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Living in the Alaskan bush
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frozen-ace Offline
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Living in the Alaskan bush
I had been working the cubicle grind for a couple years, but I always dreamed of going to Alaska. I wanted to experience another way of life, experience adventure on the edge of civilization, and experience the unknown. Alaska is a HUGE place, and can be very different from one region to the next. Most of my time has been spent in the Arctic in an area only accessible by small plane. It is a life-changing experience, and you will become a different person.

This post is intended to be a general overview of what it is like. Some areas like hunting and fishing would require a separate, more detailed post, so I tried to keep those as general as possible.

Weather-
In the Arctic you have 8 months of winter and 4 months of no summer. In the summer there might be a week of really hot weather, but for the most part you will always be wearing a sweatshirt. There's very little rain (the American Southwest gets more rain than up here). In the summer you get days with 24 hours of sunlight, and this can make it hard to sleep, so you will need to buy blackout curtains. Your body doesn't get tired, and it keeps telling you to go, go, go until you hit a wall and crash to sleep. You have a year's worth of experiences and activities in the summer because there is so much to do outdoors. In the winter everything is frozen solid and it gets COLD. It's amazing life even survived up here and continues to survive up here. It can hit -60 degrees Fahrenheit, and gets even colder with wind chill (with some wind it can hit -100). It feels like hell, a cold hell. I tell people it feels like being poked by tiny needles. The constant darkness can beat you down, and I try to take lots of D3 to make up for the lack of sunlight. The only advantage of the darkness is that it is really easy to sleep.

Gear-
You will need to upgrade your wardrobe to survive the cold, and everything is function over style. You can get through the summer with pretty much anything, but you need to prepare for winter, and winter is always around the corner. The key to keeping warm in the winter is to layer, layer, and layer.

You will need a good coat. The most common coat I see is the Canada Goose brand. They will keep you warm and cost around $600. I wanted something custom made to fit me, so I went with Apocalypse Design in Fairbanks. It is a tiny store, but their coats are the best you can get for the extreme cold. It's expensive ($700), and you feel like a giant marshmallow walking around, but you will not be cold! I use my Apocalypse coat for extreme trips and when I will be outside for more than an hour. If it is less than that I have a light Columbia jacket that works fine for short bursts outside.

You will also need a pair of bibs / coveralls. Everyone has the Carhartt Extremes Arctic Quilt bibs. Order a couple sizes too big as you will be wearing layers and need to fit inside.

For boots most people wear some form of muck or bunny boots. I never could find bunny boots that could fit me, so I went with the most extreme Baffin boots I could find. However, they were too heavy, so then I went with the Muck Boot Co and got the Arctic Pro. They are awesome at keeping you warm, but not very comfortable for long walks (rubs back of your foot raw). When it's not as cold (so around -20) I go with winter shoes made by Merrell. They keep you warm and it's nice for when you are trying to drive vehicles and need to feel the pedals.

For your hands you need to get a high quality pair of mittens. Gloves will not work. I don't know what the science is behind it, but your hands will be warmer inside a pair of mittens vs gloves. You can however, get some light gloves to wear under the mittens. You will wear the mittens for quick walks outside or going to and from different places or buildings. If you are ice fishing, driving a dog team, riding snow machine, or hunting and trapping, you will really want to upgrade to giant moose hide beaver mittens ($400, get these in a village from an old woman who sews). They are huge and will make you look like bigfoot walking around, but they will keep you warm in the most extreme conditions, especially if you wear in combination with thin gloves underneath and throw in a hand warmer (it will actually get too hot with the hand warmer).

Hat- this one is important. You must get a fur hat. Commercial materials do not even come close to competing in this arena. It must cover your ears, the top of your head, and come down to your forehead. To an outsider they will look kind of funny, but you will have that stylish 1680's look going on and will be able to stay warm at the same time. Fur will also keep you dry and stops the wind. I've been through an awful week-long rain storm right before winter and my head stayed warm and try, even though I looked like I was wearing a wet cat on my head. To compare, I went out one time in a wind storm with commercial gear, and within a few minutes I had to go back because my head was burning from the cold. I switched into my fur hat and was fine. For all of those who are against using animals for fur, you probably live in a warm climate.

Key places to shop for clothes and gear in Fairbanks-
Prospector's (my favorite)
Big Ray's
Beaver Sports

None of those places sell furs. You have to get it in the village or stop at one of the fur shops in town.

Flights-
Travel can be very complicated, and depending on where you are at, you may have to take two different flights just to get from the village into Fairbanks or Anchorage. Some of the airlines that service the villages do not have updated websites, and it can be very difficult to plan out your trip without talking to someone on the ground. Also, the flight schedule and flight times can be somewhat unpredictable, so you need to be ready at a moment's notice to run to the airstrip. The plane's don't wait for you and will leave you behind. I've seen people stranded because their flight came a couple hours early and they had no idea. There may only be one flight a day to your village, and nothing on the weekends, and if there is inclement weather you may get no flights at all for a short period. Total travel time from where you live to lower 48 will be around 1.5 to 2 days each way, most likely with a hotel layover. In many cases your flight out from the village to Anchorage / Fairbanks will cost more than your flight to the lower 48. Connections will never match up and you will have awful departing times or arrival times. Most flights out of Alaska dump into SeaTac, so that will be your jumping board to anywhere else in the world.

Another tip for the small airplanes- bring earplugs!!! You will slowly damage your hearing if you don't protect your ears.

