp.

Jordan’s First Buck

This year I decided to target the later portion of the season post rut/end of the rut/secondary rut. Big bucks tend to be lower right at the snow line eating as much food as possible and keeping an eye and their nose towards any of the last receptive does (mainly young deer and fawns) that may come into estrus. With a shorter light cycle, deer will move all day long. Getting light around 9:30am and complete darkness around 4pm presents logistical challenges of harvesting and getting your deer back to base camp. Later season also provides a better chance at not losing your buck overnight to a hungry bear as some of the bruins have called it quits for the winter and head into hibernation. Although last year, my wife and I saw quite of a few big bears at our kill sights around Thanksgiving day.

Winter is coming…

This year I only spotted one bear from the air, he was feeding on a nearby salmon stream and had no concern for the Dehavilland Beaver we were flying in. Never spotted that big boy on the ground but we knew he was there. I tagged two bucks within the first two hours of the hunt and then spent most of the next day glassing from base camp, slicing and dicing my bucks, and looking for a nice mature deer to “tag out” on. On the third day, I was up and out of the tent well into dark, not that tough to get out of the tent at 800am though. Basically sleeping in and waking up to blacktail cruising the hill side all around the tent. I noticed a rather large “big fork” with in striking distance of camp. He appeared to be the biggest bodied most mature deer within glassing distance of camp. There were a few other smaller forkies and a couple of branched bucks, but none of them looked as big as this bad boy. I figured I’ll let the other ones grow and come back next year for a 4×4 jumbo buck of my dreams.

Big Forky

The chase was on, getting the wind right was my first priority, second only to moving slowly and appearing “non-threatening”. You have to remember these deer seldom see people and the only major predator they look for is monster volkswagon size bears that can’t move as quickly as themselves. I’ve found moving slowly, very slowly, you can almost walk directly up to deer within that 150-250 yard rifle shooting range. Well that game plan didn’t work so well on this mature buck, guess he knew better than to sit there and watch a Kuiu clad hunter walk right up to him and poke him with a bullet. He was with a doe but still looking for danger, go figure. The new game plan would be to circle up mid mountain above tree-line and descend on the unknowing buck. An hour later I spotted him sneaking into an alder patch. The rolling mountainous terrain allowed me to close the distance in a hurry, trotting down mountain to the last place I saw him before he slipped into the small alder patch.

3 by

I laid my pack down and looked for movement. Like a ghost I caught him slipping through the brush. He stopped in an opening and stared straight at me. I ranged the brush line at 250 yards and knew my 270 Win topped with a 3×9 Vortex scope could make the shot without having to do any fancy bullet drop compensation formulas. I squeezed off the trigger and thuuuuwaaap, he dropped in his tracks. I was more than pumped to say the least shaking and experience buck fever after the shot. Didn’t understand what happened to me with this deer versus the first two I shot. Was it the body size? Was it the big fork? Was it the thrill of the chase? When I dropped down into the alder infested bottom and laid my hands on the buck I knew immediately why….. all of the above.

Slicing the buck up and putting him on my back I had a mile or two trek back to camp, giving me ample time to reflect on the adventure, exploring new country, and making memories that will last me another 20 years or so. I thought back to all the hunts I’ve been apart of on the Alaska’s biggest Island. I remembered my first buck with my dad, my wife’s first buck, and all the beautiful deer I was fortunate enough to harvest on the trip. This place is overwhelming, and I know with all my heart I’ll be back sooner than later. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll track down that buck of lifetime. One thing is for sure, the adventure never ends.

Kodiak Hotel

Hunters List:
3-9 Vortex Rifle Scope, 10×42 Razor Bino
Alaska Guide Creation Bino Harness
270 Win
Kuiu Camo and 7200 icon Pro Pack
Caribou Game Backs
Hilleburg Tent – Namjat
Work Sharp Sharpener
Skeleton Optic Sunglass

Caribou – “The Right Way”


Last Frontier Caribou

“Oh no!” I tell my wife as I spot two hunters who appeared to be pursuing the same caribou bulls we were stalking.  I think and hope to myself that they’re chasing the group of sub-legal sheep that were feeding above the caribou. We continue our stalk and run into the other hunters on the leigh side of the ridge that led down to the sheep and caribou. We asked the couple what they are hunting and they replied “We’re chasing sheep!” in a defeated tone as we all watch the group of rams crest over the next ridge. They continued marching onward towards the rams and bid us good luck. An unsaid understanding as fellow weekend warriors to another, we’re all looking to notch our tags and fill our freezers.

I look at my wife and say, “well, we’re back on the stalk!” We closed the distance on the two bulls we spotted from the opposite side of the mountain.  We slipped and dipped into the direction we last saw the bulls bedded. We scooted down the mountain on our booties until we could only see the bulls’ branched antlers sticking out of the low laying willow brush. The two bulls were both unaware of us and happily sleeping.  Jordan decided to wait for the larger of the bulls to stand up before she took her 150 yard shot downhill. Minutes turned to hours as we waited patiently for a standing broad side shot. The mid morning mountain thermals shifted and both the bulls stood up.  Jordan made a perfectly placed shot through the vitals and down went her first caribou. We hugged. We smiled. We admired the beautiful bull caribou laying just down the mountain from us.

The party had really just begun as our camp was up-mountain 5 miles and we had a long pack out ahead of us. They say all the fun stops and the work begins when you pull the trigger, and I partially agree yet I’ve learned to love and savor the “suck factor”.  The heavy load is a right of passage and an honor.  It’s part of the experience. I smiled and told my wife “It’s not your’s unless you pack it out.”  She ponied up making two trips to the kill site packing meat.  The first trip she took a shoulder, the last trip she packed out the skull and cape. She earned the soreness and blisters that came with the bounty of meat and bone.  If it was as easy as shooting the animal and driving a four wheeler up to the kill site, then everyone would do it.

