Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Snow- Winter's Shot Across the Bow.

Here we are a mere day past the autumal equinox and winter has fired her first shot across the bow. We awoke to 4" of heavy fall snow and it continued most of the day. I'm not kidding myself because this will be short lived; but it is fair warning that this place is about winter in a serious way.
We set the pup out in it for his first foray into snow and the result was quite hilarious. Later in the morning Evan and a friend went out and built a snowman- a rare treat in the Interior. For most of the winter the snow is far too dry and powdery to form any sort of snowman or even a decent snowball. It was a stern reminder to finish up my pre-winter chores.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Better Bring Yer Own...

Just a quick update from the Farthest North...

While it has long been held that the travelling hunter is well advised to shoot a smokepole chambered for ultra common ammunition. Apparently the reasoning is such that should the hunter become seperated from his cartridges, he can obtain a ready resupply at his point of arrival. I hear this commonly when new cartridges are introduced all the time as a real point of contention and justification of why a new cartridge should be avoided like plague rats.

"Sure the .375 Super Floogen Boomer is a great cartridge, but just try to buy shells in Africa or Alaska!" is often the cry you'll here from those predisposed to such things. Well my friends- I've got news for you.

No Longer Applicable.

Recently a travelling hunter became seperated from his baggage and was mere hours from stepping onto a bush plane bound for Middle of Nothing, AK. His rifle was a pretty common chambering- 7mm Remington Magnum. While admittedly not the most popular sporting caliber in Alaska, it is a popular Western hunting cartridge. Local hook and bullet store was fresh out given our timeline in moose season with the closest place having any a whopping two hours away in Fairbanks, and they only had two boxes. The enterprising pilot put out the call on the hunter's grapevine for a Good Samaritan to bring a box to the airstrip to get these guys on their way.

Well the word spread and the oddest thing happened- no 7mm Magnum anywhere in town with any of the local hunters. I'm sure some folks were hold outs but I was pretty amazed.

Looking at the small pile my friends and I established- he could have had a rifle chambered in any of dozens of calibers deemed "unusual" or uncommon and we could have helped him out.

Any flavor of .30 Magnum. Any flavor of Weatherby including .338-.378. Any of the Ruger boutique cartridges. Any of the .35s (including .358 STA and Norma) An off brand box of .25-35. .257 Bob. A few loose rounds of .280 Ackley Improved. Prodigous quantities of .270, .308 and .30-06 but not a round of 7mm Remington Magnum to be found. A Good Samaritan did lend our desperate hunter a rifle and cartridges but I'm still wondering about the original rationale.

So here's the question. Any of you readers ever lose/ forget ammo and had to resupply locally at your destination? Where was it and how'd that go?

Given the current state of ammunition availability in Fairbanks and locally you're apparently well advised to make doubly sure to bring your own.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fall in Interior Alaska

He we go again...a season in Alaska that is as stunning as it is short. Fall. That last burst of activity before winter- time to build that addition you've been planning all summer while you've been goofing off fishing. And tune that furnace that limped along through spring. And pump the septic. And paint the house. And kill a moose. And- well you guys get the point already. I've been walking around the property doing a clean up and ticking off chores the responsible homeowner doesn't wisely defer up here.

Alaskans tend to go into overdrive during this time of year with one eye on the ball and one on the mountain- watching as "termination dust" works its way lower and lower down the slope. A period of frantic activity while the trees turn a vibrant blast of yellow that is less than a week old with less than a week left at this point. Amid all the work there are some fun things to do outside this time of year- stalk through all the bright colored foliage with a .22 or shotgun and look for ruffed grouse feeding on the now sweetened high bush cranberries. As the morning frosts become more frequent and the hares start to turn white it is a fine time to go looking for them as well. Getting after the fall rainbows and grayling are a delight as are the last run of silver salmon. The moose are entering rut during this last week of the season and the bulls are losing their minds in testosterone driven oblivion- responding even to amateurish attempts at cow calling with a gusto that defies imagination.

My big game hunting has sadly suffered this year; as an ill father, mandatory out-of-state training and a high priority emerging project have all but eliminated my much anticipated 5 day float hunting trip. I tell myself, "Next year." But its a small consolation. This was to be my year to try for moose. Or so I thought. I launched my hunting partner down the river with another hunter Friday afternoon. I wish them luck but I'm a bit envious as well.

Sometimes being responsible sucks.

As a bonus the caribou migration is off kilter again and no one is seeing animals and very few have been taken to date in the local ranges. Way up north of the Brooks Range the animals are only now moving south from the Arctic coasts. I anticipate good snow cover by the time the caribou move locally (tune up the snowmachine is one more item to add to the to-do list) as well. As a bonus, caribou are usually easier to hunt from a snowmachine because the frozen tundra and snow base opens up huge expanses of country previously accessed only by foot and the colder weather ensures a bug free experience and easier meat care. Hopefully I can gain control of my schedule enough to hunt them through the early winter months.

In all the autumn here is a beautiful, busy and this year, a somewhat melancholy, time as well.