If you are flying to a village from the Fairbanks hub and have to stay overnight, I always stay at Sophie Station or Pike's. Pike's has more of a lodge feel to it, but Sophie Station has a 24hr shuttle and is right next to Fred Meyer so you can stock up on food. Sep 15 to May 15 is winter rate (around $80 a night). In the summer the rates are significantly higher ($160 or more). I'm not as familiar with Anchorage, but I do know it is more expensive for hotels compared to Fairbanks, and has a shorter "winter rate" window.

Hair-
It's like the big rocker hair of the 1980's never went out of style, and it is culturally acceptable for men to have long hair. And besides, there won't be anyone to cut your hair so you might as well grow it out. You did come up here to be a mountain man right??

Infrastructure-
There's not a lot out in the villages. The airport will be a gravel landing strip at the edge of the village. There will be some trails and gravel roads and that's it. No hotels, no gyms, no bus lines, no taxis, and nowhere to eat. You're on your own. If you have employer housing available it will take care of all your problems and you can have a comfortable existence. Some places have limited cell phone coverage or no coverage at all, and you are lucky if you can get Internet. Internet in the bush is 1) satellite based, 2) slow, and 3) expensive. You will disconnect and unplug from the world. The villages have diesel or biomass generators for power generation, but expect frequent power outages at the worst possible times. Some villages have running water, but many don't. If you are in a village that does not have running water it will be a very difficult experience. People will not shower every day and will wear the same outfit for days at a time. If you have running water and don't have to use an outhouse at -60 you will feel like you are living a life of luxury.

Money-
No one comes to Alaska because they love the weather. They come for the opportunities, the outdoors and freedom, and / or the money. The major job opportunities in the villages are-

Government / administration
School teacher (high wages, great health insurance, average pension)
Healthcare provider (high demand, especially in rural areas)
Public safety
Technical trade (mechanic, electrician)

It is very difficult to find good, qualified people to work in the bush, but even then, most employers in Alaska want to hire someone with Alaskan experience. I've seen lots of people from the outside that come up with romanticized views of what it will be like, and they don't last very long. If you can accept beforehand that it's going to be rough and really shitty, then you'll be able to survive.

If the village experience isn't your thing, then you can always find a job in the tourist or coastal fishing industry, but I'm pretty far from the coast and not in a tourist area so can't help with those.

Many people in the villages work on the North Slope in the oil industry. They make great money and work two weeks on and two weeks off, but with the downturn there have been lots of layoffs. However, there's also a lot of turnover, which means that there's always a job opening up. Most of the oil jobs are based in Prudhoe Bay or Anchorage. This is a good website to check and you can drill down your search by industry, such as oil and gas-

https://alexsys.dol.alaska.gov/Default.aspx

Banking-
You will be stepping back 50 years here. Everything is cash based. I always carry at least $2K on me. Also, bring small bills- $1, $5, and $10 denominations. If you don't have exact change and you are buying something, you will never get the rest of your money back. The village store may accept credit/debit card if the phone line is working. No one takes checks as there is no easy way to cash them.

Food-
Alaska is in a league of its own when it comes to the cost of food. You are at the end of the line, so your food selection is pretty limited, and the food that is available is not fresh. If you are really lucky the village store (if there is even a store) might carry a small selection of vegetables, but most of the smaller places only sell junk food, canned food, soda pop, and cigarettes, and the prices are simply prohibitive...a little bag of walnuts is $40, a little half melon is $16, a head of cabbage is $10, and apple is $3. I never had cabbage in my life, and now that's all I eat. If you have Internet you can order dried fruits from Amazon and have it shipped to the Post Office. If you require regular food and food selection you can do a "bush order" from Fred Meyer and they will box up some food and get it on a plane to be sent out to the village, but it is expensive. I've never done the bush order because I didn't want to deal with the hassle- you have to meet the plane on the landing strip, and if you're not there your box will be left on the ground and the plane will leave, and then anyone in the village can walk off with it.

Hunting and fishing-
Both of these require their own detailed post, but I'll give a general one here. I use one gun and one type of bullet, otherwise the logistics of keeping your own private armory will be too much. I settled on 30-06 with 180 grain bullets. I use the same gun and same type of ammo for everything- regardless if it is beaver, bear, or moose. You don't want to have to check your scope just because you are switching to a different bullet grain, so it is easiest to keep it consistent. Most guns in the bush are open sight / iron sight because of reliability (scopes can break or fog up). Bring all your ammo with you too, you won't be able to buy what you need in the village.

For duck, goose, and small game hunting, you will want a pump action 12 gauge. Do not bring an auto-loader. You will get it jammed in the field.

After 1 year you become a resident for hunting and fishing purposes (for most other states the timeframe is 6 months). Also, once you hit the 1 year mark in a rural area, special subsistence hunting and fishing rights will be open for you. You will need to find a local to take you hunting as you won't have the gear or knowledge to hunt in the bush, and as an outsider, there are certain cultural boundaries you need to respect, and if you are hunting with a local you will be accepted and people will open up to you. In many places in the lower 48, hunting is a hobby or a weekend activity, but up here it is a way of life.

I have never fished up here with a rod and reel, and I have never seen the locals fishing like that either. There is no such thing as leisure fishing, or catch and release...it's catch and keep. Most of the Native fishing is done using nets or fishwheels. You can be the most educated person in the world, but you will feel like a dumbass the first time you try and set a giant, tangled net from a boat in a swift river, and after a few times you will start to feel like MacGyver as you tie things off and set knots and constantly improvise with whatever resources are around you. You should buy a book about how to tie knots and practice- most people can hardly tie their own shoes. You will use different knots for setting up camp, hanging meat, drying fish, setting net, tying off the boat, so it's good to have a knot for any situation that comes up.

