Around Christmas time five or six years ago, I received a letter from an old client, Tom Heller, from Midland, TX. His letter was just a paragraph or so but with it was a check for $500. He thanked me and apologized for not giving me a proper tip. He said his tip more than likely was $50. He was correct. He told me it was one of his first guided big game hunts. It was August 1985, when I guided Tom, the flatlander, as he called himself, up a steep 1500’ mountain face and on to a knife ridge to get above a group of rams. We dropped down on the backside of them where Tom harvested the largest of the group, a 36 ½ incher. He was amazed that he was able to accomplish that feat. I think it’s funny that after all these years, he felt he hadn’t properly tipped me. I never gave it a second thought as back then many clients only tipped $50 to $100 dollars. In the early to mid-80’s, a $250 tip was rare. Hunt prices back then were $3k to $10k. Prices now go up to $30K so I assume the tips have followed suit.
Back in 2005 when I retired from the guide business, the Mulchatna caribou herd was crashing. I had guided for them through the peak which topped out at about 250,000 caribou. It dropped to an estimated 80,000 or so and finally dropped on down to about 60,000. Those caribou hunts were by far the most fun hunting experiences that I have ever had and I have always wanted all of my grandchildren to have that experience.
Well another August has passed and I didn’t make it into those majestic Alaska mountains to hunt sheep and to celebrate my 75th birthday which was August 10, the opening day of sheep season. The rains and mudslides kept us out. Hopefully next year. Hope you enjoy another special sheep hunting story.
I wrote this story back 2001 for the Alaska Professional Hunter’s Magazine. Since I wrote the article there have been many new types of hunting clothing added to the market, all being somewhat expensive. Many people swear by them so I wouldn’t tell you not to try them. I personally know what works best for me and I still wear the same items that I wore when I retired in 2006. I’m sure at two and three times the price some of these items may even work better. I’m just not willing to waste my money to see.
Hope you find the article of interest. Good hunting!!
If you have been following my blog, you know that the first animal that I harvested in Alaska was a mountain goat. After that I was hooked on hunting the rugged but gorgeous mountains of Alaska for both goat and sheep. I went on more goat than sheep hunts and before I started guiding, my friends and I had taken a total of 28 goats all in the Kenai Mountains.
In the fall of ’83, I worked for Rich Guthrie both in the Brooks Range guiding sheep, moose and caribou hunters and on the Alaska Peninsula guiding both caribou and brown bear hunters. When I was in the Brooks, Rich asked me how much experience I had with small boats. I told him that small boats were about all that I had experience with. I told him about using Folboats and a couple of small inflatables in rivers, lakes and even the ocean. He said that was great because he had bought a 15’ Grumman Freighter square stern canoe that he needed to get from Cold Bay to the Joshua Green River.
I have added a new photo page to the blog titled AAA Outfitters Guides and Packers to highlight the many outstanding guides and packers that worked for us over the years. They are mainly the ones before my retirement. Also, AAA’s marketing video is back on the blog so if you haven’t watched it you may find it interesting. Hope you enjoy the story, video and photos of our staff.
When Brent and I formed AAA Alaskan Outfitters we had more combined sheep hunting experience than any other guide operation in Alaska. Pair that with our newly acquired Wrangell Mountain sheep area and we had just the right recipe for success. During our first season Brent and I were 100% successful guiding six sheep hunters with the first two hunters taking a 40 ¼” and a 39 incher. We had an overall average of 38”. Over the next twenty-one years we harvested 106 rams with an average horn length of 37”. Fourteen of those rams were over 40” and another thirteen over 39” which was just a little over 25% of our rams. There was no other guide operation in Alaska with a record like that. I doubt if anyone nowadays could take an average of 5 rams and have a 37” average horn length.
While I was partner with AAA Alaskan Outfitters, I am grateful to say that we never had any accidents or illnesses that kept us from fulfilling our responsibilities of being physically in the field while we had clients under contract. Being in the field when you have clients under contract is a State requirement. We were responsible for supervising all of our guides, both Assistant and Registered. I was always concerned about something like that happening.
The Alaska Peninsula had a large population of big bull moose during the late 60’s and early 70’s. I had been told by an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist that that country was marginal moose habitat so the population was very cyclical. I always wanted to go moose hunting in that country because of the big moose but felt it was just too expensive to get the moose meat back to Anchorage. Plus, I enjoyed caribou hunting way more than moose so my buddies and I always chose hunting them. We had three or four successful caribou hunts before I rotated to the Lower 48 the summer of ’74. That fall a couple of airmen who had worked for me went on a moose hunt on the Peninsula. They had a great hunt taking two moose over 65 inches.
As hunters we all have our favorite spots where we have taken some of our biggest or best trophies. Some just call it their secret spot while others may call it “the honey hole” or by some other name. Guides have their favorites also and in AAA’s early days our “honey hole” for big brown bears was Barney Creek, a small alder filled valley with a southern exposure in our Cold Bay area. The valley was almost four miles long but we never killed or stalked a bear in the last mile of it. We did take quite a few bears on the north entrance to the valley. It was mainly a breeding or hook-up valley. We only hunted it in the spring and during eight springs, we harvested eleven bears over 9’ with seven of those over 10’ and one 11 footer. We also know of a King Cove resident who took his brother to this valley and they harvested two bears over 10’during that same time period. Now that’s what I call a “honey hole.”