In her previous blog on RSO, Alaska hunting guide and bush pilot Tia Shoemaker gave us five great AK hunt tips for a successful hunting experience in her neck of the woods. In this blog she gives us five more. Her column is sponsored by…
6) Be prepared to get along with your guide and communicate well
Your hunt will be better if you have fun with your guide. That said, there are certain personality types which clash. Most guides recognize that we must get along with many different personality types, but there are guides who just can’t quite do it. If you find yourself clashing with a guide, try to make the best of it. But also be forthright in communicating with his boss (the registered guide) and letting him know what the guide did wrong. Don’t just go home and complain about it to your hunting buddies.
7) Listen to your guide and defer to their expertise, but be willing to participate in decision making
Go easy on questioning the experience of your guide. In most cases, the guide knows the area, the game, and what it’s doing. Your guide has been deemed fit to guide you by both his/her boss (the Outfitter/ Registered Guide) and the State of Alaska, so don’t second guess him in everything. This isn’t whitetail deer hunting. Bears and moose are different.
Okay, you hire a guide and expect him to be the expert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the decision making. If you have ideas, run them up the flagpole. If you have a lot of experience stalking animals that spook easily, make suggestions. Your guide will most likely take them into account or explain why they don’t work in that particular environment. Of the many clients I have had in the past 15 years, my favorites are the ones who participate in the decision making (particularly on a stalk even if I don’t always agree with their ideas) and the ones who listen to the guide and defer to her expertise.
8) Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and expect wet, miserable conditions
Prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the weather. Everything from 70 degrees and sun to gale-force winds and driving rain to bug-infested drizzle. I often joke that I don’t wear anything but fleece pants and waders for six months of the year and that isn’t far off. I wear Simms chest waders all summer and all through hunting season. Waders are a necessity. Recommending other footwear can be tricky. If I know I am hunting wet terrain, I purchase a pair of sneakers (second-hand stores are the place) one or two sizes too large and wear them over my stocking foot waders. They don’t offer the ankle support of Kenetrek boots, but are lighter and more comfortable than heavy wading boots. I wear fleece pants or heavy-duty thermal long underwear as a base to help wick away sweat and for their fast drying properties. As a top layer, I alternate fleece and wool (those old timers knew what they were doing… wool stays warm even when it is wet) a few extra thermal layers and a Helly Hanson or Grunden rain jacket on top. These brands are the jackets used by commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay who experience some of Alaska’s wettest conditions. I don’t know many Alaskans who aren’t Helly Hanson or Grunden fans when the rain is pouring. These 100% waterproof jackets don’t let water in. The downside is they don’t let sweat out, which is why I often wear a light Gore-tex jacket underneath my waterproof layer. That way, when I see an animal and need to move fast, I can pull off my heavy duty waterproof layer and run through the soggy alders and saturated willows with just my Gore-tex.
Even after all this careful layering, there will be days when rain blows sideways, up, and down and you’ll get soaked. That is where being prepared mentally comes in. Understanding ahead of time what you are up against can help. Often the best rain protection you can have is in recognizing you are going to get wet but it is temporary and a small price to pay for the scenery and hunt of a lifetime.
9) Don’t expect to be rescued. This isn’t Disneyland
Most areas you hunt are at least two or three airplane flights from professional medical help and often more than that from a major medical center. Your guide will do everything she/he can to keep you safe, but it is important to recognize you are in a wilderness setting. Just because you paid for a guided hunt doesn’t mean you don’t have to take responsibility for yourself. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put their brains on “vacation mode” when they go somewhere. Safety is first and foremost, and it is YOUR responsibility to minimize personal risk.
10) The most important thing to bring is a smile and a sense of adventure
An extraordinary, unforgettable hunt of a lifetime is wholly dependent on mindset. A hunter’s attitude will make or break a hunt. Most likely the hunt you embark on will be nothing like what you expect. Everything you thought you knew about hunting on the Alaskan Peninsula…think again. Know in advance that things will not always be easy and you are going to have to work hard for your animal! The terrain will be ten times harder than you think even if you are an athlete. The hunt may go the duration of the season. You will have to hike your ass off, sweat profusely, be devoured by bugs, get wet, be cold, feel frustrated and sometimes be extraordinarily bored. But even the slow moments are times when you can learn about the animal you are hunting and the ecosystem it lives in. Bottom line: if you go into the hunt with a smile and a tolerance for adversity you will have a good hunt!
Tia has wrapped up an other season of guiding anglers and hunters in her beloved Alaska Peninsula. Now maybe she can concentrate on writing and share a few more of her wild adventures.