Women-
This is the major drawback of the bush. I've seen a few gems, but smoking and drinking takes a heavy toll. It's a hard life, and I've seen some messed up stuff go on. The women are fighters and are generally pretty ornery, and I've even seen the women beat up the men! There isn't a culture of marriage, and you see a lot of cohabitation. They start having kids young, and it's not a thing for the men to drop out of the picture before the child is even born. You see a lot of inter-generational living and grandparents taking care of their children and grand children. When you fly back into town you will have serious beer goggles and every woman looks attractive, even if she's not.

Final thoughts-
The bush experience isn't for everyone. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Life is survival oriented and nothing else matters. You get by with less and without the luxuries. You'll make some good friends, but everyone is a little crazy. You learn patience and little things no longer upset you. You see food as a valuable possession and is something that takes a lot of time and effort to obtain. You learn how to hunt and how to take care of your meat. You have no choice but to learn how to cook. You learn independence, survival skills, and how to rely on yourself. You learn what it means to be a part of a real community bound together by the physical isolation. You'll develop a taste for strange foods that people back home would think you are crazy for eating. If the bush is too much for you, then you could always try for one of the pipeline / oil field jobs or try to find something in one of the major cities where you can have a "normal" life and still have the last frontier right at your doorstep.
06-06-2016 03:07 AM
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Paracelsus Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Thanks for this.

On this point:

Quote:For your hands you need to get a high quality pair of mittens. Gloves will not work. I don't know what the science is behind it, but your hands will be warmer inside a pair of mittens vs gloves.

The shortest reason is: body heat. When your fingers are all together, they generate body heat more efficiently which therefore warms your hand better. The principle is no different than the desperation survival mechanic of people huddling together to share body heat and thereby stay warm. More technically, it's because gloves, which wrap around all of the finger, offer more surface area for thermal conduction. When items touch, there is always a certain amount of energy transferred in the form of heat energy from the warmer object to the cooler one. The more surface area the cooler object touches, the more heat energy is transmitted. Mittens don't wrap around every finger, so there is less surface area for conduction of energy, and thus heat loss from the skin is slower.

Remissas, discite, vivet.
God save us from people who mean well. -storm
(This post was last modified: 06-06-2016 05:59 AM by Paracelsus.)
06-06-2016 05:58 AM
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Marmite Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
There is a documentary called 'Alone in the Wilderness' about Dick Proenneke which is definitely worth a watch if you are considering moving to Alaska.
06-06-2016 07:44 AM
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Fast Eddie Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Great post. Exploring Alaska is one of the things I'm looking forward to in the next 5 to 10 years. That whole part of the world, to include northern Canada, is about as close as you can get these days to experiencing primeval existence and vast natural landscapes completely devoid of roads and people. It would be particularly awesome to cruise along the coast in a sailboat and explore the hinterlands by day, rifle in hand.
(This post was last modified: 06-06-2016 11:44 AM by Fast Eddie.)
06-06-2016 11:43 AM
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komatiite Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Cool post, I spent two summers in Arctic latitudes for internships (one was for mapping geology for future oil exploration, and the other was in a Bush camp during diamond drilling for Uranium) and could only imagine how rough the winters would be. The black flies and 23 hours of daylight drove me crazy!

The one biggest thing I got out of it was my views on Natives. In urban areas I'd just avoid them like the plague, always wasted, brutal problems with alcoholism. When I was up north my close minded views were totally flipped. One these guys were in their element, they were the true masters of the northern environment and always had hearts of gold. I was out one day mapping alone and had taken a Zodiac boat across a 6km long lake to access my working area. It was about 40C outside that day and was absolutely beat at the end of the day. When I got back to my boat I saw the gas tank had been shredded apart, a black bear had gotten onto my shored boat and punctured the tank, they apparently love the smell of gasoline. Blended two stroke gasoline all evaporated so this slick of oil was all over my equipment. Of course, I had no paddle, I fucked up in the morning and forgot to put it on the boat. I was out of radio range as well from base camp and I hadn't charged my batteries the night before so my walkie died pretty quickly. Figured I was fucked, not much food left and a long ass walk back to camp after hiking 10km that day in the heat. I started walking, tripping out about bears, and after an hour I saw a canoe pulled on shore, so I called out and two natives came out from around a corner, they were gutting some pickerel (walleye). They had just pulled their nets at some stream outlet. I explained my situation and they fed me some shore dinner, fried in the cast iron pan, and paddled me off to the other side of the lake. They knew exactly where we were based because they could see the supply float plane once a week buzz in. By the time we were back at camp it was 10 pm, they stopped in for a coffee (very impressed with the French press we had!) and then left. It's truly terrifying to be left alone up there, there were many fucked up stories... Once I heard that one engineering student was up there and was mauled by wolves when he was taking pictures of them, another story involved a float plane dropping two geologists off at the wrong Lake (thousands of lakes up there that all look the same) so when they got lost on their traverses due to the inaccurate starting location they couldnt find their bearings and disappeared...

