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

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

 

Father’s Day Fun

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     Father’s Day is always a good excuse to get out and do something fun as a family. So of course Mission AK’s Kalen Kolberg knew exactly what to do when he heard the Reds were running in the Klutina. He packed a couple rods, tackle, and a cooler full of ice then hit the road towards Copper Center with his family. The Klutina offers great fishing opportunities for families. Easy access from the highway and minimal crowds allow you to fish with your family and not have to worry about you or your loved ones getting a surprise piercing.

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        The Klutina is the 7th fastest flowing river in North America so its important to target slack water holes that hold fish and allow a good solid drift. Once we settled on a hole and fished for a few hours we managed to land some beautiful Copper River Sockeye and enjoy some quality family time in the great outdoors of Alaska.

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After a long successful Father’s Day it was time to head back home and nurse our sunburn and fresh Mosquito bites. The 3.5 hour drive isn’t without it’s perks either. We were lucky enough to catch this gorgeous sunset passing through Lake Louise and managed to snap a quick cell phone pic.

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  The next morning was full of itching and moaning along with the hum of the vacuum sealer. The sight of bright red fillets in the freezer was more than enough to take our minds off our bumpy itchy skin. All in all it was a great Father’s Day filled with lots of laughs, bug bites, fish and fun.

kft6Mission Success

Stone Sheep: Inspiration

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We are always looking for great hunting stories and individuals to contribute to the Mission Alaska inspirational cause.   Well Mission Alaskan’s… I have found a story and a person who has inspired me to harvest a stone sheep.  Recently I was at Sean Lingl’s hunting operation on Vancouver Island filming a black bear hunt for 9x UFC champion Matt Hughes, while on this hunt I met some very skilled hunters and had the time of my life. Sean has several guides that work almost year round hunting the gigantic animals that roam this island in British Columbia, these guides I would argue are some of the most talented and professional individuals in the outdoor industry.  As for Sean,  It was such an honor to be hunting with the Dallas Safari Clubs “Outfitter of the Year” truly a grade A+ experience and just an awesome guy.   Not to mention that Sean lead us to a monstrous black bear that stretched the tape and the scales, and made awesome outdoor tv  for Uncaged with Matt Hughes on the Sportsman Channel.  Sean has surrounded himself with an impressive A-team of guides that have some great pictures and stories of successful hunts over the years.   Nathan French, the youngest of the guides has some fantastic hunting stories, some of the stories are with his clients and the others are of his personal adventures.

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Here at Mission Alaska our message is all about unguided, uncharted, untamed self made experiences.   We encourage hunters to get out and hunt as often as possible, testing themselves against nature and finding new areas to hunt.  Guides in certain situations are the only way to harvest certain species of animals, and one day I will need a guide to harvest my stone sheep… One man I will call on in the future is Nathan French, first of all he is a talented guide(phenomenal sheep guide), a great writer, and a developing videographer.  Nathan captures his clients hunts on film, and manages to squeeze in only a few days to personally hunt himself and test the boundaries of his limits.   After his guide season he manages to sneak back into the wilderness to fulfill his personal hunting goals, the hunt that follows is an epic one…

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STONE SHEEP:  Gray Ghosts with Golden Horns

By: Nathan French

After finishing a great guiding season with Ram Head Outfitter Ltd. It was time to drive out of the bush with my good friend and fellow guide Johnny Nikirk and head for our next hunting adventure.  A trip Johnny had planned months previous, and so kindly ask me to join. We met two buddies (Omar and Garrick) at Watson Lake and then drove down to Dease Lake where we flew in to a remote lake in northern BC to hunt stones for two weeks.

Next morning we all packed up are gear, got are eyes set on big rams and fun adventures.  On my back was six days worth of food, optics, tent, sleeping bag and pad, and miscellaneous gear.    Johnny and I parted ways to cover more ground.  Omar and I went south, Johnny and Garrick North.   We were carrying satellite phones to keep in touch every other night to relay the day’s adventures. 
Day 2 rolled around and we had spotted several rams already and lots of ewes.  Already 8 miles back from the lake, we continued to push further.  The wind from the minute we started was brutal.  Didn’t matter which way you faced, it was in your face!!!!  and strong!!  We found out later, winds were measured at 60mph! 
Later into day 2 we summited a high plateau and within minutes of glassing, we spotted two sheep far across the valley. With a closer look a 3rd sheep was spotted and right away I knew he deserved an even closer look.   The wind was howling and not making it easy to glass; I was huddled under a cliff just to keep the spotter steady.
After I made the decision to get closer , I was off like the wind.  Covering meters by the second.  I dropped 2500 feet within several minutes and dropped off my whole camp at the bottom by a creek.  We charged up the mountain with the camera rolling; Omar did one wicked job behind the handycam.
A long 2500ft ascent didn’t take long, I had one thing on my mind, and I was determined to get on this ram and nothing was going to stop me.   Peaking over the edge in hopes to be above the ram, there he was 300yards away, feeding away happily.  Without a doubt this ram was a shooter.

