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

2016 Alaska Dall Sheep Hunt “Mountain Memories”

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, big game hunting, DIY hunting, extreme hunting, Field Producer, game processing, hunting, Hunting Culture, Hunting with Camera, meat, nature, public land, unguided hunting, wild game, wildlife

Follow along with team members and brothers Austin & Auggie as they go after Dall Sheep in Alaska’s rugged backcountry.


Late Season Kodiak Sitka Blacktail Hunt “Thanksgiving Day Magic” Part 1/2

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, Blacktail Deer, Deer Hunting, DIY hunting, extreme hunting, grizzly brown bear, hunting, Hunting Culture, Hunting with Camera, meat, nature, public land, Videographer, wildlife

Here is part 1/2 from a 2016 late season sitka blacktail hunt on Kodiak Island, AK


Drifting For Giants


A DIY float hunt in remote Alaska for two beautiful bull moose.

First Moose: Jordan’s Bull

alaska, camping, DIY hunting, hunting, moose

This is Jordan’s first Alaskan big game harvest, she lucked out with the moose of a lifetime.  Join along with the crew on an unforgettable float hunt in remote Alaska.