ATV access across Alaska has grown exponentially since the 1980s. Although many hunters luck out each year and shoot game just off ATV trails, I have found there is greater opportunity for hunting success off the beaten path. For this hunt, we relied on the quads God gave us to haul the caribou back to the ATV accessible area and made one heck of a memory in doing so.

Jordan’s father, Vince was also with us on the hunt, he hung back during the stalk and watched things unfold from the ridge above. He then joined us to help field dress and pack out the bou. After we got home from the hunt, the three of us enjoyed reminiscing on all the details from the adventure. One of the things we laughed about was our night of siwashing – an old military term for sleeping out in the elements while not being fully prepared. In other words we packed light to cover some ground to find animals but found ourselves a little too far away from base camp to return for the night. We all slept huddled up together under  a tarp held up by our trekking poles. When we weren’t shivering, we were busy doing jumping jacks and push ups to keep warm.

Vince brought up the point that the hunters we encountered on the stalk weren’t visible from our initial vantage point.  Vince thought it was cool that Jordy and I didn’t interrupt the other groups stalk on the sheep and/or the caribou.  We had waited patiently until they came back up the ridge to the packs they left behind.  I told him, “that’s the only way to be an ethical sportsman.”  You must wait your turn.

Road system hunting has became increasingly competitive in the state of Alaska, it seems like the majority of the “legal” animals has someone chasing after them.  From long range shooting, to bigger badder boats and ATVS, to the most spruced up airplanes, it seems Alaska hunting has been taken to a whole new level.  Guided hunts versus unguided resident hunts, territorial disputes, land access issues, regulation changes etc.  The information that can be found on the internet and hunting articles bread a whole new hunter, a hunter with a radio GPS, someone with satellite texting and calling capabilities, who has no fear of being too deep in the wilderness.  As Alaska’s population of hunters grows and technology changes, its always important to remember the basics of competitive hunting and being a sportsman.

No matter how you do it, make it safe and ethical, and feel great for all of those involved and those who may become involved on the hunt.  Make and share memories that will last a lifetime, make someone else feel good they made the decision to get off their couch and get into the field.  I know that my wife will cherish her first caribou that’s in our freezer and on our wall.  I know my father felt happy to see his daughter and son carry the flame of the next generation of sportsman.  I feel remarkably happy for my family and the opportunities we still have to chase wild animals in the state we call home.

Photographing Dall Sheep In Alaska By Jerry Herrod

dall sheep, hunting, Hunting Alaska, photography

Dall Sheep photography in Alaska can require as much effort as it takes to harvest a full curl Ram during the Sheep Season or be as pleasant as driving down the road and finding them close enough to shoot from the comfort of your vehicle with a smaller telephoto zoom lens. 


While not for everyone, the Dall Sheep is an important animal to add to any Alaska photographers portfolio and if you’re a true sheep nut at heart, it’s also a good way to keep track of population trends and horn growth if you spend enough time in a certain area. 


If you’re already a mountain hunter, you’ve probably already collected most of the outdoor gear necessary to hit the mountains and start looking for sheep, minus a camera and/or lenses. If you aren’t, you’ll want quality gear and clothing to help keep you warm and safe on a outing in the mountains. 

Dressing in appropriate layers for warmth and and quality raingear is a necessity in the mountains, along with trekking poles and quality hiking boots designed for alpine walking. Dress for the season and dress in layers. You can shed or put back on multiple lighter layers and control your body temperature better than wearing only one bulky set of insulated pants and jacket. The more active you are, the more layers you can shed and when you stop to photograph for longer periods you can put those extra layers back on to stay warm. 

A good set of binoculars ranging from 8×32 up through 10×42 are more than sufficient to help with spotting Sheep from a distance and analyzing their behavior. 

Sheep are like any other wild animal and are constantly aware of their surroundings and anything not natural to the terrain. At the same time each Sheep is an individual animal and certain animals tolerate a photographer getting into position for a shot more than others. It’s all in how you approach to get within range of the lens you’re using. I would recommend learning Dall Sheep behavior from a biological and conservationist standpoint before trying to spend a lot of time climbing and trying to get within photo range of sheep. Learning animal behavior before heading into the field will help prepare you to get the photo you’re looking for. Many resources are available with some internet searching from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, US Fish & Wildlife Service and reading up on what professional photographers have published and made available in books or online. 

Approach to mountain animals such as sheep requires time, patience and being physically capable of climbing to where the animals will be. It’s no small feat and the trip to and from your location to shoot may require most of your day just to get there and back leaving as little as a few hours to collect images. 

Any camera is capable of collecting an image nowadays, even the camera in your smart phone but much of the basic camera gear available might require you to get too close to the animals and just pushing them out of the country totally. You’ll be left sitting watching sheep running for the next mountain over and just spending the rest of the day hiking down a mountain with nothing to show for all your effort and climbing. 

Getting serious about photographing mountain animals such as sheep or goats or any animal that lives above treeline often requires more specialized camera gear. Quality camera gear is often expensive but, you can often find big telephoto lenses used and substantially cheaper than their newer counterparts. 

I shoot on a Canon camera and lenses but it comes down to personal preference and ease of use for the individual. Many people get wrapped around the axles on high end photography gear for wildlife photography and having the latest and greatest gear (sound familiar with you sheep hunting nuts out there?).  For example, with some time spent on a internet search or occasionally checking the local camera shop, you might find a used 100-400mm zoom lens and a quality DSLR body for under $2,000.00. That along with a small tripod for stability, a high speed SD memory card and a few extra batteries and you’ve got a reasonably good walk-about wildlife photography kit that will cover most of what you’ll want to shoot and allow you to stay reasonably safe distances from the wildlife you’re trying to photograph. 