A guy like me who trips out over shit like that and is basically fucked when one or two things goes wrong... Meanwhile these natives can get through any scenario with zero modern technology. But with no opportunities on reservations, so many natives come to cities, and most fall victim to the alcoholism. Being up north made me realize how tough but kind hearted these dudes are, so I've tried to pay it forward from those two guys who saved my ass and do stuff like join big brothers big sisters and drop into elementary schools to help kids with their math and homework. Not much but those guys helped me when I was in their domain, least I can do is do something to pitch in when they are in my domain...
06-06-2016 12:36 PM
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frozen-ace Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
^^^
That's a really cool story, thanks for sharing. That's one of those experiences you'll never forget. When there are predators around, you are always on alert, your senses are elevated and every snap of a twig could be a bear. It's not very enjoyable (compared to a hike through a tame forest or park), and that's how our ancestors experienced the world every day. Did you have bear spray? What do you think would have happened to you if you didn't run into those guys on the lake? And what happened to the boat, did you go and get it the next day and tow it back to camp?

I hate the black flies, especially when they get into your ears and start biting and drawings blood!!

I never knew bears were interested in gas. We never venture far from the boat so a bear wouldn't have a chance to get to the tanks. If we lost gas like that, it would be game over.. We also sleep with our rifles next to us, shell in a chamber, next to the boat. The lack of gun safety always makes me uneasy, but if a bear charges you and you don't have a loaded gun, you might as well kiss your ass good bye. We also bring a dog and sleep next to it. If a bear comes the dog will go nuts, it buys you some time.

I also found that when I'm out it takes me 2-3 days to actually fall asleep. When you leave your house and go into a new environment sometimes your brain stays in a state of alert. Every little noise could be a threat, and with all the things out there, you have to be ready to jump up at a monent's notice. You can't be in a deep sleep.
06-07-2016 03:12 AM
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RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
We had the option of bringing a shotgun with us (loaded with slugs) but I had so much other shit with me so didn't bother. Bear spray somewhere in backpack but that wouldn't have done much if I saw a bear. Very poorly prepared but I hadn't seen any the whole summer yet so I never bothered. Could have been a disaster! I doubt I would have had any issues with getting back to camp, just would have taken a few extra hours due to thick brush, much easier to travel by boat. Yes next day went out with another guy with fresh gas tank and brought the boat back after more mapping in that area. Was much more prepared after that!

But this was in southern Northwest Territories north of Saskatchewan so absolutely no risk of Grizzly bears, those are much more concerning than blackies. I imagine in Alaska you see grizzlies, honestly our biggest threat was forest fire. We were somewhat close to them one summer but nothing to be spooked about, my boss was saying he was stuck in one a decade prior and it was insane, they basically develop their own weather systems where massive wind gusts, extreme heat and zero visibility combine to make you feel more helpless than you could ever feel. We would try to work in areas that had been burned down the prior summer if possible because the burned forest would lead to excellent rock exposure for mapping and easier mobility. You'd come out looking like a horror movie character every day, covered in soot intersected with streams of sweat down your face!

Anyways thanks for the post Frozen Ace. Reminded me of my good times up there. Tons of respect for you going off the grid like this, at the end of the day I was still in a relatively comfortable bush camp setting with weekly float plane deliveries for supplies, not having to depend on hunting my own food or worries about shelter. That experience alone was rough enough for me!
06-07-2016 10:36 AM
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iknowexactly Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
+1 rep point. Living in Alaska = Alpha as fuck lol
coming back and doing humanitarian things puts the icing on.

Re: Boots: "...they were too heavy, so then I went with the Muck Boot Co and got the Arctic Pro...."


"The goal of {amoral} capitalism is to reduce all human interaction to the cash nexus." L. D.
(This post was last modified: 06-07-2016 11:08 AM by iknowexactly.)
06-07-2016 10:59 AM
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Fast Eddie Offline
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RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
So what is the "lowdown" on handling aggressive bears? I was hiking and camping for a few days, alone, in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness outside of Yellowstone Park once, and never quite had a definite plan of attack in mind in case I was attacked by a Grizzly. I was carrying a 30-06 rifle and a can of bear spray but had no idea which one I would use if it came to the real deal.

So in the following scenarios, what is the proper course of action?

1) You're hiking alone and are confronted with a hostile grizzly bear that ends up charging you despite you making loud noises and backing slowly and calmly away. Do you use the rifle, or the bear spray?

2) My worst nightmare when camping and sleeping in a tent, namely there is a grizzly bear right outside sniffing and snorting and refusing to leave the area despite all your clanking and clamoring from inside in the pitch black. Again, you have the rifle and bear spray, and a flashlight. What is the advised move?
06-07-2016 12:24 PM
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Post: #10
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Great post. Thanks for coming through, Ace.

Highfive

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06-07-2016 01:50 PM
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Grodin Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
I'm not a bear expert but training for bear encounters is pretty standard for people that work on the north slope or in certain jobs like forestry.

Again, not an expert, but the way you handle a bear encounter depends a lot of the bear and the circumstances. Black bears tend to eat their food on the spot so playing dead is less effective, where as brown bears will bury their food. If a bear attack is defensive, as told by the body language or use of warnings, it is better to not escalate and to respond with appropriate body language of your own. Try to appear large and unafraid but not aggressive. If the attack is offensive you have to fight back.

I've had a number of bear encounters but nothing violent. The most memorable one was coming upon a black bear who was eating a fresh killed moose. I swear I could see the hunger and suspicion in his eyes.

