In September 1996, a couple Montana natives and I flew to Aniak in southwestern Alaska, where we met a pilot who owned a flying service. He flew us about 50 miles into the Kuskokwim Mountains, flying a Polish Wilga plane, and dropped us off on the tundra near a patch of alders where he had an unheated tent set up for us, and enough food to last us a couple weeks. (We wouldn't learn until several months later that the pilot crashed the Wilga plane shortly after inserting us. Thankfully, there were no casualties.)
I was hunting alone that September afternoon when I found the willow hole in the dry timber. I climbed onto a log to put my eye higher above the ground, when a ruffed grouse exploded into flight right beside the log and startled me so badly that I nearly fell off the dratted thing. That's when I decided the spot was too thick and muddy to negotiate. So I retraced my steps, got back into the timber and skirted the willow bog.
His name was Harold, and he came into my office about 25 years ago and introduced himself as a retired high school superintendent, mid-70s in age, and trying to make up for all the hunting he had missed in his lifetime by having to work in the autumn. Harold must have been 6-foot-3, a lean, handsome man with gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He told me he had high blood pressure but otherwise was in good health.
Ed Johnson, 41, is a retired Marine major and an avid hunter who lives in Bozeman. Recently, I helped him clean his sheep rifle, and a few days ago he returned from the Brooks Range of Alaska with a magnificent Dall ram that measured a quarter inch under 40 inches and was 10 1/2-years-old.
Ed Zern (1910-1994) was a humorist and wit with an English degree who wrote a delightful column for Field & Stream magazine called "Exit Laughing." Similarly, John Hewitt, who wrote for Gray's Sporting Journal, until he had a stroke about a decade ago, also wrote a wonderful book called, "The Model 12 Winchester as a Way of Life." Zern and Hewitt are not remembered as is Robert Benchley or S.J. Perelman because Zern and Hewitt wrote about hunting and fishing which are taboo with publications like The New Yorker.
My daughter Katrina is 37 and her family is stationed with the Army in Germany, and I miss her a great deal. She's been a part of my columns since she went camping with her mother, brother and me on Teton Pass when she was a few months old, but I'd like you to know her better.
In the summer of 1980, Cody native Bill Smith and I took a little horse pack outfit up face of the Beartooth Mountains out of Clark, Wyoming and spent a week poking around on the Beartooth Plateau, photographing mountain goats and fishing for brook trout. Bill defined the trip when he said in camp one night: "Stalking goats is stealthy business." I laughed at his line and later used it as the title for the magazine article I wrote about the trip for Wyoming Wildlife magazine, where I was employed as associate editor at the time.
When I was a youngster I spent considerable time on the banks of the James River, and sometimes Pipestem Creek, usually with a young friend or two while fishing for bullheads. About this time of year there would be an inch-thick layer of algae on the rivers, so we'd bring along a short length of board to swish away the algae and moss. Before the green stuff could close around your bobber, which we deftly dropped into the open spot, a bullhead would yank the bobber out of sight. After a half dozen bites or so, it was your turn to fish and a partner would handle the board.
There is a curious animal that inhabits the fishing camps of the Far North, and it is called the "camp dog." My first recollection of camp dogs comes from 1988 after a six-year hiatus from Canadian fishing due to living in Alaska and other conflicts.
"It's been rough and rocky traveling but I'm finally standing upright on the ground. And after taking several readings, I'm surprised to find my mind's still fairly sound." — Willie Nelson I've had a time of it during the last decade with seven surgeries in seven years, a drop foot, and a six-year bout with cancer, so the thought of hobbling around in front of my former classmates at our 50th reunion didn't particularly appeal to me. However, in the end, I decided to attend so I emailed a committee member my "50-year highlights" from the past half century: