Growing up in Alaska with a Father who hunted, meant that I grew up hunting. As the oldest daughter, my Dad was always teaching me how to shoot, fish and hunt. I enjoyed myself, though it wasn't exactly a walk in the park. Hunting and fishing in Alaska can be quite difficult. It can be strenuous, back-breaking, nerve-wracking, dangerous and wet! Then there are the regulations to follow. Alaska's hunting and fishing regulations are very strict and extensive. The troopers who have to patrol this enormous state to catch hunting and fishing law-breakers have a lot of ground to cover. Needless to say, some people get away with breaking the laws of the land. Those who don't, get their equipment, vehicles, boats, ATV's and their game confiscated. Whatever they were using to commit the illegal act is taken, and they are heavily fined. I'm talking about this subject because I feel a lot of non-Alaskans misunderstand Alaska hunters and hunting regulations.
Let's start with food sources available in Alaska. Some of us have a grocery store. Some of us don't. The prices of food in Alaska are pretty high in comparison with other states. In many rural villages across the state it's not possible for the residents to get what they need whenever they need it. The prices are extremely high for them, and they don't usually have much of an income, if any. Some of the prices that may be seen in a rural village grocery store are $14/ half gal. juice, $9/ half gal. milk, $14 for a small container of fruit, $8/box cereal, $7 loaf of bread and fresh water is very high as well. Then there's the cost of living. It can be hard to get somewhere up here. We don't have mass transit except for some buses in Anchorage. Gas in rural communities can be upwards of $10/gal and the same for heating fuel. There are many villages which don't have access to clean water for drinking and with high prices for anything healthy, their alternative is cheaper juices and sodas which are sugar-filled. This leads to dental and other health problems. The price of medical care in Alaska is higher, too. So when a fishery or land management area is closed to hunting and fishing for people in the area, it's denying them access to the only food source they can get.
|Killing it in Valdez. Yeah, I'm an awesome angler, I don't mind saying. I was taught by the best.|
The next people who hunt are those like my family. We have access to grocery stores, but prices are fairly high. Having meat in the freezer for the winter was important. We ate a lot of fish, moose and caribou which we worked hard to acquire. I can say with all confidence that our meat was a lot better than the corn-fed, antibiotic filled meat you find at the store. My father grew up poor, and to save his mother from having one more mouth to feed, he would disappear for days at a time. He would live off the land for a few days and then come home, receiving a scolding from his mother for disappearing so long. He was only about 10 when he started doing this. Naturally, he wanted to show his daughter how to do the same. I grew up feeling like I could withstand any disaster that came, because I can wander off into the woods and live just fine. We didn't hunt for sport.
It's easy to tell who is hunting for sport and who is hunting for necessity. Anyone spending thousands of dollars on gear and guides and planes is out for the trophy. I hear people talk badly of Alaskans for hunting this way, but in reality, it's people from out of state flying up here for the thrill of the hunt. Lucky for them, we have a lot of wildlife and not a lot of Alaskans to hunt them. I read the state trooper dispatches during hunting and fishing seasons and I see a lot of people from out of state getting the fines. Commercial fishermen and game guides come up here to partake in Alaska's bountiful harvests, and then take their money out of state to spend it. Personally, I think if you're going to benefit commercially from Alaska's wildlife harvests, you should have to live here. Plenty of the guides from out of state don't obey our laws, either. At least when these law-breakers are caught, their harvests are confiscated and donated to charity.
One major thing that has always bothered me was the people from out of state that don't know enough about Alaska's wildlife regulations to pass judgement, yet doing so anyway. I've been attacked verbally by narrow-minded individuals that have no concept of subsistence or survival in Alaska. In fact, I've felt offended many, many times by ignorant comments about Alaska and Alaskans. There are organizations that have an agenda and spread slander or propaganda defaming Alaskans and the Alaskan way of life. Most true Alaskans are wary of "outsiders" and feel on edge when engaging in conversation. We're just waiting for the topic of hunting, gun control or Alaska government to come up and we have to play defense constantly.
|A successful caribou hunt for me. A good hunter dresses the animal in the field and bags it in game bags to keep flies off. Preserving the meat is of the utmost importance.|
Since I was a young teen, I've had to defend myself from people operating on emotion. I engaged in debates during school, always taking the side of the hunter, since these are the topics for Alaskan schoolchildren. When arriving for the first day of school, kids swapped hunting stories. I was left out, because I was a girl. The boys and even teachers looked at me like I was speaking a different language, just because I could say what type of gun I used and the game district where I hunted. For me, it was even more difficult to feel accepted. Then when I moved to Maryland for a short period of time, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. The negativity of people towards Alaska and its people was overwhelming. The culture shock was hard enough, but to have people blasting your way of life and the land you love without knowing any of the facts was unbearable.
We are not a bunch of cruel animal killers. We do not let people get away with shooting whatever they want. We care about our wildlife and have strict hunting and fishing regulations. You have to apply for a caribou permit for specific herds, and hope you get one. If you want to get a cow moose, you have to apply for that and be lucky as well. You can get a hunting permit for bear or bull moose, but the regulations for jurisdiction, size, age and antler specifications makes it a very difficult hunt. That's why trophy hunters hire guides to tell them when to pull the trigger.
I don't hunt anymore, and I fish for salmon when I can. Hunting was an experience I won't ever forget. It was scary, adrenaline-pumping and exhausting. I stopped when I began having dreams of moose pulling a gun on me. We don't all enjoy killing an animal, I know I had issues with it. However, if I end up living in the bush and taking up a subsistence lifestyle, I would do it again when necessary. I could survive and provide for myself in the wilderness. How many women can say that?