Monthly Archives: August 2014

On the hunt — Hunters seeing greater success this moose season

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. With moose hunting season well underway, hunters should be sure prospective targets are legal. Young bulls with small forks on both sides, such as this one, are not legal under the spike-fork rule. A few hunters have already made mistakes this season.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. With moose hunting season well underway, hunters should be sure prospective targets are legal. Young bulls with small forks on both sides, such as this one, are not legal under the spike-fork rule. A few hunters have already made mistakes this season.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

If the cooler temperatures, changing colors and shortening hours of daylight weren’t enough of a tipoff, the growing incident of camo-covered gear and clothing should be indication that summer has fallen, with hunting season on the rise.

Moose hunting has gotten off to a good start for many peninsula residents, reports Jeff Selinger, area wildlife manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, referring to the Aug. 10 opening of bow season for moose, and the Aug. 20 opening of rifle season.

“It’s been busy since the beginning,” Selinger said. “We’ve sealed around 30 moose here already.”

This represents an uptick in hunting success following the slump peninsula hunters have faced in the past few years, due in part to regulations put into place to bolster the area’s moose population and bull-to-cow ratio. In 2011, the Alaska Board of Game enacted restrictions out of concern following research into moose population trends related to the number of bulls to cows, as well as trends in moose harvests. For example, one Fish and Game study showed decreasing bull-to-cow ratios in Game Management Unit 15C, on the southern peninsula, where fall surveys revealed about nine bulls to every 100 cows, with 20 bulls to every 100 cows being the target.

In 15A (the upper and central peninsula) and 15C, where the bulk of the moose harvest on the peninsula takes place, Fish and Game was seeing skewed numbers of spike-fork bulls being taken. The harvest of yearling bulls was ratcheting up as high as 65 to 70 percent of the total harvest in some years.

As a result, harvest of spike-fork bulls was not allowed in 2011 or 2012, and the requirement for a bull to be harvestable was changed from it having a 50-inch antler spread or three brow tines on at least one side to 50 inches or four brown tines on at least one side.

After the Board of Game met in the winter of 2013, it was decided the 50-and-four regulation would remain in effect, but bulls with a spike on at least one side would again be legal to harvest.

“We saw, as expected, an increase in hunters and hunters’ harvest due to this change,” Selinger said.

Fish and Game numbers indicated a drop in both hunter participation and moose harvest on the peninsula following the 2011 restrictions. In 2010, the year before the changes were implemented, 2,683 hunters took to the backcountry and roughly 400 moose were harvested peninsulawide.

By comparison, in 2011, 951 hunters reported hunting and 66 moose were taken — and that was all moose hunts, general season and by permits, Selinger said. And those numbers continued to rise last season.

“Last year we had a total of 1,690 hunters who took a total harvest of 156 bulls, so it did go up again,” he said.

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Senate stuck in rut — Sen. Murkowski: Partisan politics harm progress

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, addresses a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce on Aug. 20.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, addresses a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce on Aug. 20.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Sen. Lisa Murkwoski’s report in Kenai on Wednesday regarding the U.S. Senate’s accomplishments this session was a frustration-laden, “Effectively, not much.” Her hope is that there will be more progress on which to report during her next recess trip back home to Alaska but said that, unless her Republican Party wrests control from the current-majority Democrats, she’s not optimistic of that, either.

“The reason that you’re not seeing things happen is not that there is nothing to do. It’s because we’ve gotten so entrenched with the partisan nature with what is happening in the Congress, particularly in the Senate,” Murkowski said during a visit to a joint Kenai-Soldotna chamber luncheon meeting at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. “You’re not seeing a lot of productivity, and that hurts us as a nation because we’re not governing when we’re not being productive.

“It’s been unfortunate because we’ve got a whole host of things that I think are front-burner issues. I feel pretty strongly that we’ve got a responsibility to deal with the budget, deal with appropriations, we’ve got debt issues that we need to address, we’ve got an immigration situation, we have a weak-kneed foreign policy approach and issues as they relate to what is going on overseas,” she said.

