Category Archives: hunting

View From Out West: Life lived large — Troyer leaves lasting legacy on terrain, traveling partners

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

What I recall most were his energetic, rollicking stories and his booming, hearty laugh. I also recall his alpine hat, often canted slightly backward, his love of fruit pie and a good after-dinner nap, and, primarily, the hunting trips he took with my father.

Almost as far back as I can remember, Will Troyer, who died Sept. 21, less than two weeks shy of his 89th birthday, was part of my father’s life. For more than four decades Dad and Will were devoted friends.

Although they hadn’t known each other back when they were boys, both had been Hoosiers, raised in the same part of the state, and they reminisced fondly about growing up in Indiana. In their early days together in Alaska — between hiking, hunting and fishing together — they strategized in tandem for the preservation of Alaska wilderness through the Kenai Conservation Society. They also united our families in a bond of friendship that has stretched across the years.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Our family met Will’s (wife, LuRue, and three children, Janice, Eric and Teresa) through the Kenai Methodist Church in about 1963, when the Troyers moved from Kodiak so Will could become the manager of the Kenai National Moose Range. A self-proclaimed “Amish/Mennonite farm boy,” Will spent 30 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service before retiring in 1981. Unlike many refuge managers today, Will continued to work in the field, flying aerial moose surveys and performing numerous other duties outside of the office.

He is largely responsible for the names of perhaps 200 lowland lakes on today’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and he personally hand-cut many of the original portages on the refuge’s extensive canoe system. For the Park Service, he traveled widely across the state. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he assisted in damage assessment on Cook Inlet beaches, and in recent years he published three memoirs about his life.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Will had the resonating kind of voice that even my hard-of-hearing father could easily discern. Dad often found it unnecessary to turn up the volume on the telephone when Will would call about another outing. He didn’t need his hearing aids when Will was regaling us with stories around the dinner table.

With fond hearts for the out-of-doors, Dad and Will planned adventures together, continuing even after the Troyers moved away from the Kenai Peninsula. Their outings increased in the 1980s when Will and LuRue moved back, establishing their retirement home off Bean Creek Road in Cooper Landing.

For years, even when Dad was in his 60s and Will was in his 70s, they tromped down woodsy trails along Swanson River Road to stalk tasty grouse and took annual trips together to the rolling wheat fields of North Dakota to flush pheasants from the grain.

They also made frequent pilgrimages to Kodiak Island to bust through alders after nimble deer, and they climbed with their English setters into the upper drainages of Shaft Creek, East Creek and Devil’s Creek to blast at ptarmigan bolting from scattered copses of willow.

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Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce: Call of the wild

Redoubt Reporter file photo. As moose calls go, there are more effective vocalizations than, “Heeeeere boy moose!”

Redoubt Reporter file photo. As moose calls go, there are more effective vocalizations than, “Heeeeere boy moose!”

By Jacki Michaels, for the Redoubt Reporter
It’s a family tradition to listen to audiobooks during family road trips. Still, after many hours of intellectual enrichment and family bonding on a recent trip we found ourselves in desperate need of a little more distraction before we arrived at our destination.
“I have an idea!” I declared.
I could see my hubby cringe. He has learned from experience not to say, “Oh, no!” when I announce that I have an idea. Still, the cringe says it loud and clear.
Nevertheless, I proceeded, “Since we’re going hunting, let’s practice our moose calls!”
His mouth said nothing. His eyes said, “Oh, yay!” in a mocking tone. Sarcasm speaks louder than words.
Catching his father’s attitude, I could feel our teenager’s eyes roll into the back of his head, even though he was in the back seat. An audible groan filled the cab.
“Is that a boy bull call, Patrick?” I asked.
From there a serious discussion on the finer points of speech and moose calling ensued.
“Boy moose,” it was explained, is definitely a grammatical no-no.
In a most masculine move my man posed his hands in prayer position, pinched his nose with his pointer fingers, flared his hands into a shout position, took a deep breath and made a sound that could only be roughly compared to a constipated water buffalo.
“Whoa,” I said. “Good thing you used a duck call when you were courting me!”
“Seriously, Mom, he did that?” my son was incredulous.
“I married him, didn’t I?” I said. Then I rolled my eyes. Being guys, they did not catch my sarcasm.
More groaning from the back.

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Hunter’s dream laid bear — Organization grants youth’s wish to hunt in Alaska

Photos courtesy of Hunt of a Lifetime. Hunter Paustian, who grew up hunting with his dad in Oregon, had his wish granted to go on a bear hunt in Alaska, out of Kenai, seeking a brown bear.

