Alaskan Winters


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merlinfire
October 1, 2010, 11:42 AM
I have heard that the Alaskan winters are pretty dark with night most of the time. Do any of you Alaskans up there hunt during the winter? How does that work out?

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natman
October 1, 2010, 01:24 PM
Here's a funny book about a newcomer adapting to life in Alaska.

http://www.amazon.com/Land-Radioactive-Midnight-Sun-Cheechakos/dp/B000H2NDG4/

He tells a funny story of how he living in a cabin in the bush and wanted to listen to a hockey game on the radio. (Which should give you a good idea of how bored he was.) He couldn't get the game at the cabin, so he climbed a hill to get better radio reception. He and his buddy took along a couple of six packs to pass the time, but the beer kept freezing. So every now and then he'd tell his buddy "I'm thirsty, time to throw another beer on the fire.".

I once spent a week in southern Alaska. It was 34 degrees and raining. In mid-August.

Cosmoline
October 1, 2010, 01:36 PM
It's a huge state with many different climatic regions. In SE the weather is more like British Columbia. In the interior the weather is like Mars on a cold day. And there's everything in between during the typical winter depending on where you are in the state. When I commuted from Willow to Anchorage I would often start winter mornings at thirty below in Willow in perfectly still ice fog, then move into super high winds and zero degrees in Palmer/Wasilla, then find it was icy and in the teens in Anchorage. All within a 100 mile radius. The daylight hours also vary depend on where you are in the state. Here in south central we always get some hours of good daylight and the snow brightens things up. You have go to farther north to find sunless winters.

Generally, though, most of the f&g activity in the winter is ice fishing, trapping and some small game hunting. I've done grouse hunting in the winter and it's a lot of fun. There are also good opportunities right at the season changes esp. springtime. The birds still have winter feathers and the bears come down to eat the early thawed grass. If you time it right the legal seasons have overlap in many GMU's at those points. The bulk of the hunting for moose, caribou and such is in the fall though and most hunters here don't bother with the small stuff.

CoRoMo
October 1, 2010, 04:25 PM
I bought that PBS video for my Dad about Dick Proenneke's story. He hikes out and hunts during the "winter" and it is bright out, but deeply snow covered, and I'm certain, painfully cold. It might have actually been spring though. Good video for anyone interested.

His cabin is located right here: 60.6491, -153.8125 http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&where1=60.6491%2C%20-153.8125&encType=1 (http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&where1=60.6491%2C%20-153.8125&encType=1)

merlinfire
October 1, 2010, 06:39 PM
Sometimes, I wish I could go live up there. The last really untamed wilderness we've got, huh?

oldbanjo
October 1, 2010, 06:56 PM
You can have it and anyone that lives there must be insane.

CoRoMo
October 1, 2010, 07:14 PM
Merlin, I wish that, but not sometimes, all the time. And yes, it is.

Roughneck08
October 2, 2010, 03:19 AM
CoRoMo, I loved watching that PBS special documentary when it came on. I probably say once a week I am moving to Alaska because of it's beauty and cooler climate. Beautiful and great hunting.

CoastieShep
October 2, 2010, 11:07 PM
Walked out of a bar in Homer. It was still mid day bright out side. Had to check my watch to make sure they they didn't kick us out early. Yep, it was 2am. Kinda messes with your head.

Cryogaijin
February 10, 2011, 06:40 PM
Most of the big game hunting ends late september to early october. That isn't really late enough in the year to be too dark. . . even so, the sky up north is brighter than the sky farther south (Due to light leaking over the pole, auroras, and the like.) In other words, if you go to the middle of the desert in Arizona on a clear night you'll see MANY more stars than doing so in the middle of the tundra up here.

zeos
February 10, 2011, 11:01 PM
not quite on topic, but this book is really good.

http://www.amazon.com/Final-Frontiersman-Family-Alaskas-Wilderness/dp/0743453131

roklok
February 10, 2011, 11:06 PM
Most of the big game hunting is in late summer and fall, but I have killed caribou in January, and there are winter moose hunts. Most of my winter hunting is wolf, fox, and ptarmigan hunting.

Silverado6x6
February 11, 2011, 12:24 AM
I have lived in Alaska since 1992, my first ever BIG rifle purchase was here and it was a stainless Ruger 77 Mk II in .338 Winchester magnum. The weather can play havoc on a gun specially when it goes from sub zero temps to a warm house, my other heavy caliber rifle is a Winchester Model 70 .375H&H, but I had it epoxy molycoated.

