A few days ago I watched an episode of Meat Eater where Steven Rinella took a ten-day trip to the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska to hunt moose. The Brooks Range is enormous and desolate. Their plane dropped them off at a small and incredibly isolated lake. They spent days glassing and only spotted one small bull. On day eight of ten they had a shot at it, and his hunting partner missed, the bullet grazing the young bull’s back as it took off.
At the end of the episode they miraculously managed to bring down a much more impressive bull on their last day. After breaking down the moose and packing it back to their camp they sat down to enjoy a bit of the kill and Steven talked about how until they spotted that huge bull, this had been his worst hunting trip. He talked about running the numbers in his mind about how much money he could get if he were to sell all of his hunting equipment and take up a new hobby. While he was obviously joking, it was very reassuring to hear this from such a renowned hunter.
My last hunt left me feeling a bit like he described. I went out with my brand new 12-gauge to a new, huge chunk of public land: Jean K. Tool State Wildlife Area. Jean K. Toole is about 850 acres by itself, but just a few miles down the road there is another SWA of a similar acreage, then another again and again for I’m not sure how far. It’s a long drive out to these places, but there is tons of land to hunt. They all say online that they have Rabbit, Pheasant, and Squirrel, so I had high hopes for what I might out there.
But as you can guess by now, it was something like Steven’s hunt without the miraculous, last-minute bull to save the show. I wandered all morning with my shotgun looking for rabbit or pheasant and saw neither. I had a couple good shots at geese and ducks, but I didn’t buy a duck stamp, so I couldn’t take advantage of those. After a few hours I walked back to the car and took a very frustrated nap.
In the afternoon I tried two more SWAs, Brush and Cottonwood, but still all I saw was waterfowl. So I put away the shotgun, moved to yet another piece of land, and pulled out the .22 to hopefully bring home a squirrel. When I can’t find anything else, I always seem to be able to find a squirrel or two.
Right as I was starting into one of the units a local stopped in the lot and asked me what I was out for. I told him I was looking for squirrels and he seemed a little shocked. He suggested I head back to the western side of Jean K. Toole SWA. “There are definitely squirrels over there,” he told me.
But that plan didn’t work out for me either. I hunted that area for a few hours. In that time I did find a couple squirrels, but they were both across the river and on private land. I went home discouraged and nearly empty-handed. I say nearly because I did pick up a neat skull during my walks; that and I learned a great spot for geese. So next week I’m headed back with everything I need for waterfowl. It’ll be my first time hunting geese or ducks, so wish me luck.