Photos courtesy of Hunt of a Lifetime. Hunter Paustian, who grew up hunting with his dad in Oregon, had his wish granted to go on a bear hunt in Alaska, out of Kenai, seeking a brown bear.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Stalking through the woods in search of a bear may be some people’s idea of a frightening, near-death experience, but for Hunter Paustian it doesn’t come close to the real life-threatening experiences he’s already faced and overcome.

“The more of a challenge it is, the more I want to do it,” he said, after returning from a 10-day hunt in the Drift River area across Cook Inlet from Kenai.

The 18-year-old, from LaGrande, Oregon, came to Alaska to hunt with guide Mike Cowan of Crosshairs of Alaska through the nonprofit charity Hunt of a Lifetime, which grants dream hunts to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Paustian was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma — a rare form of bone cancer — when he was 1. A year and a half of chemo and radiation therapy followed, which caused substantial damage to his young heart, requiring a heart transplant in his teen years. At 16, a cancerous tumor returned to one of the ribs in his back, requiring it to be removed.

Despite his illnesses and all the resultant treatments, Paustian has lived as much as possible like any other kid his age, and one of his hobbies has always been hunting. He primarily targets mule deer and elk using his bow or rifle, and also likes duck hunting from time to time. He started hunting with his father when he was 5, and over the years has refined his outdoors skills. His progressing led Paustian to want to hunt one of the apex predators — an Alaska brown bear.

“He doesn’t let his illness dictate his life,” said his father, Jon Paustian. “As parents, we’ve always tried to make sure the disease didn’t define who he is or what he does in life, and he makes it easy for us.”

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‘Among wolves’ offers window to wild — New book profiles enigmatic biologist and his long-term career of field study

Redoubt Reporter file photo by Joseph Robertia. A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve carries a meal from a caribou kill. Wolf sightings have become far less frequent over recent years in the park, from about 44 percent of visitors in 2010 seeing wolves to 4 percent in 2013.

Redoubt Reporter file photo by Joseph Robertia. A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve carries a meal from a caribou kill. Wolf sightings have become far less frequent over recent years in the park, from about 44 percent of visitors in 2010 seeing wolves to 4 percent in 2013.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

To Marybeth Holleman, author of “Among Wolves,” the question she most wanted to answer in writing her book about Alaska wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber wasn’t what sparked his 43-year, single-minded, life-consuming career studying wolves in the wilds of Alaska. That part was obvious from a mere glance at his field notes, which offer a captivating window into the behaviors, adaptations and interactions of these fascinating and controversial creatures.

Haber explains his interest himself in one of the passages of the book, which is a combination of Haber’s research notes, reports and writings compiled and edited by Holleman, and Holleman’s own interviews and research about her subject.

Wolves enhance, “The ability of our surroundings to evoke the sense of wonder that helps us not just to live, but to be alive,” Haber once wrote.

“I was struck not just by his knowledge of wolves but also by his passion for wolves. He had been studying them for so long but he never lost that initial sense of wonder and that passion for his research, and that really struck me,” Holleman said during a presentation about her book at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus on April 2.

That drive struck early. In high school Haber wrote an essay on his life goals, saying, “‘I have decided on one factor, this being that I intend to live a major portion of my life either in or near the outdoors,’” Holleman said. “And that he did.”

Haber began his wolf research in Alaska in 1966 and continued it until his death when his research plane crashed in Denali in 2009. Summer and winter found Haber backpacking into Denali National Park and Preserve, via skis, snowshoes or hiking boots, spending thousands of hours observing his subjects. Once radio collaring began, Haber contracted a pilot and conducted much farther-reaching surveys from above, observing up to 18 wolf groups in the 6-million-acre park and preserve, as well as the Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve, Fortymile region and other areas where the state conducted predator control programs.

All the while he remained an independent scientist with private backers funding his research — such as the Friends of Animals — but eschewing any limitations or directions placed on his work, Holleman said.

“All that time gives him unassailable, experiential authority to tell us something about wolves,” she said.

Colleagues thought him meticulous, with a depth of knowledge to match his wealth of experience — and also enigmatic, being somewhat of a lone wolf himself. When he came to Alaska from Michigan in the 1960s, Haber met with pioneer wolf researcher Adolph Murie, who had turned his studies into the landmark book, “The Wolves of Mount McKinley.” Haber took up observation of the same wolves, the Toklats, that Murie had been studying since the 1920s, creating 70 years of continuous research. That makes the Toklats, along with Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees, the oldest known, longest-studied, large-animal social group in the world, Holleman said.

“Which is, as you can imagine, of inestimable scientific value,” she said.