With a perfect steady rest I took my time and waited patiently for about 15 minutes for the shot and when it was presented the rest became history.  Ram didn’t go more than 50 yards before expiring and then came the celebration !  BIG RAM DOWN!!
I was like the happiest guy ever. Couldn’t believe it.  running up and down the mountain, hands on my head!  There may have been a couple cartwheels?   without hesitation it was time to go look at what I had just accomplished.
Walking over to the ram he continued to grow.    A beautiful 11 1/2 yr old ram broomed heavy 38X36.5 with 14 6/8 bases! More than I could have ever dreamt was laying there in my hands.   Speechless, and no one could wipe the smile off my face.  

After video and pictures we skinned and butchered the ram and made are way back to the gear left by the creek.   Midnight rolled around and we made er back.   Without wiping the smile of my face, we unloaded the sheep and started making camp.   Then came eating tenderloins from our days success and then followed several calls out on the sat phone to close friends.  Not realizing it was past midnight, I woke my boss, parents and close friends with shouts of excitement.
Next day we headed back for the lake. A steep brutal climb up and over several mountains, 11 miles total and after a full day of grinding camp and the ram on my back, we made it !!  Heavy load, long day.   Yet so rewarding.  There’s no better feeling than laying exhausted and looking at your pack with a ram on it.   I think we had a little camp celebration and waited to hear from the boys on their outings! 

I can’t thank the boys I hunted with enough!  Johnny, Omar and Garrick, this ram was made possible because of you!!  Thank you again!  I cant wait for this years outing!!I hope everyone gets to experience a hunt like this.  I was blessed to take such a beautiful ram, but the reason I hunt and live for it, is the experiences made with great friends and Gods beautiful creation.Get out there friends and give it your all!Peace!

 

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-Nathan French

 

Thanks for the article Nathan:  More videos and stories to come in the near future.  -Mission Alaska

Bridger Van Ness of Mission Alaska Graduates Ranger School

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Becoming a Airborne Ranger in the United States Army is a very difficult task, Ranger School is an intense 61-day combat leadership course geared to train some of the most elite soldiers America has to offer. Having two brothers who have completed the program (Auggie M. and Dan S.), they have told me first hand just how difficult this accomplishment was. Another one of my hunting brothers named Bridger Van Ness fell off the grid about eight months ago and resurfaced a new man. Bridger Van Ness and I go way back, back to the days of high school and Varsity soccer at Colony High School. Bridger started as a freshman and was a talented athlete to say the least. We have been longtime friends and partners working on the Mission Alaska Project since 2011.  I wanted to congratulate him on his Ranger School success and thank him and all of our troops for supporting and protecting our freedoms as United States citizens. A certifiable “bad boy” in the United States Army, Bridger completed his Ranger school recently and was featured in a story found at The Bayonet and Saber. Bridger has made headlines with this accomplishment as he has pioneered a new pilot program for entry into the prestigious Ranger School. Check out the story below to find out the scoop on Bridger and how his accomplishment has laid the foundation for an improved Ranger Program. Congratulations Bridger, I am very proud to know you and honored to call you friend, brother, and most importantly my hunting buddy. Can’t wait till our next Alaskan adventure!

 

Bridgers harvest 2013 MOOSE

Bridger On Assingment for Team Mission Alaska

Pilot program produces 1st Ranger grad

When Spc. Bridger Van Ness asked his mother to pin his Ranger tab during his graduation ceremony Friday, it signified the beginning of a new career and possibilities for future Infantry Soldiers to enter Ranger School through a new training initiative.

Van Ness, of Wasilla, Alaska, was the first Soldier to go from one station unit training to Ranger School, a feat he said was a challenging and rewarding experience.

“It feels surreal,” he said. “I wanted to do this because of the training and to do missions that every Soldier wants to accomplish.”

“Our brigade combat teams are only manned at 20 percent of all the Ranger requirements and the greatest shortage on Ranger requirements is at the sergeant level and below,” he said. “That has been an issue since the war started in 2001 and something we’ve been trying to address to mitigate the requirement and the need.”