More advanced gear may consist of a kit comprised of a 500mm or 600mm supertelephoto prime lens, large carbon fiber tripod and extended battery grip to allow for longer sessions before changing batteries. The larger lenses are heavy, and photo gear can quickly weigh as much as what you might take for a week long expedition hike in the mountains. 

If you already have a handle on basic digital photography, understanding of exposure, aperture and light, I could suggest some camera gear based on experiences in the field. I won’t dive into specifics on each brand for now, but Nikon and Canon are two of the more well known manufacturers. 

Keeping one eye open always

Keep in mind that each company produces entry level lenses and higher end lenses that are specific to entry level camera bodies,mid-range and pro-grade camera bodies. Do your research before you buy and ensure that the lens you’re getting is compatible with the camera body you’re buying it for. 

This list isn’t exclusive and some lenses have been left out. Some popular wildlife lenses for collecting longer range images are;

Canon 70-200mm f4 zoom

Canon 70-300mm f4-f5.6 zoom

Canon 100-400mm f4.5-f5.6 zoom

Canon 400mm f4 prime 

Canon 400mm f5.6 prime

Canon 500mm f4 prime

Canon 600mm f4 prime

Nikon 70-200mm f4 zoom

Nikon 70-300mm f4.5-f5.6 zoom

Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-f5.6 zoom

Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 zoom

Nikon 400mm f2.8 prime

Nikon 500mm f5.6 prime

Nikon 600mm f4 prime

Sigma 150-600mm f5-f6.3 zoom (produced by Sigma for both Canon and Nikon)

Tamron 150-600mm f5-f6.3 zoom (produced by Tamron for both Canon and Nikon)

With the zoom lenses you’ll be able to have a greater range and style of images to collect versus a large heavy prime lens glass. The prime lenses are big, cumbersome and not something most people are going to want to carry for several miles of hiking, especially in uneven and up and down terrain you’ll find hiking along steep slopes and hillsides on the mountains. Add a tripod large enough to support a ten pound prime lens and DSLR body and it becomes very cumbersome very quickly. A zoom lens will allow for a lot of versatility and allow for portrait style shots as well as collecting a landscape style environmental shot with an animal. With the large prime lenses you’re relegated to having to walking closer to, or further away, from your subject to frame the image properly for the shot. Just a few things to think about when you are deciding on if which wildlife lense you’re going to buy. Some people will prefer versatility of the zoom lens while others might be more confortable with the prime lenses and shooting from a tripod further away from the subject they are photographing. 

Tripods- Tripods will help you get a more stable shot with no operator introduced camera shake. The modern zoom lenses have amazing image stabilization built in but you wont be able to hold the camera and lens as steady as if you would be shooting from a tripod to support your kit.  I would recommend a carbon fiber tripod with a rating to hold the weight of your camera body and lens kit. The last thing you’ll want is a tripod too light for the kit you’re using and not being stable enough to prevent minor vibrations that might affect your image quality. Some quality tripods are produced by Gitzo, Manfrotto, Pro Media Gear, Sirui and Really Right Stuff. Whatever tripod you buy, I would recommend one that allows you to fold the legs out flat so you can allow yourself to lay down prone on the ground and photography from a low position of you need to. Mountain terrain is uneven and you might set up a tripod for taking a photo from a standing, kneeling or laying down position. 

Tripod Heads- There are many heads available for mounting the camera or lens to your tripod. Some are designed more specifically for wildlife such as gimbal heads, that allow you to more easily track and move with the wildlife subject. Ball heads can work just as well but may not track a moving subject as easily, but are often times less cumbersome than the gimbal head. Like with the cameras and lenses, it comes down to personal preference and ease of use.  

If you find yourself in a roadside situation and photographing from your vehicle, you might consider a photography bean bag to rest your camera on while setting your lens out your window. It will allow you to have a stable and even rest for your lens. 

Quality gear can cost as much or as little as you want to spend depending on if you’re buying it new or used. Don’t be afraid to buy used camera gear since many people are often upgrading gear as soon as the next new model camera body or lens is released and the savings is passed on to you when you buy used. Most photographers take reasonably good care of their gear and you might find a diamond in the rough if you take some time searching for gear and doing your homework.The accessory gear is also often found used and reasonable priced. Some internet searching can come up with quality used tripods and tripod heads for wildlife photography. 

I won’t be able to give specific locations on where to go, but most of the mountain ranges in Alaska hold Dall Sheep and with a some hiking and climbing you can get to some amazing places you may not have seen otherwise. The landscape alone and the views you’ll see is just as amazing as seeing the grand animals of the mountains. There’s a lot of Alaska out there to experience. 

Gravitas – Solo Mountain Goat Hunting Alaska

alaska, DIY hunting, Hunting Alaska, Mountain Goat
Solo Mountain Goat Hunting Alaska

Solo Brolo Yolo

Last year I found a primo goat hunting spot. This spot however, was incredibly difficult to access. I typically hunt with a partner and especially love introducing them to species they’ve never personally harvested. Last year resulted in the hard earned harvest of two big Billy’s and two happy hunters therefore I knew that I wanted to return to this special spot this season in pursuit of my own mountain goat. Only this year, I elected to go solo. Letting go of a good hunting spot is hard to do. Being a selfless hunter is also difficult. I neglected both these things for this year’s hunt.