This video is long but it's one of the best, this is what is commonly used for training purposes. It goes into bear body language and such.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFaspYZTG-A
(This post was last modified: 06-07-2016 02:11 PM by Grodin.)
06-07-2016 02:09 PM
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Marmite Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Speaking of bear attacks, I went to a talk given by Ray Mears (UK bushcraft expert), and he stated that you should never make eye contact with a bear, as it is seen as a sign of aggression. Instead to keep your head down, but keep the bear in your peripheral vision and back away slowly. Stating also that the only bears that you need to be especially wary of are polar bears, as they will actively hunt and eat humans regardless.
06-07-2016 03:13 PM
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frozen-ace Offline
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RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
The winter starts to set in around the end of September when the world is blanketed with a soft cover of white snow. It is always exciting at first, and then the long brutal darkness sets in and the cold hell doesn’t let up until May. In early May the sun will slowly start to creep back, and for the first time in months you will actually stand outside and feel the warmth of sunlight light up your face. You can feel your spirits rise, the ice will start to melt, and you can see the world coming back to life. I’m always amazed that anything can survive a winter that long and cold. You will start to see small birds migrate back into the area, and pretty soon you will hear the call of the migratory birds from the skies above. Breakup is here, and it’s on! The rivers are still frozen, but any moment now the ice will crack and break, and the rivers will open up. For two or three days, you can go out into the river and hunt the goose and ducks as they migrate north. As far as I can tell, this is the only time you can hunt migratory birds without a federal duck stamp. You do need to have a valid state duck stamp. Migratory birds are managed by international treaty, and there is a special provision for subsistence hunting in rural areas of Alaska (50 CFR 92). Hunting is open 24 hours per day and there are no limits, but that doesn’t mean you can harvest anything you see. Certain species are closed, and for the rest, take only what you need. Waste not, want not.

You need to dress warm. Even though spring is here, the river has its own microclimate, and a little wind will freeze you out as it swirls through the ice when you are sitting in a boat. The water is cold and deadly. It is surging fast, and is just above freezing. There are huge chunks of floating ice the size of a garage, and if you were to fall in you can kiss your ass goodbye- you will either get crushed by a piece of ice, caught on a snag or a fallen tree, or if you do somehow make it to shore, it will be a rush against the clock to get a fire started. For those of you who are survivalists or think you could start a fire, it is always eye opening when you practice and try to start a fire. When it is cold, windy, and wet, it is nearly impossible to get a fire started if you have just a basic flint striker or a few waterproof matches. And if you knew you had 15 minutes before you start to slip into hypothermia, you’d really mess it up.
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Goose hunting isn’t easy. They have amazing eyesight, and even if you are lying on your stomach, face down in the mud and hidden by willows, you can twitch your little finger and the goose, flying 40 MPH high above, will see you and veer off in a different direction, and every other goose will follow. You have to be really patient, and just when you think it’s time to move or try a different spot, a huge flock will come over your position. I can’t tell you how many times I hadn’t seen anything and got up to stretch my legs as a silent flock of geese were heading straight at me!
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We stayed out for a couple days, and when we were ready to go home, our path was blocked by an ice dam that formed in the night. We couldn’t go through it, and the only thing you can do is wait (which could take a long time), or find another way home. We were in an area with many channels and side fingers, so we tried to take the long way back. This is when I started to get worried. We only had so much gas, and taking the long way back with the unpredictable river flows could be a disaster. There is no one to call out here, and if you get stuck or break down, the only thing you can do is wait until someone notices you didn’t return. And with the number of back channels and side fingers out here, you could be waiting for a long time. At least I knew if we had to stay out for a week or more I wouldn’t run out of water (river water everywhere), and we had enough ducks and geese that we could survive for a month.

We kept going up the side channels, but as we got deeper and deeper into them, they were blocked off at the mouth by ice. We would have to wait for it to melt or try another way. We finally found a way that was open, and as we got closer to home one of the major tributaries upriver had busted- and there was a stream of ice surging at us. It’s always a race against the clock to go out and get back before the upriver ice goes out, you do not want to get caught in it!
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We tried to get out of it, but it was moving too fast and there really isn’t anywhere you can go, and when you are in a boat the ice just tosses you around like an empty aluminum can that a kid would kick around on a sidewalk. We hit a piece of ice really bad and got lodged on the outboard motor and killed it. We couldn’t get the motor started again, so now we're dead on the water and at the mercy of the ice. I grabbed a long spruce pole we had in the boat and started trying to maneuver the boat through the surging ice, but it was a pretty hopeless affair. We got lodged between two huge pieces, and the boat was getting crushed until we popped up in the air. It almost tipped us over and I nearly fell out, catching myself on the side of the boat, and I remember thinking this is it, we’re going to die. We're fucked, there's no way out of this. It wasn’t fun, I remember being scared as hell, the most scared I've ever been in my life. I don't know why, but I wasn't panicking. I remember thinking it is what it is. I'm not really a religious person, but I felt the outcome was predetermined- it was binary, either we live or die, but no sense in panicking. There's not a lot you can do. It’s one of those moments where if believe in God you send up a prayer, and if you don’t, you find him real quick. My pole broke in the ice, and I was left with this little piece that was about three feet long. We came around a bend in the river and there was a small cove on the side surrounded by frozen ice as tall as a house coming down from the bank that would provide sanctuary. That was our only chance, and we both were fighting like hell to get the boat over to safety. We were able to get the boat up as close to the ice cove as possible and maneuvered behind it as best we could, and used the boat rope and tied it off using a crack in the ice. We stayed for a couple hours until the ice flow died down, then tried to start the motor. It wouldn't even turn over. Fuck, stuck again! I'm not a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but my hunting partner knows engines inside an out. With hardly any tools he started tearing that thing apart, shaking wires, and finally started hitting the side of the motor really hard with a wrench. The motor started, and he said some words, giving thanks to the spirits in the old tongue. I’ve never been happier in my life!
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We made it back home, then started a fire on the bank. You boil some water, and take a stick and put the goose in head first. You hold it down for about 60 seconds, then pull it out and start plucking. If you don’t do this, you will spend all damn day plucking goose.
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After the goose are plucked, you take a willow or stick and use a knife to sharpen it into a spear. Then you stick it through the goose's neck. Now you can hold the goose over the fire to singe it. This burns off the remaining down feathers, and gives it an amazing smoke flavor. The skin and fat of the goose will really start to sizzle, but you do not want to burn it. After this is done, you can chop off the head and feet, and cut open the stomach and pull out the intestines. The gizzard is inside on the right, and you will want to save those. You cut them open with a knife by going about 2/3 of the way through, then peel it open and spread it out towards yourself. You really want to clean out all the sand and gravel, and if you can get over the toughness they are really good to eat.
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True subsistence is the essence of survival in the bush. A man has to eat, and there's no such thing as going "hunting" at Costco or Whole Foods for a nice frozen steak. You have to go get it yourself, and when you do, there's always a chance, no matter how small, that you don't come back.