The program will allow Van Ness and future Soldiers to select the duty stations of their choice throughout the Army wherever there is a brigade combat team, Butler said.

“He set a very high bar, so hopefully he will be able to motivate some of his peers when he shows up and tells them the only formal training he had was one station unit training,” he said. It’s challenging, but it is something that anyone can do if they put their mind to it.”

Van Ness, 23, graduated from Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He joined the Army on Oct. 1 and completed one station unit training in January. During his training, Van Ness was approached to be a test subject for the pilot program.

“As he went through OSUT, his chain of command identified stellar performers’ abilities to accomplish the task based on physical fitness and their intellectual capability and maturity,” Butler said. “He was a star performer and exceeded all of the course standards.”

Van Ness said he was sent to pre-Ranger School after completing basic training, which helped him to make it through the Ranger School on the first try.

“I thought that I would possibly have to do another phase over but I made it straight through with the help of great peers and training,” he said. “I hope it’s a big step for the Army in getting this program approved.”

Butler said the 198th Infantry Brigade will continue to identify individuals who exceed course standards and show maturity and the physical and intellectual capacities to complete Ranger School. Using Van Ness’ experience will also help to identify potential challenges Soldiers may face.

“Not everyone is going to be able to come right off the street, join the Army, finish OSUT and go right into the Ranger course, so you have to select the right individuals to succeed,” Butler said. “If we can identify five guys per company that’s great and even better if we have more. We want to get Rangers out to the brigade combat teams so they can adhere to standards and set a great example for their peers. We want to set as many people up for success as possible.”

Preparing for his next duty station in Italy, Van Ness said he hopes to advance his education and use his knowledge from Ranger School to train future Soldiers and help improve the program.

“If a young Soldier has the right mindset, he could definitely accomplish this,” Van Ness said. “I think the Army has the potential to make this program a big hit … it could be a huge success.”

Guess Where.

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Guess where this shot was taken….Ill give you a hint, it was during the filming of Ultimate Survival Alaska.

Rob and Austin

Rob and Austin

The picture is of Robert Seamen a shooter/producer and I.  Rob is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever met in my life.  This guy was very talented with his camera to say the least, he managed to keep rolling footage in the wet and inhospitable Alaskan weather.

A Lower 48er’s View of Alaska

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After graduating with Austin from Penn State, It was our mission to gain experience in the outdoors, test ourselves as young men, and do the trip of our dreams. We wanted to do a low budget, non-guided hunt, using different means of transportation; through-out the state of Alaska for the “Alaskan Big 5”, Caribou, Dall Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose, and Bear. The Mission Alaska Expedition was an amazing adventure, and one that Austin, Jordan Auggie, Sarah, Natalie, Bryan, and I will never forget.

As the lower “48’er” of the crew if was definitely a trip where I was out of my element. As I watch National Geographic’s ‘Ultimate Survival Alaska’, it brings me back to that expedition. The TV cameras make it look a lot easier than it is. They cannot adequately describe the tussocks, wetness, trench-rot, or blisters that come with successfully filming back-country travel. I wanted to share some thoughts on traveling the remote terrain as a real outsider, a non-Alaskan.

It was definitely like nothing I had encountered in the lower 48. It looks a lot like Kansas or North Dakota, but the wetness and endless tundra of the Alaskan arctic, make it like walking on a 3-5 foot wet sponge layer. Tussocks are hard plant root clumps that make the ground very unstable and a nightmare on your knees and ankles.

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Endless amounts of “tussocks”.

I will never forget how foreign the environment felt. After leaving our pick-up truck, we might might as well been walking on another planet. We only had to go 5 miles, but it felt like 20!

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A hard earned 5 miles out to the hunting area.

As I have been watching ‘Ultimate Survivor Alaska’ on National Geographic, I have been captivated by the scenery of the show and the crew’s ability to capture those images in the remote wilds of Alaska. I have filmed in Alaska and can assure you that the Alaska terrain is the enemy of any electronic device. The wet and the cold can make it very difficult to keep the cameras rolling, SD cards filled, and batteries charged. My hat is off to the Nat Geo production crew for capturing the raw and wild beauty of Alaska.

Cameras dont like working in clouds.

While Alaska can afford some beautiful weather with amazing views, definitely be prepared for cold and wet weather anytime of the year. Do not cheap yourself on gear! While you can sometimes get away with it in the lower 48, bad gear will ruin your trip and can endanger your life in Alaska. Make sure to check the Gear and Apparel page to see Mission Alaska’s gear tips, reviews, and suggestions.