Gaining Perspective on Mental Toughness

Every hunt becomes a story and adds perspective on life. Hunting solo provides nourishment for my soul and time to really self reflect. On this adventure I had thoughts of turning back and going home to my wife and newborn son. I contemplated what’s really important to me in life; another dead mountain goat? Time spent with my family? Producing content? I asked myself, why am I doing this? Why did I wake up at dark and pursue this wild animal in arduous terrain? Why am I clinging to the cliffs and climbing up with no support from a hunting partner? I’m still trying to answer some of these questions but I did come away with a few answers.
I’m feeding my family.
I’m feeding my soul.
I’m renewing my identity amongst God’s country.
I’m finding out what I’m really made of.

Saving weight and sleeping in a bivy sack

Solo hunting isn’t for everyone and after this hunt, I understand why. In my mind I had many questions I was trying to answer and decisions I was trying to make. Both in regards to the hunt and in life. The only person I had to bounce those questions off of was myself. The thought of turning back was prevalent. I kept thinking that I would have to come back down “all this stuff” with a very heavy pack. I knew there would only be one trip in and one trip out. With that in mind, I kept thinking of the possibility of failure. Failure could be an unsuccessful hunt with no harvest of goat. Failure could also be choosing the wrong route up or down, resulting in serious injury, or even fatality. Once I spotted goat, all questions and thoughts of turning back ended abruptly. I knew I could close the distance.

Making it above tree line in goat country is tough. Maneuvering through the mess of alders makes every step of the climb difficult. Mountain goats like wind swept faces where they are high above the bugs and secure in perfect escape terrain. From my past experience in this area, I had an idea of where these goats would be but I knew that getting there would not be easy. I planned out the stalk in my mind and executed that game plan when I got above tree line. Everything was going exactly as planned, no goats in sight but I knew where they would be hiding. Attempting to gain a vantage point is difficult in this country due to prominent boulder fields that can easily hide a goat. I decided to put on my “Winchester Whites” and close the distance to a flat bench below a china walled basin. The bleach white trade-show dress shirt was a little too white, I stood out on the side of the mountain like a road flare at night. I rounded a boulder field and then spotted a goat laying down on the ledge below the basin.

Busted – Now or Never Moment

Goats have incredible eye sight and a great sense of smell. This goat was facing away with his back to the wind and face up toward the valley. I dropped in from above and angled toward the wind. The billy was quickly coming into shooting range. I donned the whites as a fail safe in case he spotted me. I slid down a grass chute on my rear and went from 500 yards away to 400 yards away in a hurry. Ten minutes later a bleach white nanny squirted out of nowhere, about 200 yards below me. She carefully and deliberately walked toward the gnarliest rocks she could find to serve has her escape route. Did she see me? Did she smell me? It didn’t matter at that point. The billy then stood up at 400 yards, spun around and looked directly at me. He took several steps toward the nanny, who had joined up with another goat that appeared suddenly, almost like a magic trick. They all looked directly at me like they knew I was there the whole time. I wondered how many hunters those eyes have seen. I dropped my pack and slowly unbuckled my 300WSM XPR.

Show Time

I crawled to boulder as the goat took several steps and stopped to stare right at me. I rested the rifle on a rock and negotiated a prone position facing almost straight down the mountain. Curiosity of the billy got the best of him and I was able to take a shot. The 190 grain bullet hit right behind his elbow before he took several steps on the flat bench and collapsed. He was in the perfect place for recovery; a flat bench at the bottom of a large gulch. I’ve heard from many goat hunters that shooting a goat isn’t the tough part, it’s waiting for the goat to be in a recoverable location that won’t damage the animal from the fall. This billy was in the perfect place and I’m thankful for his life. What a truly magnificent animal – the “Mountain Goat.”

Big Ole Billy
Big Ole Billy
Slice and Dice Champ
Solo Dice
Standing up is difficult when you have – Film Gear, Camp Gear, Full Hide, Full Boned out Goat meat on your back.

Breaking him down took what seemed like forever. I had to nearly flesh the cape to keep him light as possible to hike back over the mountain where I came from. One rule in goat country I find crucial – no blind descents, meaning always go down the same place you came up. That being said I had to hike up over the mountain to get back to where I started from. Deboning the billy and trimming as much fat as possible took time but more time trimming meant less weight to pack out. I arranged my pack with clothes at the bottom, meat in the middle, and the hide at the top. I strapped my rifle, sleeping bag and bivy sack on the exterior of the pack. Shouldering the nearly 200 pound pack took the breath right out of me. I hiked well into dark before I set up camp at the top of the mountain. The following morning I hiked down to my Alpacka pack raft and floated back to my ATV. I was happy to be in the home stretch.

Alpacka Rafts = Whole New Ball Game
Made the push to the wheeler…

Going on an adventure like this is a bit selfish, I must admit. I realized this upon returning and fleshing out the experience in my mind. Mountain hunting is my addiction. The adrenalin flooding through my system is the high. Summiting that mountain on my own two feet and harvesting my target animal was an immense moment for me. I am grateful for the time spent solo in the mountains. The hike was painful and pushed me to my limits which is what I was looking for. I felt my heart pounding in my chest and felt the sweat drip from my brow. I was surrounded in gorgeous scenery. I felt truly alive. As I sat on a moss covered log at the base of the mountain, I experienced that mountain epiphany, that…”yeaaah” this is why I do this. I couldn’t wait to return home to my wife and newborn son to share the story with them. I also look forward to the day where I get to share this primo spot with my son. #MAK #missionalaska

Made it back to Keeper – Pickle – Crixus & Jordan “My Wife took the photo lol”

The Alaskan Way – “Lonely Boat on a Dark River” A story of endless care for others in Nowhere, AK – Nathaniel Grimes

alaska, Hunting Alaska, Hunting Culture, moose, public land

This is what I love about Alaska, you can see when someone needs help by a simple glance. Remote travel and risky endeavors are a part of the Alaskan life. The further away you get from “society” the more people are willing to give you the shirt off their back, the beer out their cooler, and the strong back to get you home safely. Reading stories like these warms the heart, you never know when your the one who needs a hand in the backcountry.

