Alaska, DIY, Public Land
In 2004, Mark Cooper and I sat on the mountain top in Colorado admiring his nice 5x5 archery elk. After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that it was time to take the next step and plan a DIY Alaska hunting adventure. Plans instantly began taking shape.
We flew home to south-central Florida and decided to do some research. We found where some great moose were being taken. After talking to some biologists, we decided on the southwest corner of Alaska. We made a few calls and selected a bush pilot for our DIY moose hunt. The anticipation started to mount, and we knew we needed to get in shape for a ten-day wilderness hunt. One year seemed like a long way off, but it takes that long to prepare - both physically and mentally - for a DIY Alaska hunt.
As September neared, the distance we ran got farther and the bicycling got steeper. Over Labor Day we were on our way to the adventure of a lifetime.
We were told by the pilot that we had to pick the lake we wanted to go to, as they were only an air taxi, not a guide. I was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat; therefore I got the honor, knowing full well that we would be spending the next ten days there and that the whole hunt could hinge on my pick. We flew around for 45 minutes. The pilot would dip one wing at a particular lake and look at me. I would look at Mark; he would shrug his shoulders and I would shake my head “no” and we would fly on.
Alaska is so vast it is overwhelming. Out of desperation, I finally chose the next lake with lots of high elevation cliffs nearby. The pilot said he had never put anyone on that lake before, but that he had occasionally seen people there. As we set up our tent in the rain, we knew we had finally reached The Last Frontier.
We hunted for nine days with no luck. You would think that time would move slowly, but this was such an experience that days flew by. On the last day of the hunt, we were sitting on our perch where we had seen half a dozen shooter moose, which must measure over 50 inches to be legal. We tried, but with our bows and arrows, we could never get the moose to cooperate.
That afternoon I looked over at Mark and he was lacing up his tennis shoes. He grabbed the camp rifle and put his daypack in the tent, and that’s when I knew we were in trouble! We scaled the perch one last time, knowing we were to be picked up the next morning. At about the same time, we spotted a huge moose. Mark descended the perch while I stayed on top and watched his movements. Mark ended up shooting a 68-inch moose with the rifle (in bow range). What a trophy on a DIY Alaska hunt!
After extending our trip an extra day and packing Mark’s moose 3.2 miles one way (eight 100-lb.- plus pack trips), Mark looked at me and said, “I owe you buddy.”
I said, “You sure do!” We thought that trip could never be topped.
My, how things can change in a couple of years. In December of the following year, Mark was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery the next February. To further complicate our hunting duo, I tore my ACL on a motorcycle ride and had knee surgery in June. We were now debating whether either of us was even physically capable of going on another DIY Alaska hunt. One of my good friends, Kyle Register, had always wanted to go on a DIY hunt in Alaska. He agreed to pick up our slack physically and we jumped at the chance to have him join us.
For a full account of Craig's adventure, go to page 28 in the June/July 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.