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A foggy August Alaskan view.

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Looking for sheep in ever-changing weather.

There are all sorts of terrain in Alaska and a trip suited for everyone. Not far outside of the metro areas of Anchorage or the Mat-su Valley are tons of foot accessible areas. You dont always need planes and helicopters in Alaska to experience a real adventure. A lot people come to Alaska and take to bush planes to get out to remote areas. This can leave those areas crowded and areas that are hard to hike to, but not as far out as the planes go, open to anyone who wants to work for it. I had a mission to further test myself and went on a solo black bear hunt. What a great challenge and feeling of accomplishment.

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Solo black bear harvest

The Mission Alaska Expedition was for sure the hardest thing I have ever done and the trip taught me a lot about myself, life, and Alaska. I encourage more Americans in the lower 48 to go and experience the last american frontier. It is still very real and alive today. Read ‘John and Joe’s Philly to AK Adventure’. Just like Nat Geo’s ‘Ultimate Survivor Alaska’ shows, for those who want it, adventure lies waiting around every corner.

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Whats Your Mission?

-Jon Dykes

Vote for your fan favorite on Nat Geo’s Ultimate Survival Alaska

alaska hunting expedition, arrows, bear charge, bow and arrows, Hunting with Camera, National Geographic, Small game hunting, Survival, The next generation, Ultimate Survival Alaska, Uncategorized, unguided hunting, Videographer

Vote for your Fan Favorite on Nat Geo's Ultimate Survival Alaska

You know who Mission Alaska is going to vote for!
Check out the interactive map on National Geographic’s webpage for Ultimate Survival Alaska. Scroll to the bottom and make your vote heard for the number one fan favorite!

The premier is May 12th at 10pm EST, don’t forget to tell your mom happy mothers day!

You can find Mission Alaska as well as Austin Manelick on Facebook and Twitter @

@missionalaska
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mission-Alaska
or
https://www.facebook.com/david.austin
@austinmanelick

Here is the link to cast your vote.

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/ultimate-survival-alaska/interactives/interactive-map/

Ultimate Survival Alaska found on Field and Stream

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Found this interesting article featuring Ultimate Survival Alaska in Field and Stream magazine.  I have been a long time subscriber of the magazine and have always dreamed of making the pages of Field and Stream representing Alaska’s outdoorsmen.  Found this interesting article on one of my favorite websites www.fieldandstream.com, it talks about our need to find food for survival.   I will touch more on the expedition food menu later, for the moment, enjoy the article!

http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/survival/survival-food/2013/05/ultimate-survival-alaska-explorers-sponsored-post

THANKS FIELD AND STREAM!

“Ultimate Survival Alaska” Explorers (Sponsored Post)

Uploaded on May 06, 2013
Austin in Field and Stream

Ultimate Survival Alaska Explorers hunt and gather for calories The food possibilities in wild Alaska are plentiful if you know how to work for your meal.

The guys on the National Geographic Channel’s Ultimate Survival Alaska really do have to work for it—without fancy fishing poles or advanced gear. The extreme survivalists only have the tools in their packs and whatever they find in the wilderness.

“At some fundamental level, we’re not normal, well-adjusted, modern civilized human beings,” says Willi Prittie, one of the eight explorers. “We’re all throwbacks. Because modern life is not enough of a test for us.”

A 220-pound man needs approximately 2,400 calories every day just to perform basic functions like breathing and metabolizing food. Now imagine that same man is steering a handmade raft through Yukon River rapids and scaling mountain passes. His calorie intake must increase. With strenuous activity, a man needs 3,600 calories to maintain his weight and keep thriving.

The small sacks of beans and rice the explorers carry aren’t enough.

The 10-leg expedition in the brutal and dangerous Alaska terrain includes 200 miles down the Yukon River 50 miles in the Brooks Mountain Range at heights near 9,000 feet. This is no weekend hunting trip with the guys. This is finding the fuel to survive.

Alaska’s wild buffet includes:

Fish: Alaska is known for its salmon, as well as rainbow and steelhead trout, Northern pike, halibut and arctic grayling. On a particularly strenuous day, the Ultimate Survival explorers were overjoyed to land a half-pound of grayling with makeshift fishing poles. Another team constructs a dip net with a branch frame and discarded net.

Plants: Berries and edible plants are plentiful in Alaska. There are raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and lingonberries north in the tundra.

Game meat: It takes a lot of energy to hunt big game like caribou and bear. The explorers are more likely to hunt rabbit, squirrel, birds and foxes.