Matters of particular relevance to Alaska also aren’t being considered, she said. Instead, Murkowski said that the majority leader, Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is using his ability to set the schedule in the Senate to fill time with judiciary appointments.

“Alaska’s agenda is not being heard in the Senate right now. I believe that is due in main part to the fact that you have a majority leader that just has a different agenda than a resource-development state like Alaska.”

She’s hoping for six Senate seats to go to Republicans in the November election — including the one Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is seeking re-election to, in order to switch majority control. With her seniority, that change would move her into chair positions on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and allow Republicans to set the Senate agenda.

“I need to have a majority leader that agrees that our nation’s economy is better, that the opportunities for Alaskans and all Americans are better when we’re able to access our resources in a responsible way. I need to have the confidence that that person is helping set the agenda, and we’re not going to have that if Harry Reid continues,” she said.

But Murkowski acknowledges that having control can be a double-edged sword, as it would also be a litmus test for Republicans.

“As Republicans if we reclaim the majority and we fail to govern, my view is, as a party, you will not see us come back into power for years and years after this. We have to demonstrate that we can govern or we will not be placed with that authority. There’s a lot on our shoulders and we’ve got one shot to do it right,” she said.

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Designed to climb — Kids’ bouldering program takes confidence to new heights

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Marina Schramm works her way across the wall during a class at Redoubt Rock Climbing in Soldotna.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Marina Schramm works her way across the wall during a class at Redoubt Rock Climbing in Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

In terms of efficiency alone, the ascending popularity of climbing makes sense. It’s like the benefits of other sports distilled into one activity — a great calorie-burning workout without ever breaking into a run. It builds strength, balance, agility and endurance, yet without the repetitious situps, burpees or dumbbell curls of a gym workout. It produces rushes of adrenaline without a buzzer or scoreboard, and teaches teamwork and communication yet is still an individual sport that doesn’t require an entire team with which to play. And it’s physically nuanced with endless iterations of technique to perfect, but with minimal gear required and a basic set of skills to learn that can then be continually built upon.

To really distill the appeal, though, ask a 9-year old: “Because it’s awesome,” said Marina Schramm, of Soldotna. She and her brother, 11-year-old David, are students at Redoubt Rock Climbing, classes for 6- to 12-year-olds taught by Nic and Natalie Larson, of Soldotna.

The Larsons are experienced climbers, and after moving to Soldotna from Fairbanks over a year ago noticed a lack of climbing opportunities in the area. Natalie knows from firsthand experience — literal in that she grew up climbing, and figurative from teaching climbing classes — how beneficial the sport can be for kids. It’s a great physical activity, yet builds mental muscles, as well — in patience, determination, problem-solving and, ultimately, confidence.

“My oldest daughter started doing it more, and the more she climbed the more confidence she had, and that spilled over into school and spilled over into social aspects. That was a really neat thing to see,” Natalie said. “And I had gotten feedback that kids 6 to 12 around here didn’t have that much to do, that we need more things like this on the peninsula. We just wanted to offer something a little bit different.”

So they built their own climbing wall in their basement garage, about 8 feet tall and stretching 25 feet long along two walls, studded with various hand- and footholds and geometric shapes jutting from the textured plywood. What it lacks in its limited, floor-to-ceiling height it makes up for in variety. The entire setup can be reconfigured to varying degrees of difficulty and endless route options — even some that incorporate handholds on the ceiling.

“Basically, everything we’re able to move around. We have tons of other holds — like slopers and jugs and stuff like that,” Natalie said.

A sloper being a sloping handhold without much positive relief to grab, sort of like palming a basketball, and a jug being a hold offering so much to grip it’s like the handle of milk jug. These and other terms are among the first things students learn when they start at Redoubt Rock Climbing.