I have spent winters in Illinois, in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe and there is no comparison to an Alaskan winter. The depth and purity of the air is only something you have to experience, and the northern lights is the entertainment.

An old saying goes up here: Winter is 6 months long and takes 6 months to get ready for it.

To me Alaska IS winter, summer is just a brief time for the tourism and to go motorcycle riding. Winter has a unique almost mystical feel to it up here, its my greatest joy being out in -20F temps in a crystal clear sky, the shimmering curtain of the lights above, the dry squeak-crunch of dry snow and also knowing that so many wish they could do what I do.

I reload a little bit differently here, I use H4895 in my .308 because its not cold temperature problematic, and I use magnum primers, I also prefer Barnes bullets. I use synthetic oils, grease or dry film sprays, and a cheap scope is junk in the dark or twilight. On the .338 I use a Trijicon 3x9x40 Accupoint, on the .375 its the same Trijicon but a 1.25x4x20, they both have that lit up triangle.

My goal in the near future is to equip either one of my AR's or my M1A with a third or fourth generation nightscope. I don't necessary use my M1A for hunting but we are beginning to see a bad wolf problem in some parts of the state and the M1A would be perfect if it had a good twilight scope.

H&Hhunter
February 11, 2011, 02:24 AM
I lived up north for a couple of winters. Kotzebue, Deadhorse and around Fairbanks. I found it interesting and I found it stimulating to work outside in those conditions. And I don't think I'd do it again given the choice. I could do it as a single man with no kids as I was back then but I couldn't imagine keeping my family entertained in northern AK in the winter.

What kept me going the whole time was having a full time job that kept me busy and kept me out and allowed me to experience the arctic in all it's splendor, violence and beauty. There is nothing quite so silent as being 100 miles out on the sea ice North of the North shore of Alaska with all of your machinery shut down on a still dark morning. It's awe inspiring just you the ice and the northern lights as far as you can see.

I also started of with a .338 WM when I got to AK it was a Browning A-Bolt Stainless stalker. I soon traded it off on a stainless M-70 in .375H&h which I still have and use extensively today.

Deadhorse in late February or early March this photo is taken at about 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y187/GTAllyn/Scan_Pic0004-1.jpg

Approximately 160 miles off shore out on the polar sea ice. I was on a contract flying in support of a scientific camp.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y187/GTAllyn/Scan_Pic0001-1.jpg

DM~
February 11, 2011, 11:39 AM
I have lived in Alaska since 1992, my first ever BIG rifle purchase was here and it was a stainless Ruger 77 Mk II in .338 Winchester magnum. The weather can play havoc on a gun specially when it goes from sub zero temps to a warm house, my other heavy caliber rifle is a Winchester Model 70 .375H&H, but I had it epoxy molycoated.

I have spent winters in Illinois, in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe and there is no comparison to an Alaskan winter. The depth and purity of the air is only something you have to experience, and the northern lights is the entertainment.

An old saying goes up here: Winter is 6 months long and takes 6 months to get ready for it.

To me Alaska IS winter, summer is just a brief time for the tourism and to go motorcycle riding. Winter has a unique almost mystical feel to it up here, its my greatest joy being out in -20F temps in a crystal clear sky, the shimmering curtain of the lights above, the dry squeak-crunch of dry snow and also knowing that so many wish they could do what I do.

I reload a little bit differently here, I use H4895 in my .308 because its not cold temperature problematic, and I use magnum primers, I also prefer Barnes bullets. I use synthetic oils, grease or dry film sprays, and a cheap scope is junk in the dark or twilight. On the .338 I use a Trijicon 3x9x40 Accupoint, on the .375 its the same Trijicon but a 1.25x4x20, they both have that lit up triangle.

My goal in the near future is to equip either one of my AR's or my M1A with a third or fourth generation nightscope. I don't necessary use my M1A for hunting but we are beginning to see a bad wolf problem in some parts of the state and the M1A would be perfect if it had a good twilight scope.


You must live in the interior, as i lived in SC Alaska for 25 years, hunting all over the state, including in the winter. I never had the problems you mention at all. I did do a few common sense things when hunting in the cold, but i didn't have to change powders or use mag primers when i normally wouldn't ect... I use/used Breakfree in my guns winter and summer, and just kept them wiped off.

All of that is just common sense no matter where you live.

