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Friday, May 25, 2012

End of May

The river is open and the temperatures are perfect. This time of year the tundra is teeming with life and blossoming all around you. The extended hours of daylight combined with the vibrant colors take your breath away and make insomnia a pleasant experience.  Summertime in the Bush is “funtime.”

 Evening rides on the four-wheeler bring postcard-like views, flights of geese, swan and ducks overhead, and the occasional large animal to ogle over. Always bring your camera and your gun, though, because there will probably be something to “shoot.” Finding beauty in Mother Nature is what life on Earth is all about, and I am certainly always looking.

Last night, instead of TV or video games, I gathered logs from the river. The big trees are felled during the titanic chaos of ice churning down from the interior to the Bering Sea. Tying off to the boat, we drug logs three feet around to the banks to cut the roots free. Once cleaned, we lashed five together and towed them to the village. Using two ATVs we then pulled them up the hill to the home of my friend for the winter ahead. Always work to be done in the Bush… whether or not you choose to do it…

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I’m Sick of You… We’re Breaking Up!

The mighty Yukon River, starting in Canada and making its way down through Alaska, is a sight to be seen during the winter. It’s a frozen highway for travel up ad down to neighboring villages, the smoothest means of access for hunting and fishing, and a beautiful landmark 7 months a year. When it breaks, though, It is truly a sight to be seen. Every villager knows how powerful the river is when you seen it toss 6 foot thick chunks of ice 40 feet in the air as it piles berg upon berg.
(May 20, 2012)

(May 20, 2012)

(May 20, 2012)

With no movie theater, sporting events, hangouts, or (now) school to visit, this is the premiere event and the talk of the town for the next week or two.

Many are excited to see evidence of spring. Others are excited to get in the water with boats and outboards. I am thrilled because flowing water means salmon are coming! I cannot wait to fill my freezer, dry strips, smoke fillets, and jar what I can.

With out access to the river through a boat I have been making due, though. I bought a four-wheeler recently and have been riding as much as possible lately. This past weekend, two friends joined me far a 30 mile ride in the hills looking for a campsite on the creeks and small river north east of town. We couldn’t quite make it out to the river due to yet melted snowdrifts, but it was thrilling nonetheless. The weather was perfect for riding and the sky was blue.

I really wanted to see a bear. I hoped to fill a Grizzly tag and the four black bear limit in the region, but no luck. We did stumble on a hotbed of rabbits out in a far off valley seldom hunted. I shot five rabbits and our group caught ten total. Last night I cooked up four in a stew of potatoes, carrots, and peppers. Absolutely delicious… This is spring, and I can taste summer coming already. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Grocery Getter - 5.8.2012

A guy has got to get around right?! 

I thought a lot about the purchase of an ATV over the winter and decided that if I could get rid of my snow machine I would go out on a limb and buy a 4-wheeler. Well thanks to a good friend in the village, I sold the snow machine. With the spare cash I can now buy a brand new Honda Foreman 550.

At one time I owned a 350 Rancher and a 500 Foreman. I can honestly say that they are my favorite toys I ever owned. Sorry motorcycles and Playstations, these babies are 100% fun and adrenaline. In Togiak I rode to the creeks and river nearby, on trails hunting rabbits, and around town. I used them in the winter with mud tires for the snow, in the summer with creek water up the tail pipes, and in the fall and spring looking for game on the hill top trails. 

The ride back from St Mary's was wonderful and I have to say the power steering is a luxury I can get used to. With a 3 gallon tank, I am guessing I'll get around 60 miles per gallon. Now to put it to good use. Lookout bears, I'll be on the trails soon.

Chilly Days and Hot Showers

The thing about living in the Bush is that you do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Some fishermen fish 20 hours a day for a month at a time. Sometimes a moose hunt all day turns into dressing meat out all night. Even the meat, as tasty, free, and natural as it is, is a pain to deal with once home. My little bitty moose (see previous postings) kept me busy for 6-7 hours! Grinding, chopping, bagging, and sealing is a killer back workout. 

This weekend the birds were flying, so i was out too... 

Because breakup is just around the corner snow machining is out of the question. The only safe (relatively speaking) way to get where we wanted to go was by boat. The problem with boating, though, is you need water in it's liquid form. The Yukon River, frozen for months now, is about a mile wide where we planned to cross. only 15 feet on either side is liquid though. We piled all of our gear into a friends canoe and set out the 3 miles down the river. Luckily two other hunters were attempting the same trip and we tied off to their outboard motor, making paddling unnecessary. Where the ice looked thin we broke it with paddles and hopped to the frozen mass. Dragging the boat across the ice, we avoided open holes in the ice until shoving off again on the south side of the bank. Before long we reached the island, unloaded gear, and settled into the blinds.

A friend was the first to drop a bird, 2 actually. With 2 quick shots, he brought down 2 "tundra turkeys". These tasty birds are enormous, many were more than 30 pounds. Soon after he hit a goose and then the fun really began.

 The return to the boat was difficult to say the least. slopping around through the marshy tundra was made worse by a constant fear the bag itself would give out at any time. 

Rated for 600 pounds wen it was brand new, we felt it was safe to pile 800 pounds of human, bird, and gear then traverse questionable ice and float 3 miles on the frigid Yukon River home to Mountain Village. Everything worked out of course and we all had the best time. 

Once home the work continued as I vacuum packed the meat, froze it all, and cleaned up the huge mess I had made. A hot shower never felt so good. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Birds of Mountain Village

Not long ago it was 20 below and everywhere you look it was white and frosted. Now it is brown with patches of white. The river has pools of meltwater and gaping holes in some places. Much better than it sounds, this weather is perfect for travel. As long as your snowgo is fan cooled you can ride for miles over the tundra and enjoy the 30 degree temperatures. 
I was able to make time to go bird hunting a few times this last weekend, a welcome reprieve, to say the least. Riding out early in the morning a friend and I spotted a pond with a nearby overturned stump. Identifying the the proximity to the pond and the wood as an ideal blind, we set up camp. Decoys were deployed and we eventually built a half moon shaped igloo out of snow and ice. 

If I hadn't caught a single bird I doubt I would have been dissapointed. The day was absolutely perfect: chilly in the morning and warm by the time the mid day sun was overhead. Breezy and cloudless, I caught myself daydreaming on more than one occasion. Waking up to the familiar glak-glak-glak of speckled bellies I would shake the cob webs and hunker down with the hood of my cammo coat over my head. Peeking out and moving ever so gently, I would wait patiently for the right moment to swing up gun in hand and unload a few BBs into the sky.

It's funny how such a seemingly slow day could feel so good, so rewarding. It was that, though, and more. The highlight of the week and one of the many days I have been anticipating all winter, this was a good day. God's creation should be be smelled, touched, consumed... not watched on TV or read about in books. I enjoy Frozen Planet and reading, make o mistake, but this is something totally different. This is almost religious.