I offer up not an excuse,
My joy it would hardly reduce
I was in the wrong spot
I had not a shot
And I didn’t bag me a moose
If you look at a map of Alaska, you’ll find a body of water leading up to Anchorage called Cook Inlet. South of Anchorage by a couple of hours you’ll find the cities of Kenai and Soldotna; if your map is good enough you’ll see Kalgin Island just west of those towns.
No electric lines tie down the landscape on Kalgin. No electricity aside from batteries and generators, no running water; cell phones and internet connections don’t work. A few cabins on private land house commercial fishermen, homesteaders, and out-and-out recluses.
Four of us, my friend from residency Les, two of his friends (Tristan and William), and I chartered a float plane to fly us there for a week.
There is no commercial air or boat service to the island.
Small aircraft infuse Alaska skies. People refer to that majority of the state accessible only by air, water, snow machine, or dog sled as the bush.
If you want to know, we flew in a 1954 De Havilland Otter. It has floats for landing on water and carries five passengers.
No bears on Kalgin Island, moose were introduced during the twentieth century and have done well but not spectacularly. Spruce bark beetles killed a lot of trees and the beetle kill continues; rotting logs crisscross much of the land.
We came in two days early to set up camp and scout. We saw moose that day, before the season opened and too far to shoot.
I borrowed Les’s Sako .375 Holland and Holland Magnum for the occasion.
I didn’t bring my computer, but a notebook. I found that more happens in a boring day of sitting around camp than I care to write or than my audience would care to read.
We did some fishing and caught rainbow trout and a kind of trout called a Dolly Varden (which was delicious). The salmon came swimming upstream and I watched them swim into the lake, looking for all the world like freshmen at a mixer.
I watched trumpeter swans in their family group at the edge of a beaver pond. When the beaver saw me they decided to defend their territory and came swimming up in formation. They didn’t leave the water but I watch them tail-slap the surface of the pond and dive.
I have a process I call Hunting Right. It works for me but there are a lot of hunters it doesn’t work for, they hunt in a very different fashion, and they do well. For me, Hunting Right means four steps at a time, stop, look, listen, wait until the forest forgets my presence, then move again. The object is to not disturb the consciousness of the animals. It becomes an end in itself, a state of meditation, but it is not easy to sustain. It got me five steps away from a large, glossy red fox who never knew I was there. A marten passed within two feet of me and didn’t care.
But I didn’t get within shooting range of a moose.
There’s a reason we say, “We’re going hunting,” instead of “We’re going killing.”
I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I’m having adventures while my non-compete clause ticks away.
Tags: .375 Holland and Holland Magnum, bear, beaver, De Havilland Otter, Dolly Varden, hunting, Hunting Right, Kalgin Island, Kenai, moose hunting, rainbow trout, red fox, salmon, small aircraft, Soldotna, spruce bark beetle kill, trumpeter swan