DELTA JUNCTION, Alaska - Hunting season is in full force and I can’t help but ponder the madness of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to bash hunting.
I love the season and all the excitement it brings. But I have to wonder what motivates some people.
What puzzles me is the thousands upon thousands of dollars that are spent to bag a moose or caribou.
I was recently in a remote area of Alaska where I have property. I am accustomed to seeing plenty of people camped along the side of the road this time of the year, but the setup, the rigs, the sheer size of “moose camps” amazed me.
I saw big fifth-wheel campers, Argos, all-terrain vehicles with meat wagons, vast tents with wood stoves (the expensive Cabela’s type) and, most impressive, the semi-tractor I saw that most certainly was going to haul away the state-record moose when it was bagged.
Most trucks we saw were newer model four-door types with trailers attached. It is true that most of Alaska is accessible only by rugged transportation into the backcountry.
And this is where the hunting is. It is also true that there aren’t enough roads to spread out the mass of hunters. So in the biggest state in the country you can’t throw a stone without hitting another moose camp’s semi-tractor.
Also true is the fact that you need an attorney to interpret the game regulations to keep yourself on the right side of the law.
So here’s my interpretation of what you need to go hunting in Alaska:
1. A large, four-wheel drive, 2008 or newer pickup truck.
2. A two- or four-place trailer with two or four ATVs and meat trailers.
3. Another truck or semi-tractor to haul your “camp.”
4. $1,000 for meat processing (because who does that themselves anymore?)
5. Hunting license and private lawyer or game regulation official.
6. Alarm clock to get there first. I recently participated in the opening day of a motorized caribou hunt that is accessible only by ATV. I was lucky enough to have a friend let me borrow an ATV, and we were off at the crack of dawn to head into the wilderness to bag a caribou. Before the day was done, we would see about 10 caribou, 50 or so ATVs and riders, one mud truck, one Argo, and a couple of berry pickers.
I don’t know if you can believe this, but we didn’t bag a caribou. We rode 53 miles into the wilderness and were surrounded by people. We were all packed into the designated area of the hunt.
I think I know what it would take to get away from the crowds. A plane. A fly-in hunt is all I can think of. Anywhere there is a trail or a waterway, there will be people out there hunting, all crowded in the same areas.
But at what cost? I personally think of hunting as a peaceful, relaxing thing and necessary to put meat in the freezer. But again, at what cost? The people I encountered on that motorized caribou hunt were insane. It was an allout competition to get those animals. It was combat hunting.
I would love to see a bow-only season here in Alaska. Where I’m from, bow hunters get a whole month to themselves to hunt before rifle season opens. It tends to draw hunters who are a little more fair-chase oriented and revel in the solitude and challenge of hunting.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the state of hunting in Alaska. Also, I’d like you to share some stories or pictures if you’ve got them. Send them to my e-mail.
For now I will stick to walking, with my rifle on my shoulder. Wish me luck.
Brookelyn Bellinger is an independent filmmaker and author of the book “The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’.” Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org