Story by Nathaniel Grimes.

Fire = Warm
Fire = Warm

“Lonely Boat on a Dark River” 

It goes without saying that every season and every hunting trip yields some pretty interesting experiences (both good and bad) to talk about around the campfire with a cold beer and good friends. 

This one is no different. For me, the moose season has always frustrated me. Every year I spend hours upon hours at the range with countless rounds of my choice ammunition, practicing shots from different positions and various distances. I put a lot of work into making sure I am ready to make a clean shot on the fly IF the opportunity presented itself. 

But as always, the dreaded thought of coming up empty handed once again lingers in the back of my mind. You tell yourself it’ll be different this year and the hope of success, and the thought of finally getting to take that first picture with your first moose comes back up and seems to push all that doubt out of your noggin. 

The day for the river trip finally arrived. I had the gear and boat all packed up and my two friends were ready to get on the river. We had no specific place along the Tanana river we wanted to set up camp, or where we would even start for that matter. We just wanted to get out there and make it happen. 
After a few hours on the river we find a pretty nice little flat spot just before the mouth of the Wood River. We had heard quite a few success stories coming out of that river so we decided to give it a shot. Filled with optimism and false hope we pitched out tents and settled in. Tomorrow was finally opening day. 

It’s 5am and we are all up, sipping coffee and waiting for first light. After breakfast we hit the river. We spend most of the day going up and down the Tanana to see what areas look the best for our first sit. We eventually find a spot we figured was as good as any and set up. Hours go by and that hope quickly starts to fade. 
Faced with sheer boredom and a tiny bit of depression due to the lack of instant gratification, we head back to camp and start making food. A few hours go by and now it’s dark as crap. While having a beer with “the boys” we hear an owl across the river hooting quite loudly. “You should shine a light over there and try to see the eyes reflect”, my buddy says. Also curious, my other friend pulls his light out and turns it on….Not what we thought to find. 
As soon as he turns the light on we see, in the river not 20 yards from us a boat, silently floating past us. “What the @#&*?!” was the chosen response from all three of us. While holding all of our flashlights on the boat, we yell out to the boat incase there was anyone simply just broke down and floating back to Nenana. No response. 
This is where it gets interesting. “Someone fell out of the boat!” One friend yells. “Not likely” I replied, “If someone fell out, the boat would more than likely still be running and spinning clockwise. I bet you it floated away from someone’s camp.”
We jump in my boat and head out after the lonely boat. We catch up to it and I hop in the driver’s seat. Inside was a beautiful 300WinMag, 2-30 gallon tanks of gas and 4 or 5 lifejackets. I turned the key and it started right up. 
“Let’s take this back to camp and call the Troopers.” I suggested.  Well see now we’re in a bad spot. We are in the middle of the Tanana River, in the middle of the night and it’s pitch black. If a sweeper or sandbar hand been in front of us we wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I tell one friend to drive my boat behind me and the other friend to sit on the bow of the boat and shine a light on the river for me. 
While driving the found boat I notice I have to fight the steering wheel to keep it from making a hard right turn. As we get closer to the camp I see more of the river and don’t see any sweepers in front of us so I give the throttle a little push. Bad idea. The boat violently kicks hard right and we shoot out into the middle of the river. After a few expletives are shouted, we look up and see a small light in the distance. Couldn’t have been any bigger than a shop light, waiving back and forth about 2 miles up the river. 
We slow down to let Jimmy, my friend that is driving my boat catch up. While idling our boats next to each other we decide that these could be the people that this boat belongs to.  “Screw it man let’s go there and see if they know anything.” Jimmy said.  So here we go, 3 young guys, in 2 boats, in the middle of the river with practically no light to navigate with. About 45 minutes nervous driving and 1 or two close calls with some sandbars we were around 15 yards from these guys who are waiving their headlamps and shop light while yelling hooting and hollering. 

“You guys lose a boat?” I said with a comedic and slightly smug tone. Immediately we see the look of sheer amazement and disbelief rush over everyone of their faces.  “Holy $%^& you found our $%@(>,% boat!! Oh my God!!!” They’re all yelling. As we step up on their mini dock they begin opening their wallets and shoving rather large wads of cash along with a few beers in our faces. 
We politely decline to accept the money and tell them we didn’t do it for money, we did this because “Alaskans take care of each other”. The boat owner stepped up and said, “Well let me pay you guys back by showing you my best moose hunting spot in the morning. I’ve hunted this area my entire life and I own almost 200 acres here. You boys are welcome to stay here anytime and hunt on my land as you please!” 
The next morning we wake up and get our gear in the boat. The boats owner drives up to our camp and says, “let me ride in your boat and I’ll show you my best spots today as well as give you an extra 30 gallons of fuel.” We agree and off we went. 
Unfortunately, after all the spots he lead us to, we still did not see any sign of a bull moose. 3 days later, we pack up our camp and head home. Even though unsuccessful, we were extremely happy. We saved a group of people on the river and made friends with them. We had a super fun 3 days getting to know them all and getting more experience with the surrounding sloughs and creeks. 
All in all, this was an experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. This is what it is all about. Alaskans coming together, helping each other, sharing knowledge, lending a helping hand with no strings attached…It’s just what we as Alaskans do.  I hope you all enjoyed this story and hope it inspires you to continue to be there for one another in any way you can.  Good luck to you all this year!!!

