By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter photo. Planes are tied down at the Soldotna Airport. Fall is a busy time for private aviation, as pilots get out for hunting season. Aviation accidents also increase in fall.
These days — with the convenience of grocery stores, the expedient marriage of microwaves and frozen dinners, and the lure of topping off your gas fill-up with a quick meal from beneath the heat lamps — fall hunting season is no longer a do-or-die necessity to surviving the winter.
But the pull to harvest can still retain that sense of compulsion.
Complications come along with the convenience of the modern world — more commitments to jobs and bills, and communications technology that is ever harder to shut up and off. Most Alaskans don’t have to stock up on fish and game to survive the winter these days, but when they attempt to assuage the want to do so the challenge of breaking the chains to civilization and finding time to hunt can impart the feeling of urgency that necessity once did.
When an attitude of now or never ventures into the fall weather of Alaska, dangerous situations can result. That’s particularly true when airplanes are involved, as they often are in hunting season. Having a plane multiplies accessible hunting terrain, a prospect that’s even more appealing when the hunting outlook locally is dim, as it has been this year for moose on the Kenai Peninsula.
For some pilots, when the commitments of life get too demanding or the price of aviation fuel too daunting, hunting season can be the only time to do much flying. That can lead to far worse situations than an empty freezer come winter, with more people flying in fall, some with rusty skills, often into remote areas, in capricious weather conditions and under the challenges of hauling extra weight.
“In hunting season there are a lot of people flying who haven’t been flying much the rest
Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi. With views like this, it’s easy to see the appeal of fall flying in Alaska.
of the year — a little bit, maybe, but not very much, maybe not at all. Here comes hunting season, they get their airplane out, they load it up real heavy and they go out in the Bush. They just aren’t practiced enough or prepared enough, and they may have some unrealistic ideas about their own personal limitations,” said Dr. Alex Russell, a pediatrician and flight instructor in Soldotna.