Mountain goats are revered for their majestic qualities, terrain in which they live and their taste. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

Mountain goats are revered for their majestic qualities, terrain in which they live and their taste. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went To The Woods: No luck of the draw

My willingness to suffer and willingness to save are the key ingredients, not my luck in a draw.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

Well the draw results have been posted, and again I am a winner.

I am a winner because though I didn’t draw any of the tags I wanted, I am still a resident of the state of Alaska. How’s that for cheesy optimism?

It’s true though. Outside of muskox and bison, there’s always an over-the-counter option available to us, if we are willing to make it work. However, many of us would rather lament the process and adopt victimhood or demand a point system. But look at states down south for what happens with point systems.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with specializing and becoming an expert. In fact, after my rut failures in the fall, that would probably be the most reasonable step first. Get better at one thing first before you buy a plane ticket for the opportunity to be terrible at something new. But I think there is something to that. It’s not irresponsibility, it’s just that simple curiosity about what else is out there. Not at the expense of your routine, but in addition to it.

[A day even bigger than opening day]

Hunting and fishing have always been the activities of subsistence users and a rite of passage in families. It was also the sport of the wealthy, too, but not at the expense of the common folk. There are also people who have been able to make a living in the middle. Not middle class, but between hunting just for food or just for sport. The fascination about some wild hunt elsewhere used to be delivered monthly in the form of a magazine, or weekly in a show about a canned hunt that would cost almost half my annual salary as a teacher starting out in California. Now, thanks to the proliferation of social media and outdoor content, there’s a hashtag for anything, and I’m exposed to more opportunities. There should be a level of encouragement, not desperation, in that. There shouldn’t be the feeling of insurmountable odds or complication. There should be a level of motivation that comes with seeing people not limited by a lottery.

All we need to do is look around during the summer (pre-COVID) and see how many people from varying backgrounds make their trip to Alaska. How can I be surrounded by so many people who paid thousands of dollars to come see a seal on a chunk of ice, and not get my act together to travel in-state for the hunt of a lifetime, that I could do every year?

Am I really going to sit around and wait until I draw a caribou, moose or Dall sheep tag? Do I really think I will look back in 20 years and say, “Darn state draw, never let me get around to hunting Dall sheep.”

If I never eat a moose, caribou, mountain goat or sheep I harvested, that is my fault.

Had I drawn one of the three tags I put in for this year, I would have made the trip happen. So, if I was willing to pay if I drew, why am I not willing to do some research and fork over the same money (maybe even less) to make an over-the-counter hunt happen?

What is stopping me? Nothing.

If I want to make things happen, I can make them happen. If it is important enough to me, I will make it happen. This is not a matter of being wealthy, this is a matter of getting after it. My willingness to suffer and willingness to save are the key ingredients, not my luck in a draw.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His podcast, “The Mediocre Alaskan,” is available on Spotify and Apple Music. He is, of course, on Instagram @alaskalund. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in the Empire twice a month.

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