Well guys, we can all learn something from this story… you never know when you’re going to need a hand. It pays dividends to treat people in the field like your life depends on it, because it really could. I’ve rescued, self rescued, and been rescued…. and to all those reading this. Thank you. Nate, good luck shooting the biggest bull of your life this year. “May the karma come back, and the bulls be big.” – Austin

Goat Hunting Alaska’s Nasties

alaska, big game hunting, Mountain Goat, pack rafting, Winchester

“Nowhere to climb, but he climbs.” I sit and watch in amazement as this nearly bleach white animal climbs up and over a knife ridge that seems nearly impossible for humans. Climbing harness, loads of rope, and skills I do not have would be the only way to bring him home.”

Goat hunting isn't for everyone.
Goats live in arduous terrain.

This seems like a common story amongst hunters who chase after that once in a lifetime Rocky Mountain Goat. These gifted climbers are found sparsely across the western Americas with strong holds in Coastal Canada and Southern Alaska. I’m an Alaska resident and have the opportunity to chase them unguided in my home state, although I have been fortunate enough to join other hunters in British Columbia for a different but equally dangerous goat hunt. These hunts are dangerous, no other way to describe them. On that British Columbia goat hunt, shortly after I left camp, I received a Facebook Message that one of the guides in camp had fatally fallen. A serious wake up call in my life.

This year, I took a new approach to goat hunting, a safer more mature angle. My take on hunting in general is that the whole adventure has to feel safe, be ethical, and make everyone on the hunt feels good at the end wether you harvest or not. This approach has served me well and when applied to my goat hunts this year, I found great success both personally and as a group. My Kestrel knife blade touched 5 goats this year, totaling 25 days in the field. A year of firsts for sure! Firstly my wife connected on a beautiful billy on a river hunt in South Central Alaska on a 7 year old 9.5inch Billy.

Ole One Horn-Ancient Warrior Nanny

An old high school friend and football teammate took his first goat, a 12 Year old Ancient nanny in Prince William Sound from a boat hunt. Two of my friends missed goats on weekend trips there after, cleanly and unscaved the only thing hurt on those brief hunts were egos. One friend even notched his tag as he grazed the long hair off a mature Billy’s back and didn’t feel right after leaving, he did the ethical thing to do. After those adventures I took and filmed my hunting partner Brian on a 6 year old B&C 10.25 Inch Billy goat (his first) from a grueling backpack winter hunt in my sacred secret honey hole. Lastly I took a mature Billy Goat in a different portion of Prince William Sound via permit from Fish and Game for a coveted tag for a mature 6 year old 9.25 inch Billy.

Battle Dogs
Jordan’s First Billy
Thrilled to have both horns!
Tumbles are part of the game. Glad he had both horns!

After this season, I think I’m actually becoming a bit of a mountain goat. Seems I was infatuated with them this year. The meat, regardless of what anyone tells you…..In my opinion is some of the most delectable and delicious wild game meat in the state. Burger, steaks, crock pots, oven cooked, smoked on the Traeger, braised, etc. Just tasty. With a dismal moose season in the books and the majority of seasons closing locally for freezer filling animals like moose and caribou, it was time to shift into goat mode. Weekend warrior status from the end of September until the middle of November provided all sorts of mountain opportunity for these albino whookies.

Billy Walking Towards NO-Man’s Land

Alaska’s goat populations are managed by drawing permits and registration permits, there is no over-the-counter harvest tags. Although you can register for goats online and in person at the ADFG offices. Once you finish the hunt you have to submit your hunt report regardless of successes or failures. This is how the State of Alaska and the conservation of these majestic animals works. Non-residents need a guide for these animals while residents of the state who live here year round can hunt them DIY. Easy enough to get the opportunity to hunt them, the difficult part is to take a mature billy in retrievable non-destructive terrain for both you and the goat. The first step in the battle of the billies is to firstly locate the animals in the permit area, easy enough. I go by the 90%-10% rule of terrain, I look for the gnarliest terrain 90% looks the same. The 10% percent of the gnarly terrain in wind swept country is what I look for.

Gotta Go UP for Goats

Crampons, climbing axes, mountaineering boots, rope, and great glass will help you in goat country. The single most important aspect is confidence in that gear, and little to no fear of heights. You don’t want to misstep in goat terrain. Now once we located these goats the logistcally sound option is to understand if you can go up and come back down in one day, if not more gear and heavier packs are necessary…. Or you can just cowboy up and sleep in all your layers over night. Both options are tough, unless you can get up and down in one day. Well actually all options are tough.

Position is Everything

Possibly the most difficult part of the hunt is determining the sex of the goat. ADF&G provide all sorts of information to help determine the sex of the animal, one of there tips helped me the most. “Patience is key. The longer you watch a goat the better your chances for gathering enough clues to determine its sex. Mountain goats use cliffs as escape cover much like a deer running into thick brush when they are spooked. A hasty decision to shoot may result in wounding or losing an animal because you cannot retrieve it from the bottom of a crevasse.”

Where's the Billy?

There are many aspects helping you determine the sex between billies and nannies, targeting males versus females is detrimental to the sustainability to goat poplutions. ADFG encourages the take of males because female goats have long gestation period and takes them around 5 years to reach breeding maturity. Taking one nanny ripples across the entire population. That being said, shooting dry nannies is encouraged in places such as Kodiak. Generally speaking nannies live is less difficult terrain, while the billies live in the nasty cliffs that are difficult to hunt. With enough patience goats will move and find them selves generally in retrievable “safer” country. You certainly don’t want to be in a position of not being able to retrieve your hard earned trophy.

Glad he fell where he did...
Glad He Fell Where He Did….