“Most kids they’re used to climbing stuff — climbing is climbing. But teaching them the intricacies is what we really concentrate on, and the lingo so we can tell them, ‘Grab that sloper, pinch there,’ and they know what we’re talking about,” Nic said.

They started with one student in March and participation grew through the flyers Natalie made up, their website,, and especially word of mouth. The Schramms, for instance, are neighbors and friends of the Larsons’ three girls, Lexi, Mia and Madison. That’s a learning experience for the Larsons as well as the kids.

“They would come and they would climb with the girls, but it’s different when we’re teaching a class and coaching them. I’m not the friend’s mom at that point, it’s like, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ It changes the dynamics,” Natalie said.

And teaching her own kids?

“You’re going to need to stretch out for that one,” she coached Mia. “You need to get your foot here in order to get your other foot here. Are you listening?”

“Yes. Kind of,” Mia responded.

“Yeah, it’s hard to teach your daughters,” Natalie laughed.

Class sessions last an hour and are offered at flexible times throughout the day and week. Climbing shoes, chalk and other equipment are provided. Students can have any experience level — from zero to veritable monkey — and the Larsons also offer private sessions so adults can participate, as well, including a father-daughter duo.

“We were able to challenge them. We are able to take this wall and transform it into whatever your level is,” Natalie said.

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Salmon season spawns work list

Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, by Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter


Or should that be, “Late (period)!”

Last time I was this “late” it was also at the end of salmon season. Our eldest son, Jake, and I had set out to tackle the results of weeks of great fishing.

Jake, after having recently viewed the movie Forrest Gump, set the scene as we gazed at several cases of canning jars. Bodily he stuck out his lip and informed me that salmon was the real fruit of the sea. As the days wore on he randomly blurted out excerpts from the scene where Bubba informs Forrest of all the ways to prepare shrimp, or, in this case, salmon.

“You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it … .” One case down.

During the packing and processing of cases two and three he went on. “There’s salmon kabobs, salmon Creole, salmon gumbo, salmon pan fried, stir fried, deep fried … .”

From there our family’s recipes infused with Bubba’s and an all-out seafood smorgasbord ensued.

“There’s salmon casserole, salmon stew, salmon chowder, salmon salad (at least three ways to fix that) salmon sandwiches, saloon nuggets, salmon burgers, salmon steaks, salmon soufflé, pickled salmon, smoked salmon, lox, salmon in alfredo sauce … .”

As the cases continued to be filled we crafted a few homemade labels with mouthwatering names of our newest creations. Most noteworthy that season were, “The Bomb BBQ Salmon” and “Maple Jalapeno Death Wish.”

This culinary craziness went on for several days. After we neatly arranged the last few jars in the pantry, we stood back to admire all 110 quart jars of seafruit goodness. On cue, Jake sighed deeply and declared, “Well, that’s about all the ways to make salmon.” A few weeks later my hubby inquired why he was no longer getting his favorite standard lunch, salmon sandwich on homemade bread. What was this lunchmeat product befouling his bread?

I couldn’t explain it other than the mere act of peering into the pantry made me feel pukey — bleh! Six months later Patrick Michels arrived, and to this very day he LOVES salmon — just like his dad and brother. Go figure.

That was 16 years ago.


Thankfully, the only thing running late is this column — salmon season being busy season — and the only thing we are expecting is a move a few miles down the road.


  • Grounds for Divorce No. 8002: Packing moving boxes and not labeling them with a detailed listing of contents. Moving boxes are NOT like a box of chocolates! It is not fun to wade through a box wondering what you are going to get.

Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives (and loves) in Soldotna.

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Plugged In: Compact-system cameras a big share of market

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Over the past several weeks we’ve discussed the most important compact-system cameras, those from Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Samsung. But there are still others on the market.