The goose was some of the best meat I've ever had. It wasn't that the meat itself tasted better or worse than anything else, it was what it meant to me and what I went through to get it.
07-31-2016 07:13 PM
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Post: #14
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Fresh salmon- this is one of my favorite things about Alaska. There are different runs, and depending on the time of year and where you are at, you can get kings, dog, silver, humpies, and reds (In other regions these are called chinook, chum, coho, pink, and sockeye). I always wear gloves when handling salmon. One time I was using my bare hands and a salmon squirmed out of my grip, and one of my fingers got caught in the corner of its mouth and it cut me open pretty bad. When you have your hands in fish guts and blood all day, you don’t really want any open cuts. Protect yourself.

Now lets get to your hands-

Left hand- use this hand to do all the work, and get dirty.

Right hand- this is your knife hand. Always keep it clean. Do not get your right hand in the slime, or guts. You need to keep it clean and dry to keep a firm and steady grip on your knife. If you have both hands dirty and covered in blood and guts, you will slip, and that’s how you cut yourself.

The knife- you need to keep a sharp knife. After a couple fish it will start to get dull, and you will need to use more pressure to have the same effect as a sharp knife. You don’t want to be in this situation as you will cut yourself if you exert too much pressure and the knife slips. Use a sharpening stone, a file, or any other handheld sharpener you are comfortable with. If you are at home, you might even have one of those fancy electronic sharpeners!

Fillet vs steaks- if you fillet a salmon, you need to have a really sharp fillet knife, and you have to do it just perfect so you don’t get any of the bones left in your meat. It’s really easy to mess up, and even if you do it perfect, you waste the meat around the bones and backbone. If you fillet your salmon, it is nicer because there are no bones, and you have more options- you can smoke it, jar it, freeze it, whatever you want. If you do a steak, you don’t waste any of the meat, but you can’t really smoke it like you can a fillet. You will also have bones (large and small) you have to spit out when eating it. It’s really not that bad though.

In this case here I’m being lazy. I want to maximize the amount of meat I’m bringing in, using the least amount of work. Also, the best salmon you will ever eat is smoked salmon. Nothing beats it. But here again, I’m feeling lazy, and I just want food, and salmon still tastes good to me, even if it isn’t smoked.

I always like to bring a flattened cardboard box. This is the ultimate cutting board in the bush! I don’t even have a regular cutting board. You can use it out in the field or at home. I’ve used it for everything, from moose all the way down to rabbit.

There are 101 different ways to cut a fish, and this is just one example. Some people make different cuts, leave all the guts in, take everything out. Do what suits you best for your situation.

Step 1- get some salmon!
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Step 2- scrape the slime off the salmon on each side. Use your knife and scoop it from the head back towards the tail, going in the direction of the scales.
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Step 3- Do not cut off the tail! I'll repeat, do not cut off the tail!! You need it to grip the salmon when you make your cuts. You can cut off the tail at the very end when you are all done. Grip the tail, and then look on the bottom of the salmon and find the small whole where it excretes its waste (i.e. the anus). Put your knife in there and cut along its stomach all the way up to its head.
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Step 4- Pull everything out, but don't throw it all away! In a male salmon you will see the milt- i.e. the sperm sack. It is nutrient dense and very healthy for you. In a female salmon you will have a roe- i.e. a sack full of eggs. If you are adventurous you can try some of these raw. These are also nutrient dense and really good in a soup. Some of the other organs, such as the heart, are also good to eat.
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Step 5- you will see a dark layer of thick blood along the underside of the backbone going the entire length of the fish. Use your knife and break it up, get it out!
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Step 6- Most people will just cut the head off and be done with it. They are missing out on one of the best parts of the fish. I like to leave a little meat on the head, then use a little muscle on the knife and cut it off. You have to break through the spine.
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Step 7- Once you have the head on a stand-alone basis, you will want to cut it in half. Open the jaw, and cut straight down, separating the jaw from the head. Then take the upper head, and make a symmetrical cut straight down the nose. This will now leave you with three pieces of fish head. Cut out the gills and toss those. The three pieces of head are very good to eat- you can eat the cheeks, the eyes, some of the pockets of head fat, and any of the meat that was attached when you separated the fish head from the body. You can bake, cook over a fire, smoke, or cook in a soup.
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Step 8- Now it's time to start cutting your steaks. I like to cut mine on the larger side to get 2+ meals out of each one. You want the top of the fish to be closest to you because you have to cut through the spine, and you need to use some muscle. If you have the fish flipped around it is much harder to do.
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Step 9- All done! Now you have the steaks, the heads, some eggs and sperm, and many different options to make fresh, healthy meals.
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07-31-2016 09:34 PM
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Post: #15
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Damn, this is better than National Geographic! Stay focused out there man, good luck.