My wifes goat did the standard death jump, when she shot him in favorable terrain he decided to do one final leap for all of goat-kind. He rolled almost 1,000 feet and came to a stop, remarkable he had both horns still on his head. She wanted a should mount, the taxidermist said that would be difficult because of the “shave” marks on his muzzle. Well that only meant one thing to me, be the husband I am……I decided to go and get her a new cape for her half-shoulder mount while reducing freezer space in our home. I would tan her hide and make a rug for our new childs bedrooms, go and harvest my personal goat (since all my buddies wanted to mount theirs), and put my cape on her horns. Seemed like a win win, other than all the weekends I was spending away from home. With my “excuses” in hand, I was off for the final goat hunt of 2018.

Early Winter Nights… Lower Elevation Goats. Nuggets of Knowledge.

My hunting partner and super cub pilot Brian said he would help me with my last goat hunt of the season since I had helped everyone else get theirs including his B&C giant. We made a plan after a few hour conversation with the Palmer Fish and Game Office Biologist and took off. We knew the routine and it wasn’t long before we were sweating, huffing and puffing, and marching up a mountain. Finding the flattest spot we could out of the wind, we settled in for a cold night. Waking up the next morning we glassed the knife ridge and made a game plan for the stock. The 50mph gust nearly blew us off the mountain literally, with the gusts in our favor the goats couldn’t hear us coming. Cresting the ridge we spotted a lone billy marching hard up mountain toward the 90% of unforgivable terrain. 10 minutes later we spotted another billy hunkered down with his group of Nannies.

Where's the Billy?
Whiteout Whookies

He was mature, beautiful, and everything I wanted and more. Self filming this adventure added one more layer of complexity to the journey, I set the camera up on the tripod and readied for the shot. Getting into position with the windy conditions I knew a 400 yard shot was out of the question. We waited for the group of goats to meander towards us on the knife ridge. After a cold seemingly endless wait the target billy crested on the favorable side of the bowl with gentle retrievable country, the first shot had to anchor him or him could have done a perilous death jump to un-safe terrain. The first quartering to broke his shoulder and from the angle went through his spine dropping him instantly. He fell sliding down in the perfect position for pictures and a safe recovery. Patience was the key and I was rewarded, a happy hunter with a picture perfect end to an unforgettable goat season.

My Billy
Freezer Full, Wall Space Smaller, Back Still Sore
Loading the “Hawg”
Kodiak Goat
Ryan’s First Goat

Winchester’s Expedition Big Game & EXBGLR

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, Blacktail Deer, caribou, Deer Hunting, grizzly brown bear, Hunting Alaska, moose, Mountain Goat, pack rafting, Winchester

“One Round. One Rifle. One Alaska Hunting Season.” I set out with Winchester’s 300WSM XPR and Expedition Big Game Long Range across Alaska over the 2017-2018 hunting season. Moose, Sheep, Mountain Goat, Blacktail Deer, Black Bear, and Caribou all fall to this lethal combination. Alaska tested, Alaska tough. Here’s a link to my review on Winchester’s Expedition Big Game and EXBGLR ammunition. ->READ MORE

Expedition Big Game Long Range Put to the Test in Alaska

“Addicted to the Ascent” Presented by Winchester

alaska, DIY hunting, Hunting Alaska, Mountain Goat, Winchester

Late season mountain goat hunting is a dangerous endeavor. Wind blown knife ridges attract the hardest of critters, high risk…high reward. Why are we drawn towards risky behaviors? In some circumstances they can be healthy, well sort of. On this adventure, Austin and Brian climb towards the goal of notching a late season goat tag.

Importance – Alaska Mountain Goat Hunt – Presented by Winchester

alaska, Mountain Goat, Winchester

Before and after any hunt you should aways ask yourself a significant question. What’s really important? What’s the purpose of this hunt? As you become more enthralled with the legacy of hunting and the heritage that follows, you should always be cognicent of the reality of your decisions. Jordan’s first mountain goat hunt attempts to answers these personal questions and signify’s what is Important to our family.

Two Stones – One Eye

Stone Sheep

We live in Alaska, we hunt sheep  in Alaska, but sometimes we must live vicariously through our neighbors who hunt sheep in Canada.  Alaska does not have many “stone” sheep….if any.  This hunt by Aaron Parrotta is an inspiration that took part deep in the heart Canadian backcountry. Congrats gentlemen.

Two Stones, One Eye.

Our hunt started on August 9th, 2016.   After a long hike in we reached our camp spot late in the evening.  This year we had studied more maps and hoped to venture further into uncharted territory for us, preparing to sleep under a siltarp if we had to.

The morning approached quickly and the weather looked fantastic this year.  We ate breakfast and readied our packs for a long days journey. Our legs were a bit sore from the previous day, but we were so excited to see what  2016 had to offer!  Knowing the routine of stop, glass, stop, glass……we picked apart the mountains.  Three hours into our hike we spotted a Ram and Ewe bedded in the rocks below us. At first glance the Ram looked decent.  Quickly removing ourselves from their sight we set up spotters to evaluate him.  All we could get on age was 7 and horn tips to the bridge, but too close for comfort.  He looked like he needed more years. We both had great rams already so agreed not to spend any more time on him. DSCN3111

We pressed onward, spotting young rams, ewes and lambs bedding high on the mountain spines. Over a kilometer away, we spotted a Ram sky lining which only had one horn.  We would have loved a closer look at him but knew it was too far to travel that day. The next rams were not spotted till around 5pm. There were three bedded on the mountain top.   Only one of the Three was a contender. We figured they should be getting up to feed soon so we settled in. After an hour they stood and started their journey to the valley bottom, stopping to feed along the way.  We watched to see where they would end up for us to have a better view.  The ram we wanted a better look at led the way, not wasting much time to get to the bottom.  We decided to circle around out of sight down to the bottom as well.  We figured this would get us a more square on look.  Once on the bottom, with the ram in our spotter, we could only count seven years.  Since he never stopped moving it was really hard to get horn length.  We needed to get closer but would have to be in their sight for about 300 yards. We decided to try, as it was getting late, knowing that if they saw us they would head high again. Sure enough, with their incredible vision they were onto us and started feeding their way back to the top. It did not upset us as our views of him did not tell us he was a “no brainer”.  Happy with the sheep numbers and excitement we had on day one we started our long hike back to camp.