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Kenai wolves pack ups, downs — Population sees extinction to re-establishment, protection to predator control

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Between poisoning, hunting and trapping pressure and disease, the Kenai Peninsula has not proven a very hospitable home to wolves over the years.

As a companion to Marybeth Holleman’s presentation on her new book, “Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights Into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal,” at KPC on April 2, retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge biologist Ted Bailey gave an overview of the history of wolves on the peninsula.

They’ve had their ups and downs since the late 1800s, with pressure from humans being one through line in their history. When the gold rush hit the Kenai Peninsula in 1885-86, the thousands of prospectors hoping to strike it rich brought a hefty distrust of wolves. Apparently they feared a rabies outbreak like they had seen in the Klondike, Bailey said, so they used poison to reduce the wolf population. Poison also was a method of choice for those wanting to harvest fur-bearers to sell the pelts for money during the winter. By 1915, Bailey said, the wolves of the Kenai Peninsula were gone.

By around 1965 they were returning, thought to have emigrated from the mainland after wolves started receiving protection by the fledgling state government.

“The roles were kind of switched compared to today,” Bailey said. “Back then it was the federal government that was poisoning wolves, and the state of Alaska, at statehood, they changed the outlook on wolves. They made the wolf a big game species and they protected it and developed seasons. Today it is kind of the opposite.”

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Sign up and fly right — Archery league offers practice, competition

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jaron Swanson, 12, takes aim at a target while his father, Aaron, watches his technique as they practice their archery Saturday at the range in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jaron Swanson, 12, takes aim at a target while his father, Aaron, watches his technique as they practice their archery Saturday at the range in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Jaron Swanson, 12, looked downrange at his target and knew where he wanted to send his arrow. Now he just needs to make it happen. He tried to relax, took a breath and slowly exhaled, drew back on his bow and then held it, and held it — and held it a little too long.

“You don’t want to hold it too long, you’ll eventually start to shake,” said his father, Aaron Swanson.

Jaron took the advice. He drew down, shook his arm out a bit, re-sighted and drew back again, this time letting the arrow loose without much pause. A “thunk” roughly 20 yards away revealed that his dad’s advice had been as good as Jaron’s aim. His arrow was just a hair away from the bull’s-eye.

“That’s it. Good job. Just like that,” the elder Swanson said.

After Jaron had gone, Swanson let a few shafts fly down range, as did his other son, 15-year-old Brady. They were all close to their marks, which Swanson said was the point of being at the archery range, located in the basement of Wilderness Way in Soldotna, early Saturday morning.

“The more arrows you shoot the more comfortable you are,” he said.

Wanting to stay sharp prompted the family to join a six-week archery league offered by the outdoor store.

“We’ve had the range for several years and a lot of people that seemed interested in starting a league, so we decided to give it a try,” said Brian Richards, store owner.

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Moose record shot down — No bull: 75 5/8-inch rack topples Soldotna man’s record after 20 years

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Heinz Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, is one happy hunter these days, what with the bull moose he shot Sept. 22, 2013, along the Yukon River near Stewart Island having recently been certified as the new Boone and Crockett world record.

That’s a feeling few hunters can claim, but it’s one with which John Crouse, of Soldotna, is familiar. His moose, taken in 1994 in the Fortymile River area, was the previous world record-holder, finally dislodged about 20 years later by Naef’s behemoth bull.

Naef was hunting by himself, more interested in winter meat than a trophy, according to the Boone and Crockett Club. He removed the antlers from the skull with a chainsaw, nicking them in the process, but they remained intact to measure 75 5/8 inches at the widest point — about the width of a king-sized bed. The left side had 17 points and a palm measuring 17 5/8 inches wide by 51 inches long, which is longer than the average shoulder height of a black bear. The right antler had 19 points and a palm measuring 23 6/8 inches wide by 50 7/8 inches long. The record was certified by a special judges panel convened at the Boone and Crockett Club Wild Sheep Foundation convention Jan. 24 in Reno, Nev. With a final score of 263 5/8 points, the bull has the largest antlers ever recorded for the Alaska-Yukon moose subspecies.

By just the antler spread, Crouse’s moose wouldn’t seem to measure up, at 65 1/8 inches wide. When he first spotted the bull, and even after shooting and butchering it, it didn’t occur to Crouse that he might have a record on his hands.

Crouse, a wildlife biologist, was living and working in Cordova at the time. This bull was by far not the widest antler spread he’d seen.

“The guy I was working for had an 84-inch Copper River rack hanging on the wall in our office,” Crouse said. “And so I walked up to (this moose) very happy thinking, ‘This is a nice, big moose,’ but I was not thinking record book at all because it’s mid-60s. My impression of records at the time was big, wide racks and I wasn’t familiar with the scoring system.”

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