DM

H&Hhunter
February 11, 2011, 01:18 PM
I will verify the fact that any type of oil or grease will freeze solid in the winter in the interior of AK. Heck I've had it happen here in CO during elk season. The big problem is usually the firing pin spring will freeze up. That makes for real quiet rifle.

cottswald
February 12, 2011, 12:59 AM
It's a huge state with many different climatic regions. In SE the weather is more like British Columbia. In the interior the weather is like Mars on a cold day. And there's everything in between during the typical winter depending on where you are in the state. When I commuted from Willow to Anchorage I would often start winter mornings at thirty below in Willow in perfectly still ice fog, then move into super high winds and zero degrees in Palmer/Wasilla, then find it was icy and in the teens in Anchorage. All within a 100 mile radius. The daylight hours also vary depend on where you are in the state. Here in south central we always get some hours of good daylight and the snow brightens things up. You have go to farther north to find sunless winters.

Generally, though, most of the f&g activity in the winter is ice fishing, trapping and some small game hunting. I've done grouse hunting in the winter and it's a lot of fun. There are also good opportunities right at the season changes esp. springtime. The birds still have winter feathers and the bears come down to eat the early thawed grass. If you time it right the legal seasons have overlap in many GMU's at those points. The bulk of the hunting for moose, caribou and such is in the fall though and most hunters here don't bother with the small stuff.
Very nice discription. Especially like the "ice fishing, trapping and small game hunting" part. Sounds like a fascinating place! Post some pics when you get a chance.

Silverado6x6
February 12, 2011, 08:19 AM
I don't load hot charges for everything but I keep my reserve of specialty stuff around for my M1A .308 that will definitely go bang in -40F temps.

janobles14
February 12, 2011, 09:56 AM
Walked out of a bar in Homer. It was still mid day bright out side. Had to check my watch to make sure they they didn't kick us out early. Yep, it was 2am. Kinda messes with your head.

i think ive heard this! were there a priest and a rabbi there? :evil::D


ive only gotten to go to AK once (kodiak) and it was 85 degrees in the summer....bah! i just dont know if i could take too many days of double digit below zero though.

H&Hhunter
February 12, 2011, 12:12 PM
i just dont know if i could take too many days of double digit below zero though.

Replace days with months and you are starting to get the idea.

Cosmoline
February 12, 2011, 07:53 PM
Post some pics when you get a chance.

This is the shed where I lived on the acres as I was cutting out the scrub. I *grossly* underestimated how difficult it would be to live off the power grid and tried to homestead part-time while holding down a full time job and a 180 mile round trip commute. Suffice it to say I was not ready for the winter and ended up spending a very cold one in that uninsulated place. I also had a derelict trailer set up which was pretty drafty. If you set a cup of hot coffee on the floor, three minutes later it would be frozen solid. Brought a lot of guns but most were useless. I sold everything but a Finn Mosin, the CZ 452 and a Mossberg 500. The CZ got the most use by far, killing hundreds of small game in the area. I would sometimes use FMJ 54R for small game.

I had a great little Honda generator, but it ate up a lot of gasoline. Worked fine for small electronics but failed miserable for electric heaters. The Coleman camping heater failed on me, turning into a blowtorch and nearly burning down the trailer. I had to grab the flaming thing and rush to the trailer door, then trow it out into the snow. My love of surplus army blankets saved my life. Turns out they are very fire resistant esp. when covered with hoar frost. I switched to R2D2 style kerosene wicking heaters, which work much better than propane in the deep cold. They're stinky things though and a bit toxic. When the temps were zero or better I'd switch back to the shed and keep warm using a complex array of blankets. I must have had 20 blankets in that bedding.

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b52/Gussick/GregShedwithGrouse.jpg

DM~
February 12, 2011, 08:09 PM
Replace days with months and you are starting to get the idea.


Months of double digit below zero? Most of Alaska doesn't have that... I never saw it in 25 years, but then again i didn't live in the northern interior either. (most others don't either)

DM

cottswald
February 12, 2011, 09:59 PM
http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b52/Gussick/GregShedwithGrouse.jpg
Insulation (or lack there of), was the first thing I thought about when I looked at the siding in that picture. Man what a way to go. We take our amenities for granted these days. Easy to lose sight of what previous generations had to go through just to stay warm. I've never had it as rough as you discribed, but I've been in situations where I've had to "get psyched" just to get out of a sleeping bag and start a fire.