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07-31-2016 11:36 PM
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Post: #16
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Moose hunting- one of the hardest activities you will ever put yourself through. You think you are tough smashing weights at a gym every Tuesday and Thursday from 3 to 5PM? Try dropping a moose on the tundra and making multiple trips with 250lbs on your back....every single step will bring enlightenment. Your shoulders scream, your knees want to buckle, your feet start to cramp, and you tell yourself you are never doing this again, and yet every year as your food stores run low, you find yourself out here. You will never look at food the same way again. You will understand just how hard it must have been for man to survive, and how people really had to move to follow the animals. Things that used to be "gross" will now taste good to you, and will even become a delicacy you look forward to eating again. You will start to see that pretty much everything is edible, as it should be, and how the modern diet is missing true balance when it comes to the animal products you eat. You will forever appreciate the ease of going to a store, walking around and looking at nicely packaged cuts of meat, all wrapped in plastic. Without a second thought, you will throw it in your cart and move on to your next item, alienating yourself from the very essence that has defined man and his relationship with the world around him since the dawn of time, before the days of the agricultural revolution.

When you get back home you have hundreds of pounds of meat to put away. It will take days upon days to get through it all. You have to work fast- if it is too warm the meat will rot. If the flies get on it they will lay eggs and maggots will infest it. And if the meat isn't covered the rain will sour anything that is exposed. If you don't have your cutting area secured, feral dogs will sneak in and eat your kill while you are away. When you get a moose, it's a marathon of work, and you only put your knife down when the last piece of meat is put away.

When you cut open the belly, you get into all the guts. Pretty much everything is edible. The stomachs are full of shit (a mix of digested greens), you have to turn them inside out and wash them out. Same with the shit tube. Cook on a low simmer for a couple hours and you got yourself a real meal!

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The heart always belongs to the hunter. It is the soul of the animal, and you eat it to bring the strength into your body. Right after the kill you will want to cut the heart open and clear the blood out of the chambers with a knife or finger.
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The liver is HUGE. This is less than half the liver on a moose. You could probably eat liver every day for two weeks and still have some left over. It tastes the best right after the kill.
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The kidneys are a hidden gem and often overlooked. They are surrounded by fat and have a unique, strong taste. I slice into thin pieces and cook on cast iron with the fat.
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Even the head is edible, including the tongue. Lots of meat on the head and pockets of fat, and you can eat almost every scrap on it. In this pic I'm cutting out the tongue.
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Cutting soup bones. Cut all the bones for later use. I cut all the bones into large, fist size chunks, and depending on what you are doing, you can leave more or less meat on the bone.
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The exposed marrow will really melt in the water and is awesome for your health. Just drink it up and pick the bone dry!
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09-13-2016 04:31 AM
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Post: #17
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
I just found out This thread.
Mr Frozen ace, my most sincere and aplaudatory Congratulations and thanks to you for this magnificent mine of information.

If I ever come back to the US, Alaska is at the top of my adventurer list.

I've heard many times about jobs warding of bears in Alaska? Is there any truth to these bar stories?

We move between light and shadow, mutually influencing and being influenced through shades of gray...
(This post was last modified: 09-13-2016 02:01 PM by Elster.)
09-13-2016 01:58 PM
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Post: #18
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Never heard of a "bear warden" so it's probably a myth more than anything. In an official capacity, the only entities I can think of that would deal with bears would be Fish and Game, State Police / local police, village police, or US Fish and Wildlife Service.

If you worked at a remote lodge, I could see "bear warden" as one of your many assigned duties. You wouldn't get to play bear warden all day though. The only time you would get that role would be when taking out garbage or moving food. Or maybe if you worked at a National Park you might get to chase some bears away.

Certain places have more bears than others, and some places have more bears than humans! Many times the bear(s) will start frequenting a local dump, and at that point the bear is doomed. It never goes back to living like a wild bear, and becomes dependent on the trash to survive (it is as if the bear became a junkie, a addict no longer able to function). Eventually the bear will grow hungry / bold and start raiding the nearest house and then will get shot, either by the home owner or the police.

If you go on a dump run, you don't even have the door open and you got a trash bear in your face. This is a bear I ran into at a dump some time ago. It would hide and stalk you, and you turn your back to it for a second and it would come up right behind you. Believe it or not, this is actually a brown (grizzly) bear. I believe the dark fur has something to do with it wallowing in trash all day. Any zoologists on here, were you fooled?

[Image: k1axcl.png]

When most people talk about bear encounters, it is almost always in a non-bear hunting situation. If it is not hunting, it falls under DLP- defense of life and property. The below examples look at the legality of shooting a bear only from the viewpoint of DLP.

You may kill a bear in defense of your life or property if you did not provoke an attack or cause a problem by negligently leaving human or pet food or garbage in a manner that attracts bears and if you have done everything else you can to protect your life and property (5 AAC 92.410).