At this time, only three major vendors continue to market moving-mirror digital SLR cameras, Pentax and the dominant Nikon-Canon duo. Traditional dSLR makers like Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus have stopped producing moving-mirror cameras, instead concentrated on improving their compact systems. They shifted because CSC sales continue to rise even as dSLR sales drop in all markets, even in Europe and the U.S. Every manufacturer prefers a slice of a bountiful pie rather than a diminishing one.

This week, we’ll finish our review of high-quality compact cameras by considering those from Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Leica, along with some high-quality, fixed-lens alternatives.

Canon’s original and sole CSC remains the EOS M “system,” which uses the same 18-megapixel, APS-C sensor found in Canon’s moving-mirror dSLR cameras. Although not exactly state of the art, it’s a decent sensor capable of good results when used carefully. Unfortunately, there’s only a single camera EOS M camera body, a single 18- to 55-mm kit zoom lens, and a single prime lens, Canon’s 22-mm f/2, available in the U.S.

That’s not much of a system, but it’s currently an excellent bargain at reputable vendor At BH, the camera body, bright prime lens, kit zoom lens and powerful external flash currently sells for $499. Although it’s likely to be replaced soon and there’s no eye-level viewfinder available, that’s still a nice system for a casual photographer.

Nikon’s 1 System uses a smaller, “One-inch” sensor that’s about half the size of the Micro Four-Thirds sensors used in Olympus and Panasonic CSCs. “One-inch” sensors are increasingly popular but their image quality and low-light performance are lower than both M 4/3 and APS-C cameras. Unlike Canon’s EOS M camera, Nikon currently offers several 1 System camera bodies in a range of colors. Nikon offers only a limited variety of lenses that mount natively on the 1 System camera bodies.

The two most recent CSC cameras from Nikon, the consumer-oriented J4 and the more serious V3, are both rather more expensive than comparable M 4/3 cameras that perform better and have a wider range of good lenses. In the case of the V3, it’s seriously overpriced, costing more than Olympus’ prograde OM-D E-M5. The less-expensive 1 Series cameras seem a better match for tight quarters like a purse, large pocket or vehicle dashboard box.

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Unleashed — Volunteers step into regulatory void to save hungry dogs

Photo courtesy of Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary. This young female dog and 34 others were rescued from a home near Soldotna last week and brought to Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski, where they await veterinary treatment and placement in adoptive homes. The home was outside Soldotna city limits, and since the Kenai Peninsula Borough lacks animal control powers, community members decided it was up to them to intervene after hearing reports of starving dogs in the Knight Drive area.

Photo courtesy of Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary. This young female dog and 34 others were rescued from a home near Soldotna last week and brought to Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski, where they await veterinary treatment and placement in adoptive homes. The home was outside Soldotna city limits, and since the Kenai Peninsula Borough lacks animal control powers, community members decided it was up to them to intervene after hearing reports of starving dogs in the Knight Drive area.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Word of 35 malnourished dogs — including two litters of puppies and a pregnant female — being rescued from a 10-by-20-foot room in a trailer home just outside Soldotna city limits Aug. 11 is melting the hearts of animal lovers in the area and beyond, motivating many to pitch in to help cover the costs of food, shelter and veterinary care for the dogs and find them new adoptive homes.

To those who live in the neighborhood, the situation is all too familiar, and though there’s pity for the animals there’s frustration, too, that the problem has been going on for as long as it has — 20 years, by some accounts. And that there have been no resources with which to deal with it, until a group of concerned dog lovers decided to step in and do something themselves.

“Not only are these dogs in a safer, healthier environment, but it’s also making the community come together. A lot of people turn a blind eye to something like this. ‘It can’t happen in Soldotna.’ ‘Oh, it doesn’t happen here.’ Well, it does happen here. Here you go, this is the proof. And unfortunately, living in Alaska, we don’t have the resources that the Lower 48 has,” said Tabitha Walker, one of the rescuers.