The few people that I've known that have tried some form of homesteading have all said pretty much the same thing, "it was much harder than I had anticipated". Still, the lessons you must have learned were no doubt many. Interesting that you say the CZ 452 served you well. That is a great rifle in more ways than one. "Small game", are we talkin fox squirrels, rabbits??

Cosmoline
February 13, 2011, 01:07 AM
Grouse, hare, some ptarmigan. I only wish we had fox squirrels. Instead we have tough little red squirrels like this guy:

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b52/Gussick/squirrel-2.jpg

H&Hhunter
February 13, 2011, 02:45 AM
Months of double digit below zero? Most of Alaska doesn't have that... I never saw it in 25 years, but then again i didn't live in the northern interior either. (most others don't either)

DM

I spent a good deal of time Between Fairbanks and living North of the Arctic circle up on the North Slope and North Western AK.

Here is the current Deadhorse Weather and weekly forecast.

-21F | C
Current: Cloudy
Wind: SW at 17 mph
Humidity: 60%
Sat
Mostly Cloudy
-21F | -29F
Sun
Scattered Snow Showers
-17F | -19F
Mon
Snow Showers
-11F | -20F
Tue
Partly Cloudy
2F | -11F

Lets take a look at Kotzebue for the week.

-15F | C
Current: Cloudy
Wind: W at 21 mph
Sat
Partly Cloudy
-22F | -29F
Sun
Partly Cloudy
-13F | -17F
Mon
Partly Cloudy
-12F | -13F
Tue
Snow Showers
9F | 5F.

I wasn't one of them stinking fair weather Alaskans!!;)

Silverado6x6
February 13, 2011, 12:40 PM
I would say I have seen a lot of "boom and bust" situations up here. As a supervisor for a concrete batching facility in Wasilla I have seen many newcomers come up here and try to make a living.

First off they don't prepare ahead of time and they don't realize most work especially construction jobs are very seasonal including mine. My season might start as early as March but has gone as late as mid may and typically ends in mid November.

And I have accumulted everything from diesel generators, welders, rifles and pistols from people needing quick cash just to leave before winter.

Thats how I wound up with a Safari Grade Winchester Model 70 in .375H&H, a Remington Model 11, A Springfield Armory M1A Standard with a Leupold tactical scope, three Glocks, a 20,21 and a 23, A Ruger .22 pistol, a Ruger stainless laminated stock 10/22, an SKS, a Remington 870 Express 12 gauge, a pair of Winchester featherweight Model 70's in 7mm magnum and .300WM, a Marlin lever action in .357, a Sigma SW9VE, a Sig Sauer P220 almost new (my favorite) an Auto Ordnance 1911, a Beretta 92 FS, and I'm sure I can name another couple.

Bought these mostly from co-workers or from just along the highway at what used to be a very nice flea market area just north of town, its sort of a Hooterville, the people live in very small shacks, storage shed, converted busses and such. I alway try to keep a couple hundred on hand in cash because almost every day you find people willing to sell something, like that Winchester Model 70 .375H&H, I paid $200 for it, the MIA I paid $700.

I also wind up with tools, like a large Snapon MIG welder with the detachable large spool box on top, a metal cutting horizontal bandsaw, very large wrenches and air compressors. The weirdest deal I wound up with was getting an Onan 12kw diesel generator, a Miller welder, two large shop compressor air tanks one with the motor and compressor all for $500.

The Onan was found alongside the Alaska Highway by a newcomer before he started to work for us, it looks like it just plain fell off a trailer, its not from an RV, more like what you see at a jobsite or a homestead, it had some minor damage, the fuel filter brackets were broken and the aluminum oil pan was cracked, I used that Snapon MIG welder that I converted to run for aluminum and welded the pan up.

I made an engine stand with rubber vibration isolators, installed new filters, hooked up a battery and it fired right up. What was kinda funny was the guy came back the next year after he sold it to me and demanded I sell it back to him, well lets just say its now my home emergency backup gennie.

So this can be just a couple of pages of a novel of what I see up here, many come here but not all stay, some make out very good but those that make the wrong decisions suffer. A person with some good skills can get a job really fast in Anchorage, its sky high to rent there though. Its tougher to get work in the rural area but getting land is easy, I actually bought a zero down property, I later decided it would not suit me and I defaulted on the payments, it was only 1/3rd of an acre for $14k, instead I bought 8 acres with a two story house that was about 75% finished for $55k, its been paid for since 2004.

