Who lives in Alaska? What do people do there? Can I make it there someday? These questions circled my mind while growing up in Southeast Minnesota. I was living with my grandmother at the time, and she gave me a map of Alaska, I believe it was a simple fold-out from Alaska Magazine. I pinned that map on the wall at the end of my bed and stared at it often. Can you imagine caribou, grizzly bears, moose, mountains, and glaciers? I hardly could, and it seemed almost unachievable, a mythical and unattainable land. It became my life’s goal. I thought to myself that very moment, “I will make it to Alaska, somehow, some way!”
Military service resonated with me, and I joined the Army in 1996. After numerous requests, my dream was coming true. In December 2002, I crossed the border into Alaska, bound for my new duty station at Ft. Richardson.
Unable to let go of Alaska, I pulled every string and took every career risk necessary to stay. My determination eventually paid off, and outside of military obligations, I have been here ever since.
The last 22 years have been action-packed, to say the least! In 2013, I purchased a capable airplane and learned to fly. A passion for bowhunting and the ability to fly has allowed me to explore parts of this great land that I never imagined possible. If you will indulge me, I’d like to tell you a little story that captures a bit of Alaska adventure.
My first successful solo fly-out hunt was for moose in 2015. My wife, Michelle, stopped by the airfield to see me off. I remember the feeling I had when I climbed in the Cub. Another dream was coming true! With some miles behind me, I felt my pulse quicken. I had never landed this spot before, and at the time, it was not an easy landing for me. Safely on the ground, I breathed a deep sigh and shut the plane down. With camp set and the plane secured, I crawled in my bag, partially in disbelief. Was this really happening? After two days of dancing with a good bull, I decided to go for broke and went right at him. I grunted and raked my way in, and he emerged from alders to meet the intruder threatening his harem of cows. Grunting with every step, he stopped at 44 yards to demolish an alder bush. I cut a perfect shot, lodging an arrow in the bull’s heart. Immediately nocking a second arrow, I followed up with my second shot. The bull was down, and I was again in disbelief. This time, I was concerned with the task at hand. The next afternoon, I dropped the final load of loose meat and antlers next to the plane in camp, and as one can imagine, I was exhausted! Another day and three flights later, I banked the plane around the corner out of the valley and saw those antlers tied to the wing strut silhouetted against the reddish glow of an amazing sunset over the Alaska Range. Alone with no audience, I said aloud, “I live for this!”
It is these moments and many others like them that I have stacked as building blocks toward my current profession. Though I am very proud of my experiences, it’s the friendships that I’ve forged through hunting that I have come to appreciate most. I am proud to say that many of the outfitters, guides, and transporters we work with in Alaska are my friends. Learning the internal workings of their businesses has always been of great interest to me. Gaining additional knowledge on logistics, bookings, contracts, and client services was just a result of natural curiosity. From the first contact through a final handshake over a ram in the Brooks Range, the entire process had my interest. More than the process are the people who make it happen. As I write this, several of my friends, both outfitters and Alaska resident hunters, are staring to the sky in hope for relief. They are socked in with smoke from wildfires in Alaska and Russia. The success of their season is dependent on whether the wind blows east or west, whether it brings smoke or carries it away. Guest hunters are arriving in camps, and some of them I assisted to find a good hunt. This is all part of the deal; we are in it together. I certainly cannot help with the smoke, but I am pulling for them, for all of us! I will be talking with them as the season progresses, getting information as it comes in and helping where I can. As I said before, relationships are important to me and I appreciate each and every one.
All of the experience and relationships in the world will not add up to successful business if our members and clients are not happy with our service. I have enjoyed visiting with hunters from all over North America, and finding the hunt that fits their needs is very rewarding. I have already developed friendships that will extend well beyond the scope of hunting. As these hunters head to the field, I will always be anxious to hear about their experiences and see their photos.
Outside of hunting the North, I try to hunt whitetails in the Midwest as often as possible. I cut my teeth chasing these rutting bucks and have a fire to hunt them that burns strong. As Huntin’ Fool Adventures grows, I will be doing my best to ensure we have plenty of partners in the Midwest to assist our whitetail nuts. In addition to Midwest whitetails, I developed an addiction to those little desert whitetails in the Southwest as well. Yes, Coues deer are another favorite of mine, and I jump at any chance to hunt them.
The Huntin’ Fool crew is awesome. They are professionals in this trade, and I am humbled and overjoyed to be part of the team.
If you are looking to hunt the North, there is a pretty fair chance I will be the one on the other end of the phone helping you get here. I am looking forward to it!