Walker had heard about a situation of dog neglect in the Knight Drive area of Soldotna a year ago when she was volunteering at the Kenai Animal Shelter. Reports varied — the couple had 40 dogs, 70 dogs, as many as 100 dogs at one time or another over the years. They weren’t being fed regularly and were alternately crammed into a small room in a small house, put in a backyard with inadequate fencing or just roamed free, often forming a pack that marauded the neighborhood looking for food. The story Walker heard was as gruesome as it was attention-getting: The pack was eating a dead dog in a neighbor’s yard.

She made several trips to the home during the next few months, knocking on the door and driving by hoping to see someone outside to which she could talk. No answer and no contact made. Until recently, that is, when she saw a post on a pet-related Facebook page from a neighbor concerned about the very thin, seemingly starving dogs. The post went viral, quickly generating hundreds of comments, several from other neighbors adding their observations — dogs chasing cars, nipping at people and harassing other pets, dogs so thin they looked to be starving to death, one dog strapped with strips of duct tape apparently as a way to address an injury to its hind legs.

Over the course of the forum a few people discussed getting together some dog food and supplies, bringing them to the house and trying to talk to the owners. One volunteer, Cierra Conklin, knew the owners and offered to make contact. She, Walker and Krista Schooley brought the donations to the house and spoke with the owners. What they found seemed to them to be animal hoarding — a love of dogs gone awry — but not willful neglect.

“Once we made contact with the owners they were very willing and very grateful for the help that they received,” Walker said. “I know there’s a lot of animosity against these owners. But if you actually take the time to maybe go over there and knock on the door and say, ‘Here’s a bag of dog food.’ You will find that these people are very caring.”

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Sushi nets awards in salmon cook-off — Guide takes gold for treatment of red meat from silver fish

Photos courtesy of Phil Hilbruner Phil Hilbruner won the judge’s award and people’s choice award in the third annual Cooper Landing Salmon Cook-Off with his spicy salmon inside-out roll.

Photos courtesy of Phil Hilbruner. Phil Hilbruner shows off his trophies for winning the judge’s and people’s choice awards in the third annual Cooper Landing Salmon Cook-Off.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It seems blasphemous to consider, but even firm-fleshed, processed-fresh Kenai River salmon can be too much of a good thing when the volume of fillets in the freezer far outnumber one’s recipes for preparing it.

Salmon patties, salmon salad, baked salmon with lemon and dill or grilled salmon with garlic and seasoning salt are all good at the start of the season, but can downgrade to all right come midwinter when they’ve been regulars on the weekly dinner menu.

Phil Hilbruner knows that firsthand. When he moved to Alaska nine years ago to work as a fishing guide, first as a hired guide then starting his own guide business, Catch-A-Drift Guiding, salmon was his staple sustenance. Repetition eventually wore the shine off even dime-bright catches.

“I was kind of a broke trout bum for a handful or years. To make ends meet I ate a fair amount of salmon. I kind of got burned out on seared salmon and grilled salmon,” he said.

Though he enjoys cooking, salmon isn’t often on his menu. In recent years he’s only kept a few sockeyes and silvers to smoke or use for sushi, not thinking much beyond that about their culinary possibilities. Until last August, that is, when he attended the second annual Salmon Cook-off in Cooper Landing. The variety was impressive and the creativity inspiring. Even the familiar dishes — salmon dips, salmon cakes and the like — were prepared so expertly to make them taste like a whole new take on Southcentral’s staple fish.

The event, held as a fundraiser for the Cooper Landing Library, was such a good time that he decided to attend again this year. Until his friend Lynda Nugent, who spearheads the event, talked him into competing in this year’s cook-off, held Aug. 9.

Nugent manages the Princess RV Park and General Store, and the first cook-off came about as just a fun thing to do around the RV park and a way to use up some of the sea of salmon Cooper Landing was swimming in that year.

“We started it that first year because there were so many fish. It was like, ‘Well, what can we do here to have some fun?’” Nugent said. “It grew to, ‘Oh, let’s do something better with this.”

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