When the explorers are desperate for calories, it’s hard to envy their rough outdoor experience. It can even lead them to harvest berries in bear scat and devour frogs.

“It’s amazing what will get you excited when you’re hungry,” admits one contestant.

There are moments of mercy like when native Alaskans invite them into a smokehouse to taste delicious cured salmon. But that’s the side of Alaska the show highlights—the beauty and humanity amid the extreme wild. Delicious wild bounty is just within an adventurer’s reach.

For more information check out:

http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/survival/survival-food/2013/05/ultimate-survival-alaska-explorers-sponsored-post

Go-Pro’s Make Outdoor Heros

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Trick Cam Stick Cam POV, picked up the stick cam pole while on a 14 day 2011 Alaskan Spring Bear Hunt.

Trick Cam Stick Cam POV, picked up the stick cam pole while on a 14 day 2011 Alaskan Spring Bear Hunt.

Ever wanted to have your hunt captured on film, but couldn’t convince your buddy to sit in your tree stand with you?   There is a new revolutionary piece of technology in the outdoor industry that is changing the game as we speak.  Go-Pro the Outdoor Edition, the all weather, shock proof, ultra small, mega High-Def, bad-to-the-bone camera sees the world as you see it and is the easy answer to all your filming needs.  The Go-Pro takes outdoor videography to the next level.  Throughout my experience as an outdoor field producer (vid cam dude), I’ve found the Go-Pro camera to be my go-to tool in my hunting arsenal.

Go-Pro Helmet Cam POV on hog hunt at La Frijolia Ranch with Hidden Antler

Go-Pro Helmet Cam POV on hog hunt at La Frijolia Ranch with Hidden Antler

Its small size and weatherproof casing makes the camera the world’s most versatile; taking on anything mother nature throws at you.   No tools required for the endless attachments provided with the Go-Pro including chest mounts, handles bar mounts (works nicely for custom barrel or archery shots), suction cup mounts, adhesive mounts, helmet or head strap mount, allows the user to film easily and achieve a variety of shots including close-mid range kill shots.  The wide angle lens records the perception of your point of view.  This allows you to be as creative as you want, or a simple as you want.  The attachments for this product make the Go-Pro extremely user friendly and can take a zero to a hero over night.

Go-Pro Stick Cam on Mountain Bike ride to Dall Sheep Hunt

Go-Pro Stick Cam on Mountain Bike ride to Dall Sheep Hunt

Seamless transfers to your computer in an easy MOV file, the Go-Pro records to secure digital cards (SD) 2GB,-32GB (gigabyte) cards. Depending on the SD cards storage size, you will be looking at one-two hours of HD filming.  Closer to the pricing of the mid level game cameras such as Bushnells 8pixel  Trophy Cam, the Go-Pro is a steal.  For $299 Go-Pro hooks you up with the HD Hero 2 Professional camera package with all the basic attachments to get you in the field and filming with the press of a button.    When compared to higher end videographer camera rigs(costing thousands), with use lighting equipment, wireless microphones, additional camera lens, tripods, boom microphones, the Go-Pro has all of the above combined in a mini user friendly camera.  The Go-Pro has advanced settings with a manual book so you can customize your camera to your preferred setting.  However, it’s ready to film out of the package after a quick charge.

Go-Pro Stick Cam POV on Dalton Highway Caribou Hunt.  There was a full caribou on each of our backs in this photo.  The Go-Pro did all the cameraman work..

Go-Pro Stick Cam POV on Dalton Highway Caribou Hunt. There was a full caribou on each of our backs in this photo. The Go-Pro did all the cameraman work..

Throughout my experience as an outdoor videographer, I have purchased one Go-Pro that has traveled with me from Alaska, to Pennsylvania, to south Texas and everywhere in between.  This product is rugged and reliable, period.  Field producing many outdoor TV shows in the past few years, I have been privileged to meet some of the coolest people in the world. Take for example Mike Hanback, the dude is the real deal on and off camera.  We have made a couple whitetail episodes out of Texas with our buddies Sarge and Brandon. Each year several of the Go-Pro shots will make it to the silver screen.  Also, each videographer I’ve met in dual cameramen hunts had at bare minimum of one Go-Pro.  In my opinion the Go-Pro has revolutionized the way outdoor television productions are filmed, allowing for a very unique list of shots. This product no doubt makes the average Joe a hero, all with the press of a button.  The price is affordable for the American working man, and if your lucky maybe this year you’ll get an early Christmas present from a loved one.

-Austin Manelick

www.missionak.com