So you go to the dump and the bear is hiding/ stalking you, can you shoot it? No. The bear wasn't threatening you. Your life was not in danger.

You shoot a moose, and you are field dressing it and making trips back to your camp. You come back to your moose and a bear is eating it. Can you shoot the bear to protect your meat? No. Your meat was not properly stored / secured. You can only shoot the bear if the meat is critical to your survival (i.e. you will starve to death without it).

You are a slob, and you have a bunch of trash outside your house. A bear comes and starts ripping through it. Can you shoot it? No. It's your own damn fault, you are the one that attracted the bear.

You go to the dump again, and the bear is still stalking you. Can you shoot it now? Still no. So you call the troopers. They show up, and in their official capacity determine the bear is a nuisance. Can they shoot it? Yes they can. Why? They have a badge, you don't.

You are out on a hike and a bear charges you. It is going to rip your head off and chew on your skull. Can you shoot it? Yes.

DLP is more of an issue when you are near an urban area / somewhere with infrastructure, a tourist area, or a place with strict hunting limits or closures. If you are in one of these areas, you will have state police all over your ass, and you'll be in the newspapers. You have to report it timely using the form below, then you have to skin the damn thing out. Do you know how long it takes to skin a brown bear? A LONG time. It is set up to be a deterrent. Then you have to give the hide, claws, and skull to fish and game. It belongs to the state.

The form is subject to public disclosure. It will follow you for the rest of your life, and if you are ever newsworthy in the future, your little bear "incident" will be mentioned.
https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/licen...fs/dlp.pdf

It can get pretty crazy. I've been places where they told me under no circumstances do you shoot a bear because you will go to jail until everything gets sorted out. Here's just one example of a shooting that was NOT defense of life and property. The guy was looking at fines and jail time. No idea if it impacted his Coast Guard job, but I'm sure his little bear incident was not a career-enhancing move.
http://juneauempire.com/local/2015-03-12...ar-killing

City people problems. Not really an issue out in the villages. Pretty much every bear is taken under the hunting regulations, and ends up on a dinner table.
09-14-2016 12:42 AM
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Post: #19
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Thanks for the thread. I've been job searching and this is one of the states that I might actually be able to make a livable wage as well as not live with crazy liberals. Obviously I know what I'm getting into.

I don't think anybody discussed this topic but the Alaskan Highway and the Dalton Highway are pretty tough if not outright dangerous highways to transverse. Really cool reading!

(09-21-2018 09:31 AM)kosko Wrote:  For the folks who stay ignorant and hating and not improving their situation during these Trump years, it will be bleak and cold once the good times stop.
02-11-2019 11:22 PM
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Post: #20
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
See: Into The Wild.
02-12-2019 12:08 AM
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Post: #21
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
(02-11-2019 11:22 PM)ChicagoFire Wrote:  Thanks for the thread. I've been job searching and this is one of the states that I might actually be able to make a livable wage as well as not live with crazy liberals. Obviously I know what I'm getting into.

I don't think anybody discussed this topic but the Alaskan Highway and the Dalton Highway are pretty tough if not outright dangerous highways to transverse. Really cool reading!

The most dangerous thing about the Alaska Highway are the tourists who slam on their brakes every time they see an animal in the ditch.
02-12-2019 02:16 PM
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Post: #22
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
@Laner
There's lots of reasons why the Alaska Highway is dangerous. Once I get it made I wouldn't be opposed to grabbing a couple buddies with me to drive through Alaska Highway and the Dalton. You only live once why not make the most of it.

@Sam: Apparently not good and it's expensive.

Alaska in general is a tough place to live. Even just how the OP discussed airfare kind of scares me off.
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/alaska/d...places-ak/

With all this talk about America declining if you're really set on making "a last stand" this might be one of the few states where you can possibly raise a family without SJWs annoying you.

(09-21-2018 09:31 AM)kosko Wrote:  For the folks who stay ignorant and hating and not improving their situation during these Trump years, it will be bleak and cold once the good times stop.
(This post was last modified: 02-12-2019 03:30 PM by ChicagoFire.)
02-12-2019 03:11 PM
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Post: #23
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
How good is the internet?

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02-12-2019 03:15 PM
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RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
(02-12-2019 03:11 PM)ChicagoFire Wrote:  @Laner
There's lots of reasons why the Alaska Highway is dangerous. Once I get it made I wouldn't be opposed to grabbing a couple buddies with me to drive through Alaska Highway and the Dalton. You only live once why not make the most of it.

@Sam: Apparently not good and it's expensive.

Alaska in general is a tough place to live. Even just how the OP discussed airfare kind of scares me off.
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/alaska/d...places-ak/

With all this talk about America declining if you're really set on making "a last stand" this might be one of the few states where you can possibly raise a family without SJWs annoying you.

Not sure man, I have driven the Alaska Hwy probably 20 times in my life, last summer being the most recent. There have been some washouts in recent years, but as far as danger goes its other vehicles or hitting an animal that will be the only danger.

By all means do it. If you have a real sense for adventure, take the CANOL roads in the Yukon all the way until it ends. Or even the Dempster especially in Tombstone north of Dawson. The Yukon is so remote and rugged it makes Alaska look like California.
02-12-2019 06:07 PM
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Post: #25
RE: Living in the Alaskan bush
Great thread. I'm thinking about becoming a pilot. Alaska supposedly has alot of work. I've heard crazy pilot stories about Alaska. It may be on my list once I finish getting my commercial license.

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02-14-2019 01:29 PM
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