The next day we spotted sheep early, mostly ewes and lambs and the odd small rams. We decided this was the day to venture into some new country. Not far on route, a long way below us, we spotted three bedded rams on the edge of a basin.  We continued along the ridge to get a better view into the basin to see if more rams were in there. Once in position we peeked over the ridge. Sure enough there were a pile of rams, around 20!!!! It looked like a sheep estuary!!! Our eyes lit up, knowing there would have to be at least two legal rams in this group. We ruled out the rams that were definitely not legal and the few we needed a closer look at.  Now in the afternoon, we both agreed we did not have time to get closer as the were about 2000ft below us. We decided to keep assessing the valleys around them to familiarize ourselves with their possible escape routes. We then hiked back and put them to bed and planned a strategy for the morning. It was going to be a sleepless night!!!  DSCN3149

  In the morning we were excited to open the tent to a bluebird day!  With pep in our steps we started our hike to the basin. Once there, it did not take us long to spot some rams as they were 100 yards from where we left them. We proceeded to our sneak plan completely out of sight of any rams.  Knowing that the more rams the more eyes we made sure we were totally blind to all of them!  The weather and wind were perfect. We had picked out a ram bedded above the rest on the hillside.  Upon viewing he gave us a perfect square look and his horns were at least 1-1.5″ above his bridge. His age rings were a bit more challenging , definitely seven years old, possibly 8. This ram then got up and started feeding down towards the big group out of our sight.  Knowing he was legal with a very distinct white head for easy identification we turned our attention to one of the lower rams.  He was heavy horned and did not take us long to count eight rings.   The rest of the rams we could see were all younger but with a few beauty up and comers in the band. We decided which rams we personally wanted if we could make it happen.   That was two legal rams, now how to bring it all together?

  At this point we had closed the distance to about 300 yrds directly above the rams, and then Mother Nature decided to take over. The wind now blowing towards the rams, events got ‘western’ in a hurry!!  The heavy ram started to lead the others up and away to our right. This was perfect as they would parallel us at under 300 yards or less.   Both the legal rams were considerably lighter than all the rest which made them easy to pick out through binos.  I quickly got ready, not having time for a perfect rest. The heavy ram came into view and I shot. Andrew said “just high”. The ram sped up, but as luck for have it, he was working even closer. I took aim again and dropped him!!!   (“pic #3”)

We then started looking for Andrew’s ram as they came out single file up into the cliffs.

We could not see it!  We never did get eyes on the ram once he dropped down low 45 minutes before, but we were 100% confident that he was still within reach.  We decided that I would stay low and Andrew would go up and see if his ram went to the other the other ‘blind’ side of the drainage.  It was a shear drop off directly below us so we could not see the bottom of the cliff if they happened to stay tight to it. Half an hour passed with no sight of Andrew’s ram.  I decided to drop the odd rock off the cliff to see if they were against it.  Sure enough, his ram and another came out and proceeded up the small cliff area right in Andrew’s direction.  Once they were out of sight I hiked up to Andrew to tell him they were coming.  Andrew had a great spot picked out that they could not sneak by. I then went back down to make sure they did not double back.  When I got down I found the rams again bedded on a little outcrop.  I made sure that they had seen me and they rose and started again towards Andrew.  I was almost back to Andrew when I heard the shot. I then saw him stand with a fist pump saying “dropped him at 375 yards! “. Unbelievably, It all came together!!!  We had just completed our second double header together!!!

Now the work begins!! Version 2DSCN3190DSCN3215   We arrived back to camp after 10 pm, ate dinner and straight to bed. Were we ever sore!!

The next day, with the sun out once again, we turned and salted capes.  We ate lots and refueled for our long, heavy pack out the following day.  Preparing for bed Andrew was putting his pack cover on his bag preparing for the occasional overnight sprinkle. He pulled it and one of the elastic cinch cords must have been stuck under a rock.  It came flying out and hit him in the left eye. Immediately his eye started filling with blood under his pupil. He was 100% blind in one eye and watched me ‘disappear moments after the hit. Such a scary feeling loosing sight with no depth perception with one eye!  All he could do was go to bed and rest his eye, hoping that some of the blood in his iris would clear by morning.  Morning came and he still had no vision.  We packed up and started our long hike out first down about 2000ft of technical rock.  He just followed close to me as I picked the safest route out. I felt so bad for him because he went from super stoked to the wind ripping his sails.  We made it out and proceeded straight for Fort Nelson hospital.  The hospital told him he had torn his iris. They lined up a specialist for him in Prince George hospital. Once in PG the specialist told him that it was torn but would heal itself in a months time. With some comforting news, we proceeded home reminiscing on such a fantastic day. Showing the reality of how easy and scary it is for accidents to happen way in the back country. DSCN3235

All in all it was and incredible hunt with many sweet memories logged. I could not ask for a better sheep-hunting partner that perseveres thru so much pain. Knowing each other’s limits and expectations are the most important aspects of choosing a sheep-hunting partner. Looking forward to next year already!!

Many thanks to WSSBC for all you do to keep sheep on the mountains to feed our passion. Best of luck to all and be safe.



Aaron Parrotta 

WSSBC Life Member #195