H&Hhunter
February 13, 2011, 01:48 PM
Silverado,

Anchorage and the Matsu valley are the end of the highway where so many stary eyed travelers with grandiose notions of Ak wind up. To me Anchorage is nothing more than a dropping off point from which I head out to Alaska. NO offense to your home town/ area but I can't stand Anchorage or any of the surrounding area. While there many fine hard working folks. There is a huge element of losers, scammers, drunks and dopers of whom I care not to be associated.

As you mention if you've got half a brain and a strong back you can rise above and profit in the area but for me I'd rather simply move on over the AK range or down the peninsula. Alaska starts just out of sight from Anchorage IMHO. In my profession there are lots of jobs for people who are willing to live way out there. Of course village Life has it's downers too. Ak is not what most folks think it's going to be. First off if you have a notion of wild AK and fabulous hunting and remote outdoors you'd better either get a pilots license and a plane or save up for some charter flying because unless you've got wings, wild AK is darn near impossible to access.

Silverado6x6
February 13, 2011, 04:20 PM
I absolutely hate Anchorage, I might pass through there once or twice a year, and I am grateful I don't live in Wasilla as well, I am up near Big Lake.

cottswald
February 13, 2011, 09:10 PM
Grouse, hare, some ptarmigan. I only wish we had fox squirrels. Instead we have tough little red squirrels like this guy:

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b52/Gussick/squirrel-2.jpg
Looks similar to the reds we have here in Ohio. Real noise makers that will often tell you exactly where they are. Little fellas too, gotta be a pretty good shot to take em with a pistol. Don't have a lot of meat, but I've found they taste similar to a grey or fox.

Cosmoline
February 13, 2011, 11:14 PM
Yeah yeah, everyone hates Anchorage, from George Harrison to Barry Lopez. Most people who live here will dis it. But it's really a great city, and getting better all the time. Hundreds of miles of trails. A huge wilderness area that we use as a park. Moose and bear coming in and out of town. I love "Alaska Alaska" as they say, but Los Anchorage has its merits. I just did a 50 K brevet ride through Kincaid and around the city today and saw some mountain vistas that rival the scenes of rural AK. Yes we have too many cars, but rural AK has far too many noisy snow machines. The goal of recreational riders seems to be to make noise, high mark and die in avalanches. Plus there is A LOT to be said for indoor plumbing! LOL The honey bucket has nothing to recommend it. Nothing at all. And Anchorage has the fast pace feel of a city, which is neat to have on the edge of the wild places. And it *IS* where folks gear up for many high adventures.

To bring this back to topic, I've run across so many bears in the Muni and nearby Chugach SP I'm thinking seriously about taking up F&G on their recently expanded hunting seasons in the GMU subunits just outside the Muni. I'll post my results, but I have to think there are some overlooked opportunities with spring blacks around here. I talked to one fellow who takes one a year from the Chugach SP and they're not garbage tasting at all. Only the ones right in town are garbage feeders.

Don't have a lot of meat, but I've found they taste similar to a grey or fox.

I admit I've never really got the hang of cooking them, but I keep trying. What I'm really after are the hides, which are incredibly tough. Easily the toughest hide of any critter I've yet cut into in this state. Moose hide will cut easy enough with a good blade, but our squirrel will stop a razor! Maybe they're our only thick-skinned dangerous game ;-)

And speaking over overlooked AK hunting opportunities--SMALL GAME is almost totally ignored except by subsistence hunters and a few grouse blasters. But lordy there's a lot of it. And the seasons are broad and bag limits huge. Everyone seems to come here for the big stuff. Moose and brown bear are pretty restricted and subject to the maximum F&G scrutiny. If you get in over your head with moose (easy for a newbie AK hunter) and abandon good meat, they'll hit you with serious fines and potential jail time. Moose are a precious resource here. But they love you taking game on the lower end of the food chain. So instead of rolling the dice and spending thousands for a potentially failed hunt for big AK game, you can spend some nice days with a shotgun and bring back a huge spread of feathered critters and hare.

While I can't recommend AK squirrel for taste, the ptarmigan and grouse are fantastic. The breasts are really easy to prepare and easy to cook. Totally pure meat, too, and doubtless way richer in nutrients than the processed stuff. Maybe that's why they fill you up more.

Here's some I smoked a few years back in a balsamic brine. Served, of course, with our state bread:

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b52/Gussick/Ptarm.jpg

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